e n d g a m e
by Derrick Jensen
IT’S TIME TO GET OUT
. . . The next of Dear Abby’s warnings about abusive relationships was that you should be very wary if the abuser uses threats of violence to control you. A batterer may attempt to convince you that all men threaten partners, but this isn’t true. He may also attempt to convince you that you’re responsible for his threats: he wouldn’t threaten you if you didn’t make him do it.
These are actually three related warnings. As far as relating the first—the use of violence to control—to the larger social level, after my most recent show a man said, “You talk a lot about the violence of this culture. I don’t feel I’m particularly violent. Where is the violence in my life?”
I asked him where his shirt was made. He said Bangladesh. I told him that wages in clothing factories in Bangladesh start at seven to eight cents per hour, and max out at about eighteen cents per hour. Now, I know we hear all the time from politicians, capitalist journalists, and other apologists for sweatshops that these wages are good because otherwise these people would simply starve to death. But that’s only true if you accept the framing conditions that lead to those wages: Once people have been forced off their land—the source of their food, clothing, and shelter—and the land given to transnational corporations, once people have been made dependent on the corporations that are killing them, sure, it might be better not to starve immediately but to slave for seven cents per hour, starving a tad more slowly.
The question becomes, how much violence did it take to force these people off their land? It is violence or the threat of violence that keeps them working for these low wages.
Cheap consumer goods are not the only place the threat of violence controls our lives. I asked the man if he pays rent.
“Why do you do that?”
“Because I don’t own my home.”
“What would happen if you didn’t pay rent?”
“I would be evicted.”
“And what if you refused to leave? What if you invited the sheriff in for dinner? And then after dinner you said, ‘I’ve enjoyed your company, but I haven’t enjoyed it all that much, and this is my home, so I would like you to leave now.’ What would happen then?”
“If I refused to leave, the sheriff would evict me.”
“By force, if necessary.”
I nodded. So did he.
Then I said, “And what if you were really hungry, and so you went to the grocery store. They’ve got a lot of food there, you know. And if you just started eating food there, and you didn’t pay anything, what would happen?”
“They’d call the sheriff.”
“It would probably be the same guy. He’s a real asshole, isn’t he? He’d come with a gun and take you away. Those in power have made it so we have to pay simply to exist on the planet. We have to pay for a place to sleep, and we have to pay for food. If we don’t, people with guns come and force us to pay. That’s violent . . .”