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Velcrow Ripper’s misguided light

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Velcrow Ripper’s misguided light

Cooperatives, →Environment, →Dominion Stories

Recently, I found an interview with filmmaker Velcrow Ripper on, a Buddhist meditation site based in Vancouver. Ripper is best known for his film “Scared Sacred,” and more recently for “Fierce Light,” an exploration of spirituality and activism. The interviewer asked Mr. Ripper to comment on my recent short film “Star Wars, the environmentalists’ version” a satire written by author Derrick Jensen and part of my upcoming film END:CIV. Here Jensen envisions the rebel alliance fighting Darth Vader and the Empire with letter-writing campaigns, banner drops and vegan cream pies.

But Ripper misses the philosophy and the point of the film, so he misrepresents both:

…That idea of a violent response being the only response and that everything else is basically wimpy, is basically what you might say is one of their perspectives.

Clearly, Ripper is not familiar with Jensen’s work, but he’s heard about it from Jensen-bashers. It’s the dogmatic pacificists who attack Jensen most often, slamming the urgent reality that we must do everything we can, now, to end this destructive culture.  Over-reacting and sensationalizing Jensen’s ideas, as Ripper does, is typical of the criticisms I hear from some members of my community.

Here is a passage from Jensen’s Endgame, and one that he has repeated at hundreds of talks he has given across North America.

We need it all. We need everything. We need people chaining themselves to trees, we need people taking out dams, we need people liberating animals, we need people working rape crisis hotlines, we need people working with medicinal herbs…

That’s the wonderful thing about everything being so fucked up. No matter where you looks there’s great work to be done.

When presented with such shallow criticism of his so-called “violent” stance, Jensen replies that this is the reason he wrote Endgame in the first place. Endgame is a two-volume, one-thousand-plus-page opus that offers a detailed critique of civilization and the modern environmental movement. Everyone who wants a better world should read the whole thing.

Let’s not mince words — Jensen does call for radical action, and he does not discount non-violent civil disobedience as a powerful tool for change. Jensen’s criticism of the environmental movement (and the left) is that they won’t even discuss any other tactics even when faced with the very real possibility of total environmental collapse. He cites many examples in which organizers put up a “Gandhi wall” when any suggestions of property destruction or sabotage are proposed.

This is exactly what Ripper has done in this interview. He has discounted other forms of activism which he deems “violent,” and and has erected a walled sanctuary where only his “spiritual” brand of activism can live. I would be in agreement with Ripper if we had unlimited time to stop the presently unfolding ecological catastrophe. But I believe the urgency our situation will not allow enough time for us to convince the CEO’s, the politicians, and the military to go on ten day meditation retreats, so they can find their inner child and therefore stop their destructive practices.

What activist Lierre Keith recently told me in an interview fits perfectly in this context. “Spiritual purity does not matter on a planet that’s hotter than Venus.”

I could go on exposing the many blunders Ripper commits on this interview, such as comparing our movement to the Republican party and even calling us “hate-filled.” But that would deviate from the main point.

What we are calling for is for diversity of tactics. We should use the right tactic that will work (and win) for the right situation and not try to apply non-violent civil disobedience as the only way to make change. To do so is not only irresponsible, but it’s an insult to people like Stokely Carmichael, Geronimo, John Brown and many others, who fought valiantly in the pursuit of a better world. Even Rosa Parks herself stated in her autobiography that she never believed in non-violence and that she kept guns in her home to protect her family.

In these times of economic, political and ecological uncertainty, we need all hands on deck. No tactic should be discounted on the basis of dogmatic and unfounded views. Serious thought should be given to all the options that we have at our disposal, especially when time is of the essence.

This article was originally published on


Derrick Jensen will host a Q & A in Vancouver on October 24th as a fundraiser for END:CIV.

Velcrow Ripper will be present at a screening of “Fierce Light” on October 10th in New York City.

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"We should use the right

"We should use the right tactic that will work (and win) for the right situation"

Jenson makes some good points, but he seems to disagree with the above. When he spoke at Langara College in Vancouver he said we should give up on trying to build the kind of movement that could turn our society around, because any such attempt is futile.

I am not a pacifist, but I just find Jenson pretentious and depressing. We can find much better examples of non-pacifist radical environmentalists.

I believe that spirituality

I believe that spirituality MUST be inherent in the root of our actions, meaning that our hearts need to be trained to be connected and loving...I believe when you bring up Geronimo, its important to realize that his spirituality was instrumental in his militant stance and warrior mentality.  Every action, whether it is "violent" or "non-violent" needs to have a firm grounding in a heart centered place (which despite how abstract that sounds, is a very real place where we hone our ability to create community, protect life and build movements) is our survival!  I don't agree with Velcrow on the denouncement of violent tactics, to me it feels that is a privileged place to come from because non-violence doesn't recognize all world views or experiences.  I respect Jensens work and find that his book applies to many concepts rooted in the indigenous movements doing important work for land life and liberation. 

I also think what he means when he says "turn our society around" is reform and he is saying that reform yes is useless because of the murderer and theif this society was born as...building community and making space for freedoms is not necessarily a turning around of society as a whole and as it exists...I think it is a transformation of humanity and yes that has many faces and all kinds of ways we can do that work!


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