Derrick Jensen on despair and hope
I’ve blogged about the anarcho-primitivist writer Derrick Jensen before. When I read him, I am simultaneously energized and inspired, terrified and furious. But I think what he says here about despair is quite right:
PEOPLE SOMETIMES ASK ME, “If things are so bad, why don’t you just kill yourself?” The answer is that life is really, really good. I am a complex enough being that I can hold in my heart the understanding that we are really, really fucked, and at the same time that life is really, really good. I am full of rage, sorrow, joy, love, hate, despair, happiness, satisfaction, dissatisfaction, and a thousand other feelings. We are really fucked. Life is still really good.
Many people are afraid to feel despair. They fear that if they allow themselves to perceive how desperate our situation really is, they must then be perpetually miserable. They forget that it is possible to feel many things at once. They also forget that despair is an entirely appropriate response to a desperate situation. Many people probably also fear that if they allow themselves to perceive how desperate things are, they may be forced to do something about it.
But this passage is part of a larger article written against “hope.” (The essay is itself an excerpt from Vol. 1 of his two-part book Endgame.) If Jensen recognizes that he is a “complex enough being” that he can feel radical despair but at the same time feel that “life is good,” I wonder why he cannot come up with a more “complex,” more truthful understanding of hope.