Naturally, no real real questioning is ever done within the framework of the status quo. How could it be? Asking the right questions would indict our entire culture and lead us to places that would urge us to change major aspects of our lives and what we hold to be true.
Below, in an excerpt from The Culture of Make Believe, Derrick Jensen asks some of these questions and shows where they can lead.
"The journey of our culture has been one of increasing abstraction from direct personal experience, manifesting in every aspect of our lives, from our pornography (and, more broadly, our intimate relationships) to our economics -- which, time after tedious time, values abstractions such as ideology or money (what's a dollar worth, really?) over living beings -- to our violence. Recall that, among the Plains Indians, the closer one got to one's enemy in battle, the more one was socially esteemed. Contrast that with modern warfare, in which the act of pushing a button, the mere movement of a finger, could destroy life on the planet. If I strangle someone, I must feel with my hands the other's life struggling not to end. If I stab someone, I must feel his or her blood, must watch it pulse or gurgle out, the last display of the rhythm of that person's heart, that person's life. Even shooting someone, I still must see the person whose life I am going to end.
But you could ask, what about the blacks who've been tortured and killed by lynch mobs? Did the mob not take great pleasure in causing the pain to this person? In a sense, no, because, even in the act of torture, they were not recognizing the uniqueness of their victim: He (or she) was killed for being of a class, as evidenced by all the lynchings of the "wrong person." What, then, of people, denied all individuality, killed, not for themselves, who are killed not merely at a psychic distance, but by a rainstorm of bombs -- or poisons -- sent to them from the other side of the planet?
Stanley Diamond commented that "Modern mass society creates the modern mass soldier, as a reflection of itself. The effort is made to train him as a deadly bureaucratic machine; in fact he may even shortly become obsolete to be replaced by machines...
He kills, whether by bombing at a distance or face to face -- but he kills, it should be re-emphasized, at a psychic distance. 'We might as well be bombing New York,' said an Air Force officer in Vietnam. This distance is compounded, of course, by ethnocentrism which the United States as an imperial power instills into its citizens. But the modern mass soldier [and I would add citizen] does not have to hate the specific enemy, which is an inverted way of saying that he does not necessarily recognize the humanity of the specific enemy... Killing a 'gook' or a Jew, remains killing at a distance, although physical proximity demands more of the psyche than bombing from the air; the total dissociation of the former is converted into the direct subjective distortion of the latter. The point remains that the people killed were insufficiently alive in the consciousness of the killers -- and this mirrors the actors' inadequate sense of their own humanity. What we were facing at My Lai, then, is not an incident, not even a policy, but the tragic course of civilization."
Later, Jensen continues: "I wrote earlier that narcissistic individuals must ultimately be disappointed, and must then always displace onto others the blame for their disappointment. This is often, but not always, true. There is at least one condition -- and, to be sure, this happens all the time -- under which those who are narcissistic will accept blame, and in fact will act with all speed and diligence to correct their mistake.
The mistake, of course, is weakness, also known as empathy, compassion, communication, love, relationship, or humanity. More generally, the mistake that can be acknowledged and rectified is that of a failure to objectify. More generally still, the mistake can be known as a failure to be narcissistic enough, the failure consisting of acknowledging the other's uniqueness and existence as a subject. In practice, this weakness finds its way into the world as a lack of will sufficient to annihilate one's enemies.
Failure to eradicate their enemies was, to go back to the cradle of our civilization, a huge problem among the Israelites. God warned them time and time again not to make covenants with those He delivered unto them: those they were supposed to exterminate and whose land they were to take. The deal was pretty clear, and it's just as clearly a deal we still adhere to: Give up your humanity and dissolve all interconnection with others, and you will receive power beyond your most insane dreams. Here's God's part of the bargain (and if you're an atheist or otherwise a humanist, just substitute for God the Market, Science, Technology, Capitalism, Free Enterprise, Democracy, the United States, Progress, Civilization, or whatever other abstraction you want, and the bargain still holds): "I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation... Behold, I drive out before thee the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite." Our God having long since dispatched these peoples, we can make the list more current by substituting Khoikhoi, Arawak, Pequot, I'wa, or Aborigine. In order to benefit from these marvels, the Chosen People had to promise never to "make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee: But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves." The Isrealites had to cut down the groves, just as today we have to deforest the planet, because otherwise it would be too tempting to enter into a relationship with other gods, other humans, or the land where we live. And it simply won't do to form those other relationships, because "the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God," and to enter into relationships with another is, as the book of Exodus so indelicately puts it, "whoring." To make sure the Chosen People deeply internalized this message, it was drilled into them. We read, again and again, "I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee. Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods." The reason? Always the same: If these others live, it might be too tempting to gain their ways. "They shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me." The message is repeated in Deuteronomy, Joshua, indeed, the entire Old Testament. The message is acted out to this day.
The message is an extension of the lesson of Noah, the lesson of Lestor Luborsky, with his electrodes attached to the eyeballs, letting us know where we dare not look, of R.D. Laing, with his three rules of a dysfunctional family or society. Don't. Don't look. Don't listen. Don't love. Don't let the other be. Don't. The best way to guarantee you won't be in a relationship with something is to not see it. The best way to make certain you won't see something is to destroy it. And, completing this awful circle, it is easiest to destroy something you refuse to see. This, in a nutshell, is the key to our civilization's ability to work its will on the world and on other cultures: Our power (individually and socially) derives from our steadfast refusal to enter into meaningful and mutual relationships.
This refusal -- this key to power -- was carried forward and used by slavers, Columbus, Pilgrims, the Founding Fathers, Hitler. It is put forward today by politicians who send soldiers to kill at a distance, and by soldiers who do the killing. It is pushed by CEOs and others who wish reap the benefits of our economic system, and by purveyors of porn who tell us it's okay to represent women as objects to be "fucked in every hole" (or, judging by my Alta Vista search and the prevalence of statistics, to be raped) but fail to mention any form of relationship at all. It is okay, we are told incessantly (for incessant repetition is necessary to make this painful and eventually numbing lesson stick) to utilize resources, whether the resources are trees, fish, gold, diamonds, land, labor, warm, wet vaginas, or oil. But one must never enter into relationship with this other who owns or is a resource. To do so would be to break the covenant with your God, whose name is Jealous, whose name is Power, because your power comes directly from your unwillingness (or, perhaps, in time, inability) to maintain relationship: It is much easier to exploit someone you do not consider a living being -- a You, as Buber would have put it -- much less a friend, a lover, a member of your family."