END:CIV Resist or Die,1) according to the promo, “examines our culture’s systemic addiction to violence and environmental exploitation.” The title is drawn from Pac Man, an arcade came that first came out in 1980. In one of the world’s first video games, the player guides Pac Man, a small faceless mouth, through a maze while he devours Pac Dots and tries to escape blob monsters. The first three minutes of END:CIV superimpose a Pac Man game over images of old growth clear cuts, belching smokestacks, factory hog farms, wild fires, hurricanes and the US military’s ruthless killing machine. The sequence ends as a gigantic “GAME OVER” flashes across the screen.
The film is based on the Endgame, the best selling two volume book Derrick Jensen published in 2006. In Endgame, Jensen argues that mankind urgently needs to bring down “civilization” before it destroys the planet. He bases his case on twenty basic premises he lists at the beginning of both volumes. The film END:CIV examines four of them.
Premise 1 – industrialized civilization has never been and will never be sustainable, mainly because it’s based on non-renewable resources.
The film, like Jensen’s book, traces the rise of cities, which by necessity steal resources from distant regions and eventually denude the entire landscape of those resources. After making the case that the corporate elite are mindlessly and voraciously consuming an ever increasing amount of energy, land, water and other resources, the filmmaker points out that we live on a finite planet. He then argues that corporations will most likely continue this greedy consumption until everything is used up – or until we stop them.
The imagery in this section consists of shot after shot of old growth clear cuts, through which 90% of the earth’s rainforests have been transforms into deserts. It features cameos by indigenous and environmental activists who argue that industrial civilization has created an elaborate infrastructure for a lifestyle that has no future. They also point out that no “clean green path” to sustainable living will ever support the extremely wasteful way of life we have become accustomed to.
Premise 2 – traditional communities don’t willingly allow the confiscation of their natural and mineral resources by capitalist owners. Accordingly, a major focus of industrialized civilization has been to destroy indigenous communities by force. A corollary of Premise 2 is that industrialized civilization would collapse rapidly without, if not for its reliance on widespread violence.
This section juxtaposes common media images of violence with consumption-related adverting and infotainment. For example one split screen shows the aerial bombardment of Baghdad together with jewelry specials from the shopping channel; another depicts Bangladeshi sweatshops alongside a series of tiny butts in skin tight jeans.
In an excerpt from a public forum, Jensen explains that much of violence is invisible and a matter of conditioning. He gives the example of the cop who will pull a gun and drag you to jail if you don’t pay your rent or satisfy your hunger by eating off grocery shelves. He then questions the belief we all grow up with that people have to pay for the right to exist on this planet.
The film goes on to criticize the main message put out by the nonprofit environmental movement we can remedy this pervasive violence and extensive resource theft and exploitation by making politically correct purchase choices. In the view of Jensen and other activists featured in the film, Greenpeace, Sierra Club, Forest Ethics and similar “eco-bureaucracies” have essentially sold out by making preservation of the industrial economy their highest priority and saving the planet secondary. As Jensen points out, future generations won’t care how much we recycled. All they will care about is whether we leave them a living planet.
This section is also highly critical of the dogmatic stance of much of the environmental movement towards nonviolent civil disobedience. Jensen does a great send up of the movie Star Wars. In his version, the rebels don’t destroy Darth Vader by blowing up the death star. Instead they promote eco-tours and Fair Trade products from endangered planets and send waves of compassion and loving kindness towards Darth Vader, as they lock themselves down on his ship. They also vote to condemn and exclude the renegades who propose to blow up the death star – for allowing themselves to be contaminated by Darth Vader’s culture of violence.
Premise 3 – the culture (of industrialized society) as a whole and most of its inhabitants are insane.
The section points out that, contrary to popular belief, no combination of fossil or alternative fuels will allow us to continue our current “happy motoring” society. It focuses on Alberta’s insane tar sands project, the most environmentally destructive enterprise in history. Tar sands production is responsible for the second highest rate of deforestation (second to the Amazon rain forest in the world), as well as massive waterway contamination. All this environmental devastation is occurring to develop a technology that has one of the worst rates of Energy Return on Investment (2:1).2
Premise 4 – from the beginning, the culture of civilization has been a culture of occupation.
The film ends with a brief overview of the resistance movement in Nazi-occupied Europe. In the final scene, Jensen poses the provocative and disarming question: “If your homeland was invaded by aliens who cut down the forests, poisoned the water and air and contaminated your food supply, at what point would you resist?”
- END:CIV Resist or Die, 2011, directed by Franklin Lopez, (Free [Creative Commons] download [↩]
- EROI refers to the amount of energy returned for each unit of energy required to extract or create the new energy. Even solar photovoltaic cells, which aren’t particularly efficient, have an EROI of 8:1. Saudi oil has an EROI of 10:1. US oil reserves prior to 1970 had an EROI of 23:1. As of 2000, US reserves had an EROI of 8:1 (source: Fleeing Vesuvius). [↩]