Truths Among Us: Conversations on Building a New Culture
by John Duerk
Political Media Review
October 21, 2011
Truths Among Us: Conversations on Building a New Culture, is an important collection of in-depth interviews that prolific author Derrick Jensen conducted with a handful of radical thinkers you should become more familiar with if you’re not already. All of the “conversations” enlightened me and a number of them prompted me to reconsider what I know about some of the complex subjects that are discussed.
Undoubtedly, the issues and ideas examined within (and across) these interviews are vast. They range from the effects of violence depicted on television (George Gerbner) and why young urban kids join gangs (Luis Rodriguez) to how we process traumatic experiences as part of the human condition (Judith Herman) and the consequences of objectifying women in pornography (Jane Caputi). I also found myself fascinated by the interview with Paul Staments who explains the importance of fungi to our environment.
Jensen asks many thoughtful, pointed questions—some of which probe his interviewee’s about their own writing. Yes, he has done his homework and this is evident throughout. For example, Jensen pulls a direct quote from Luis Rodriguez’s autobiography to open that interview (77), and then asks a good follow-up question to further explore the marginalization that people have experienced in our society (78). This kind of approach brings a certain focus by diving into some of the most pressing issues that are central to the reason why Jensen chose to speak with these individuals in the first place.
If I have any criticism, I would say that Jensen should have sought more of a balance between the number of men and women represented here. I believe that sex and gender inform perspective because the world is socially constructed, and therefore incorporating additional female voices would have strengthened this work.
Also, I have mixed feelings about Jensen divulging his own personal views and stories. While it is revealing to share details about your own life (such as when he mentions how he associated abuse with water skiing on page 134) and it might build rapport with someone, doing so shifts attention away from the person you’re speaking with. Furthermore, it has the potential to disrupt the flow of the interview because you never know how someone will respond and you don’t want to influence what he or she has to say.
If there is any word that immediately comes to mind when reflecting on this book, it has to be “possibility” because the content of each interview reminds me that there are always people in the world who are thinking on levels that most others aren’t. We can’t lose sight of that. The mere discussion of these issues and ideas means there will always be the chance they can one day spread so as to help transform the way we live. Yes, Derrick Jensen has accomplished his goal of piecing together some very provocative interviews that will stimulate thought the way I imagine he intended them to.