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 unconventional thinkers whose ideas merit attention. Even if you disagree with Jensen’s views as expressed in his other works, all of these “conversations” are informative and may prompt you to reconsider what you know about some of the complex subjects discussed.
Undoubtedly, the issues explored across, and within, 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 (p. 77), and then asks a good follow-up question to further examine the marginalization that people have experienced in our society (p. 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 revealing details about your own life (such as when he mentions how he associated abuse with water skiing on p. 134) might build rapport with someone, doing so shifts attention away from the person you’re speaking with. Not only does this have the potential to disrupt the flow of the interview, but you don’t want to influence what he or she has to say.
The word that immediately comes to mind when reflecting on the contents of this book is “possibility” because the content of each interview reminds me that there are always people in this world who are thinking on levels many of us aren’t. We can’t lose sight of that. The mere discussion of these ideas means there will always be the chance they can spread so as to 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.