The Rapidian

Moral Ground 2010: Resisting the Dominant Culture

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The Moral Ground Town Hall Meeting

Date: Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010
Time: 7 pm
Location: Spectrum Theater, 160 Fountain NE
This event is free and open to the public.
The evening will include live music from local folk/rock band Big Dudee Roo, brief readings from "Moral Ground" editors Moore and Nelson, and an open discussion with the audience. A reception and book signing will follow.

Event sponsors: GRCC, GVSU, and the City of Grand Rapids.
Visit: for more information.

Find other responses to the "Moral Ground" question from local leaders here.

"Progressive environmentalists are often opposed to resistance or have trouble accepting it. They think it can’t work. But how can you say that the movement for women’s suffrage and civil rights movements weren’t successful?”
~ Max Lockwood, musician with local folk-rock band Big Dudee Roo


The Moral Ground Town Hall Meeting taking place at Spectrum Theater on October 26, will open with local folk/rock group Big Dudee Roo. The group began as a high school garage band, a “group of friends getting together and playing Neil Young covers,” says Max Lockwood, twenty-one year old bassist, singer, and songwriter. Their first EP, “Germination,” (released September 10) features music focused on themes such as resisting the dominant culture, recognizing ecological destruction, and becoming aware of the deeper connection with other humans that is needed to implement change on a societal scale.

Max attended DePaul University in Chicago for several years, but has yet to complete his degree. Lockwood, who draws from a deep pool of reading, says that his road to activism began when he first read Daniel Quinn's Ishmael. The book “opened my eyes to a lot of environmental problems," Max says.  "It articulated problems I had already seen, but didn’t know how to put it into words. But [reading "Ishmael"] didn’t spur me to action really, Derrick Jensen’s book Endgame did.” Max recently traveled to the west coast, collaborating with the group Fertile Ground, to attend an event featuring live interviews with prominent environmental and social justice speakers, all of whom were interviewed by Derrick Jensen.

Lockwood subscribes to a brand of environmentalism called “deep green” resistance, which calls for the “rapid de-industrialization of our culture.” The deep green school of thought points to the advent of large-scale agriculture and later industrialized civilization as the root of many of the problems we face today - overpopulation, racism, environmental degradation, and patriarchal dominance/ misogyny - problems that many anthropologists identify as beginning with the shift to agriculture some 10,000 years ago. Max says “Civilization is by definition unsustainable. Cities have to continue growing, perpetually consuming more and more resources. A transition to a sane and stable society can never happen while this culture exists.”

To the 'Moral Ground' question Max answers “I don’t think anybody can say we don’t have a responsibility to preserve the planet. But corporations and governments act like they don’t.” Lockwood believes there needs to be a drastic change in the environmental movement. “We’ve had an environmental movement for 40 years, but the problems are only getting worse. We need a new type of resistance movement, a serious resistance movement.” Max speaks from the standpoint of a person who grew up with these problems. “This is the future of the planet. This battle is epic. This is THE fight for the planet.”

Of his own efforts, Max says, “I am personally concerned with organizing an above-ground culture of resistance. However, progressive environmentalists are often opposed to resistance or have trouble accepting it. They think it can’t work. But how can you say that the movement for women’s suffrage and the civil rights movements weren’t successful?”

Lockwood talks about oil spills in the Niger Delta, explaining how foreign oil companies have been exploiting the people and raping the land there for decades. Max notes that the Nigerian government estimates there have been more than 7,000 oil spills there in the last 40 years, many of which have been much worse than the recent BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

However, we don’t often hear about the environmental problems of the Niger Delta. “Our culture puts us in a position of privilege. It’s convenient that we don’t see the problems we create.”

He goes on to explain that the people inhabiting the Niger Delta tried unsuccessfully for years to resist the oil companies’ exploitation through non-violent methods, but have garnered some measure of success recently with an underground resistance movement which is credited with creating a forty percent decline in oil production there.

“With an above ground culture of resistance working to change the attitude of the culture and participating in legal work and civil disobedience, tactics that might be termed underground can be effective. An important thing to realize is that in a culture of resistance, only a very small percentage of people participate in underground actions. The vast majority engage in above ground activism and support work, which can mean all sorts of things.”

Lockwood is convinced that industrial civilization “is destroying the planet and it is not going to stop because we ask nicely.”  When asked about ways our society should change to promote sustainability, Lockwood replies “The word ‘change’ is problematic. At this point, I don’t think we can change our culture.”

Lockwood said that he realizes that "deep green" philosophy won’t spur a mass movement, because “it’s not as if everyone is going to start caring about the environment all of a sudden.” However, he believes that the success of the resistance movement rests mainly with the younger generation’s ability to galvanize and work as a cohesive unit.  Many people his age, Max says, feel disenfranchised by society but also frustrated with activism’s inability to produce real, effective change.

It is to this group that Lockwood says, “We’ve grown up with these problems. Going to protests and shouting our chants and going home hasn’t been effective. Right now activism isn’t vital, and we need to make it vital."

"We need to get in touch with our anger and that sense of urgency and harness them. Have empathy for the rest of the planet, and for people who aren’t as privileged as we are. Fight with that sense of empathy.  But [we] can also fight selfishly, because this culture hasn’t been fulfilling to us, it doesn’t give us a sense of purpose like a healthy culture should. It keeps us alienated. So let’s recognize that, use that energy to fight back, to create and build a new mode of activism and resistance. It’s possible.” 

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