THE EIGHTH NIGHT OF CREATION: Life on the Edge of Human History by Jerome Deshusses

THE EIGHTH NIGHT OF CREATION: Life on the Edge of Human History

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A philosophical reflection on the ecological crisis--that refuses, ominously, to see any two phenomena as disconnected. Deshusses begins with a grim vision of catastrophe: the earth's supply of oxygen is being depleted through waste--automobiles use 30 times as much oxygen as humans--while the sources of oxygen are being destroyed through deforestation and pollution; one out of every four tuna is too contaminated for sale; Chicago's highly touted water treatment system disgorges the equivalent wastes of a city of a million without treatment facilities; and so on. Then, Deshusses proceeds to speculate on how we got to this point of warfare with nature--and that's when he shifts from the unbroken chain of nature to the chain of culture. Every cultural institution comes under fire in turn. Commerce is blamed for propagating an acquisitive and competitive sensibility (though Deshusses' grasp of its role in history is rendered suspect by his assertion that political economy ruled in the time of Jesus). The family--actually monogamy--is equated with possession and sometimes with capturing an object of prey. (Deshusses posits a conventional aggressive/passive dichotomy between the sexes and comes out, inevitably, for more femaleness.) The schools and art are castigated for being insufficiently elite--for fostering a mass society. An excursion into science concludes that there is no such thing as causality, since there is no past that is antecedent to the present; therefore none of this elaborate musing is supposed to be understood as constituting a ""cause"" of the ecological gloom it is nevertheless supposed to explain. Deshusses' ultimately passive capitulation to a universe in which everything is connected is summed up nicely in this piece of gibberish: ""Every partial criticism of our world is an act of treason, even if global criticism is ineffective. Taking no action is better than collaborating with absolute Evil, preaching the impossible truth is preferable to trying to put a little truth into lies."" Nietzsche could get away with this sort of thing because the next paragraph would be about the will to act, undaunted by impossibility. Deshusses remains mired in the morass.

Pub Date: Feb. 19th, 1982
Publisher: Dial