Perhaps the question about “crossing the line” is “How far is too far?” Take, for instance, so called eco-terrorism. Does obstructive trespass go too far? Does destruction of property go too far? Does sabotaging corporate overreach go too far?
Funny thing about terrorism of any kind: its definition is always about “them,” and the “us” orchestrating the claims usually controls most of the power and money. For instance, what represents the greater violation: damming a couple hundred miles of pristine canyon land or throwing in whatever monkey wrenches you can to prevent it; building a dirty coal mine or throwing in whatever monkey wrenches you can to prevent it; auctioning protected land to the highest fracker or … there are myriad places to ask the question.
See “WRENCHED.” It’s a history lesson about “monkey wrenching” philosophy and activism. It doesn’t try to be comprehensive. Though it covers additional ground, it focuses most on Edward Abbey. He’s the author of “Desert Solitaire” and “The Monkey Wrench Gang” (the birth of that term’s salience). The film juxtaposes Tim DeChristopher, who might appropriately be labelled an important upgrade to Abbey’s gruff, inspirational foundation.
DeChristopher said of himself that age 18 was a dangerous age to read “The Monkey Wrench Gang” because “you’re old enough to understand it, but not old enough to understand that it wasn’t a manual.”
Whether you only color inside the lines or you hearken to resonant vitalities and justice beyond such lines, you should at least be educated and reminded by a film like “WRENCHED.”
------------- from an exchange with "Wrenched" director ML Lincoln ----------------
Chuck Jaffee: "Monkey wrenching" retains a sort of romantic flare, an almost (almost) innocent appeal. Is it impossible for it to be true in the 21st Century?
ML Lincoln: Not impossible. There are and has to be many ways to "monkey wrench" to take action. It’s different today than in Abbey's time. There’s little privacy to "do it at night, do it alone and don’t get caught." Ken Sleight said in the film: It’s “throwing your talent into your expressions and all your everything to make this a better place to live. That's your monkey wrench." [Per Tim DeChristopher, a big problem in the US is] “We have more stuff. We have much higher levels of consumption, and that’s how people have been oppressed in this country, through comfort. We’ve been oppressed by consumerism … by believing that we have so much to lose."
CJ: It seems fair to categorize Edward Abbey as an anarchist -- or at least a libertarian. Tim DeChristopher seems more like a citizen activist. Is DeChristopher's approach a necessary upgrade of the Abbey legacy?
MLL: Upgrade? No, just different. Both have gained a larger than life kinda status, for good reason. Both have inspired a movement. Tim did something which wasn’t considered night time work and he certainly did get caught. However, it was brilliant and something we should all fight for.” [to hold oil and gas lease parcels free from excavation and intrusion.]
CJ: Several years ago, you made the film "Drowning River." Kudos to you. Certainly "Wrenched" is a related documentary, to a certain extent an overlapping film. What about your vision for "Wrenched" most distinguishes itself from "Drowning River"?
MLL: “Wrenched” expands on the subject of saving wilderness, of restoring free flowing rivers. “Drowning River” was a lot easier to make, being that it was about one person, Katie Lee, and one issue, Glen Canyon Dam (no small issue). Also, I spent a lot of effort and money to make “Wrenched” entertaining and educating through the graphics and music.
CJ: To the extent that you consider yourself an activist against rich and powerful adversaries, what's your take on compromise? How has being a filmmaker colored your relationship with compromise?
MLL: My films are my activism. Many folks in the film talk about NO compromise and that our environmental laws are the compromise. It’s a HUGE battle. I agree with no compromise. We have lost so much already. What is left to compromise away? Filmmaking is all about compromise, but not the type or amount of compromise one deals with in the environmental world. I never to this day would compromise on the production quality or the ethical responsibility I have toward the characters in the film. But the reality of compromise comes in where there’s money involved. I had to compromise [because] of storyline and time constraints.