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Forum Post: Chris Hedges About Why Revolt Is All We Have Left

Posted 1 year ago on Aug. 22, 2012, 5:05 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5845)
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Truthout Interviews Chris Hedges About Why Revolt Is All We Have Left

Wednesday, 22 August 2012 00:00 By Mark Karlin, Truthout | Interview

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/11032-truthout-interviews-chris-hedges-about-why-revolt-is-all-we-have-left

Chris Hedges, a former New York Times reporter, has become perhaps the foremost media scribe and most prolific advocate of a need for revolutionary change in our current institutional oppression and control of the government by the oligarchical and political elite. Hedges writes with a reporter's detail, a prophet's eloquence and a compelling sense of urgency. This is evident in his latest book, which visits the "sacrifice zones" of America. Get the just-released "Days of Destruction Days of Revolt" (with illustrations by Joe Sacco) directly from Truthout right now by clicking here. Make a minimum donation and support progressive writers and Truthout.

Mark Karlin: You begin "Days of Destruction Days of Revolt" with a visit to and reflection upon the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, the poorest and perhaps most hopeless Native American settlement in the United States. Indian reservations were a tragically ironic result of the American revolt to throw off the shackles of being a colony, only to become a colonial power over the indigenous residents that lay in its way to achieving "Manifest Destiny." Is this irony the reason why you begin your journey across the "sacrifice zones" of the United States at Pine Ridge?

Chris Hedges: This is where the dark ethic of endless expansion and limitless exploitation, of ruthless imperial conquest, subjugation and extermination of native communities, began in the name of profit. Commercial interests set out to obliterate native peoples who stood in the way of their acquisition of the buffalo herds, timber, coal, gold and later minerals such as uranium, commodities they saw as sources of power and enrichment. Land was sliced up into parcels - usually by the railroad companies - and sold. Sitting Bull acidly suggested they get out scales and sell dirt by the pound. The most basic elements that sustain life were reduced to a vulgar cash product. Nothing in the eyes of the white settlers had an intrinsic value. And this dichotomy of belief was so vast that those who held on to animism and mysticism, to ambiguity and mystery, to the centrality of the human imagination, to communal living and a concept of the sacred, had to be extinguished. The belief system encountered on the plains and in the earlier indigenous communities in New England obliterated by the Puritans was antithetical and hostile to capitalism, the concept of technological progress, empire and the ethos of the industrial society.

The effect of this physical and moral cataclysm is being played out a century and a half later, however, as the whole demented project of endless capitalist expansion, profligate consumption and growth implodes. The suffering of the other, of the Native American, the African-American in the inner city, the unemployed coal miner or the Hispanic produce picker is universal. They went first. We were next.

MK: You write in your introduction, "We [you and Joe Sacco] wanted to show in words and drawings what life looks like when the marketplace rules without constraints, where human beings and the natural world are used and then discarded to maximize profit." This is pretty much a definition of neoliberal economics. Is the United States creating an internal economic system of colonies?

CH: The forces of colonization that were applied to the "sacrifice zones" Joe and I wrote about have been turned inwards on the rest of us to create a global form of neofeudalism, a world of corporate masters and serfs. The central point of the book is to show what happens when human beings, communities and the natural world are forced to prostrate themselves before the demands of the marketplace. It is incumbent on us to look closely at this system of neo-liberal economics because it is now cannibalizing what is left, including our eco-system. These forces know no limits. They will exterminate us all, as Joseph Conrad pointed out in "Heart of Darkness," his masterpiece on the savagery of colonial exploitation. Kurtz in Conrad's book is the self-deluded megalomaniac ivory trader who ends by planting the shriveled heads of murdered Congolese on pikes outside his remote trading station. But Kurtz is also highly educated and refined. Conrad describes him as an orator, writer, poet, musician and the respected chief agent of the ivory company's Inner Station. He is "an emissary of pity, and science, and progress." Kurtz was "a universal genius" and "a very remarkable person." He is a prodigy, at once gifted and multi-talented. He went to Africa fired by noble ideals and virtues. He ended his life as a self-deluded tyrant who thought he was a god. That pretty much sums up what we have become as a nation.

MK: Regarding your third chapter on Welch, West Virginia, and the devastation you portray created by the coal mining industry in that state, I wonder why the victims, primarily white, of a rapacious and pretty much unaccountable coal industry don't revolt. In fact, West Virginia has become a pretty reliable Republican state in presidential elections. Rephrasing your introductory quote to this chapter (from H.L. Mencken) have the destitute of West Virginia been driven from "despair" to "hopelessness" - and a psychological crutch of white identity politics, because they see no possibility of change in their condition?

CH: We are seeing the conscious and deliberate creation by the corporate state of a permanent, insecure and terrified underclass within the wider society. They have had a lot of practice in refining these techniques in the sacrifice zones, such as West Virginia, we wrote about. The corporate state sees this permanent and desperate underclass as the most effective weapon to thwart rebellion and resistance as our economy is reconfigured to wipe out the middleclass and leave most of us at subsistence level. Huge pools of unemployed and underemployed effectively blunt labor organizing, since any job, no matter how menial, is zealously coveted. The beating down of workers, exacerbated by the refusal to extend unemployment benefits for hundreds of millions of Americans and the breaking of public sector unions, the last redoubt of union power, has transformed those in the working class from full members of society, able to participate in its debates, the economy and governance, into terrified people in fragmented pools preoccupied with the struggle of private existence.

The determining factor in global corporate production is now poverty. The poorer the worker and the poorer the nation, the greater the competitive advantage. With access to vast pools of desperate, impoverished workers eager for scraps, unions and working conditions no longer impede the quest for larger and larger profits. And when the corporations do not need these workers they are cast aside. Those who are economically broken usually cease to be concerned with civic virtues. They will, history has demonstrated, serve any system, no matter how evil, and do anything for a pitiful salary, a chance for job security and the protection of their families. There will, as the situation worsens, also be those who attempt to rebel. I certainly intend to join them. But the state can rely on a huge number of people who, for work and meager benefits, will transform themselves into willing executioners.

MK: Of course, your chapter on the squalid, economically abandoned Camden, New Jersey, points to a particularly egregious example of an entire city that has been sucked of any hope. Financially, it has been written off by the "Masters of the Universe" economic agenda, its citizens parasites of the government, according to Paul Ryan. Even Barack Obama has been the first president in decades not to mention poverty in his State of the Union Addresses. But isn't Camden just representative of blighted urban areas, particularly minority neighborhoods, that have been left without jobs for decades? This goes back to before the urban riots of 1968 and the Kerner Report about what caused them. Isn't this structured poverty?

CH: The corporations and industries that packed up and left Camden and cities across the United States for the cheap labor overseas are never coming back. They have abandoned huge swathes of the United States, turned whole sections of American cities into industrial ghost towns. The unemployment and underemployment, the disenfranchisement of the working class, and the assault on the middle class, are never factored into the balance sheets of corporations. If prison or subsistence labor in China or India or Vietnam makes them more money, if it is possible to hire workers in sweatshops in Bangladesh for 22 cents an hour, corporations follow the awful logic to its conclusion. And as conditions worsen the corporate state, which controls the systems of information and entertainment, renders the poor and cities like Camden invisible. This is what Joe's illustrations are so crucial to the book. The goal of the book is to make these people visible.

MK: In the book, you bluntly write: "The American dream, as we know it is a lie. We will all be sacrificed." You speak of the spreading transnational corporate virus. Are you, in essence, saying the worst is yet to come, that the forsaken communities you profile are an ominous portent of what waits for so many of us except the privileged class?

CH: Yes. This is why we wrote the book, as a warning of what is about to befall us all. It is no more morally justifiable to kill someone for profit than it is to kill that person for religious fanaticism. And yet, from health companies to the oil and natural gas industry to private weapons contractors, individual death and the wholesale death of the ecosystem have become acceptable corporate business.

30 Comments

30 Comments


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[-] 1 points by Shubee (119) 1 year ago

Revolt isn't all we have left. We don't even have that. There is no way to win. Why can't we be satisfied with the whole world becoming enlightened by exposing the demon-inspired world forces of oppression and darkness? What's wrong with just preaching the truth?

[-] 4 points by LeoYo (5845) 1 year ago

Read what he actually said.

MK: You conclude "Days of Destruction" with an anecdote about your experience as a boxer fighting men who were professionals and pummeling you, but you kept fighting and eventually the crowd cheered you on as the underdog. How does this relate to achieving a successful revolt against a status quo with unlimited financial power and military/police powers?

CH: You do not fight tyrants because you are going to win. You fight tyrants because they are tyrants. Yes, we do not have the tools or the wealth of the state. We cannot beat it at its own game. We cannot ferret out infiltrators. The legal system is almost always on the state's side. If we attempt to replicate the elaborate security apparatus of our oppressors, even on a small scale, we will unleash widespread paranoia and fracture the movement. If we retreat into anonymity, hiding behind masks, then we provide an opening for agents provocateurs who deny their identities while disrupting the movement. If we fight pitched battles in the streets we give authorities an excuse to fire their weapons.

All we have, as Vaclav Havel wrote, is our own powerlessness. And that powerlessness is our strength. The survival of the movement depends on embracing this powerlessness. It depends on two of our most important assets - utter and complete transparency and a rigid adherence to nonviolence, including respect for private property. This permits us, as Havel puts it in his 1978 essay "The Power of the Powerless," to live in truth. And by living in truth we expose a corrupt corporate state that perpetrates lies and lives in deceit.

[-] 2 points by Shubee (119) 1 year ago

I thought I heard Mr. Hedges express hope and confidence elsewhere that there was a chance that the occupy movement might succeed. Actually, I do believe that the occupy movement will succeed, but I don’t expect it to overturn the global control and influence of the .1%. I envision the victory to be entirely spiritual. http://everythingimportant.org/

[-] 1 points by Krypton (73) 1 year ago

Hedges' outlook seems to be uniformly bleak, but he does consistently affirm that OWS, or a similar nonviolent movement, is our only hope.

[-] 1 points by jrhirsch (4714) from Sun City, CA 1 year ago

A thousand twinkles for Chris's statement here. Transparency and non violence. In the tradition of Thoreau, Ghandi, and King. I don't know anybody who accomplishes more through his speaking, writing, and doing. Chris Hedges already is what most in OWS only aspire to be.

[-] 1 points by richardkentgates (3269) from Fort Walton Beach, FL 1 year ago

good interview

[-] 0 points by bensdad (8977) 1 year ago

Chris may be a lot smarter than I am, but I'd look at the math:
The last time we had a revolution 5,000,000 confederate "rebellionists"
were against 22,000,000 Americans - with guns that shot around once per minute - and fatalities were over 7% of adult males. do the math


why not do what 80% of Americans already say they want - money out of politics via a constitutional amendment. Citizens United & Corporate Personhood Amendment
============================================
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============================================
For a complete analysis of the amendment issue,
and the text of all amendments,
and our comparison of all of the amendments,
and the Citizens United case transcript,
and the Citizens United decision,
and the Buckley decision,
and analysis of corporate personhood,
and analysis of Article III,
and the ABC News poll on CU / CP,
and the PFAW poll on CU / CP,
and 60+ videos on CU / CP from
Chomsky, Hedges, Witchcraft, Reich, Warren, Lessig,
Hartmann, Maher, Sanders, Hightower, etc.
and our voting bloc petition & plan.

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no password or signup
JOIN US>
OWS Working Group: http://nycga.net/groups/restore-democracy

YAHOO:
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DO THE MATH

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5845) 1 year ago

Why not simply read what he said? He never mentioned any revolt involving the initiation of violence.

MK: You conclude "Days of Destruction" with an anecdote about your experience as a boxer fighting men who were professionals and pummeling you, but you kept fighting and eventually the crowd cheered you on as the underdog. How does this relate to achieving a successful revolt against a status quo with unlimited financial power and military/police powers?

CH: You do not fight tyrants because you are going to win. You fight tyrants because they are tyrants. Yes, we do not have the tools or the wealth of the state. We cannot beat it at its own game. We cannot ferret out infiltrators. The legal system is almost always on the state's side. If we attempt to replicate the elaborate security apparatus of our oppressors, even on a small scale, we will unleash widespread paranoia and fracture the movement. If we retreat into anonymity, hiding behind masks, then we provide an opening for agents provocateurs who deny their identities while disrupting the movement. If we fight pitched battles in the streets we give authorities an excuse to fire their weapons.

All we have, as Vaclav Havel wrote, is our own powerlessness. And that powerlessness is our strength. The survival of the movement depends on embracing this powerlessness. It depends on two of our most important assets - utter and complete transparency and a rigid adherence to nonviolence, including respect for private property. This permits us, as Havel puts it in his 1978 essay "The Power of the Powerless," to live in truth. And by living in truth we expose a corrupt corporate state that perpetrates lies and lives in deceit.

[-] 1 points by PeterKropotkin (1050) from Oakland, CA 1 year ago

Why not simply read what he said?

Because Bensdad is out of his fucking mind and completely divorced from reality.

[-] 0 points by bensdad (8977) 1 year ago

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[-] 0 points by DebtNEUTRALITYpetition (586) 1 year ago

A revolt doesn't work when there are too many different levels of wealth. What happens is any unjust situation simply attracts people who can profit from the misfortune of others, so revolt will also attract a surprisingly large group waiting to profit off of the revolters.

What I think has to happen is people need to put on their empathy caps and then figure out who is being screwed the worst, and then help that group.

This develops selflessness and teaches people how to fight for something that may not even directly affect themselves.

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[-] 8 points by MaryS (678) 1 year ago

I have to say, to refer to Chris Hedges as a former hippie having a midlife fling is one of the stupidest things I've heard in awhile. While I may not agree with him on everything he's a brilliant person and a pulitzer prize winner. Who the hell are you, punk?

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[-] 4 points by DKAtoday (34909) from Coon Rapids, MN 1 year ago

U should disappear from the forum shortly. But before you go understand this - OWS is non-violent.

Go look for violence elsewhere.

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[-] 2 points by shooz (17782) 1 year ago

Nothing like misinterpreting the founders.

You wouldn't happen to be a sovereign citizen supporter?

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[-] 1 points by MsStacy (1035) 1 year ago

Armed rebellion may or may not be necessary, it doesn't really matter. At this point in time even if the will to revolt were there the numbers are not. Maybe if unemployment were over 30%. As it is there are too many people that are content, a revolution isn't possible, you need more national misery.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5845) 1 year ago

Armed rebellion was never his issue.

MK: You conclude "Days of Destruction" with an anecdote about your experience as a boxer fighting men who were professionals and pummeling you, but you kept fighting and eventually the crowd cheered you on as the underdog. How does this relate to achieving a successful revolt against a status quo with unlimited financial power and military/police powers?

CH: You do not fight tyrants because you are going to win. You fight tyrants because they are tyrants. Yes, we do not have the tools or the wealth of the state. We cannot beat it at its own game. We cannot ferret out infiltrators. The legal system is almost always on the state's side. If we attempt to replicate the elaborate security apparatus of our oppressors, even on a small scale, we will unleash widespread paranoia and fracture the movement. If we retreat into anonymity, hiding behind masks, then we provide an opening for agents provocateurs who deny their identities while disrupting the movement. If we fight pitched battles in the streets we give authorities an excuse to fire their weapons.

All we have, as Vaclav Havel wrote, is our own powerlessness. And that powerlessness is our strength. The survival of the movement depends on embracing this powerlessness. It depends on two of our most important assets - utter and complete transparency and a rigid adherence to nonviolence, including respect for private property. This permits us, as Havel puts it in his 1978 essay "The Power of the Powerless," to live in truth. And by living in truth we expose a corrupt corporate state that perpetrates lies and lives in deceit.

[-] 1 points by DebtNEUTRALITYpetition (586) 1 year ago

It's not that simple. One person's misery is another person's opportunity. The Dodd Frank bill can cause a homeowner to lose their paid off home if they were out of work and could not tap any equity off of the 30 years it took to pay off their home.

There will be five buyers waiting to buy that home at half price, and then instantly get an equity line of credit that the original homeowner who needed it, could not get.

One victim, five people lined up to benefit from that victimization, how can that ever lead to revolt?

[-] 1 points by MsStacy (1035) 1 year ago

I agree, talk of revolution is pointless as long as a majority feel they can prosper through the system. I'm not saying it's moral, simply that people are not united in any one goal. As you seem to indicate, people are more out for themselves.

Borrowing when you're out of work is probably not a good way to go anyhow, as a general rule.

[-] 1 points by DebtNEUTRALITYpetition (586) 1 year ago

You would think that borrowing when out of work is not a good idea. However if a person spent 30 years paying off a million dollar home, and is now out of work, they could easily live off of a hundred thousand or two hundred thousand for several years.

Instead, the rules were changed in 2008 to avoid those with less maturity in home buying from making mistakes, but the Dodd Frank Bill threw the responsible homeowner out with the bathwater.

[-] 1 points by MsStacy (1035) 1 year ago

That is certainly a problem with any law, it works for the general population and a few suffer, or the general population take advantage of it and only a few benefit.

The person with the million dollar home may be better off selling even at a loss rather then take out a loan. No real reason for a bank to risk getting stuck with the property if the owner is unemployed.

If their mortgage isn't paid off then payments on a million dollar home for 30 years would probably be in the neighborhood of $5000 a month, that $100k isn't going to last that long when you add in taxes, insurance, food, utilities. You may be doing them greater harm by getting them further in debt.

[-] 1 points by DebtNEUTRALITYpetition (586) 1 year ago

But taking a 200K interest only loan would only require approximately 800 dollar a month payment. And if they lived their for 30 years their property taxes are probably lower as well.

They could probably live on 2,500 to 3,000 a month. That's five years to make a new plan. And one would think that after being a responsible payer for 30 years, a five year respite in which they are just living off of what they need, off of equity they earned, is not that outrageous.

Remember, the rules CHANGED in 2008, they followed prior rules with the knowledge their home would be there for them if an emergency came up, now that has changed.

they might be able to do a reverse mortgage, but reverse mortgages seem to be more of a mystery as how to well they work versus a regular HELOC.

[-] 1 points by MsStacy (1035) 1 year ago

An interest only loan? Someone out of work and nearing retirement age expects find a job and then refinance a home to make a $200k payment? In this case I think Dodd-Frank is saving the person from himself. From the late 40's on up, if you're out of work your chances of finding anything better then Walmart Greeter are slim to nonexistent. Any banker that thinks that would be a safe loan is crazy.

A safer plan might be to cut your losses and take what you can get for the paid off home. I don't know much about reverse mortgages but they do allow you to stay in your home and may be a better way to go and may offer more money if you own the home. Borrowing in the traditional way while out of work and in your late 50's early 60's is insane. In a few years that person will be crying for help to avoid foreclosure and blaming the banks for loaning him the money when he didn't have a job.

[-] 1 points by DebtNEUTRALITYpetition (586) 1 year ago

The home is the collateral, that is the point. If after a couple of years the homeowner is not going to find another job that pays well enough, they can still sell the home with PLENTY of time before they exhaust their 200,000 dollars.

[-] 1 points by MsStacy (1035) 1 year ago

You are assuming that the market will go up a few years. Banks, overloaded with properties, may not want to take that risk. The housing market could easily remain flat with a large inventory of foreclosed properties just sitting on the market.

The owner may end up in a worse position in a couple of years then they are in now. If he's owned that home for 30 years it's worth more today then it was 30 years ago. True it's value would have been higher 5 or 10 years ago but that inflated time is gone. The owner could be better off dealing with that reality and getting whatever they can out of their house now.

You wish to gamble, that's a big part of what got us into this mess in the first place. Personally I don't care if you decide to take the risk, as long as it would effect only you, but that isn't the case. You require the bank to gamble too. I think it's a good idea to prevent or restrict the banks from participating in that precarious venture. The banks have a duty to act more responsibly with their depositors' money. The home is poor collateral when no one wants it.

[-] 1 points by DebtNEUTRALITYpetition (586) 1 year ago

Homeowners could do a reverse mortgage as well. However, that may not be anywhere near as good of a deal, but I'm not sure because I don't know enough about reverse mortgages.

I do know that banks are eager to put homeowners with a lot of equity in reverse mortgages, therefore I smell trouble.

Why are banks willing to do a reverse mortgage but not let a homeowner tap some of the equity that it took them 30 years to build up? Doesn't make any sense.

[-] 1 points by MsStacy (1035) 1 year ago

Actually a reverse mortgage sounds like the kind of loan you want. It makes payments to the borrower and can offer a line of credit, not a lump sum. It's a loan based on home equity available to those without a source of income. When you leave your home and sell it you must pay back the loan plus interest.

I can only speculate on why this loan method is preferred by banks. The bank appears to control the payments and/or line of credit. This control may lessen the odds of default, or reduce the chances of the bank being left with the property. No bank wants the house, they want their money back.

It doesn't matter what the bank's reasoning is. You have choices. Sell now, take payments through a home equity based reverse mortgage, do nothing. Getting a large lump sum loan based on your home equity simply isn't an option when you don't have a job.

[-] 1 points by DebtNEUTRALITYpetition (586) 1 year ago

I have not researched reverse mortgage loans enough. I am guessing that there are more upfront fees, (BANKS LOVE THOSE) and if an appraisal magically is on the low side, than that is money in the bank for later.

Whereas a home equity line may or may not involve upfront fees and possibly a more fair equity value. Anybody have any information to contribute? This is just one more way banks are tanking the economy.

Homeowners were sold a truth for 30 years, pay off your home, and then your home can work for you, then that truth was changed because of newer, more aggressive investors giving congress an excuse to do the bankers bidding. But now those who were the most honest and earnest stand to lose the most.

Ripping someone out of their home after 30 years can actually accelerate medical conditions such as dementia and alzheimers. Take away the memories, accelerate the dementia. And this is based on changing the rules they were following for the prior 30 years.

[-] 1 points by MsStacy (1035) 1 year ago

I don't know what to tell you. The regulations have changed, you have some choices to make because the world isn't going to return to yesterday for you. Time to stop complaining about what you can't change and move on. After a collapse due in part to bad loans, no one in their right mind is going to loan a large sum to an unemployed person with collateral no one wants to buy.

You can; A) complain about the regulations, B) find a way around those changes. You can; A) sell your home, B) take a reverse mortgage. You can; A) Feed your fears making up things about reverse mortgages, B) learn about them. All of these come with an option C, to sit and do nothing.

[-] 0 points by DebtNEUTRALITYpetition (586) 1 year ago

No need to use the word you, I am not necessarily affected by this. My concern is this just another obstacle that prevents main street from paying main street so the banks can instead swoop in and take a person's 30 years worth of built up equity for a song.

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