Chris Hedges Is Bumming Me Out

Posted on April 24, 2011 by

Despite economic inequality, corporate abuse, foreign wars, homelessness, union busting, overcrowded prisons, suburban blight, factory farming and global warming, this is still a remarkable country.

Where people have a real shot at a good life.

And though I’d prefer if Americans read more, didn’t watch fox news, ate healthier foods and stopped yelling at their kids, I respect their choices and appreciate their struggles.

My optimism – if that’s what it is – places me on one side of a political divide that’s more temperamental than ideological:

Those of us who are very down on America for all the right – or all the left – reasons.  And those of us who are not.

I’m worried that this makes me just another liberal apologist.  You know the type.  Afraid to leave my comfort zone.

An accomplice to the evil American empire, that flesh-eating bacteria which destroys life as we know it.

Maybe my refusal to “wake up” is an updated version of those old guard democrats despised 40 years ago by the “new left.”

When, as a young radical, I chose to live in a Vermont farmhouse rather than join the weather underground.

Now I work with my pals in the labor movement, clearing my conscience and enjoying the fruits of my corrupt nation’s exploitation.

Maybe it’s time to heed Chris Hedges’ call for insurrection?

The brilliant, serious and persuasive left-wing commentator is urging progressives to stop fooling ourselves and to actively resist the “corporate mandarins” whom he describes this way:

They place themselves at the center of creation. They disdain or ignore the cries of those below them. They take from us our rights, our dignity and thwart our capacity for resistance. They seek to make us prisoners in our own land. They view human beings and the natural world as mere commodities to exploit until exhaustion or collapse. Human suffering, wars, climate change, poverty, it is all the price of business. Nothing is sacred. The Lord of Profit is the Lord of Death.

Is Hedges right that we’re slaves to the oligarchs and Obama is a corporate tool?  Is my good-natured liberal pro-Americanism self-delusion?

Or is his creepy prose simply an expression of Hedges’ own internal demons?

Comments (9)


  1. bill zeman says:

    He is probably right, but what to do about it is the question. Do we work to launch revolution? Or do we form a massive non-violent protest movement ala the Black Civil Rights Movement or the Vietnam Protest Movement. And I say “form” as if any number of us could just decide to do it and get it done. The people will do it as they did it before. Protesting in the streets and moving the powers at the part to the left.

    Our part as leaders is to just continue to teach the truth. The truth about Obama is still to be determined. If he uses the bully pulpit to really do what 70% of us want and tax the rich then he is not a total corporate tool. The taxes of Obamacare are quite progressive. If these really go into effect in 2013 and 2014 then we are not just slaves to the oligarchy, but we have got a guy who is pushing back more or less effectively. He will betray us like almost all of them usually do unless the people are so vocal that they push him to the left, so in addition to speaking the truth I can join a protest.

  2. Cyndi Kahn says:

    Chris Hedges is pretty much right on target. Time to wake up.

  3. Mark Doering-Powell says:

    There’s a limit to how long we can enjoy the fruits of our exploitation, and I think Lou knows this.

    With so many people on the planet and Americans using so much more resources than others, there’s only so long that we don’t live by the balance of Nature’s checkbook (not to mention our own).

    Not to mention oil speculation driving up costs, and when that’s done we’ll be well past peak oil and it will become a supply side problem.

    It will probably be until that time that we do anything serious about alternative energy, missing the opportunity now to build on a green tech economy, we let China move ahead of us — it’s not so much that we’re outsourcing, it’s that China is creating this opportunity where we leave the vacuum.

    Just one example, with an environmental / conservation / jobs slant.
    Check out Vaclav Smil’s latest paper on this.

  4. Ben Sears says:

    Stop second guessing yourself Lou. And don’t worry about Chris Hedges. Yes, he has his points to make and his way of making them.
    But, in the grand scheme of things being a “progressive” or even “revolutionary” means caring deeply about your country–appreciating what’s great about it and wanting urgently to change what is wrong.
    I know that sometimest this does take reflection and the resolving of internal conflicting emotions. For instance, which side of President Obama do I pay attention to this week: the one he showed in his speech on the budget, or the one he showed in his speech on Libya?
    The speed with which US leaders over the last half century have gotten drawn into foreign policy adventures/disasters continues to bother me alot. Is our President different on this score? Can he change this seemingly entrenched imperial quality of US foreign policy?
    Now I’ve gotta go read the sports page; all the Philly teams won yesterday. How often does that happen?

  5. rian says:

    We are slaves to our minds. The systems in place (religion, school, government, ect.) Make it hard to think for ourselves. They give us the answers from the time we are born, and we are frowned upon for questioning them. The problems will not work themselves out, and we as a mass only look at the governments problems, which only distract us from are own. People who ether blame systems for their problems or look to them for solutions are the fuel for the problem. THINK FOR YOURSELF!

  6. rod bradley says:

    Hi Lou, the reason you are bummed out is because deep down you feel the truth of the the quoted paragraph by Chris Hedges. Of course we are a huge complex nation and there is much to praise. Like almost any nation, its people are far superior to its government.

    That paragraph is a brilliant summation of our national corruption that includes the Obama administration. We have reached the tipping point. (Probably did actually under Clinton.) That corruption now overwhelms even the good people within fighting against it. Corruption has become the norm. Obama gives into it without a fight.

    At this point the honest citizen who still plays by the rules and believes in the very pragmatic ideals that made the nation great, is regarded as a fool, a pawn, a tool to be manipulated by the rich political professionals. When the right hand man of the president utters his contempt for those still seek a fairer and more equitable society for the “little guy” — it is easy to become cynical.

    Obama’s lack of vision, his substitution of insider political chess and business as usual with an eloquent face, his refusal to fight or stand for anything, his aloof lecturing and refusal to enter the fray, will continue on the same humdrum window-dressing reform (more style over substance) unless he is pushed by massive rebellion by the honest majority of the forgotten.

    Frankly, he just doesn’t get it. He utters “I feel your pain” and it rings hollow. The young and those who were inspired to vote for “change” will abandon him as he has abandonned them. When confronted with a call for change, he whined how hard change is, instead of voicing a determination to fight harder. Style is not moral gravitas. He has to be pushed and pushed hard soon. Even a clown like Donald Trump is more in touch with the anger of the honest majority than the president is.

  7. maya bhullar says:

    There are so many books that echo Chris Hedges and many do it better with more nuance. It is disheartening.

    Ever since working on the Kerry campaign in Wisconcin back in 2004, I have been fascinated by how the conservatives communicate and organize. Long story, but after Kerry’s concession speech, I was seated next to the Bush Cheney sign festooned, cheese-hat wearing, coordinator of a section of Wisconsin for the GOP. We got into a conversation and I learned he had taken a year off and had been in Wisconsin for a year. He had mapped most community events, school board meetings etc, he built cells and his team had become part of local campaigns. He showed me some of his communications work and networks and I was amazed. The key was they used very few flyers. He would be coming back to build up and leave a strong team behind that worked with the state GOP. We talked the whole flight, until he had to resume his position with the GOPers outside the airport and I was completely bowled over by how ‘out organized’ we were.

    2004, admittedly, was where all the informatics that helped in 2008 were nascent, there were a ton of players all competing in the field… but the issue he laid out is still very pertinent. Labour/DNC didn’t even do state by state breakouts at the 2004 inauguration, when 10s of thousands of people came to DC to the *not my president* rally.

    listened to this program months and months ago on CBC. It is a brilliant long documentary about a CBC reporter re: the tea party in Florida

    I don’t believe in everyone coalescing on the same message, or marching in lockstep–we aren’t asking enough people about the message anyway! I do feel that we have to become a lot smarter about how we build and listen. WI is a brilliant sign. Let me know if you have seen more stuff on these themes–for all i know people far smarter than I am are working on this.

  8. Rudy Corral says:

    From AFL-CIO
    Executive Paywatch Reveals Average CEO Salary Jumped 23%

    While most working families are struggling to get by in the face of wages freezes and job loss, CEOs saw their pay increase by an average of 23% in the last year, according to the AFL-CIO’s new Executive Paywatch. While the average secretary makes a median annual salary of $29,980, the average CEO now makes $11.4 million— 380 times what the secretary makes. Based on 299 companies’ most recent pay data for 2010, their combined total CEO pay of $3.4 billion could support 102,325 median workers’ jobs.

    Get the monkey wrenches and ski mask out its time for social and economic justice BUT FIRST we must exercise our democratic responsibility to the fullest extent possible

  9. Rudy Corral says:

    Capital and its media technology has a way of programing us into a comfort zone its not till we reach that bottom that we look to change if you ask me we’ve been to that end many times through the cycles of capital yet we reform and give it another try only to come back where we started from another capital controlled delusion to distort reality

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