Chris Hedges 6-Pack
Neil Postman in his classic work Amusing Ourselves to Death nailed it when he wrote, “When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience, and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.” He wrote that in 1985. Our political life today is like a reality TV show. There is fascination with celebrities from Kanye West to the Kardashians to the former host of The Apprentice. And the soundtrack in the background is permanent war.
When is enough enough? In the face of evil what does it take for people to move from passivity to active resistance? Throughout history there have been instances of people defying tyranny. Fighting back no matter what the odds. An example comes from Nazi Germany, often considered the benchmark of evil. Opposition to the regime was highly dangerous. Seventy five years ago, Hans and Sophie Scholl, brother and sister, and others at the University of Munich said, Genug. Enough. They formed the White Rose movement and called on Germans to recognize their moral duty and overthrow the government. They disseminated critical information through flyers and graffiti. One such graffiti said, “Whatever comes out of Hitler's mouth is a lie." In 1943, Hans and Sophie Scholl were arrested and beheaded. Their resistance and courage are honored today. They took risks. Can we?
Interview by David Barsamian.
One dictionary defines fascism as, “A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.” The first fascist party was founded by Mussolini in Italy in 1915. Its etymology is traced to the Latin word meaning a bundle of rods tied around an axe, an ancient Roman symbol of authority. Today, the term, for many, immediately conjures up horrific images of storm troopers. But contemporary fascism has undergone a major wardrobe change. Could it happen here? Some see elements of it now with what is called populism, America First, coupled with a largely imagined past, Make America Great Again. The media are denounced as “the enemy of the people,” a phrase Stalin used. Critics of the Leader are bullied and insulted.
The scourge of male violence against women will not end if we dismantle the forces of global capitalism. The scourge of male violence exists independently of capitalism, empire and colonialism. It is a separate evil. The fight to end male violence against women, part of a global struggle by women, must take primacy in our own struggle. Women and girls, especially those who are poor and of color, cannot take part in a liberation movement until they are liberated. They cannot offer to us their wisdom, their leadership and their passion until they are freed from physical coercion and violent domination. This is why the fight to end male violence across the globe is not only fundamental to our movement but will define its success or failure. We cannot stand up for some of the oppressed and ignore others who are oppressed. None of us is free until all of us are free.
What are individuals to do when faced with a moral imperative? And society at large? Philosophers since ancient times have been wrestling with this question as it involves issues of ethics and conscience. When we see an injustice do we remain passive and silent or do we intervene to try and stop it. Is it our problem or someone else’s? Powerful states and institutions like to cloak themselves in morality and virtue. Citizens are propagandized to let the big boys, since they know what’s best, handle everything. Do we act on our principles? What are our responsibilities? Racial segregation was an obvious immorality. Why did it take so long for it to be eliminated? Same with voting rights. Today the old poisonous wines are being repackaged in new bottles. Once again we are faced with moral imperatives.
The demonic Captain Ahab in Melville’s epic novel Moby Dick represents a quest for power and domination that is a death wish. Hubris will doom Ahab and his Pequod crew, all perish except for Ishmael. Is there a larger lesson to be learned? Is the United States much different? The U.S. with its obsessive drive for control of oil and other resources, its relentless hunger for profits, its garrisoning the globe with military bases, its arrogant disregard for the environment, is on the same suicidal path as Ahab. Washington’s policies, under both political parties, are always imbued with benevolence and noble intentions. It is innocent of imperialistic designs. Freedom and democracy are its goals. A well-disciplined media and intellectual class rarely challenge these embedded assumptions. We continue to ignore all warnings as to the destruction we are wreaking on the planet.
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