give up that dream
April 24, 2010 6:52 PM   Subscribe

It is not our role to take power. It is our role to make the powerful frightened of us. And that's what we've forgotten. Give up that dream! Chris Hedges talks neoliberalism and neofeudalism, the civil rights movement, Camden, Obama, Clinton, Tea Parties, moral nihilism, inverted totalitarianism and corpocracy, NAFTA, welfare reform, health care, labor, poverty, Yugoslavia, post-industrial capitalism, economic crisis, imperial collapse, socialism, and democracy, among other things.

Don't be scared off by the length; the talk itself is only the first 27 minutes of the clip.
posted by gerryblog (51 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
If you don't mind my asking, who is Chris Hedges and why should I care what he thinks? More background, please?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:05 PM on April 24, 2010


Chocolate Pickle, the nice lady in the video explains who he is.. essentialyl a reporter
posted by kuatto at 7:07 PM on April 24, 2010


You know, Chris Hedges. He's been here before.
posted by gerryblog at 7:07 PM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Does he think Tebow will make it in the NFL?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:07 PM on April 24, 2010


This guy reminds me of Henry Wallace. Sometimes he's spot on in a way that mainstream commentators are afraid to be. Other times he's way out in left field.
posted by shii at 7:09 PM on April 24, 2010


Listening to this guy is like coming home. This stuff needs to be said and heard.

God speed ya, mate.

We know things are bad, but it's too frightening to actually realize just how bad.

So we take comfort when people call this fellow "shrill."
posted by Trochanter at 7:11 PM on April 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


the powerful got frightened of osama bin laden and saddam hussein- and look what that got everyone in the islamic world
posted by pyramid termite at 7:13 PM on April 24, 2010


Did you watch the clip, pyramid termite? He's talking about MLK, not UBL.
posted by gerryblog at 7:16 PM on April 24, 2010


So we take comfort when people call this fellow "shrill."

That word sure got thrown around a lot in the run up to the Iraq invasion. Lots of shrill people saying it was going to cost more than the projected few billion and coalition forces wouldn't be welcomed as liberators.

IIRC, shrill=essentially correct
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:21 PM on April 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


He's talking about MLK, not UBL.

was that one of mlk's motivations - to frighten people?
posted by pyramid termite at 7:23 PM on April 24, 2010


was that one of mlk's motivations - to frighten people?

Whether he wanted to or not: You think he didn't?
posted by gerryblog at 7:30 PM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


gerryblog, you are missing my point - it can be a very bad idea to frighten the powerful - and it's not something that one should pursue as an aim in itself, especially when you don't have the firepower to resist the reaction
posted by pyramid termite at 7:38 PM on April 24, 2010


A couple of years ago I was able to attend an event that featured Howard Zinn. Listening to Hedges reminds me of listening to Zinn.

This country is moving in a direction that scares the hell out of me. We need more people who can articulate as clearly as Zinn and Hedges, and a way to expose those their words to those still willing to listen and think.

I would encourage all of you to share this with as many people as you can!
posted by HuronBob at 7:44 PM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


was that one of mlk's motivations - to frighten people?

"Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word 'tension.' I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth." -- MLK, Letter from Birmingham Jail

How are the four sentences quoted at the start of this FPP inconsistent with that?

it can be a very bad idea to frighten the powerful - and it's not something that one should pursue as an aim in itself, especially when you don't have the firepower to resist the reaction

What makes you think Hedges thinks "frightening the powerful" is an end in itself, rather than a means to a greater end?
posted by twirlip at 7:45 PM on April 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


it can be a very bad idea to frighten the powerful - and it's not something that one should pursue as an aim in itself, especially when you don't have the firepower to resist the reaction

I disagree greatly there. If your aim is to further a peaceful cause, intentionally without the use of violence or firepower - it's a great thing to see oppressive, powerful, violent forces trembling in fear because they can't ignore your message. MLK had no firepower, but ... he "had a dream". With that dream, the civil rights movement was able to continue onward against an oppressive society.

The "striking fear into the powerful" that you speak of in regards to Bin Laden / Hussein was of a violent nature. Violence begets violence, so by extension it becomes an arms race of Who Has The Biggest Gun?
posted by revmitcz at 7:46 PM on April 24, 2010


I don't think anyone is suggesting that "frightening the powerful" should be pursued as an aim in itself. What he's saying is that the process of achieving social change necessarily entails disruption of the social order, as it did during the civil rights movement; social change doesn't happen because powerful people are impressed with your polite restraint, it happens when they have no other choice.

It's actually the dream of taking political power -- and left-liberal investment in the Democratic Party as the outlet for that dream -- that somehow gets transmogrified from a means for achieving social justice to the end in itself. As Hedges notes, many of the most effective social movements in US history never held formal political office. And you don't have to look much farther than the Obama administration to see how taking power can, paradoxically, completely dismantle a social movement's ambition.

Of course I don't agree with every Hedges says, either here or elsewhere, but this comparison to Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein (both billionaires, incidentally, and one a head of state) seems completely off-the-mark.
posted by gerryblog at 7:54 PM on April 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


It is not our role to take power. It is our role to make the powerful frightened of us.

Um, he really doesn't understand power. Or politics. Does he?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:01 PM on April 24, 2010


given the choice between demanding or trying to "frighten" the powers that be into giving us something off the table - and TAKING a seat as one of the powerful to further social justice, i know which i would take

if we can take power, it is our role and responsibility to do so, in as much as we can

be assured that those who stand against us will not hesitate to do so
posted by pyramid termite at 8:04 PM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Um, he really doesn't understand power. Or politics. Does he?

Judging from this speech, I'd say Hedges understands power and politics very well.

given the choice between demanding or trying to "frighten" the powers that be into giving us something off the table - and TAKING a seat as one of the powerful to further social justice, i know which i would take

How do you propose to take a seat as one of the powerful? Elections in the US are and always have been structurally slanted against those calling for real social justice. You'd have to build a strong social movement to overcome those structural barriers -- and that's precisely what Hedges is calling for anyway.
posted by twirlip at 8:15 PM on April 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the link. I've listened to the first 20 or so minutes of the speech, and it's powerful stuff, but based on a lot of the political discussions I've read on metafilter it will be too left-wing for a lot of people here. Specifically, Hedges, though progressive, seems totally unenthusiastic about Obama (especially his handling of the banking crisis), and singles out Clinton's NAFTA as the beginning of the end: a stance that some here will peg as too Naderite and/or out-of-touch.

But this guy's analysis of the growing political disenfranchisement of the working class, something that the tea-bagger right is tapping into, cannot be easily dismissed. Ignore what this guy is saying at your peril.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 9:23 PM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ooooh, peril! I'm courting you, peril! Can you guys feel the peril?

Whatever his ideas are (and I have NO CLUE from reading the above), I'm sure they could be condensed into a single paragraph overview, just like the ideas of everyone else in the world. Telling me I need to watch a 27 minute video or else the country is doomed? Yeah, not so much. Even those local news "6 things in your kitchen are giving you cancer!" scares only ask for 2 or 3 minutes tops.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:35 PM on April 24, 2010


Ooooh, peril! I'm courting you, peril! Can you guys feel the peril?

Whatever his ideas are (and I have NO CLUE from reading the above), I'm sure they could be condensed into a single paragraph overview, just like the ideas of everyone else in the world. Telling me I need to watch a 27 minute video or else the country is doomed? Yeah, not so much. Even those local news "6 things in your kitchen are giving you cancer!" scares only ask for 2 or 3 minutes tops.


Translation: I'm too lazy to listen to the speech, believe only in sound-bytes, and will express, in the most obnoxious way possible, my strongly felt opinion about a speech the content of which I admit I'm clueless about. Having a baseless opinion is more fun when you admit it's baseless!
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 9:45 PM on April 24, 2010 [9 favorites]


This is interesting, but seems incredibly outraged and deeply affected and angered by current events. That doesn't seem to lend itself to rationality, and it shows up here in some statements that apparently are intended to be provocative but which strike me as more inflammatory than anything else. The intoning of terms like "Weimarization" and "protofascism" is fantastically exciting, but it's certainly not accurate; any close look at those times will show that there isn't any real similarity between those times in the 1930s and 1940s and now that's at all remarkable. I admit that the times we're going through right now might actually be worse than those times were - but they certainly aren't the same.

Moreover, it's funny to me how really and deeply democratic we are now, and in a very particular way - we can't even imagine looking to any different world as an ideal. We are so inherently and deeply sure of this that fascism is in every single way the worst sort of world we can imagine, the negative by which all of our positives are defined. So that the specter of a world that's in no way similar to a really fascist society, but which we anticipate with dread, must in some way be fascistic, even if that fascism is the most distant metaphor.

Look at the world he's describing - in what way is it at all akin to a fascist society? We chose this world. It has not been imposed on us by an upper class bent on preserving what they see as the perfect society. Heck, we have no conception whatsoever of what the perfect society is; we are uniquely a society with almost no ideals; we only have negatives which we fear. We are in some ways a more absolute democracy than any that's ever existed; we do not spend a moment of our lives imagining a world as we'd like it to be, and as a result we are not burdened by the self-restrictions and self-censorship that true ideals would impose on us.

If anything, if you ask me, that's the source of apathy. And even Hedges' 'rage' is, in my estimation, generally bloodless. It's a rage borne of convenience; it is a rage that pleases some of us, since we're of course free to feel whatever emotion we'd like in our society. I think it becomes clear on examination, however, that history is not a long progression of the vacillation between authoritarianism and democracy, and certainly it is not a long progression away from authoritarianism toward democracy. Howard Zinn is distinctly wrong - American history has not been shaped by socialism, as salutory as we may find those opinions. And great men who were not socialists have done much good here. These are all convenient beliefs, because they simplify the situation and make our current moment instantly comprehensible in stark and plain terms - and when you make a situation instantly comprehensible, you make moral outrage possible, because you make situations seem so straightforward that anyone who doesn't immediately cop to your point of view must certainly be evil.

But it's not so simple - for one thing, people do what they think is right. It's fine to believe, to take the most immediate and potent example, that Dick Cheney is an evil genius who is trying to destroy the world - yet he clearly isn't. He's trying to do what he believes is right. This is what people do: what they believe is the right thing. If he's a fool, then he's a fool, but I don't think he is; I think he's simply very, very wrong about the world and the way it works. That's a tragic failing of his; and the reality of the situation of his rulership in this country is blurred and muddied when we tell ourselves that the world is simple, that it is obvious, that it makes easy sense. Socialism, as much as I may have some nostalgia for it, has spent as much time as any other movement taking advantage of the working class for its political ends; this session is interesting in that it's clear that not a single one of those present are actually working class or poor, and they speak of using religion to manipulate and guide the poor and to take up a position as "successful leaders." That's interesting to me. When the respondant ends his talk urging people to remember "just how powerful we are," it's hard to say who we is.

Interesting stuff, anyhow. Thanks, gerryblog.
posted by koeselitz at 10:05 PM on April 24, 2010 [9 favorites]


Sorry, the fellow from the cab drivers' union is working class, and is present. But he seems remarkably deferential; though this all is inspiring, how close is it to what the working and poorer classes actually want? And who's to say that what they want is the right thing? Or that they're the power bloc that will prove decisive and important in the future?
posted by koeselitz at 10:09 PM on April 24, 2010


koselitz: I think you may be thinking about this a bit too ideologically, and forgetting the current volatility of the economy--particularly as the middle and working classes in America are being squeezed. There is still a lot of anger at Wall Street and the Madoff-like masters-of-the-universe at Goldman Sachs, etc. In the wake of the recent banking/subprime crisis and bailouts, the long-dormant class consciousness of the American populace has awoken somewhat. And people have begun to realize the degree to which they are being screwed. Which is not surprising, given that:

--Six megabanks currently have assets equivalent to 60 percent of America's gross national product (in the mid-1990s, these six banks or their pre-merger predecessors had less than 20 percent)

--Enron-style systematic and wide scale fraud appears to be rampant in the financial services sector

--57 small banks have already folded this year (including 7 this past Friday)

--Foreclosures continue to rise, and there are deep pockets of double-digit unemployment.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 10:34 PM on April 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


"How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don't think."
posted by larry_darrell at 10:49 PM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


But it's not so simple - for one thing, people do what they think is right. It's fine to believe, to take the most immediate and potent example, that Dick Cheney is an evil genius who is trying to destroy the world - yet he clearly isn't. He's trying to do what he believes is right.

Yet you have Cheney's links with Halliburton. So much back and forth between Government and business. You have "right" and "profitable" so conflated that they won't come apart.

It's not just ideology. Detroit is a ghost town. They're going to plow under whole neighborhoods.
posted by Trochanter at 11:52 PM on April 24, 2010


Trochanter: “It's not just ideology. Detroit is a ghost town. They're going to plow under whole neighborhoods.”

Yeah, and it's damned tragic. But these socialist ideals - the ones that reduce everything to a profit motive, for example - are all ideology. They explain away history and even the present by reducing it all to simple terms that make easy sense to us. You quote my bit about Cheney - and he's a great example on this. It's pretty clear to me that the Halliburton connection had absolutely nothing to do with his goals and his actions while in office. That's what's astounding to me about his case - he's clearly acting on the basis of his own ideals, and because he believes that the neoconservative conception of the world and particularly the middle east is absolutely correct. I know enough about them to know that there are plenty of people in and around Washington inhabiting think-tanks and such who believed wholly and absolutely that we should invade Iraq under any available pretense, even before September 11, and who didn't believe so because of a profit motive. The interesting fact is that people are interested in all sorts of things besides money.

And - this is the interesting thing, to my mind - even if Cheney had acted solely on the basis of a profit motive, that wouldn't be a reason to write him off as simple or obvious or unworthy of intense scrutiny and thought. As I say, I think he's a tragic figure, but even people who are cynical enough to act solely for monetary gain are doing what they believe is right. It's just that they believe that there's no way to save society, or that they're supposed to be after their own financial gain. The unfortunate fact is that even financial gain doesn't guarantee actual well-being, so they're doubly and triply misled. Being misled is not the same thing as being evil.

I still think this is just an ideological realm of thought we're in. Actual history and political philosophy has to ask what people really believe, what they're interested in, and what they aim to do - or else we never actually learn from it, and we never actually gain.
posted by koeselitz at 12:06 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


in what way is it at all akin to a fascist society? We chose this world. It has not been imposed on us by an upper class

Nor have many totalitarian societies. Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, Fascist Italy - these were preceded by election or popular revolt. Fascism does not necessarily need to be imposed upon people. Sometimes people will eagerly impose it upon themselves.

There are definitely clear and growing fascistic strains within American society. To point this out and suggest we should be alarmed isn't the same thing as saying America is a fascist society. It's saying that it should never become one. But there are people who disagree (even if they wouldn't put it in those explicit terms). And lately, they seem to be the ones actually getting organized and making material gains. Please mark me down as "concerned."
posted by regicide is good for you at 12:44 AM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


the powerful got frightened of osama bin laden and saddam hussein

You really believe that?
posted by pompomtom at 12:45 AM on April 25, 2010


was that one of mlk's motivations - to frighten people?

Unquestionably, the idea of extending full civil rights to Negros -- to vote, to marry your daughter -- was frightening.

And MLK used Malcom X and the Panthers:"you can deal with me"-- the non-violent Christan pastor who's just asking that America live up to its ideals and acknowledge Negro equality -- "or you can deal with the other brother" -- who wants to burn down the cities and get reparations from the barrel of a gun.

I don't know if MLK was "motivated" to frighten people. But people were frightened, blacks and those whites of good intent (Schwerner, Chaney, Goodman, et alia) by dogs and firehoses and murderous Nightriders, the racist whites by the inevitable social upheaval making Civil Rights a reality entailed, and MLK was smarttenough to use that to attain the ends he sought.

I suppose Moses frightened both the Egyptians and the Jews too.
OSSIE DAVIS: Martin and the regular civil rights leaders were presenting to America our best face, our nonviolent face, our desire to be included into American society and we wanted to show the world that we had no evil intentions against anybody, we just wanted to be included. But they also understood that America, in spite of our reassurances, would be frightened and hesitant to open the door to black folks.

So Malcolm as the outsider, as the man they thought represented the possibilities of violence was the counter that they could use. They would say to the powers that be, "Look, here's Martin Luther King and all these guys, we are nonviolent. Now, outside the door, if you don't deal with us, is the other brother, and he ain't like us."
posted by orthogonality at 12:48 AM on April 25, 2010


regicide is good for you: “There are definitely clear and growing fascistic strains within American society. To point this out and suggest we should be alarmed isn't the same thing as saying America is a fascist society. It's saying that it should never become one. But there are people who disagree (even if they wouldn't put it in those explicit terms). And lately, they seem to be the ones actually getting organized and making material gains. Please mark me down as ‘concerned.’”

World history isn't a series of movements between the poles of fascism and democracy, and it's silly to portray it that way. Moreover, don't you see how fantastic it would be if we were seeing a revival of fascist movements? That would mean that history is repeating itself - and we could quite easily deal with it, since we have the past as a guide. If this were merely fascism making a resurgence, it would be smooth sailing. But it's not - it's something entirely different. That's the scary bit.

Fascism is the reverence of an ideal society and the attempt to create it by excluding all that doesn't fit the model. The weird strains of evangelical triumphalism are clearly nothing like the fascism of yesteryear, which at least had a coherent idea about how society should be arranged. To assume that all we need to do is rely on the same old ways of dealing with the same old problems is suicide.
posted by koeselitz at 12:50 AM on April 25, 2010


I think he's a tragic figure

Why is Dick Cheney a "tragic figure"?

Being misled is not the same thing as being evil.

But if we put aside the loaded moral and psychological language of good/evil, heroic/tragic, we find another narrative: just because a given historical actor is not self-conscious about the larger societal forces shaping his or her motives, does not mean those forces do not exist.

After all, we can still speak of [a]ctual history and political philosophy, and of what people really believe, what they're interested in, and what they aim to do, without denying that there are larger forces (the concept of property or development of feudalism, for instance) at play.

Marx in his writings was not at all unaware of the way in which ideology reinforces the dominant modes of the ruling class. Even today we see politicians defending Wall Street financiers on purely ideological grounds: as in, "sure we bailed them out and their speculation is sinking the ship, but the market is still 'free,' etc."

The underlying ideology of someone like Cheney is that "the American way of life is non-negotiable," and for him that way-of-life is a Rand Institute mythos: all laissez-faire bootstraps, and no mention of corporatism, cronyism or exploitation. That his ideology transparently reveals an impulse to protect what the ruling class takes for granted does not diminish his capacity for self-delusion. On the contrary, it shows it for what it is.

Finally I've never understood why some people argue a reading of history that uses class of one of its lenses somehow over-simplifies history: one can still acknowledge that there is psychology at work (look at advertising) without denying the larger socioeconomic forces at work.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 12:52 AM on April 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Koeselitz your post may be absolutely correct about Cheney but your analysis only proves that Hedges is correct. and while your analysis IS correct in that Cheney probably thinks he is "doing good", I think your charity towards Dick Cheney's motivations is naive at best. It is the fact that HE thinks that HE ALONE knows what is right and can do any and everything to further that agenda that makes him evil. His conflict of interest is a side effect that inevitably biases him into seeing what "the best" is in a way that also happens to line his pockets.

Let me sumerize what you said: Cheney believed what he was doing is right. The ideology of one man led him to do something that was misguided.

your conclusion: "Actual history and political philosophy has to ask what people really believe, what they're interested in, and what they aim to do - or else we never actually learn from it, and we never actually gain."

I assume from context that the "people" you refer to are historical figures, the people who supposedly move and shake history. And while it is true, we should strive for better leaders, the fact is that individual people are always flawed, and people who seek power are usually flawed in ways that makes handing them power problematic (venial, corrupt, weak willed, stupid, hate filled, etc).

the "people" that we should be concerned about are the people whose lives are affected by policy, not the politicians who want to get their face on the front of magazines. And indeed, those people need to organize into movements and unions and gurilla non-violent protests that articulate the just desires, hopes, and dreams of people who want to live life, and speak against the fearful, hate filled, disillusioned voices that are largely stoked by the powers that be.

Hedges point - if those movements are effective they will put limits on the abuse of power by the individual leaders who are, inevitably flawed. Sure, the "people" mob could also be flawed, as individuals, but the point is that their methods and their goals will demonstrate an underlying purity of purpose and just morality of what they seek that individual faults will not be magnified out of proportion and mar public policy and government action.
posted by DetonatedManiac at 12:57 AM on April 25, 2010


Thanks dude. This might be exactly, right or wrong, what I needed to hear and read right now.
posted by codacorolla at 1:00 AM on April 25, 2010


(Er, James Chaney was black.)
posted by orthogonality at 1:02 AM on April 25, 2010


DetonatedManiac: “It is the fact that HE [Dick Cheney] thinks that HE ALONE knows what is right and can do any and everything to further that agenda that makes him evil.”

But everyone thinks this.

“And indeed, those people need to organize into movements and unions and gurilla non-violent protests that articulate the just desires, hopes, and dreams of people who want to live life, and speak against the fearful, hate filled, disillusioned voices that are largely stoked by the powers that be. ”

Is it possible for such groups to do good in the world? I've never seen it. This thesis is difficult because it assumes that politics is simple enough for everyone, or at least a powerful minority, to comprehend. I don't think I buy that. It's certainly not simple enough for me to comprehend fully.
posted by koeselitz at 1:02 AM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


in what way is it at all akin to a fascist society? We chose this world. It has not been imposed on us by an upper class

Nor have many totalitarian societies. Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, Fascist Italy


Nazi Germany is a terrible example, since the elevation of Hitler to Chancellor was, yes, preceeded by an election, but was largely a product of wheeling and dealing by business and military elites to block leftist groups. The Nazis themselves were only a little over 30% of the vote, and their popularity had been on the wane.
posted by rodgerd at 1:03 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


The weird strains of evangelical triumphalism are clearly nothing like the fascism of yesteryear, which at least had a coherent idea about how society should be arranged. To assume that all we need to do is rely on the same old ways of dealing with the same old problems is suicide.

Koeselitz - WOW, you thought the Nazis had a "coherent idea about how society should be arranged"? WTF have you been smoking?

Killing Jews is not a "coherent national policy". It is the racist schizophrenia of a bunch of strong men expressing themselves through a corrupted government apparatus that was too fucked up to prevent the catastrophe.

The only thing coherent about Fascist ideology or policy is that it is whatever they can say, do, believe, or imply at the time that will get them more power.

Yes, fascism always appears in different forms... but the core decency of humanity remains the same... that is what we must embrace. Love, respect, morality, the respect of laws and not tolerating hate filled demagogues.
posted by DetonatedManiac at 1:05 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is it possible for such groups to do good in the world? I've never seen it.

Does good exist in the world? Yes or no? Have we evolved in some positive direction since the invention of fires that we gather around? So somehow we tend towards some sort of progress? I mean, maybe this is just a drunkards stagger but even then our randomly acting in ways that we think may help us won't hurt (minor point. lets move on)

This thesis is difficult because it assumes that politics is simple enough for everyone, or at least a powerful minority, to comprehend. I don't think I buy that. It's certainly not simple enough for me to comprehend fully

Um.... who's thesis was that? what? did you watch the same video that I did? Oh wait, did you even watch the guy?

His point is essentailly "this is all fucking complicated and we can't propose policy solutions out of this mess. We are in deep shit, the best thing we can do is act as individuals and stand up and resist what we see as morally wrong and whatever is destroying the values that we have as human beings. Further, we should organize as communities of people who are oppressed and stand up to the oppressors using methods that are non-violent and grow out of the values we embrace as essential to our humanity. Violence leads only to darkness"

How hard is that? really?
posted by DetonatedManiac at 1:11 AM on April 25, 2010


We chose this world. It has not been imposed on us by an upper class bent on preserving what they see as the perfect society. Heck, we have no conception whatsoever of what the perfect society is; we are uniquely a society with almost no ideals; we only have negatives which we fear. We are in some ways a more absolute democracy than any that's ever existed; we do not spend a moment of our lives imagining a world as we'd like it to be, and as a result we are not burdened by the self-restrictions and self-censorship that true ideals would impose on us.

koeselitz, I know you're just trying to argue that fascism is not the issue, but you can't do that by saying a bunch of stuff that isn't true. Every sentence I've quoted above is wrong.

I, for one, did not choose a world of ecological crisis, perpetual warfare, and massive inequalities of wealth and opportunity and standard of living. And while the upper class may not see the US as a perfect society, there is no question that they are the ones who hold power, and that the existing system is set up in a way that benefits them at the expense of everyone else, with no space for genuine alternatives.

As for this idea that "we" have no ideals and no conception of the perfect society, well, as Tonto said to the Lone Ranger: what do you mean "we," white man? I don't have a detailed vision of the perfect society, but I have some very clear and specific ideas of a radically different society that I would like to bring into existence, one that would be much more in line with the ideals I try to live by. I probably differ from a lot of people in the radicalism of my ideas, but that's a difference of degree, not of kind. Frankly, for an American to describe the US as "a society with almost no ideals" is just bizarre: your society is overflowing with ideals; your current president was elected as a symbol of some of those ideals; your country's very existence is predicated on a set of ideals that every schoolchild learns by heart. Do you honestly think the Tea Party has no ideals, reprehensible as they might be?

Considering the overwhelming and painfully obvious flaws with your political system, the notion that the US is "in some ways a more absolute democracy than any that's ever existed" is simply laughable. Seriously, you sound like the Dr. Pangloss of Democratic Party centrism. And as I've already said, many of us do imagine a better world, and struggle with self-restrictions and self-censorship in pursuit of it; I suspect this is as true of Obama as it is of my anarchist friends. I honestly don't see how you can say this and then go on to argue that Cheney is simply doing what he believes is right.

On preview: Damn, these comment threads are hard to keep up with.
posted by twirlip at 1:12 AM on April 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


twirlip: “Considering the overwhelming and painfully obvious flaws with your political system, the notion that the US is "in some ways a more absolute democracy than any that's ever existed" is simply laughable.”

You seem to think I thought that was a good thing.
posted by koeselitz at 1:17 AM on April 25, 2010


@twirlip, Hey I'm an American, and I'm asking that same question of Lone Ranger koeselitz ;)
posted by DetonatedManiac at 1:18 AM on April 25, 2010


koeselitz: I take no position on whether you thought it was a good thing. I'm simply saying it's not remotely true.
posted by twirlip at 1:24 AM on April 25, 2010


DetonatedManiac: I'm un-American, not anti-American, honest! Some of my best friends etc. :)
posted by twirlip at 1:40 AM on April 25, 2010


But this guy's analysis of the growing political disenfranchisement of the working class, something that the tea-bagger right is tapping into, cannot be easily dismissed. Ignore what this guy is saying at your peril

seconded.
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:15 AM on April 25, 2010


We chose this world. It has not been imposed on us by an upper class bent on preserving what they see as the perfect society.

There's a reason they call it the Washington consensus, and it's not because it was imposed by the grass roots upon a reluctant upper class.
posted by enn at 6:05 AM on April 25, 2010


Is it possible for such groups to do good in the world? I've never seen it.

So what's this? A call for the days before the gains of the civil rights movement or the gay rights movement? I know that very little of the US workforce enjoys the kind of civilized terms and conditions that the trade unions were responsible for in other parts of the world, but are you seriously suggesting that the kind of progress that other political and activist groups were responsible for aren't actually a social good?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:20 AM on April 25, 2010


*raises hand* I'm perfectly okay with frightening the powerful as an end unto itself.

I do not make the statement to be flip. The powerful (and they can be defined in a number of ways) have managed to be simultaneously fearful (of the loss of power) but very complacent as to their position above those they influence, manipulate, and in many ways, own. Fearing the loss of power can only make them more eager to cement it where that can be done and garner more of that power whenever obtainable. That never ceases. For certain people, no amount of money or number of political markers will ever be enough; the fear never ends.

The complacency towards their position and the people below them means that those who rule think little to nothing of the means required to temporarily assuage their fear. Why, of course we will help pass laws enabling personal intrusion, asset forfeiture, and mandatory minimum sentences; we have done so for those corner office dwellers for so very long. The little people hope that they might one day be big people, and if they cannot, they can at least worship them from afar. This assurance has reduced our worth to little more than plastic poker chips, our pensions thrown onto the table with a clink that is the sound of Doing Business.

Were the powerful frightened of anything besides the loss of that sole signifier, were they afraid of us, instead, we might not be used so harshly. Might. So haul out your best evil clown Halloween mask and ghoul away, kiddies.
posted by adipocere at 8:43 AM on April 25, 2010



I see this as just an explanation or backdrop for the kind of systems that Lawrence Wilkerson is talking about in this lecture on the military-industrial-congressional complex. (via this thread)

Hedges gives kind of a "bloodless" presentation, but I'm pretty sure that he means what he says about things like protofascism, and inverted totalitarianism. But maybe those things are easier to point at when you don't live in the US.
posted by sneebler at 11:16 AM on April 25, 2010


No One Cares: We are approaching a decade of war in Afghanistan, and the war in Iraq is in its eighth year. The peace movement, despite the heroic efforts of a handful of groups, is dead.
posted by homunculus at 12:28 AM on May 6, 2010


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