Why Chris Hedges Believes That Serious Revolt Is the Only Option People Have Left
Continued from previous page
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.
MK: Your fourth chapter is entitled "Days of Slavery" and it is about what you quote Bernie Sanders as calling "the bottom of the race to the bottom." It is about the exploited (and that seems an understated word given the circumstances) tomato pickers in Immokalee, Florida. It is indentured servitude and just short of slavery. But isn't there a glimmer of hope in the activism of the Immokalee workers' movement for better pay and working conditions?
CH: You cannot use the word hope if you do not resist. If you resist, even if it appears futile, you keep hope alive. And in every sacrifice zone we visited, including Immokalee where the Coalition of Immokalee Workers have organized tomato workers, we saw heroic struggles to fight back. But at the same time it is vital to remember that we cannot achieve significant reform or restore our democracy through established mechanisms of power. The electoral process has been hijacked by corporations. The judiciary has been corrupted and bought. The press shuts out the most important voices in the country and feeds us the banal and the absurd. Universities prostitute themselves for corporate dollars. Labor unions are marginal and ineffectual forces. The economy is in the hands of corporate swindlers and speculators. And the public, enchanted by electronic hallucinations, remains largely passive and supine. We have no tools left within the power structure in our fight to halt unchecked corporate pillage.
Once any political system ossifies, once all mechanisms for reform close, the lunatic fringe of a society, as I saw in Yugoslavia, rises out of the moral swamp to take control. The reformers, however well meaning and honest, finally have nothing to offer. They are disarmed.
MK: You were a vocal advocate of the hopefulness of the Occupy movement in creating radical change. But you also note in your book that the federal government joined local governments in dispossessing the Occupy movement of its beachheads of public land. Are we facing a situation like the suppression of the Green Revolution in Iran, like the crushing of the revolt in Czechoslovakia?
CH: The importance of the Occupy movement, and the reason I suspect its encampments were so brutally dismantled by the Obama administration, is that the corporate state understood and feared its potential to spark a popular rebellion. I do not think the state has won. All the injustices and grievances that drove people into the Occupy encampments and onto the streets have been ignored by the state and are getting worse. And we will see eruptions of discontent in the weeks and months ahead.
If these mass protests fail, opposition will inevitably take a frightening turn. The longer we endure political paralysis, the longer the formal mechanisms of power fail to respond, the more the extremists on the left and the right - those who venerate violence and are intolerant of ideological deviations - will be empowered. Under the steady breakdown of globalization, the political environment has become a mound of tinder waiting for a light.