Why Chris Hedges Believes That Serious Revolt Is the Only Option People Have Left
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MK: You write, "Revolt is all that we have left. It is our only hope." Most revolt from oppressive powers has come from the working class. But except for the Wisconsin uprising, the working class appear to view movements like Occupy as not representing them. And even in Wisconsin, the GOP was able to split the unions from the non-union working class. How do you see progressive revolts linking up with the working class?
CH: The movement in Wisconsin made a fatal mistake. It allowed its energy to be channeled back into a dead political system by the Democratic Party and the labor movement, or at least what passes for a labor movement in this country. It could not compete with corporate power and corporate money. And it will be hard now to regroup. They willingly played the game and lost, although of course the rules were rigged. The split between labor and non-labor is only one divide. Occupy is essentially a white, middle class movement led by college educated men and women who have found no place in the wider society. The working class and the poor deeply distrusts liberals, especially college-educated liberals, who since the Clinton administration have repeatedly betrayed them in the name of liberalism. Those who support Occupy will have to rebuild bridges to our impoverished working class, and more importantly to those of color who live in marginal communities and who also have been abandoned by the traditional liberal elites. But this skirts an even bigger and more important problem. In the traditional sense of a working class, i.e. one that is organized and manufactures goods, we no longer have one. Workers have been reduced to toiling at two or three jobs in the service sector. I don't know how we are going to fight back effectively without an organized work force. That is one of my greatest concerns.
MK: You are a consummate writer. But what role do you see that six decades of visual and sound bite messaging on television has had on allowing the political elite and oligarchy to sustain their "frame" of the status quo through corporate TV?
CH: The chatter that passes for news, the gossip that is peddled by the windbags on the airwaves, the noise that drowns out rational discourse, and the timidity and cowardice of what is left of the newspaper industry reflect our flight into collective self-delusion. We stand on the cusp of one of the most seismic and disturbing dislocations in human history, one that is radically reconfiguring our economy as it is the environment, and our national obsessions, because of these electronic hallucinations, revolve around the trivial and the absurd. The illusionists who shape our culture, and who profit from our incredulity, hold up the gilded cult of Us. Popular expressions of religious belief, personal empowerment, corporatism, political participation and self-definition argue that all of us are special, entitled and unique. All of us, by tapping into our inner reserves of personal will and undiscovered talent, by visualizing what we want, can achieve, and deserve to achieve, happiness, fame and success. It is, of course, magical thinking.
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.