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Robert Scheer and Chris Hedges on Class Struggle

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Posted on Nov 1, 2011
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Truthdig Radio airs Wednesdays at 2 p.m. Pacific time on 90.7 KPFK Los Angeles.

Last week on Truthdig Radio, the columnists had an in-depth discussion about the Occupy movement and the ruling class, which Hedges said is “totally divorced from what’s happening.”

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Transcript:


Robert Scheer: I’m talking to Chris Hedges ... I want to say, you’ve played an incredible role in getting people to not focus so much on the electoral possibilities, the leading party, and to take their concern to the street. And long before there was any of this Occupy L.A. or New York or any other movement, Wall Street, somebody else who did it—and it really impressed me, I reread his article—is Joseph Stiglitz. Back in April, in Vanity Fair of all places, [he] had a statement. I’d just like to begin by reading something he wrote then, because people say oh, where did this come from, and it came from this website, or something—and quoting Stiglitz, he said: “The top 1 percent have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Too late.” Are we at that moment now?

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Chris Hedges: Yeah. We are.

Robert Scheer: And are they getting the message, or is it just too late?

Chris Hedges: No.

Robert Scheer: No.

Chris Hedges: They don’t know what’s happening. It’s that old Dylan song, you know? “There’s something happening here, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones.” They don’t have—they don’t know what’s going on. That’s why they keep asking for demands: What are your demands, what are your demands? I was just down at Zuccotti Park, and they said, “We’re thinking about having a slogan saying ‘our demands are there is no demand.’  ” They want the corporate state reversed, and the power elite can’t get their head around that.

Robert Scheer: You know, the power elite has spent a lot of money denying there is a power elite. And I remember when I was teaching in graduate school in economics, there was ‘oh, there really isn’t—there’s equal, relatively equal income distribution.’ And just today, the Congressional Budget Office came out with a study of what I would call Three Decades of Greed. They traced it from ’79 to ’07. And the top 1 percent’s income went up 273 percent! I mean, we now have ample documentation of the obvious: that this claimed middle class that was supposed to be the basis of American democracy is being wiped out; that people lower down are really suffering. And you’ve seen these people, you’ve met with them, you’ve rubbed shoulders with them. What do they think, they’re just going to rough it out, or that it won’t matter?

Chris Hedges: Well, I think that oligarchic elite is so insulated from reality; you know, the only time they mingle with the working classes is when they meet their gardener or their chauffer or, you know, a bartender. And of course these people are in roles where their job depends on them being subservient or obsequious. So they’re totally divorced from what’s happening. They don’t see it, it’s not on their radar screen, they don’t get it. And that’s what happens with isolated elites, whether it’s in the Forbidden City or Versailles or anywhere else. They can’t make rational decisions, because they don’t understand what reality is like for the 99 percent. They have no idea.

Robert Scheer: You know, Chris, in your most recent article on Truthdig you raise a pointed challenge to the protesters to be in touch with minorities, to not repeat the errors of the ’60s, to involve the working class. And when I read that, it hit me that one big difference we have now is that back in the ’60s, we had something of what was called the labor aristocracy. There was an illusion that the good times would keep rolling, because we had strong unions and decent wages. And there [even] was a hope that minorities would be doing better. Now we have a situation, the Pew Research Center reports, that for Latinos there’s been a 60 percent decline in wealth, not just income; for African-Americans, 53 percent. We know what has happened to working-class wages. So do you think that is the decisive difference between now and then?

Chris Hedges: I think there are many differences, but I think that’s probably the biggest. There was never an alliance with unionized labor and the anti-war movement, or the civil rights movement. Unionized labor being predominantly white, you know—you know better than I; supported Nixon’s war in Indochina, denounced the sort of hippies in the streets, with all of that sort of coded racism that white privilege loves, when they were talking about Martin Luther King. That’s a big difference.

Now, unions also don’t have the kind of clout that they had in the ’60s. I think we had about 37 percent of workers in this country were unionized; it’s now diminished to around 12 percent, and a lot of them are public-sector employees, not only whose unions are under assault but who don’t even have the capacity to strike. But I think that’s a huge difference; I think that part of the weakness of the ’60s was that it never built an alliance with labor the way the old radical movements of the turn of the century. The Wobblies, the old C.I.O. and the Communist Party built movements between radical intellectuals like Randolph Bourne and Jane Addams and Mother Jones and Eugene Debs, and organized labor. Which gave those movements, I think, a kind of power that, in the end, the movements of the ’60s didn’t have.

I think the other problem is that the movements in the ’60s—and I have a kind of peculiar relationship; I was just a kid, but I was hauled off to all these demonstrations by my father, who was involved in the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement and finally the gay rights movement. But he was an ordained Presbyterian clergy, so in our house there was never any alcohol. The hedonism of the ’60s was deeply distasteful to the religious left, and I think that hedonism is not part of this movement. I mean, it’s fascinating that the ban on alcohol and drugs is rigorously enforced—self, it’s self-policing in Zuccotti Park. Now, of course they know that this gives the authorities an excuse to throw them out. But I think that there are important differences that cut across class lines now, and those class lines remained fairly rigid in the ’60s. The anti-war movement was largely a white middle-class phenomenon; the civil rights movement, of course, achieved a legal victory, not an economic one, although both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X understood that without economic justice, racial equality, any kind of racial equality, was impossible.

I think what we’re seeing is something really new and unique and different. Not that movements are new and unique; they’ve, of course, always come with us throughout American history, and of course always proven to be the true correctives to democracy, whether it’s the suffragists or the anti-slavery movement or the labor party or the civil rights movement. But this cuts across traditional lines. And that’s why you see, almost from its inception, a very wide popular support. And I think when you go back to the civil rights movement, even among the African-American community, certainly that’s true in the anti-war movement—those movements began with very little popular support. And that’s a big difference.


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By chacaboy, November 3, 2011 at 8:39 am Link to this comment

Though it does seem to affirm that the “vast majority” of your head is empty
space…;-)

Is there a moderator here to focus this conversation away from cheap shots? The
smiley face doesn’t really compensate…this is definitely the low road.

Report this

By Don Schneider, November 3, 2011 at 6:04 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Why do so many hate and fear mongers find their way to progressive sites such as
this to smear their nastiness ?  You would think they would feel more at home
commenting on rt. wing republican venues.

Report this

By ardee, November 3, 2011 at 5:08 am Link to this comment

Not so objective observer, November 2 at 2:48 pm

i’ll type slowly so you can keep up.  43% doesn’t make a majority. 

Your comment, as dumb as a post, stated that   it would appear that most of the commenters on this topic either commune only with like minded or totally ignore what the fact that the vast majority of the American public couldn’t care less about this “movement”.

Can you not even keep track of what you yourself post?  I thought not. 43% approval would seem to negate your comment about “the vast majority of Americans”. Though it does seem to affirm that the “vast majority” of your head is empty space…;-)

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D.R. Zing's avatar

By D.R. Zing, November 2, 2011 at 5:24 pm Link to this comment

Interesting the talk in the interview about winning
over the rank and file police officers.

That is important. Police officers and their families
are bankrupted as frequently as anyone else in the
current financial system. 

It’s also important to win over rank and file
journalists.  Most journalists join their profession
because they bought into the myth that free speech
exists in the United States.  The truth is free
speech exists for corporations and their owners, such
as Rupert Murdoch, but journalists have been largely
reduced to the role of heavily censored corporate
stenographers. 

The sooner journalists realize the Occupy movement
could benefit their profession the better off the
movement will be.   

objective observer:

Most of the people I know have seen a nuclear
detonation, which means at some rudimentary level
they must understand that our scientists penetrate
and even split the unseen and previously unknown.
Those scientists did not find souls and spirits; they
found subatomic particles.

Likewise, most of the people I know have flown in jets
and seen pictures the Hubble telescope has taken. 
The people know the ancients believed the gods—and
God—were in the clouds.  But the people don’t see
them when they fly in jets.  And when they look at
Hubble pictures, they see the universe, with all its
stars and black holes, not the flawless kingdom of
the Bible. 

And yet these same people still believe when they die
a spirit retaining all their memories and capable of
feeling sensations goes galavanting across the
universe. 

And they twist themselves into mystical contortions to
convince themselves another dimension exists that is
indeed the heaven of the ancients.

And they believe when they close their eyes and talk
to themselves that the God of the ancients is
listening to their thoughts, and some of them even
believe that when their own thoughts echo back to
them what they are hearing are the words of God. 

And some of these people believe the Occupy movement
is just a bunch of punks and hippies. 

I don’t hold any of it against them.  For I have
learned to live among them and I have compassion for
their unique form of mental retardation, brought on
by a childhood of intellectual abuse, that renders
them incapable of perceiving reality as it actually
exists. 

Peace out, dude.

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By objective observer, November 2, 2011 at 2:48 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

ooo, cranky today, aren’t we Mr/Ms ardee.  this is typical of the left wing of the political spectrum, name calling when one disagrees with you, not being able to compose a coherent response. 

i’ll type slowly so you can keep up.  43% doesn’t make a majority.  the people i interact with are what would be called by civilized folk as “middle Americans”.  you know, common folk.  for the record, i applaud the few objectives put forth by the occupiers, i just don’t believe that they will be achieved with their current method. 

since you have no response except name calling and vile, i will regard this as a symptom of your lower mentality and await other, more thoughtful responses.

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By blogdog, November 2, 2011 at 2:31 pm Link to this comment

from the interview, near its closing - “...Exxon Mobile is not going to lavish you…”
of course not, exactly why it took NPR (National Propaganda Radio) 9 days to
start covering OWS

but let’s not stop there - what if Rockefeller, Ford, Soros Foundations,
et al, do lavish you, then what is expected?  e.g.

Appalling Propaganda from Amy Goodman About Libya
Willy Loman - Scott Creighton
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2011 - http://tinyurl.com/3q5cddn

Amy Goodman of Democracy NOW! has become one of the most disingenuous
news figures this country has to offer and that’s saying a lot because there are
numbers of them. She is not worthy of your trust, she is not worth of your time,
she is not worthy of your respect… anymore.  Such a sad legacy she now leaves
behind after a long and storied career as a dedicated teller of the truth in spite
of the power aligned against her. For whatever reason, she has become just
another presstitute in service of the globalists who are at this minute still
attacking the people of Libya, still bombing them and their infrastructure, still
laying siege to cities and populations who refuse to surrender to NATO powers, 
and still planning how to dice up the people of Libya’s state assets to hand
them over to their favorite corporate contributors.

[...]

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By ardee, November 2, 2011 at 2:24 pm Link to this comment

Oh another one crawls out of the woodwork. They all shout ,“because I say so!” in their squeaky little cockroach voices.


objective observer, November 2 at 12:55 pm

in my profession, i talk to a lot of different people throughout the day.

As one might expect of a streetwalker…;-)

  it would appear that most of the commenters on this topic either commune only with like minded or totally ignore what the fact that the vast majority of the American public couldn’t care less about this “movement”.  most of the people i talk to consider these “occupiers” as either slackers or 60’s has beens or wannabes.  until there is some unified message, demand or call to action, this event will simply be an annoyance.

...and there you have it, conclusive proof, not of the relative popularity of the OWS movement but of the sliminess of those who oppose it. Oh cockroach, CBS for one disagrees with your silly little poll. Polling your Johns, by the by, not really authentic.


http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20125515-503544/poll-43-percent-agree-with-views-of-occupy-wall-street/

October 25, 2011 6:30 PM

 
Poll: 43 percent agree with views of “Occupy Wall Street”

Report this

By Morpheus, November 2, 2011 at 2:09 pm Link to this comment

Memo to America: Stop waiting for Democrats and Republicans to save you. It’s bad for your health and your future. Can’t you tell? You have another choice -use it!


“WAKE UP PEOPLE!” 
Read “Common Sense 3.1” at ( http://www.revolution2.osixs.org )

Enough talk, it’s time to get organized.

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By Dieter Heymann, November 2, 2011 at 2:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Sorry Mr. Scheer but the overturning of tables by Jesus, if that really happened, had absolutely nothing to do with social justice. For openers, these so-called money “changers” were not money changers but lenders of funds to people who did not have the money to buy a lamb that was to be slaughtered in the Temple at Easter. According to Jewish laws they were not allowed to demand interest although they probably had some ways to circumvent that law. They served a social purpose. Secondly, the so-called overturning was a religious not a social act by Jesus who held that the slaughter of lambs was a heathen and not a Jewish tradition.

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By objective observer, November 2, 2011 at 12:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

in my profession, i talk to a lot of different people throughout the day.  it would appear that most of the commenters on this topic either commune only with like minded or totally ignore what the fact that the vast majority of the American public couldn’t care less about this “movement”.  most of the people i talk to consider these “occupiers” as either slackers or 60’s has beens or wannabes.  until there is some unified message, demand or call to action, this event will simply be an annoyance. 

change comes only through the ballot box or the bullet box.  if voted in, the elected quickly become what they campaigned against, and become the problem.  if the latter, those that are calling the loudest for change will lose, since most of them wouldn’t know which end of the gun to point downrange, and are too anti second amendment to learn.

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By gerard, November 2, 2011 at 10:05 am Link to this comment

One thing we all need to understand better is what we mean, more precisely, when we say “they are clueless.”  It is so commonly used for that everybody assumes it has content.  It indicates, but the content is vague:  Whata does “out of it” mean, exactly, “not aware of causing disaster”, “out to lunch”, “care-less” nnd—most important—how do people get that way and what’s the most effective thing to do about it, and how?
  I know these questions seem boring and petty, but the psychology of “cluelessness” is very widely spread, not only among the rich, and in my opinion we need to seriously look into it. Probably we should all start with asking ourselves what we are “clueless” about, and why?

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By felicity, November 2, 2011 at 9:39 am Link to this comment

There are written accounts of Russian elites (to the
manor born types) who literally starved to death in
their houses when the peasants on their estates
rebelled and deserted them during the Russian
Revolution of 1917.

Reminds me of Scarlett’s line in Gone With the Wind,
“I’ll think about that tomorrow” when any threat to
their existence tomorrow is simply unthought of today.

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prisnersdilema's avatar

By prisnersdilema, November 2, 2011 at 7:57 am Link to this comment

While occupying Wall Street don’t forget to occupy Conneticut…

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D.R. Zing's avatar

By D.R. Zing, November 2, 2011 at 7:49 am Link to this comment

“The hero of independent media…Bob Scheer.”
—Chris Hedges

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D.R. Zing's avatar

By D.R. Zing, November 2, 2011 at 7:47 am Link to this comment

This is an awesome interview. I recommend everyone
listen to it. Thank you, Truthdig, for posting it.

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D.R. Zing's avatar

By D.R. Zing, November 2, 2011 at 7:29 am Link to this comment

Thomas Friedman is a walking conflict of interest.

Report this
D.R. Zing's avatar

By D.R. Zing, November 2, 2011 at 7:27 am Link to this comment

“A lot of them are just stupid.” —Chris Hedges

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D.R. Zing's avatar

By D.R. Zing, November 2, 2011 at 7:17 am Link to this comment

Hell yes!  Occupy the newsroom.

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By DonMidwest, November 2, 2011 at 6:07 am Link to this comment

An excellent summary of the class struggle that we are going through and the importance of OWS.

I worked to get Robert Scheer elected to congress and went door to door in the 1960’s in Oakland. I well recall the Oakland police turning us back in the anti war march of Oct 15, 1965.

These days, every system is broken down. The problems our country faces are systemic and have not been addressed by the political class nor of course the corporations who have been carrying out the Corporate cout d’ etat.

I sent this article out to my friends.

I live in the Columbus OH area these days and sent it to the local democratic club. They have been focused on stopping Gov Kasik and not taken the step beyond the democratic party as advocated in this interview.

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By ardee, November 2, 2011 at 5:50 am Link to this comment

Perhaps the most significant and in-depth discussion I have read in my two plus years here at TD.

This is worth, not only a read, but a re-read and some real thoughtful consideration of the several points made. Further it certainly shines the bright white light of truth and balance on the insinuations and clumsy efforts of the twin pillars of propaganda here; Ozark Michael and IMax, in their efforts to discredit OWS. That this need to slander is present shows plainly how important this movement really is and both infers a status on it and makes one wonder where we will go from here.

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By Outraged, November 2, 2011 at 12:31 am Link to this comment

“If you have a very large crowd shouting outside your
building, there might not be room for a safety net if
you’re the one tumbling down when it collapses.”

Lemony Snicket

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By gerard, November 1, 2011 at 9:53 pm Link to this comment

Wow!  A very cogent and thorough summary of where we’re at and what a lot of us are about, all put forth through airing the personal views and wide experiences of Scheer and Hedges.  I’m very glad to know more about where they are coming from and what they think our chances are. Hang in there, guys, and keep looking and listening, publishing and talking.

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