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Hedges Discusses, Debates ‘Death of the Liberal Class’

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Posted on Oct 26, 2010
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Author and Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges recently made an appearance on Canadian television’s “The Agenda With Steve Paikin” to make his case about how the American liberal class and its institutions have spectacularly failed those whom they supposedly aimed to serve, taking no prisoners (et tu, Bill Clinton) and hitting on the major themes of his new book, the aptly titled “The Death of the Liberal Class,” while he was at it. Then, the host brought in a few other guests to join in a debate. Both the interview and the discussion are posted below.  —KA

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Dave Ewoldt's avatar

By Dave Ewoldt, November 10, 2010 at 1:35 pm Link to this comment

I agree with gerard that non-violent civil disobedience is not well understood, especially how to determine when it is the most effective tool to use. But I also very much agree with mdgr, that you also have to understand its limitations, and be willing to alter your tactics when necessary.

People, in our politically correct environment, tend to (intentionally, I think) confuse violence with defense. I also highly recommend Derrick Jensen’s Endgame, Vols 1&2. As he clearly points out, there is a mindset that is intentionally destroying life for personal gain, and it must be resisted and sent to the dustbin of history—by any means necessary.

The radical right of the corporatist state, who have somehow fooled themselves into thinking that being a socialist is worse than being a sociopath, will continue the downward spiral the US and the rest of the world finds itself on. Since they have no realistic solutions to underlying causes, and in fact deny those causes, how could it be otherwise?

Which is the real reason for this comment. Mdgr said that much will happen over the next two years. From the perspective of the further consolidation of elite power hierarchies, continued exploitation of all other life forms, and further loss of civil liberties due to the conflation of the market with freedom (and all the other ways free-market ideology is both intellectually bankrupt and scientifically dishonest), the next two years will be interesting indeed—in the Chinese curse sense of the word.

However, it is not only the political realm we must be aware of. Over the next two years we could see a couple of other crises converging that could make Tea Partiers seem quaint. What should be world leaders most pressing concern, catastrophic climate destabilization—which results primarily from Industrialism—is negatively impacting fresh water supplies, the continued availability of food supplies, and will result in tens of millions of environmental refugees.

Then there’s peak oil, which also results from Industrialism. As the International Energy Agency recently reported, we’ve entered a crisis situation in regard to the continued availability of cheap and abundant fossil fuels. The main reason it’s a crisis isn’t because Americans won’t be able to drive their SUVs to the mall. Energy availability is necessary for economic growth, and without the growth necessary for debt servicing, the global financial system will stop working.

And, of course, we could throw loss of biodiversity (no food chain, no food), biospheric toxicity, deforestation, desertification, ocean acidification, fisheries and other natural resource depletion, etc ad nauseum into the mix.

If the combination of political immaturity exhibited by the Tea Party movement, peak oil, and global warming collide within the time frame that many who study these issues predict, people will become very susceptible to political extremism the likes of which we’ve never seen before. Mad Max could become an optimistic scenario.

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By Candy Johnson, November 8, 2010 at 5:45 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I so agree with Chris Hedges on all points. I can completely identify with this premise that the failure of the liberal class is rooted in their placating or following the constraints of the exploitative-corporate model that they themselves do not realize they have been conditioned.

I think out of all of the participants debating Chris, Reiham Salam exemplifies (in a tragic way), this self-imposed denial, while attempting to justify or claim legitimacy for his denial of the obvious, by cloaking them in his “humble roots.”  I am African-American and female. I grew-up in post industrial, segregated, Chicago when 70% of Black families were two-parented, minimal waged workers.  In this respect, my life experiences are similar to Reiham, yet our conclusions are so radically different. 

I am so grateful for Chris’ sanity in a sea of incredible harrowing unabashed, collective denial, and utter insanity. I sure hope to meet him someday.

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By 1984 LesDIPLOMATES, November 6, 2010 at 10:49 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

THE BEST DEMOCRACY MONEY CAN BUY
” Of all forms of tyranny the least attractive and
the most vulgar is the tyranny of mere wealth, the
tyranny of plutocracy ” - John Pierpont Morgan

Our sick sad fuck of an used, abused & oh so confused
obscurantist circus was just voted in. It promises to
give America what it deserves !
Now what will that be ?
More racism, more religious bigotry sanctioned laws,
more anti-gay drivel, more wall street shananigans,
more war profiters & child chewing monsters to keep
the economy chuging along or just more of the efin’
SAME since CHANGE is on the up&up; )

EXECUTIVE RESUME
White House,Pentagon, State Department, FBI, CIA,
etc. may have differences of style, but all of them
have the same and well defined and known objective:
the defense of the economic and geopolitical
interests of its Global Elite. It is not a matter of
a president: fat, skinny, dumb or bright, black or
white. It is a matter of a system. The capitalist
system in its higher level: Imperialism.

We have become a monster in the eyes of the whole
world – a nation of bullies and bastards who would
rather kill than live peacefully. We are not just
whores for power and oil, but killer whores with hate
and fear in our hearts. We are human scum, and that
is how history will judge us… No redeeming social
value. Just whores. Get out of our way, or we’ll kill
you.” – Hunter S. Thompson

“We are watching a poorly staged rendition of Wag the
Dog , interpreted for the morbidly stupid and
performed by the criminally insane.” - Jules Carlysle

Backstory
http://current.com/news/91661478_corporations-with-
more-rights-than-people.htm

What was lost
http://current.com/news/92760426_the-phantom-left-
sanity-what-was-also-lost-yest….

Conclusion
See ya all on DEAD END STREET wink
http://current.com/entertainment/music/92759198_dead-
end-street.htm

“How to get people to vote against their interests
and to really think against their interests is very
clever. It’s the cleverest ruling class that I have
ever come across in history. It’s been 200 years at
it. It’s superb.” - Gore Vidal

Its here that the American dream decided it liked the
taste of the vomit it was chocking on. Just rolled
over on its back and screamed for more drugs. it
didn’t die. - Warren Ellis

Note : Black humor is the politeness of despair

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By gerard, October 28, 2010 at 2:45 pm Link to this comment

mdgr:  Although your comment of disagreement with Gerard is somewhat off-point in this string, I have to say “disagreement” is probably an overstatement.

You say:  “Still, I’d also endorse Hedges’ call for cautionary thinking. Taking up the cause of violence at this time is also a good way to get run over by a tank. ,,,  You go on to say:  “We need to be mindful and use our chosen tactics in the service of a well-considered long-term strategy. Much will happen over the next two years. It’s way too early to do much of anything other than ask for more awareness.” 
  I might have written exactly the same thing.  My plea recently has been that people need to learn about civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance.  Most people know nothing, and the degree of “negataive publicity” it receives is outlandish. Charges of “ineffective” “weak” “unpatriotic” and “radical” keep most people from relating to it positively, so they never even try to find out what it is. 
  This almost total lack of understanding of what it is, how it has been used, by whom, and why—and its possibilities, if any—may turn out to be a tragic gap in thinking about the future, It needs to be understood and considered now, while there is time.
  What is it that you object to, exactly?

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Psychobabbler's avatar

By Psychobabbler, October 28, 2010 at 5:29 am Link to this comment

Think tanks, like royalty have no useful purpose.

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By mdgr, October 27, 2010 at 5:54 pm Link to this comment

Gerard and I continue to agree to disagree on this issue:

-First off, the Partisan Resistance in France involved guns, it worked, and there was no other alternative.

-Our good friends, the Tabiban, managed to kick out the Soviets using American guns, and they are also kicking out the Americans using those same guns. Hideous though it may be, even we are beginning to think it might be better than Karzai. In other words, it worked.

-Jenin—as well as Tienanmen Square—involved civil disobedience. While I admire the courage of those who get run-over by a bulldozer, one cannot say that either strategy worked very well, and a god deal of time has passed.

-Even the Tibetans found back in violent ways against the Chinese invaders, but after the Dalai Lama left, things “settled down.” After several decades, one cannot say that in Tibet, the Dalai Lama’s preaching of non-violence has worked.

Now, none of this is intended to suggest that violence is the desired strategy. The nexus of Gerard’s post relates, however, is NOW. That’s where I mostly think Gerard is jumping to some premature conclusions.

Hedges point to the tendencies of “liberals” not just to be mealy-mouthed and ineffectual, but also to be overly-idealistic and emotionally divorced from reality.

I’d readily endorse Gerard’s call that people study the “methods” of non-violence as long as they do not sign onto it as a “religion.” The study is necessarily in order to more objectively evaluate it as a tactic.

I’d also suggest that people look into at what Derrick Jensen said in “Endgame,” again not to become a convert but to more objectively evaluate a tactic.

My guess is that Hedges is right. It is as yet way too early to take sides as to tactics. It very likely will be something between these extremes, a middle way, as it were.

Still, I’d also endorse Hedges’ call for cautionary thinking. Taking up the cause of violence at this time is also a good way to get run over by a tank.

We need to be mindful and use our chosen tactics in the service of a well-considered long-term strategy. Much will happen over the next two years. It’s way too early to do much of anything other than ask for more awareness.

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By Matzpen, October 27, 2010 at 5:00 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The hundreds, if not thousands, of hours a year activists spend organizing protests, rallies, speak outs, fundraisers, meetings, speeches and the like are the most crucial political acts a person can undertake, NOT mere Voting
http://sherrytalksback.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/caught-in-the-election-crossfire/

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By gerard, October 27, 2010 at 1:58 pm Link to this comment

My hope is that, between “now” and some future “then’, as many people as possible will learn as much as they can about nonviolent resistance—what it is, why it requires commitment, deep understanding and forethought, how it might work and why it is better than violence.
  That means that those who understand and have practiced it need to share experience and understanding.  It means that a large number of people who now know little about it need to open up and get informed. It means that those who have never practiced it, even superficially, need to stop calling it “sissy” and “ineffectual”, which prejudices others from even thinking seriously about it.
  One thing it has going for it:  Violence has pretty much proven that it is hideous and counter-productive.  It’s time for an alternative, and now is as good an opportunity as any.

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By mdgr, October 27, 2010 at 1:37 pm Link to this comment

Culheath:

“The single most important idea I garnered from the from the discussion was the idea that solutions to our present quagmires are to be found from national movements which never desire nor achieve formal political power.”

Yes, and if one listens carefully to what Chris Hedges refrains from saying in any number of presentations, intimations arise of what he is thinking.

He is not suggesting that these movements should be violent in nature, no, and he has previously warned that if we resist by acting out, we will be prematurely crushed.

But neither is he fundamentally rejecting the methods of the Resistance in France. Sit-down strikes would arguably not have done much to halt the likes of Hitler, and the inverted-totalitarianism that Hedges sees America succumbing to is fundamentally not any less fascist in nature.

In the video Q&A to a link I cited in several previous posts, he says at one point that we may need to break the law, and the edge in his voice is perhaps more suggestive of Malcolm X than Martin Luther King.

We often say that if something “looks like a duck and acts like a duck, it probably is a duck.” The psychological term is that we “gestalt” a duck, we see it as a “whole that is more than the sum of its parts.” 

The act of perception itself is not always just an intellectual attachment of Velcro. It also, in many cases, involves human emotion. Spontaneous anger and an attendant sense of outrage, while they can certainly blind us to reality, can also provide us with unique insights that a mere “analysis of the parts” can never quite achieve.

Most of the other people in this aforementioned “debate” seemed not to be in touch with their outrage. They were stuck in their “heads,” and up there, one can make an argument that anything is true.

Chris Hedges has the unique ability to present from a place in which the Intellect and the Feeling function speak in unison. They are, in a word, integrated.

And thus it is that he puts his finger on one of the key problems with the so-called “liberal” persona. It can click it’s tongue till the cows come home, but it has no real integrity. It has no real sense of principle or moral outrage and thus it is that it nominates leaders like Bill Clinton, Pelosi, Reid and Obama. 

My larger point is that the national movement to which Mr. Hedges refers has to give voice to a volcano. We’re way past “We shall overcome.” When he’s saying that we may need to break some laws, the edge in his voice is palpable.

He is not talking about jay-walking.

What is he talking about, then? I don’t think he knows, and that’s perfectly OK. Right now, he is mostly urging people to gestalt reality. He is saying that a herd of elephants is about to crush us, and we better pay attention.

He is also saying that nature abhors a vacuum, and a national movement probably will arise along the lines that he predicts.

It is way too early to fetter it in words. He is explicitly not calling for civil disobedience, but he is not rejecting that either. Same with the concept of the Resistance as it went forward with the Partisans in France. He is not serving as an apologist for anything other than awareness, however. At this juncture, he is very wise to stop there.

Still, he seems to also be saying that the volcanoes have yet to fully ignite. It is up to us to channel the anger and the energy with wisdom, commitment (with our bodies on the line) and with purpose.

And that may indeed require a national movement and a breaking of the law. It is not yet time for it to emerge yet, however. When it is, the “liberal class” will have already been thoroughly discredited and destroyed. That, Hedges’ thinks, is a good thing.

I concur.

The vacuum thus created—after November and into the future—will tell us where we need to go and what we need to fill it with as a countermeasure to America’s embrace of fascism.

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By mdgr, October 27, 2010 at 1:25 pm Link to this comment

If you listen carefully to to what Chris Hedges refrains from saying in any number of presentations, intimations might arise of what he is thinking.

He is not suggesting that these national movements should be violent in nature, no, and he has previously warned us that if people resist by acting out, they will be prematurely crushed.

But neither is he fundamentally rejecting the methods of the Resistance in France.

Sit-down strikes would arguably not have done much to halt the likes of Hitler, and the inverted-totalitarianism that Hedges sees America succumbing to is fundamentally not any less fascist in nature.

In the Q&A to a video link cited by me in several previous posts, he explicitly says at one point that we may need to break the law, and the edge in his voice is perhaps more suggestive of Malcolm X than Martin Luther King.

A related point needs to be considered. We often say that if something “looks like a duck and acts like a duck, it probably is a duck.” The psychological term is that we “gestalt” it as a duck, we see that the “whole is more than the sum of its parts.” 

The act of perception itself is not always just an intellectual attachment of Velcro. It also, in many cases, involves human emotion.

Spontaneous anger and an attendant sense of outrage, while they can certainly blind us to reality, can also provide us with unique insights that a mere “analysis of the parts” can never quite achieve.

Most of the other people in this aforementioned “debate” seemed not to be in touch with that ability to respond in this way. They were stuck in their “heads,” and up there, one can make the argument that anything is true.

Chris Hedges has the unique ability to present from a place in which the Intellect and the Feeling function speak in unison. They are, in a word, integrated.

And thus it is that he puts his finger on one of the key problems with the so-called “liberal” persona. It can click it’s tongue till the cows come home, but it has no real integrity. It has no real sense of principle or moral outrage and thus it is that it nominates leaders like Bill Clinton, Pelosi, Reid and Obama. 

My larger point is that the national movement to which Mr. Hedges refers has to give voice to a volcano. We’re way past “We shall overcome.” When he’s saying that we may need to break some laws, the edge in his voice is palpable.

He is not talking about jay-walking.

What is he talking about, then? I don’t think he knows, and that’s perfectly OK. Right now, he is mostly urging people to gestalt reality. He is saying that a herd of elephants is about to crush us, and we better pay attention.

He is also saying that nature abhors a vacuum, and a national movement probably will arise along the lines that he predicts.

It is way too early to fetter it in words. He is explicitly not calling for civil disobedience, but he is not rejecting that either. Same with the concept of the Resistance as it went forward with the Partisans in France. He is not serving as an apologist for anything other than awareness, and at this juncture, he is very wise to stop there.

Still, he seems to also be saying that the volcanoes have yet to ignite. It is up to us to channel our anger and outrage with wisdom, commitment (putting our bodies on the line) and with purpose.

And that may indeed lead to a national movement and a “breaking of the law.” It is not yet time for it to emerge yet, however.

If and when it is time, the “liberal class” will have already been thoroughly discredited and destroyed. That, Hedges thinks, is a good thing.

I couldn’t agree more.

The vacuum thus created—after November and into the future—will tell us where we need to go and what we need to fill it with as a countermeasure to America’s wide embrace of fascism.

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By Stuart Davies, October 27, 2010 at 11:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Wow….very impressive. Hedges is both an amazingly insightful thinker and a very cool, calm, and persuasive speaker. He makes these other blokes look like mental pygmies in comparison, the disparity makes you embarassed for them.
  However, he - like so many other respectable lefty intellectuals such as Chomsky - carefully evades the conspiracy label, even though there was clearly a corporate/military intelligence/governmental conspiracy (that included elements of the British and Italian governments as well) involved in fabricating “intelligence” on WMD’s used, with full collusion by the corporate media, to whip up popular hysteria and support for the invasion of Iraq.
  Greg Palast dug up smoking gun documented evidence on the big oil plot (pre-invasion) to profit from the invasion by subsequently shutting down the production of Iraqi oil exports and sending oil prices skyrocketing… a strategy that proved tremendously successful for them. The trail of evidence of conspiracy continues for a period of years, including the revelations from within the Blair administration that they were colluding with the Bush/Cheney administration to “fix the evidence” around the policy, i.e., invasion. The whole incident with the outing of Plame was another obvious element of that long running conspiracy. These are only a few of the many examples that can be cited.
  However… let’s not use the word conspiracy, shall we? Even though that is clearly what occurred, even though you can point to irrefutable evidence of it, we must not say that word because it will damage our credibility. Everyone knows that only the lunatic fringe believes in conspiracies, right?
  One significant lapse in Hedges otherwise stellar perfomance in this little debate was to allow the premise stand that an ostensible justification for the invasion, before it actually occurred, was the concept of “Democracy building”. In fact, this was a post-invasion rationalization fabricated AFTER the original pretext, the WMD hoax, proved to be groundless.

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culheath's avatar

By culheath, October 27, 2010 at 7:54 am Link to this comment

What a penetrating discussion - and how unfortunate that such dialogues are all but absent in the American mainstream media.

What struck me was the degree of naivete on the part of the apologists regarding the capabilities and intentions of the prosecutors of the Iraq war. In particular, both Reihan Salam and Tony Keller seemed to be afraid to admit that we are as deeply involved in the inverted totalitarianism of the corporate state as described up by Hedges. Keller seemed especially naive about the goals of the vested interests that underpinned the rationales for the Iraq war. I loved how Hedges spanked him for it when he brought up his own credentials as an Arab speaker who was on the scene during the Shiite massacres by Saddam and was witness to the US duplicity at the time and after.

The single most important idea I garnered from the from the discussion was the idea that solutions to our present quagmires are to be found from national movements which never desire nor achieve formal political power; an excellent palliative for this horrible cynicism in me stoked by the daily news I watch and read.

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By Alphysicist, October 27, 2010 at 5:04 am Link to this comment

I think it is worthwhile to ask: why does Hedges think that the “liberal class” can be convinced to stand up for the working class, when it was them (along with the “conservative class”) who is responsible for their disenfranchisement? 

  He finds the far right scary…

  But what is scarier: the rise of the lunatic fringe of the Republicans, or the continuation of the rape of the working class by the existing political status quo, part of which is the “liberal class”?  A wolf in wolf’s clothing, or a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

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By mdgr, October 27, 2010 at 2:48 am Link to this comment

This “debate” reminded me of Pilate’s question, “What is truth?”

Reminded me too of the parable of the blind men and the elephant.

I continue to be massively impressed with Mr. Hedges. He is amongst the best and brightest of our generation.

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Psychobabbler's avatar

By Psychobabbler, October 27, 2010 at 1:38 am Link to this comment

I sure hope that he can maintain the fire in his belly to push back against the crap that is being force fed to all of us.

Sometimes knowledge based on actual experience (useful) trickles up like David vs. Goliath.

Beauty.

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By gerard, October 26, 2010 at 9:17 pm Link to this comment

Thanks, TD.  Interesting! Chris certainly comes off as more widely and deeply knowledgeable.  The debate also pointed up how people want to believe what they have learned from their individual experiences. That’s the factor that cuts deepest.  So it means the broader and deeper one’s experience, the more likely their belief is to be accurate, though complex.
  Also, the debate pointed up the difficulties of people like the Tea Baggers whose experiences are often, if not always, much more limited and are apt to be less accurate, less complex. Yet their belief in those limited experiences will be just as stubbornly held as anyone’s—probably more so, when challenged.
  Several times here, and inwardly more frequently, I have asked others and myself:  How do you reach the “tea-party mentality”?  How do you broaden their views, free them from fears caused by feelings of inadequacy, bring them to a less gullible,  and more humane point of view (for all their professions of Christianity).
  I have yet to get any inkling of answers, though I know the question is not an easy one. I still wonder, because I think it would help to heal the country if we knew more about how to bring people together, especially since money is being paid to keep people apart for mean political gain, at the expense of real democracy.

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