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Power and the Tiny Acts of Rebellion

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Posted on Nov 22, 2010
AP / Jeff Widener

By Chris Hedges

There is no hope left for achieving significant reform or restoring 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 passive and supine. We have no tools left within the power structure in our fight to halt unchecked corporate pillage.

The liberal class, which Barack Obama represents, was never endowed with much vision or courage, but it did occasionally respond when pressured by popular democratic movements. This was how we got the New Deal, civil rights legislation and the array of consumer legislation pushed through by Ralph Nader and his allies in the Democratic Party. The complete surrendering of power, however, to corporate interests means that those of us who seek nonviolent yet profound change have no one within the power elite we can trust for support. The corporate coup has ossified the structures of power. It has obliterated all checks on corporate malfeasance. It has left us stripped of the tools of mass organization that once nudged the system forward toward justice.

Obama knows where power lies and serves these centers of power. The tragedy—if tragedy is the right word—is that Obama, after selling his soul to corporations, has been discarded. Corporate power doesn’t need brand Obama anymore. They have found new brands in the tea party, Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. Obama has been abandoned by those who once bundled contributions for him by the millions of dollars. Obama and the Democratic Party will, I expect, spend the next two years being even more obsequious to corporate power. Obama clearly loves the pomp and privilege of statecraft that much. But I am not sure it will work.

Reformers on the outside, while they remain militant and faithful to issues of justice, nevertheless depend on the liberal establishment to respond to public pressure. If these reformers cannot pressure the liberal class and the power elite to evoke real change, they become ineffectual. Our fate is intimately tied to the liberals who have betrayed us. We speak in the language of policies and issues. We will find it harder and harder, given our impotence, to compete with the impassioned calls for new glory, revenge and moral purity that resonate with a public beset by foreclosures, long-term unemployment, bankruptcies and a medical system that abandons them. 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.

We have reached a point where stunted and deformed individuals, whose rapacious greed fuels the plunge of tens of millions of Americans into abject poverty and misery, determine the moral fiber of the nation. 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. The mounting human misery in the United States, which could lead to the sporadic bursts of anger we have seen on the streets of France, will be met with severe repression from the security and surveillance state, which always accompanies the rise of the corporate state. The one method left open by which we can respond—massive street protests, the destruction of corporate property and violence—will become the excuse to impose total tyranny. The intrusive pat-downs at airports may soon become a fond memory of what it was like when we still had a little freedom left.

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All reform movements, from the battle for universal health care to the struggle for alternative energy and sane environmental controls to financial regulation to an end to our permanent war economy, have run into this new, terrifying configuration of power. They have confronted an awful truth. We do not count. And they have been helpless to respond as those who are most skilled in the manipulation of hate lead a confused populace to call for their own enslavement.

Dr. Margaret Flowers, a pediatrician from Maryland who volunteers for Physicians for a National Health Program, knows what it is like to challenge the corporate leviathan. She was blacklisted by the corporate media. She was locked out of the debate on health care reform by the Democratic Party and liberal organizations such as MoveOn. She was abandoned by those in Congress who had once backed calls for a rational health care policy. And when she and seven other activists demanded that the argument for universal health care be considered at the hearings held by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, they were forcibly removed from the hearing room. 

“The reform process exposed how broken our system is,” Flowers said when we spoke a few days ago. “The health reform debate was never an actual debate. Those in power were very reluctant to have single-payer advocates testify or come to the table. They would not seriously consider our proposal because it was based on evidence of what works. And they did not want this evidence placed before the public. They needed the reform to be based on what they thought was politically feasible and acceptable to the industries that fund their campaigns.” 


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By JJW, November 22, 2010 at 4:25 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

No one knows what spark will ignite the powder kegs that have been building up over the past few decades of trickle down nonsense.  Apparently both corporate owned parties bought that epic theory of failure and still are willing to try to sell it to the voters. Only the Emperor doesn’t realize he is not wearing clothes. 

The most oppressed will fire the first shot, however who is the most oppressed out of the 95% who are affected?  Time will tell.

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By Mohammad Alireza, November 22, 2010 at 4:22 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As an Iranian that lived in America for decades and has been back in Iran for the past nine years everything that Chris has written translates into a military attack on Iran.

The same people demanding war with Iran are the same people destroying America.

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By curmudgeon99, November 22, 2010 at 4:10 pm Link to this comment

This article says it all - found in today’s San Jose Mercury News - and if it is here, it is everywhere.

http://www.mercurynews.com/crime-courts/ci_16680446

New computerized system for sharing information among 31 police agencies.

.....the Coplink program, an integrated information sharing system, has connected 31 law enforcement agencies in Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties, allowing them to consolidate thousands of records into one large database and access it easily from the field, according to Sgt. Rick Sung, a sheriff’s department spokesman…..

.....The information being shared includes open and closed case documents, investigative reports, criminal event data, criminal history and incarceration information, and identifying information about individual offenders.

.......The $2.86 million project was established in the Bay Area at the request of the Northern California Regional Terrorism Threat Assessment Center in partnership with the Bay Area Urban Area Security Initiative. and paid for largely through state and federal grant money, according to the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office…...

....There are other Coplink nodes in San Mateo and Contra Costa counties. Eventually, law enforcement agencies throughout California will be connected through Coplink.

‘Nuff said !!

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By phidipides, November 22, 2010 at 4:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

No better example of rebellion is being played-out right now over the enhanced TSA sexual molestations and irradiation regimen at airports. The MSM chatter had been about the need to do this for “safety and security”, yet enough Americans know that manipulating your testicles or irradiating you has nothing to do with your safety. People certainly don’t want their person or their children sexually molested, and they don’t want to be microwaved for naked photos.

There has been just enough push-back by the public to worry corporate aviation interests which is making the Money Party clowns (both democ-rat and republiKKKon) stammer. They blinked when they haven’t blinked over any other any other depredation in recent history. And where they blink is where we can begin to take back power and our rights. To beggar a phrase: It could be the groping felt round the World.

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By Lloyd English, November 22, 2010 at 4:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m with Chaztv on the boycotting but here is the
glitch.  With the recent rash of foreclosures they also
own your homes and without a mortgage you have no place
to live.  If you do have a mortgage they still own you.

  The problem is at the genesis of the creation of
economy and free market and capitalism.  Every system
has a life and this one is coming to the end.

Not to mention the food supply, check that one out.

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chaztv's avatar

By chaztv, November 22, 2010 at 3:51 pm Link to this comment

Most Americans are not going to like this, but if we
want any amount of political power we have to shun
the ease and convenience of the American corporate
world.

As Mr. Hedges has stated so eloquently, significant
change through the American political system is a
non-starter.

The viable option is for millions of citizens to make thousands of small stabs at the enormous machine of oppression that is decimating American freedom, civil
rights and financial stability.

The non-violent method that will work is economic,
hurt the corporate machine by depriving it of it’s
life blood: money.

Perhaps you can only deprive the machine of $100 per
year, and I can only deny them $200, but together
thousands and millions of us can snatch billions of
dollars that will otherwise be spent by the Fortune
500 to seal our demise.  How…

Start by paying cash.  Just image a billionaire
bankster at every check-out taking 3.5% of every
dollar you are spending. Using a rewards card? He’s
taking even more and giving you a little back. Credit
card rewards are blood money shipping the next job
offshore.

Use less energy any way you can. Slow down. Drive
less. Install solar panels. Shut off lights. Lower
the thermostat.  Yes, it hurts, but your father was
right.

Shop local.  Boycott stores and the products and
services of corporations that make political campaign
contributions. Don’t buy the tomatoes from Holland,
they’re shipped with the blood money of big oil.
Ditto all kinds of imported goods and food. Go to the
farmers’ market. Stop eating fast food. Go to the
local deli.

Get out of the stock market.  Move to a community
bank or credit union. Stay away from chain stores,
big box stores, and restaurant franchises.

In short, find every dollar that you would otherwise
give to the Corporatocracy and spend it locally. Keep
as much profit as close to home as possible until
they hear us, until they begin to respect the power
we do have.

Chaz Valenza
http://www.UseCashMovement.org

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By Fellow Traveler, November 22, 2010 at 3:44 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Chris, I continue to be enthralled by your work. Your recent piece in The Nation was a superb piece of reporting, and I am currently reading your book “Empire of Illusion.” And yet at the same time I become more and more disappointed. There’s an elephant in the room, and you seem determined, for reasons I don’t understand, to ignore it. 

As a self-described “socialist,” you know full well that Marxism requires far more of the working class than taking to the street and “jamming wrenches” into the system of corporate power. It requires the working class to work, as a class, and seize power, and the only way that is going to happen is if the working class forms a revolutionary political party that acts in its own interest.

As a “socialist,” surely you have surveyed the terrain of American socialist politics. Are you a member of a party? Do you support one? Which, in your view, has the moral and intellectual authority to do what must be done? What is your view of the ISO? The WSWS? The Democratic Socialists of America? Do you see a possibility for collaboration between parties?

I would appreciate an opportunity to correspond with you on this question at your convenience. I’m not a nut, stalker or any brand of political sectarian. I do have some unique insight, if I may call it that, into the situation I can share, but I don’t know how to reach you. If you’d like to discuss this further, please contact Truthdig and have them retrieve my email address from this comment; they may take my comment here as providing my permission to release it to you.

Thanks, I hope to hear from you.

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By Lloyd English, November 22, 2010 at 3:42 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I think TKC has some real common sense, or maybe most of what’s left of it. Yes to all and to add to it

1.New legislation that jails corporate criminals and makes them return what they have stolen.
2. Get out and vote like your life depends on it.
3. Become involved in the process of change, changes to the banking system, health care, insured pension funds, corporate involvement in politics and on and on.

Chris is getting a bit scary I think, there is still good to be found and in it hope and this is in the people of the country. 

The problem is largely greed on all sides.  Like TKC says, cut your cards, eat vegetables and generally learn to be happy with much much less.

Do it for your country.

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By srelf, November 22, 2010 at 3:42 pm Link to this comment

Look. Look at the photo accompanying the article!

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By srelf, November 22, 2010 at 3:41 pm Link to this comment

Here’s one idea: everyone has to come up with their own idea!

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By srelf, November 22, 2010 at 3:39 pm Link to this comment

pyrrhon:

I see Hedges saying that if all the creative rebellious minds out there just took
action by themselves, in contact with the bigger picture that modern
communication allows, there will be many individually-produced, efficiently-run,
powerful-in-effect “tiny acts of rebellion”. And it would start today!

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By pyrrhon, November 22, 2010 at 3:30 pm Link to this comment

Very well said Chris and it was this sad conclusion that contributed to the death of Chalmers Johnson today. But I do have one comment:  Chris said. “The one method left open by which we can respond—massive street protests, the destruction of corporate property and violence”, but haven’t you overlooked the easiest way of showing corporate power that they need us—that of BOYCOTT.  We have many web based social networks where we could conceivable lead a boycott on one major corporation at a time—like BofA.  If we could bring them to their knees, maybe they would listen.

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By balkas, November 22, 2010 at 3:13 pm Link to this comment

my comment had been blocked by “u’r not authorized to use this program”.

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By frecklefever, November 22, 2010 at 3:12 pm Link to this comment

FROM GREAT SPEECHING COMES AN HONORABLE MENTION..FROM HIS
TRIANGLE COMES THE GREAT SUSPENSION…OR THE UBIQUITOUS VOLUTE
HAS RINGED THE ASTUTE…AND FINALLY REVEALED..THUS RESIGNING TO
THAT KARMIC ABSOLUTE…OR KARMAS RECKONING STAFF ABRUPTS THE
INDULGENTS BECKONING ...PATH..

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By TKC, November 22, 2010 at 3:12 pm Link to this comment

Chris Hedges doesn’t actually give any pointers on tiny acts of rebellion, but here are 3:
1.  Don’t vote for either a democrat or a republican.  The Green Party opposes war and wants green solutions.  Adopt those 2 positions and forget about all the divisive social issues like abortion and gay marriage.  They pale before WAR, the corporate state’s major enterprise.
2.  Avoid all plastic.  This is much harder than one would think, but you can do this without too much pain if you give it thought.
3.  Don’t eat meat.  Until the 19th century, the vast majority of humans almost never ate meat, because they could not afford it.  American wealth created the culture of meat, which also is the culture of cruelty, reflected in most of our social institutions.  Not only will you not participate in the torture and mass slaughter of sentient beings, but vegetarianism will make you healthier.

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Egomet Bonmot's avatar

By Egomet Bonmot, November 22, 2010 at 3:08 pm Link to this comment

Jesus Chris could you spice it up a little?  Go on a Nation cruise, put on a loud striped shirt, SOMETHING!

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By Gary Corseri, November 22, 2010 at 3:07 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Bravo, Chris Hedges!  You prove once again that you are one of the best journalists-writers-essayists-witnesses of this time and of this place!  A visionary who can tie together the various threads of cultural break-down, and offer a coherent plan of action for maintaining the best of what we have been, are, and may become.  Kathy Kelley, Paul Craig Roberts and a few others aim as high and succeed as well.  Thank you!

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By Lee Oates, November 22, 2010 at 2:58 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Good summation Chris.  That’s pretty much what I see.  I think that is why I got permanently barred from IReports (CNN)after writing 109 articles. I challanged BP and the Medical Insurance Cartels. We live in very dangerious times, and are losing our Freedoms fast.  And the sad thing is that the corporations who think they are getting ahead by taking control over the population, are simply killing their own base, and it will end in their own destruction and the USA. 

Most of the news feedback systems are designed to keep the masses busy on meaningless new stories, an emotional release, but having no real impact on the important issues.

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By Michael Cavlan RN, November 22, 2010 at 2:48 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Yet again, Chris Hedges nails it. Although I do remain hopeful that enough
“progressives” and others do wake up quick enough and ignore the long list of
collaborators like the Democrats, John Nichols, Eugene Robinson, Nation
magazine, Move-On.org, Code Pink (yup you heard me right) and the long list
of them.

Chris is saying virtually the same thing that I have been in Minnesota. The
revolution will not be funded by well meaning “liberal groups” and 501 c3’s.
This case can not be made any clearer than the examples given by Dr Flowers
and the Single Payer debacle. Case in point is Big Eddie, Keith Olbermann and
Rachel Maddows on MSNBC. All of these “progressives” are “allowed” space on
MSNBC.

His message, that resistance is NEVER futile. It ALWAYS opens up the way for
further resistance. It gives others real hope and examples of how to move
forward.

What all of us who “get it” are doing is simply exposing who our friends are as
well as those “liberal class folks” who are getting in the way.

Thank you Truth Dig for “allowing” these kinds of conversations to go on.
Speaking truth to power. For real.

Unlike so many other “progressive” blogs and sites. Like Daily KOS, OP Ed News,
Common Dreams, MSNBC etc etc etc. Where the golden microphone rules apply.
If you speak for those who have the gold then you are “allowed” to gain the
golden microphone. If you are a Chris Hedges type and speak out in open
opposition to those who have the gold, you do not get the golden microphone
or may even get it ripped from your hands.

Speaking of which. Have any of you heard of the rally a few days ago? A protest
at the opening of the new George Bush library in Texas. Speaking there was
Media Benjamin, Colleen Rawley (who I know personally) and some local
Democrat elected official.

Present at the rally but not allowed to speak was

CINDY SHEEHAN.

Golden microphone rules.

Thank you Truth Dig. For allowing the truth to be spoken.

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entropy2's avatar

By entropy2, November 22, 2010 at 2:33 pm Link to this comment

There will be NO substantive change in our power structure until the people of the working class can see an alternative to corporate-government dominion.

Talking about the security state does not put food on the table.

Talking about endless war does not put a roof over our heads.

Talking about climate change does not put clothes on our children.

Anyone who wants to woo us away from our corporate masters is going to have to offer us a choice…a choice that gives us power over our own lives, not one that just trades one set of masters for another.

But the liberal class, when it get right down to it, doesn’t believe that the people of the working class are capable of making our own decisions. It it did, then it would be supporting radical decentralization of power.

Power cannot be in two places at once, and power will always be used. The more concentrated the power, the more individuals who will be deprived of choice in order to fulfill the needs of others (as defined by those who hold the power).

Statists, left and right, always avoid exploring the harsh implicatons of this reality.

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