June 24, 2017 Disclaimer: Please read.
Statements and opinions expressed in articles are those of the authors, not Truthdig. Truthdig takes no responsibility for such statements or opinions.
The Age of Anger
Posted on Jun 11, 2017
By Chris Hedges
Square, Story page, 2nd paragraph, mobile
This vast, global project of social engineering during the last century persuaded hundreds of millions of people, as Pankaj Mishra writes in “The Age of Anger: A History of the Present,” “to renounce—and often scorn—a world of the past that had endured for thousands of years, and to undertake a gamble of creating modern citizens who would be secular, enlightened, cultured and heroic.” The project has been a spectacular failure.
“To destroy a people,” Alexander Solzhenitsyn noted acidly, “you must sever their roots.” The wretched of the earth, as Frantz Fanon called them, have been shorn of any ideological or cultural cohesion. They are cut off from their past. They live in crushing poverty, numbing alienation, hopelessness and often terror. Mass culture feeds them the tawdry, the violent, the salacious and the ridiculous. They are rising up against these forces of modernization, driven by an atavistic fury to destroy the technocratic world that condemns them. This rage is expressed in many forms—Hindu nationalism, protofascism, jihadism, the Christian right, anarchic violence and others. But the various forms of ressentiment spring from the same deep wells of global despair. This ressentiment “poisons civil society and undermines political liberty,” Mishra writes, and it is fueling “a global turn to authoritarianism and toxic forms of chauvinism.”
Western elites, rather than accept their responsibility for the global anarchy, self-servingly define the clash as one between the values of the enlightened West and medieval barbarians. They see in the extreme nationalists, religious fundamentalists and jihadists an inchoate and inexplicable irrationality that can be quelled only with force. They have yet to grasp that the disenfranchised do not hate us for our values; they hate us because of our duplicity, use of indiscriminate industrial violence on their nations and communities and our hypocrisy. The dispossessed grasp the true message of the West to the rest of the planet: We have everything, and if you try to take it away from us we will kill you.
Square, Site wide, Desktop
Square, Site wide, Mobile
The proponents of globalization promised to lift workers across the planet into the middle class and instill democratic values and scientific rationalism. Religious and ethnic tensions would be alleviated or eradicated. This global marketplace would create a peaceful, prosperous community of nations. All we had to do was get government out of the way and kneel before market demands, held up as the ultimate form of progress and rationality.
Neoliberalism, in the name of this absurd utopia, stripped away government regulations and laws that once protected the citizen from the worst excesses of predatory capitalism. It created free trade agreements that allowed trillions of corporate dollars to be transferred to offshore accounts to avoid taxation and jobs to flee to sweatshops in China and the global south where workers live in conditions that replicate slavery. Social service programs and public services were slashed or privatized. Mass culture, including schools and the press, indoctrinated an increasingly desperate population to take part in the global reality show of capitalism, a “war of all against all.”
What we were never told was that the game was fixed. We were always condemned to lose. Our cities were deindustrialized and fell into decay. Wages declined. Our working class became impoverished. Endless war became, cynically, a lucrative business. And the world’s wealth was seized by a tiny group of global oligarchs. Kleptocracies, such as the one now installed in Washington, brazenly stole from the people. Democratic idealism became a joke. We are now knit together, as Mishra writes, only “by commerce and technology,” forces that Hannah Arendt called “negative solidarity.”
The backlash, Mishra writes, resembles the anarchist, fascist and communist violence and terrorism that took place at the end of the 19th century and in the early 20th century. In one of the most important parts of his brilliant and multi-layered analysis of the world around us, Mishra explains how Western ideas were adopted and mutated by ideologues in the global south, ideas that would become as destructive as the imposition of free market capitalism itself.
Banner, End of Story, Desktop
Banner, End of Story, Mobile
Watch a selection of Wibbitz videos based on Truthdig stories:
New and Improved Comments
Right Skyscraper, Site Wide
Right Internal Skyscraper, Site wide