Question from Richard Nixon: Chris, in your recent article you wrote “Why c[...]ontinue to obey the laws and dictates of our executioners?” Can you expand on this a little. I took this as laws may need to be broken to get decent climate change reform.
11:28 Chris Hedges
Wed, 21 Jul 2010 19:28:00 GMT
(To Richard Nixon) Well, it’s very clear that the people who control the power systems have no interest in power change reforms because it would mean their extinction. So those of us who care about effecting change have to find mechanisms outside of the political structure, which Henry Thoreau wrote about in “Civil Disobedience,” where he analyzed an individual’s [relation] to the state and the moral questions of whether human beings should obey laws when they are immoral or, in this case, self-destructive. And I think that the questions that Thoreau asks are ones that we have to ask, and I think we have to follow in Thoreau’s footsteps where he writes about what he calls the machine. Thoreau writes about how many people around him are opposed to slavery and the war, but rather than expressing their opinions they sit around and do nothing about it. He said they hesitate, regret, sometimes petition, but nothing that actually has an effect.
11:28 Question From Michael Marsh
Wed, 21 Jul 2010 19:28:04 GMT
Comment: Can there be an alliance between the philosophical, libertarian right and the moral left to confront the duopoly that is destroying the planet and our country?
11:28 Chris Hedges
Wed, 21 Jul 2010 19:28:52 GMT
(To Michael Marsh) There is no left in this country, that’s the problem.
We’ll take one more question after this, but we’ll open up the discussion to everyone after Chris has to go.
11:30 Chris Hedges
Wed, 21 Jul 2010 19:30:45 GMT
(Continued answer to Michael Marsh) I suppose on some issues, yes, on issues on freedom from search and seizure, freedom of the press, other civil liberties. Many libertarians and firm supporters of free market capitalism and minimal government regulation and taxation, they reject the welfare state, and these are issues where the traditional left will not be in agreement with traditional libertarians.
11:31 Question from Peter From Ontario
Wed, 21 Jul 2010 19:31:11 GMT
Comment: I’m a bit cynical about the idea of uprooting the powerful institutions that have created this mess. I realize this is throwing you a softball, but don’t you think anyone that tries to rebel will be squashed like a bug? I mean, I look around at my family and neighbours, and see people that have been indoctrinated by the same message, “focus on yourself right now and don’t worry about anything that will happen later on”. Whenever I share your column with family and friends, they always give the same response—quit trying to wreck the good times for the rest of us and get a real job.
11:41 Chris Hedges
Wed, 21 Jul 2010 19:41:38 GMT
Well, America has produced a country of people who’ve never had to grow up. They live in this illusion that reality is not an impediment to what they desire. They can have everything they want, they just have to dig deep within themselves, grasp that they are truly exceptional or believe that Jesus can produce miracles. It’s a form of magical thinking that is fed to us from the media to the corporations, from Oprah to Hollywood to corporatism to the Christian right, and it has created a society where we are captivated by illusion, an illusion about who we are and where we’re going, and that’s a very common characteristic among dying civilizations that lack the emotional fortitude to grasp that the world’s [institutions] are crumbling around them so they retreat into the magical. If you read Cicero or Joseph Roth, Freud (end of Austro-Hungarian) they saw very clearly, both the disintegration and the capacity of people around them to accept it. The danger is when you remain in a state of illusion, you essentially perpetuate an infantilism that leaves you unprepared, physiologically, intellectually and emotionally for collapse, and when collapse comes, you react like children, you search for a savior, a demagogue, someone who promises vengeance, moral renewal and fantastic visions of a new glory. It’s an old, old story, and we are not immune to the cycles of human history. The Greeks did not believe in a linear time, they believed that societies had a period of growth, maturation and decay, and I think the Greeks are right. So when your family doesn’t want to hear, they are retreating into the far more comforting arena of illusions that are provided for them by corporate entities that seek to keep us ignorant and disempowered and stop us from fighting back. And will they crush us like bugs? Probably. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t resist. Resistance is a moral imperative. The problem with the left is that it was seduced by the practical, and that is what killed it as a moral force. We have a commitment to non-historical values, justice, ... protection of life, love, which are of course deemed by the world to be impractical. But which keep alive that possibility of another way of being and another form of community, and at this point I think we have to look at the Middle Ages and the monastic communities that kept alive learning, humanities and life in a time of darkness so that these great contributions of human history are not lost, and that becomes a battle worth fighting because as we enter an age of barbarism, the snuffing out of these great forces of humanism will be tragic for the human race and I think we have to focus much of our energy in trying to protect these non-historical forces, commitments to values, and that’s going to entail rebellion and perhaps even great personal risk. But I think it is worth doing because at this point we can create a structure that can disarm corporatism, but because we can at least protect those virtues that permit people to live in ways that they are not slaves.
11:42 Chris Hedges
Wed, 21 Jul 2010 19:42:26 GMT
Thank you, everyone.
11:42 Comment From Sean
Wed, 21 Jul 2010 19:42:43 GMT
Comment: Oh my, a bit late from Thailand here. My question is, if I’m not too late, many folks understand and acknowledge the environment crisis but put forth the idea that “man only perseveres in crisis, only when it is a real in-your-face will man react” when pushed, they then place all hope on technology, saying that technology that has yet to be discovered will bring us to not only the end of this crisis, but to a wonderful new future. How does one contend with this kind of talk?
11:42 Comment From Sarah Redmond
Wed, 21 Jul 2010 19:42:53 GMT
Comment: Can’t get the audio, is it still live? 2:42 EDST
11:44 Comment From Joe Oborski
Wed, 21 Jul 2010 19:44:39 GMT
Comment: Chris, the oligarchs used Hitler’s “Big Lie” and 30 pieces of silver to win over the right. Nader was right all along. As a young man I bathed in blood in Vietnam—I was a fool, I’m sorry. I don’t mind it for me but I have a young daughter, may God have mercy.