Days of Destruction
The following are excerpts from Chris Hedges’ book “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt.” I have not as yet received permission from Chris to reprint his words, but I feel they are so vitally important that I will take the chance of offending him. I urge you all to get a copy of this book. It is a beautifully written warning to all of us to wake up to the horrors that are being perpetrated and to the horrors yet to come.
Speaking of new security regulations put in place to discourage citizens from taking to the streets for lawful protest he says:
These security measures are designed to ensure the pillage continues unimpeded by popular discontent. In the seventeenth century, speculation was a crime. Speculators were hanged. Today they run the state and the financial markets. They write the laws. They make the rules. They disseminate the lies that pollute our airwaves. They know, even better than you, how pervasive the corruption and theft have become, how gamed the system is against you. Corporations have cemented into place a thin oligarchic class and an obsequious cadre of politicians, judges, and journalists who live in their little gated Versailles while 3.6 million Americans are thrown out of their homes, a number expected to rise to ten million. A million people a year go bankrupt because they cannot pay their medical bills, and forty-five thousand die from lack of proper care. In this system, real joblessness is at least 15.6 percent, and the citizens, including students, spend lives toiling in debt peonage, working dead-end jobs, when they have jobs, in a world devoid of hope.
Who the hell cares? If the stock values of ExxonMobil or the coal industry or Goldman Sachs are high, life is good. Profit. Profit. Profit. They have their fangs deep in your neck. If you do not shake them off very, very soon, they will kill you. And they will kill the ecosystem, dooming your children and your children’s children. They are too stupid and too blind to see that they will perish with the rest of us. So either you rise up and supplant them, either you dismantle the corporate state for a world of sanity, a world where we no longer kneel before the absurd idea that the demands of financial markets should govern human behavior, or we are frog-marched toward self-annihilation.
We must stop being afraid. We have to turn our backs for good on the Democrats, no matter what ghoulish candidate the Republicans offer up for president. All the public disputes between candidates in the election cycle are a carnival act. On the issues that matter, there is no disagreement among the Republicans and the Democrats. We have to defy all formal systems of power. We have to create monastic enclaves where we can retain and nurture the values being rapidly destroyed by the wider corporate culture and build the mechanisms of self-sufficiency that will allow us to survive.
Faces appeared to me moments before protestors from occupy Wall Street and I were arrested on a windy November afternoon in front of Goldman Sachs. They were not the faces of the smug Goldman Sachs employees, who peered at us through the revolving glass doors and lobby windows, a pathetic collection of middle-aged fraternity and sorority members. They were not the faces of the blue-uniformed police with their dangling plastic handcuffs, or the thuggish Goldman Sachs security personnel, whose buzz cuts and dead eyes reminded me of the Stasi. They were not the faces of the demonstrators around me, the ones with massive student debts and no jobs, the ones weighed down by their broken dreams, the ones whose anger and betrayal triggered the street demonstrations and occupations for justice. They were not the faces of the onlookers – the construction workers, who seemed cheered by the march on Goldman Sachs, or the suited businessmen, who did not. They were faraway faces. They were the faces of children dying. They were tiny, confused, bewildered faces I had seen in the southern Sudan, Gaza, the slums of Brazzaville, Nairobi, Cairo, Delhi, and the wars I covered. They were faces with large, glassy eyes above bloated bellies. They were the small faces of children convulsed by the ravages of starvation and disease.
I carry these faces. They do not leave me. I look at my own children and cannot forget them, these other children who never had a chance. War brings with it a host of horrors, but the worst is always the human detritus that war and famine leave behind, the small, frail bodies whose tangled limbs and vacant eyes condemn us all. The wealthy and the powerful, the ones behind the glass at Goldman Sachs, laughed and snapped pictures of us as if we were an odd lunchtime diversion from commodities trading, from hoarding and profit, from the collective sickness of money worship, as if we were creatures in a cage, which in fact we soon were.
Goldman Sachs’ commodities index is the most heavily traded in the world. The financial firm hoards futures of rice, wheat, corn, sugar, and livestock and jacks up commodity prices by as much as two hundred percent on the global market so that poor families can no longer afford basic staples and literally starve. Hundreds of millions of poor in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America do not have enough to eat in order to feed this mania for profit. The technical jargon, learned in business schools and on trading floors, effectively masks the reality of what is happening: murder. The cold, neutral words of business and commerce are designed to make systems operate, even systems of death, with a ruthless efficiency.
The people behind the windows and those of us with arms locked in a circle on the concrete outside, did not speak the same language. Profit. Trade. Speculation. Globalization. War. National security. These are the words they use to justify the snuffing out of tiny lives, acts of radical evil. The glass tower before us is filled with people carefully selected for the polish and self-assurance that come with having been formed in institutions of privilege. Their primary attributes are a lack of consciousness, a penchant for deception, aggressiveness, a worship of money, and an incapacity for empathy or remorse.
It is always the respectable classes, the polished Ivy League graduates, the prep school boys and girls who grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut, or Short Hills, New Jersey, who are the most susceptible to evil. To be intelligent, as many are, at least in a narrow, analytical way, is morally neutral. These respectable citizens are inculcated in their elitist ghettos with “values” and “norms,” including pious acts of charity used to justify their privilege, and a belief in the innate goodness of American power. They are trained to pay deference to systems of authority. They are taught to believe in their own goodness, unable to see or comprehend – and are perhaps indifferent to – the cruelty inflicted on others by the exclusive systems they serve. And as norms change, as the world is steadily transformed by corporate forces into a small cabal of predators and a vast herd of human prey, these elites seamlessly replace one set of “values” with another. These elites obey the rules. They make the system work. And they are rewarded for this. In return, they do not question.
We seemed to have lost, at least until the advent of the Occupy Wall Street movement, not only all personal responsibility but all capacity for personal judgment. Corporate culture absolves all of responsibility. This is part of its appeal. It relieves all from moral choice. There is an unequivocal acceptance of principles such as unregulated capitalism and globalization as a kind of natural law. The steady march of corporate capitalism requires a passive acceptance of new laws and demolished regulations, of bailouts in the trillions of dollars and the systematic looting of public funds, of lies and deceit. The corporate culture, epitomized by Goldman Sachs, has seeped into our classrooms, our newsrooms, our entertainment systems, and our consciousness. This corporate culture has stripped us of the right to express ourselves outside of the narrow confines of the established political order. We are forced to surrender our voice. Corporate culture serves a faceless system. It is, as Hannah Arendt wrote, “the rule of nobody and for this very reason perhaps the least human and most cruel form of rulership.”
Those who resist – the doubters, outcasts, artists, renegades, skeptics, and rebels – rarely come from the elite. They ask different questions. They seek something else: a life of meaning. They have grasped Immanuel Kant’s dictum, “If justice perishes, human life on Earth has lost its meaning.” And in their search they come to the conclusion that, as Socrates said, it is better to suffer wrong than to do wrong. This conclusion makes a leap into the moral. It refuses to place a monetary value on human life. It acknowledges human life, indeed all life, as sacred. And this is why, as Arendt points out, the only morally reliable people are not those who say “this is wrong,” or “this should not be done,” but those who say “I can’t.”
“The greatest evildoers are those who don’t remember because they have never given thought to the matter, and, without remembrance, nothing can hold them back,” Arendt wrote. “For human beings, thinking of past matters means moving in the dimension of depth, striking roots and thus stabilizing ourselves, so as not to be swept away by whatever may occur – the Zeitgeist or History or simple temptation. The greatest evil is not radical, it has no roots, and because it has no roots it has no limitations, it can go to unthinkable extremes and sweep over the whole world.”
There were times when I entered the ring as a boxer and knew, as did the spectators, that I was woefully mismatched. Ringers – experienced boxers in need of a tune-up or a little practice – would go to the clubs where semi-pros fought, lie about their long professional fight records, and toy with us. Those fights became about something other than winning. They became about dignity and self-respect. You fought to say something about who you were as a human being. These bouts were punishing, physically brutal, and demoralizing. You would get knocked down and stagger back up. You would reel backward from a blow that felt like a cement block. You would taste your blood on your lips. Your vision would blur. Your ribs, the back of your neck, and your abdomen would ache. Your legs felt like lead. But the longer you held on, the more the crowd turned in your favor. No one, not even you, thought you could win. But then, every once in a while, the ringer would get overconfident. He would get careless. And you would find deep within yourself some new burst of energy, some untapped strength, and, with the fury of the dispossessed, bring him down. I have not put on a pair of boxing gloves for thirty years. But I feel this twinge of euphoria again in my stomach, this utter certainty that the impossible is possible, the realization that the mighty can fall.
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