Fight the disease of globalized corporate capitalism

Fight the Disease, Not the Symptoms

Mr. Fish / Truthdig

The disease of globalized corporate capitalism has the same effects across the planet. It weakens or destroys democratic institutions, making them subservient to corporate and oligarchic power. It forces domestic governments to give up control over their economies, which operate under policies dictated by global corporations, banks, the World Trade Organizationand the International Monetary Fund. It casts aside hundreds of millions of workers now classified as “redundant” or “surplus” labor. It disempowers underpaid and unprotected workers, many toiling in global sweatshops, keeping them cowed, anxious and compliant. It financializes the economy, creating predatory global institutions that extract money from individuals, institutions and states through punishing forms of debt peonage. It shuts down genuine debate on corporate-owned media platforms, especially in regard to vast income disparities and social inequality. And the destruction empowers proto-fascist movements and governments.

These proto-fascist forces discredit verifiable fact and history and replace them with myth. They peddle nostalgia for lost glory. They attack the spiritual bankruptcy of the modern, technocratic world. They are xenophobic. They champion the “virtues” of a hyper-masculinity and the warrior cult. They preach regeneration through violence. They rally around demagogues who absolve followers of moral choice and promise strength and protection. They marginalize and destroy all individuals and institutions, including schools, that make possible self-criticism, self-reflection and transcendence and that nurture empathy, especially for the demonized. This is why artists and intellectuals are ridiculed and silenced. This is why dissent is attacked as an act of treason.

These movements are also deeply misogynistic. They disempower girls and women to hand a perverted power to men who feel powerless in the global economy. They blame ethnic and religious minorities for the national decline. They foster bizarre conspiracy theories. And they communicate in the Orwellian newspeak of alternative facts. They claim the sole right to represent and use indigenous patriotic and religious symbols.

India, built on the foundations of caste slavery, has become one of many new neofeudal states, among them Turkey, Poland, Russia and the United States. Its neofeudal structure continues to carry out atrocities against Dalits—the former “untouchables”—and now increasingly against Muslims. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who as the chief minister of the western Indian state of Gujarat oversaw a vicious anti-Muslim pogrom, has defended sectarian discrimination and violence even though this year he made a tepid declaration that “[w]e will not tolerate violence in the name of faith” and issued other unconvincing appeals for religious peace. As prime minister he has employed threats, harassment and force to silence those who decry human rights abuses and atrocities carried out in India. He attacks his critics as “anti-national”—the equivalent of “unpatriotic” in the United States.

Modi, like his fellow demagogues in other parts of the world, including Donald Trump, speaks in the language of moral purity and promotes self-serving historical myth. Indians who eat beef—a huge number—are targeted, school history books are being rewritten to conform to right-wing Hindu ideology and its open admiration for fascism, and entertainers considered too political or too salacious are under attack.

There are within America’s corporate power structures individuals, parties and groups that find the hysterical, imbecilic and irrational rants of demagogues such as Trump repugnant. They seek a return to the polished mendacity of politicians such as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. They hope to promote the interests of global capitalism by maintaining the fiction of a functioning democracy and an open society. These “moderates” or “liberals,” however, are also the architects of the global corporate pillage. They created the political vacuum that the demagogues and proto-fascist movements have filled. They blind themselves to their own complicity. They embrace their own myths—such as the belief that former FBI Director James Comey and the Russians were responsible for the election of Trump—to avoid examining the social inequality that is behind the global crisis and their defeat.

The 400 richest individuals in the United States have more wealth than the bottom 64 percent of the population, and the three richest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of the U.S. population. This social inequality will only get worse as the weak controls that once regulated the economy and the tax code are abolished or rewritten to further increase the concentration of wealth among the ruling oligarchs. Social inequality at this level, history has shown, always results in these types of pathologies and political distortions. It also, potentially, presages revolution.

The short-term political and economic gains made by the Democratic Party and liberal class in the last few decades came at the expense of the working class. The liberal class, because of its complicity in globalization, has destroyed its credibility as well as the credibility of the “liberal” democratic values it claims to represent. Enraged workers, lied to for decades by “liberal” politicians such as Bill and Hillary Clinton and Obama, delight in Trump’s crude taunts and insults directed at the power structure and elites they loath. Many Americans are perhaps aware that Trump is a con artist, but he at least appears to share their disdain for the “liberal” elites who abandoned them.

It will eventually become apparent to some, perhaps many, of Trump’s supporters that he is cravenly in the service of the 1 percent and has turbocharged the corporate kleptocracy. The Democratic Party, busy purging Bernie Sanders supporters from its ranks, is banking on this epiphany to revive its political fortunes. The Democratic leadership has no real political strategy, other than to hope that Trump implodes. They are backing and funding opposition movements such as Indivisible and the women’s marches, as well as the witch hunt about Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, all of which have as their sole focus removing Trump and restoring the Democratic Party to power. This form of resistance is sterile and useless.

But there are other resistance movements—the most prominent being the battle by the water protectors at Standing Rock to block the Dakota Access pipeline—that attack the disease. It is easy to tell the resistance from the faux resistance by the response of the state. During the women’s marches, Democrats, including Debbie Wasserman Schultz, were honored participants. The police were usually courteous and helped facilitate the marches; arrests were few and coverage by the corporate press was sympathetic. In contrast, during the long encampment at Standing Rock, which took place under the Obama administration, the nonviolent resisters were physically attacked by police, the National Guard and private security contractors. These forces used dogs, pepper spray, water cannons in subzero temperatures, sound machines, drones, armored vehicles and hundreds of arrests in their efforts to destroy the resistance.

Attack the symptoms and the state will be passive. Attack the disease and the state will be ruthless.

Once Trump’s base begins to abandon him—the repression in Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is a good example of what will happen—the political landscape will turn very ugly. Trump and his allies, in a desperate bid to cling to power, will openly stoke hate crimes and violence against Muslims, undocumented workers, African-Americans, progressives, intellectuals, feminists and dissidents. He and his allies on the “alt-right” and the Christian right will move to silence all organs of dissent, including corporate media outlets fighting to restore the patina of civility that is the window dressing to corporate pillage. They will harness the power of the nation’s substantial internal security apparatus to crush public protests and to jail opponents, even those who are part of the faux resistance.

Time is not on our side. If we can build counter-capitalist movements that include the working class we have a chance. If we can, like the water protectors at Standing Rock, mount sustained acts of defiance in the face of severe state repression, we have a chance. If we can organize nationwide campaigns of noncooperation we have a chance. We cannot be distracted by the symptoms. We must cure the disease.

Chris Hedges
Columnist
Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, New York Times best selling author, former professor at Princeton University, activist and ordained Presbyterian minister. He has written 11 books,…
Mr. Fish
Cartoonist
Mr. Fish, also known as Dwayne Booth, is a cartoonist who primarily creates for Truthdig.com and Harpers.com. Mr. Fish’s work has also appeared nationally in The Los Angeles Times, The Village Voice, Vanity…
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We Are All Deplorables

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‘This is not a gap between the tolerant and the intolerant,’ writes Hedges. ‘It is a gap between most of the American population and our oligarchic and corporate elites, which Trump epitomizes.’ (Cartoon: Mr. Fish)

My relatives in Maine are deplorables. I cannot write on their behalf. I can write in their defense. They live in towns and villages that have been ravaged by deindustrialization. The bank in Mechanic Falls, where my grandparents lived, is boarded up, along with nearly every downtown store. The paper mill closed decades ago. There is a strip club in the center of the town. The jobs, at least the good ones, are gone. Many of my relatives and their neighbors work up to 70 hours a week at three minimum-wage jobs, without benefits, to make perhaps $35,000 a year. Or they have no jobs. They cannot afford adequate health coverage under the scam of Obamacare. Alcoholism is rampant in the region. Heroin addiction is an epidemic. Labs producing the street drug methamphetamine make up a cottage industry. Suicide is common. Domestic abuse and sexual assault destroy families. Despair and rage among the population have fueled an inchoate racism, homophobia and Islamophobia and feed the latent and ever present poison of white supremacy. They also nourish the magical thinking peddled by the con artists in the Christian right, the state lotteries that fleece the poor, and an entertainment industry that night after night shows visions of an America and a lifestyle on television screens—“The Apprentice” typified this—that foster unattainable dreams of wealth and celebrity.

Those who are cast aside as human refuse often have a psychological need for illusions and scapegoats. They desperately seek the promise of divine intervention. They unplug from a reality that is too hard to bear. They see in others, especially those who are different, the obstacles to their advancement and success. We must recognize and understand the profound despair that leads to these reactions. To understand these reactions is not to condone them.

The suffering of the white underclass is real. Its members struggle with humiliation and a crippling loss of self-worth and dignity. The last thing they need, or deserve, is politically correct thought police telling them what to say and think and condemning them as mutations of human beings.

Those cast aside by the neoliberal order have an economic identity that both the liberal class and the right wing are unwilling to acknowledge. This economic identity is one the white underclass shares with other discarded people, including the undocumented workers and the people of color demonized by the carnival barkers on cable news shows. This is an economic reality the power elites invest great energy in masking.

The self-righteousness of the liberal class, which revels in imagined tolerance and enlightenment while condemning the white underclass as irredeemable, widens the divide between white low-wage workers and urban elites. Liberals have no right to pass judgment on these so-called deplorables without acknowledging their pain. They must listen to their stories, which the corporate media shut out. They must offer solutions that provide the possibility of economic stability and self-respect.

“The liberal class has no hope of defeating the rise of American fascism until it unites with the dispossessed white working class. It has no hope of being an effective force in politics until it articulates a viable socialism.”

Martin Luther King Jr. understood the downward spiral of hating those who hate you. “In a real sense all life is inter-related,” he wrote in “Letter From a Birmingham Jail.” “All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. …”

We cannot battle the racism, bigotry and hate crimes that will be stoked by the Donald Trump presidency without first battling for economic justice. This is not a gap between the tolerant and the intolerant. It is a gap between most of the American population and our oligarchic and corporate elites, which Trump epitomizes. It is a gap that is understood only in the light of the demand for economic justice. And when we start to speak in the language of justice first, and the language of inclusiveness second, we will begin to blunt the protofascism being embraced by many Trump supporters.

I spent two years writing a book on the Christian right called “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.” I spent many months with dispossessed white workers in states such as Missouri, Kansas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and California. I carried into the book project all the prejudices that come with being raised in the liberal church—a disdain for a magic Jesus who answers your prayers and makes you rich, a repugnance at the rejection of rationality and science and at the literal interpretation of the Bible, a horror of the sacralization of the American empire, and a revulsion against the racism, misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and blind intolerance that often afflict those who retreat into a binary world of good and evil.

Those enthralled by such thinking are Christian heretics—Jesus did not come to make us rich and powerful and bless America’s empire—and potential fascists. They have fused the iconography and symbols of the American state with the iconography and symbols of the Christian religion. They believe they can create a “Christian” America. The American flag is given the same sacred value as the Christian cross. The Pledge of Allegiance has the religious power of the Lord’s Prayer. That a sleazy developer and con artist was chosen as their vehicle—81 percent of evangelicals voted for Trump—for achieving this goal is startling, to say the least. But this is not a reality-based movement. Most of those who profit from this culture of despair, many wrapped in the halo of the ministry, are, like Trump, slick, amoral trolls.

My view of the tens of millions of Americans who have fallen into the embrace of the Christian right’s magical thinking underwent a profound change as I conducted interviews for the book. During that time I did what good reporters do: I listened. And the stories I heard were heartbreaking. I grew to like many of these people. The communities they lived in, many of which I visited, looked like the towns where my family lived in Maine. They were terrified of the future, especially for their children. They struggled with feelings of worthlessness and abandonment. I fear the Christianized fascism in which they enshroud themselves, but I also see them as its pawns.

They hate a secular world they see as destroying them. They long for the apocalyptic visions of Tim LaHaye’s “Left Behind” series. They want the cruelty and rot of “secular humanism” to be obliterated before they and their families are lifted into heaven by the rapture (an event never mentioned in the Bible).

I finished my book with a deep dislike for megachurch pastors who, like Trump, manipulate despair to achieve power and wealth. I see the Christian right as a serious threat to an open society. But I do not hate those who desperately cling to this emotional life raft, even as they spew racist venom. Their conclusion that minorities, undocumented workers or Muslims are responsible for their impoverishment is part of the retreat into fantasy. The only way we will blunt this racism and hatred and allow them to free themselves from the grip of magical thinking is by providing jobs that offer adequate incomes and economic stability and by restoring their communities and the primacy of the common good. Any other approach will fail. We will not argue or scold them out of their beliefs. These people are emotionally incapable of coping with the world as it is. If we demonize them we demonize ourselves.

Arlie Russell Hochschild’s book “Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right” in story after story makes clear that members of the white underclass are also victims and deserve our empathy.

The liberal class has no hope of defeating the rise of American fascism until it unites with the dispossessed white working class. It has no hope of being an effective force in politics until it articulates a viable socialism. Corporate capitalism cannot be regulated, reformed or corrected. A socialist movement dedicated to demolishing the cruelty of the corporate state will do more to curb the racism of the white underclass than lessons by liberals in moral purity. Preaching multiculturalism and gender and identity politics will not save us from the rising sadism in American society. It will only fuel the anti-politics that has replaced politics.

Liberals have sprinkled academic, corporate, media and political institutions with men and women of different races and religions. This has done nothing to protect the majority of marginalized people who live in conditions that are worse than those that existed when King marched on Selma. It is boutique activism. It is about branding, not justice.

Murray Bookchin excoriated the irrelevancy of a liberal class that busied itself with “the numbing quietude of the polling booth, the deadening platitudes of petition campaigns, car[-]bumper sloganeering, the contradictory rhetoric of manipulative politicians, the spectator sports of public rallies and finally, the knee-bent humble pleas for small reforms—in short the mere shadows of the direct action, embattled commitment, insurgent conflicts, and social idealism that marked every revolutionary project in history.”

Human history, as Bookchin and Karl Marx understood, is defined by class struggle. America’s corporate elites successfully fused the two major political parties into a single corporate party, one that seized control of electoral politics, internal security, the judiciary, universities, the arts, finance and nearly all forms of popular communication, including Hollywood, public relations and the press. There is no way within the system to defy the demands of Wall Street, the fossil fuel industry or war profiteers. And Trump is about to remove whatever tepid restraints are left.

Oswald Spengler in “The Decline of the West” predicted that, as Western democracies calcified and died, a class of “monied thugs,” people such as Trump, would replace the traditional political elites. Democracy would become a sham. Hatred would be fostered and fed to the masses to encourage them to tear themselves apart.

The only route left is revolt. If this revolt is to succeed it must be expressed in the language of economic justice. A continuation of the language of multiculturalism and identity politics as our primary means of communication is self-defeating. It stokes the culture wars. It feeds the anti-politics that define the corporate state.

“The heirs of the New Left of the Sixties have created, within the academy, a cultural Left,” Richard Rorty wrote. “Many members of this Left specialize in what they call the ‘politics of difference’ or ‘of identity’ or ‘of recognition.’ This cultural Left thinks more about stigma than about money, more about deep and hidden psychosexual motivations than about shallow and evident greed.”

Our enemy is not the white working poor any more than it is African-Americans, undocumented workers, Muslims, Latinos or members of the GBLT community. The oligarchs and corporations, many of them proponents of political correctness, are our enemy. If we shed our self-righteousness and hubris, if we speak to the pain and suffering of the working poor, we will unmask the toxins of bigotry and racism. We will turn the rage of an abandoned working class, no matter what its members’ color, race or religious creed, against those who deserve it.

Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.  His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

 

TruthDig

The 1 Percent’s Useful Idiots

Posted on Jul 26, 2016

By Chris Hedges

  It’s official: Hillary Clinton is the Democratic Party’s nominee for president. (schroepfer / Flickr)

PHILADELPHIA—The parade of useful idiots, the bankrupt liberal class that long ago sold its soul to corporate power, is now led by Sen. Bernie Sanders. His final capitulation, symbolized by his pathetic motion to suspend the roll call, giving Hillary Clinton the Democratic nomination by acclamation, is an abject betrayal of millions of his supporters and his call for a political revolution.

No doubt the Democrats will continue to let Sanders be a member of the Democratic Caucus. No doubt the Democrats will continue to agree not to run a serious candidate against him in Vermont. No doubt Sanders will be given an ample platform and media opportunities to shill for Clinton and the corporate machine. No doubt he will remain a member of the political establishment.

Sanders squandered his most important historical moment. He had a chance, one chance, to take the energy, anger and momentum, walk out the doors of the Wells Fargo Center and into the streets to help build a third-party movement. His call to his delegates to face “reality” and support Clinton was an insulting repudiation of the reality his supporters, mostly young men and young women, had overcome by lifting him from an obscure candidate polling at 12 percent into a serious contender for the nomination. Sanders not only sold out his base, he mocked it. This was a spiritual wound, not a political one. For this he must ask forgiveness.

Whatever resistance happens will happen without him. Whatever political revolution happens will happen without him. Whatever hope we have for a sustainable future will happen without him. Sanders, who once lifted up the yearnings of millions, has become an impediment to change. He took his 30 pieces of silver and joined with a bankrupt liberal establishment on behalf of a candidate who is a tool of Wall Street, a proponent of endless war and an enemy of the working class.

Sanders, like all of the self-identified liberals who are whoring themselves out for the Democrats, will use fear as the primary reason to remain enslaved by the neoliberal assault. And, in return, the corporate state will allow him and the other useful idiots among the 1 percent to have their careers and construct pathetic monuments to themselves.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will be pushed through whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. The fracking industry, fossil fuel industry and animal agriculture industry will ravage the ecosystem whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. The predatory financial institutions on Wall Street will trash the economy and loot the U.S. Treasury on the way to another economic collapse whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. Poor, unarmed people of color will be gunned down in the streets of our cities whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. The system of neoslavery in our prisons, where we keep poor men and poor women of color in cages because we have taken from them the possibility of employment, education and dignity, will be maintained whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. Millions of undocumented people will be deported whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. Austerity programs will cut or abolish public services, further decay the infrastructure and curtail social programs whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. Money will replace the vote whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. And half the country, which now lives in poverty, will remain in misery whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton becomes president.

This is not speculation. We know this because there has been total continuity on every issue, from trade agreements to war to mass deportations, between the Bush administration and the administration of Barack Obama. The problem is not Donald Trump. The problem is capitalism. And this is the beast we are called to fight and slay. Until that is done, nothing of substance will change.

To reduce the political debate, as Sanders and others are doing, to political personalities is political infantilism. We have undergone a corporate coup. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will not reverse this coup. They, like Barack Obama, know where the centers of power lie. They serve these centers of power.

Change will come when we have the tenacity, as many Sanders delegates did, to refuse to cooperate, to say no, to no longer participate in the political charade. Change will come when we begin acts of sustained mass civil disobedience. Change will come when the fear the corporate state uses to paralyze us is used by us to paralyze the corporate state.

The Russian writer Alexander Herzen, speaking a century ago to a group of anarchists about how to overthrow the czar, reminded his listeners that it was not their job to save a dying system but to replace it: “We think we are the doctors. We are the disease.”

We are here not to reform the system. We are here to overthrow it. And that is the only possibility left to restore our democracy and save our planet. If we fail in this task, if this system of corporate capitalism and globalization is not dismantled, we are doomed. And this is the reality no one wants to speak about.

We will have to be in the political wilderness, perhaps for a decade. But a decade ago Syriza, the party now ruling Greece, was polling at only 4 percent. This is what the Green Party is polling today. We will not bring about systemic change in one or two election cycles. But we can begin to build a counterweight to the corporate state. We can begin to push back.

We must find the courage not to be afraid. We must find the courage to follow our conscience. We must find the courage to defy the corporate forces of death in order to affirm the forces of life.

This will not be easy. The corporate state—once its vast systems of indoctrination and propaganda do not work to keep us passive, once we are no longer afraid, once we make our own reality rather than accommodating ourselves to the reality imposed upon us—will employ more direct and coercive forms of control. The reign of terror, the revocation of civil liberties, the indiscriminate violence by the state will no longer be exercised only against poor people of color. The reality endured by our poor sisters and brothers of color, a reality we did not do enough to fight against, will become our own.

To allow the ideological forces of neoliberalism to crush our ideals and our values is to fall into a deadly cynicism and despair. To allow the consumer culture and the cult of the self, which lies at the heart of capitalism, to seduce us is to kill our souls. Happiness does not come with the accumulation of wealth. Happiness does not come from possessions or power. These are narcotics. They numb and kill all that is noble and good within us. Happiness comes when you reach out in solidarity to your neighbor, when you lend your hand to the stranger or the outcast, when you are willing to lose your life to save it. Happiness comes when you have the capacity to love.

Our span of life, in the vastness of the universe, is insignificant. I will be 60 soon. The arch of my own life is beginning to draw to a close. We all will die. How do we use the miracle of this flash of light that is called life?

Albert Camus wrote, “One of the only coherent philosophical positions is revolt. It is a constant confrontation between [human beings] and [their] obscurity. It is not aspiration, for it is devoid of hope. That revolt is the certainty of a crushing fate, without the resignation that ought to accompany it.”

He said further, “A living [person] can be enslaved and reduced to the historic condition of an object. But if he [or she] dies in refusing to be enslaved, he [or she] reaffirms the existence of another kind of human nature which refuses to be classified as an object.”

There is only one way to rebel. You fight for all of the oppressed or none of the oppressed. You understand that there is no country. Our country is the earth. We are citizens of the world. Nationalism is a disease. It is a disease we must purge. As long as a Muslim family suffers in a refugee camp in Syria or an LGBT person suffers from the bigotry imposed by the Christian heretics in the Christian right, we all suffer.

There are desperate single mothers struggling to raise children on less than $10,000 a year in some Philadelphia neighborhoods. Many of these children go to bed hungry. There are unemployed workers desperate to find a job and restore their dignity. There are mentally ill and homeless we have abandoned to the streets. There are Iraqi and Afghan families living in terror, a terror we have inflicted on them, in the futile and endless wars waged to enrich the arms industry. There are men and women being tortured in our worldwide archipelago of secret detention centers. There are undocumented workers whose families we have ripped apart, separating children from parents, or imprisoned.

This is reality. It is the only reality that matters. It is a reality we must and will change. Because, as the great socialist Eugene V. Debs, who upon being sentenced in 1918 for violating the Sedition Act by defying the madness of World War I, said, “I recognized my kinship with all living beings. I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”

Augustine wrote that hope has two beautiful daughters, anger and courage—anger at the way things are and the courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.

The fight will be hard and difficult. It will require love and self-sacrifice. It will require anger and courage. It is the greatest moral imperative before us. Those who do not defy the evil become its accomplice. We may not succeed. But we must be among those of whom future generations will say: They tried. They dared to dream. They dared to care. They dared to love. They enabled those who followed to press on in the struggle.

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_1_percents_useful_idiots_20160726