Thursday, December 15, 2011

Chris Hedges at Occupy Princeton

On Tuesday, a dear little bird landed in my email inbox and told me that the author Christopher Hedges would be speaking at Occupy Princeton last night.  I deserted the annual Oldwickian ladies' Christmas Tea early, to arrive just in time to actually have a conversation with him, which was a huge honor.   Chris is a brilliant writer, and a larger-than-life hero who has braved life-threatening situations in a long and distinguished career to bring the truth about armed conflicts, imperialism and revolution home to the rest of us armchair activists.

I also admire him because he consistently and unflinchingly reports the unvarnished reality, not just about the social consequences of the ruthless economic exploitation of the 99 by the 1%, but he also links it to the dismal prospects our species now faces thanks to our relentless exploitation of nature.  Before the program began, one student asked him if he thought humans would ever rise above these endless wars.  He looked discomfited for a minute, before replying, essentially, that we have so degraded our environment that any such evolution is going to be overtaken by dire ecological consequences already set in motion.  Poor, poor students.  You will see from the video embedded below how gently he coaxes them into assuming a moral stand with no guaranteed reward...without terrifying them, but also without pandering to them by giving them any false illusions.  What a remarkable man.

His assessment of the damage we have done by rendering the climate uninhabitable has been reinforced by the recent presentation about the condition of the Arctic melting.  The average temperature of Earth is of course rising, but not evenly.  By far, the poles are at the most extreme increase.  The danger is that methane, a much more potent greenhouse gas frozen over millions of years, is escaping from the permafrost and the seabed.  It takes an awfully unprecedented threat for those reticent scientists to go so far as to shriek ALARM!!!  But guess what?  They are squealing like stuck pigs when they publish a booklet, from the Arctic Methane Emergency Group, and title it Arctic Methane Alert wherein they demand immediate international intervention - and if their calls for insane geoengineering to stop it don't scare the bejesus out of you, try flipping through their flipbook!


  1. Wonderful posting - Thank you SO much.

    (shouldn't you be personally conveying all this to the Oldwickian Ladies' Club? )

  2. Haha, I mentioned to one of them that I was going to be leaving early to hear him speak...and she came with me!

  3. I read most of Hedges', "Death of the Liberal Class", and it scared me silly. He says that one of the essential ingredients of peaceful revolution is those who are supposed to suppress them with violence refuse their fire, and the US-Davis pepper-spraying incident was a fascinating example of how that emotional dynamic comes to pass, namely, that the army or soldiers can't look the protesters in the eye and attack them. However, we've already seen many instances of police brutality towards OWS protestors. What's worse is that police depts across the country already have drones. The next generation of drones will be small enough to manned by just one law-enforcement official, and will have heat-seeking and facial-recognition abilities. They'll be able to find somebody hiding around a corner or inside a building, AND be armed, so that the officer can kill that person. And any number of other lethal weapons don't require any face-to-face contact between the deployer of lethal weapons and his targets. And it is face-to-face contact that breeds empathy, which I think it the thing that stops soldiers and police from firing.

    Also, given that we already know that FaceBook, Google and every telecom track our every move and can and do transmit that information to the government, if you add in the effects that the new technologies will have, we will no longer have any "reasonable expectation of privacy" about anything we do, and it's that expectation that triggers our Fourth Amendment requirement that the authorities have a search warrant before they invade our homes, etc., the Fourth Amendment will, I think, become effectively nullified, not that it isn't routinely violated by the police, in actions routinely upheld by passive courts, anyway.

    Not to mention the incredibly mendacious and cynical posturing of the Obama administration about Obama's supposed threat to veto the new AUMF bill, which has been grievously misreported by every news outlet I know of.

    Scary new world, indeed.

  4. Moreover, history shows that very often, even when revolutions are accomplished without violence, those who come into power without bloodshed often turn to violence. The 1917 Russian Revolution was unexpected, as the result of three days of riots that grew exponentially from small, scattered rebellions the first day into huge ones by the third. In fact, Lenin and Trotsky weren't even in Russia at the time. And we all know what happened. And the French went through the Reign of Terror after that country's revolution in the late 18th century.

  5. Anon, I share your fear and dread of the enhanced technology that could easily be used and is likely designed to be used to stifle dissent, to intimidate, the imprison, torture and kill dissenters.

    Honestly though, I think a lack of fuel, and mostly a lack of food, is going to preclude much of that. The operator behind the drone has to eat. And that is going to undermine the plan of the 1% to scalp everything from the 99.

    Dead plants.

  6. Or take this article from saying that the Tar Sands project threatened to tar Hilary Clinton's legacy: What legacy? For one thing, she voted for the Iraq war. And, oddly, the head of the ACLU commented that the withdrawal of Obama's (phony) threat to veto the current AUMF would tarnish his legacy. Again, what legacy? And, in an echo of a comment made by the editor of The Nation that Obama's decision not to prosecute the Bushies' use of torture was a "disappointment", he used exactly the same word to characterize the Obama decision (not that it was a "decision" per se, he never threatened to veto the act, contrary to reports by most of the media. In fact, all that happened was that some of his advisors said that they would recommend that he veto this wholesale abrogation of our civil liberties and the transformation of this country from what is essential a de facto military state into a de jure one. "Disappointment" is the strongest word that these supposed watchdogs of our governnment can come up with? What about outrage?

    Moreover, Carl Levin has said, several times, that the most objectionable provision of the new AUMV, the very provision that supposedly prompted the supposed veto threat by Obama, were in fact in the bill AT AT THE BEHEST of the White House! What the "debate" essentially amounted to was a disagreement over whether the military would have the power to put US citizens into indefinite detention or whether the President would retain the power he, like his predecessor, arrogated unto himself under the doctrine of executive privilege citing national security as a justification. In fact, the Army didn't want this power; Leon Panetta, Secretary of Defense, other Army officials, and the FBI protested the idea on the grounds that it would compromise national security. One commenter thinks that the reason for giving the Army power it doesn't want is that a lot more money comes into politics through via the military-industrial complex than does in connection with the FBI's operations.

  7. Agreed. The apocalyptic end of life as we know it is already well underway, and irreversibly so, thanks to "climate change". You know, I read that 80% of Republicans and 20% of Democrats don't believe in global warming. None of the Republican candidates for President do, either. However, it became clear several years ago that India and China were well on their way to surpassing the US in terms of their greenhouse gas emissions. On 12/4/11, the NYT reported that in 2010, China injected 2.2 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere, compared to the US's 1.5 billion tons. And in China, environmentalists are not permitted to even organize, and the government is well aware that its hold on power depends on a rising standard of living and is not about to jeopardize its position by taking measures to protect the environment.

  8. Yesss...but, the individual footprint is totally askew. I always think it is so amusing that people who point to China's rising emissions, which are eclipsing ours (US) as a reason to not reduce our own, are the same jerks that pontificate about America being such a laudatory "leader".

    Shouldn't we then "lead" in the effort to reduce our emissions?

  9. You need to have a look at Semiletov's new observations from this past summer on the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. It is very possible the time for geo-engineering is past. We will know in the spring.

  10. Didn't mean to imply anything to the contrary, Americans use more fossil fuels per capita than others.

    To follow up on your post about the Arctic, you might want to check this out from salon:

    Am listening to Hedges recount how the publisher originally on board to publish "Death of the Liberal Class" wanted him to make it less dark, I've been really struck recently by how NPR (I stopped watching PBS when Mark Shields blessed Obama's decision not to prosecute the Bush administration for torture) is relentlessly upbeat. The announcers always sound soothing. When issues that have dire implications are discussed, they sound merely concerned and always end the story with a brief (and usually misleading) soundbite from somebody who is doing something about the problem, however doomed such efforts may be and usually are, and thereby minimize the problem. Even the music NPR plays between segments is uptempo. It's like listening to bedtime stories for grownups! You get to feel good about yourself for listening to serious radio, you can sound well-informed at cocktail parties, but in fact, it's the political equivalent of Valium. You sleep well knowing that that somebody (else) is taking care of the problem. In addition, hosts like Leonard Lopate ask three questions at a time, hogging most of the airtime in the process, so his guests don't have a chance to say anything substantive. And generally, the first two issues Lopate brings up are phrased as a statement, followed by "isn't it?" or "isn't that right?", and those aspects of the problem never get addressed. It's maddening and worse; I find it increasingly difficult to get accurate and comprehensive information from the media.

    To some extent, this is nothing new; when the right-leaning Abe Rosenthal became editor of the NYT in, I think, 1973, he loathed Ralph Nader and refused to publish anything Nader said or about his work unless he had a comment from the right or big business to "balance" Nader. So the Right and corporate powers simply refused to comment on such things and Nader went from being the 4th most admired man in America to being invisible, and eventually a pariah because so many people misunderstood the point of his Presidential campaigns. But the consolidation of the media, and the dissolution of conflict-of-interest rules for journalists, and with the vested interests that journalists developed in maintaining access to power (and with politicians being increasingly influenced by money) and desirous of lucrative speaking fees, I think that journalism has gone downhill.

    Am very happy to be listening to Hedges on Nader. Watching the documentary made about him a few years ago and reading the book written by Theresa D'Amato, who managed his 2000 and 2004 campaigns, was incredibly eye-opening.

  11. Sad that there are so few in the Hedges audience.

    According to Harpers Index, the chances that an American in the 18-24 age bracket read a book in the last year that wasn't required for school in work was less than 50%.

  12. Am listening to Hedges decry Woodrow Wilson. IIRC, it was Wilson who, before he became President, commented that not enough strikers has been killed yet to suppress the worker protests that were taking place. I've no doubt that the powers-that-be are calibrating just as carefully how much violence should be unleashed on the OWS movement in order to quell it without inciting more people to take to the streets.

  13. And listening to Hedges discuss the many political groups that protested WWI, etc., just reinforces Nader's essential point that we've devolved to a duopoly. The insane number of insurmountable barriers recounting by Nader and D'Amato that prevented Nader and any other third party candidate from mounting any real challenge to the Tweedle Dee-Tweedle Dum has only grown since 2004. As Greg Palast documents, since the Florida authorities got away with purging the voting rolls of those likely to vote for Democrats got away with it, despite the blatant illegality of their maneuvers (and in blatant defiance of more than one court order) got away with it, the very same deliberatly incompetent database company that handed Florida to Bush (with help from the SC) got away with it, they did it again. The very same company has gone on to disenfranchise voters in other swing states such as PA and OH. What's perhaps most disturbing is that Palast is an American who published in Britain because the for-profit media here (including the NYT and The Washington Post, which is a sister paper of The Guardian, where his articles on the 2000 election appeared) has never published his most damning articles. That being said, Palast's new book is incoherent; I've tried to read it, but it sounds unhinged to me. He admits to having started writing the book before he finished the investigation that it's about.

  14. The most important thing he imparts is:
    the INFUSION of corporate money into every facet of life.

  15. During WWI, the Carnegie Foundation wrote President Wilson, "don't let the war end too quickly."

    How banksters enhanced WWI:

    The banksters love peace movements: not knowing one that didn't end in war.

    Banksters financed all wars from Cromwell to WWIII.

  16. I loves me some Chris Hedges. Thanks so much for recording and posting, Gail. The lively comments were an enjoyable read. So many people are waking up. Hope you don't mind if I embed the Hedges video.

  17. Help yourself, Dion! Re people waking up, be sure to check out the Downward Spiral this morning:


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