The Collapse of the American Empire?

Chris Hedges is appeal at surprise
winning journalist who over the past
decade and a half has made his name as a
columnist activist and author he’s been
a vociferous public critic of presidents
on both sides of the American political
spectrum and his latest book America the
farewell tour is nothing short of a
full-throated throttling of the
political social and cultural state of
his country and with that we welcome
Chris Hedges back to TV oh it’s so nice
to see you in that chair thank you you
know I sort of jokingly said to you in
the green room before we started having
read your book I don’t know whether to
kill myself today or wait till tomorrow
right what I said you’re Canadian so so
we don’t have in being an American this
is the most depressing look at your
country I think I’ve ever read and if I
can just be permitted sort of an
observation on the top and then you tell
me if I’m totally out to lunch here
after reading this I thought Chris
Hedges sees the same problems in America
that I heard from Donald Trump at the
Republican convention where he described
widespread carnage and mass unemployment
and drug problems and so many things bad
with America your prescriptions
obviously for fixing all that are
different but do you – do you –
essentially see the country the same way
in that regard no because he you know
it’s important that he while he will run
down some of the pathologies that have
gripped huge sections of the country he
blames them on undocumented workers on
liberals on Muslims on Mexicans you know
so he’s a classic con artist or a
demagogue
but you do raise an important
point he tapped into the deep despair
and rage that large segments in
particular the white working-class feels
that having been betrayed by both of the
major parties well let’s get into with
it
you call this a farewell tour a farewell
to what a farewell to the American
Empire to America as we know it and is
that a good thing because I’ve heard
some people say you know the farewell to
American Empire will be a good thing for
this world it depends how the Empire
dissolves it depends what our reaction
is
it yeah I mean Empire when it contracts
and it will contract very quickly once
the dollar is no longer the world’s
reserve currency can express itself in
some very frightening forms so for
instance the British Empire in essence
it was a slow collapse from the end of
World War one culminating with the Suez
Crisis right the abortive attempt to
retake the Suez Canal after was
nationalized they had to retreat in
humiliation largely because of
Eisenhower’s opposition and then the
pound sterling was dropped as though and
so they fell into a pretty significant
depression but they handled it in a
different way what happens in the United
States we’re not prepared at all our
democratic social and cultural
institutions are deeply decayed we are
also a very violent society in a way
that for instance Canada is not or the
in the way that Great Britain is not we
are wash in weapons and not just weapons
but these are in essence these a k14 and
a take a the AR 14 s that are used in
these mass shootings and schools and
concert venues and malls and our assault
weapons there’s not they’re not for
hunting and they’re easily accessible so
I worry that the disintegration of
Empire will exacerbate the kinds of dark
pathologies that I spend a lot of time
in the book writing about the UK
farewell tour as you’ve described it
took about 40 years how long is the
American farewell tour been going for
well there’s been a steady decline I
would say since the early 70s when we
shifted in the words of the Harvard
historian Charles Mayer from an empire
of production to an empire of
consumption so we began to borrow to
maintain both an empire and a lifestyle
we could no longer afford those began
the distortions accelerated under Reagan
the cannibalizing that’s when the
cannibalizing of the federal government
began on behalf of corporations at the
expense of the citizenry you know the
famous phrase government is not the
solution government is the problem
well that’s true if you’re Goldman Sachs
or ExxonMobil but it’s not true if
you’re a single mother trying to raise
children on a substandard wage or no
wage so all of the mechanisms by which
democracy was supported by which
opportunity was offered to the have been
slowly erased and of course we’ve been
de-industrialized as has large parts of
Canada with all of the attendant
consequences that come from collapsed
communities the loss of good-paying
unionized jobs I’m gonna play devil’s
advocate for a second here because of
course Donald Trump would say the growth
rate that America is experiencing right
now the economic growth rate hasn’t been
this high in decades
the unemployment rate hasn’t been this
low in decades he sees other signs of a
country that is economically quite
dynamic right now well it’s all about
measurement so yes it’s true the stock
market is on a run but why well largely
first of all because of the Donald
Donald Trump’s tax cuts which will
remove an estimated 1.5 trillion dollars
from the US budget over a 10-year period
that money has not been used to bolster
manufacturing or create jobs it’s either
been hoarded or it’s been used to buy
back stock and that has inflated the
stock market because the senior managers
and CEOs of large corporations their
compensation packages are tied to the
value of stock presumably some of it’s
gone to creating new jobs not much
that’s how unemployment gets below 4%
yes but the unemployment figures are
completely fixed if you if you look at
how they measure unemployment so for
instance if you work one hour a week
you’re counted as employed the average
worker at Walmart works 28 hours a week
which puts them below the poverty line
they’re counted as employed
if you have stopped looking for work
after four weeks you are magically
erased from the unemployment rolls and
it doesn’t count large sectors of the
population students retired people who
are many of whom are now riding around
in RV vans work doing temp work for
Amazon at Christmas for 12 hours a day
in warehouses prisoners so real
unemployment the LA Times a couple years
ago said you know real unemployment is
pushing probably 17% if we’re teen if
we’re talking and we’re if we removed
people or if we look at people who are
considered the working poor ie those
people who have jobs but are the below
the poverty line as in essence
unemployed are certainly not receiving
an income that can sustain in any way a
lifestyle yeah I know you’re not a
massive fan of heartless capitalism as I
just read in 308 pages of the book
however comma private companies create
most of the jobs that most Americans
have so what do we do about that well I
would argue that there are different
types of capitalism
so I grew up in a
farm town in upstate New York and I saw
the penny capitalism of farmers farmers
produced brought their produce in for
sale you had regional capitalism so a
local factory owner who lived in the
community sat on the school board paid
taxes and then you have corporate
capitalism which is another animal
altogether so when you talk about
producing jobs let’s look at Apple where
are the manufacturing jobs for Apple
overseas they’re in China and what are
the working conditions for the people
who they’re subcontractors who make
Apple products not great it’s kind of
slave labor
it’s huge suicide rates wage theft when
they don’t make quotas they’re not paid
people climbing up on the living in
these horrific dormitories so corporate
capitalism is an enemy of penny and
regional capitalism
and it is global
it’s supranational it has no loyalty to
the nation-state
and it is corporate
capitalism that has
started and and kind of hollowed the
American economy out from the inside
when I read your book
I see an America at war with itself
between white supremacists and neo-nazis
who are trying to make their claim for
the end of the world I see you described
widespread sexual abuse in a hardcore
poor industry that is completely
frightening opioid and drug abuse and
heroin abuse that is off the charts
addictive gambling run amuck widespread
as you’ve described already here tonight
inadequate employment and
underemployment and unemployment far too
much general suffering I understand
you’re trying to tell a story here but
is that genuinely truly reflective of
America today
yes and and I think that
what and I you know I traveled all over
the country as you know for this and
spent two years so I was in Anderson
Indiana where all the old GM plants were
Utah
I wrote my gambling chapter out of the
Trump Taj Mahal before Trump ever even
announced he was running for president
it’s in Atlantic City in Atlantic City
it’s now closed it was when I was
writing it was in deep decay I mean most
of the rooms were mothballed rats mice
all yes mice were fighting on the floor
and people shooting up in the elevators
so I think what was so disturbing for me
writing the book was how many people
have been affected especially in the
opioid crisis I don’t think the numbers
begin to reflect the numbers of people
who are addicted to powerful narcotics
depressants and I mean I list
statistically we’re talking about big
big numbers big large sectors of the
American populous that in essence has
found ways to check out the
proliferation of hate groups is III used
for the book Emile Durkheim’s
great study of suicide where he went
back and tried to look the sociologists
at what were the factors of causes that
led people to kill themselves and he
talks where he coins this term anomie
and I think that that that’s what I’m
trying to do is explain that anomie that
has gripped I would argue at least half
the country and the dark pathologies
that that anomie produces and that
fundamentally if we don’t address that
alienation that dislocation and that
despair if we don’t we integrate these
people economically politically and
socially back into a system that no
longer responds in any way to their
rights and their grievances then these
pathologies will only grow we spoke
earlier about the decline of American
Empire as the pressure becomes worse as
the economic situation deteriorates if
these conditions go unaddressed then
these pathologies will explode and I
cover the war in the former Yugoslavia
and so I know what disintegrating
societies that resort to violence can
look like I watched as after the
economic collapse of Yugoslavia in late
1980s from a failed self-identified
liberal elite that couldn’t respond I
watched these figure these distortions
like Radovan Karadzic and Franjo Tudjman
slobodan milosevic
essentially be vomited up out of the
decay in the way that Trump has been
vomited up out of a very diseased
country well that was what I was gonna
ask you is is how much of what you’re
describing here is a feature of the
person who happens to sit in the Oval
Office today versus if anybody else were
in that chair I think Trump is the
symptom not the disease he’s a con
artist he’s a demagogue and he he he was
astute enough to tap into the zeitgeist
the tragedy for me you know there were
insurgencies in both of the major
political parties Bernie Sanders the
Demerol and the Democratic Party
establishment was just more astute in
terms of blocking the nomination to
Sanders and I would argue that they
effectively blocked it the Republican
Party establishment was not able to
block Trump and if Sanders had gotten
the nomination I think he would have
beaten Trump how would America be
different if that it happened
not terribly because with a
republican-controlled Congress it would
have been paralysis but you wouldn’t
have Sanders pushing forth the kinds of
agendas nor making the kinds of
appointments to the EPA to education
Supreme Court Supreme Court that the
Trump is made and and that that for me
is is quite frightening and and I think
we we have to pin some of the blame on
the Clinton campaign when you go back
and read the Podesta emails they push
Trump as a candidate because they
thought he would be the easiest
candidate to defeat so both Sanders and
Trump responded in to to the the reality
of the grotesque social inequality in
the United States which is greater than
the Gilded Age greater than it was a
century ago the difference being that of
course Trump is is dishonest I mean
Trump is is only fueled the kleptocracy
well let me pick up on that because and
you mentioned a bunch of important
institutions in American society in the
midst of that answer and I want to pull
a quote from the book here that deals
with that Sheldon if you would bring
this graphic up the most ominous danger
we face comes from the marginalization
and destruction of institutions
including the courts academia
legislative bodies cultural
organizations and the press that once
ensured that civil discourse was rooted
in reality and fact helped us
distinguish lies from truth and
facilitated justice I saw a poll
recently I bet you saw it too in which
Republicans were surveyed and 93% said
if Donald Trump says it I believe it

yeah I think the same poll showed those
same people saying if someone in my
family says it only 63% of people
believe that they believe the president
more than they believe their own family

80% of Republicans think that what’s in
the Wall Street Journal is not credible

80% of Republicans don’t believe the
Wall Street Journal even
in that America what hope do empirically
provable facts have well you pinpointed
something that’s very ominous when
national and political discourse is no
longer rooted and verifiable fact then
facts are interchangeable with opinions
truth is whatever you want it to be and
I write in the book about the nature of
the permanent lie that that all
politicians lie all governments lies I
have stone said but they live for
expediency so for instance Bill Clinton
argues that bypassing NAFTA there will
be many more American jobs good jobs
Bill Clinton doesn’t make that argument
anymore because it’s false and who knows
whether he knew or didn’t know but it’s
false with the permanent lie reality
facts doesn’t matter
so

  • Trump wins by a landslide
  • Trump has
    the largest inauguration crowd in the
    history of you know if we rent
  • first guy to win Wisconsin in 50 years

it’s
endless Andrew right it’s endless
endlessly but it doesn’t have it doesn’t
matter and then you have media platforms
that like Fox News that will propagate
or disseminate these lies uncritically
and and that has eroded discourse in the
United States the the institutions in it
functioning democracy you have
institutions and you cited them the
courts academia the press that their job
is to make sure that people speak about
a verifiable reality those institutions
have become corrupted weakened destroyed
or replaced with systems masks you know
Fox Breitbart all of these right-wing
propaganda outlets masquerading as news
the court system has been taken over and
is is now being finished off with
appointments by the from the Federalist
Society which is this ideological right
wing so and that it creates a kind of
schizophrenia where you whatever you
know you may see reality in front of you
but reality is denied by the power
elites and by the organs the media
platforms that disseminate the opinions
of the power leads and that that really
begins to sound like descriptions of
totalitarianism someone like Hannah
Aaron would write about I don’t want to
let the clock get too far away from this
year without being without giving you an
opportunity to speak to what you see as
the prescription for getting America out
of this farewell tour and here’s just a
few of the ideas that you advance in the
book a $15 minimum wage a ban on
for-profit health care a dismantling of
nuclear weapons ending trade agreements
giving citizenship to undocumented
workers what do you think implementing
that menu of policies would change I
think that it’s about reintegration so
it’s about taking this dispossessed huge
dispossessed segment of the American
population and reintegrating them into
the country and of course the opposite
is happening through programs of
austerity slashing welfare you know the
original welfare program which was cut
by Clinton 70% of the recipients were
children
I mean it’s called AFDC yeah I see
standing for children yeah well and the
children were sold out and there’s been
now a further slashing of availability
of food stamps and so you’re taking a
population in distress and you were
exacerbating that distress so I wrote a
book about the Christian Right called
American fascists and I came to the
conclusion after two years of writing
that book that the only way to battle
the Christian Right which I see as a
kind of Christianized fascist force and
I speak as a Seminary graduate I should
point that out
you’re a reference yes I am yeah you are
the dr. Reverend that’s right so
Christopher Lynn hedges the
the importance I believe to countering
the magical thinking of the Christian
Right was rooted in the economy in
reintegrating them into the economy
giving them the kinds of jobs the
unionized jobs that were once available
where you had job security job safety a
pension plan medical benefits and a
salary that could sustain a family
that’s all gone and by making it worse
we are pushing larger and larger parts
of the population into the embrace of
demagogues hate groups or seeing them
engage in behaviors that are wilfully
self-destructive
I mean suicide for instance the highest
rate of suicide in the United States are
middle-aged white men who realized that
there’s no place for them anymore and as
and I quote Pope Pope John Paul in his
encyclical on work work is not just
about the exchange of labor for wages it
is about status dignity self-respect
the ability to find a meaningful place
in society and we’re not doing it and
the longer we don’t do it the worse it’s
going to get here’s another quote from
the book politics is a game of fear
those who do not have the ability to
frighten power elites do not succeed the
platitudes about justice equality and
democracy are just that only when ruling
elites become worried about survival do
they react appealing to the better
nature of the powerful is useless they
don’t have one I guess I need to ask you
whether you are actually advocating the
violent overthrow of the United States
government No I’m strongly opposed to
violence as okay let’s take the violent
out of that sentence are you advocating
the overthrow of the United Scott vaque
ting the overthrow of a corporate
government I’m advocating the reversal
of the corporate coup d’etat in slow
motion how does that happen it happens
the same way it happened in Eastern
Europe I covered the revolutions in East
Germany Czechoslovakia
Romania it happens when people have
enough and how is it not I mean if the
Great Recession 2008 till whenever if
that didn’t and all of the corporate
kleptocracy that Wall Street got away
with there and how Main Street had to
pay for it if that didn’t propel people
to rise up what will the next crash and
we’re getting one I don’t know when but
it’s coming and this time around the
elites don’t have a plan B so what’s the
thing they can’t lower interest rates
anymore and they’ve already lower them
we’re already at virtually zero so what
does that look like that rising up that
you see coming
well we’ve seen glimpses of it you know
the put a most movement in Spain where
they surrounded the Parliament I mean
large numbers of people taking to the
streets obstructing the system I saw it
in vanilla square in Prague 500,000
Czechs I saw it in East Germany in
Leipzig and that was the most efficient
security and surveillance state in human
history until our own okay but I’m gonna
take a quote if I remember it correctly
from your book which was now that we’ve
got all those communists out of Eastern
Europe we can go back to the form of
government we used to have fascism is
that it’s coming well America is already
a failed democracy and Trump has no
ideology it’s an ideological vacuum
which is very rapidly being filled by
the Christian Right
we saw it he just had a big White House
dinner or with evangelicals he has 81%
support among evangelicals I that that
the ennis Noam Chomsky says you may want
Trump out but believe me Mike Michael
Pence will be worse the Christian Right
is organized they have their own
universities they have their own media
platforms and systems of indoctrination
they have huge amounts of money behind
them including the most retrograde
capitalists in the United States that
what’s coming to replace whatever this
is I’m a reporter and I and I and I
learned a long time ago that’s you know
trying to predict the future is a very
dangerous thing
but unless there is sustained mass civil
disobedience to put pressure on two
political parties and a system that is
completely captured by corporate power
then what’s coming I can do I can assure
you will not not look nice and not be
good you’ve called this America the
farewell tour but I wonder if this is
exclusively in your view an American
story no and we know from you know
what’s happening in Europe brexit
Hungary Poland which are kind of quasi
fascist states now Canada is not immune
to this you you also not to the extent
that we have but you’ve had your
experiences with mass shootings populist
politic populist politics but it’s far
more virulent and pronounced within the
United States because empires are always
fragile in this sense that they depend
on the control of foreign labour foreign
resources we have 17 years of warfare
now in the Middle East futile endless
you know meanwhile our infrastructure is
collapsing crumbling public libraries
are closing schools our teachers have to
buy basic supplies for students and you
know now we have this insane idea that
we’re gonna train teachers and public
schools to carry concealed weapons I
mean these are all examples of a society
that is completely on board so it is not
hardly unique to the United States and
and it will have a ripple effect in
countries like Canada but it will never
reach the extent of chaos and potential
violence because but but never forget
that that within American society we are
a deeply violent culture awash in
weapons we believe in the regeneration
through violence this myth that violence
is a form of purification and that comes
out of our long history of
side and slavery he started with a
revolution yeah we did not you did well
we also killed 90% of indigenous peoples
in the United States and slave 4 million
Africans and and we’ve never really
confronted that you know that dark
aspect you know in American history we
we cling to our national myth and and so
that does make us different and more
dangerous than Canada this is if you
don’t mind my saying a depressing book
but it is well reported and a very
important read America the farewell tour
Chris Hedges really good of you to come
into TV oats and I thank you thanks for
having me
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Society as we know it will collapse unless we institute the necessary liberal reforms.

The future looks quite grim.

Blind capitalism, or the wholesale deregulation of markets made possible by a failed liberal class, is an undiscriminating destructive force.

Without limitations imposed on mass production or industrial growth, the ecosystem that supports our very existence has been brought to the brink of collapse. Climate change, spurred by unregulated production and consumption, will drastically alter the living conditions on earth.

Moreover, there is a revolution in our future, and one that will be born at the far-right end of the American political spectrum.

Revolt is necessary, as it is our only means of toppling corrupt government. However, this revolt won’t come from the middle classes or be inspired by moderate politicians.

Looking back to Germany in the late 1920s, citizens then knew revolt was coming. Theirs too came from from the far right, as Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party used government weakness along with people’s frustration to gain political power.

The only solution is a complete restructuring of human society into small communities, in which small groups of people can rebuild their lives.

These communities will have to be modest and self-sufficient, growing and building everything they need themselves. To live within their means, these groups can’t be much larger than a few families, otherwise they risk becoming reliant on larger industrial producers.

Hopefully, these small communities will give birth to a new kind of political system, one that is not so easily corrupted by the power of money or wishful thinking.

The death of the liberal class can destabilize the entire democratic system.

A future without a liberal class will prove to be a problem not only for the people it is supposed to protect but also for the integrity of the American democratic system as a whole.

Indeed, the government needs to have a liberal functioning class, as it acts as a safeguard against policies that are too harsh. A liberal bulwark too is often the last hope for those whom the government has wronged.

It was the liberal class, for example, that pushed reforms such as workers’ rights, saving people from complete exploitation under an unfettered free market or despotic government.

A functioning liberal class also acts as an attack dog, battling radical movements that might wish to topple a government by instituting the moderate reforms that discredit more radical action.

The liberal class can claim, rightly or wrongly, that its policies can improve a social situation without the insecurity and chaos that can come with radical change.

Furthermore, Americans have become disappointed and restless without a functioning liberal class.

The failed liberal class in the United States provides no new meaningful reforms and is thus no longer a safeguard against governmental controls. Consequently, today’s working class feels disappointed and angry.

We can also find examples throughout history of how the disappearance of a functioning liberal class has caused the collapse of entire governments.

At the end of the Weimar Republic in Germany, for example, the liberal class failed to satisfy the needs of its citizens, such as providing job security and a stable economy. With their needs unmet, the public turned to extremists on both sides of the political spectrum for support, which eventually allowed the Nazi party to rise significantly in power.

The failure of the liberal class weakens an entire political system, the consequences of which are much harsher and broader than you might initially think.

Chris Hedges: The Religious Right and American Politics

Here, Chris speaks with CBC Radio about his new book and predicts that the US empire will collapse within the next 20 years, probably within the next 10.

Transcript

[00:00:00] The American Empire is coming to an end. Welcome to ideas. I’m Rachel Giza sitting in for Paul Kennedy. Overseeing this descent at the highest levels of the federal and state [00:00:15] governments is a Motley collection of imbeciles con artist thieves opportunists and warmongering Generals and, to be clear, I include the Democratic party. Christopher Hedges is a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and the author of America the Farewell [00:00:30] Tour — a book which dissects the body politic of American culture and whose prognosis is unambiguously stark, short of a sudden and widespread popular revolt. The death spiral appears unstoppable, meaning [00:00:45] the United States as we know it will no longer exist in a decade or at most two.

Predicting the disintegration of America has been something of an industry among the chattering classes for a while and it’s accelerated in the last couple [00:01:00] of years. But after the Sandy Hook school massacre, in which 20 children were fatally, shot Hedges wrote an article in 2013 for the Walrus magazine where I happen to be working at the time that article was uncanny in the way. It looked ahead at [00:01:15] the America which was to come in it. He quoted the late American philosopher Richard Rorty who said and I’m quoting here that when America’s breakdown begins, the gains made in the past 40 years, by black and brown Americans [00:01:30] section by homosexuals will be wiped out jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion all the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will [00:01:45] find an outlet.

That was in 2013 and those words now seem prophetic. Well, he wrote it even before that. Were they? Well, there are intellectuals in the United States who understood [00:02:00] what was happening, but they were pushed so far to the margins that their voices were not heard Sheldon Wolin, for example, we lost a couple years ago taught at Berkeley and Princeton, wrote Democracy Incorporated and these figures who [00:02:15] call as Rorty did of course called out the folly of neoliberalism were silenced in essence that critique was just unpalatable across the mainstream. So I think the [00:02:30] serious critics of culture Neil Postman they knew what was coming.

There have been other moments of deep division in crisis in America — the Civil War, the Great Depression, the Red Scare, Vietnam — on and on it goes [00:02:45] What makes this particular moment distinct and different we’ve trashed our economy. We’ve de-industrialized the country. We’ve allowed our economic system to be seized by global speculators.

And that [00:03:00] coupled with the century-long assault against radical and Progressive movements beginning in World War one, but with the Red Scare after World War 1 on the Palmer Raids, we saw a re-emergence of those movements and unions [00:03:15] because unions like for instance, the the old United Mine Workers Union was didn’t come back into existence until the 1930s when Roosevelt permitted it to come back into existence. So with a breakdown of capitalism, there was a resurgence, but [00:03:31] we were still in an industrialized country. We still had factories. We still made things.

And that’s where you get this kind of golden period of capitalist democracy in the 1950s, but alongside that was [00:03:46] a steady assault beginning with the 1948 Taft-Hartley Act which makes it very difficult for unions to organize. You saw a chipping away of New Deal programs. Remember Roosevelt with the massive unemployment said if the [00:04:01] private sector is incapable of providing jobs, then the government has to provide jobs, providing 12 million jobs, Social Security. And Roosevelt says that his greatest achievement is that he saved democracy. So we lost the radical Progressive and then after [00:04:16] the war in the name of anti-communism, they disemboweled liberal institutions themselves ending with this parody of what it means to be a liberal Democrat in the Clinton Administration. The Clinton Administration or the Democratic party under Bill Clinton essentially [00:04:31] became the Republican party it took over the issue of Law and Order which was really kind of code for the institutional racism which African Americans continue to suffer from.

It was Clinton who expand the prison system [00:04:46] from seven hundred thousand to over two million and the 1994 Omnibus crime Bill, deregulating the FCC. So now we have about five or six corporations that control what 90% of Americans listen to and watch. It was under Clinton that we destroyed our welfare program [00:05:01] and 70% of the original recipients of welfare were children. It’s under Clinton that we destroy Glass-Steagall which, and you don’t have a banking crisis in Canada because Chrétien didn’t allow it. He didn’t rip down the firewalls between commercial [00:05:16] and investment banks Clinton did which is what precipitated both our and the global financial crisis in 2008. So all of the it became like the late Roman Republic where the institutions and the language and iconography [00:05:31] of democracy existed, but internally had become so corrupted. It in essence been seized by corporate power as to render it a mirage and that of course sow the seeds [00:05:46] for Trump.

There’s this 1986 film by the Quebec director Danny Arkin and it’s simply called the decline of the American Empire don’t know if you’re familiar with it, but it’s saw modern societies fixation [00:06:01] on self-indulgence as an indicator of its decline. You’ve been talking about governments and corporations. But in the book you also talk on the individual level this focus on self-indulgence. How are [00:06:16] self-indulgence and decline related? Well, that’s a very important point. Yes, it became a society consumed by hedonism and narcissism and it’s celebrated the qualities of psychopaths. [00:06:31] You see it on any reality television show that ability to manipulate use lie to others for your own advancement a lack of empathy or capacity for remorse the [00:06:46] idea that weath creates its own value. It doesn’t matter how you achieve it, the yearning for celebrity self-presentation, which is what Facebook and social media is fundamentally about it’s about what Neil [00:07:01] Postman called jife the movie and what happened is our political system are political campaigns became forms of reality television itself. So you manufactured personalities, you [00:07:16] know, George W Bush becomes somebody you’d want to have a beer with yeah and you confuse how you are made to feel with knowledge and Trump could play that game better. That’s the first part of the second part. Is that across the political spectrum the [00:07:31] American public realized that the elites had betrayed them and Trump’s caustic vulgar insults, whether it was directed at George Bush or Hillary Clinton. We’re kind of cathartic to an extremely I would [00:07:46] say legitimately angry.

In particular white working class population that had been lied to and and of course the anger was even greater at the Democratic party because figures like Clinton or Obama continued to speak and that feel your pain language [00:08:01] of liberalism while serving corporate power. And of course, we saw that in 2008 with Obama’s response, which was to bail out the banks and Goldman Sachs the people who carried out the fraud and turn his back on the victims. And [00:08:16] is that the moment that it hit home for you that America was on the decline or was it earlier than that that you were seeing the signs now much earlier. First of all, I spent 20 years overseas. So I was very rarely [00:08:31] in this country for two decades and the the changes that had taken place within the country where much more dramatic and starker upon my return

What corporations have done to former industrial cities like Camden, [00:08:46] New Jersey which per capita is the poorest city in the United States or the coal fields of Southern West Virginia where they have turned the Appalachian Mountains into a toxic Wasteland because they won’t stop and I think that comes from being a reporter and not sitting [00:09:01] around Manhattan and because if you get out there and listen, it’s grim and and I have to raise pornography. I mean if we are deeply pornified society which fits completely with heartless capitalism or everybody [00:09:16] and everything including the natural world becomes a commodity that you exploit until exhaustion or collapse. I wonder though if there is a conceptual trap within the very idea of talking about America’s decline at this moment because the [00:09:31] United States itself was founded on this contradiction a free and Democratic nation that was built on enslaving millions of Africans and

The genocide of indigenous people, you know, I think about the American the African American poet [00:09:46] Langston Hughes who wrote America never was America to me. So is it is America actually in decline or are these fault lines in these contradictions? Just much more visible and perilous now. Well the it is [00:10:01] in decline in terms of its economic and its political power mean China has overtaken it as the major manufacturing center of the world, but I think much of the Decay and James Baldwin writes about this comes from the refusal on the part of especially the white majority [00:10:16] to face who they were and where they came from to mythologize the National myth that whole notion of regeneration through violence. I mean, we as Americans are a deeply violent culture in a way that Canadians are not and [00:10:32] we still believe in the idea that violence is a form of purification.

We have failed to confront who we were and what we did African Americans who have never been paid reparations. Although they built the country and [00:10:47] that inability to see ourselves for who we are has created these monstrosities and Trump is a kind of case study for it. America was founded as you point out on [00:11:02] I mean the the quote-unquote founding fathers read what they wrote about Native Americans, they just wanted them all wiped out. It was a white slave holding male aristocratic Elite women were disenfranchised men without [00:11:17] property were disenfranchised, of course African Americans Native Americans and it was a closed system the Senate Senators, which did the real legislative work were appointed and so the entire battle for American democracy which Howard [00:11:32] Zinn writes about in The People’s History of the United States has been won by which many hundreds probably

Of Americans have lost their lives. We had the bloodiest labor wars in the industrialized World hundreds of American workers were murdered. So they’ve [00:11:48] won the it’s been quite effective John Ralston, Saul calls it the corporate coup d’etat in slow motion. I don’t always credit him. But right now in Canada, so Chris win for you then was America closest to [00:12:03] the ideal that it had for itself. Was there a moment or a period well, I would say the ideal that America had for itself was one that we had to destroy if we were going to have an open Society in a democratic system. And that [00:12:18] battle has one. How do you mean well the the people who envisioned I mean if you read The Federalist Papers, they were terrified of of popular will they were grounded and Locke who built an entire judicial [00:12:33] system on the Primacy of property rights as opposed to individual rights?

They were racist and so in that sense it was democracy for a few.

And autocracy for everyone else. So [00:12:48] that has been a constant battle since the founding of the country. We have had moments on the eve of world war one where popular movements the old wobblies the CIO you Communist [00:13:03] Party whose important Force the raced from US history of the Progressive Movement on and on and on and so it’s been a kind of seesaw. It’s been a kind of back and forth now and we are now at a point where we’ve been utterly disarmed. We don’t even have the vocabulary to [00:13:18] explain what’s happening to us, which is one of the most egregious class wars waged in the industrialized. We’d have to go back to the Louise of late France. No really to to find social inequality at this level. We it’s it’s the worst [00:13:33] income inequality in the United States since the Gilded Age and it’s worse than the Gilded Age and it’s getting worse. There’s nothing left Moon just saw a massive tax cuts, which will remove an

Made one point five trillion dollars over [00:13:48] 10 years from government revenue. It’s insane. And what are these people doing with their cuts and their money their hoarding the money or they’re buying back their stock. That’s how you get the inflated stock market which isn’t sustainable because the major managers and CEOs [00:14:03] their compensation packages are tied to the stock. So it becomes your Marx’s understanding of fictitious Capital money making money and at the same time after the 2008 crash they were lent who knows [00:14:18] for seven trillion, whatever the figure is dollars by the FED at 0% interest and we had central banks in Europe because this is Global Lending money at negative percentage why they’d pay you to take money, but the money has to be repaid. So since they’re not building anything or producing [00:14:33] anything. It’s through debt peonage and that’s where you get one point four trillion dollars in student loans, which even if you declare bankruptcy still have to be repaid. That’s where you get massive.

Credit card debt and you’re late on your credit card is [00:14:48] 28% our healthcare system, which even if you have insurance, you’re bombarded with Rising quote unquote co-payments costs that aren’t covered and it’s the most expensive and least efficient healthcare system [00:15:03] in the industrialized world. So they are extracting their pound of Flesh through austerity programs forcing municipalities. I write about this in the beginning of the book with Scranton to sell off sewer systems Parking Authorities [00:15:18] utilities to private corporations who then jack up the rates. And and so that predatory Nature has created a Karl polanyi writes about this. It’s a mafia economy and ultimately a [00:15:33] mafia political system. I mean Trump and and the people around him are it is just an unchecked kleptocracy both personally for the Trump family, but for the billionaire class, we see it with the

Privatization of public education why [00:15:48] because the Department of Education spends 63 billion dollars a year and the hedge fund managers want it? Well Chris. I want to I want to offer a counter argument to you. So ideas spoke with Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker [00:16:03] about his book Enlightenment now and in it, he argues counter to what you argue that most things have actually gotten better for most people over the decades not worse. He says that Health longevity literacy income and so on have actually improved [00:16:18] and he takes to task a certain kind of intellectual who seems to be more committed to despair than to progress.

The enlightenment has worked. Perhaps The Greatest Story [00:16:33] seldom told you because this Triumph or so unsung the underlying ideals of Reason science and humanism or unappreciated as well far from being an insipid Consensus. These ideals are treated by today’s intellectuals with indifference skepticism [00:16:48] and sometimes contempt given the tremendous progress. We’ve made in the past quarter Millennium the past 250 years. I don’t think there’s any reason to think that it will suddenly do it do a U-turn there [00:17:04] have been predictions like that for as long as the enlightenment has been in existence. There’s been a counter Enlightenment which includes a kind of fatalism and pessimism Spengler wrote in the 19-teens and expected [00:17:19] that the West would decline and it didn’t happen. The world has been coming to an end for a very long time indeed if you were to go by

The predictions of these rather morose intellectuals. It’s not a guarantee that we will avert disaster known can make such a guarantee but you [00:17:34] have to take with a grain of salt the constant predictions that this generation is a special that the progress that we’ve seen is suddenly going to end.

Steven Pinker mentions [00:17:49] quote morose intellectuals and their constant predictions of the end. What do you think to see if a point? No, he looks like sounds like he’s reading from Candide. He should get out of Harvard a little more figures [00:18:04] like Pinker are popular because they tell us what we want to hear but every single Climate Change Report that I read has a subtext which is that it is accelerating at a rate far faster than anyone predicted.

I traveled [00:18:19] all over the country for this book from industrial Wasteland 2 industrial Wasteland and the book was in many ways modeled after Emile durkheim’s book on suicide that when you have a society [00:18:34] in Decay, it produces familiar pathologies suicide being one opioid addiction hate groups gambling and then having been a war correspondent. I just I just don’t know. I [00:18:49] just find pinker’s analysis to be completely unplugged from reality. The fact is Empires civilizations die. That’s something that Plato understood it. They [00:19:04] have natural life cycles.

The American Empire is coming to an end. The nation has lost the power and respect needed to induce allies in Europe Latin America Asia and Africa to do its bidding add the mounting destruction [00:19:19] caused by climate change and you have a recipe for an emerging dystopia. The Empire will limp along steadily losing influence until the dollar is dropped as the world’s Reserve currency plunging the United States into a crippling depression and [00:19:34] instantly forcing a massive contraction of its military machine many of the estimated 69 Empires that have existed throughout history lacked competent leadership in their decline. They ceded power to monstrosities such as the Roman emperors [00:19:49] Caligula and Nero or imbecile narcissist like Trump.

We’re not Immortal any more than any other Empire the difference this time is that when we go down will bring the whole planet with us and I find a figures like pink or very dangerous [00:20:04] because it is the perpetuation of the myth of human progress the idea that progress is inevitable. You know, he mentioned the enlightenment. Well, it was the Enlightenment that gave us the Jacobins and [00:20:19] ultimately the fascists and the Communists the idea that you could create a perfect world as dr. Pangloss said by eradicating certain elements of that world that comes directly [00:20:34] out of the Enlightenment. So there’s always been a very dark side to the enlightenment the utopian belief that we could create the perfect Society if certain segments of that Society were wiped out you you [00:20:49] talk about marks and quote marks at length in the book is

Marxism a kind of utopianism completely. I am not a Marxist but Marx’s critique of capital is probably the most important critique of capital [00:21:04] he and remember that it was heavily reported. He and angles angles, of course ran textile firm. He knew what he was talking about and marks used a lot of angles data. So if I was running a hedge fund on Wall Street Island only hire Marxist because [00:21:19] they understand that capitalism is about the exploitation of Labour the maximization of profit and and reducing the cost of Labor that that’s what marks got so Marxist solution is not something [00:21:34] that is as utopian. As any other kind of fantastic belief. I mean it the problem with marks and I graduated from Harvard Divinity School. So I kind of come out of Calvin is that he doesn’t grasp human nature. He’s you know, once he gets [00:21:49] into his solution. I’m not with him, but in terms of his study of

Capitalism he understood he understood the nature of capitalism. I understood how it worked and he understood where it was going Mark sworn that capitalism [00:22:04] had built within it the seeds of its own destruction. There would come a day when capitalism would exhaust its potential and collapse marks did not know when that day would come but he also knew that capitalist expansion was not eternally sustainable [00:22:19] unable to expand and generate profits at past levels. The capitalist system would begin to consume the structures that sustained it it would pray upon in the name of austerity the working class and the poor driving them ever deeper [00:22:34] into debt and poverty and diminishing the capacity of the state to serve the basic needs of ordinary citizens. It would as it has increasingly automate or relocate jobs, including both manufacturing and professional [00:22:49] positions to countries with cheap pools of Labor.

This would trigger an economic assault on not only the working class but the middle class the bulwark of a capitalist democracy that would be disguised by Massive personal debt as [00:23:04] incomes declined or remain stagnant and borrowing sword politics would in the late stages of capitalism become subordinate to economics leading to political parties hollowed out of any real political content and objectively subservient [00:23:19] to the dictates of Corporations. But as Marx warned, there is a limit to an economy built on austerity in the scaffolding of debt. There comes a moment marks new when there would be no new markets available and no new pools of people [00:23:34] who could take on more debt capitalist oligarchs. Meanwhile horde huge sums of wealth seven point six trillion dollars stashed in overseas tax Havens Executives tribute from those they dominate in debt and [00:23:49] impoverish capitalism would in the end Mark said,

On the so-called free market along with a values and traditions it claimed to defend it would in its final stages pillage the systems and structures that made capital is impossible. [00:24:04] It would Resort as it causes widespread suffering to harsher forms of repression to maintain social control. It would attempt in a frantic Last Stand to extract profit by looting and pillaging State [00:24:19] institutions contradicting its stated nature.

Well, I want to dig into corporatism and capitalism a bit more you write that capitalism would attempt quote in a frantic Last Stand to extract profit by looting [00:24:34] and pillaging State institutions contradicting its stated nature. What is capitalism stated nature that it that the market determines behavior that when capitalists entities are [00:24:49] unable to generate profit and collapse they should die.

And of course all of this was exposed as a lie after 2008 and of course with the impoverishment of the American working class, it’s [00:25:04] difficult to expand markets. Then as Marx understood these entities cannibalize the structures that make a capitalist democracy possible. We spoke earlier about the education system, but this is just now writ large throughout all [00:25:19] aspects of American government 70% of us intelligence is privatized corporations, like bows Allen Hamilton, which gets 99 percent of its revenue from the US government. We have Erik Prince the brother of Betsy [00:25:35] DeVos making a push to privatize the war in Afghanistan, which is not gone particularly. Well, in fact, of course we’re losing it, but that doesn’t matter because you have the War Industry is making a killing. It’s not good for anyone Afghanistan. It’s not good [00:25:50] for us. It’s certainly not good for stability within the Middle East but it is good for this.

Narrow segment of the country IE those corporations which profit from and War has always been a business. So capitalism the nature of capitalism [00:26:05] as its described by The Chicago School and others Bears no resemblance to the reality of capitalism the creation of monopolies so that you destroy competition the constant consolidation [00:26:20] of these Mega corporations, which then not only fix prices and Jack prices up but we know from SEC investigations fixed Libor rates, I mean, they fix everything so it’s not really capitalism and then when they get in trouble, [00:26:35] it’s corporate socialism. They go running to the state and loot the US Treasury well and you in this book you travel across America to communities and cities across the country. So where have you personally seen that frantic [00:26:50] Last Stand and that pillaging taking place on that ground level?

I write out of Anderson, Indiana. So Anderson, Indiana used to be one of the major manufacturing centers for GM Clinton passes NAFTA GM moves [00:27:05] to Monterrey Mexico. They leveled a lot of those giant plants. So there’s just these massive weed-choked feels 25,000 workers with good union jobs, 25 $30 an hour sometimes [00:27:20] more health benefits a pension plan a union gone and the city like all the industrialized pockets is in free fall with all of the attendant problems that I write about in the book including massive [00:27:35] problems with opioid overdoses and there, you know, I drove through the streets and it’s churches are for sale. I mean everything’s closing up whole section of the city doesn’t even have a supermarket. It’s this descent where everybody just eats processed food from a convenience [00:27:50] store.

And so I was with a lot of the old UAW workers and they told me that Bernie Sanders had huge support but once Sanders was denied the nomination, I would argue the Democratic establishment fixed it so he couldn’t get [00:28:05] it. They voted for Trump. They were going to vote for Clinton not after what had been done to them and Anderson like Scranton like you can just tick off almost every city in America, especially between the coase.

And you drive through [00:28:20] it and it’s potholed streets streetlights are burned out public libraries are closed in Camden. The library is gutted and there’s a tree growing out of it. And this of course gets into the whole issue on the failure of the part of the elites to address the social inequality [00:28:35] that is deforming and destroying the country and that created Trump Russia had nothing to do with it. And neither did Comey or the podesta emails. It had to do with a rapacious greedy myopic [00:28:50] Elite that embraced and ideologies which was ridiculous from its start neoliberalism is David Harvey points on is very good book to enrich themselves and their class.

You’re [00:29:06] listening to ideas on CBC radio Sirius XM and cbc.ca / ideas where you can always get our podcast. I’m Rachel Giza sitting in for Paul Kennedy. Christopher Hedges is a columnist for the website truthdig. He [00:29:21] spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent mostly with the New York Times in Central America the Middle East Africa and the Balkans, he was part of the team which won a Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for its coverage of global terrorism. And in the same year. He [00:29:36] also received the Amnesty International Global award for human rights journalism. Chris Hedges has also written over a dozen books in this episode were talking about his most recent one America the farewell tour in which he argues that American society is [00:29:51] in Decline primarily because of systemic economic Injustice or what he calls Casino capitalism. Our Casino capitalism has merged with the

In Industry, the entire system is parasitic. [00:30:06] It is designed to prey on the desperate young men and women burdened by student loans underpaid workers burden by credit card debt and mortgages towns and cities forced to borrow to maintain Municipal Services Casino [00:30:22] magnets and hedge fund managers add nothing of value to society. They do not generate money. They redistribute it upward to the one percent.

Stiffer Hedges also studied theology at Harvard Divinity School and [00:30:37] is an ordained Presbyterian Minister his view of humanity as dark as he readily admits given his calvinist worldview and maybe it’s that worldview that makes America the farewell tour read like a set of disturbing [00:30:52] prophecies.

The most ominous danger we Face comes from the marginalization and destruction of Institutions including the courts Academia legislative bodies cultural [00:31:07] organizations in the press that once ensured that civil discourse was rooted in reality and fact helped us distinguish lies from truth and facilitated Justice Trump and today’s Republican party represent the last stage [00:31:22] in the emergence of corporate totalitarianism pillage and oppression are justified by the permanent lie, the permanent law is different from the falsehoods and half-truths uttered by politicians such as Bill Clinton George W bush and Barack Obama [00:31:37] the common political lie, these politicians employed was not designed to cancel out reality. The permanent lie is not circumscribed by reality. It is perpetuated even in the face of overwhelming evidence that discredits [00:31:52] it. It is irrational those who speak in the language of Truth and fact are attacked as Liars.

Traders and purveyors of fake news they are banished from the public sphere once totalitarian Elites accrue sufficient power a [00:32:07] power now granted to them with the revoking of net neutrality the iron refusal by those who engage in the permanent lie to acknowledge reality no matter how transparent reality becomes creates a collective psychosis.

Chris [00:32:22] you write about something you call the permanent lie. What is that lie?

The permanent lie ignores reality completely and this of course is the danger of the Trump Administration where reality doesn’t matter [00:32:37] and it’s endemic to all totalitarian societies. Where are you perpetually broadcast falsehoods and it creates a kind of collective schizophrenia because what you see around you doesn’t have any relation [00:32:52] to what you hear and let them and yet the message is so overpowering that you’re kind of knocked off balance. You don’t know what what is true and what is false and that is a characteristic of all totalitarian societies. This so-called post [00:33:07] truth phenomenon, where as you’re saying the facts don’t matter we’re bombarded with lies memes like alternative facts and Truth isn’t truth or making the rounds you call this irrational and ominous. [00:33:22] How is this kind of a rationality ominous?

Well, because when you as we have done destroy institutions, that would be the press the courts Academia whose job is to keep civil [00:33:37] and political discourse rooted and verifiable fact once facts are interchangeable with opinions. Then it becomes an Alice in Wonderland kind of experience where nothing makes sense. I mean, what [00:33:52] does Alice say one point two cats eat my sort of my see cats or the cats eat mice will doesn’t really matter. Well, that’s Trump right there and and a society unmoored from verifiable fact is a society in deep distress and [00:34:07] it creates a kind of paralysis those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities Voltaire.

I found this in my book on the Christian, right you can have [00:34:22] a rational discourse with someone who believes that every living creature and the entire world was created in six days and that the T-Rex was in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve who are real people and they put a saddle [00:34:37] on T-Rex and rotate around which is in the diorama that’s in the creationist Museum in Peterborough, Kentucky and you laugh at it on the outside, but I went through that museum with crowds of people who believe it and then when a significant portion of your population [00:34:52] Retreats into this form of magical thinking you’re utterly unable to respond to reality itself in a rational or meaningful way well and I’m curious about that because there is this intense [00:35:07] loyalty by white evangelicals to Trump who is not in any way a Christian seeming person and how he can

Himself, it doesn’t appear rational the allegiance to Trump from a group [00:35:22] of people who are at odds with everything that he embodies. So how much do you think that the rise of the religious right has contributed to this Rise of irrationality and and post truth reality that were living. [00:35:37] Well, I mean remember they have their own universities their own systems of indoctrination through Christian television and broadcasting, you know, the New York Times when they run the bestseller list, they don’t include quote unquote Christian books because it would dominate every single [00:35:52] one on the list. I would argue that they are completely in sync with Trump. I covered these people these mega churches are run by pastors who are as Sleazy and corrupt As Trump. They can’t be questioned. They’re in direct contact with God. [00:36:07] That’s the first part. The second part is I don’t look at the Christian right as a religious movement. They’re Christian Heretics. They have used biblical language.

To sanctify the worst aspects of American capitalism white supremacy and [00:36:22] imperialism and fundamentally, they are groups that are about hate they are biblically illiterate. I mean as soon as they found out I graduated my father was a minister. I graduated from junior high school and I spent two years with [00:36:37] them. As soon as they found out. I came out of a Biblical tradition. They did not want to talk about the Bible with me because they’re selective literalists. They have been handed certain passages that they use to justify an ideology. So 81% [00:36:52] of quote/unquote Evangelical support Trump trump has no belief system of his own no aetiology. And so this ideologies is filling the vacuum, but they’re the same they are people who externalize evil. [00:37:07] They are absolutists who believe that they cannot be questioned. They are intolerant of anybody outside their cultish.

Belief system the a ostensibly present themselves as a moral Force. I [00:37:22] mean Sarah Sanders attempts to do this. If she lies every single day to the press in the American public, but what they are is a species of the German Christian Church, which was created by the Nazis. So you had a Christian cross on one side and a Nazi flag on the other. It’s the fusion [00:37:37] of the iconography and language of the state with the religion and that’s extremely dangerous. So so they use the sacral language of the Bible to deify the worst aspects of the United States [00:37:52] and it’s also a movement that is palpably angry. It seems to me and I feel like the anger you see coming from the religious right? We’re seeing its Echoes and and its counterparts around the world whether it’s Hindu nationalism and India [00:38:07] or the Burmese Carnage which has been inflicted on the rohingya. And and in fact, one of the one of the thinker’s that you mentioned in your book was featured on this.

Graham pankaj, Mishra is good who wrote The Age of anger a history of the [00:38:22] present?

Whenever you have an economic crisis, you have political dysfunction you have opaque forces of the global economy working on you. You can’t identify them and you [00:38:37] will you will again start channeling your rage against whoever is nearest to you immigrants Muslims Mexicans, and also women in a women have become in in in in recent years the target of whole lot of masculine [00:38:52] rage and again, you know, this is something we’ve seen before this particular phenomena of people being promised empowerment people being promised the emancipations [00:39:07] of the modern world and then discovering that this process of Liberation is much much harder than they imagined basically generates a lot of Rage which is then turned against [00:39:22] weaker people’s which is channeled into all

Names of compensate re fantasies of power whether its cultural nationalism or militant violence.

[00:39:38] I do militant violence and a mythologized romanticize past so often get paired together because you have an assault on identity. So I was walking through Montgomery, Alabama with Bryan Stevenson the [00:39:53] great civil rights attorney who defends death row prisoners. Most of them of course are poor and black and he’s pointing out all the Confederate monuments in Montgomery which and half the city’s black and he said most of these were put up in the last 10 years.

[00:40:09] And I said that reminds me of Yugoslavia where you had the economic collapse of Yugoslavia a sense of disempowerment instability a state that was unable to respond in a meaningful way to acute distress and people created [00:40:24] mythical narratives of the serbs or the cross or the Muslims to give themselves an identity and to sanctify their own hatred which ultimately became a fratricide. So yeah, I like me sure [00:40:39] a lot. I think he really understands it your critical throughout America the farewell tour of progressives and identity politics you right and I’m quoting here the liberal Church like the bankrupt liberal class holds up multiculturalism [00:40:54] and identity Politics as an ethical imperative and ignores the Primacy of economic and social justice. Now that term identity politics its gets used a lot and I don’t know that there’s a consensus about what it means. So what is identity politics?

I [00:41:09] mean to you it means the promotion of a particular ethnicity race gender and the belief that the elevation of someone who comes from that group is a form of empowerment.

[00:41:25] But of course that’s completely false the corporate Elites and we begin going all the way back to the advertiser Bennington Calvin Klein. I used to put up hiv-positive models and stuff to be kind of risque Obama’s was an [00:41:40] example of this you have just taken a page from colonialism where they push out a mbutu to do their bidding and what matters is the system that they’re serving. So the idea that a woman president is somehow beneficial to an [00:41:55] Empire run amok is an absurdity. It redefines what feminism should be which is about the empowerment of oppressed women.

Probably three-quarters of African Americans are living in worst poverty and worst violence [00:42:10] terms of what’s happening in these militarized marginal communities than when King marched on Selma. And so the elites have learned to diversify. I mean Trudeau did it with his cabinet, but that just becomes a kind of faint [00:42:25] a cover to maintain a system of institutional racism and corporate exploitation, which is steadily turning the lives of the poor and working men and women into hell, [00:42:40] you know, they are approaching conditions. They’ve already embraced conditions not seen in the industrialized world since the textile mills of Manchester at the end of the 19th century. They’ve [00:42:55] already reached those conditions in places like China and Bangladesh, but those conditions are increasingly defining what it means to be a worker in the United States and let’s not forget that

Operations in the United States we have 25% of the world’s prison population 2.3 [00:43:10] million people or 5% of the world’s population again mass incarceration is a form of social control of poor black and brown bodies discarded left behind in these D industrialized Pockets where they can’t create an income. They’re not creating [00:43:25] an income for corporations on the streets but lock him in a cage and they can generate fifty or sixty thousand dollars a year for prison contractors private phone companies private medical services private money transfer companies private commissaries on and on and [00:43:40] on but you are now seeing American corporations including big ones Hewlett-Packard McDonald’s will make its uniforms in the prison system because the argument the prison authorities make is you don’t have to pay 22 or 32 cents an hour and Bangladesh. You can [00:43:55] pay that in an American prison. They can organize they can’t complain about working conditions. They can’t get paid for sick days. And if they don’t if there’s any kind of a problem we throw them into

Sorry for a year. So that kind of return [00:44:10] to unbridled exploitive systems of capitalism. It’s already cemented into place. I mean, this is what Apple does with its subcontractors in China where people climb they you know, they fail to make their [00:44:25] quotas constant wage theft and they climbed to the top of these buildings and throw themselves off Etc. But that’s is increasingly defining working conditions in the first world, but isn’t there a way in a critique about economic [00:44:40] Injustice to talk about how identities based on race and gender?

Complicate and exacerbate the problem of social injustice. I hear your point about putting out [00:44:55] making a woman president or making a black man president doesn’t stop racism or sexism but isn’t it true that many people are oppressed worse because of the identities that they have that they’re [00:45:10] that that we know that you know, black women earn less than white women that but that’s economic Justice. I mean, that’s my whole point. But so you take the Occupy Movement the Occupy Movement was largely a white white middle-class kids who got out of college, there [00:45:25] was no pleasure. Well, they weren’t joined by people from marginal communities of color because these kids suddenly discovered that they couldn’t find meaningful employment. We’re dealing with issues of evictions police violence. When you went to these marginal communities, [00:45:40] they’ve been doing this for decades and the question they legitimately asked was where were you well you were

Involved in your boutique activism about Multicultural. So obviously I support diversity. I say, you know, I want the empowerment of these groups [00:45:55] but not divorced from economic justice. So do you think a movement like black lives matter ticks those boxes for you? Do you feel like a movement that is that it that is speaking specifically about the experiences of so, you know, economic Injustice [00:46:10] police brutality within African-American communities and against African American people. Is that movement problematic to because of identity politics or do you feel like it marries the the question of economic Justice to [00:46:25] racial identity. Well, there’s certainly aware of that. There’s a reason they’re in Ferguson.

Or Baltimore, but we have a crisis in the United States of police Terror 3.3 citizens a day. Almost all unarmed [00:46:40] are shot dead and almost all of them are poor people of color and they are responding to that crisis.\

Of police Terror and in Terrors the right word having come out of those communities. If you are a [00:46:55] mother with a teenage son, and it’s dark. You don’t know if they’re coming home.

And I teach in a prison system. So I see it up close the collapse of the judicial system 94% of our prisoners never get a jury [00:47:10] trial. They’re forced to play out and the senses are horrific three or four times longer what they would be in any other country. So I think that those groups are important but we’re not going to successfully [00:47:25] recreate a society whereby they have opportunity until we create an economic system where they can be integrated into that system. There are three forms of [00:47:40] social control against the poor mass incarceration evictions, which is often ignored. So you lock up the man and you evict the women and children and this gets into why I support reparations why I support a guaranteed income wise support the creation [00:47:55] of government jobs until that’s done that problem you can decree

Police violence all you want but until these communities and families are resurrected and given a place in the society those [00:48:10] forms of social control are necessary by the corporate state to keep these people in check.

Resistance entails suffering. It requires self-sacrifice. It accepts that we may be destroyed. It is not rational. It [00:48:25] is not about the pursuit of happiness. It is about the pursuit of Freedom resistance accepts that even if we fail there is an inner Freedom that comes with Defiance and perhaps. This is the only freedom and true happiness. We will ever know to [00:48:40] resist evil is the highest achievement of human life. It is the Supreme Act of love. It is to carry the cross as the Theologian James cone reminds us and to be acutely aware that what we are carrying [00:48:55] is also what we will die upon.

You write so passionately about the ideal of resistance is resistance a spiritual act. Yes how so it’s not the faith because empirically [00:49:10] everything you do in terms of resisting radical evil is Kang called it may show that all of your efforts have been futile, but it doesn’t invalidate resistance.

It’s the belief is Daniel [00:49:25] Berrigan once told me the great radical priest that the good drawers to it the good even though there’s nothing around us to justify that belief the Buddhists call it karma.

And I think that that’s true. I think that having covered the Revolutions [00:49:40] in Eastern Europe. I saw how these great dissidents I was in the magic lantern theater in Prague every night with us La Ville that you keep that other moral narrative alive and you don’t always know who hears it what effect [00:49:55] it has and it’s only sustainable by faith and I don’t mean in kind of any Orthodox religiosity. It’s what niebuhr called Sublime Madness the belief that you know, an act of resistance in itself.

[00:50:11] Confers freedom and I think that’s right.

Even if you fail and it’s Bleak out there, but we can’t use the word. Hope if we don’t resist I have children.

these corporate forces

[00:50:26] have us by the throat and they have my children by the throat. I don’t know if we’re even going to survive as a species.

And we may fail.

But you know as parents we have a duty to make sure that [00:50:41] at least our children say they tried and that will require forms of self sacrifice. It will be unpleasant maybe even dangerous. It means removing our faith and establish systems of power which have proven [00:50:56] unable to deal with the most significant challenge to human life, which is climate change, which was first identified as a problem in 1902 or 1905. I mean as the world devolves people [00:51:11] are going to look back at us and say where we the good Germans did we just sit there and watch the trains Roll by and do nothing and I don’t want them to say that about me.

Chris I just thank you so much. It was a pleasure to talk with [00:51:26] you. Thank you. Christopher Hedges is the author of America the farewell tour. You can find a link to it and to his other books on our website [00:51:41] cbc.ca / ideas where you can always get our podcast. You can also hear all our episodes on the radio player Canada app. And of course the CBC app Liz Nagy is the associate producer of ideas [00:51:56] technical production Mitch Stewart and Danielle Duval Greg Kelly is the executive producer of ideas, and I’m Rachel Giza sitting in for Paul Kennedy.

We do not become autonomous and free human beings by [00:52:11] building pathetic tiny monuments to ourselves. It is through self-sacrifice and humility that we affirm the sanctity of others and the sanctity of ourselves.

Those who fight against cultural malice whether squatting in [00:52:26] Old warehouses or as the Occupy Movement did and taking over a public space resisting and standing rock or refusing to be broken by our prison system have discovered that life is measured by infinitesimally and often unacknowledged acts of solidarity and [00:52:41] kindness these acts of kindness like the nearly invisible strands of a spider’s web spin outward to connect our atomized and alienated souls to others this belief held although we may never see empirical proof [00:52:56] is profoundly transformative but know this when these acts are carried out on behalf of the oppressed and the demonized when compassion defines the core of Our Lives when we understand that Justice is a manifestation of [00:53:11] love. We are marginalized and condemned by our sociopathic Elites.

those who resist effectively in the years ahead may not be able to stem the economic decline the mounting political dysfunction the collapse [00:53:26] of Empire and the ecological disasters, but they will draw from acts of kindness and the kindness of others the strength and courage to endure it will be from these relationships ones formed [00:53:41] the way all genuine relationships form face to face rather than electronically that radical organizations Will Rise From the Ashes to resist