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A Nation of the Walking Dead


A Nation of the Walking Dead

Chris Hedges

Opioids and experiences that simulate the deadening effects of narcotics are mechanisms to keep us submissive and depoliticized. Desperate citizens in Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel “Brave New World” ingested the pleasure drug soma to check out of reality. Our own versions of soma allow tens of millions of Americans to retreat daily into addictive mousetraps that generate a self-induced autism.


Watching people in the electronics store playing with the virtual "reality" consoles by making sweeping gestures and the like in public pretty much sums it up for me. The Skinner boxes are expanding and increasing their clock rates. Don't forget, tonight is the big game. Fortunately, I don't know what teams are playing. I'll always have my panem, though...


The article mentions that slot machine designers try to replicate the feeling of lounging on a sofa, but does not make the connection to sitting and watching television, which would be more accurate. TV programming creates a right-brain entrainment state, which then enables other passive, screen-watching addictions like shopping, fantasy football, trolling, and porn- plus overeating, smoking, and drinking/drugging while doing so. "The Zone," mentioned in the article, is easily attained within 1 minute of television viewing- and that is by design.

In other words, TV is a gateway drug. Do yourself a favor, and just say no :wink:.


Thank you Mr. Hedges for the enlightening pathology of our our addictions.

Big business and Big Brother seem intent on profiting from our mortal weaknesses.

I wish I could say that I am immune to it all, but I cannot.

I benefited from 'higher' education.


But I love film, and the TV is the only way I can get my fix.

Is this acceptable or do I always have to pay $10 in a theatre for my addiction?


I have often thought that I live among the “living dead”. I became aware of the dead even as a child. Grown ups lived in a world where everything was secondary to jobs, worry and “responsibilities”. I even became aware of other children who “acted like adults” deadened by seriousness. I dreaded it as a child and as an adult, and still do.

I am an only child whose mother died from cancer when I was 16 and my father a year later, at age 53, from a massive heart attack; he was literally drinking himself to death when he died. My father had no belief except in money and his whole life revolved around adding to the pennies, from his childhood paper delivery route, that he once threw(according to family legend) upon the table declaring that he would someday have millions of them. As an intelligent and ambitious Canadian man who put himself through college by playing hockey and graduated knowing both British and American law he came to the U.S. and probably would have made a fortune if his alcoholism hadn’t cut him short and he was forced to retire at 48. But he left me enough of an inheritance that I could just float through my twenties.

So I floated through my twenties trying different stuff and attending various colleges, It was the sixties and I had made my my home in Greenwich Village, N.Y.C., where I still live. I mostly had a lot of fun back then although a lot of it was lost in blackouts due to alcohol and I almost overdosed on drugs once. My fear about existing seriously dead like most other people never left me. When the money ran out at 30 I followed my best friend into the civil service and began a career with the N.Y.C. Health and Hospitals Corporation from which I retired at age 55 in 1995.

Most people I met when I worked talked about how they were only going to be civil servants for a short time until they could seek fortune in the private economy. I was one of the few who knew from day one that I wasn’t leaving civil service until I retired from it. Early retirement at age 55 was a big attraction as was also the fact that I could trust the civil service, non-profit, system unlike the corporate world where money was the objective. I do credit my father, who died a very unhappy man, with inadvertantly teaching me the downside of materialism. It was widely known that no one became rich working as a civil servant but that didn’t bother me who was happy with job security and not having to work that hard or long for a paycheck.

I could never really ever decide what I really wanted to pursue in life so I have spent my life pursuing many things and I’m interested in just about everything. My main complaint is that even in retirement there’s not enough time to pursue it all. Basically that and enjoying life is my story. I walk the streets these days and am amazed at how people even ride bicycles while using their cell phones. I limit my use of the computer to home use and have a trusty old stupid phone for occasional calls and once texted on it.

I am very aware of addiction as I had to stop drinking alcoholically, and drugging, at age 45 and later gave up smoking at 55. I have noticed how easily I can become addicted to just about anything so I can understand how the living dead eat up their own brains and participate in getting everyone else’s brain eaten up.

One of Hedges best columns that is excellent at tracing the economic reasons behind our addictive society. I, despite my own addictions, never lost site of how dead most people are. It is boring to talk to most people as they just don’t know very much and seem to consider ignorance and opinion virtues. The living, walking, dead.

Unfortunately it will not end except in complete slavery unless capitalism is destroyed or finishes it’s own destruction without, somehow, destroying the human race in its downfall. The only healthy system is a socialist system where class and the profit motive of addiction would not foster the living, walking, dead.


Reading this article turned me into a zombie ... albeit still a progressive one! Hedge ol' buddy ya need to lighten up about what other people do to get through their days. So now it is condemnations of gambling and TV, and of course drugs (how about sugar and heaven help us chocolate?). Shades of Carrie Nation, Chris?

Hedge buddy, don'cha know? Girls just want to have fun? Boys just want to have fun too! In fact, people just want to have fun and will become addicted to practically anything that is 'fun' for them (at least at first).

The ubermoralist condemns their lack of discipline and worse... the ubermoralist condemns the lack of seriousness in people who aren't serious enough about serious things. What things? >>> The LIST Consider all our imperfections and 'fill in your own' list okay? You know what I mean!

Was Carrie Nation a fun date? Maybe Chris is a wild and crazy guy when he cuts a rug at a party but I have my doubts. Oh gosh did I say that? I bet Trotsky wasn't great fun either. Neither are a lot of moralizing Revo lefties and many liberals. The ultra right on the other hand want to control what fun others have not just condemn them for having it. They like their having fun themselves of course.

Years ago, the point of this whole article could have been summed up in a few well known words >>> Americans are puritanical. Everybody knew what that meant when they heard it. A puritanical tendency to condemn others for all sorts of pleasures was part of our culture (and still is to some extent).

Chris is actually preaching against sin but doesn't use that word. The sin of those who partake (like say a gambler visiting a casino) and the sin of those who provide the opportunity for sin like the casinos. But so what?

Ubermoralists need to face that this world is a hard place for many people whose only other alternative is a rock and that they are fully aware that they are caught between the two! Caught between a rock and a hard place, people get by as best they can. Some people go to movies or watch absurdist TV (it's allowed by their political philosophy) and so forth. Some relax with family or friends, some are smoking a joint with a glass of wine and listening to music, watching sports and gambling. Some will try to see just how many people could fit into a phone booth but were forced to go cold turkey when the phone booths all disappeared. The truth of things is that most people do not become drug addicts or alcoholics or inveterate gamblers. The vast majority of people never do but they do partake occasionally right? Having fun on occasion is not a sin.

Anybody feel like listening to a trotskyist's lecture instead of going to going out dancing?

Down with all the neopuritans who always feel like there is important work that everybody else should be doing instead of taking a break and having some fun too!
Up with all those who figure out the ways to have fun doing those important things! Jeez, I miss Abbie Hoffman and the media savvy souls who so inspired us with politics that was fun! Yay Wavy Gravy! Yeah I said that!

Resistance should be fun too. Species wide...people all need to have fun. People rarely have fun under fascism or autocratic regimes. Puritans were not known for throwing fun parties. Freedom implies fun!

BTW Carrie Nation carried a hatchet for Prohibition and attacked bars which served liquor but she herself had a lot of fun doing it. The problem was she had a lot of fun for herself becoming a famous ubermoralist personality in the newspapers trying to stop others from their fun. Sure there were abuses but we have all learned that Prohibition didn't work. Progressives don't need to be associated with being puritanical... funless!

Girls just want to have fun. A whole lot of them really enjoyed marching in protest wearing those glorious pink hats! So did their mothers (maybe even more so?)!!!


Gambling is not an addiction. It's a choice. Obsessive or compulsive behavior can create problems. But that's not addiction. Speaking as an addict.


As usual, damn good article by Mr. Hedges.
A nation of the walking dead? Great metaphor!

I am paraphrasing, but Marx called religion " the opiate of the people".
Now, I would call gambling the opiate of the American, people. I had a person awhile back, who had hundreds of lotto tickets, tell me: " I know one of these tickets is worth millions of $$$$$$! But of course, he lost.

That is what is so addicting about gambling for so many; they get a temporary high similar to drugs. And even if they get lucky and win the casinos know they will probably spend it all later. Case in point, when I use to live in Reno, Nevada the casino marquees said that they paid 99% pay outs and I thought that must be false until I talked to a casino mgr. about it and here is what he told me: " no, it is absolutely true because most gamblers that win give their winnings back to the casinos"!


Well, I just zoned out reading another Chris Hedges screed on Common Screams (I mean Dreams)! Thanks Chris, I needed that! When do I get my next fix?


My addictions are information and music.
There are many songs and pieces of information about that addiction that I know about.


My daughter has literally said to me at least once after using the VR glasses - "I prefer that world to reality."
Reflecting the abuse that she suffers from her mother on a daily basis.


Your usage of "self-induced autism" is very indicative of your lack of knowledge of this human way of being.
I found it pretty stupid, and pretty revolting. I am a retired RN. I know MANY humans on the autistic spectrum. Here's what you lack in knowing: They feel empathy, emotion, sensory, much more than any other humans. The neurons for processing incoming information, emotion, and sensory details are very numerous, as in a bush, at birth. As a human grows, these are "pruned back" to allow not to be overwhelmed. However, in autism, they are not pruned back. They remain too many, much as a bush looks.
I would love it if you'd redact that sentence. You would show so much more in your article, and your self induced importance as a professional.


I agree! As someone who has worked with autistic people, I am appalled by this. It certainly is not self induced.


Thank you for sharing your personal thoughts and feelings. I have experienced many similar ones.


I don't think Chris is blaming anyone for lack of discipline, or for the natural desire to have fun. I think he wants to make us more aware of how our Neoliberal, Capitalist culture, our Corporate and Governmental entities, and our "Entertainment" industries, are training us and subtly programming us to behave in certain ways, in order to create more profit for themselves, by manipulating our basic
desires, causing us to become less capable of rational choices, economically and politically. I, for one, appreciate his keen observations, and warnings. His book, "Empire of Illusion" goes very deep
into this, and I highly recommend it.

We, as a culture, (obviously not everyone) are increasingly losing our ability to think and act rationally. We are increasingly reactive in our behavior, thinking in slogans and sound bites. We are overstimulated by endless blather on cable TV, and the constant drumbeat of fear and crass commercialism. To me, Chris Hedges provides a much needed reality check.


I agree. It is too easy to assume that those who are critical are also moralizing. Just calling out stuff is not judgmental of those involved. Many seem to miss this aspect of Chris Hedges' work.


It's not just the system. In some other countries ( even poorer ones) people are often out and about and even dancing. While people may gather in commons in cities , it is more uncommon ( unless neighbors are family or like family type friends) for people to gather unless it is prescheduled. Some people from different areas say that this is akin to being "dead" inside. So.... if people see co workers, then live in the same area- that may be different. Or if they have roomates, etc. Much of our society is not geared that way though.


No, I think it is, indeed, an addiction - or can be. Growing up, the father of a friend of mine was addicted to gambling. The mob ran illegal underground gambling rings and preyed on the men of the working class. At the time, he was going through a period of unemployment - there was no work, and the mom was supporting the family in a factory. But he was then taking the money and gambling like an alcoholic - the children didn't even have food - because he kept gambling everything away. It was so destructive - like alcoholism in a home.

It got to a point that the mom - like Jesus overturning the tables - busted into the illegal gambling hall one night - with the mobsters there and all the men - telling all of them off and dragging her husband out of there. In the end - he was saved - but only like alcoholics through religion (12 steps is still religion-based; a modern version).

I've since heard similar stories from others over the years. Upside, though, this did have a 'happy ending.' But what people go through really is like alcholics because it can be so destructive in a family.

As an adult I stayed away from even small forms of gambling. Was never interested anyway, but I was very affected by what I saw it do to others.

One time, I visited some of the Vegas like casinos while driving through - picked a small sum to "through away" for the experience - but interestingly enough had a winning streak (nothing incredible, but I won). Well! I knew this wasn't meant to last. So I turned and walked out before I started losing and never bothered with it again.


There are now many worldwide non-religious AA meetings.