This column is adapted from a talk Chris Hedges gave Friday night at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.
“This struggle for the liberation of women, which goes beyond the goal of dismantling corporate capitalism” can only be realized after the destruction of capitalism. “Prostitution fits perfectly into the paradigm of global capitalism.” And prostitution goes beyond sex with everyone learning from birth how to obey, work, follow orders and prostitute oneself to make a living. Ironically even the masters prostitute themselves to their greed and commodification which is why the unhappy man who has everything but love has become a cliche.
It has become a recent concern of Hedges that “most men on the left, refuse to acknowledge, much less fight” prostitution and pornography. But even if this generalization is true the left is in a process of regrouping to fight neo-liberaiism and global capitalism as we have entered a new period of world revolution. As much as I love Hedges he still wants to reform capitalism which the twentieth century proved cannot be reformed.
But I will agree with Hedges that as part of forming a revolutionary consciousness all life should be respected and honored. Even his recent column advancing veganarianism, beyond the ability of most people, is in essence correct. As the saying goes “become the change you want”.
Hedges has been among the worst of people as a war correspondent and he continues to accurately examine the worst of human behavior. Most people though are not monsters and while perhaps plagued by societal induced disfunction are still capable of love. Men learn that women will not love or tolerate physical abuse, should they try that, and most men show little interest in hard core pornography or whores. The problem is not lack of interest but lack of time. People are working longer and harder to just make ends meet as slaves collared with debt. After a hard day’s work they are only capable of a little entertainment and may be so stressed that only booze and drugs offer any relief.
And the left has never faced more monumental tasks than now. It is no longer a question of freeing humanity from the slavery of class systems but of saving the human race from extinction. “Technology, which has obliterated the constraints of time and space, has turned our global village into a global death trap.” The only choice left now is socialism or human extinction in the sixth mass extinction technology is causing, and there is not much time left. Forgive us, in the vanguard, if we seem to be diverted by more pressing matters and do not fight enough against prostitution, pornography and violence against women…
not to mention eating meat.
Absolutely agree. Eduardo Galeano achieves much greater impact on the same subject with far fewer words and far less repetition. I sometimes wonder if anyone proofreads Hedges' articles.
Still, the points that Hedges makes - over and over again - are valid and demand our consideration. But you are correct. Whatever positive energy Hedges may inspire is dissipated by his lack of economy of expression.
I read and shudder. Do we have the capacity for change? I believe we do. Do we have the will to change? As the world around us collapses some of us will. Do we have the time left to change? I'm not sure. If we don't we will just be another one of nature's failed experiments. Cheer up though, the universe is vast and I am confident that somewhere in the universe a sentient, intelligent species has evolved that has not destroyed itself. I wish they would send us a message.
I believe that Hedges is trying to make the point that there are no more pressing issues than "prostitution, pornography and violence against women." To a great extent, I agree with him.
There are a few places in this Chris Hedges essay that point up the matter of the terms of the 'voice' that adopts/is granted the dominant putting-together-of-words.
The predatory capitalism constructs, in my opinion, cannot be referred to as reflecting an 'ethic' (a study/science of morals), and are neither 'ethical' nor 'moral' BECAUSE the fragmented premise it adopts has as part and parcel of its re-generative legacy already 'externalized' the integration of full diversity as 'elements' to be ignored. Call it a house of cards, a construct, a sleight of hand, any number of 'things' - but of ethic and moral it is not.
That said, I am also reminded that these terms, so broadly and blatantly mis-applied in fomenting an 'all consuming' privatization of power, must be addressed at the pivot point where the meaning is being stolen- the academy. Academy/academia etymologically drawn from Greek Akademeia "grove of Akademos," a legendary Athenian of the Trojan War tales - a name that apparently means "of a silent district", The thought from the Tao te Ching so often quoted 'the journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step', is also translated as 'the journey of a thousand miles STARTS FROM WHERE YOUR FEET ARE'.
The academy as 'silent district' is, of course from the perspective of domination, essential to remove from a fully integrated natural commons because the planet as integrated living, sentient energy entity must be scorned, fragmented and extracted from in order for the cancerous path of the constant growth construct to continue.
Global warming isn't more pressing?
No, it isn't. The two issues are connected.
And Hedges connects them "“They treat Mother Earth like they treat women". But isn't prioritizing separation? I agree that both should be dealt with but global warming is new and more pressing in terms of a disastrous time limit.
Thank you at last Mr. Hedges for saying so eloquently what I have sought to impart for 8 years here and elsewhere. Vandana Shiva calls the problem Patriarchal Capitalism and that designation is apt.
"While capitalism exploits racism and gender inequality for its own ends, while imperialism and colonialism are designed to reduce women in indigenous cultures to sexual slaves, racism and gender inequality exist independently from capitalism. And if not consciously named and fought they will exist even if capitalism is destroyed."
Also, the relationships between the male-dominator culture, war, and resource depletion (expressed in ways that simulate environmental rape) were all defined quite brilliantly by Riane Eisler in her work: "The Chalice And the Blade."
Often in this forum I've pointed out that Capitalism is a natural OUTGROWTH of the dominator culture; and by dominator culture, I mean patriarchal religions that grant females the status of chattel, and hierarchical social, economic, and political frameworks which allow for unequal divisions of power, sovereignty, and opportunities.
(I am halfway through this important article).
This forum has a lot of people who speak out against capitalism while at the same time showing the same misogynistic dismissal of women's rights and the STATE of women (on a global scale) as those who are a more direct part of the machinery of oppression. They are very comfortable focusing ONLY on capitalism, but can't bear to face its deeper causative factors in culture, religion, and several thousand years of HIS-tory.
I shudder to read the comments.
" It is male violence against women that is the primary force used to crush the global collective revolt of women. And male violence against feminists, who seek a more peaceful, egalitarian and sustaining world, is pervasive. To challenge prostitution, to challenge objectification, to challenge hypersexualization of women is to often be threatened with rape."
Another important point! In addition, women who speak out against the dominant pro-war, military culture are tarred and feathered on symbolic levels.
The death & rape threats leveraged against Anita Sarkeesian for speaking up against the casual way that female avatars are gang-raped or murdered "for pleasure" in video games (that directly influence adolescent males in profound ways) is telling.
This problem is hardly just impacting the 3rd world, although the femicide seen in the thousands of young women murdered without redress along the U.S.-Mexican border and throughout places like Honduras is telling.
The tendency on the part of cold intellectualism in males is to look at one issue as if separate and succinct from another. In reality male violence IS a plague and it starts with ideology. Primary to that ideology are patriarchal religions.
In Islam, the female must be covered from head to toe and cannot go out into the world without a chaperone or male. If she is caught flirting, she can be murdered for an "honor crime."
In India, it's often female babies found dead due to sand in their nostrils.
The Catholic church acts as Father to all women in proscribing their sexual freedom. This entity is also all-male with females serving like slaves with the most austere status (at the bottom of the Vatican pyramid) in the role of nuns.
In much of Central America, machismo runs high and it "entitles" males to treat women as personal property.
Nor does it help that today's porn further degrades women. Note that this same protocol is used by the military to desensitize troops so that they can fire upon human beings. By referring to other ethnicities in less-than-human terms, it's easier for the protocols of warfare to express.
ALL of these things are connected. And as I have been stating in books, articles, and this forum for years... how women are treated is how the great Earth Mother is treated. The rape of one leads to the rape of the other. MANY women "get" this. Indigenous persons of both genders get this. Mystics and spiritually aware people (of both genders) also get this.
It's about time more people who are stationed in this forum also understood the facts of patriarchy and how its allotting a higher rank to males than females is one of the key causative factors behind the destruction of this world and so many persons living on it.
"No one chooses to die of silicosis or black lung disease. No one chooses to sell his or her body on the street. You go into the mines, just as you go into prostitution, because global capitalism does not offer you a choice."
This is another brilliant insight! And it smacks up against the 2 "sacred" covenants of today's uber-capitalism.
One tenet pushed is this Calvinistic idea that people get what they deserve: that if they are doing well, then clearly they demonstrate God's favor; and if they are not, then they have acted wrongly and deserve their fates.
The second tenet is the Libertarian--World As Market view that EVERYTHING is about individual choice.
This second item takes nothing in the way of culture, climate, backstory into effect. It's the mentality that rates all schools using the same narrow protocols with these measures purposely leaving the most salient factors (like the economic realities faced by any given community) out of the equation.
Just as some who self-define as Feminists see merit in women joining the Military Industrial Complex or try to say that women are just showing "entrepreneurial" smarts in renting out their bodies (or body parts) via prostitution, such views are accommodations TO the Patriarchal war dominant status quo and are at essence views that undermine all that Feminism TRULY represents.
Grand theories or grand conflations I find especially unconvincing. Hedges' recent pieces seem to echo a strain in American thought rooted in the Puritan tradition. I could not help thinking of Thoreau in this regard. A few quotes from Garry Wills book "A Necessary Evil, A History of American Distrust of Government" regarding Thoreau is illustrative:
"One can sometimes purify oneself right out of the company of men..
Whitman's later comment about Thoreau, that he had a 'disdain for men,' is
borne out by his difficulty in bearing their very smell."
"Thoreau's embarassed avoidance of most references to sex made him
according to fellow naturalist, Joseph Wood Krutch, a deficient observer of
the very animals he celebrated. When he chanced across a phallus shaped
flower, he recoiled in disgust: 'Pray, what was nature thinkig of when she
made this? She almost puts hereself on the level with those who draw in
Horror, oh horror, you mean to tell me they were drawing in privies during the Victorian Era, for shame.
You understood nothing here and wish to inhibit others' capacity TO understand. And your post also falls into Hedges' indictment of those on the Left who view this issue as some peripheral identity politics matter. As friggin if. Of course, those who follow more right wing ideologies like today's rise of the Theocratic Christian Right have NO problem with women being held in a subservient status since that idea largely emerged from this sect.
Do you really believe what you just wrote? When culture bashes women, and video games turn murdering females into a collective male ritual, and porn is pervasive, and sexism the subtext of all sports (and increasingly, political) language... this idea that all that is needed is for a "good" woman to bring out the inherent love in man is part of the Century Of The Self ideology. In the place of all of the omnipresent conditioning, you turn the matter (of disgusting misogyny EVERYWHERE) into one good man or woman rising up from the morass.
Either the need to keep within a narrow ideology or else an incomprehensible lack of empathy allows for comments THIS shallow.
No, he is not correct. You both are working to disconnect the dots that Mr. Hedges powerfully connected so that YOU can continue to downplay the important role that the patriarchal dominator culture (along with the ideologies that support it) and instead focus on voters, the all-encompassing WE frame, and other distortions that maintain the same deadly status quo.
I see that you still have not taken my advice.
Don't you get tired of grinding the same ax all the time?
The WE frame here could not BE more ridiculous. The subject is MALE violence against women. Women are not the perpetrators of that violence, nor were women, for the most part actively engaged in societies' patriarchal formations.
WE, as in women, are not the ones embracing or acting on this violence.
In fact, I would go so far as to say the first aspect of violence against women is a form of subsuming all women--as separate sovereign beings--into the FOLD OF MEN.
How different is this from the ideology that had women NOT vote. The husband was considered the authority for both.
Just as DNA is composed of 2 co-equal counterbalancing strands of LIFE--and ONE represents male input and the other, female input--WE only has meaning when it specifies the STANCES and ESSENCES of both.
THAT is never how we is used. It is used to codify the will, wishes, and actions of the dominant group and then passively impose them onto all others.
Just as Blacks on the receiving end of white racism are not part of the WE-frame that exhibits violent racism, women--on the receiving end of male violence are not of the We-frame responsible for that violence.
Using WE blurs the distinctions and in so-doing, maintains the lies, deceptions, and distortions that allow for the same status quo to continue.
So porn from the 1960's did NOT degrade women?
Also, 'we' is simply the plural of 'I.' Period.
Sickening apologia to the world of porn. As if degrading another human being fits in with being a Puritan.