The naive belief that history is linear, that moral progress accompanies technical progress, is a form of collective self-delusion. It cripples our capacity for radical action and lulls us into a false sense of security. Those who cling to the myth of human progress, who believe that the world inevitably moves toward a higher material and moral state, are held captive by power.
BLECH. Chris woke up one day mired in pessimism and thought this would be a good way to express his own state of feeling lost in an existential vacuum. He needs to go spend some time in the woods communing with nature.
The little Eichmanns, the leeched technocrats, are everywhere.
“The blundering history of the human race is always given coherence by power elites and their courtiers in the press and academia who endow it with a meaning and coherence it lacks. They need to manufacture national myths to hide the greed, violence and stupidity that characterize the march of most human societies.”
And a wide swath of humans obviously shares a predisposed willingness to latch onto and conform to such imposed narratives of progress and destiny.
“Those with power have always manipulated reality and created ideologies defined as progress to justify systems of exploitation. Monarchs and religious authorities did this in the Middle Ages. Today this is done by the high priests of modernity—the technocrats, scholars, scientists, politicians, journalists and economists. They deform reality. They foster the myth of preordained inevitability and pure rationality. But such knowledge—which dominates our universities—is anti-thought. It precludes all alternatives. It is used to end discussion. It is designed to give to the forces of science or the free market or globalization a veneer of rational discourse, to persuade us to place our faith in these forces and trust our fate to them. These forces, the experts assure us, are as unalterable as nature. They will lead us forward. To question them is heresy.”
And the imposed power of this false narrative permeates the structure of our working lives…
This links to the Sawyer Seminar UC Davis this spring - of particular interest is Eduardo Vivieros de Castro an anthropologist at University of Rio de Janeiro - starts at about min 5:00. It is long and well worth saving for a time when its possible to kick back and engage an adventure of ideas.
He starts with a quote that Marxist analysis … did not prepare [me] for the conjunction of forces we face today.
I post it because breaking through the colonization of mind, the articulation of perspective has been the life work of this man - who has inspired an entire generation of anthropologists with the liberating treasure hunt mind mapping of Amerindian Perspectivism.
I really appreciate so much that Chris Hedges writes, but there are times (like this article) that the cynicism and darkness overwhelms my ability to cope with his perspective. I do not quibble with his perspective of who is calling the shots and how dangerous is it… but from my station in life, I HAVE to maintain some glimmer of HOPE to continue to do what I can to influence my tiny little speck of existence.
Our education system is really a training system and that is a big part of why the technocrats form such a dangerous class; they are not imbued with a liberal education founded upon the principles of the trivium. I am a technocrat who was fortunate enough at an early age to educate myself in lieu of amusing myself with American “culture”. The humanities must be brought back with vigor to the population so that liberal education is not a lonely enterprise. Let the robots toil why the people nourish their minds with lofty works of literature, art, music, and physical adventure. Slowly the mighty dollar would lose its dominance as the decider-in-chief to be replaced by a more rational and compassionate medium.
While communing with nature is a good personal recipe–so long as nature is not at this time drenched in dry-wood/drought or flooding over farmlands and townships, or in the flow path of volcanic ash or a mudslide.
Anyone who would start their response to someone as poetic and astute as Mr. Hedges with “blech” should be given 20 public lashes.
When YOU can write with his depth of insight, then perhaps you are in a position to cast that first stone.
You can commune with nature or God/Goddess in the woods all you want. That is where HOPE is still maintained–in the ability of each individual to gain wisdom–which then can be applied to our hopeless situation as a culture.
Over the years, Chris Hedges has become more and more realistic about the direction in which we are headed. I don’t see him as cynical. When people who have a certain level of vision, attempt to speak to that reality that has struck them in the face, others denigrate them. Why? Because they don’t wish to disrupt their own safe haven. I don’t blame anyone for this. It takes a lot of “looking into the face of darkness” and accepting it, to see what is truly happening to our world. Most people don’t want to look into the face of darkness.
What is happening to our world reminds me of pictures I have seen of recent oil disasters. The beautiful, clear, pristine waters are suddenly defiled with sludge. Fish and birds are washed ashore, coated with this thick oxygen denying poison, where they die slowly. That is us! Our pristine world is turning to dark sludge! We watch, but what do we think? Someone else will clean it all up and it will be pretty again–right?!
Yes it is “Blechy” to stare reality in the face…but it will be even worse if reality is denied. Chris Hedges is done denying reality! He came from the most innocent perspective, and over the years has awakened. We need to listen–NOW!
“this false narrative permeates the structure of our working lives…”
It permeates and INFORMS culture, economics, religious authorities’ credos, the presumed parameters of the politically possible, and so much else.
Still, you take this preponderance of power, itself a set of imposed limits kept in place by force of the brute/legal/political and economic sorts–and turn it around into people somehow agreeing with it or choosing to conform to the imposed narratives.
Power equations by their nature eviscerate genuine human sovereignty and “agency.”
Does your incurious mind actually ponder the price of non-conformity?
How many women were shamed wearing Scarlet Letters or earlier, burned as witches for opposing any church-state imposed rule?
How many members of the Black community know the fierce whiplash of “The Law” if they should DARE to even SEEM to break a law?
How many poor Latinos are in any position to report stolen wages or sexual abuse to “authorities”?
The HIS-tory of the Dominator and the society that HE built is a long and bloody one.
Mr. Hedges has brilliantly defined the experience of the Black community within today’s Homeland Security lock-down State. He recently even spoke with astuteness about patriarchy, misogyny, and what women have been–for centuries–dealing with. It is this “separation of disciplines,” an aspect of that same imposed hegemony of thought practiced throughout Academe that perhaps inhibits Mr. Hedges from connecting all relevant dots. It is short-sighted to take the FRUIT of what a small group of dominators produced through their CONTROL of citizens and societies and attribute that limited expression to Human Nature!
Blind optimism and hope are not the same thing. There is a reason why–when all sorts of ills were set loose on this world of trials–that Pandora found ONE gift left in the box: HOPE.
The FACT that Obama and his PR team abused the term does not rob it of worth.
Almost everything used as basis for an assessment of “human nature” and the “human condition” reflects the narrative of the dominant shapers of collective reality. They are royal families and reflect long lineages of patriarchs and control by the church-state. Its insistence on viewing only the masculine side of Divinity as valid, and thereby only placing value on behaviors that ARE masculine… has set up an asymmetric foundation that our obviously broken societies have been built upon.
There ARE other models of human communion and community and these do not all place the angry-warrior-father/father god as central to their designs and enforced functions. Indigenous tribes of the Americas draw forth one significant alternative model as do the archaeological testaments to earlier matriarchal/partnership based societies that worshipped the Mother Goddess. They were peaceful “garden of Eden” like societies.
Mr. Hedges begins this piece challenging the linear construct of time, and I would much agree with that stance. However, he has not fully transcended that same narrow frame in arguing that human nature is a product of only that history recorded by those who have controlled the narrative for centuries.
In truth, time follows cycles. All things circle and typically “come full circle.” The ways to transcend long-instilled mores based on control, coercion, class status, gender bias, race bias, and a hostility towards the natural world… have already been shown to mankind AND practiced.
The I ching tells us that evil cannot be fought directly. To attempt the battle is to be forced to take up evil’s own tools and thus “become it.” The means to transcendence is to withdraw support and allegiance to the existing paradigm and people ARE doing this.
It is a great mistake to always speak in vast generalities supposedly indicative of that one homogenous WE. There are people–within this WE composite–who ARE evolved, and see through the lies, and are building alternatives to the status quo that the old gods of war & paternalistic control put into place.
While patriarchal religion produces its notable luminaries like Oscar Romero and Martin Luther king, by in large it’s a system of controls that justifies the unjust, punishes those who march to their own drummers, and maintains a hierarchical society whose cornerstones ARE racism and sexism.
Had there been no pre-existing “ranking systems” in place, capitalism would never have taken root. Too many here can’t see beyond Capitalism to its far more enduring taproots. And too many, including Mr. Hedges for all his brilliance and caring heart confuse the societal models held in place by dominators with what human flesh is heiress to.
If I restrict a child from learning to draw and ONLY reward pragmatic skills, and that child grows up to push the same agenda onto his children, at what point do we say that “human nature is not creative,” in contrast with recognizing how models of control–imposed from “on high”–have warped the full panoply of intended human expressions?
And so much goes back to the preference for MALENESS. Women often hear the term, “Let’s go, guys,” and accept that. But how many men want to hear, “Ladies, let’s go!” The entire society revolves around the Yang-action (typically aggressive) principle with little recognition of the need for BALANCE in the form of YIN–non-action and reflection.
I am working on a book on this topic–and what factors into mass consciousness–as these (unexamined) criteria shape this “equation” in myriad ways, and cannot be adequately conveyed in a short post. I do intend to share my findings with Mr. Hedges… and other brilliant authors who fall into that linear WE/one-size-fits-all “march” more than they realize.
You’ve probably heard me say/post that all of us have our blind-spots. Marx was a Taurus, a fixed EARTH sign. No element (coming from the earth, fire, air, water equation) is more materialistically driven. Earth identifies with things that are tangible and since transactions between goods require some kind of monetary system, earth is the element most resonant with that field of human enterprise.
However, there ARE 3 other elements.
Freud was another Taurus. This sign, 2nd on the wheel of time–which astrologers view as a Divine blueprint directing the spiritual evolution of all 12 tribes–identifies with its body first and foremost: that is, PHYSICAL reality. That’s why someone like Freud could completely discount the political, social, and cultural realities faced by women of that era as they were kept in chains that may have been invisible but they worked just as efficiently as those used to corral animals. In lieu of any empathetic capacity to recognize what adult women lacking any agency within their societies might feel, and out of that massive frustration what “neuroses” might ensue… Freud “figured out” that the problem was the missing penis.
My point is that no human being is a perfect representation of this multi-faceted prism of collective reality that we’re all engaged in.
For whatever brilliance Freud might be credited with–insofar as recognizing the less conscious faculties of the human brain–his Penis Envy theory was and is nonsense.
Marx understood the relationship of capital to the worker, but his sphere of cognition didn’t move into the spiritual… where ALL things ARE possible.
There ARE more things that influence our lives than are typically drawn into the collective calculus… or accurately identified and detected.
Every society had its shamans, medicine women, seers, prophets, and forecasters. Before cable TV, cell phones and “the Weather Channel,” the tribal priest’s heightened sentience–which connected him or her with not just the natural world but also with all energetic forces animating the biosphere of verdant life–was counted on to warn tribe members about approaching danger in the form of a storm or marauding tribe.
Western-patriarchal culture’s imposed bias for the left brain and its cold logic–over intuition, empathy, and feelings–is part of the asymmetrical foundation that has its roots in worship of ONLY the Masculine side of Source/Creation.
Many think they can just move the political furniture around or tweak economies… but the ROOTS of dysfunction, which is to say a grotesque and now evidently LETHAL imbalance–require a course correction. It IS underway as can be seen through all the women and girl activists fighting things ranging from the make war state to the felling of rainforests to the education of women to women’s control over their own bodies, ad infinitim.
Darkness doesn’t start in darkness it starts in light and gently moves to darkness leaving many unaware it has morphed into night.
Interesting and poetic metaphor. I think the symbol for Yin and Yang shows that it’s more an ongoing energetic dance. One can find moments of beauty in the life of a killer, and moments of angry lashing out in the life of a peacemaker. However, anything that’s truly been aligned with Light does not falter. The story of the fallen angel Lucifer is the battle between the ego-driven short-sighted self-interest of the selfish individual and that which acknowledges itself as part of a completely integrated fabric of Life… where whatsoever one does to another, reverberates back to one’s self.
As many spiritual adepts argue, contrast forms the basis for the education of souls. While “Don’t Touch: Hot!” signs may ward off some hands, it attracts others. In many instances, there is no substitute for direct experience in order to meet the inviolate law of cause and effect–karma–head-on. It’s the spiritual corollary to the law of thermodynamics that tells us that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. There is also anomaly… mutations, permutations, exceptions to “the rule” happen and through them, new “evolutionary tributaries” find expression.
Creation is forever creating itself.
I heard that religion was the opiate of the masses, perhaps the new religion money is the new opiate of the masses.
"“Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.”
― William Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads
Wordsworth, it seems to me, nails it. “it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” Spontaneous emotion by itself ends up in the clouds. Putting it into poetic form, words, is work.
Actually I have read and honored Chris Hedges for a number of years, quoted him, and shared his articles on my other sites. I happen to think this piece was one of his worst, and there are times when gloom and doom are counterproductive. The last time I checked, I was allowed the right to have an opinion and express it–at least in this country. Since you don’t know me or my work, I suggest you refrain from assuming things just because you disagree with someone’s position.
Hedges is right in the fallacy of equating knowledge with wisdom. But wisdom does depend on knowledge or else the highly educated Hedges could never have written this column. Hedges provides great examples that knowledge without wisdom, or knowledge limited to personal accomplishment, is destructive or an escape at best.
Has there really been no progression through the blood drenched ages towards “equality and greater morality”? Perhaps not as class warfare seems to be a permanent revolution and there has never been peace in any class system. No matter how rational the technocrats or armed with wealth and weapons the masters may be they cannot stop resentment and the anger of even the most ignorant person at their own exploitation. Almost every ruling class in history has brought about its downfall by over exploiting and oppressing people to the point of revolution(violent redistribution).
The present elite though is exceptional in waging war on mother nature. In their hubris they do not see beyond profit to the worsening environmental catastrophe ahead much less foresee their own downfall. It may be that the coming collapse will bring about a new dark age of “arbitrary rule, incessant wars, insecurity, anarchy and terror” or, as that’s already happening, should I say a darker age with the collapse of the global technological and financial infrastructure.
If we should destroy the corporate state and not replace it with a socialist state then nothing will be accomplished except new bosses the same, or even worse, than the old bosses. The future is a mystery but the force of class war will keep driving human history for better or worse. I have no hope, I only have fighting spirit.
Socialism is a transitional economic and political order that is intended to prepare people for the classless anarchy of communism where it’s from each according to ability and to each according to need with personal responsibility making government and authoritarian control unnecessary. I believe that only the direct democracy of libertarian socialism can pave the way.
Obama’s “hope and change” 2008 mantra gave renewed meaning to both words:
HOPE PLUS TWO BUCKS BUYS A GOOD CUP OF COFFEE.
CHANGE IS WHAT YOU PUT IN THE BARISTA’S TIP JAR IN HOPE THAT THE NEXT CUP IS AS GOOD AS THIS ONE.
I was working on my book’s chapter on polarity and how it works to hold conjecture hostage to positions that work as dual gateposts maintaining the SAME frame.
Religion, certainly of the orthodox, top-down rule-oriented patriarchal sort is NOT spirituality. Far from.
Also, Marx’ use entirely of the male pronoun–MAN–is itself indicative of the same asymmetric premise that has for centuries spoken FOR women–the other side of “the force” as if a man can speak with authority for things like birth or those experiences more kin to embodiment AS a woman.
DNA is not just the masculine genetic component… it is a dancing double helix for a reason.
MALES want to own, control, and run both sides of The Force. Even the inanity of drawing women into the ultimate masculine/Mars-rules bastion–the military–is a strategic attempt at subsuming OTHER into itself–The Beast.
You guys just don’t get it. I know that YOU, in particular try, but it’s like the white cop who doesn’t see his own racism.
Hope can drive, inform, direct, and inspire action. YOU are projecting an either-or syndrome where it does not exist.
“Fuck Hope”----------------George Carlin