Home | About | Donate

The Artist as Prophet


The Artist as Prophet

Chris Hedges

The Israeli writer and dissident Uri Avnery asked an Egyptian general how the Egyptians managed to surprise the Israelis when they launched the October 1973 war. The general answered: “Instead of reading the intelligence reports, you should have read our poets.”


Linh Dihn: ““Everywhere I go, every town I visit, you don’t see any industries,” he said in the interview. “You don’t see any factories. You don’t see anything. We don’t make anything. We are really the poorest country on earth, but people refuse to see that.”
That idea seems way wrong. Today, industry is spread out everywhere. We no longer have the huge factories billowing smoke. We have smaller factories and shops all over the nation making things. And we are growing things.
To me, a much better article is today’s Tom Engelhardt piece. He nails it.


I think this was a wonderful piece by Hedges because it answers what your quote of Linh Dinh talks about. Too often too many people are too literal minded where they almost lose interest in any thing other than their own particular focus or their preferred causes. In short they will assert with obnoxious intensity that the needs of their cause should come first. Pick any number of causes both left and right. The diehard anticapitalist (socialist) skewered by Monty Python or the nuclear war prone advisor Dr. Strangelove and innumerable people insistent on always talking only about some personal cause in between - a curse of the splintered community of the modern age.

Hedges speaks to that often forgotten but critically important part of the culture of the left. It isn’t only about the Revolution or the Struggle or whathaveyou. In effect the culture of the left needs to be better expressed within the community of like minded people of good will. Poets who speak of human things are speaking as if from the left whether they realize it or not. It is the dehumanizing quest for power and money, of war and domination that speaks from the right. This fact needs to be stressed or noted more often.

Hedges cites poets and writers who are doing that. They speak from the human condition and it reads as from the left. Rarely if ever do poets of the right wax eloquent about dictatorships, autocrats, wealthy elites, bullying the weak or some such. The poets of the humane culture of human beings - those who can care about others read from the left yet we often pass by or miss their voices.

Hedges in this article about art and poetry reminds us that they speak.


Yes, perhaps I was overly critical of one quote. My main gripe with Hedges is that it seems all so dreary. I guess I would even elevate the best history teachers, such as Zinn, to the top of the list of those we should listen to.


The entire concept of Cultural Wisdom is inspiringly validated in this essay.


I agree with Zinn going to the top of the list. Back in the day, I was speaking with Fr. Dan Berrigan and a companion, with that same monofocus about the revolution etc when the subject of history and the American empire came up. During discussion, I commended Zinn’s book People’s History of the United States to Berrigan’s companion. They both smiled and Berrigan said something like 'Yes. He’s read it." They went off to their appointment and I returned to my desk. As I did so, one of my coworkers grinned and said “That was Howard Zinn”.

True story. Lol.

However, it is more than just info which I think was Hedges point in this piece. It is also about poetry and art! It’s about music as the many Counterculture songs of the Sixties show. It is about a famous actress like Susan Sarandon speaking out on something. It is about an Oliver Stone movie. It is about everything human … because that is what being left is.

The right is all about power and money and war.

The left is about everything else. Lol.


The “arts” have always been in the forefront of revolutionary change. And, they are courted by those in power to project their views. A good example is Nazi Germany and the movie: “Mephisto”…whose star player was courted by the Nazis and was mostly rebuffed to the Hitler’s dismay.
Another great example is/was the Spanish Civil War and the role art played in savaging the images of the extreme right.
In our times there are few too many youngsters (but not all) who are really encouraged and pushed to make art a “career” because of the low monetary values and lack of “monetary returns”…witness how many of our major symphony orchestras are being pressured relentlessly to cut budgets…and on and on…
A people who neglect the arts will ultimately lose it’s soul.


I knew as a youngster that I had no use for the way most people lived. Thanks to my own artistic nature I began writing poetry at age 14 and also began to read history and study art. By the time I was an adult I knew that I was definitely on a path of my own. As a young man I was extremely angry at all the hypocrisy, stupidity and malevolence. I soon discovered that it was all a combination of greed and illness.

I pity the rich as I cannot hate sick, addicted people. It is the capitalist system itself I hate. I do try to mitigate the misery done by the sociopaths that capitalism and class systems favor. I doubt that anyone here doesn’t realize that the Imperial U.S. Ward is one of the most violent wards on asylum earth. One can bury one’s head in the sand or, for the sake of health and karma, fight the madmen running the asylum. You can’t reason with them and you can’t appeal to their hearts or souls which they don’t have. Sociopaths gain positions of power because they’re not hobbled by empathy or guilt. The only thing that they wish to discuss is power and control. They only understand profit and commitment to the self.

Our sociopathic leaders are monsters who use patriotism, religion, and love of the land to exploit us but have none themselves. We owe them nothing and should treat them with the same contempt they hold for us. I have had a good life despite them because I knew, thanks to parents who taught me how to think for myself, that they were the enemy at a young age. In order to have as little to do with them as possible I’ve lead a very simple life unencumbered by a lot of possessions.

I pity most people as they are beaten dogs from birth. They grow up abused and conditioned by authority to obey not to question and those who do question usually never get beyond cognitive dissonance: Even if they work hard only for themselves it results in disease and early death. Many work hard for monstrous bosses at jobs they detest. Even the few that manage to become wealthy have destroyed their physical and psychological health in the process. They live in constant fear of bosses, co-workers and mostly in a world of fictitious enemies to distract them from reality. Identifying with their abusers they in turn abuse themselves often working and voting against their own best interests. (Stockholm Syndrome).

I am not competitive. I don’t play games and even my grandkids, when they were no longer little, didn’t want to play with me as I don’t care about winning so I’m no challenge for anyone. Competition assures capitalists of lower wages and greater productivity increasing their profits. I had a career as a civil servant in NYC Health & Hospitals and I am proud to have been part of a system that delivers health care to all wether or not they can pay for it.

I am a lifelong underachiever. One boss even told me that I was everything she hated about civil service and was just marking off the days until retirement at a young age 55. She was no genius as I was right out in the open with everyone protected by seniority, my union and my own intelligence. I have always guarded my free time against working too hard which is why I chose the civil service devoid of the profit motive to make someone rich. I have thus successfully spent my life enjoying it rather than working myself ill and into an early grave to make some people richer.

If you don’t play the owners games they can’t play you. I owe nothing to them, the country they own, or to any of their corporations and institutions. I take pleasure in having spent my life subverting them in every way possible. Knowledge protects, rebellion is action and frugality is freedom.

I care nothing for them or their rotten capitalist system. I try to be as kind as I can to everyone and as I even hate to kill a bug they need not fear me. Besides, they are doing a good job by doing everything they can to speed up the crash of their rotten capitalist system that reached a dead end decades ago, just as Marx wrote it would. Everyone on the right and the left is predicting a coming big economic crash. There is also a growing sense out there that nature and nurture is the future.

You can pick up the pitchfork but if you don’t toss out capitalism you will only have another bloody redistribution period better known as revolution. History is a cycle of one ruling class after another falling as their insatiable greed always dooms them. They, of course, don’t care as they hope “apres moi le deluge”.

So let them bring on tyranny as it only hastens their fall as in all previous empires. Their armies and police might stop the rot within their domains but the real rot lies cancerously within their diseased selves.

I am 77 and am still in relatively good health enjoying my life as I always have despite all the illness and cruelty in this world. I know the truth, live it, speak it, write it, act on it and try to spread it to others. I may be among a minority but I am fortunately not alone for if I were alone I would have gotten lost a long time ago.


Well stated! That’s why I publish the Blue Collar Review. The revival and maintenance of radical working class literature with an emphasis on poetry is a vital part of the struggle for a better culture and world. Today being memorial da,y with an escalation of our imperial way on Afghanistan being announced, here is one of the best poems published in the journal from a few years back –

The Changing of the Guard

At the change of the guard at Arlington,
At the Tomb of the Unknowns, they turn,
Clicking their heels, ticking into position
With mechanical, clock-like precision;
Their eyes behind dark glasses, silver-mirrored,
Reflect an anonymous marble block
In freeze-frame, as the camera shutters click
And the ticking of insects fills the air.
Stepping out smartly, with a sharp “Left-Right!”
The sergeant-at-arms barks his commands,
Inspecting the bolt-action, barrel & sight
And fixed bayonet, with his white-gloved hands.
All spit and polish in patent-leather boots
He snaps to attention, pivots and salutes!

Endless plain stone markers in even rows
Pay tribute to the dead, whose deep repose
Overlooks the Potomac in early spring;
Its banks now in bud, or just burgeoning.
If you listen hard, you can almost hear
The delirious inner-workings of chance
And the hum of history’s machine-like gears
Where greed and cruelty mesh tight in a dance
Which, if the innocent young stand too close,
Will catch at their sleeves & turn them to ghosts –
Their faces drained of emotion, mere masks;
Their movements, perfectly choreographed –
Toy soldiers, once lovers & poets, whose dreams
Are ground to stardust in that dark regime.
– E.P. Fisher


All-in-all this is a thoughtful and certainly clear piece. But here’s what I’m wondering, what about all the folks that get lost in the civil service morass because folks don’t take their public service jobs seriously and just slide by until they get an early (and sometimes soft) retirement paid for by taxpayers? And are you suggesting that public service has no useful purpose other than providing employment and benefits? Does not the work itself matter?


“An artist’s work and life presuppose continuing standards, values stretched out over centuries of millennia, a future that is the continuation and modification of the past, not its contradiction or irrelevant replacement,” [Jarrell} went on.

This is a truly “conservative” position that is wonderful to behold.

Also, it would be nice if Hedges would have taken women more seriously as vessels and creators of human culture. The single mention of the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova does not alone highlight the complex relationships of gender and sexuality that are central to the development and expression of a truly human culture.


It’s encouraging to see Hedges come back to focusing on the seminal issue that artists and scholars of ‘social ills’ focus on — Empire:

When Chris notes, "The disease of empire, the belief that military power is a virtue, blinds us to the folly of our own hubris, our proclivity for violence and our decline. It leads us, Martinez Celaya said, to create miniature, distorted empires of our own. Donald Trump embodies this yearning for a personal empire as vicious and exploitative as the American empire. Empires create a culture in which people dedicate their lives to building monuments to themselves.

“I’m interested in this fabrication of empires,” Martinez Celaya said. “The implication that we’re always looking at a place that is better than where we are. We’re always insisting on a future that in some ways invalidates our present. Empires are dangerous for many reasons. Empires are dangerous because they ignore the conditions of the present. They are a denial of self. They are a denial of the real conditions of the present. And empires are illusory fabrications, manipulative to one’s self as well as to others. They are projections of human vanity. That’s what they are. The vanity of imagining ourselves better tomorrow than we are today.”

In fact when it comes to down to it, “The Issue of Empire” is THE Issue

As Zygmunt Bauman hauntingly puts it, “In the case of an ailing social order, the absence of an adequate diagnosis…is a crucial, perhaps decisive, part of the disease.”13 [Meaning that this disease, like a hidden cancer, employs disguise as its most formidable weapon]

Berman, Morris (2011-02-07). Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire (p. 22). Norton. Kindle Edition.

And while Bauman and Berman are both superb ‘students of Empire’ (and the disease/cancer of Empire), few others are, and many others are not so, accurate nor honest about the true diagnosis of this disease of Empire.

The late/great German Jewish intellectual, Hannah Arendt, diagnosed and warned that, “Empire abroad entails tyranny at home”, which I once thought prescient until I read Stephen Kinzer’s new history of America overtly turning to Empire more than a century ago, and learned of William Jennings Bryan’s presidential platform saying essentially the same as Arendt:

—We oppose militarism (imperialism). It means conquest abroad and intimidation and oppression at home.

Kinzer, Stephen. The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire (Kindle Locations 2923-2924). Henry Holt and Co… Kindle Edition.

But now today, a century beyond Bryan, Mark Twain, and the popular progressive uprising of average Americans knew in the ‘plain spoken’ language of the American Anti-Imperialist League, and a half century beyond Arendt’s truths about Empire entailing both massive pain “abroad” and “at home”, it is time to more fully diagnose, understand, and confront the real and seminal meta-issue of this first in world history; ‘effectively-disguised’, ‘truly-global’, and crony ‘capitalist-fueled’ Empire merely HQed in, and ‘posing’ as, our former country — which almost all political figures including Bernie Sanders, almost all alt-media, and almost all leftish authors are found lacking understanding of.

Let me start with some unfortunate facts:

Of many seemingly progressive Americans, some inadvertently (and some purposely), write and drag gutted ‘red herring’ across the true trail of this unique form and structure of a global Empire with a plethora of both subordinate ‘issues’, and distracting terminology — which has the effect (wanted or not) of dividing, confusing, and weakening the solidarity of the American people, who while predisposed in their DNA and history to be virulently anti-Empire, and who are the only people in the world who can overcome this ‘last Empire on earth’, need at least 3% to be strategically focused on Empire (and Empire alone).

Thus the 83 ‘issues’ which are listed by the #resistandprotest movement, and other similarly over-broad movements, like “Occupy”, BLM, “Our Revolution”, et al., will not only never gain sufficient traction to achieve the essential Second American “Political Revolution against EMPIRE”, but are inadvertently helpful to this Empire’s commonality with all past empires of, ‘divide and conquer’.

Likewise, the dozens of appealing, but distractive false rallying cries against dozens of different (contradictory and misdiagnosed disease) names for the mortal enemy of ‘we the people’, like; oligarchy, authoritarianism, fascism, Deep State, plutocracy, totalitarianism, inverted totalitarianism (the inverse?), Corporate State, intelligence-state, etc., etc., etc. ad nausea actually, though indirectly, serve the purpose of the Empire in dividing and sapping energy and focus from the only people in the world who can confront this new Disguised Global Capitalist EMPIRE without being slaughtered in unlimited numbers and with complete impunity — as is already proven “abroad”.

Fortunately, however, the singular fact that Americans can overcome/overthrow this Empire HQed in, and merely ‘posing’ as, our country in a totally non-violent “Revolution Against Empire:” [du Rivage].

Additionally, we are fortunate that a significant and fast growing number of; public intellectuals, academics, and leading students of this new form and structure of Disguised Global Capitalist Empire, such as; Paul Street, William Robinson, Chris Hedges, Michael Hardt, Laurence Shoup, Michael Glennon, Noam Chomsky, Bill Blum, Antonio Negri, Sam Gindin, Leo Pantich, Pepe Escobar, Andrew Bacevich, Michael Hudson, et al. have been researching, analyzing, and diagnosing many, if not all of the seven-sectors of this new 21st century post-nation-state Empire — far beyond the late 20th century and earlier turn-of-the-century American Empire Project’s nation-state-centric view of this combined metastasizing; Empire of Illusion, Empire of Chaos, Empire of Capital, Extra-legal Empire, Geo-strategic Neoliberal Empire, Global Empire’s New Map, etc.

Of course, the unique and ultimate advantage that ‘we the American people’ hold ‘in the streets’ and in the real not virtual world, is in firing a; loud, public, sustained, focused, and totally non-violent, “Shout (not shot) heard round the world” to ignite this coming and essential Second American “Political-economic/social Revolution against EMPIRE”.

The fact that “Our Revolution against EMPIRE” is happening 26 years beyond the collapse of the supposed ‘last Empire on earth’, the Soviet “Evil Empire” (aren’t they all Evil, Ronny?) — that this “Revolution Against Empire” is equally beyond Francis Fukuyama’s “End of History”, declaring “free-market capitalist democracy” (whatever the hell unicorn that is) the ultimate slayer of the last Empire, and the fact that as little as 3% of American citizens simply and peacefully need to; ‘call-out’, expose, and protest with our free speech that our country has been captured by a Disguised Global Capitalist EMPIRE, which after 9 ‘least worse voting’ cycles had treated us as powerless, and effectively voteless ‘subjects’ of an Empire only offering a phony Emperor Trump and an ‘Empress-in-waiting’ & War Hawk, Hillary, from the dual-party Vichy-facade of this ‘rougher-talking’ neocon ‘R’ Vichy Party and the ‘smoother-lying’ neoliberal-con “D’ Vichy Party — the collapse of this truly last Empire can and will happen in a crooked New York developer’s minute!

For when the media/propaganda-sector of this Empire claims for nearly three decades that no Empire any longer exists on earth — and a million or more American citizens shout in the streets that “This is what Empire looks like”, and when they carry signs and chant in unison:

“What do we want?”

“Political Revolution”

“What’s it against?”


“When do we want it?”


Then, ‘we the people’ can overthrow this global Empire without firing a shot!


It seems dreary because it is, indeed, very dreary. Hedges helps us see that. We need a few voices of truth, even deary truth, to at least counter somewhat the false narratives and commercial nonsense which is ever present in the world today.


I myself did a good job and was even thanked for it by people when I retired. As far as people not doing their jobs properly that is what supervision is for. I also suspect that your op[inion of public service jobs is just that, an opinion not based on fact. No surprise though with the present attack on public workers in an attempt to bust the public service unions and take away jobs, wages and benefits as has been done to the rest of the American workforce.

The core of neoliberalism, “neo-conservatism” and libertarianism is a series of economic theories often referred to as from the Austrian school or Chicago school of economics. Neoliberalism is largely laissez faire capitalism that incorporates the privatization of public assets sometimes presented as "enclosure of the commons”.

Neoliberalism is patriarchal and hierarchal. Wealth aggregates upwards from those who create it through their work to “those who deserve it” through their use of capital to generate more capital and power. That aggregated wealth and its resultant power is increasingly centralized into the hands of the few who then manage and control the society in the manner that is the most profitable for them.

The 4 D’s of neoliberalism held by the elected majority of both U.S. major political parties:

  1. Deregulation
  2. Decreasing taxation of the wealthy
  3. De-unionization
  4. Defunding of social programs

The inevitable outcome of neoliberal economics is the development of a fascist oligarchy, usually of the capitalist or merchant class, where much like royalty the wealth, capital and power is passed on from generation to generation through the power of the oligarchs to manage and control the use and distribution of capital. They cannot resist the fascist merger of state and corporate power and either install a dictator or rule through an inverted totalitarianism where elections decide which segments of the oligarchy will take precedence until the next elections.

"The West under neoliberal leadership (sic) has become a horrifying merciless killing machine…

Wars must go on. The US neoliberal economy depends on them. The war machine and its ramifications contribute more than 50% to the US GDP.
Without wars, the country would collapse. All peace talks and negotiations initiated or feigned by Washington are fake, a deception, propaganda for the goodness of the naked emperor. Kudos for the exceptional nation.

World peace would mean a black hole for the United States, demise"…

Capitalists use taxes as “public subsidies”. Wall Street, for example, makes massive profits, in many ways, from the U.S. Military Budget with the guarantee of profit as they don’t use their money, they use ours. Wall Street can even appear to lose money along with the Military Industrial Complex yet still make a profit. How? By using our tax money.

Imagine making a $75. investment of which only $25. is your money. The investment brings a $40. return which you pocket. You then tell everyone that there was a $35 loss as you scam, by keeping the $40. return, $15. as off the top profit. This is how the MIC works, in multiples of ten, using your tax money.

Taxation is extortion with war as the main cover such as the present protection racket of “the war on terror”. The actual U.S. Military Budget is slightly over $1 trillion per year if all aspects of U.S. War spending are included.

Capitalism is organized theivery with colossal theft of world resources, price gouging, boilerplate corruption and an endless list of everything commodified. Someday someone will even figure out how to charge people for the air they breathe.

“Neoliberalism, the religion of the West, is the epitome of evil, of destruction of civilization itself. Neoliberalism – thanks to its unifying factor of greed, has ravaged the west like brushfire and taken over the world in less than 30 years, a feat grander than that achieved by mono-theistic Judo-Christianity in over 2000 years.”

“Civilization’ of the Neocons"

Why Is It So Hard to Reduce the Pentagon Budget?

“Russian ‘Elite’ Warns Of War With The U.S.”

“Around 55 million people were killed directly after the end of World War II, as a result of Western imperialism. Hundreds of millions were slaughtered indirectly.”
“On Western Terrorism”, Vitchek/Chomsky

Free Book Download of “On Western Terrorism: From Hiroshima to Drone Warfare”. In “On Western Terrorism” Noam Chomsky, world renowned dissident intellectual, discusses Western power and propaganda with filmmaker and investigative journalist Andre Vitchek.

US Has Killed More Than 20 Million People in 37 “Victim Nations” Since World War II

Happy? Memorial Day


Chris. So true. Very few people live with others older than themselves. Thinking in the now, without simultaneously linking to the past, is fraught with distortions and falsehoods. Without the understanding of what “alive” means, ostensibly forgets “the knowing” of what “eternity” means. “The Now” without a story that links through the Ages, back to the “Big Bang”, “jumps” our childhood into a false “now”, dismissing the story of our ancestors. That sex is required along the way, it seems, is all that we the people of Earth, have retained from history - the instant gratification of the moment - or the lack thereof - “boredom”. We’ve been hosed by the bankster mentality, propagated by the digital frontier mentality - the machine age with its artificial intelligence algorithms - while Earth burns. Have we devolved into machine-like creatures, yet? Perty close. Get outa that couch, out the door, down the street to your real family ancestors, standing on the street corners demanding a return to nature’s ways.

Digitizing sex eliminates “the skin”, as you write, Chris. The two-dimensional image and virtual sex on social media easily slides into to a mind-control situation as with ‘fb’. Sophisticated digital algorithms, mimicking feelings, emotes possible mental instabilities in those of us who are least able to tell truth from fiction - the young. To sell product? Only? I doubt it.

I say, “STOP SHOPPING”! What the hell do I mean? Buy only used, reused or trade for items - or buy locally made new items - or from local distributors that recirculate OUR money in OUR region - cutting off the corporations from siphoning-off what’s left of our economy. (Remember, corporations are not people, they are unforgiving machines, kept running by masters.)

Only buy organically grown produce, meats, grains and brew. Start a garden. If you’re homeless, living in rv’s that migrate north to south and back every year - or worse - lost your rv and now live in your tent in someone’s backyard. LET IT BE KNOWN. GET OUT THERE! WITH YER SIGN EVERY WEEKEND - AT LEAST! Manufacturing vanished here in most parts of the U. S. We no longer can afford anything. How many of, we the people feel safe, today? How’s our ability to pay, taxes or the food bill - each and every month going forward - with the austerity measures about to be shoved down our collective throats?
Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein and others in various competitive parties. STOP IT! Get it together. Take over the DEMS, NOW! This isn’t rocket science. The corporate wing is ducking and weaving and hoping above all hopes that we try to go third party - which means BYE BYE Earth!


Art for our sake


Actually your post strongly implied that you cruised through your job at the expense of the public. Don’t assume. I’ve been a supporter of the public sector and public service workers my entire life, as any socialist should be. I really don’t need the lecture on neoliberalism, though it is a good one.

May Your Memorial Day Be Peaceful, unlike the millions of people who are under attack in at least seven U.S.-led imperial wars on behalf of the capitalist neoliberal/neocon oligarchy that owns the U.S. political economy.



Thank you for your valid criticism comrade and your shared distaste of imperialism, neoliberalism and the empire.

I should have made it clear that I did not cruise through my job but I did refuse to be overworked or exploited for the sake of anyone’s advancement. I take pride in doing anything I do by doing it well. However I did do extra stuff such as being a temporary union shop steward.

I hope your Memorial Day was also peaceful and enjoyable.


“Wars must go on. The US neoliberal economy depends on them. The war machine and its ramifications contribute more than 50% to the US GDP.
Without wars, the country would collapse. All peace talks and negotiations initiated or feigned by Washington are fake, a deception, propaganda for the goodness of the naked emperor. Kudos for the exceptional nation.”
Well said!
See movie: “The Power Principle” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5If2YaLtX4



Actually we’re probably on the same page about the most serious stuff. Maybe it’s just a couple of old dogs getting our backs up.