Apocalypse Now? The Strange Jeremiads of Christopher Hedges

Editor’s Note: In The Mind Field is re-posting this article by Michael Uhl to consciously provoke dialogue both inside and outside our Veterans For Peace community among those who might take exception to its main premises.  The writers on this blog will soon launch a forum to analyze and critique the tactical trends that predominate in the antiwar movement today. The goal is to explore the political realities of 2011 and consider alternative practices.

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Chris Hedges is the former New York Times war correspondent turned tribune for the antiwar resistance.  In a series of articles and interviews over the past six months, Hedges has elaborated on his belief that former channels of democratic redress and reform, whether swift or incremental, are foreclosed in today’s repressive political climate.  Barack Obama in this scenario is much more than a disappointment.  He is described by Hedges in a rather obscure formulation as “like Herod of old” in league with all the dark elites in our society that are driving the American people toward “bondage.”  For those who refuse quiet “submission” to such a fate  hope lies only in “repeated and substantial acts of civil disobedience.”

The concept of hope looms large in the Hedges cosmology, as in the following riff-like sequence from a recent polemic.

“Hope now will come when we defy physically the violence of the State… Those who resist today with nonviolence are the last thin line of defense between a civilized society and its disintegration… all who succumb to fear… become enemies of hope… The more futile, the more useless, the more irrelevant and incomprehensible an act of rebellion is, the more potent hope becomes.  Hope never makes sense.”  Here at least, neither does Chris Hedges.

The thoughts and words above, whether quoted or paraphrased, are representative of Hedges blend of mysticism and muddled thinking, sprinkled with flashes of erudition and much poetic elegance.  Some of his millennial comparisons and historical readings – the simile linking Obama to Herod – elsewhere equating the U.S. political system to Egypt under Mubarak – are downright bizarre.  But I’m really stuck on that startling revelation that hope’s potency rests upon futile, useless, irrelevant and incomprehensible acts of rebellion.  Really?  Does that mean failure will make better people of us?  This strikes me as stuff for the sectarian pulpit, not the public forum.

Chris Hedges (Photo: John Grant)

And yet I hasten to confess that, almost without qualification,  I agree with Hedges’ assessment of the mounting woes and blows that we as a people have grown unaccustomed to bearing during the salad years of the American Century.  And, maybe, we progressives, having lapsed into complacency after the great cultural victories of the sixties and seventies, are stunned to suddenly feel more keenly the presence of Big Brother… again.  It seems very true to me, as I believe it does to Hedges, that our already imperfect democracy is growing measurably weaker right before our eyes.

Can Hedges be right that the options of fighting back through familiar social and institutional struggles are indeed “closed in advance,” and that only acts of individual purification can – what?  That’s where he loses me.  Anyway, I’m not convinced, scanning over the American past, that these are the worst of times, as opposed to exceedingly bad times for which our history presents ample precedent.  For political repression and suppression of civil liberties alone, I can tick off John Adam’s Alien and Sedition Acts, a blatantly autocratic attempt to silence opposition.  Lincoln, our American saint, suspended habeas corpus.  All the Haymarket Martyrs, including three who were hanged, were later found to have been innocent.  What about Debs being railroaded to an Atlanta, Georgia jail cell with a ten year sentence for advocating resistance to WWI?  Check out how the Espionage Act and the Palmer Raids in the teens and twenties targeted the Left and the foreign born.  Domestic communist witch hunts were jump-started with passage of the Smith Act in 1940.  Hedges himself is too young to have lived through the subsequent rout of American communists and their sympathizers during the McCarthy era.  We no longer have a House Un-American Activities Committee, although the Honorable Pete King in the U.S. Congress today seems eager to recreate one to admonish the latest hyphenated immigrant bogeys, the Muslim-Americans.

Those repressive cycles were always superseded by popular counter-struggles, and hard won victories long taken for granted have been hard wired into our social contract.  But nothing is permanent. What has been won can be snatched away.  When oligarchs rise and seek to erode economic and democratic gains through deception, demagoguery and repression, the tools and means available to defend ourselves – assuming average citizens can be stirred to act in their own best interest – will differ from one age to the next.

Trying to fashion those tools is the task that confronts progressive-thinking people today. Many of us who have devoted decades to antiwar politics have been frustrated to distraction by our inability to mobilize a sizeable movement to stir and focus public opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Even among youth privileged with higher education, few today have seen fit to make common cause with us against these wars.  They have their own distractions.  The economic pressures facing most Americans Hedges is quite correct to associate with an increasingly corrupt political system and an insatiably greedy class of elites who perceive their lord-of-the-world status steadily and visibly eroding in the twilight of the empire.

It is widely known that empires rise and fall.  Those who study or observe such things assume that America too will one day fall.  No one has the play book on how quickly we will arrive at the moment when someone looking back will be able to say, Rome, Britain, and the United States of America were all once great empires that passed from the scene.  At that point, the global balance of power will have finally shifted from our shores, and my sense is that, in the absence of dystopia, those who then occupy this land may experience the transition as virtually seamless, and not necessarily cataclysmic.  The point is, we’re not there yet, but that the greedy plutocrats who rule us, whose fear of the inevitable decline does seem wildly heightened, are up to more looting and hoarding than usual these days.  How do we stop them?   To review Chris Hedges’ plan, return to the top two paragraphs.

Hedges’ rise to prominence as a voice of the antiwar movement has been rapid.  That he is a man of impressive accomplishments is undeniable.  Hedges’ top drawer education was matched by his academic excellence.  As a journalist he was at the pinnacle of his profession, a war correspondent with the New York Times, in the historic company of Homer Bigart, Neil Sheehan, and David Halberstam, and other legendary reporters who covered world battlefields for The Times before him.  Hedges is an enviably prodigious – not to mention successful – writer.  And yet, his resume in the peace movement seems a trifle lite.

Amy Goodman interviewed Hedges on Democracy Now! just after the December 16th action at which he read “Hope: An Affirming Flame,” which I have quoted from above.  Hedges is explaining his hopeless plan of action, when, about midway through the interview, Goodman seems to shift gears.  Instead of asking a question, she makes a statement:

“You were actually quite muted about the government when you were at The New York Times [until 2005] and you were being interviewed, like by us.”

“Yeah,” retorts Hedges, obviously miffed, “The Times wouldn’t consider it muted.”

Point Goodman; she drops it and returns to the usual hagiographic style she reserves for movement celebrities in her interviews.  From the above quote, it’s impossible to really guess what Goodman had in mind.  What comes to my mind is that Hedges has had no deep life experience with radical politics or mass movements, and very probably missed much in the major mass movement against war in our lifetimes that roiled the American population during Vietnam.  He has a lot of experience with war, and his exposure to the disasters of war is, I sense, layers deeper than anything I went through in Vietnam, with the major exception that I carried a gun and he a pen.  The resulting PTSD, which Hedges claims, does not take sides between soldiers and journalists or civilians in the crossfire.  And it is in our shared burden of that malady that I locate my deepest affinity for Chris Hedges, and embrace this tender comrade as a brother veteran-victim of war.

Clearly I am not a disciple of his politics.  In fact I must say that I am completely confounded by the fact that Hedges went out of his way this January to interview Ralph Nader, and then – even in light of recent events in Madison, Wisconsin – has completely failed to integrate the lessons Nader was attempting to teach him.  Nader, who probably understands civil, political and corporate cultures in the U.S. – and how they interact – better than any other American political figure, does not as far as I know subscribe to the ‘throw our bodies into the machinery’ brand of political evangelism currently being pushed by Hedges.  Rather, Nader suggests an alternative imperative:

“Every major movement starts with field organizers, the farmers, unions, and the civil rights movement… But there’s nothing out there.  We need to start learning from what was done in the past.”

There’s a surprisingly whimsical side to Nader too.  He momentarily waxes poetic describing for Hedges a vision he calls the “black swan question… whether something will erupt that is rare, extreme and unpredictable.”

This is before Wisconsin, so Nader muses that it’s “amazing that it hasn’t happened in any pocket of the country.  How much more can the oppressed take before they revolt?   And can they revolt without organizers? “

Nader, with his sensitivity to rapidly changing historical currents, impatiently awaits the ever-anticipated push-back as we are witnessing now among public sector workers and nurses, firmly resisting the latest union busting challenge confronting a labor movement long in decline. Is this the ‘black swan’ moment?  Maybe yes, maybe no.  Minimally, Hedges and those who follow his doomsday strategy must concede that “repeated and substantial acts of civil disobedience” are not the only avenues of struggle available to us today.  There is an opening here, an opportunity to end our wars more quickly by building support for this revived labor movement, which in turn must come to understand that obscene levels of military spending and tax breaks for the greediest are the major obstacles, not only to their interests and the popular welfare, but to democracy itself.

It’s an iffy proposition.  As Nader says, “You have got to have organizers, and now, we don’t.”

For additional work by this author, go to www.veteranscholar.com

About Michael Uhl

Michael Uhl’s writing has appeared in national magazines like Forbes, GEO, House Beautiful, Travel and Leisure, the Nation, and the Progressive. He has contributed regularly to the Sunday Boston Globe Book Review. Uhl holds a PhD in American Studies. He is the author of Vietnam Awakening, and is now working on a second memoir. His website is at: www.veteranscholar.com .

Comments

  1. Joe Mowrey says:

    As you yourself point out, the “organize a labor movement” strategy is an iffy proposition. Even if it were feasible, given the complete lack of any substantive organizers on the scene today (in fact, what little remains of the labor movement is largely corrupt and paralyzed by infighting), there isn’t time for something like this to evolve. How many years did the civil rights movement take, for example? Do you truly believe the planet has that kind of time left if we don’t do something to facilitate the implosion of the corrupt U.S. Empire immediately?

    My personal view is that it is time and energy wasted attempting to work within this bizarrely corrupt and dysfunctional system, using labor or any other vehicle. But if it makes people open their eyes and get off their butts, I sure wouldn’t criticize it, especially in the petty way you seem to be attacking Hedges. Why knock guys like him who at least have a suggestion as to how to get people into the streets? Even your labor movement strategy is going need people to throw themselves into the cogs of the machinery.

    Let’s try to respect one another a little more. We’re all on the same side. Support any and all efforts to wake people up to the dire circumstances we face. That’s not apocalyptic gloom speaking, it’s just plain reality.

    Thanks for putting together this blog.
    Joe Mowrey
    Santa Fe, New Mexico

  2. hammer says:

    hedges sounds like a preacher. funny. i can read him but cannot listen to him. it takes us all, drop-outs, organizers, protesters, angry folks who go ballistic, non violence devotees, criminals-by-necesity, environmentalists, off the grid-er’s, workers and middle class folks who see what’s coming . . . to take down the corruption that rules usa.

  3. Ed Lytwak says:

    Michael Uhl’s piece is indeed a good vehicle to “consciously provoke dialogue” about “the political realities of 2011” and to “ consider alternative practices” especially in light of the October 2011 movement. And, Chris Hedges is a good place to start framing these questions even though I think that some of the criticism is unfair. Regarding CH, I really don’t think the discussion of “hope” is the best way to understand what he is trying to say about resistance and civil disobedience.

    I much prefer CH’s piece, “No Act of Rebellion Is Wasted” http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/no_act_of_rebellion_is_wasted_20101213/

    “We may feel, in the face of the ruthless corporate destruction of our nation, our culture, and our ecosystem, powerless and weak. But we are not. We have a power that terrifies the corporate state. Any act of rebellion, no matter how few people show up or how heavily it is censored by a media that caters to the needs and profits of corporations, chips away at corporate power. Any act of rebellion keeps alive the embers for larger movements that follow us. It passes on another narrative. It will, as the rot of the state consumes itself, attract wider and wider numbers. Perhaps this will not happen in our lifetimes. But if we persist, we will keep this possibility alive. If we do not, it will die. “

    But it is not really Chris Hedges but Wendell Berry who said it best (in CH’s column “Fight for a World Without Coal”
    http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/fight_for_a_world_without_coal_20110214/ :

    “To accept that there is nothing to do is to despair,” Berry said. “It is to become in some fundamental way less than human. Those of us who are protesting are protesting in part for our own sake to keep ourselves whole as human beings. We don’t agree that it is impossible because we don’t intend trying to stop it.”

    Resistance through civil disobedience is about empowerment of both the individual and more important of others – this is the core of what “organizing” is about. When Hedges talks about “hope” he is talking about the empowerment in the face of despair or in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all.” Bruce Levine covered much of the same ground in his seminal article, “Are Americans a Broken People? Why We’ve Stopped Fighting Back Against the Forces of Oppression” http://www.alternet.org/story/144529/are_americans_a_broken_people_why_we%27ve_stopped_fighting_back_against_the_forces_of_oppression

    Empowering others is where organizing comes in. Much of the left, as well as the anti-war movement, has been disempowered because we have focused too much on change coming from the top down. We have become disempowered because we have place too much of our “hope” in humbly petitioning our political leaders for a redress of our grievances. Chris Hedges has that part absolutely right. And, CH is also right that moving beyond this disempowerment requires that we take things to the next level.

    But Uhl is right too, there are many other ways beside civil disobedience to accomplish this. And, grassroots organizing is the key – as Nader so well understood. We would however, be making a big mistake if we don’t realize that civil disobedience is an extraordinarily powerful organizing process. In the right circumstances, it can be the most powerful means for empowering people, especially when that civil disobedience is combined with nonviolence – the ultimate source of power in grassroots organizing.

    This is most especially the case when dealing with extreme violence such as war. Among the other ways to empower and mobilize is to build awareness that the wars are not just in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. And, that the veterans are not just those who fought in the armed forces. War is everywhere on this planet, and everyone is a participant and a victim. Like all the modern wars, there are no noncombatants.

    When people start to make the connection that there is one war against Muslims, the poor, women, animals, nature, the very life-support systems of the planet the real work of organizing can begin. We also should not worry too much about those who have gained prominence in our shared struggle. Just as change won’t come from the top, the power of organizing doesn’t come from leaders (the military way) or happen in D.C. Anyone who doubts this or the awesome power of nonviolent disobedience should watch the PBS American Experience documentary “Freedom Riders” (you can view it on the PBS website).

  4. Excellent discussion here — thanks Michael for reposting your article . . .

    One of the realities I struggle with is that our protests — I participated in the December 16th White House civil resistance action — which rely on the strategy and tactics that the “peace movement” has used for the past 40 or so years, do not seem to resonate with the vast majority of American citizens. For example, all of my adult children in their 30s and 40s look upon my activism as being quaintly archaic, like long hair and bell bottoms and the White Album — they are too busy working 60-hour weeks trying to keep their homes, which are underwater, out of foreclosure. Thus, the peace movement is not able to build a protest movement with massive enough numbers of citizens participating that would meaningfully result in changed policies among our politicians, who are able to mostly ignore us and go about their business of manifesting endless war, by recent inventory up to six now (Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya andYemen in addition to the amorphous Global War on Terror) as discussed in today’s Tomgram: American Militarism Is Not A Fairy Tale: http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175404/tomgram%3A_william_astore%2C_american_militarism_is_not_a_fairy_tale/#more

    I agree with Ed that what is needed is door to door grassroots organizing, building alliances among citizens, who may not be able to relate to anti-war protests, but who do understand that the rich are getting obscenely richer and that everyone else is being strung out economically with homes and jobs threatened, if not already gone, as well as mounting costs in taxes, fees, and the real inflation of rising energy, health and food expenses, regardless of how the government defines inflation.

  5. Michael: Isn’t Chris a mimic of the peace mvmt? Good criticism of current situation, weak on what to do. He is a modern day prophet in my view. Anybody who writes as much as he can be criticized in some way. You make good points but overall, in my opinion, Chris is a genius well worth reading. Sandy Kelson

    Sandy – Chris is indeed a mimic of the peace or antiwar movement, which is my point. Consider this: The antiwar movement today in the absence of mass mobilization of what may indeed by latent majority popular opposition to our many wars (and implicitly to the bloated political economies of militarism), continues with the same tactics we employed successfully during the Vietnam period. But those tactics don’t move anyone now. This movement today is full of “prophets,” who think their individual moral vision is a suitable substitute for activities that might involve a broader swath of concerned citizens who don’t have the time, privilege or inclination to engage in Hedges’ “repeated and substantial acts of civil disobedience.” It’s like the parable in the New Testament of the Rich Young Man; when you set the bar too high for participation, people just turn and walk away. Moreover, the historical precedent for mass antiwar civil disobedience [I'm not talking civil rights here, which involved interests that were much more concrete and immediate for black folks and made mass non-violent civil resistance a necessity] was essentially a failure. I’m referring to the May Day action of 1971. But even then, what gave that action whatever legitimacy and power is possessed was the fact that the week before (April 24th) more than a half million protesters had filled the streets of Washington, plus there was Dewey Canyon III with several thousand VN vets camped out on the Mall. We do not have those numbers or conditions today. We don’t even have an adequate and sufficient answer to the question of why, when you look around you at a protest action today, like the Dec. 16th 2010 action for example, what you see are an overwhelming majority of activists in their 60s who model their actions on the tactics of the VN antiwar movement of the 60s/70s. I don’t think we need prophets. Hedges is a fine writer, but he’s no genius. He’s full of fine and lofty sentiments, but, in fact, his thinking is mechanical and schematic, and his pretentions to leadership are egoistic and adventurist. My critique does not pretend to offer a solution to the impasse our movement faces; that has to be done collectively, and toward that end, the participation of the action faction is essential. Michael Uhl

  6. mike ferner says:

    this discussion is one of the best examples i’ve seen of why to avoid the “either-or” tar pit. to paraphrase an earlier commenter, we have to do it all– walk AND chew gum. it’s not a question of “which is better, civil disobedience/resistance or grassroots organizing?” we need both, plus other things along the whole spectrum of democratic insurgency.
    my complaint is that the peace movement, at least what i’ve been able to see in the last few years, has little or no idea of what organizing is. so what gets done, what gets substituted for organizing, is activism. sometimes civil disobedience/resistance, sometimes rallies…you know the drill. and when we get frustrated with marches many of us start to look longingly at sit-downs and the like– but we still don’t do much if any organizing.
    ralph nader is right. we need that kind of organizing. we need the organizers out in the field. hell, it would be progress if we at least knew what it means to organize.
    luckily, organizing is not rocket surgery and with a little patience and persistence it can be learned and practiced to good effect. but once we get a broader understanding of what it is, we’ve got to be prepared to do some real slogging, prepared to avoid the “anacin syndrome” and expecting “fast, Fast, FAST RELIEF,” to meet and work with people outside of our cultural safe zones.
    as for chris hedges, he is nothing if not provocative, which is most always a service. based just on my observations, i think his trip to the vfp convention in maine last year and his subsequent participation with the protests we’ve done in d.c. since then, have been a real tonic for him. there is good reason to be hopeless and good reason to want to use monkey wrenches on most every problem in the midst of hopelessness. but i think he’s also found something uplifting, hopeful, human and maybe even a bit fun, which is always good for the soul, by hanging with us.
    and speaking of hope, here’s a wonderful line from lawrence goodwyn’s “the populist moment.” he describes the populists as “…an intimidated people who created the psychological space to dare to aspire grandly.” that they did. and i have a feeling we’re starting to do the same for the first time in a long while.

  7. michael uhl says:

    One need not give my article the closest reading to understand that it is precisely the absence of ‘either/or’ in Hedges’ position that is both reckless and ‘thoughtless,’ in the sense Hannah Arendt applied the word (much to the chagrin of her close friend, the strict grammarian, Mary McCarthy). How’s that for a nice touch in the spirit of a typical Chris Hedges’ learned, but irrelevant aside? Let’s be both clear and honest in this discussion: Hedges says (again!) that our movement is now restricted, strategically and tactically, to only “repeated and substantial acts of civil disobedience.” The other side of the binary option, the ‘or,’ concerning the general usefulness of ‘civil disobedience’ to a tiny resistance like ours is another question. My argument is that it makes folks who do it feel good about themselves, but it does nothing to mobilize the scale of opposition necessary to have even the most incremental impact on the policies we all equally abhor. In fact, in this climate, it may serve the opposite end of demobilization. About this last point I will try to keep an open mind, and would happily be proven wrong should this tactic persist – as it most certainly will – and bear fruit in the future. As for the tonics that relieve Hedges or any of us of our personal torments, that is largely a private matter; on that score may the gods and goddesses bless us all.

  8. John Grant says:

    This is a good discussion keying off Michael’s warm, respectful critique of Chris Hedges. In my mind, if Hedges did nothing more than write War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, he would be assured of a prominent place in the anti-war movement. I don’t think one can consider Michael’s criticism of Hedges without recognizing that Michael says, “it is in our shared burden of that malady [PTSD] that I locate my deepest affinity for Chris Hedges and embrace this tender comrade as a brother veteran-victim of war.” Someone wrote me and called it a “hit piece on Hedges” that was “disgraceful” and trying to “divide-and-conquer.” Nonsense. To me, that is totally missing the point. Frankly, I think Chris Hedges has broad enough shoulders and can take it.

    Ed is right that “empowering others is where organizing comes in.” Too many Americans feel it is hopeless to challenge the status-quo. We who are foolish enough to envision that that is not true need to find a better approach to do that educating and empowering. So far, we haven’t done a very good job. I love to read Hedges and, as a trained and experienced journalist, I admire him immensely. Still, I have real questions whether the approach in some of his more fiery, preacher-like speeches and pieces actually does much good in the “empowering” realm that Ed talks about. The analysis is often magnificent; it’s in the what-to-do category I think Hedges needs to re-consider things. Why this need to scare the shit out of everyone or rub their noses in bleakness? I respect that he has experienced wars injustices and horrors. He is the one who emphasizes the need for more “eros” and less “thanatos.” Yet, sometimes, he seems to emphasize thanatos without giving enough positive balancing eros.

    This is not the 1960s or ’70s. What had an impact on the war then doesn’t necessarily work now, when we face an incredibly more sophisticated corporate/imperial state and war-making machine. Yes, it’s good to stand out on some street corner to make a “witness” that you mortally oppose the wars. Even to get arrested can be good for the soul. As William Sloan Coffin put it once, “I oppose evil not to destroy evil, but that evil does not destroy me.” I think we all live that,; I also think that sentiment is the basis for the very real social “family” many of us are part of locally and nationally. The issue is, of course, how to extend the glue that holds that “family” together outward.

    Mike Ferner says VFP and speaking out has become a sort of “tonic” for Hedges. That’s a good way to put it. As a journalist with real PTSD, the antiwar movement seems to be a “family” of sorts for Hedges — a family Michael is suggesting he has come to late without being steeped in the years and decades of frustration many of us in this movement have lived through. Then there’s Ralph Nader who spoke along with Hedges at the last VFP White House event. Nader goes so far back in this racket it’s fodder for jokes. And what was his message at the White House? “We need to dig down deep into our communities.” He was not talking about hanging out with others in the family. He was not talking about massive CD. No, he meant the boring and less romantic slog of day-in-day-out being-who-we-are in the communities we live in — and making as much effective noise doing it as we can.

    There’s much more than beating on pots n pans for CD to ending these wars and improving justice in America. For me, it’s about “evolution” versus “revolution.” It takes all kinds of activities. If some feel in their hearts CD is what counts, then they should go do it. And do it well. They should do it smart — without so much choreographing with the cops. Then they should reflect on what is they’re doing and how much of it is for their own feelings of frustration and self-worth and how much is actually going to move peace and justice a notch forward.

    And, of course, while we’re all out there doing whatever we do we can continue to argue more about it.

  9. E Ferrari says:

    I guess I read Chris as describing, not prescribing.

    When he talks about incomprehensible acts of rebellion, Hedges is describing a very specific,, arational and necessary process in rebellion. He’s describing what it means to remove yourself as a character or an element in the narrative of officialdom, what it means to make yourself unavailable for comprehension (which is another way to say, capture) by the Official Story. And in that way, he makes perfect sense. You divest yourself of the necessity to “make sense” in the oppressive regime. The more successful your divestiture is, the freer you are to be Cindy Sheehan or Bradley Manning.

    The Obama/Herod comparison speaks to the same point. Herod was completely captured He gets some personal grief for his actions but his outstanding characteristic was his very enmeshment with officialdom

    • Michael Uhl says:

      Elizabeth’s comment is couched in a specialized language primarily comprehensible to academics who have mastered the vocabulary and concepts of post-modernist discourse. The challenge in deconstructing the levels of meaning in her comments is a worthy exercise, since the meanings on the surfaces of most narratives conceals deeper and often more enlightening complexities that resist cursory readings. And it’s true that Hedges’ style is a case in point. It would have been better in my view had Elizabeth expressed herself here, perhaps at greater length, to achieve a clarity that this specialized language denies the average reader without the proper training to grasp the subtleties of her argument. I understand that much can be lost in such translations. In any case, Elizabeth is off the mark on the essential criticism I level at Hedges, which is only tangentially aimed at his obscure metaphors and existential philosophizing. My principal disagreement with Hedges is political, and is found in the following sentence from my text: For those who refuse quiet “submission” to such a fate hope lies only in “repeated and substantial acts of civil disobedience.” It’s the “only” here that I rebel against.

  10. Ian Brand says:

    Thank you for this piece! It puts a finger exactly on why I cannot read Hedges without wincing. We can analyze social ills out the ying yang, but so much ink is not the same as organizing. I feel that the left in general often seems clueless about the potential of its own power. I have been part of movements that have won in the sense that they had acheived their stated goals. We are terrible at nourishing ourselves with these stories, and atleast taking stock of what works. And Nader is correct: there is not enough organizing going on that would even get us to a point where we can see our own power– that is the crux of the problem. Wisconsin was/is a very hopeful sign.

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