Chris Hedges: Make the Power Elite Frightened of Us, Part 4

Chris Hedges

Image by Dandelion Salad via Flickr

with Chris Hedges
Writer, Dandelion Salad
July 19, 2013

TheRealNews on Jul 19, 2013

On Reality Asserts Itself, Paul Jay asks Chris Hedges if the American Left bears responsibility for the weakness of the mass movement; Hedges says the gravest mistake of the left is not articulating a viable vision of socialism.

Pt 4 of 7


The Real News


And with the wealth given to us as Americans, we could have eradicated poverty. We could have created a country that was much different than what we have created. And what’s happening now is that we are being rapidly reconfigured into a kind of neo-feudal society, an oligarchic society where increasingly the bottom two-thirds of Americans are hanging on by their fingertips. You have a shrinking, diminishing middle class and an elite that is just making obscene amounts of money at our expense.

And you can’t sustain–first of all, you can’t sustain a democracy in an oligarchy. That’s not a new idea. Thucydides wrote about that about ancient Athens. But secondly, because there are no self-imposed limits–and in this sense Karl Marx was right, that unfettered, unregulated capitalism, especially on a global scale, is a revolutionary force. They will push and push and push until there is a backlash.

And I think part of what we’re seeing with the security and surveillance state is a preparation for that backlash–the destruction of civil liberties, which has been brutal, the wholesale surveillance and monitoring of, you know, virtually every American citizen, which I think many of us suspected and Edward Snowden, through his disclosures to Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian, made, you know, palpably real. The National Defense Authorization Act. And I sued the president in the Southern District Court of New York, and I won. We’re now–the Obama administration has appealed it. But this permits the military to seize, arrest American citizens, strip them of due process, and hold them in military detention centers, including our offshore penal colonies in places like Guantanamo or Bagram. And when Judge Katherine Forrest wrote her 112-page opinion, which I think is worth reading, she actually brings up the plight of the 110,000 Japanese Americans who were interned during World War II and stripped of due process and said that this provision in the NDAA essentially allows the state to criminalize an entire group of people and lock them away without any legal redress. And they know what’s coming. The NSA has run all sorts of scenarios on economic collapse, and especially climate change. And they’re preparing.



Chris Hedges spent two decades as a foreign reporter covering wars in Latin America, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. His latest books are Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, Death of the Liberal Class, and The World as It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress.

from the archives:

Chris Hedges: We Must Grasp Reality to Build Effective Resistance, Part 3

Chris Hedges: Journalism Should Be About Truth, Not Career, Part 2

Chris Hedges: Urban Poverty in America Made Me Question Everything, Part 1

Chris Hedges on NDAA Defeat: It’s a Black Day for Liberty

Locking Out the Voices of Dissent by Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges: It’s Not Our Job To Take Power, It’s Our Job To Fight Power!

Why I Am a Socialist By Chris Hedges

48 thoughts on “Chris Hedges: Make the Power Elite Frightened of Us, Part 4

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  7. And God said, “Think for yourself ’cause I won’t be there with you.”
    …OR was that the Beatles?

    At any rate, I have a third view. That is that ‘government’ is a racket, that it is the ‘nature of the beast’. Those who hope to reform the system, had best comprehend this; it is the system imagined as “government” that is the myth.

    Grok this, or it will be an endless cycle of “meet the new boss – same as the old boss”.

    Oh…so you are afraid of “anarchy”?? Hahahaha…you will always have hierarchical anarchy, until you finally grasp the real thing.


    • Things are the way they are. With experience and perhaps some sadness we eventually have to accept what’s so. But then we must give thanks for our understanding because without it we wouldn’t understand what needs to happen to make things better. Improving on what’s so is hard work and often a thankless job. But that’s what we do… or what some of us do or try to do. I’m not sure why… it just usually seems more important than anything else. We’re all at a different place on our path. I didn’t always feel this way, but now I do. So I can understand why others don’t. Maybe someday they’ll feel like I do and who knows… maybe I’ll feel some other way. This is how it is. One thing I’ve experienced on a person level: God is real and not a myth.

      • Mark,

        I did not say that God is a myth did I. I said that government is a myth.

        Do you then consider government as god, as did Hegel?

        The main body of your reply consists of what seems to be predicated on the presumption that I am not an involved participant in the current Mind Wars taking place on the www. Let me assure you that you would be mistaken.


        • Actually, my comments were not directed at you per se. I was just thinking out loud inspired by your comment. Regarding my comment about God: I was just sharing. Has nothing to do with you or government.

        • Thanks for your clarification Mark,
          Please allow me to share some thoughts on the subject of dissent:

          It is very good to remind what our actual task is as Dissident Critics of the illegitimate state; to provide the logic and perspective to see beyond the veils of statist propaganda. It is our task to detail and reveal the techniques, the MO, the profile of the operendi and operations of the statists and their false-framing of the current paradigm.

          This is the Mind War – sometimes cliche’ in it’s presentations – yet the most crucial battle.

          That battle is speaking Truth, not only to authority, but most importantly those under the enchantment of that authority.

          The Pen is mightier than the Sword. Knowledge is Power. Do not disdain our worth as though it is futile. That is defeatism, a self fulfilling meme of surrender!

          Let us not buy the PR of the behaviorist that we are born a blank slate, and deny that there is an innate knowledge of what it is to be a human being, of what our needs are, of our own goals, desires, and self actualization as individuals. It is no empty proposition nor empty rhetoric when it is said that ,“we find these Truths to be Self-Evident”. But going further, we can say that all Truths are Explicable, and that our reasoning facilities can express them as such.

          Know thyself is the prime directive.


        • Nicely said. I am entirely in alignment with your sentiments. The one thing we can all do is tell the truth as we know it and keep looking for more with as much integrity as we can muster. If there is an answer as to what is our best strategy, that is it.

    • Yes, government as practiced is a racket, Just as there are enforced laws against private racketeers (RICO) we could similarly create comprehensive laws against public corruption, starting of course by getting money entirely out of politics. The only question facing the US is whether we are going to lead the way in this project to perfect democracy, or instead get diverted by journalists like Hedges who want to discuss utopian economic systems that will somehow manifest without political struggle.

      • LK,

        I believe you missed my point; “democracy” is a ‘government’. You cannot “perfect” a racket. It is not “government ‘as practiced’ is a racket”__ it is ‘Government is a Racket’. In other words it comes in the job description.


  8. I think this is a great summary. Clear and concise, despite Chris repeating previously deployed familiar rhetorical statements, it makes a lot of sense. After all, he is talking about book-length social analysis, not easy to condense.

    I’m pleased to hear him quoting Popper, who was an extraordinary intellectual, one of the most challenging minds to read and comprehend deeply.

    No the problem is America. The system is bigoted, twisted and paranoid. The USA is afflicted by a profoundly dysfunctional political psychosis ~ a mighty big chip on its shoulder. Pentagon flash and bravado doesn’t convince anyone with even a modicum of intelligence.

    Americans need to stop showing off, marketing themselves as unique geniuses and get down to the real business of understanding life itself. Is there such a thing as a simple American style that everyone can understand and respect, without all the hoopla and blag? I think Chris pretty well demonstrates that there is.

    • David , Chris needs to repeat himself at the expense of being boring ..until wake the F -up @

  9. To continue my last thought, we no longer can expect to make those in power fear us. There’s no reason why leaders must all come from the power elite. If we can elect wise, honorable, and capable leaders, we will never have the kind of society we all want.

    • I mean fear us by protesting in the streets. The best way to get the ruling elite to fear us is to elect people who share our values. They eventually will stop fearing us when enlightened leadership transforms our society to an enlightened socieity. Why can we strive for a world where all people live in peace under an enlightened rule of law? Roosevelt came very, very, very close to having an enlightened person as Vice President instead of Truman. Had that happened we’d be living in a different reality today. Read Oliver Stones, The Untold History of the United States.

      • Mark , yeah , actually Stone’s book is good . There is a simple way to stop all of this : NONCOOPERATION . Gandhi proved it .

        • Let me reiterate that Oliver Stone in his book, “The Untold History of the United States” we see that time and again Presidents were easily manipulated by their military/security advisors to rely on nuclear weapons to threaten adversaries or otherwise enter conflicts out of fear that if “communism” got a foothold someplace, that many other countries would fall like dominoes into tyranny. Neither was ever true. A educated leader with a solid and enlightened character would not be so easily led by the nose into doing foolish things, but would already have his/her own vision of what kind of education/philosphy/strategy/leadership the world needs to transform the foolishness we continue to embrace into something that might give us a real taste of how peace and brotherhood might be experienced between nations and peoples. Making leaders fear us is not nearly as desirable as having them love us, but they are not going to love us until we learn to love ourselves enough to elected people who have also discovered who we are and how we’re meant to be with one another.

    • I disagree entirely. The system is broke. Ever been elected to office? I have on the very, very local level (Democratic Central Committee for my ward; no campaign; no money necessary, etc) and it didn’t work for me. The same old people were re-elected year after year after year. The Central Committee is connected to the State Party, and the Federal Party.

      During that time, one of our local State Representatives was appointed a judge by the Governor so his seat needed to be replaced and those who were elected on the Central Committee in that district were the ones to appoint his successor. The pressure put upon those committee people from the State Party was tremendous. They got their new man; we had nothing to do but to vote for him. It’s a sham.

      I have since left the Democratic Party, even on the local level.

      Why bother working within a corrupted system? Change the system!

      • I so agree Lo.

        Maybe it will help to do this by prefixing our political system with a Haeckelian “eco” οἶκος = “house.”

        My only concern is that we may not yet have the maturity as a species to interact with the greater ecosystem wisely; but it is a living context within which to embed our conscious, social aspirations. I think a lot about the politics of biodiversity ~ it is not a simple thing to explain easily when we actually know so little about our own biology and its intimate relationship with other species or their, and our, “abiotic” contexts.

  10. Hedges is a great writer and even a very good thinker. But when he says that it’s not important or even desireable that our leaders be people who are wise and of honorable, he’s making a mistake. He makes an offhanded statement that people who are attracted to leadership are weak and incompetent. People who are willing and able to serve as administrators of a democracy do not have to be what he says they are. It’s true that the environment in which officials serve currently invites and encourages the worst that is within us, but that only tells us we need to transform the environment in which we live. It foolish to think that what we should try to do is elect people who do not share our values, rather than those who exude wisdom and integrity, and then spend the next 4 years in the case of the Presidency trying to get that person to do things they don’t believe in and haven’t the wisdom, vision or leadership skills necessary to develop that inspired vision and make it a reality. This makes no sense at all.

    • Mr. Goldman, I would very much like to agree with you, however time and time again this has not been the case, nor can it ever be in the current reality of holding power. As Mr Hedges points out, people attracted to power are at best mediocre.
      If a leader attempts to wrest power from the powerful the leader(s) is demonized or murdered, sometimes both.
      If this were to changed then I will be the first to move over to your belief. If elections worked, if public majority opinion were followed we would have single-payer health care, for instance. We, as a species, no longer have the benefit of naiveté in this sociopolitical context. If we continue to believe change can occur through some miraculous event on election day, or events proceeding election day, then our ecosystem and us are doomed to the disgusting, vial polluted end we experience today.
      Thanks, Lo, for putting this up here…if we could have these discussions on major media we might have a chance at turning around the Pequad, I for one am glad to have this little dingy to slip away on..thanks again.

      • Kevin , it all comes down to the will of the people to push that rock up that hill. is the will there ? or are we the people only concerned about getting our pizzas delivered within half an hour.

      • Some people are not so much attracted to power as they are to making a difference. And some people are qualified and prepared to make that difference. You would think out of 300,000,000 we ought to be able to find 535+ people who have the talent and the character to keep their oath of office and do their jobs in an ethical manner and with better than average ideas and vision for making things better. Of course you won’t get such people into office if the electorate doesn’t care enough to do their homework in order to tell who is likely to be telling the truth and who is not. But why shouldn’t we strive for that instead of mediocrity which is what you get when you have people in office whose first loyalty is not to you but to themselves. It’s not easy to scare people into doing intelligent and honorable things when they are not already trying to do that.

        • Mark, you never responded to my previous comments, and

          The system is broken. Citizens United case sealed the deal a few years ago. Money, and lots of money from corporations choose who is going to be elected.

          Listen to Russ Tice’s interviews, he makes the case that only those people who may be corrupted/compromised will be elected (including judges) because of the domestic spying. See:

          To quote Chris Hedges,

          “But electoral politics is a very minor part of what we have to do. What we really have to do is build mass movements that muck up the system enough that we can begin to interfere with the mechanisms of power. And what I’m talking about are strikes, disruption of public transportation, which we would see in France, for instance, farmers driving their tractors into the middle of Paris. It’s that kind of stuff that we’re going to have to build. And we’re not going to build that any other way than, you know, almost starting all over again.”

        • Well, mucking up the system is not enough. You have to have something… a common vision… of what you want to replace it with. Transformation has to start from within. Look at what’s on TV and in the movies. Look at entertainment… gossip… whatever people seem to be doing with their time… what they think is important. Something important is missing that we haven’t identified yet. I don’t have the answer. I once thought I did. Maybe mucking up the works needs to happen, but somehow I don’t find that inspiring. Where are we going with this…?

        • “Mucking up the system” is only one example of things to do.

          I agree with you about starting with ourselves and have mentioned before on other posts, if we want peace in the world, we must start by being peaceful. That means our family and friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc. Reconciliation and forgiveness to all. Love is contagious.

          Turn off the TV and radio forever!

          Read David’s comment:

        • Here’s what I am thinking. We all need to upgrade our integrity. The NSA, have destroyed the integrity of the internet and our communications systems. It is wrong for us to accept this. My recommendation is that every citizen should from this point forward refrain from purchasing any additional hardware or software from any company. All of the companies that we use have betrayed us. Apple has many of billions of dollars in their coffers and yet they don’t have enough patriotism to spend some of that money to hire lawyers to challenge the legality of providing any access to our day. We don’t know which companies have provided the NSA with back door access to our computers and phone. I feel sort of sick now every time I get a message from a software company that wants me to update their program because I don’t know if they are only updating the NSA’s ability to hack my computer. I don’t trust any of them. Microsoft, Google, and all the rest. All of them have betrayed us. Where are all the Snowdens in the country who know how to read the Constitution. Why are we accepting this treason. I say, take this message that I am writing and expand on it and send it to everyone you know and ask them not to buy anything else from any company that could possibly be part of our communications systems. That is the least we can and should do. It not I who am asking you to muck of the system; it is our government who has mucked up the system and if we have any courage or sense left, we will not pay these treasonous people to perfect the NSA’s ability to cheat us of our rights and freedoms.

        • My computer seems to be under attack. I don’t if I will be able to continue to be online. I don’t know why some of my words are missing from what I wrote. I think you can get my message. Start something. Are we just going to accept this treason? Do we not have enough guts to at least without our support of these companies who are managed by people who care more about their sales than our freedoms?

        • A successful boycott must be organized nationally/worldwide. I already don’t buy any of these products other than having an Internet connection and a cell phone.

          It’s more complicated than what you described. Look on Wired for articles on different programs to use to block the spying.

          Definitely recommend using DoNotTrackMe:

          And of course, AdBlock: available on Firefox and Chrome.

          Use for searches or (Secure Google Search)

          Don’t put personal info on your Facebook profile or other social networking sites.

        • A boycott doesn’t have to organized. It only has to be started. Anyone who agrees with me can simply join and/or share what they are doing. If people don’t care enough to have their say, then that’s your answer to where were headed. Every person has to make their own choices in life as to how to respond to the lies and disloyalty of those who would steal or cheat us out of our God given rights and freedoms.

        • To be effective, a boycott must have national or at least regional (depending on what the boycott is about) attention.

          I’ve been personally boycotting many different things, such as fast food, items made in China and other countries, meat, etc. I don’t buy much of anything other than food. However, it hasn’t made a dent in sales for fast food, meat, etc.

          Read up on boycotts.

          This doesn’t mean that you are wrong to avoid buying products made by computer companies, etc. We all should take care in what we spend our dollars on.

    • Yes again. But we need to transform the role of representative from being a leader to being a delegate of the people who does what the people tell them to do by using digital democracy tools. If they fail, they get ejected from office and the new hire is tested according to the same principle until someone shows up that understands the role of delegate.
      For a more detailed description see

      It is blind and uncreative to give up on voting, as Hedges does. The task is to change how the vote is used.

      • What about gerrymandering? What about pockets of either progressives or conservatives in one voting district? Will they ever have representation?

        Look at some of the election results in any particular election for any particular voting district and you will find some very close races, 49 to 51%, etc. That’s almost half of the population not having representation.

        Voting is not the answer to positive changes in our society. Social movements are, though.

        • I really agree with you Lo on this. The more the better, from guerrilla gardening to green builders, from home midwifes to natural burials. Social movements are the thing, especially if they are reverting the inverted corporate logic, helping to turn the urban deserts back into food jungles for example, restoring a sense of human capability, self-determination and dignity.

          One thing we may all be missing here, is the idea that far more people may be more switched on than we realize for one simple reason ~ when a lot of people start to think for themselves, social movements may appear to dwindle; whereas what is really happening is that they are diversifying exponentially, but as yet uncoordinated, only experimental, tentative, informally heuristic and aspirational.

          What we need more than anything is to communicate! to network, to just talk to each other, and learn from each other. You don’t need elaborate apps or attend a TED event to say “hi ~ guess what?” let’s share some experience. Have your own TED moment on a bus.

      • LK,

        But who is this ephemeral “We”?

        In my experience so-called “consensus” is as transient as the currents of a river, a mythical concept based on internal metaphor that are illusory and temporary.


      • LK — caveat –provided that there is electoral reform across the board –fair debates , and get rid of that damn electoral college.

    • Mark , back to the top of the page: dittos on faith in God . if for no other reason that it would spread enough so that human beings would stop thinking and acting like the terrible gods that they are. a little humility can go a long way .

  11. We, the middle class, are reaching the point where it doesn’t matter if one is ‘left’, ‘centre’, or right. We are being taken to the slaughter house, and like sheeples, are accepting our fate with little, if any, resistance.

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