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In Depth with Author and Journalist Chris Hedges
In-Depth, C-Span

On Book TV’s In Depth, author and journalist, Chris Hedges. The Pulitzer Prize winning foreign correspondent spends three hours taking viewers’ calls, emails and tweets on topics such as terrorism, religion and politics.

The National Book Critics Circle Award nominee has a Masters degree in Divinity and is the author of nine books. His works include, “War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning,” “Empire of Illusion,” and his latest release “The World As It Is.”

Video at C-Span
(1 January 2012)
L-o-n-g video, about 3 hours (I’ve only watched about an hour). Recommended by several people. I’ve been reading Hedges for several years. Some things have been very good (such as this piece on Occupy), others have been more rhetorical than substantial. However, with Occupy, things have seem to have come together for him, and he is becoming our best spokesperson for the U.S. socialist tradition. In this video, he describes some of the experiences that formed him (such as his studying for the ministry at Harvard, his work in a black ghetto, his stint at an Arabic-speaking NY Times correspondent in the Middle East.

Vengeance vs Forgiveness: This Eternal Struggle

Clancy Sigal, Guardian/UK
At the close of the year, I am sometimes moved to forgive my enemies. But could I manage it – even if they were penitent?

Forgive your enemies, but first get even.
– James Cagney, in Blood on the Sun

Around Christmas and Chanukah, to mark a new year, although agnostic, I am sometimes attacked by a sappy urge to forgive my living enemies, while adding up those people who have favored me with friendship. But there’s a snag. The bad angel of revenge often beats my good angel of forgiveness.

In my boyhood Chicago, street feuds were more our style on 16th Street. A small example: in grade school, I was bullied by a boy my age, “Melvin”. When I couldn’t take it any longer, I shoved him down a flight of school stairs where he broke his leg. Result: bullying finito. Years later, researching a class reunion, I phoned him in San Diego, where, as soon as he heard my name, he angrily slammed the phone down with a curse. Ah, bliss: he remembered!

More seriously, in the 1960s, in London’s Notting Hill, I was gang-mugged and almost killed by a bunch of guys whom I’d thought of as friends.
(31 December 2011)

Taking a hike

Guy R. McPherson, Nature Bats Last
I’ve long accepted the words of Hunter S. Thompson in The Proud Highway: “We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and — in spite of True Romance magazines — we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely — at least, not all the time — but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.”

I appreciate Gonzo’s anthropocentric perspective on humanity, but he was late to the party of loneliness. Early American conservationist and philosopher Aldo Leopold pointed out in his final book (published in 1949, after Leopold’s untimely death), “One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds.”

A world of wounds because an ecologist can see what we’re doing to the living planet. Alone because so few people give a damn. Awakening to life means awakening to all parts of life, including the realization and acceptance of our own mortality. But dying pales in comparison to the insults we are visiting on Earth.

… If I seem morose, it’s because I’m growing tired of my tireless crusade. I suspect regular readers are, too. As much as I’ve tried to infuse humor and optimism into my writing, the news is no longer so damned funny or optimistic.

Although I’ve rarely looked to others for my own happiness, I’ve equally rarely looked to others for consolation or support. But it’s time for me to step away and trust others to take on the impossible tasks we face. I’m inviting others to take up the torch as I assume a role that is more witness than warrior.

I’m not dead yet, but I need to breathe. I’ve been trying to be everything possible to everybody, and it’s not working. Not for me, not for the people I know, and certainly not for the living planet. My optimism about our ability to save the living planet and thus habitat for humans on Earth is waning, and no wonder. Consider this article, which echoes my thoughts and writings from the last decade: “Abrupt climate change will feel like a comet impacting earth. We’re going to discover a different planet. Another earth. One we won’t like anymore. One not worth living on.” And, as usual, climate-change models underestimate the damage we’re doing. Or consider this list of the doom we brought to Earth in the last year alone, which illustrates how profoundly screwed we are and, simultaneously, how little the citizens of this country care what we’ve done and what we’re doing.

I invite others to step forward, particularly from generations other than mine. My generation has put our entire species behind the biggest 8-Ball in history. Even if future generations — few though they may be — fail catastrophically, they’ll still do a better job than we did. How could they not? After all, my generation has failed, and it continues to fail to a degree not previously dreamed possible in planetary history. We fucked the future without offering so much as a kiss.

I’ll continue to post now and then, notably when I’m particularly irritated or ecstatic, or when I’m scheduled to deliver a presentation. I’ll continue to speak to anybody who’ll listen and a lot of people who won’t, as long as a venue is available. And I’ll gladly entertain guest essays, especially from people younger or more hopeful than me. My days of writing frequently for this space are nearing an end, in part because I’ve little left to say on the central issues we face. What I have left to say comes from my heart, not my data-addled brain, as can be detected in my recent writing. I’ll still contribute a data-driven monthly column for Transition Voice (this month’s piece is here).
(4 January 2012)

Fascist America? Not Exactly

Paul Street, ZNet
Imagine if the United States really was, as a number of my fellow leftists claim to think, “a fascist state.”[1] To fit the description, it wouldn’t be enough for the U.S. to be plagued by:

  • the fierce co-joining of state and corporate/financial power

  • the persistence and deepening of harsh racial inequality and oppression
  • stark class disparity (in a country where the top 1 percent owns more than a third of the wealth and the top 20 percent owns 84 percent) producing grotesque hyper-opulence for the rich and powerful Few alongside deep poverty for tens of millions among of the Many
  • a viciously narrow one-and-a-half party system whose two wings are equally captive to “the unelected dictatorship of money”
  • a largely defeated and pathetically tamed labor movement

… All of these things and more of a terrible and authoritarian nature can be discerned by those willing to see in the contemporary U.S. They are largely consistent with the notion of a “fascist America.” It’s not for nothing that many contemporary Hitler-worshipping European fascists look with favor upon the U.S. as a kind of role model.

Still, there would have to be more for the U.S. to fit the description “fascist state.” To be really fascist, the U.S. would have to be under the thrall of a charismatic dictator who had undertaken a conscious, explicit, and rapid assault on nominally democratic bourgeois-electoralist and representative institutions. That dictator would be supported by a highly mobilized mass of millions of dedicated, proto-militarized, and everyday (largely lower middle class/petit-bourgeois) authoritarians ready to do his bidding at home and abroad. This marching fascist multitude would seek to honor the sanctified Nation State (fatherland) by physically assaulting liberals, radicals, trade unionists, racial minorities, gays and lesbians, libraries, universities, civil society groups, and all political parties other than the ruling regime’s.

In a fascist America, the Occupy Movement would have been lucky to have lasted one night in a single city park before Fuhrer (let’s say) Beck’s minions would have run protestors off with broken bones and worse, herding many into buses and trains to be sent to work camps. There Occupiers would toil under armed guard alongside mostly black prisoners in the making of war materials.
(3 January 2012)
Long essay that puts the political situation into perspective. -BA