I have been reading the columns of Rev. Christopher Hedges for more than a decade. The photo at right has been in use on Common Dreams for at least that long, so he has aged some since it was taken.
In November 2015, I had the good fortunate of attending the Peacemaker Awards banquet at which he was honored. Before the banquet began, I had the honor of standing in the same men's room with him.
Here are some recent columns that Hedges published on Truthdig, which were then reposted on Common Dreams: "A Last Chance for Resistance" and "The Dance of Death." According to our man Chris, we are watching the death spiral of Late Capitalism, of which the election of the Tangerine Nightmare is but the most obvious symptom.
In a segment on last week's Redacted Tonight VIP, Lee Camp quotes large chunks of "The Dance of Death" to illustrate just how capitalism doesn't care what or whom it destroys as long as the obscenely wealthy get obscenely wealthier. As I have noted in a previous entry, when capitalists and their political puppets say stuff like "for the good of the nation's economy," we should translate that as "for the good of my investment portfolio." This is certainly not the first time Camp has taken paragraphs from Hedges and run with them. Camp appears to admire Hedges even more than I do.
UPDATE: Here's a video with a recent speech from Hedges in Vancouver BC.
While I have yet to purchase or read one of Hedges's books, I likely will purchase a copy of his latest in the near future. Reading an entire book of his will be an act of courage and determination: It's difficult enough sometimes to get through one of his column-length pieces without feeling compelled to open a vein, out of sheer revulsion at one's fellow humans.
Courage and determination are hallmarks of Hedges's Pulitzer prize–winning career. Sure, he has reported from war zones and tossed hardball questions at infamous dictators. But just as importantly, he has stood courageously in opposition to the US political establishment, calling out both major parties for their lethal policies. He has also vociferously supported Jill Stein and the Green Party (although not declaring himself an active Green) in the face of Democratic partisan gaslighting.
I'll state here and now, and not for the first time, that Hedges is a prophet in the Biblical sense. Isaiah. Ezekiel. Malachi. Chris.
The True Nature of Prophecy
We modern North Americans tend to take an irritatingly superficial view of prophets and prophecy: "Oh, you're a prophet? You can predict the future? Can you pick some stocks for me, or maybe next year's Super Bowl winner?" It usually doesn't work that way. (We also tend to conflate the noun prophecy with the verb prophesy, but that's a subject for another blog entry.)
There are some theories that we have brain cells dedicated to directional orientation in all four dimensions: up-down, left-right, forward-backward, past-future. Does this mean that some humans have slightly enhanced access to those cells, providing vision of what lies in the future, like Cassandra of Troy or P.M.H. Atwater? It hasn't been conclusively disproven.
But prophecy does not require such abnormal abilities. Mostly, it requires a keen sense of history, and with it the ability to calculate the trajectory of the past through the present. Most of their predictions should include the implied premise, "If things continue as they are..." so they don't come true when someone, whether heeding the prophecy or unaware of it, does something to change that trajectory.
Hedges is certainly not the only writer dabbling in futurism of this sort. But among those whose work I have read, I find him the most consistently compelling. Perhaps it's because I have shared his dark vision since before I discovered him.
Prophets can be annoying, always railing against conventional "wisdom" and societies blind to their folly. They don't predict everything with 100% accuracy, and they tend to speak in hazy metaphors, so people might assume that these prophets suffer from mental illness. Brian May certainly understood the proximity of wisdom and madness when he wrote "The Prophet's Song" from Queen's A Night at the Opera. Sometimes, while reading Hedges, I hear multiple Freddie Mercurys in my head singing "The earth will shake, in two will break...Death all around and round and round and round."
Rejoice, Quiver in Fright, or Just Accept It?
If Hedges has concluded from his knowledge of history that Western capitalism is in its violent death throes, and if his prophecies are correct, how are anti-capitalists to feel in response? Celebrating and romanticizing the prospect of the end of capitalism is easy. But getting there will be horribly messy and not much fun. A large amount of shit will hit a large number of fans. Millions of capitalism's victims will die in the process, likely at a faster rate than currently. You, your family, your friends, and your acquaintances around the world may be among those who die. There will be more death from starvation, dehydration, preventable diseases, extreme weather, drone attacks, suicide bombs, gun- and knife-wielding mobs, torture by government agencies and paramilitary groups.
So get happy, but be very afraid...or just accept that, unless capitalism comes to its senses and surrenders, humanity's fate in the coming decades is not pretty. (See also Naomi Klein's This Changes Everything.)
Absent that surrender, when capitalism finally kicks the bucket, there is no guarantee that something even worse won't take its place. Pleasant as it may be to assume that a people-and-planet-centered economy will win out, we cannot be certain of that outcome. Even if Flower Power wins, it may still have to deal with a pro-capitalist backlash the way the Bolsheviks had to put down the White Rebellion after 1918 (i.e., quite violently).
This is why Hedges himself takes no great joy in foreseeing the demise of capitalism. Before Isaiah's vision of swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks comes to life, we'll be treated to some scenes that make the Book of Revelation look like Goodnight, Moon.
Blogging Sporadically since 2014
Here you will find political campaign-related entries, as well as some about my literature, Houston underground arts, peace & justice, urban cycling, soccer, alt-religion, and other topics.