Read Hedge's latest essay on the fallen state of American liberalism and you might quickly conclude that something has gone terribly awry in this movement over the past few decades. While at times bordering on a political rant against weak-kneed liberals who have caved into the demands of the conservative establishment, "Death of the Liberal Class" tells a very captivating and complex tale about a force that continues to shape the very backbone of modern society. For Hedges, one of America's leading liberal intellectuals, liberalism has always been about defending the rights of individual to contribute to the greater good of society. Without that purpose or goal being worked out in the lives of individuals in a community, we become non-entities subject to all manner of cruel tyrannies. This book takes the reader through a maze of social and political developments where the forces of liberalism have surrendered the field in the interests of big business, big government, and the easy life. Repeatedly, Hedges stresses that academia, the press, the legal profession and political activists, as a liberal-thinking class, have failed to protect that which has made this country traditionally strong: its preservation of individual liberties. Instead, a false life, as seen in the corporate label, mass consumerism, and the prosecution of war, has emerged where the individual is enslaved to forces well beyond his or her control. This sad state of affairs, Hedges would have us believe, is the direct result of a liberal class refusing to stand up for honesty in government, accuracy in business, and integrity in the arts. To support his argument, Hedges rolls out a lot of evidence from America's recent past that show that liberalism was once a dynamic force for change. The socialist influence in the performing arts coming out of Provincetown in the thirties, the anti-war movement of the sixties, and Nader's crusade for greater consumer protection in the seventies are just a few of the efforts to rally the forces of liberalism against the powers of cultural barbarism. While I am somewhat sympathetic with Hedges' version of history, I tend to be a lot less pessimistic about its outcomes. History contains many forces and counter-forces that guide us into an uncertain future, and liberalism just happens to be a key one that, like its opponent conservatism, tends to morph over time. Its advocates come and go but the force for individual rights and freedoms still plods on. What Hedges might be guilty of in this study is his inability to come to grips with how liberalism is playing out now in the many underground, avant-garde movements democratically springing up all over the country in defence of individual expression. As a balanced thinker, I tend to see the forces of liberal understanding still playing out in all my conservative attitudes. While I accept war as an inconvenient reality of life, I still applaud those who protest its very existence. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to examine where they stand in the great debate on the future of liberalism as a political and moral creed. Hedges is a very passionate and plainspoken writer who can easily draw you into the thick of the discussion as to where you morally stand on critical issues such as this.
Like the proverbial frog that finds himself in the pot of ever hotter water, we, too, have become oblivious to the increase in decadence and corruption in our daily lives. The decrease in the compassion for all others, the ever increasing gross materialism, the spread of narcissism throughout our culture and the holding on to the misnomer of "American exceptionalism" has engulfed us without us even being aware of the change.
In a style of reporting that even Howard Zinn would approve of, Chris Hedges clearly lays out the road map of where we, as a passionate country, began and where we are now; a nation that looks down on the less fortunate as being less than human, a nation that treasures the 'sacred' words of Limbaugh and Beck, a nation that professes its Christianity in every poll but behave as if the Crusades have never ended, a nation that has taken the concept of freedom of speech and stretched it into the prevalence of hate speech, a country that feels that the 2nd amendment was meant to arm the Conservatives against the Liberals, and, finally, a country that answers the question of "Am I my brother's keeper?" with a resounding "NO!".
While some may view the author's determination as being caused by a 'sour grapes' attitude developed towards the New York Times, I do not. I see this book as a last ditch plea for the American public to come to attention, become informed and to begin to take action against the past three decades of corporate take-overs. For as the author states, if we do not do so very quickly as a country, all we have left to do is to simply and selfishly save ourselves from the morass that envelopes the country.
on March 6, 2011
Brave for having the courage to clearly state facts and opinions most are fearful of addressing.
Fantastic for it's ability to make one critically consider our current societal situation.
Dreadful in the picture it paints of a citizenry sleepwalking into diasater.
Well written brutal honesty, this is one of the best books I've read in quite some time.
Anyone who feels there's something wrong in America today; whether that be economically, politically or socially would be well served by this scathing critique of today's corporate control of our institutions, and the lack of effective resistance against it....scary stuff!
If a good book makes you think, then mission accomplished.