on February 4, 2012
I was very angry and depressed by the time I finished this book but nor could I put it down as Hedges has a very compelling message for all as he destroys "the myth of human progress." We humankind are like children incapable of controlling our urges as we lapse back ignoring the lessons of the twentieth century indulging ourselves in greed, corruption, the rape of the planet, wanton militarism and a total disregard for human life.
At a time in history,"the information age" when we have the hindsight and forsight to avoid pitfalls of the past we are retreating into a world of degeneracy.
The book is a collection of essays written over a number of years. Hedges writes compellingly with the authority of his vast world experience and his razor sharp insights.
Hedges makes his readers uncomfortable as we must confront ourslves in his writings, at the same time he has a message, raising issues we must confront with great urgency as our political elites betray us.
At the beginning of "The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress," Chris Hedges suggests that he is no longer really a journalist — now, he’s more of a minister, trying to lead his flock down the paths of righteousness. It’s in this spirit that Hedges, a Harvard divinity grad before he gave up organized religion, titles one of his essays “War Is Sin.”
Hedges’s tone is a mixture of anguish and anger, and his acerbic prose takes no prisoners. His style may be unattractive, even unsettling, but I can find no fault with his main arguments. His is a voice of truth in a wilderness of spin, and I wish that it weren’t so.
Here’s his assessment of Barack Obama, the candidate of change who became the president of the status quo:
"The American empire has not altered under Barack Obama. It kills as brutally and indiscriminately ... It steals from the U.S. Treasury to enrich the corporate elite as rapaciously. It will not give us universal health care, abolish the Bush secrecy laws, end torture or “extraordinary rendition,” restore habeas corpus, or halt the warrantless wiretapping and monitoring of citizens. It will not push through significant environmental reform, regulate Wall Street, or end our relationship with private contractors that provide mercenary armies to fight our imperial wars and produce useless and costly weapons systems."
It’s hard to disagree with this appraisal, and Obama is just one of the targets in Hedges’s sights. Obama doesn’t get anything close to the most space in the book — that “honour” is reserved for the government of Israel and its oppression of the Arab peoples of Palestine.
Hedges calls himself a socialist, a term that has quickly become almost quaint, tinged with a flavour of musty and archaic rationalism. He writes that “we must articulate and stand behind a viable and uncompromising socialism, one that is firmly and unequivocally on the side of working men and women.”
Hedges is a journalist, and it’s in this context that he blasts the mainstream media for retreating from their moral responsibility to tell the truth into their present stance as “recorders” of scripted and spun events. Hedges expresses his disdain for the bankrupt “objectivity” ethic of the press with a vehemence that is typical of his prose: “The tragedy is that the moral void of the news business contributed as much to its own annihilation as the protofascists who feed on its carcass.”
"The corporate forces that destroyed the country wil use the information systems they control to mask their culpability. The old game of blaming the weak and the marginal, a staple of despotic regimes, will empower the dark undercurrents of sadism and violence in American society and deflect attention from the corporate vampires who have drained the blood of the country."
In an echo of his previous book "The Death of the Liberal Class," Hedges describes liberals, and specifically the Democratic Party which is their political home, as a spent force that “prefers comfort to confrontation. ”
Hedges writes: “It will not challenge the decaying structures of the corporate state. It is intolerant within its ranks of those who do. It clings pathetically to the carcass of the Obama presidency. It has been exposed as a dead force in American politics.”
What, if anything, can be done? Hedges is not hopeful, but he is clear about the nature of the solution:
"If the hegemony of the corporate state is not soon broken, we will descend into a technologically enhanced age of barbarism."
Hedges cites Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, in Hedges’s version of the typical postcolonialist indictment of the Enlightenment. This is a most appropriate citation, for in The World As It Is, it is very clear that Chris Hedges, for one, has seen “the horror.”
The horror for Hedges is the reality of war. That he has been changed, and forever scarred, by his years as a war correspondent is clear in his scorn for the official memorials to the honoured dead:
"War memorials and museums are temples to the god of war. The hushed voices, the well-tended grass, the flapping of the flags allow us to ignore how and why our young died. They hide the futility and waste of war. "
Hedges’s compulsion to cut through the glorification and the censorship and instead to write the truth keeps him writing.
He may have little hope for himself, as the rage and bitterness with which he writes make clear, yet, as he says in the dedication, he must seek the solutions to our problems, for it is his three children “whose joy and laughter save me from despair and for whom I must always hope.”
If you ever thought that the USA was actively covering up a long-standing series of atrocious acts all in the name of 'patriotism', you were right. If you ever feared that the lessons you learned in school were tainted with a high degree of propaganda, you were also correct. And, lastly, if you suspect that the country in which you live is now on an abrupt downhill slide, these suspicions are also true.
Chris Hedges, through a compilation of articles and essays taken from his truthdig website relates to us a text that is both compelling in its depth and frightening in its scope. The United States of America is not, nor has been, the country in which we have placed our trust and compassion. Instead, it is a country that fully embraces the concept of imperialism and hegemony, and one that places power, and its companion corruption, above reasonable humanistic standards. Its sister state, namely Israel, is equally as deceiving and militaristic with its actions and attitudes towards its Islamic neighbors. No amount of banner waving, allegiance pledging nor Independence Day celebrations can remove, or even lessen, the negative impact that both countries have had on the present day world. The sole purpose of both countries over the past thirty years has been one of world domination and control. But, just as the credit card bill eventually comes in the mail, the monetary payment for such long standing actions is well past due. And we, quite frankly, cannot afford to make the minimum payment. We have, long ago, 'robbed Peter to pay Paul' and/or simply stolen from our domestic funding until we are now both penniless and desolate.
Wake up America, the corporatists during the Reagan era bought out the the ruling majority of the politicians! These same politicians, over the ensuing decades, have taken our armed services into countries for no other purpose than to abscond and pillage other nation's resources. We had been fed a series of lies and partial truths, whether it was Iraqi WMDs, women's rights in Afghanistan or the pursuit of terrorists in Pakistan, the goal was always the same; establish dominance in the area in question, pilfer their resources and allow the corporations to extract massive profits all under the guises of 'national interests'. This is not how the long-standing saga of the United States should end, but it will end this was in spite of its original intentions of becoming a 'beacon on a hill'.
Like a fine wine this book is meant to be ingested in small sips and not huge gulps. Savor each concept and idea for a while before moving on to the next essay. Enjoy!