Chris Hedges believes that we face a dark future. What awaits us is an era of upheaval:
The planet we have assaulted will convulse with fury. The senseless greed of limitless capitalist expansion will implode the global economy. The decimation of civil liberties, carried out in the name of fighting terror, will shackle us to an interconnected security and surveillance state that stretches from Moscow to Istanbul to New York.
There is every reason to despair. But, he writes, what has saved us in the past is our power to imagine a better future:
It was the human imagination that sustained Sitting Bull and Black Elk as their land was seized and their cultures were broken. And it was the human imagination that allowed the survivors in the Nazi death camps to retain the power of the sacred.
It is the imagination that makes possible transcendence. Chants, work songs, spirituals, the blues, poetry, dance and art converged under slavery to nourish and sustain this imagination. These were the forces that, as Ralph Ellison wrote, “we had in place of freedom.” The oppressed would be the first—for they know their fate—to admit that on a rational level such a notion is absurd, but they also know that it is only through the imagination that they survive. Jewish inmates in Auschwitz reportedly put God on trial for the Holocaust and then condemned God to death. A rabbi stood after the verdict to lead the evening prayers.
At first blush it all sounds rather silly -- a flight into fancy in the face of disaster. But Hedges is serious; and, theologian that he truly is, he turns to Reinhold Neibur to make his point:
Niebuhr wrote that “nothing but madness will do battle with malignant power and ‘spiritual wickedness in high places.’ ” This sublime madness, as Niebuhr understood, is dangerous, but it is vital. Without it, “truth is obscured.” And Niebuhr also knew that traditional liberalism was a useless force in moments of extremity. Liberalism, Niebuhr said, “lacks the spirit of enthusiasm, not to say fanaticism, which is so necessary to move the world out of its beaten tracks. It is too intellectual and too little emotional to be an efficient force in history.”
It is in the imagination that there is salvation:
It is only those who can retreat into the imagination, and through their imagination can minister to the suffering of those around them, who uncover the physical and psychological strength to resist.
Hedges is not preaching a turn the other cheek theology. His creed drove Christ to throw the money changers out of the temple. Like Christ, Hedges does not preach violence. But he does preach resistance -- because, in the end, our only option is to resist.
And that means that the power brokers will claim that we are sublimely mad.