Tuesday, May 02, 2017

It's Getting Harder To Hope



Chris Hedges believes that, when a civilization crumbles, the idiots assume positions of responsibility. He writes:

The idiots take over in the final days of crumbling civilizations. Idiot generals wage endless, unwinnable wars that bankrupt the nation. Idiot economists call for reducing taxes for the rich and cutting social service programs for the poor, and project economic growth on the basis of myth. Idiot industrialists poison the water, the soil and the air, slash jobs and depress wages. Idiot bankers gamble on self-created financial bubbles and impose crippling debt peonage on the citizens. Idiot journalists and public intellectuals pretend despotism is democracy. Idiot intelligence operatives orchestrate the overthrow of foreign governments to create lawless enclaves that give rise to enraged fanatics. Idiot professors, “experts” and “specialists” busy themselves with unintelligible jargon and arcane theory that buttresses the policies of the rulers. Idiot entertainers and producers create lurid spectacles of sex, gore and fantasy.  

It has happened many times before:

The Roman, Mayan, French, Habsburg, Ottoman, Romanov, Wilhelmine, Pahlavi and Soviet dynasties crumbled because the whims and obsessions of ruling idiots were law.

And, these days, it's happening in the United States:

Donald Trump is the face of our collective idiocy. He is what lies behind the mask of our professed civility and rationality—a sputtering, narcissistic, bloodthirsty megalomaniac. He wields armies and fleets against the wretched of the earth, blithely ignores the catastrophic human misery caused by global warming, pillages on behalf of global oligarchs and at night sits slack-jawed in front of a television set before opening his “beautiful” Twitter account. He is our version of the Roman emperor Nero, who allocated vast state expenditures to attain magical powers, the Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang, who funded repeated expeditions to a mythical island of immortals to bring back the potion that would give him eternal life, and a decayed Russian royalty that sat around reading tarot cards and attending séances as their nation was decimated by war and revolution brewed in the streets.  

For Hedges, Trump represents the climax of a tragedy:

This moment in history marks the end of a long, sad tale of greed and murder by the white races. It is inevitable that for the final show we vomited a grotesque figure like Trump. Europeans and Americans have spent five centuries conquering, plundering, exploiting and polluting the earth in the name of human progress. They used their technological superiority to create the most efficient killing machines on the planet, directed against anyone and anything, especially indigenous cultures, that stood in their way. They stole and hoarded the planet’s wealth and resources. They believed that this orgy of blood and gold would never end, and they still believe it. They do not understand that the dark ethic of ceaseless capitalist and imperialist expansion is dooming the exploiters as well as the exploited. But even as we stand on the cusp of extinction we lack the intelligence and imagination to break free from our evolutionary past. 

I keep hoping that Hedges is wrong -- that we can find the courage and wisdom to rise above our darker angels. But it's getting harder to hope.

Image: Fairfax Underground

26 comments:

Steve said...

Fortunately the USA is not the world. A million or maybe more spiders can take down the elephant. Canada under Trudeau is a good spider.

Lorne said...

I have to agree with Hedges that the situation is dire and bleak, Owen. Of late I have been forced to conclude that there will be no turning back from the precipice, that the dark forces unleashed by our heedlessness are leading us to our inevitable fall. A shame really, especially when I see on the news almost every night stories of personal bravery and compassion where people put their own comfort, safety and well-being on the line to help or rescue another in distress or peril. I see in those stories the narrative of what we could have been as a species.

liberalandlovingit! said...

Hope is audacious, Owen. I believe in getting 'all up in people's faces' with it.
Make them confront it. Do they want it or not?
Criticism and mockery, while they have a place, don't do the trick.
Conscientiously objecting and forcefully moving ahead do. Press on.
It's a choice. A God-given choice.
Hope abounds (when you have a game-plan).

Owen Gray said...

We'll have to see how Trudeau deals with Trump and NAFTA, Steve. Those negotiations won't be easy.

Owen Gray said...

The problem, Lorne, is that the solutions we can accomplish individually seem to allude us collectively.

Owen Gray said...

You're echoing Tennyson, lovingit: "Tis not too late to seek a newer world."

liberalandlovingit! said...

Thanks for that, Owen. I've heard of him but haven't yet taken the time to read him.
I get a lot from Burns.

Did I not have something equally as awesome in the pipe, LOL, regarding NJ and Hedges?
He is an ordained minister, right?

Owen Gray said...

As I recall, lovingit, he graduated from Harvard Divinity School.

Deacon Jester said...

All over western civilization (which remains nought but a good idea) the better angels of our natures (mythical characters brought forth by war) are struggling mightily to survive let alone be heard over the loveless clanging cymbals and strident, blaring Trumpets of this neo-gothic age.

The best we can hope for is a literate ending.

Owen Gray said...

Literacy and clear thought are supposed to go together, Deacon. I'm not sure that's true any more.

Anonymous said...

Hedges is pushing it a bit, claiming the election of Trump is the climax of a tragedy. It may be a turning point, but not a tragedy - not yet, anyway. However, Hedges rang the warning bell very loudly, as it should be. What happens from now on, while there is time to react to the warning, is as much up to us as it is to the Americans, beginning right here at our home. "It ain't over until it's over", as a famous American (was it Donald Trump?) once said.
There is always room for optimism; in fact, optimism is always necessary - and I think that may have been Mr. Berra's main point, not simply that "anything" might happen!

MD

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Lorne, what you see in these brave individuals isn't "what we could have been" so much as the vestiges of what we once had been. We've been reduced, transformed, conditioned into a people our grandparents would have difficulty understanding. Toddlers given iPads as electronic babysitters, a formative variety of solitary confinement. Teens who roam the halls of shopping malls looking down, focused on their smartphones for text messages that can convey such a weak substitute for human contact and interaction. Through means such as this we're shifted from a knowledge and fact based society into something much more retrograde and malleable, a belief and emotion based society and, hence, into the corral. We have not realized that Neoliberalism Avenue is a dead end street. The only way out is to go back and the longer we're here, the weaker and more hapless we become and so the journey back out eventually becomes beyond our abilities.

Owen Gray said...

I sincerely hope that optimism is justified, MD. Lately the meme seems to be -- as Yogi said -- "Deja vu all over again."

Deacon Jester said...

Here's the light switch:

http://www.rawstory.com/2017/05/this-61-year-old-woman-faces-jail-time-for-laughing-at-trumps-attorney-general-jeff-sessions/

Steve said...

Trump makes GWB look presidential. We can only hope the men in black get back.

Owen Gray said...

You'd think that everyone would laugh at patent absurdity, Deacon. But, apparently, the Attorney General has his supporters.

Toby said...

Owen, what I like about sites such as yours is that most of those who post here use sentences with subjects, verbs, punctuation, etc. This isn't some fetish about grammar; it's about communicating as clearly as possible which is difficult when using a medium as diffuse as the Internet. The contrary is what Mound described in his post above, people who are functionally illiterate.

Humanity has barely come to terms with the effects of television. The digital revolution is turning people into zombies, unable to read a book, unable to discuss and unable to write coherently. They are unfamiliar with logical fallacies and thus prey for any and all cons. At a time with crushing problems bearing down on us all most can do is tweet.

Owen Gray said...

That includes the President of the United States, Toby.

Deacon Jester said...

"A Sandy Hook father said his experience with online “hoaxers” and conspiracy theorists has led him to believe humanity wasn’t ready for the internet when it arrived — and now it’s too late to repair the damage."

http://www.rawstory.com/2017/05/sandy-hook-dad-the-internet-unleashed-mass-delusion-and-now-it-reaches-all-the-way-to-the-white-house/

Owen Gray said...

Edward R. Murrow said that television could accomplish great things, Deacon. He did not have the Jerry Springer Show in mind. The same comment applies to the internet.

zoombats, Hong Kong said...

It's too late!

https://youtu.be/7aItpjF5vXc

Owen Gray said...

On some days it certainly feels that way, zoombats.

liberalandlovingit! said...

..."especially Indigenous cultures"...
Hope makes me thankful for sincere apologies, truth and reconciliation, and most of all for reparations to those who were stolen from- including the many people kidnapped and human-trafficked for the purposes of enslavement. All throughout history we see this. And to me, any effort to make things right is a step in the right direction. The longest journey begins with the first step, and many times- for me- hope is simply putting one foot in front of the other. Just for that one day.

Marshall McCluhan had lots to teach us about society and media, didn't he, Owen?

Owen Gray said...

McCluhan understood that the media was not only changing what we think but how we think, lovignit. The problem is that our democratic institutions were built on another way of thinking.

Anonymous said...

Owen,

Too bad your graphic didn't have enough room for the likenesses of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, who combined have set back the course of European history by at least
a century, if not more.

That's time that no European, or anyone else for that matter, can afford to waste.


JM

Owen Gray said...

Farage and Johnson have played their roles in this tragedy, JM. Each is a child on a tear.