Banx sends us American Psychosis, a 15-minute short in which “Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, author and activist Chris Hedges discusses modern day consumerism, totalitarian corporate power and living in a culture dominated by pervasive illusion.”
The nature of illusion is that it’s designed, at least at the moment, to make you feel good…about yourself, about your country, about where you’re going. In that sense, it functions like a drug. Those who question that illusion are challenged, not so much for the veracity of what they say, but for puncturing those feelings.
Attempt to get up and question where we’re going and who we are, and the critique will be that you’re such a pessimist, that you’re such a cynic, that you’re not an optimist. Optimism becomes a kind of disease. It’s what created the financial meltdown, where you have this kind of cheerful optimism in the face of utter catastrophe, and you plow forward based on an optimism that is no longer rooted in reality.
If hope becomes something that you express through illusion, then it’s not hope. It’s fantasy.
Unfettered, unregulated capitalism is a revolutionary force, as Karl Marx understood. It exploits everything. Everything becomes a commodity. Human beings become commodities, the natural world becomes a commodity that it exploits until exhaustion or collapse. And that’s why the environmental crisis is intimately twined with the economic crisis.
Forty percent of the summer Arctic Sea ice melts, and that becomes a business opportunity for Shell, that’s up there dropping half billion dollar drill bits down in the Arctic Sea. It’s insane.
In a free market society, all of those companies, like Goldman Sachs, would have gone into bankruptcy. But we don’t live in a so-called free market. We live in a kind of bizarre species of corporate socialism. So, in the end process of decayed states, you have forces, in essence, cannibalizing the State itself, which is where we are.
Creating community brings with it a kind of anxiety and a kind of responsibility, and, Freud would argue, even a level of neurosis, because there’s always that tension between individual desire and community responsibility. And I think that tension is real, but one that’s necessary, and that consumer society plays very well on that, magnifies that anxiety to push people into behavior which is, not only destructive to the community, but, finally, deeply self-destructive.
I covered the revolutions in Eastern Europe. I saw how lonely acts of defiance to totalitarian regimes, which, at the moment, were considered futile, kept alive another narrative, ironic points of light. That’s what acts of conscience, acts of rebellion do. It appears, often at the moment, that it’s meaningless. But, when you stand up to decayed systems of power, systems of evil, and you speak a truth, even people within those systems hear your voice.
And that is why the State is pushing through one draconian law after another, whether it’s the wholesale spying and eavesdropping, monitoring and photographing of every American citizen. Whether it’s the use of the Espionage Act to shut down whistle blowers. Whether it’s the National Authorization Defense Act, Section 1021, for which I sued the President in federal court, and won, which permits the U.S. military to seize U.S. citizens and hold them indefinitely without due process in military facilities.
They’re all doing this for a reason. They know what’s coming.
The corporate state knows no limits at this point. It has no regulation, it has no government control. It writes its own laws, it writes its own legislation, so that the rise of popular culture, and the obliteration of real culture, is part of this entire corporate totalitarian assault on beauty and truth. And that’s what they have to seek to eradicate, because those forces are ones that remind us about how we should live, and about what it means to be human.
Going into Sarajevo, which I did during the war, where 2000 children had been shot, 45 of my own colleagues had been killed, 4-5 dead a day, 2 dozen wounded a day, constant sniper fire, wasn’t pleasant, but it was meaningful. And one, I think, has to begin to make that decision. Whether they want a life that means something, or whether they want to leap from one hedonistic high to another.
You can’t talk about hope if you can’t see reality, and reality is pretty bleak, but that’s the starting point.
Everybody’s happy. Everybody’s free. Keep the big door open, everyone will come around. Why are you different? Why are you that way? If you don’t get in line, we’ll lock you away.
Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.
‐ W.H. Auden