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I was re-looking over old posts

athena1's picture

And I found an old Chris Hedges video.

"All who succumb to fear and despair and apathy are the enemies of hope."

What a challenge.

"All who succumb to fear and despair and apathy are the enemies of hope."

I agree, and don't want to be an enemy of hope.

How about you?
Open thread.

Average: 5 (1 vote)


athena1's picture
Submitted by athena1 on

Yanno, I homeschool my kids, and tutor all the neighborhood kids. I teach them the Call of the Wild, the Helen Keller Story, and Zinn's "A People's history". I'm teaching adults, too.

Sweet Jesus, I hope this is what hope looks like. Oh, god. I do not want to be one of those enemies of hope - given over to despair or apathy.

Submitted by lambert on

For younger kids, I grew up on all the classics: Alice in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh, Dr. Doolittle, The Wind in the Willows, etc. Aside from being (sigh) very Anglo-cenric, they were all beauitfully written, and presented the children (or those whom child readers would identify) as active, curious, critical moral agents. Great lessons all.

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

I still believe in Hope - mostly because there's no such place as Fingers Crossed, Arkansas.
-- Molly Ivins

Chris Hedges is a moral force for good. However, I think he underrates the support that most of us get from fun. He has expressed disapproval of Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Michael Moore, as valves that allow us to let off steam so that our righteous anger is dissipated away from action. Molly Ivins always reminded us that we should have fun. It makes our lives worth living and keeps us sane for the long haul.

twonine's picture
Submitted by twonine on

Hedges might like his comedians fun but deadly serious. Lee Camp might be a good choice as Kelly Carlin equates him to her father George.

“Imagine Jon Stewart if he gave a damn. …He’s like Howard Zinn after 12 beers.”
-- David Swanson

CMike's picture
Submitted by CMike on

It was always my big problem with Occupy and even one I have with Chris Hedges that the left is long criticism, there's a lot of meta coming from this side of the political aisle, but there isn't much coming from our team leaders in the way of laying out an alternative vision of the future. How's this for "the vision thing"? It's from 1930:

...From the sixteenth century, with a cumulative crescendo after the eighteenth, the great age of science and technical inventions began, which since the beginning of the nineteenth century has been in full flood – coal, steam, electricity, petrol, steel, rubber, cotton, the chemical industries, automatic machinery and the methods of mass production, wireless, printing, Newton, Darwin, and Einstein, and thousands of other things and men too famous and familiar to catalogue.

What is the result? In spite of an enormous growth in the population of the world, which it has been necessary to equip with houses and machines, the average standard of life in Europe and the United States has been raised, I think, about fourfold. The growth of capital has been on a scale which is far beyond a hundredfold of what any previous age had known. And from now on we need not expect so great an increase of population.

If capital increases, say, 2 per cent per annum, the capital equipment of the world will have increased by a half in twenty years, and seven and a half times in a hundred years. Think of this in terms of material things – houses, transport, and the like.

At the same time technical improvements in manufacture and transport have been proceeding at a greater rate in the last ten years than ever before in history. In the United States factory output per head was 40 per cent greater in 1925 than in 1919. In Europe we are held back by temporary obstacles, but even so it is safe to say that technical efficiency is increasing by more than 1 per cent per annum compound. There is evidence that the revolutionary technical changes, which have so far chiefly affected industry, may soon be attacking agriculture. We may be on the eve of improvements in the efficiency of food production as great as those which have already taken place in mining, manufacture, and transport. In quite a few years – in our own lifetimes I mean – we may be able to perform all the operations of agriculture, mining, and manufacture with a quarter of the human effort to which we have been accustomed.

...Now it is true that the needs of human beings may seem to be insatiable. But they fall into two classes – those needs which are absolute in the sense that we feel them whatever the situation of our fellow human beings may be, and those which are relative in the sense that we feel them only if their satisfaction lifts us above, makes us feel superior to, our fellows. Needs of the second class, those which satisfy the desire for superiority, may indeed be insatiable; for the higher the general level, the higher still are they. But this is not so true of the absolute needs – a point may soon be reached, much sooner perhaps than we are all of us aware of, when these needs are satisfied in the sense that we prefer to devote our further energies to non-economic purposes.

Now for my conclusion, which you will find, I think, to become more and more startling to the imagination the longer you think about it.

I draw the conclusion that, assuming no important wars and no important increase in population, the economic problem may be solved, or be at least within sight of solution, within a hundred years. This means that the economic problem is not – if we look into the future – the permanent problem of the human race.

Why, you may ask, is this so startling? It is startling because – if, instead of looking into the future, we look into the past – we find that the economic problem, the struggle for subsistence, always has been hitherto the primary, most pressing problem of the human race – not only of the human race, but of the whole of the biological kingdom from the beginnings of life in its most primitive forms.

...I feel sure that with a little more experience we shall use the new-found bounty of nature quite differently from the way in which the rich use it to-day, and will map out for ourselves a plan of life quite otherwise than theirs.

For many ages to come the old Adam will be so strong in us that everybody will need to do some work if he is to be contented. We shall do more things for ourselves than is usual with the rich to-day, only too glad to have small duties and tasks and routines. But beyond this, we shall endeavour to spread the bread thin on the butter – to make what work there is still to be done to be as widely shared as possible. Three-hour shifts or a fifteen-hour week may put off the problem for a great while. For three hours a day is quite enough to satisfy the old Adam in most of us!

There are changes in other spheres too which we must expect to come. When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues. We shall be able to afford to dare to assess the money-motive at its true value. The love of money as a possession – as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life – will be recognised for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease. All kinds of social customs and economic practices, affecting the distribution of wealth and of economic rewards and penalties, which we now maintain at all costs, however distasteful and unjust they may be in themselves, because they are tremendously useful in promoting the accumulation of capital, we shall then be free, at last, to discard....

I think with all these rear guard actions to defend the New Deal we've fallen into the trap of focusing on the last war instead of getting around to gearing up for the one that's now upon us.

Anyway, for anyone interested there are some transcribed remarks of Hedges on a variety of topics in comments here, beginning with his slam of the current state of political satire which nihil obstet referenced earlier in this comment thread. (Scroll way down or use your browser's "find" tool for the comment that begins "March 13, 2013 at The University of Western Ontario.") I will re-paste the last grafs of one of his answers to an audience question posed a few years back because it gives some perspective as why, even if hope is not a plan, there's no reason for any of us to think our political situation is, at all, hopeless.

[49:32] ...So the movement's not going to go away. How will it manifest itself no one knows. I've covered enough movements to understand they're kind of mysterious forces.

I was in East Germany for the overthrow of Honecker and the East German government. You had mostly clergy out of Leipzig, candlelight vigils, you know, a hundred people would show up, seventy people would show up, and then suddenly 20,000 people showed up, and then 70,000 people showed up. And the Honecker decided to send down an elite paratrooper division to shoot them and the paratroopers wouldn't shoot, and it was over. Honecker lasted another week. After 19 years in power [he] was out.

In Czechoslovakia it was the same where you pull a half million into Wenceslas Square and the foot soldiers of the elite finally would not carry out the forces of control that a corrupt and discredited group within the inner circle wanted carried out. That's how revolutions always happen.

[50:33] People forget the Russian Revolution [of February,1917] was a bloodless revolution, not on the part of the Cossacks and the Tsar and the Okhrana but on the part of the people. On the abdication of the Tsar, there was no armed uprising to get the Tsar to abdicate. What happened in the Russian Revolution -and Paul Avrich has written a very good book about this called The Russian Anarchist[s]- is that all of those local soviets, which were primarily anarchist in nature, which had risen up and were ruling Petrograd, Lenin infiltrated them, there was assassination of large numbers of anarchist leaders, we don't know a lot about them because so many were killed, because [Lenin] wanted centralized control. And then, of course, the Bolsheviks carry out an armed putsch against Kerensky and the Cadets [in October, 1917], not against the Tsar, the Tsar was gone.

[51:26] And from my time in Eastern Europe I am convinced that this, the corporate state, the corporate centers of power are as corrupt and as rotten as the regimes we saw in East Germany. How will it take place, how long will it happen, none of us can answer. In Poland it took ten years, in East Germany ten weeks, and in Czechoslovakia it took ten days, and by the time I got to Romania that guy was gone in four days.

We don't know, no one knows, or even will it succeed. There's no guarantee that it will succeed. It's got to be smart, it's got to be organized, it's got to be disciplined, it's got to be non-violent because as long as it continues to articulate those mainstream complaints and suffering that has been inflicted on two-thirds of this country, and as long as it is a movement that in a physical form is- makes that mainstream feel comfortable then the power elite in this country is in really, really serious trouble.

Submitted by lambert on

I think it comes down, quite simply, to "the left"* not being able to articulate and propagate a vision that enough people are willing to risk injury or death for; I really do believe it comes down to that. (I don't say this often because I don't wish in any way to encourage individual acts by desperate people.) As I keep saying, TINA.

That Occupy has gotten as far as it has no clear vision at all other than a clearly un-scaleable decision making process is a Fucking miracle and a sign of tremendous hope.

People need to begin from where they are, and that includes having responsibilities like wives and kids, as well as (some) material possessions -- unless one is a "worse is better" advocate. So what happens "after the dust settles"? How does it work? Take electricity. Who runs the public utility? A democratic process? A consensus-based process? The local church? The local AA? (Not such a bad idea, actually) What happens to existing jurisdictions? What happens after you bust the door to the throne room and there's nobody there? What are the rules for preventing old power structures from reproducing themselves?

Thinking again militaristically, it strikes me that the supply chain has been "optimized" to the point where it is extremely fragile and subject to disruption by a very few actors. That is, I suppose, one of the motives behind the militarization of everything (along with jawbs, of course).

If I had to imagine a utopia, it would be a permaculture plot of land, and Christopher Alexander-style house that was also up to code, in which I would write. I realize this is an entirely petty bourgeios view of perfection...

NOTE * Although when you come down to it, "the right" hasn't either, gun culture's talk about tyranny notwithstanding.

athena1's picture
Submitted by athena1 on

Lots of food for thought here.

I think we have real, concrete examples to look to. Like, Finland's educational system. Best in the world, and similar to how Noam Chomsky was raised.
And Norway's penal system. It's genuine rehabilitation, and not punitive. The recidivism rate is very close to zero.

And then there's the scandinavian system of PAYING people to go to school, with higher education not just free, but paid housing and money on top of that.

I think I know the nuts and bolts of how this works. We can look to Latin America, too.

I don't buy the idea that "the left" has no ideas.

I, for one, can see concrete evidence in Norway, Finland, Latin America, etc. I don't just have ideas - I have PROOF. It works.

Those sorts of

athena1's picture
Submitted by athena1 on

..Those realities are real. It's been proven to work. THAT is "the left".

"The right" is just bigotry and a race to the bottom. It's a one trick pony, when you really look at it.

Submitted by lambert on

... and policies. It certainly does. That's not the same as having a vision that people will risk injury or death for, and it's not the same as having a vision that's easily communicated.

See the 12-word platform below. That took weeks of work by a lot of people. IMNHSO if we could implement that set of policies, we'd be in a world we could live with, because of what would be needed to make them come to be. But that's not the same as a vision either.

And I don't see the 12-word platform is being defensive or looking back to FDR either. See "End the wars?"

Although today I might replace "Jobs Guarantee" with "GDP Sharing." Because we tried the moderate approach and got no traction.

katiebird's picture
Submitted by katiebird on

That address the massive spying/security/fear state issues.

Technically, though - is that included in "End the Wars" ?

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

I think programs motivate more people than visions do. FDR -- which do you remember, the whole New Deal vision or Social Security? LBJ -- the Great Society or Medicare and the Civil Rights Act?

Vision statements are important to guide us towards the society that we want eventually, but most people will come out for something that solves a problem they have. Our vision of a peaceful world hasn't brought out anti-war activists the way the problem of junior getting drafted brought them out in the 70s, even though the Middle East wars have less popular support than the Vietnam war did.

The issue is to work for policies that lead towards the better society, not policies that simply ameliorate the bad things in current society enough to keep as much status quo as possible.

CMike's picture
Submitted by CMike on

progress through incrementalism is a sound approach. What's happened in the U.S. since Reagan's election in 1980, or since the Powell Memo in 1971, or since the Goldwater candidacy in 1964, however, is that an alternative vision to the one imagined by New Deal/Great Society liberalism has come to be shared by leadership of both major parties. Its source is economic neo-liberalism and that -ism doesn't make for a healthy society.

On the importance of the vision thing and as an easy to extrapolate from historical example of where neo-liberalism takes a society, here are some excerpts from a presentation by historian Richard White about the ideological competition during the Gilded Age with an update designating one particularly malignant ideological development which has arisen since then.

>>>>>[5:44] White: [Nineteenth century l]iberalism in the United States began as a radical democratic doctrine adopted by Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson and their followers. This [referencing a slide on the screen] is Jackson opposing the [Second] Bank [of the United States], this is precisely the kind of attack liberalism was designed to undertake. It aimed at overthrowing privilege, hierarchy, and inherited authority.

It ended up as a conservative doctrine aimed at protecting property....

[4:25] There was a great deal of consensus on this basic view across the political spectrum because both conservatives and radicals derived their views from small "L" liberalism with its belief in contract freedom, individualism, [a] minimal state, and laissez faire.

What I mean by liberals is best illustrated by Ron Paul and his followers. They are almost literal descendants of nineteenth century American liberals. In the nineteenth century these liberals packed considerable cultural punch. When the Northern commercial elite went to their Congregationalist, Presbyterian, Unitarian, or Universalist churches their preachers were liberals. When their children attended universities and took classes their professors were liberals. When they read the elite journals of the day, such as E. L. Godkin's The Nation, they read the writings of liberals. Liberalism provided the central point of reference on thinking about wealth and poverty. The most influential thinkers were all either liberals or lapsed liberals....

[13:20][H]ere I'm going to cheat by talking about Horatio Alger who wrote a series of didactic novels in the years following the Civil War. My excuse for cheating is that he was so popular. He was a kind of J. K. Rawlings or Susanne Collins except he was male, a failed minister, and a child molester. He had a vast audience. In Muncie, Indiana where the library records survive between 1891 and 1902, Alger accounted for five percent of all the books checked out during that period.

[13:57] Horatio Alger took the idea of contract freedom and individualism, so resonant with Lincoln, and applied them to a new urban and industrial society. You don't have to actually read an Alger book, all you have to do is read the title and your get the basic message [book cover examples on the slides are Risen From the Ranks and From Farm to Senate]. The plot usually centered on a street urchin who runs into a variety of middle class sponsors. In Ragged Dick the hero was an orphan selling newspapers and living in a wooden box in an alley. Dick meets a middle class boy, Frank, and his uncle. The uncle tells him, quote, "Remember that your future depends mainly on yourself and that it will be as high or low as you choose to make it."

[14:38] This might seem an astonishing thing to tell an orphaned, illiterate child living in a box in an alley but in Alger's world this is sufficient. Dick learns the, quote, "satisfaction of self-denial and the pleasures of property." These are juvenile novels, of course, and there's only so many of the details of the satisfaction of self-denial that the readers can take and so Alger will cut to the chase. Ragged Dick is riding the ferry to Staten Island when a girl falls off, he dives in to save her, she turns out to be rich and her father is grateful -- presumably if she's poor he throws her back in -- and he's on his way. He gets a job and Ragged Dick is ragged Dick no longer, he is now Richard Hunter, Esquire. He, quote, "has taken steps upward determined to mount still higher."

[15:26] Alger insisted the United States remained a place where personal qualities, proper values, competition, and contract relations sorted society into the deserving and the undeserving. Your fate was still in your hands. Alger's and similar novels were often described as "rags to riches" stories but they can be more accurately read, I think, as rags to competency [i.e. the attainment of middle or upper middle class economic security] stories.

[15:56] Ragged Dick was not wealthy at the end of the novel. He merely had a job and a chance to rise....

[16:07] William Graham Sumner was as tough minded as Alger was sentimental. He was liberalism playing to the other side. Sumner taught at Yale from 1872 to the end of the century. Writing What Social Classes Owe Each Other in 1883, the answer was nothing. The main reason the social classes had no obligations to each other was that society in his view was not made up of classes or any other collectivity but individuals.

[16:38] Where Jackson and Jefferson had been liberals because they thought that laissez faire and small government would yield a just society of largely equal white men, Sumner made laissez faire and small government goals in and of themselves despite rising inequality.

[16:55] Here's a typical Sumner quote, "Let it be understood, we cannot go outside this alternative: liberty, inequality, survival of the fittest; not: liberty, equality, survival of the unfittest. The former carries society forward and favors all its best members, the latter carries society downward and favors all of its worst members."

The price of liberty and progress was inequality. Sumner's poor have no one but themselves to blame. But if Sumner attacked the poor, he did not praise the rich. His heroes were largely people of middling wealth. The rich remained something of an embarrassment....

The most interesting nineteenth century Americans, and their attitudes toward wealth and poverty, were recovered liberals.... For them, liberalism had been a route to a largely egalitarian society and once liberalism ceased to serve that purpose they saw less and less need to defend contract freedom, laissez faire, or individualism in their pure form.

[18:08] These recovered liberals were not particularly kind to the poor, particularly to the non-white poor who they often depicted as tools of the rich. The main targets were the rich. They drew upon the liberalism of Jefferson and Jackson in seeing great wealth as a result of power, privilege, and discrimination. Great wealth was a symptom of decay....

[19:13] [T]hey defined monopoly in a way different than we do. Monopoly was synonymous with corporations. Anti-monopolists were Utopian capitalists who believed that ideally capitalism and fair competition would yield a society like Lincoln's and recognizing that it had failed to do so were bent on reforming it so that great wealth and poverty would once again become anomalies in American life.

[19:38] Anti-monopolists like Henry George had come hard up against the paradox, as his book was titled Of Progress and Poverty. It was, perhaps, the most widely read piece of secular non-fiction in nineteenth century America. How, he asked, in the midst of the competitive system supposed to prevent the growth of the very rich and the very poor was there a growing mass of poor despite economic progress?...

[21:40] The great desideratum is to secure equality. Securing equality started men like Henry George, who began from conventional liberal premises, down a road to condone first governmental regulation and then government ownership in order to restrain the power of corporations and the wealthy.

[22:21] In doing so they abandoned liberal means and sought liberal ends. The point of an economy for anti-monopolists, and this is simply foreign to us today, was not to maximize wealth, or even to minimize poverty, although these would be their corollaries, was to produce republican citizens with the education, leisure, and economic independence to participate in the affairs of the nation....

[1:02:39] Question: ...I think you were saying that Gilded Age wealth was almost an embarrassment It was not seen as it is today where it is almost revered to be wealthy. Everyone, many people aspire to have that wealth. We even seem to have laws now that are giving wealthy people more and more power, like Citizens United and what not, and I'm kind of wondering how we got from there to here and, if it was the wealthy of the Gilded Age, or the people who followed them, that actually used their wealth to actually change public opinion on being wealthy.

[1:03:31] White: The point at which, in fact there's-- you know one of the interesting things when something like the American Dream takes on a modern connotation like the purpose of the American Dream is to get fabulously wealthy, which is not the connotation that was there in the nineteenth century. It certainly has little to do with the wealthy themselves, I mean if you go back to the early twentieth century, John D. Rockefeller is reviled. The Rockefellers will, eventually, not be reviled. Leland Stanford is a hated man in the late nineteenth century in California as are all the rest of his associates. The early twentieth century many of those old fortunes begin to fall away but it's very hard to look at American society in the 1930s and see a great respect for wealth or in the 1940s. The point where this begins to change, it seems to me -- and, again, this is well beyond the Gilded Age where I've done any investigation -- would probably be around the 1950s. But even there it's still -- compared to the modern United States, there's not the same extremes of wealth and poverty.

What's happened now, why this is referred to as a new Gilded Age, is that we are, in fact, replicating many of the conditions of the late nineteenth century without the valence because - I agree with you - there is an inordinate respect for the rich and the wealthy in the late twentieth, early twenty first century which did not exist in the late nineteenth century as far as I can discern. Why that took place, I'm probably the wrong one to ask because I don't really share it, but there's going to be something that is going on there that is of real cultural significance....

[1:05:48] White: And I should add one thing. What's changed between those two periods is the purpose of what an economy is. In the late nineteenth century the purpose of an economy is to produce republican citizens. That kind of language has no resonance today. If they look at this economy and they say the point of this economy should be that the mass of Americans have the leisure to live civic lives and to not have to worry about their well-being, that was nineteenth century talk that is utterly off the table now. So that the point of the economy now is whoever gets the most, whoever dies with the most, wins, I mean, it's that kind of stuff. But that's a modern attitude, that's not a nineteenth century attitude. This is-- very often we read [about] our attitudes [having been present] back in the past but that's what's so different about the Gilded Age, it's quite different. ***************

athena1's picture
Submitted by athena1 on

The Finland educational system came before us, and the Norwegian penal system did, too. But we Americans can still come up with ideas. GPD sharing is one excellent idea.

Submitted by lambert on

I believe it comes from MyLessThanPrimeBeef at NC.

But I picked up "GDP Sharing," the way a magpie picks up a bright shiny object.