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Chris Hedges
Truthdig / Truthdig Op-Ed
Published: Tuesday 15 May 2012
“We have been, like nations on the periphery of empire, colonized. We are controlled by tiny corporate entities that have no loyalty to the nation and indeed in the language of traditional patriotism are traitors.”

Colonized by Corporations

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In Robert E. Gamer’s book “The Developing Nations” is a chapter called “Why Men Do Not Revolt.” In it Gamer notes that although the oppressed often do revolt, the object of their hostility is misplaced. They vent their fury on a political puppet, someone who masks colonial power, a despised racial or ethnic group or an apostate within their own political class. The useless battles serve as an effective mask for what Gamer calls the “patron-client” networks that are responsible for the continuity of colonial oppression. The squabbles among the oppressed, the political campaigns between candidates who each are servants of colonial power, Gamer writes, absolve the actual centers of power from addressing the conditions that cause the frustrations of the people. Inequities, political disenfranchisement and injustices are never seriously addressed. “The government merely does the minimum necessary to prevent those few who are prone toward political action from organizing into politically effective groups,” he writes.

Gamer and many others who study the nature of colonial rule offer the best insights into the functioning of our corporate state. We have been, like nations on the periphery of empire, colonized. We are controlled by tiny corporate entities that have no loyalty to the nation and indeed in the language of traditional patriotism are traitors. They strip us of our resources, keep us politically passive and enrich themselves at our expense. The mechanisms of control are familiar to those whom the Martinique-born French psychiatrist and writer Frantz Fanon called “the wretched of the earth,” including African-Americans. The colonized are denied job security. Incomes are reduced to subsistence level. The poor are plunged into desperation. Mass movements, such as labor unions, are dismantled. The school system is degraded so only the elites have access to a superior education. Laws are written to legalize corporate plunder and abuse, as well as criminalize dissent. And the ensuing fear and instability—keenly felt this past weekend by the more than 200,000 Americans who lost their unemployment benefits—ensure political passivity by diverting all personal energy toward survival. It is an old, old game.

A change of power does not require the election of a Mitt Romney or a Barack Obama or a Democratic majority in Congress, or an attempt to reform the system or electing progressive candidates, but rather a destruction of corporate domination of the political process—Gamer’s “patron-client” networks. It requires the establishment of new mechanisms of governance to distribute wealth and protect resources, to curtail corporate power, to cope with the destruction of the ecosystem and to foster the common good. But we must first recognize ourselves as colonial subjects. We must accept that we have no effective voice in the way we are governed. We must accept the hollowness of electoral politics, the futility of our political theater, and we must destroy the corporate structure itself.

The danger the corporate state faces does not come from the poor. The poor, those Karl Marx dismissed as the Lumpenproletariat, do not mount revolutions, although they join them and often become cannon fodder. The real danger to the elite comes from déclassé intellectuals, those educated middle-class men and women who are barred by a calcified system from advancement. Artists without studios or theaters, teachers without classrooms, lawyers without clients, doctors without patients and journalists without newspapers descend economically. They become, as they mingle with the underclass, a bridge between the worlds of the elite and the oppressed. And they are the dynamite that triggers revolt.

This is why the Occupy movement frightens the corporate elite. What fosters revolution is not misery, but the gap between what people expect from their lives and what is offered. This is especially acute among the educated and the talented. They feel, with much justification, that they have been denied what they deserve. They set out to rectify this injustice. And the longer the injustice festers, the more radical they become.

The response of a dying regime—and our corporate regime is dying—is to employ increasing levels of force, and to foolishly refuse to ameliorate the chronic joblessness, foreclosures, mounting student debt, lack of medical insurance and exclusion from the centers of power. Revolutions are fueled by an inept and distant ruling class that perpetuates political paralysis. This ensures its eventual death.

In every revolutionary movement I covered in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, the leadership emerged from déclassé intellectuals. The leaders were usually young or middle-aged, educated and always unable to meet their professional and personal aspirations. They were never part of the power elite, although often their parents had been. They were conversant in the language of power as well as the language of oppression. It is the presence of large numbers of déclassé intellectuals that makes the uprisings in Spain, Egypt, Greece and finally the United States threatening to the overlords at Goldman Sachs, ExxonMobil and JPMorgan Chase. They must face down opponents who understand, in a way the uneducated often do not, the lies disseminated on behalf of corporations by the public relations industry. These déclassé intellectuals, because they are conversant in economics and political theory, grasp that those who hold power, real power, are not the elected mandarins in Washington but the criminal class on Wall Street.

This is what made Malcolm X so threatening to the white power structure. He refused to countenance Martin Luther King’s fiction that white power and white liberals would ever lift black people out of economic squalor. King belatedly came to share Malcolm’s view. Malcolm X named the enemy. He exposed the lies. And until we see the corporate state, and the games it is playing with us, with the same kind of clarity, we will be nothing more than useful idiots.

“This is an era of hypocrisy,” Malcolm X said. “When white folks pretend that they want Negroes to be free, and Negroes pretend to white folks that they really believe that white folks want ’em to be free, it’s an era of hypocrisy, brother. You fool me and I fool you. You pretend that you’re my brother and I pretend that I really believe you believe you’re my brother.”

Those within a demoralized ruling elite, like characters in a Chekhov play, increasingly understand that the system that enriches and empowers them is corrupt and decayed. They become cynical. They do not govern effectively. They retreat into hedonism. They no longer believe their own rhetoric. They devote their energies to stealing and exploiting as much, as fast, as possible. They pillage their own institutions, as we have seen with the newly disclosed loss of $2 billion within JPMorgan Chase, the meltdown of Chesapeake Energy Corp. or the collapse of Enron and Lehman Brothers. The elites become cannibals. They consume each other. This is what happens in the latter stages of all dying regimes. Louis XIV pillaged his own nobility by revoking patents of nobility and reselling them. It is what most corporations do to their shareholders. A dying ruling class, in short, no longer acts to preserve its own longevity. It becomes fashionable, even in the rarefied circles of the elite, to ridicule and laugh at the political puppets that are the public face of the corporate state.

“Ideas that have outlived their day may hobble about the world for years,”Alexander Herzen wrote, “but it is hard for them ever to lead and dominate life. Such ideas never gain complete possession of a man, or they gain possession only of incomplete people.”

This loss of faith means that when it comes time to use force, the elites employ it haphazardly and inefficiently, in large part because they are unsure of the loyalty of the foot soldiers on the streets charged with carrying out repression.

Revolutions take time. The American Revolution began with protests against the Stamp Act of 1765 but did not erupt until a decade later. The 1917 revolution in Russia started with a dress rehearsal in 1905. The most effective revolutions, including the Russian Revolution, have been largely nonviolent. There are always violent radicals who carry out bombings and assassinations, but they hinder, especially in the early stages, more than help revolutions. The anarchist Peter Kropotkin during the Russian Revolution condemned the radical terrorists, asserting that they only demoralized and frightened away the movement’s followers and discredited authentic anarchism.

Radical violent groups cling like parasites to popular protests. The Black Panthers, the American Indian Movement, the Weather Underground, the Red Brigades and the Symbionese Liberation Army arose in the ferment of the 1960s. Violent radicals are used by the state to justify harsh repression. They scare the mainstream from the movement. They thwart the goal of all revolutions, which is to turn the majority against an isolated and discredited ruling class. These violent fringe groups are seductive to those who yearn for personal empowerment through hyper-masculinity and violence, but they do little to advance the cause. The primary role of radical extremists, such as Maximilien Robespierre and Vladimir Lenin, is to hijack successful revolutions. They unleash a reign of terror, primarily against fellow revolutionaries, which often outdoes the repression of the old regime. They often do not play much of a role in building a revolution.

The power of the Occupy movement is that it expresses the widespread disgust with the elites, and the deep desire for justice and fairness that is essential to all successful revolutionary movements. The Occupy movement will change and mutate, but it will not go away. It may appear to make little headway, but this is less because of the movement’s ineffectiveness and more because decayed systems of power have an amazing ability to perpetuate themselves through habit, routine and inertia. The press and organs of communication, along with the anointed experts and academics, tied by money and ideology to the elites, are useless in dissecting what is happening within these movements. They view reality through the lens of their corporate sponsors. They have no idea what is happening.

Dying regimes are chipped away slowly and imperceptibly. The assumptions and daily formalities of the old system are difficult for citizens to abandon, even when the old system is increasingly hostile to their dignity, well-being and survival. Supplanting an old faith with a new one is the silent, unseen battle of all revolutionary movements. And during the slow transition it is almost impossible to measure progress.

“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong,” Fanon wrote in “Black Skin, White Masks.” “When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.”

The end of these regimes comes when old beliefs die and the organs of security, especially the police and military, abandon the elites and join the revolutionaries. This is true in every successful revolution. It does not matter how sophisticated the repressive apparatus. Once those who handle the tools of repression become demoralized, the security and surveillance state is impotent. Regimes, when they die, are like a great ocean liner sinking in minutes on the horizon. And no one, including the purported leaders of the opposition, can predict the moment of death. Revolutions have an innate, mysterious life force that defies comprehension. They are living entities.

The defection of the security apparatus is often done with little or no violence, as I witnessed in Eastern Europe in 1989 and as was also true in 1979 in Iran and in 1917 in Russia. At other times, when it has enough residual force to fight back, the dying regime triggers a violent clash as it did in the American Revolution when soldiers and officers in the British army, including George Washington, rebelled to raise the Continental Army. Violence also characterized the 1949 Chinese revolution led by Mao Zedong. But even revolutions that turn violent succeed, as Mao conceded, because they enjoy popular support and can mount widespread protests, strikes, agitation, revolutionary propaganda and acts of civil disobedience. The object is to try to get there without violence. Armed revolutions, despite what the history books often tell us, are tragic, ugly, frightening and sordid affairs. Those who storm Bastilles, as the Polish dissident Adam Michnik wrote, “unwittingly build new ones.” And once revolutions turn violent it becomes hard to speak of victors and losers.

A revolution has been unleashed across the globe. This revolution, a popular repudiation of the old order, is where we should direct all our energy and commitment.  If we do not topple the corporate elites the ecosystem will be destroyed and massive numbers of human beings along with it. The struggle will be long. There will be times when it will seem we are going nowhere. Victory is not inevitable. But this is our best and only hope. The response of the corporate state will ultimately determine the parameters and composition of rebellion. I pray we replicate the 1989 nonviolent revolutions that overthrew the communist regimes in Eastern Europe. But this is not in my hands or yours. Go ahead and vote this November. But don’t waste any more time or energy on the presidential election than it takes to get to your polling station and pull a lever for a third-party candidate—just enough to register your obstruction and defiance—and then get back out onto the street. That is where the question of real power is being decided.

This article was originally posted on Truthdig.

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ABOUT Chris Hedges
Chris Hedges is a weekly Truthdig columnist and a fellow at The Nation Institute. His newest book is “The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress.”

Thank you Chris for being a

Thank you Chris for being a sane voice in a sea of insanity.

The Old Guard's dictate is

The Old Guard's dictate is the atomic warfare of the electronic age exemplified by the NSA's last good guy, William Binney. I have experienced the wrath of this deceit as early as 9/11 or the chads in Florida before it. The wrath was due to a lot of things, not the least of which enacted was the destroying of an art obelisk, solid, liquid, and gas in front of the IMAX theater in Birmingham, AL moments before the Iraq war when I stated over the phone it carried the missing message of evolution for the conscription back into the status quo it represented. To this day the science museum does not run the gas, and lest you have forgotten already, it is a science museum, not a rock and roll exhibition. Who has been running whom became such a quandry for me since then, but totalitarianism controls education first and foremost, doesn't it? So, since SWAT should go after the cells, known to be covert, then Indira Singh's work before she came up missing in 2008 is paramount to justice beginning. There is just so much more that is being lost in the separatrix of this time in history, a time where we have done nothing to prevent the waters from rising.

America needs to start

America needs to start celebrating a new holiday "Bastille Day".. The rich can only learn humanity by freeing their head from the parasitc lifeform they call a body.

The arrogant rich won't see it coming, they are too stupid and way too ignorant.

Great article although I am

Great article although I am not so sure about the way you brought racism into the story. According to Foucault the elite that control us can be expected to do everything they can to divert attention away from the power they have. This is because the effectiveness of their power is proportional to their ability to hide it. They are likely to support efforts to label the inequality in society as being due to racial or gender issues as it diverts attention away from what is really to blame which is their abuse of power. While there is no doubt that there is inequality due to gender and race, Malcolm X's claim that it is the whites who are to blame conveniently allows the elite, who are the real villains, to remain out of sight.

This is a wonderful clear

This is a wonderful clear picture of how we have been manipulated and controlled by corporations since the 1980's. I was told by a young Republican man today that the reason corporations had shipped jobs offshore was because the unions and teachers had their retirement pensions invested in their companies, and so to keep the stock dividends up for those people, corporations simply had to ship those jobs off to insure profits stayed high. This young man sincerely believed this.....

The thing I really find most troubling is that those that knew-and could prove that this was a big fib, who were in the media or on camera often, have not refuted that fib loudly. Elected Democrats who have let their spine shrink to the point they had no backbone at all to stand up against the lies and propaganda that have spewed down on us, instead of the income rise that was supposed to be the result from the voodoo economic theories.

I, too, pray there is no bloodshed. If things do not change substantially, we will be cattle led to the slaughter-cannon fodder for more wars, educated barely enough to have a job but never think, prodded into more bigotry to keep us separated, drones who are unaware they are drones in another generation or so , constantly fed more lies to keep us in fear and subservient.

If only more people would read Chris Hedges! I am going to post this on Facebook and send it out to all on my email listing. Please, others, do the same.

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts just

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts just penned a great article also, entitled;
The Case of the Missing Terrorists.

Worth the read.

Except we have run out of

Except we have run out of time. If this revolution, which I have no doubt is happening, is going to succeed, it has to manifest itself a bit more rapidly, and boldly.

And I doubt very seriously that the criminal elites are going to let anything more happen without bloodshed. The crimes they need to be held accountable for are so huge that it means certain death to them, and the lose all their fortune, and I would imagine their progeny being wiped off the planet. For if indeed, if justice is what is sought there is no way we can make deals without becoming one of them.

Perhaps there was an earlier place in time when bloodshed could be avoided. But that time has past, I am deeply afraid to say. I prey I'm wrong. I'm not looking forward to what may come. I'm one of the more vulnerable. But I just can't envision the elites willing taking the fall gracefully. I'm sure they have their "scorched Earth" policy in place.

But Thomas Jefferson said it once: "The Tree of Liberty must be watered from time to tome with the blood of tyrants and patriots."

Guess that time is now.

As peaceful as intents may be

As peaceful as intents may be in regard to revolution, there always seems to be an uncooperative dragon or two that simply needs slain.

This exposes the true roll of

This exposes the true roll of Capitalism in the downfall of the United states of America.

Indeed Professor Ziolkowski!

Indeed Professor Ziolkowski! Indeed. Let me also deviate from the topic and say that it is a unexpected and delightful pleasure and honor to serendipituously meet you here online. I must say that but for your early work, it's likely that I would not be the man I am today, having read everything translated into English written by Herman Hesse as did so many of my countercultural generation. Thank you so much for your work and long esteemed career. I wish you health and many more birthdays to come. I must restrain myself from gushing like a schoolgirl. ; ) Anyway, you are so correct; sadly this incisive essay by Chris Hedges nails it.

There is only so much

There is only so much corruption that a social system can tolerate before it implodes, and it feels like we are rapidly approaching that limit.

I agree 100%.

I agree 100%.

Me too. I'm ready for a real

Me too. I'm ready for a real revolution.

End capitalism. It has proved that it is only beneficial to 'capitalists', unless they are strictly regulated. Alas, we have no elected representatives that will represent their constituents, but only further their masters' agenda.

Chris Hedges is always 'right on'.

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