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Chris Hedges
Truthdig / Truthdig Op-Ed
Published: Tuesday 21 May 2013
Corporations write our legislation. They control our systems of information.

Rise Up or Die

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Joe Sacco and I spent two years reporting from the poorest pockets of the United States for our book “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt.” We went into our nation’s impoverished “sacrifice zones”—the first areas forced to kneel before the dictates of the marketplace—to show what happens when unfettered corporate capitalism and ceaseless economic expansion no longer have external impediments. We wanted to illustrate what unrestrained corporate exploitation does to families, communities and the natural world. We wanted to challenge the reigning ideology of globalization and laissez-faire capitalism to illustrate what life becomes when human beings and the ecosystem are ruthlessly turned into commodities to exploit until exhaustion or collapse. And we wanted to expose as impotent the formal liberal and governmental institutions that once made reform possible, institutions no longer equipped with enough authority to check the assault of corporate power.

What has taken place in these sacrifice zones—in postindustrial cities such as Camden, N.J., and Detroit, in coalfields of southern West Virginia where mining companies blast off mountaintops, in Indian reservations where the demented project of limitless economic expansion and exploitation worked some of its earliest evil, and in produce fields where laborers often endure conditions that replicate slavery—is now happening to much of the rest of the country. These sacrifice zones succumbed first. You and I are next.

Corporations write our legislation. They control our systems of information. They manage the political theater of electoral politics and impose our educational curriculum. They have turned the judiciary into one of their wholly owned subsidiaries. They have decimated labor unions and other independent mass organizations, as well as having bought off the Democratic Party, which once defended the rights of workers. With the evisceration of piecemeal and incremental reform—the primary role of liberal, democratic institutions—we are left defenseless against corporate power.

The Department of Justice seizure of two months of records of phone calls to and from editors and reporters at The Associated Press is the latest in a series of dramatic assaults against our civil liberties. The DOJ move is part of an effort to hunt down the government official or officials who leaked information to the AP about the foiling of a plot to blow up a passenger jet. Information concerning phones of Associated Press bureaus in New York, Washington, D.C., and Hartford, Conn., as well as the home and mobile phones of editors and reporters, was secretly confiscated. This, along with measures such as the use of the Espionage Act against whistle-blowers, will put a deep freeze on all independent investigations into abuses of government and corporate power.

Seizing the AP phone logs is part of the corporate state’s broader efforts to silence all voices that defy the official narrative, the state’s Newspeak, and hide from public view the inner workings, lies and crimes of empire. The person or persons who provided the classified information to the AP will, if arrested, mostly likely be prosecuted under the Espionage Act. That law was never intended when it was instituted in 1917 to silence whistle-blowers. And from 1917 until Barack Obama took office in 2009 it was employed against whistle-blowers only three times, the first time against Daniel Ellsberg for leaking the Pentagon Papers in 1971. The Espionage Act has been used six times by the Obama administration against government whistle-blowers, including Thomas Drake.

The government’s fierce persecution of the press—an attack pressed by many of the governmental agencies that are arrayed against WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and activists such as Jeremy Hammond—dovetails with the government’s use of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force to carry out the assassination of U.S. citizens; of the FISA Amendments Act, which retroactively makes legal what under our Constitution was once illegal—the warrantless wiretapping and monitoring of tens of millions of U.S. citizens; and of Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, which permits the government to have the military seize U.S. citizens, strip them of due process and hold them in indefinite detention. These measures, taken together, mean there are almost no civil liberties left.

A handful of corporate oligarchs around the globe have everything—wealth, power and privilege—and the rest of us struggle as part of a vast underclass, increasingly impoverished and ruthlessly repressed. There is one set of laws and regulations for us; there is another set of laws and regulations for a power elite that functions as a global mafia.

We stand helpless before the corporate onslaught. There is no way to vote against corporate power. Citizens have no way to bring about the prosecution of Wall Street bankers and financiers for fraud, military and intelligence officials for torture and war crimes, or security and surveillance officers for human rights abuses. The Federal Reserve is reduced to printing money for banks and financiers and lending it to them at almost zero percent interest; corporate officers then lend it to us at usurious rates as high as 30 percent. I do not know what to call this system. It is certainly not capitalism. Extortion might be a better word. The fossil fuel industry, meanwhile, relentlessly trashes the ecosystem for profit. The melting of 40 percent of the summer Arctic sea ice is, to corporations, a business opportunity. Companies rush to the Arctic and extract the last vestiges of oil, natural gas, minerals and fish stocks, indifferent to the death pangs of the planet. The same corporate forces that give us endless soap operas that pass for news, from the latest court proceedings surrounding O.J. Simpson to the tawdry details of the Jodi Arias murder trial, also give us atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide that surpass 400 parts per million. They entrance us with their electronic hallucinations as we waiver, as paralyzed with fear as Odysseus’ sailors, between Scylla and Charybdis.

There is nothing in 5,000 years of economic history to justify the belief that human societies should structure their behavior around the demands of the marketplace. This is an absurd, utopian ideology. The airy promises of the market economy have, by now, all been exposed as lies. The ability of corporations to migrate overseas has decimated our manufacturing base. It has driven down wages, impoverishing our working class and ravaging our middle class. It has forced huge segments of the population—including those burdened by student loans—into decades of debt peonage. It has also opened the way to massive tax shelters that allow companies such as General Electric to pay no income tax. Corporations employ virtual slave labor in Bangladesh and China, making obscene profits. As corporations suck the last resources from communities and the natural world, they leave behind, as Joe Sacco and I saw in the sacrifice zones we wrote about, horrific human suffering and dead landscapes. The greater the destruction, the greater the apparatus crushes dissent.

More than 100 million Americans—one-third of the population—live in poverty or a category called “near poverty.” Yet the stories of the poor and the near poor, the hardships they endure, are rarely told by a media that is owned by a handful of corporations—Viacom, General Electric, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., Clear Channel and Disney. The suffering of the underclass, like the crimes of the power elite, has been rendered invisible.

In the Lakota Indian reservation at Pine Ridge, S.D., in the United States’ second poorest county, the average life expectancy for a male is 48. This is the lowest in the Western Hemisphere outside of Haiti. About 60 percent of the Pine Ridge dwellings, many of which are sod huts, lack electricity, running water, adequate insulation or sewage systems. In the old coal camps of southern West Virginia, amid poisoned air, soil and water, cancer is an epidemic. There are few jobs. And the Appalachian Mountains, which provide the headwaters for much of the Eastern Seaboard, are dotted with enormous impoundment ponds filled with heavy metals and toxic sludge. In order to breathe, children go to school in southern West Virginia clutching inhalers. Residents trapped in the internal colonies of our blighted cities endure levels of poverty and violence, as well as mass incarceration, that leave them psychologically and emotionally shattered. And the nation’s agricultural workers, denied legal protection, are often forced to labor in conditions of unpaid bondage. This is the terrible algebra of corporate domination. This is where we are all headed. And in this accelerated race to the bottom we will end up as serfs or slaves.

Rebel. Even if you fail, even if we all fail, we will have asserted against the corporate forces of exploitation and death our ultimate dignity as human beings. We will have defended what is sacred. Rebellion means steadfast defiance. It means resisting just as have Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, just as has Mumia Abu-Jamal, the radical journalist whom Cornel WestJames Cone and I visited in prison last week in Frackville, Pa. It means refusing to succumb to fear. It means refusing to surrender, even if you find yourself, like Manning and Abu-Jamal, caged like an animal. It means saying no. To remain safe, to remain “innocent” in the eyes of the law in this moment in history is to be complicit in a monstrous evil. In his poem of resistance, “If We Must Die,”Claude McKay knew that the odds were stacked against African-Americans who resisted white supremacy. But he also knew that resistance to tyranny saves our souls. McKay wrote:

If we must die, let it not be like hogsHunted and penned in an inglorious spot,While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,Making their mock at our accursèd lot.If we must die, O let us nobly dieSo that our precious blood may not be shedIn vain; then even the monsters we defyShall be constrained to honor us though dead!O kinsmen! We must meet the common foe!Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,And for their thousand blows deal one death blow!What though before us lies the open grave?Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

It is time to build radical mass movements that defy all formal centers of power and make concessions to none. It is time to employ the harsh language of open rebellion and class warfare. It is time to march to the beat of our own drum. The law historically has been a very imperfect tool for justice, as African-Americans know, but now it is exclusively the handmaiden of our corporate oppressors; now it is a mechanism ofinjustice. It was our corporate overlords who launched this war. Not us. Revolt will see us branded as criminals. Revolt will push us into the shadows. And yet, if we do not revolt we can no longer use the word “hope.” 

Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick” grasps the dark soul of global capitalism. We are all aboard the doomed ship Pequod, a name connected to an Indian tribe eradicated by genocide, and Ahab is in charge. “All my means are sane,” Ahab says, “my motive and my object mad.” We are sailing on a maniacal voyage of self-destruction, and no one in a position of authority, even if he or she sees what lies ahead, is willing or able to stop it. Those on the Pequod who had a conscience, including Starbuck, did not have the courage to defy Ahab. The ship and its crew were doomed by habit, cowardice and hubris. Melville’s warning must become ours. Rise up or die.

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.”

Ditto, ditto, and more. In an

Ditto, ditto, and more. In an effort to understand the conditions under which I have lived for 80+ years, the only explanation for me is, the spiraling cycle is spinning a malignant tail into a black hole. Theorizing the "other end" of the black hole, a cleansing re-birth--evolutionary, shall we say? This site, and similar testify to the intelligence, knowledge and concern by a minority, such as Chris Hedges ( thank universe for him and cohorts.) Too little, too late or critical mass?

The “R” word: There are many

The “R” word:

There are many factors I ponder. Allow me an "I wonder"...
Revolution is necessary, but revolt is not.

Our economic and political system is not working because its structure and goals, environmental and economic collapse driven by corporate rule is a mere consequence of our system weaknesses. I highly recommend Thinking in Systems by Donella Meadows for this reason.

I believe revolt to be unnecessary. It would mean throwing the first punch when we don’t need to. Revolution happens when there is a shock delivered to the system. Occupy has been hatching some loan default shock. I think this tactic is a waste of time and may even be counter productive. A) We can anticipate shocks. We’ll have shocks a plenty, but shocks that come from man made and natural systems in collapse. There is no way to prevent this collapse, and it is happening. We don’t need to waste energy on creating these shocks. B) Creating shocks would also be counter-productive because forcing these shocks would enable blame and increase polarization.
Instead I wonder about the wisdom of biding time and waiting for the wave to come to us. If we don’t cause the shock then we can’t be blamed as an anarchist revolutionary entity.

Furthermore, I anticipate such a great level of change in the next 2-10 years that it would be detrimental to get too attached to any one type of solution. We have gotten so far away from where we need to be - even those with the best intentions may end up pushing agendas that don’t work either. Instead, I believe there would be much benefit from continuing to focus our energies to create change at the grassroots level:
developing community and regional based systems as best we can
working towards non-participation as much as possible
forming networks of people that can be called upon as councils of wisdom and action in the moment, for whatever that moment and challenge may be.
We have gotten too focused on the macro and have lost our connection with the micro. We cannot fix the macro until we begin netting together and healing the micro. Otherwise we run the risk of tearing down just to rebuild what we don’t want.

I see this moment as a surfer waiting for a wave. If we pay attention, stay flexible, we may ride this thing to shore.

Its about time there barney

Its about time there barney google.
Have you noticed a much larger military presence in the sf bay area armed soldiers are every where wtf are they preparing for the monsanto may 25th
protests. Alex jones said that the report of the military saying that they dont need the presidents permission to put down a riot or insurection wtf

"to show what happens when

"to show what happens when unfettered corporate capitalism "
Which isn't present anywhere in the USA. Name a measure of government interference in the marketplace and it's been going up for DECADES. You people who criticse "unfettered capitalism" have had your way for that long and it's resulted in EXACTLY what you claim to hate. Yet clearly you don't care, as you continue to push the myth that, because we're not Stalinist, everything that happens is the fault of the "unfettered" market. Clearly all you care about is dodging the blame.

Everyones ox is gonna get

Everyones ox is gonna get gored there will be no one not effected by the greed and impoverishment. I personally want my goverment back its not capitalism that has failed us its greed and influence. Watch once the grumblings become louder suddenly more people will go back to work or reports that unemployment are going down the housing market is better
thats when you know they are getting uncomfortable and want you to shut up

It's a business deal. Vast

It's a business deal. Vast fortunes are at stake. The decisions are being made by people with no regard for human life. A labor force that is as cheap and productive as possible is all that matters to industrialists such as these men.

The country is intentionally being bankrupted and the currency destroyed. Your elected officials sit and watch as your lives are reduced to destitution and in fact, pass laws that make it illegal for you to protest your plight.

This is going to end badly. There will be food shortages due to global bidding on supplies and the US dollar failing to compete in the auction blocks. This will lead to mass arrests. Together with gun confiscation, the oppression of expression, this is war.

It's not your imagination if you feel in danger. You are in danger. Plead with any military personnel inyour family or network to realize the swindling tactics used to reach this point. Staged events to invoke laws. Deregulation to allow unfair lending practices to continue unpunished. And wars being fought on behalf of corporations and special interest groups are negating the possibility for this to be solved.

I want you to know I have tried my best for 10 years to bring this to your attention. Predatory lending on a global scale was clearly taking place and the silence/collusion of the elected officials was too alarming to remain quiet.

I love America and her people and I want you to know my heart is breaking. Globalization has redesigned the world and left the middle class and 1st world nation's poverty class out of the equation.

Remember where you came from. Remember who you are. Americans. The land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. God bless each and every one of you and thank you for being so kind to me.

Yes. The problem is that it

Yes. The problem is that it is a charade created by Banksters. I don't have much time so quickly: The only true capital is human capital, real value is human relationship and our aware, conscious interaction. We are all slaves to the illusory, imagined ideal of money and currency when we should really be focused on the real value we all possess.

Good night and good luck ...

Have you ever wondered

Have you ever wondered whether the money you spend ends up funding causes you oppose?

A buycott is the opposite of a boycott. Buycott helps you to organize your everyday consumer spending so that it reflects your principles.

Tens of thousands of people have joined

Using OUR money to support ONLY companies that serve OUR values.

I logged in to comment but

I logged in to comment but words just don't seem adequate. The only way, and I mean the only way that this evil can continue is if the masses become complicit. This is hardly just an American problem, most of the world has never known what we seem so ready to give away in the name of some yet undefined security.
Yes, we are lemmings and unless we raise our heads we will surely perish. A presidential candidate once stated that "we are the ones that we've been waiting for". Though he may have lost his way I do believe his statement was and remains accurate. What will we do?

"We are the the Leader(s) we

"We are the the Leader(s) we have been looking for" we are going to educate and motivate (503)(c) non-profits are springing up everywhere, we have boots on the ground, finance-foreclosures, food-Monsanto linked to several degenerative diseases, Healthcare ,Education, Human rights, etc. We are out here, don't give up. Read the founding of this country it was just as chaotic if not more. This is upheaval, this is mother earth spitting out the garbage, we have been so complacent to endure. It's our time to create what "the people" want, co-ops, time-banks etc. A part of the civil rights and women's movement, this is what change looks like and we are going to do it better, we know more, we are no longer divided, we know who are enemy is! forgive my grammar.

I logged in to comment but

I logged in to comment but words just don't seem adequate. The only way, and I mean the only way that this evil can continue is if the masses become complicit. This is hardly just an American problem, most of the world has never known what we seem so ready to give away in the name of some yet undefined security.
Yes, we are lemmings and unless we raise our heads we will surely perish. A presidential candidate once stated that "we are the ones that we've been waiting for". Though he may have lost his way I do believe his statement was and remains accurate. What will we do?

"The greater the destruction,

"The greater the destruction, the greater the apparatus crushes dissent." the bigger the lie the greater the force needed to maintain those in power.

There are creative non

There are creative non violent ways to rise up

Here are a few:

Stop paying taxes
Form a general strike
Occupy banks and federal buildings

But none of this is worth the paper it is not written on unless we collectively do it.

It is the hands of men and

It is the hands of men and the tool of money that built this, thus it is the hands of men and the tool of money that can change this. We, the ones that out number the pinnacle of the few at the top of the pyramid of inequality stand together, and we buy back our world, we stand and we direct our money towards a policy making group, " politicians" and we place them in office and we write a policy that supports all life. We use the same venue as was used to create this abusive system.
THis way, we stay where we are and do not feed the military industrial complex's complex! It is a structural order the creates, not reactions, as a reaction is just more of the same, spite and blame lacking all self responsibility, which is what got us into this mess in the first place.

From those who came came

From those who came came before us these things you will remember before our minds were muddled by the flickering gamma radiation of tv, oh tv, there are 4 arguments for the elimination of tv, because the revolution will not be televised, we will encircle the bentagon and make it rise from its foundations, we will place flowers in the barrels of guns aimed at us, we will secretly put sugar in the gas tanks, we will lay down to block the way, we will create our own secret economies that defeat corporate communism, arm the homeless, we will die in the revolution for the hell of it, we will never find peace in the absence of the sacred, tune out go off line and into the streets, throw blood on the bombs, DO IT!!!!!!!!!

An unusually good and down to

An unusually good and down to earth piece of writing from Mr. Hedges. I guess I like it especially because it says what I have been saying since October of 2011. It just says it better and to a broader audience.

"It is time to employ the

"It is time to employ the harsh language of open rebellion and class warfare."

"It is time to employ the harsh language of open rebellion and class warfare."

"It is time to employ the harsh language of open rebellion and class warfare."

It saddens me to hold the

It saddens me to hold the belief that humans are doomed. I agree with Chris Hedges that it is out of control and looking a lot hopeless. I'm hoping evolution brings us to have less greedy and competitive brains before we bring everything to destruction. Or, better yet, maybe we can genetically modify the greed gene out and beef up the compassion gene (though, I'm sure Monsanto won't pick that one up - not much of a money maker there, eh?!).

To paraphase, the ship of

To paraphase, the ship of state and its crew are doomed by habit, cowardice, ignorance and hubris. An appropriate condemnation of the American people and their "elected so-called leaders". Here we go....and how far? Or will the people awaken and restore their democracy? Only time will tell. Good luck!

Come to the conference

Come to the conference "Ecological healing, Economic Justice: Creating Prosperity for the 99% in Rhode Island on October 12. Register at gerritt at mind spring dot com

That just about sums it up.

That just about sums it up. Who among you still rationalize for the power structure?

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