Article image
Chris Hedges
Truthdig / Op-Ed
Published: Tuesday 6 November 2012
Kafka was right: The modern world has made the irrational rational.

The S&M Election

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I learned at the age of 10, when I was shipped off to a New England boarding school where the hazing of younger boys was the principal form of recreation, that those who hunger for power are psychopathic bastards. The bullies in the forms above me, the sadistic masters on our dormitory floors, the deans and the headmaster would morph in later life into bishops, newspaper editors, college presidents, politicians, heads of state, business titans and generals. Those who revel in the ability to manipulate and destroy are demented and deformed individuals. These severely diminished and stunted human beings—think Bill and Hillary Clinton—shower themselves, courtesy of elaborate public relations campaigns and an obsequious press, with encomiums of piety, patriotism, devoted public service, honor, courage and vision, not to mention a lot of money. They are at best mediocrities and usually venal. I have met enough of them to know.

So it is with some morbid fascination that I watch Barack Obama, who has become the prime “dominatrix” of the liberal class, force us in this election to plead for more humiliation and abuse. Obama has carried out a far more egregious assault on our civil liberties, including signing into law Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), than George W. Bush. Section 1021(b)(2), which I challenged in federal court, permits the U.S. military to detain American citizens, strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely in military facilities. U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest struck down the law in September. The Obama administration immediately appealed the decision. The NDAA has been accompanied by use of the Espionage Act, which Obama has turned to six times in silencing whistle-blowers. Obama supported the FISA Amendment Act so government could spy on tens of millions of us without warrants. He has drawn up kill lists to exterminate those, even U.S. citizens, deemed by the ruling elite to be terrorists.

Obama tells us that we better lick his boots or we will face the brute down the hall, Mitt Romney. After all, we wouldn’t want the bad people to get their hands on these newly minted mechanisms of repression. We will, if we do not behave, end up with a more advanced security and surveillance state, the completion of the XL Keystone pipeline, unchecked pillage from Wall Street, environmental catastrophe and even worse health care. Yet we know on some level that once the election is over, Obama will, if he is re-elected, again betray us. This is part of the game. We dutifully assume our position. We cry out in holy terror. We promise to obey. And we are mocked as we watch promises crumble into dust.

As we are steadily stripped of power, we desire with greater and greater fervor to be victims and slaves. Our relationship to corporate power increasingly mirrors that of ancient religious cults. Lucian writes of the priests of Cybele who, whipped into frenzy, castrated themselves to honor the goddess. Women devotees cut off their breasts. We are not far behind.

“Anyone who wants to rule men first tries to humiliate them, to trick them out of their rights and their capacity for resistance, until they are as powerless before him as animals,” wrote Elias Canetti in “Crowds and Power.” “He uses them like animals and, even if he does not tell them so, in himself he always knows quite clearly that they mean just as little to him; when he speaks to his intimates he will call them sheep or cattle. His ultimate aim is to incorporate them into himself and to suck the substance out of them. What remains of them afterwards does not matter to him. The worse he has treated them, the more he despises them. When they are no more use at all, he disposes of them as he does excrement, simply seeing to it that they do not poison the air of his house.”

Our masters rely on our labor to make them wealthy, on our children for cannon fodder in war and on our collective chants for adulation. They would otherwise happily slip us rat poison. When they retreat into their inner sanctums, which they keep hidden from public view, they speak in the cold words of manipulation, power and privilege, words that expose their visions of themselves as entitled and beyond the reach of morality or law.

The elite have produced a few manuals on power. Walter Lippmann’s “Public Opinion,” Leo Strauss’ work and “Atlas Shrugged” by the third-rate novelist Ayn Rand express the elite’s deep contempt for the sans-culottes. These writers posit that the masses are incapable of responding rationally to the complexities of power. They celebrate the role of a tiny, controlling elite that skillfully uses propaganda and symbols to, as Lippmann wrote, “manufacture consent.” They call on the power elite to operate in secrecy. The elite’s systems of propaganda are designed to magnify emotion and destroy the capacity for critical thought. Kafka was right: The modern world has made the irrational rational.

“Crowds have always undergone the influence of illusions,” wrote Gustave Le Bon, one of the first pioneers of the study of mass psychology. “Whoever can supply them with illusions is easily their master; whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim.”

The more we believe the lies that saturate our airwaves, the more we salute our “heroes” in Iraq or Afghanistan, the more we militarize social and political values, the more frightened we become, the more we bow down and clamor for enslavement, the more the elite detests us. We are, in their eyes, vermin. We have to be dealt with and controlled. At times we have to be placated. At other times we have to be repressed and even killed. But we are a headache. Our existence interferes with the privileges of the ruling class.

“Those who have put out the people’s eyes,” John Milton wrote, “reproach them of their blindness.”

There are a few writers and artists who give us a view of the dark, corrupt heart of power. The 1972 film “The Ruling Class,” a black comedy based on Peter Barnes’ play, does this, as does Jean Genet’s play “The Balcony.” So does Noam Chomsky, Elias Canetti’s “Crowds and Power,” C. Wright Mill’s “The Power Elite,” Karl Marx’s “Capital,” Thomas Pynchon’s “Gravity’s Rainbow,” Marcel Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time” and Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s “Castle to Castle.” The astute explorations of the pathology of power, however, are buried in the avalanche of Disneyfied popular culture and nationalist cant. The elite deeply fears any art, literature, philosophy, poetry, theology and drama that challenge the assumptions and structures of authority. These disciplines must appear to the public only in bastardized forms, packaged as froth, entertainment or sentimental drivel that celebrates the established hier

Pynchon in “Gravity’s Rainbow” portrays Brigadier Ernest Pudding, the commander of a special psychological operations unit in World War II and a veteran of World War I, as the archetypal member of the elite. Pudding’s glory on the battlefield “came in 1917, in the gassy, Armageddonite filth of the Ypres salient, where he conquered a bight of no man’s land some 40 yards at its deepest, with a wastage of only 70% of his unit.” He holds secret fortnightly trysts with “the Mistress of the Night” where he strips, kisses her boots, receives blows from a cane, drinks her urine and eats her excrement. He dies “of a massive E. Coli infection” that results from his nocturnal coprophagic rituals.

Peter Barnes captures the same dementia in “The Ruling Class,” in which Ralph Gurney, the 13th earl of Gurney, accidentally hangs himself in his bedroom while wearing a tutu and playing erotic games with a noose. His successor, Jack Gurney, believes he is God and speaks only of love and charity. This will not do. A psychiatrist is called in to help the new earl adapt to his role as a representative of the ruling class. By the time the psychiatrist’s work is complete, Jack is cured of his God delusion. He now believes he is Jack the Ripper. He assumes his seat in the House of Lords. He rails against the unemployed, homosexuals and socialists. He champions God, queen and country, along with corporal and capital punishment. He murders innocent women on the side, including his wife, and becomes an esteemed member of the ruling class.

Genet, who like Pynchon and Barnes equates the lust for power with sexual depravity, sets “The Balcony” in a brothel. Clients don the vestments of power, including those of a judge, a bishop and a general. The “bishop,” who outside the brothel works for the gas company, hears the sins of the prostitutes in confession and revels in the power of absolution. The “judge” metes out severe sentences for trivial offenses to maintain law and order. The “general,” who rides his prostitute as if she were a horse, demands self-sacrifice, honor and glory for the state. A bank clerk in the brothel, meanwhile, defiles the Virgin Mary. Revolution occurs outside the doors of the brothel. The actual rulers, priests, generals and judges are killed. The patrons step outside, along with Irma, the brothel madam, who is anointed the new queen, to assume the roles in society they once playacted and to mount the counterrevolution.

Irma, at the close of the play, turns to face the audience. She says:

In a little while, I’ll have to start all over again … put all the lights on again … dress up. … (A cock crows.) Dress up … ah, the disguises! Distribute roles again … assume my own. … (She stops in the middle of the stage, facing the audience.) … Prepare yours … judges, generals, bishops, chamberlains, rebels who allow the revolt to congeal, I’m going to prepare my costumes and studios for tomorrow. … You must now go home, where everything—you can be quite sure—will be falser than here. … You must go now. You’ll leave by the right, through the alley. … (She extinguishes the last light. It’s morning already. (A burst of machine-gun fire.)

The only recognizable basis for moral and political authority, in the eyes of the elite, is the attainment of material success and power. It does not matter how it is gotten. The role of education, the elites believe, is to train us vocationally for our allotted positions and assure proper deference to the wealthy. Disciplines that prod us to think are—and the sneering elites are not wrong about this—“political,” “leftist,” “liberal” or “subversive.” And schools and universities across the country are effectively stomping out these disciplines. The elites know, as Canetti wrote, that once we stop thinking we become a herd. We react to every new stimulus as if we were rats crammed into a cage. When the elites push the button, we jump. It is collective sadomasochism. And we will get a good look at it on Election Day.



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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.”

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44 comments on "The S&M Election"

JSI

November 07, 2012 11:36am

Two quotes for the morning after:

“Plenty breeds Pride; Pride, Enuy, Enuy, Warre, Warre, Pouerty,
Pouerty, Humble Care. Humility breeds Peace, and Peace breeds Plenty; Thus round this world doth rowle alternately.”

~ The World’s Whirlegigge: 1631

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” (see above for the causality engendered by peace)

~ Jimi Hendrix

As a footnote: the Brigadier Puddings of the world are only the head and gaping maw of the hellish ouroburos of the West, the Yossarians being the nether end of that serpent.

JSI

educated

November 06, 2012 9:11pm

Great writing, and judging by the comments, right on.

madeleinec

November 06, 2012 5:32pm

Is this such big news? Is anyone here under the illusion that we have ever had a democracy? So what is the solution - don't vote at all? Tell this to people who need health care, even if it is a flawed system. Tell it to those who need federal student aid to get beyond high school. Tell it to the families of developmentally disabled people who depend on HHS funding to be able to live a dignified life. Yes, vote for the lesser of two evils. Then stop whining and start organizing poor people and the battered middle class to demand something better. Time and again it has been shown that there is more progressive grassroots activism under an even slightly left-of-center government than under a right-wing one. The Occupy movement did not emerge during the Bush years.

trud0017

November 06, 2012 5:17pm

@ Michael Spindell -- Chomsky did not say that voters in swing states should vote for Obama.

Chomsky said that voters in swing states need to consider and weigh the benefits of voting third party or voting Obama, that it is a question of much importance and that they must decide for themselves.

My impression is that Chomsky was suggesting that it's a tough decision to vote Green, but that he would vote Green nonetheless. Chomsky did endorse Jill Stein for president. You can read his endorsement at http://www.jillstein.org/our_global_responsibility.

Michael Spindell

November 07, 2012 9:20am

TRUD0017,

I stand corrected unequivocally.

However, I stand by the rest of my remarks. There is much in the Jill Stein candidacy that goes along with my own political opinions. I am for the organization of a movement that will break the stranglehold of the Corporations on our political system. The problem as ever remains that the process of taking back this country from the extreme Right and defusing this movement towards a return to Feudalism, will take time and much energy. Movements are built from the bottom up. The one clear lesson that we can learn from the Conservative, Corporate, Feudalistic movement that began after the Goldwater defeat in 1964, is that we must organize at the local level. Victories on School boards are just as important as victories for legislators. The destruction of Civics courses in that last 48 years has led to generations growing up without an understanding of how our Constitution and Political System is supposed to work. We must stop thinking of the American people as stupid and start realizing that a systemized project to keep them uninformed has been put in place.

President Obama's policies on the unjustified wars, the National Security State and other violations of our Constitution have engendered my distaste, which incidentally I've written about for years on the prominent blog I'm associated with as a guest blogger . Nevertheless, his noxious compromises with progressive principles must be viewed in a more realistic political context that many of my confreres on the Left have blithely ignored. He is a black man in a racist country. Just as Jackie Robinson had to maintain a stoic disposition for his first six years in Baseball, despite the most vicious racial provocations he faced, Barack Obama has also had to do the same. To those of us who have been politically active and aware for years, the very idea of this man being anathematized as a socialist is an absurdity. He faced a congress full of Republicans who promised from day one to obstruct his every move and they did. He also had to face an establishment pundit class that abetted his denigration and I use that word purposely for its linguistic origins.

Yet those among us, who are more attuned to the "beau geste", rather than
the gritty reality of politics, never took the context into account when he didn't fulfill all of their agenda. While I believe that the only answer to the dire health care issue for all Americans is a single-payer system, Obamacare, imperfect as it is, has already been of great benefit to many who were in dire need of health care.

My vision of America would be one radically different from the America we live in. Though I'm old, I still retain the idealistic dreams of my youth and I'm willing to keep fighting for them with the little time I have left. What so many of us committed to those ideals though must realize is that this will always be an ongoing struggle with what we see as the forces of Corporatism. With that insight comes the realization that permanent social change is a long process and that those of us with undue impatience impede our work. Always call out injustice and wrongness where we see it, but always too analyze carefully political contexts to recognize allies to our struggle, o matter how imperfect they may be.

Ron in NM

November 06, 2012 6:53pm

I've read a couple of Chomsky's books ("Power and Terror" and "Profits Over People") and I kept those books in my library. I respect his opinions and agree with many of his criticisms in "Profits..." but I don't see him as a god. If he says he'll vote for Jill Stein, it may be because he lives in a "lopsided" state. And he's right that it's a question of much importance for those who live in a swing state.

If he did endorse Jill Stein for president, he probably didn't want to contradict himself by telling swing state voters to vote for Obama. But it could have a lot of unpleasant and regressive consequences if large numbers of Greens in swing states voted for her. And we all know that. I just have the opinion that it would be rather contrary to one's ideals to help a man like Romney, a candidate of extreme Tea Party Republicanism, get elected as president.

madeleinec

November 06, 2012 5:36pm

Chomsky lives in Massachusetts, where very few people love Romney. So he can vote on his "principles" for any third party candidate he chooses because he knows who will carry this state. I knew people in Massachusetts who voted for that opportunist Ralph Nader in 2000. But the effect of his candidacy in some other states gave us the great "gift" of George W. Bush.

dwdallam

November 06, 2012 5:11pm

This is my worldview also. After doing a degree in philosophy--yeah I'm the personification of "American and a loser"--I came to the same conclusion. Bleak as it is, it leads directly from its premises to its conclusion, and thus we either accept that reasoning, or we believe in unicorns.

But here is my conclusion: there isn't one thing we can do about it. This is humanity. Don't believe it? Too 'negative'? This is what Sartre was taking about in his book Nausea; it is what Simone de Beauvoir was talking about in All Men Are Mortal, and what Hobbes eloquently said about life itself in his book Leviathan:
"Nasty, Brutish, and Short."

In all cases, the point is that this will never change, and Sartre made it a work called No Exit--no way to escape it either.

Again, don't believe it--too bleak and negative--good for you. Historical evidence is NOT on your side. So please, believe in unicorns and feel good, at any cost.

Michael Spindell

November 07, 2012 9:41am

"In all cases, the point is that this will never change, and Sartre made it a work called No Exit--no way to escape it either."

"No Exit" is a magnificent play and does show insight into the human condition. However, the philosophical ramifications of the "human situation" being hopeless, translates I think into stupidity. Two years ago I was literally dying and as I was about to expire, I received a Heart Transplant complements of Medicare. If I were to now adopt Sartre's view, I should live the rest of my new found life hedonistic-ally, because in the end nothing matters, or changes. I've lived 68 years now and in my lifetime there have been tremendous changes for the better. While racism still exists in this country and there is much to be done, nevertheless people of color live in far better conditions than they did in my youth. Women have been removed from chattel status. Police harassment and abuse of Gay people has been abated. Change does happen and since my life experiences have privileged me to observe it, I know its truth.

The other reason I reject Sartre's pessimism is from the perspective of one's own mental health. His way leads inevitably towards despair, depression and egotism. I am in addition to other skills a trained psychotherapist, of the Existentialist part of the spectrum. Believe it or not, the simple truth expressed in the inane song "Let a Smile be Your Umbrella", actually is a wise nostrum to maintain ones mental health. Those pessimistic "Philosophical Icons", with the dyspeptic view of life, were not only unhappy men, but also led too many down a false path to nowhere.

Ron in NM

November 06, 2012 7:04pm

DW:

I don't have a degree in philosophy, but I waded through as much as I could of Sartre's "Being and Nothingness" more than 40 years ago. (Can't remember much of it now.)I was more attracted to the Existentialism of Albert Camus, and the one thing I got from that school of post-war European philosophy is that we are what we do, and life may be essentially meaningless, but if we want meaning, we'll have to create it in our own lives. And I can't really argue with that.

JoeWeinstein

November 06, 2012 4:41pm

Manuals on power - written by or for the elite - and for anyone else who cares to pay heed to either the tactics or the motives for power - go back much earlier than Hedges' examples. The classic is of course Machiavelli's 'The Prince'. Only a marginal addition to its basic insights is given by Cannetti as quoted in the article: “Anyone who wants to rule men first tries to humiliate them, to trick them out of their rights and their capacity for resistance, until they are as powerless before him as animals.”

But even many centuries before Machiavelli, power-grabbers instinctively acted on his insights.

The desire to rule, to monopolize political power (power to make society-wide decisions), is pathological, but can use wickedly rational tactics, notably Canetti's tactic: tricking folk out of their rights. And the cleverest power-grabbers - looking to the long term, rather than merely to a bloody short term - do their trickery by creating and abetting seemingly benign attitudinal and institutional frameworks for imposing and popularly justifying rule: frameworks which separate and elevate rulers (or special officers) from and above everyone else. These frameworks range from the religiously endorsed verbal doctrines of the divine rights of kings and of autocratic tsars to the alleged 'enlightenment' of verbal or written provisions for an oligarchic republic, complete with a populist veneer of mass elections - e.g. the ancient Roman republic or the American republic mandated in the 1787 US federal constitution.

Inevitably various presidential elections - not just the one in 2012 - have been S&M exercises. But 2012 comes close to taking a prize. It’s sort of 1860 redux - Douglas v. Breckenridge: an Illinois Senator striving to calculate exactly how much slavery should exist, versus an unabashed exponent of limitless slavery. But in 2012, there’s no Lincoln.

We’ll keep having Kafka-esque mass S&M elections in America until such time as popular attitudes de-sanctify the 1787 constitution’s notion that public decisions are to be made by whims of a special political oligarchy rather than by reasoned deliberations of teams of ordinary citizens.

Ron in NM

November 06, 2012 3:47pm

Chris:

Wow! I was even thinking of buying a book of yours from Amazon, but I won't waste my time or money on it now.

Your picture reflects the same tone as this essay: angry, arrogant and superior, like nothing in this world is good enough for you. I can only wonder what purpose you think such negativism serves on election day. I voted for Obama, not because I worship him or lick his boots or whatever degrading act you can accuse me of, but because the two major candidates gave me a clear choice, even with the President's failings.

And that's all. I voted, voted early, and don't regret my vote. And I'm glad this will end, for another 4 years, the cantankerous attacks running non-stop on TV.What are you going to do, just stand on the sidelines and hurl brickbats at everyone else? Some of the people who talk here about the presidential candidates seem to long for a pacifist saint to lead them onto glory instead of the Chief Executive of the Federal Government, and if they can't compromise, they'll just curse and spit.

Thanks for nothing, Chris. At least your last couple of essays saved me a few bucks I was going to spend on a book of yours. I have enough problems in my life without welcoming an advocate of bitter nihilism into my library. I'll bet I had a much tougher childhood than you did, but I try not to carry it with me the rest of my life, and spread my anger around like poison.

dwdallam

November 06, 2012 4:56pm

Please don't buy any of his books. You'll hate them because they're too 'negative,' never mind their validity. Perhaps you should pick up Atlas Shrugged and get positive--and get going, like the tough do!

Ron in NM

November 06, 2012 6:29pm

DW:

Who are you to tell me what is valid? Because the observations fit your perception of reality? I think I'll make my own decisions, thank you.

If one's worldview leads to inaction, what's the point? I have never had a Pollyannish view of life, so don't suggest that I do. And I've never been a fan of Ayn Rand, and don't see why I should be now. Tell me how a "negative" view of anything leads to finding solutions.

I know you like to toss around your ageist remarks, and perhaps you'll reply to me in that manner.

The thing is, if you haven't noticed, NOC claims to be a "Progressive Journalism for Positive Action," so why should Hedges come here and depress people with his take on reality? I know most politics is hardly above steer manure, but if that's all we have, why rub our noses in it and say it's "valid?"

People do what they can to survive, then hopefully do what they can to improve conditions. I've had enough drama and crises in my life; I don't need to go looking for someone else's grim outlook.

Criticise what is wrong, but don't lump everything and everyone in one big bucket and just say, "Life sucks!"I know that already, but if I dwelt on that continuously I wouldn't even be here now. If you're going to throw boiling water in someone's face, at least tell them how to treat the burns.

George Watson

November 06, 2012 3:17pm

Not so suppressed anger and bitterness. And although there is much truth in the overall message, constructive discourse is ignored in favor of the hyperbole of a nightmare vision of one who simultaneously sees the invisible world of demons and the barbaric tribal world we hope to better. It is the power and purpose of art to move us so - but I would prefer to hang works that capture the truth in ways that do not dwell on hopelessness.

CharlieABQ

November 06, 2012 2:50pm

(picking myself off the floor and wiping tears of laughter from my eyes) Oh, yeah, Chris Hedges is an agent provocateur! And I'm Napoleon! hahahahaha

shellgirl

November 06, 2012 2:19pm

So sorry you were sent to boarding school at 10. I think that's a form of child abuse. You clearly needed more nurturing. You do sound a little extra cranky today. Take care of yourself. Go to a yoga class.

woetopoe

November 06, 2012 1:54pm

Very erudite and incisive piece of writing. Your vitriol and the lengths you traverse to spread it about are most impressive. What this long-winded piece
really constitutes is a couple of fiercely worded columns that are essentially a
modern epitaph for the human race. The "type A's" will "always" hold sway over the masses and "both" are basically "flawed species" predestined to first destroy much of their environment...and then themselves. Have you read "The Character of Man" in Mark Twain's autobiography Chris? Try it...I'm reasonably certain you'll add it to your stock of verbal ammunition.

luckylongshot

November 06, 2012 1:38pm

Great article and not over the top at all. The shame is this election is seeing Americans choose between two men who both want to terrorise them. My only hope is that a new political party that tries to represent the interests of the 99% is just around the corner

Alan8

November 06, 2012 2:21pm

"My only hope is that a new political party that tries to represent the interests of the 99% is just around the corner"

It's already here: Check out the Green Party's Green New Deal: http://www.jillstein.org/summary_green_new_deal

Curtis Smay

November 06, 2012 1:14pm

Some very drastic actions are needed to get a hold on our situation, until that happens Good by good life and hello hard times and eventually we are doomed to become refugees. The Cartels in Old Mexico are going to welcome your wives and daughters .

linelites

November 06, 2012 1:06pm

Like the falsifiable theory, rebuttal is only evidence of its veracity. Were I to protest this gloomy assessment, I just support it. But I know enough, (not as well as you, Mr. Hedges, but enough), to know you are spot on the bulls eye when most see not the target. When are you going to split your arrow with the hardcore truth of 9/11? When our backs are finally against that wall of desolateness, one can rally only tried and true hope in the face of this perverse aim of this sector of the ruling elite of turning the human race into their bitch.

Regardless, pls keep up the good work, Mr. Hedges.

Jeremy Lynes

Michael Spindell

November 06, 2012 1:03pm

Chris,

Yours is a well written, yet dyspeptic, dissection of the situation today in Corporatist America. I agree with you that at base, the problems we face lie more with the sociopath bullies, who control us and would return us to feudalism. Political philosophy, except as an expression of the human frailties that beset those who lead us, is less important than their will to power and the odor of decay it reeks. I've written similarly in my own guest blogs at jonathanturley.org. We probably are of a similar age, though you look younger, because your quoting of Pynchon, Genet, Barnes and Mills speaks of the particular culture of the 50's and 60's.

Remembering the dashed dreams we had as young men in the 50's & 60's is a bitter contemplation as one declines into the infirmities of age. While our analysis of the current situation is not too far apart, I believe the utter hopelessness which characterizes this particular piece is ill founded, based on two points. The first is that I think your analysis of Obama is way too harsh to the point that he is made equivalent to both Bush and Romney, in terms of the danger represented to the 99% of us. As DH Fabian opined above President Obama has had to work within the constraints any President faces. My own thoughts on this is that the murder of JFK was a military/industrial complex coup to inform every subsequent President, that certain areas were not under her/his authority. Off the table became matters of war, foreign policy and national security. Elected officials who subsequently railed against this situation were removed or forced to retire.

Where there is some play though is on the other issues, which this year include a "safety net", the autonomy of women, the rights of minorities, etc.
Our "Ruling Class" is not as homogeneous as you seem to suppose. There is a rough division twixt those who believe the "let them eat cake" philosophy, as opposed to the "throw them some crumbs to keep them content" philosophy. Our national elections serve as messages to them of how much the "people" can take. I this election there is a clear divide.

In the end I believe that there needs to be a mass movement to take back this country. However, though OWS was a start, such a movement doesn't exist. You it would seem grew up in far better circumstance than I, at least judging from your boarding school. I am a child of the lower middle-class, who was orphaned and penniless as I entered college. While I've done well in my life, my long career was spent specifically in providing assistance for those in need, be it financial or psychological. Therefore, following these advice of Chomsky, I voted early in my swing state for Obama. That vote was cast not out of love for him, but out of loathing for what his opponent represents.

I was at deaths door two years ago and through the benefits of Medicare received a heart transplant that has given me new life. I am old perhaps, but I refuse to give up hope and continue to work for change in this country in any way I can. I want to ensure that others in need receive the benefits that I’ve received. The alternative would be to turn inward and increasingly become bitter towards those who oppress us, as one might gather from the article you've written. I respect you and your work greatly, but fear as time passes you are becoming a curmudgeon in your outlook. I prefer to keep working and believing that we can fight this oppression and will to my dying day.

Kathleen Murphy

November 06, 2012 1:56pm

Actually, Chomsky endorsed Jill Stein, and he has never suggested that anyone vote for Obama!! (jillstein.org/chomsky)

When you give your support to evil, you become evil. And you just voted for the "left" fist of the 1%. So, whatever Obama does from here on out is blood on your hands.
Good luck living with yourself!

Tell us, what could be more negative than the belief that we can't do better than a black Romney-clone (whose healthcare plan is identical to Romney's healthcare plan?!! remember when Romney made a fool of himself criticizing Obama's healthcare plan when it was discovered that his earlier healthcare plan was identical to Obama's? No? You forgot that already?))

JSI

November 06, 2012 12:37pm

Irreproachably correct in all respects. However, those who have not actually been incarcerated in a boarding schoool might shelve it – along with Terry Southern’s “Blood of the Wig” – as Demented Ravings Under the Influence of Something Bad.

I have been there, and grew up incarcerated not only as a prep school student but with the additional impediment of being a “faculty brat”, the son of a Headmaster . . . . if you are a connoisseur of the brutally weird. Mind you, Headmasters (once you pull back the green curtain) are just another faceless body in the mob of sans culottes, although they have pretensions of someday rising above the status of a valued lackey to an actual Member of the Club. And I in turn was a sans culotte, sans culotte in the social and cultural pecking order of my classmates, the sons of politics, industry and wealth.

I digress. A friend of mine commented apropos of the monkey house of Western
Civ that in order to Truly Succeed In Life one needed to assume the twin attributes of a victim of the Stockholm Syndrome and those of the Beaten Wife. He was right. Which is why I am in no way a success, in those terms, but speaking only for myself does lend a certain credence to your thesis.

Nonetheless, there are bright spots. One of these comes from Archy (of Archy and Mehitabel) . . . . from Archy Does His Part:

what the ants are saying

no insect likes human beings
and if you think you can see why
the only reason i tolerate you is because
you seem less human to me than most of them
it wont be long now it wont be long
man is making deserts of the earth
it wont be long now
before man will have used it up
so that nothing but ants
and centipedes and scorpions
can find a living on it
man has oppressed us for a million years
but he goes on steadily
cutting the ground from under
his own feet making deserts deserts deserts
what man calls civilization
always results in deserts
men talk of money and industry
of hard times and recoveries
of finance and economics
but the ants wait and the scorpions wait
for while men talk they are making deserts all the time
getting the world ready for the conquering ant
drought and erosion and desert
because men cannot learn
each generation wastes a little more
of the future with greed and lust for riches
it wont be long now It won't be long
till earth is barren as the moon
and sapless as a mumbled bone
dear boss i relay this information
without any fear that humanity
will take warning and reform

~ Don Marquis

Have a most excellent election day 2012,

JSI

jcalessio9

November 06, 2012 1:01pm

Dear Chris (written as a reply because it was the only way I could post)

I think you might want to step back and look at yourself for a moment. As I reflect on the manner in which you boasted of suing Barack Obama and the vigilance and vehemence with which you condemn him, I must ask myself carefully, “who is this Chris Hedges?” I am shocked that anyone with even a modest understanding of what has happened in the world over the last 12 years could say that Obama is worse than former President Bush, who put in place nearly everything, directly or indirectly, with which the Obama administration must work.

While much of what you say is technically correct: the state under any party is a tool of repression, and most of us are working for the wealthy elites in some capacity, that knowledge is of no value if we cannot make calculated rational decisions about who will do us the most harm during the next four years.

Your current statement does not appear to be very rational. I cannot help but be reminded of the provocateurs that infiltrated every organization, meeting, and demonstration that we put together in the sixties and early seventies. Their primary goal was to get us angry and emotional so we would display irrational behaviors and either be discounted or draw police response.

The world is a very complicated place, and the wealthy, working through the United States government and other nations have a long history of contributing to that complication in ways that have proven detrimental to nearly everyone. It took a long time for the wealthy and their political pawns to make millions of people around the world hate us. Those processes cannot be reversed in four years, and it is possible that no electable administration will be sufficiently motivated or able to reverse what is currently in place. That is why we must continue to work for justice in as many peaceful ways as we can, but never miss an opportunity to prevent the people who represent the wealthy most directly, the George Bushes and Mitt Romneys, from winning/steeling elections.

Given your understanding of how the world works, it seems you might be able to at least invoke this simple formula: look at who the wealthiest people are giving their money to, and vote for someone who can prevent that person from being elected. I think in this election that means voting for Barack Obama – right? My view of the world is more complicated than that, but I think that is a formula with which we can at least start to make our decisions about who progressives should support in this election. I cannot help but wonder who you are really working for, Chris. Your remedies simply don't make any sense.

John C. Alessio

Kathleen Murphy

November 06, 2012 1:32pm

Are you trying to say that Obama's NDAA (indefinite detention law), and his top-secret TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) are NOT worse than Bush?

NAME ONE, J U S T O N E , BUSH POLICY THAT OBAMA HAS NOT EXPANDED!! (and lies from MoveOn don't count!)

Ron in NM

November 06, 2012 3:44pm

KATHLEEN:

So how, Ms. Mad-at-the-World, is YOUR vote for Jill Stein going to make ANYTHING better? It's just the act of a petulant child grumbling "I'll show you!" to a disappointing parent. Well, lotsa luck with that.

Michael Spindell

November 06, 2012 1:27pm

"I cannot help but be reminded of the provocateurs that infiltrated every organization, meeting, and demonstration that we put together in the sixties and early seventies.'

John C. Alessio,

Those memories were also on my mind as I wrote my previous comment.
Since you obviously lived through and were active in the 60's, as was I perhaps you would also agree with me about another similarity I perceive.
As described so eloquently in Rick Perlstein's book "Nixonland", we in the Movement at that time seemed more concerned with our "political purity", than with the actual fate of human beings. Humphrey lost by a relatively small margin, influenced perhaps by those Progressives that said there was o difference.

Hubert Humphrey was hated as LBJ's Vice President, specifically because as VP he had to support the Viet Nam War. Whether you were for McCarthy, or for RFK, as I was, it was a difficult decision as to who to vote for in 1968. Many sat on their hands in that election, or voted for the Peace and Freedom Party, rather than "despoiling" themselves by voting for Humphrey. The political analysis was analogous, to that used today: there was no difference between the two candidates. The fact is that Humphrey had a distinguished career as a courageous politician (1948 Democratic Convention for instance) and Nixon one of a bought and paid for demagogue.

Nixon won. The war continued for seven more years; The civil rights movement was destroyed as the "Southern Strategy" took hold; The murders at Kent State halted the Movement; Hundreds of thousands died with the escalations into Laos and Cambodia and many more of our soldiers were killed, maimed and returned home with PTSD. Yet for the purists among us back then, their was also blood on their hands.

ronandchris2@gm...

November 06, 2012 12:23pm

Your intellect is quite dazzling in that you've talked yourself and others out of solutions, conscious participation and true vision. Apathy has become your maiden and as clearly as you insist your observations are, you are like Karl Rove in that you both are getting the same results. Chris you need to spend a little more time learning from the Dalai Lama, roll up your sleeves and do inner work. You've gone as far as you can riding a political mule that can only take you half way across a barren mind...

Kathleen Murphy

November 06, 2012 1:42pm

Maybe someday you'll extend that advice to actually following it?

What apathy could be more negative than the belief that we can't do better than that black Romney clone?!! (Look at Obama's top-secret TPP, for God's sake!!!) Name ONE Bush policy that Obama has not expanded -just one!

When you give your support to evil, you become evil. Please tell us, how harshly do you judge those who allowed, or did nothing to stop, Hitler's Germany?

"For reasons of national security we need to take away your civil liberties." -sound familiar?

What Obama does from here on out, is blood on his supporters hands.

Michael Spindell

November 07, 2012 4:20pm

"What apathy could be more negative than the belief that we can't do better than that black Romney clone?!!"

Kathleen,

May I ask why in the sentence above you needed to identify the "Romney Clone" as black specifically? Just wondering.

Ron in NM

November 07, 2012 10:59am

KATHLEEN:

As usual, you offer no realistic solutions to the horrible conditions you describe with such obvious relish. Now that the election's over, did the votes for Jill Stein even register on the electoral map? You know they didn't, but all you could offer us is advice to sit with you in your cynical stew and scorn everyone else.

"...blood on his supporters hands..." and you obviously compare Obama with Hitler. That's outrageous, and I think you must know it.

As I said, you offer nothing but condescension to those working to make the Democratic Party live up to its past accomplishments.

Nothing.

ken in santa fe

November 06, 2012 12:10pm

I am truly sorry you were sent away to be buggered as a kid. Clearly you were already in the 1% at that time and I am happy that you reject that path (though your funding is presumably what allows you to be a "fellow" and lecture us about your nihilism). It is unfortunate that you have found nothing to believe in, but it is pathetic that you live on only to inflict your pain on others with absolutely no concept of redemption, and thus absolutely no improvement over the path you reject.

GHWB4JFKMLKRFKKK

November 06, 2012 12:01pm

Why I dopped out of fifth grade college English in pre school

DHFabian

November 06, 2012 11:10am

Demoralizing, and much of it true. We ARE a nation of bullies. America has always, from the start, been about destroying others for the sake of wealth. Consider something: Since Reagan, several trillion taxpayer dollars have been redistributed to the few at the top. We say, "That's just business." Yet Americans most recently expressed their shocked outrage over a rumor that President Obama considered allowing a few crumbs to fall off the table to our desperately poor.This is what we have become. That said, I don't share the same view about President Obama. At all. He has to work within the confines of reality as a president, not a dictator.

Curtis Smay

November 06, 2012 1:09pm

I believe they call that tripe Republicans or also to console the gullible they call themselves Conservatives , when by all definitions they are actually regressive s and destroyers.

NHsolarguy

November 06, 2012 11:07am

What a load of drivel...

MoniqueDC

November 06, 2012 10:52am

Too bleak and over the top for me, Chris. I agree with many of your sentiments, but the starkness of your view I find demoralizing. Our culture of materialism (with its worship of the rich) is problematic and it a far more complex situation than merely elite vs mainstreet. Just take a look at the people shopping at WalMart who appear (from their clothing) to be well able to afford shopping at local or at least regional firms. Instead, in order to save a few $$s, they support a truly oppressive business.

It isn't all just political wonkiness.

Kathleen Murphy

November 06, 2012 1:47pm

"... Then they came for the Arabic people, and I did not speak out because I was not Arabic. ...Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak out."

This reality will soon apply to all those who voted for either "right" or "left" fist of the 1%.

It may be "too bleak and over the top" but it's the reality now, whether you like it or not.

Michael Spindell

November 07, 2012 10:13am

Nice hyperbole Kathleen and I just know you congratulate yourself on how "pure" you are politically. That's of course more important than ensuring women aren't returned to chattel status. Its' more important than some middle-class people not being bankrupted by needed health care. As for those "Arabic people" you so cleverly inserted into the well-known phrase I certainly share your appreciation for their treatment of women, but then no-one is asking you to wear a "burkha". Ah how I love you self-satisfied purists making your "grand gestures", sadly recognized only by those who agree with you.

"This reality will soon apply to all those who voted for either "right" or "left" fist of the 1%."

The saddest thing about that line is that I'm certain you want it to happen, to prove you right. In the end you are a weeper of crocodile tears, because you only have empathy for your abstractions, but could care less about their effect on real people. So explain to me how you are different from the 1% who are indifferent to the suffering of human beings? Your purity of purpose perhaps?

Ron in NM

November 07, 2012 10:44am

MICHAEL:

Good response to Kathleen. You beat me to it. But now that the election's over, we may not hear from her again. Most of the people I supported, by either votes or contributions, won in this election, so that brings some satisfaction, but now I know we have to try to put as much pressure as possible on the Tea Party House that Obama is still saddled with.

The President made some efforts to reach across the aisle during his first term, and he probably has to do more in his second term. Unfortunately, however, he may still hit a solid wall of opposition, and if that happens, he'll probably have to do what past presidents did, namely, go to the people, tell them what he's trying to pass, and urge them to call and write their House representatives, Tea Party or not, and urge them in the strongest terms to cooperate with the President and get that bill passed.

You had a heart transplant? And Medicare paid for it? I ask for personal reasons. I recently had another angioplasty and two stents put in, and though I'm mostly vegetarian and exercise regularly, it seems certain problems keep coming back. I hope I'll never need a transplant, but I never knew that Medicare would pay for such an expensive treatment.

Michael Spindell

November 07, 2012 12:37pm

"You had a heart transplant? And Medicare paid for it?"

Ron,

Yes Medicare does pay for transplants. It also pays for the immune suppression medication I have to take for the rest of my life. Hopefully, with your diet and exercise regimen you will never have to face what I did,
but just in case it is there. your question though gives me a further opportunity to rebut those who think Obama's victory makes no difference.
While I was in the hospital recovering from my transplant there was a news story about a fortyish man, with three kids who needed a heart transplant in Arizona. His insurance company denied it, which was giving him a death sentence. The publicity was so negative that I think he later got it. However, now under Obamacare there would be no question of him getting it. Having just been blessed with receiving my heart, approved by Medicare, I wept with sadness at this injustice. No Obama, no Obamacare. Right there alone is proof that he can be differentiated from his opponents.

I started my political activism back in the 60's. I met a lot of people in the Movement for Social Justice and was also involved in radical union politics.
One of the things that surprised me was that many who were politically in the same place as I was, were curiously lacking in anything but a highly abstract sympathy for those who are oppressed. They seem far more interested in the "purity" of their political credentials, than in the suffering of real people. I see that same trend today and on this thread, from some people who are for the right causes, but fail to empathize with the suffering that will be the direct result of their actions of disaffection from certain means of effecting change, that are admittedly flawed. I want a change of system with every fiber of my being, but I also want to ameliorate the pain that it will cause most people.

I'm well aware that from some radical political perspectives there is the belief that the average person must be made to suffer, before revolutionary change occurs. I abjure those beliefs and think those that hold them are little different from the sociopathic 1%'ers, whose ultimate goal is their own self-gratification.

DHFabian

November 06, 2012 11:18am

Actually, today it's the elite vs. Main Street vs. those we threw out into the ally. What the middle class did to the poor, the rich are now doing to the middle class. The way it looks to me is that pitting people against each other has been a powerful tool for political campaigns, but it has taken a horrible toll on the country.