Chris Hedges and Wallace Shawn on politics, playwriting and power

The two discuss experiences working in other countries and how those experiences led them, as Hedges puts it, to “grapple with the reality of empire.”


In this week’s episode of “On Contact,” host Chris Hedges sits down with actor, playwright and essayist Wallace Shawn for an in-depth conversation on art, philosophy and the current state of American politics. Shawn, perhaps best known for his role in “The Princess Bride,” discusses his new book, “Night Thoughts,” as well as his past political plays such as “The Fever” and “The Designated Mourner.”

Shawn tells Hedges that he used to be a “complacent liberal … someone who wanted the miserable people to be less miserable, but didn’t see my own role in making them miserable.”

Hedges notes that many of Shawn’s plays examine “the assumptions of the intellectual elite,” although Shawn says the development of his writing was largely “unconscious.”

“Once I accepted the idea that I could despise myself, and even hate myself, I felt a kind of liberation and freedom,” Shawn continues. “If I allow myself to have thoughts that reflect poorly on myself, the universe of things I can think expands enormously.”

The two also compare their experiences working in other countries and discuss how those experiences led them, as Hedges puts it, to “grapple with the reality of empire.”

Above, watch the full interview, which also features a segment by RT America correspondent Anya Parampil.


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Chris Hedges, whose column is published weekly on Truthdig, has written 11 books, including the New York Times best seller “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt” (2012), which he co-authored with the cartoonist Joe Sacco. Some of his other books include “Death of the Liberal Class” (2010), “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle” (2009), “I Don’t Believe in Atheists” (2008) and the best selling “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America” (2008). His book “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning” (2003) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction.