Tag: Chris Hedges

The Fury of the Dispossessed

When I’m excited, I ride my bicycle very fast. After a day that lacks progress, one that sees no new knowledge or discovery, I bicycle home like a grandmother on a cruiser bike. Most days, average days, I ride home in the middle of my three gears, head up and feet wide. Today after starting a new job, and after a lecture by one of the greats, I biked home on the highest gear, bouncing on my low front tire, more excited than I’ve been in a long time to finally feel, for once in years, that I am where I am supposed to be.

Chris Hedges, journalist and intellectual, lectured at the University of Regina. The writer that I will forever aspire to be, the thinker that I will undoubtedly never become, gave a rousing account of how we came to where we are now, stuck in an “inverted totalitarianism” where we are ruled by the faceless being of corporate capitalism. Where the cannibalization of nature exists for straight profit and greed. He spoke of how after World War I we were placed into the “psychosis of permanent war” where the masses would offer up their own slavery, and how we have now reached an age of the moral nihilist. (I am essentially just listing my notes in sentence form.) We have reached a point where food, water, air, and human beings themselves are being treated and sold as commodities and this has built a quality of self-annihilation.

When he spoke of “sacrifice zones,” the places that were abandoned by unbridled capitalism, left in disrepair and a humiliating culture of dependency after being used and left behind because of their lack of monetary worth, I thought of Saskatchewan in fifty years. A place where natural resources are plentiful and long term thought is not. Accelerated environmental review processes that inhibit the ability for proper research and long-term preparedness have been put into place while Saskatchewan is in its infancy of exploiting these resources. I envisioned ghost towns, alien landscapes after plundering the earth and failed nature reclamation projects. I saw people abandoned by the elite that they once, for some reason, loved and trusted. I could see the future because of what has happened in other parts of North America. The current policy makers refuse or are unable to see what Hedges has shared in his latest book, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, and because of the propaganda of the elite, the people are often unable to see it either.

One might ask how I could be so excited, riding home banging my head with a bike-lane-wide grin after a night of being pummelled with the desperately depressing truths that we find ourselves facing. All of Hedges books that I have read deal with these deflating facts, hundreds of pages of them, but always end in a short breath of hope that the elite will fall. I cycled home feeling like I’ve finally found even a small piece of a greater purpose, directly assisting those the system left behind. Feeling like I’ve found the inspiration and motivation to create, to think, to encourage others to think, and to practice dissent. Knowing that the “fury of the dispossessed” can eventually bring enough fear into those mediocre in positions of power, and will see reform because of it. “The formal systems of power are no longer capable of reform,” he said. We need acts of resistance. This excites me.

“You can’t use the word “hope” if you don’t carry out acts of resistance…But we have a moral obligation to the world the corporate state is bequeathing to our children. We have betrayed their future. At least that generation will be able to look back on those of us, hopefully their parents, and say that they tried, even if we fail. Not to try is to be complicit in what is happening.”

-Hedges in Katherine Norton’s article.

Someday, as I told my father, I hope to be smart enough to be able to ask a coherent question at a lecture to a man such as Hedges. Instead, for now, I will continue to skim off of his brilliant works to make mine look greater than they are. But I’m trying, and I guess you have to try.

For more Hedges go here, for more Balls of Rice articles that ride on the coattails of Hedges go here.

Human Progress is a Sasquatch

Sections of the few naturally-occurring trees in southern Saskatchewan have been cleared to make roads and paths. These lead to lakes and rivers and adjacent to these lakes and rivers more trees have been cleared for what is known as the commercial campsite. Commercial because you pay for it. Campsite only because that is what they call it. Very rarely is it used for actual camping. I discovered that my idea of camping differs greatly from that of some people, even those I am close to. This past week at Greenwater Provincial Park, each time I walked by a trailer that was nestled nicely beside a seadoo trailer, a boat trailer, a mosquito zapper, a belching generator and a satellite dish, I thanked God that we knocked trees down for these goofballs. But they might ask, as believers in the advancement and intellectual supremacy of the human species, why not bask in our dominance over nature? I would answer that camping is connecting with how humans are supposed to live, reliant on and connected to nature, without distraction, where time doesn’t matter and phones are useless, entranced by the natural and primal thought-nurturing wisps of a late-night fire. But for our neighbours across the way, camping means watching the Olympics on a slightly smaller flat-screen television, slightly closer to a seaweed-ripe body of water, distracted by the shallow and personless characters on a screen. Our campsite of four tents and eight people, a fire and several chairs, a hatchet and a flashlight, compared to their campsite (listed above) shows how much we have advanced technologically as humans, but shows how as humans we remain the exact same.

Human progress. The idea that we as humans can advance through technology, science, industrial efficiency, or mass production to become greater than the previous level attained, whether that means mentally, spiritually and even anatomically. That the advancements in how we do things, as if a catalyzed form of evolution, will propel us into a sort of utopia.

Some may consider our ability to live in absolute comfort anywhere we want Human Progress. Who needs fires and tents and knives when we have generators, fifth-wheel trailers with two bathrooms, and slap-chops? The progression of our systems does not ensure the progression of humans. Our innovations are not making us better humans that are approaching perfection, they are taking us downwards, into an ignorant, illiterate, unaware cell that is not greater than the fire pits, the nomadic life, the simplicity from whence we came.

Progress not only failed to preserve life but it deprived millions of their lives more effectively than had ever been possible before.

Bruno Bettelheim via Chris Hedges’ TruthDig Column

Almost seventy years ago this week, Nagasaki and Hiroshima were bombed. World War II and the few years after, epitomized by the final acts in Japan, are what Vonnegut’s Kilgore Trout calls ‘The Finale Rack of so-called Human Progress.” A Finale Rack, the set of fireworks wired together by a pyrotechnician to light as the ‘grand finale’ for the gazing patriots and children. The nuclear bombs were dropped and we have been making them ever since. “It was science, industry and technology that made possible the 20th century’s industrial killing,” Hedges says. It was our ‘Human Progress’ that made possible the destruction of hundreds of thousands of humans.

Apparently, Human Progress is an odd looking creature, like what we can imagine a Sasquatch might look like: floppy ears, hairy face. Non-existent. But if it does exist, what better place to find it than the tree-cleared campgrounds of Southern Saskatchewan. It is probably cozied up in its trailer watching the Rider game with the firepit dead and cold ten-feet away.

“What a relief it was, somehow, to have somebody else confirm what I had come to suspect toward the end of the Vietnam War, and particularly after I saw the head of a human being pillowed in the spilled guts of a water buffalo on the edge of a Cambodian village, that Humanity is going somewhere really nice was a myth for children under 6 years old, like the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus.

-Vonnegut, Hocus Pocus, Chapter 26, p204

The myth of Human Progress, characterized perfectly in contrasting campsites, is eating away at our world. It is tearing apart the environment, making mass-murder more and more accessible, and at the same time we remain the same clueless, occasionally barbaric human beings, only now with larger tools to highlight our cluelessness and barbarism. Instead of whittled willow twigs we have the sturdiness of a bent piece of wire. To complement those, we have wire racks to hold them over the embers. If we get lucky we can use a grill instead of a wire, and if we really show our advancements, we would just use a propane range. Our hotdogs and marshmallows have advanced in the way we cook them, but in the end we are still eating the same damn thing.