A Message from Chris Hedges

I don’t know how you feel about the recent events regarding the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, but Chris Hedges makes a pretty good case that what we are seeing is more than mere ‘backlash’. He feels we are standing on the edge of something that could mean fundamental change for our economy, society, and politics. A Revolution? Really?

For the record, I support many of Chris Hedges ideas. I think he is right in the following analysis of the situation. My only cavil is in my trepidation as to where this ‘Revolution’ could take us. I am not ignorant of the tragedy of the rule of the Jacobins during the French Revolution or where the Russian events of 1913 ended up. How many Cubans thought that bringing down Batista would usher in 50 years of dictatorial Fidelism? You think we got problems with the economy now?….Let the dogs of violent ‘revolution’ or ‘armed struggle’ loose and see where it takes us?. The burning of Watts and or Detroit might only be dust motes in the whirlwind in comparison. ‘Revolution’ is an intensely serious game.

And let us not forget….a word from the old wise man himself.

Reform and revolution by Niccolò Machiavelli

“Reforming an existing order is one of the most dangerous and difficult things a prince can do. Part of the reason this is so is that people are naturally resistant to change and reform. Those who benefited under the old regime will resist him fervently, whilst those who stand to benefit from his new order will help him only half-heartedly. This is mainly because the reformers lack legitimacy, and because it is hard for people to believe in a proposed system that they haven’t experienced for themselves. Moreover, it is impossible for the prince to live up to everybody’s rosy expectations; inevitably, he will disappoint some of his followers. To counter this, a prince must have the means to force his supporters to keep supporting him even when they start having second thoughts. Only armed prophets succeed in bringing lasting change.”

It is the issue of the chaos brought about during any revolution and the destruction and damage that happens in the process. I remember the old adage that you don’t get an omelette without breaking eggs, but broken eggs don’t guarantee an omelette will be any good. You might end up with nothing but broken eggs and a mess in the kitchen. And who will have to clean it up?

On the other hand… we have a pretty bad mess in the kitchen already… and can we really afford to NOT have a Revolution?

Look at the mess those protestors left behind


A Message From Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges
A Truth Dig Op/Ed
Wednesday 16 November 2011
“Once the foot soldiers who are ordered to carry out acts of repression, such as the clearing of parks or arresting or even shooting demonstrators, no longer obey orders, the old regime swiftly crumbles.”

This is What Revolution Looks Like

Wel­come to the rev­o­lu­tion. Our elites have ex­posed their hand. They have noth­ing to offer. They can de­stroy but they can­not build. They can re­press but they can­not lead. They can steal but they can­not share. They can talk but they can­not speak. They are as dead and use­less to us as the wa­ter-soaked books, tents, sleep­ing bags, suit­cases, food boxes and clothes that were tossed by san­i­ta­tion work­ers Tues­day morn­ing into garbage trucks in New York City. They have no ideas, no plans and no vi­sion for the fu­ture.

Our de­cay­ing cor­po­rate regime has strut­ted in Port­land, Oak­land and New York with their ba­ton-wield­ing cops into a fool’s par­adise. They think they can clean up “the mess”—al­ways em­ploy­ing the lan­guage of per­sonal hy­giene and pub­lic se­cu­rity—by mak­ing us dis­ap­pear. They think we will all go home and ac­cept their cor­po­rate na­tion, a na­tion where crime and gov­ern­ment pol­icy have be­come in­dis­tin­guish­able, where noth­ing in Amer­ica, in­clud­ing the or­di­nary cit­i­zen, is deemed by those in power worth pro­tect­ing or pre­serv­ing, where cor­po­rate oli­garchs awash in hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars are per­mit­ted to loot and pil­lage the last shreds of col­lec­tive wealth, human cap­i­tal and nat­ural re­sources, a na­tion where the poor do not eat and work­ers do not work, a na­tion where the sick die and chil­dren go hun­gry, a na­tion where the con­sent of the gov­erned and the voice of the peo­ple is a cruel joke.

Get back into your cages, they are telling us. Re­turn to watch­ing the lies, ab­sur­di­ties, trivia and celebrity gos­sip we feed you in 24-hour cy­cles on tele­vi­sion. In­vest your emo­tional en­ergy in the vast sys­tem of pop­u­lar en­ter­tain­ment. Run up your credit card debt. Pay your loans. Be thank­ful for the scraps we toss. Chant back to us our phrases about democ­racy, great­ness and free­dom. Vote in our rigged po­lit­i­cal the­ater. Send your young men and women to fight and die in use­less, un­winnable wars that pro­vide cor­po­ra­tions with huge prof­its. Stand by mutely as our bi­par­ti­san con­gres­sional su­per­com­mit­tee, ei­ther through con­sen­sus or cyn­i­cal dys­func­tion, plunges you into a so­ci­ety with­out basic so­cial ser­vices in­clud­ing un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits. Pay for the crimes of Wall Street.


The rogues’ gallery of Wall Street crooks, such as Lloyd Blank­fein at Gold­man Sachs, Howard Mil­stein at New York Pri­vate Bank & Trust, the media ty­coon Ru­pert Mur­doch, the Koch broth­ers and Jamie Dimon at JP­Mor­gan Chase & Co., no doubt think it’s over. They think it is back to the busi­ness of har­vest­ing what is left of Amer­ica to swell their per­sonal and cor­po­rate for­tunes. But they no longer have any con­cept of what is hap­pen­ing around them. They are as mys­ti­fied and clue­less about these up­ris­ings as the courtiers at Ver­sailles or in the For­bid­den City who never un­der­stood until the very end that their world was col­laps­ing. The bil­lion­aire mayor of New York, en­riched by a dereg­u­lated Wall Street, is un­able to grasp why peo­ple would spend two months sleep­ing in an open park and march­ing on banks. He says he un­der­stands that the Oc­cupy protests are “cathar­tic” and “en­ter­tain­ing,” as if demon­strat­ing against the pain of being home­less and un­em­ployed is a form of ther­apy or di­ver­sion, but that it is time to let the adults han­dle the af­fairs of state. De­mo­c­ra­tic and Re­pub­li­can may­ors, along with their par­ties, have sold us out. But for them this is the be­gin­ning of the end.


The his­to­rian Crane Brin­ton in his book “Anatomy of a Rev­o­lu­tion” laid out the com­mon route to rev­o­lu­tion. The pre­con­di­tions for suc­cess­ful rev­o­lu­tion, Brin­ton ar­gued, are dis­con­tent that af­fects nearly all so­cial classes, wide­spread feel­ings of en­trap­ment and de­spair, un­ful­filled ex­pec­ta­tions, a uni­fied sol­i­dar­ity in op­po­si­tion to a tiny power elite, a re­fusal by schol­ars and thinkers to con­tinue to de­fend the ac­tions of the rul­ing class, an in­abil­ity of gov­ern­ment to re­spond to the basic needs of cit­i­zens, a steady loss of will within the power elite it­self and de­fec­tions from the inner cir­cle, a crip­pling iso­la­tion that leaves the power elite with­out any al­lies or out­side sup­port and, fi­nally, a fi­nan­cial cri­sis. Our cor­po­rate elite, as far as Brin­ton was con­cerned, has amply ful­filled these pre­con­di­tions. But it is Brin­ton’s next ob­ser­va­tion that is most worth re­mem­ber­ing. Rev­o­lu­tions al­ways begin, he wrote, by mak­ing im­pos­si­ble de­mands that if the gov­ern­ment met would mean the end of the old con­fig­u­ra­tions of power. The sec­ond stage, the one we have en­tered now, is the un­suc­cess­ful at­tempt by the power elite to quell the un­rest and dis­con­tent through phys­i­cal acts of re­pres­sion.

I have seen my share of re­volts, in­sur­gen­cies and rev­o­lu­tions, from the guer­rilla con­flicts in the 1980s in Cen­tral Amer­ica to the civil wars in Al­ge­ria, the Sudan and Yemen, to the Pales­tin­ian up­ris­ing to the rev­o­lu­tions in East Ger­many, Czecho­slo­va­kia and Ro­ma­nia as well as the wars in the for­mer Yu­goslavia. George Or­well wrote that all tyran­nies rule through fraud and force, but that once the fraud is ex­posed they must rely ex­clu­sively on force. We have now en­tered the era of naked force. The vast mil­lion-per­son bu­reau­cracy of the in­ter­nal se­cu­rity and sur­veil­lance state will not be used to stop ter­ror­ism but to try and stop us.

Despotic regimes in the end col­lapse in­ter­nally. Once the foot sol­diers who are or­dered to carry out acts of re­pres­sion, such as the clear­ing of parks or ar­rest­ing or even shoot­ing demon­stra­tors, no longer obey or­ders, the old regime swiftly crum­bles. When the aging East Ger­man dic­ta­tor Erich Ho­necker was un­able to get para­troop­ers to fire on protest­ing crowds in Leipzig, the regime was fin­ished. The same re­fusal to em­ploy vi­o­lence doomed the com­mu­nist gov­ern­ments in Prague and Bucharest. I watched in De­cem­ber 1989 as the army gen­eral that the dic­ta­tor Nico­lae Ceaus­escu had de­pended on to crush protests con­demned him to death on Christ­mas Day. Tunisia’s Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak lost power once they could no longer count on the se­cu­rity forces to fire into crowds.

The process of de­fec­tion among the rul­ing class and se­cu­rity forces is slow and often im­per­cep­ti­ble. These de­fec­tions are ad­vanced through a rigid ad­her­ence to non­vi­o­lence, a re­fusal to re­spond to po­lice provo­ca­tion and a ver­bal re­spect for the blue-uni­formed po­lice, no mat­ter how awful they can be while wad­ing into a crowd and using ba­tons as bat­ter­ing rams against human bod­ies. The res­ig­na­tions of Oak­land Mayor Jean Quan’s deputy, Sharon Cornu, and the mayor’s legal ad­viser and long­time friend, Dan Siegel, in protest over the clear­ing of the Oak­land en­camp­ment are some of the first cracks in the ed­i­fice. “Sup­port Oc­cupy Oak­land, not the 1% and its gov­ern­ment fa­cil­i­ta­tors,” Siegel tweeted after his res­ig­na­tion.

There were times when I en­tered the ring as a boxer and knew, as did the spec­ta­tors, that I was woe­fully mis­matched. Ringers, ex­pe­ri­enced box­ers in need of a tuneup or a lit­tle prac­tice, would go to the clubs where semi-pros fought, lie about their long pro­fes­sional fight records, and toy with us. Those fights be­came about some­thing other than win­ning. They be­came about dig­nity and self-re­spect. You fought to say some­thing about who you were as a human being. These bouts were pun­ish­ing, phys­i­cally bru­tal and de­mor­al­iz­ing. You would get knocked down and stag­ger back up. You would reel back­ward from a blow that felt like a ce­ment block. You would taste the salti­ness of your blood on your lips. Your vi­sion would blur. Your ribs, the back of your neck and your ab­domen would ache. Your legs would feel like lead. But the longer you held on, the more the crowd in the club turned in your favor. No one, even you, thought you could win. But then, every once in a while, the ringer would get over­con­fi­dent. He would get care­less. He would be­come a vic­tim of his own hubris. And you would find deep within your­self some new burst of en­ergy, some un­tapped strength and, with the fury of the dis­pos­sessed, bring him down. I have not put on a pair of box­ing gloves for 30 years. But I felt this twinge of eu­pho­ria again in my stom­ach this morn­ing, this utter cer­tainty that the im­pos­si­ble is pos­si­ble, this re­al­iza­tion that the mighty will fall.


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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