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Chris Hedges interview-talk [Chris Lydon / WBUR / WGBH]

December 9, 2019

Former NYT journalist and prolific writer, talks about the subjects of his new book America: The Farewell Tour. Hour and a half, picking up a bit as they go.

Hedges and his interviewer take the longer view, going back to their scholarly and spiritual roots to anchor their sanity amidst the difficult outlook, as they touch on many topics relevant to the dysfunctions of the day.

Increasing inequality, disillusionment, and despair feed proto-authoritarian tendencies in our government and economic system. Both political parties are complicit, and Hedges sees few signs that our trajectory can be changed through reforms from within the confines of the the power structure, as it exists. [however, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying. -p.]

I am not as convinced as he is that the US is close to another serious financial crisis – but the rest of his message rings true. Perhaps the one thing that I think is likely to save the US from the vicious cycle of crises ending with authoritarianism, is the possibility that the economic conditions of working class Americans actually have potential to improve somewhat compared to 2012-2016. However, any improvement would be happening along with a continually growing list of economic sectors adopting the structure of a McDonald’s kitchen.

Still, mending the current divide, by lulling the working class back to sleep, would relieve the pressure on the political system. The generational nature of the working-class/middle-class divide would imply that one could buy perhaps 15 years time by letting the middle class deplete, thereby shifting balance of political power back to the stereotypical working class. As a way to “stop the bleeding”, so to speak. After that, the societal problems would be unsolved (and likely worse), a financial episode not unlikely on the decade timescale, political crisis would surely return, or we would simply morph into an “illiberal democracy”. Without a vibrant middle class, we’re looking at a diminished standing in the world, and the US would be a far less attractive place to live. So this scenario is not as bad as analogies to the Weimar Republic. But still fairly miserable if you ask me.

In the final question of the Q&A, Hedges calls for a radical restructuring of power in the US, suggesting that non-violent revolution is actually the least unrealistic path to a better future. It’s hard to dismiss this conclusion, as we already have all the resources we need do much, much better for everyone than we currently are – i.e. deliver a middle class life with health, education, work spread around evenly, a clean environment, and a society in which there is a good chance to build secure human relationships. Resources, processes, values – to shift gears, and mix metaphors a bit [from a popular corporate self-help book with a brilliant final chapter]. We have the first in abundance, we are discovering the third, slowly and painfully……


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