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Monday, May 20, 2013

It Can't Be Done: Rise Up To No Effect

Big Rock

To remain safe, to remain “innocent” in the eyes of the law in this moment in history is to be complicit in a monstrous evil.
- Chris Hedges
Please forgive the provocative title of this post - it is insincere. While I can't directly address the actual truth of the matter, it is a personal feeling of mine that we can, of course, "rise up." However, it does serve a purpose aside from being provocative (and inviting gross misunderstanding.)

I say it to highlight an elegant point that Chris Hedges makes in a recent truthdig essay. It is one that he has made many times before, and I never tire of being reminded of it.

In spite of the title (Rise Up or Die,) there is more to Mr. Hedges' ironically provocative* prose than just a call to survival:
Even if you fail, even if we all fail, we will have asserted against the corporate forces of exploitation and death our ultimate dignity as human beings. We will have defended what is sacred.
This is why I like to think, ultimately, that "it can't be done," because I am more concerned with the morality of right action, than of its efficacy. While there is an ironically practical reason for this**, I suspect that it is mainly because it is only from morally-based action that one can begin to discern any meaning of existence, or to have reason to exist. (Not being a "speciesist," I would say "dignity as conscious (or self-aware) beings," but that is a quibble not even worth mentioning. Did I say that out loud?)

That said, there is a lot of good Chris Hedges rhetoric in the essay, so go read the whole thing.
  • Corporations write our legislation... control our systems of information...manage the political theater of electoral politics... impose our educational curriculum... turned the judiciary into one of their wholly owned subsidiaries.

  • We stand helpless before the corporate onslaught. There is no way to vote against corporate power.

  • There is nothing in 5,000 years of economic history to justify the belief that human societies should structure their behavior around the demands of the marketplace. This is an absurd, utopian ideology. The airy promises of the market economy have, by now, all been exposed as lies.

  • This is the terrible algebra of corporate domination. This is where we are all headed. And in this accelerated race to the bottom we will end up as serfs or slaves.

  • Revolt will see us branded as criminals. Revolt will push us into the shadows. And yet, if we do not revolt we can no longer use the word “hope.”


*Well, I'm certainly being provocative, but not so ironically - I called Hedges' essay "ironically provocative" because of his rather exciting flame war with the Black Bloc - and anarchists in general - over violence during the Occupy surge.

Of course, I'm being a bit unfair since Chris does not, in this essay or elsewhere, call for violence. But I am always struck by the provocation to passion that his writing often displays. I'm pretty predisposed to florid prose myself, but I tend to self-censor if I feel as though I am edging close to encouraging, shall we say, impulsive behavior.

And Chris gets my blood up. I like that, so don't read this as negative criticism.

**Action based on moral justification, quite simply, has a longer shelf life than result-oriented action.

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