Christopher Hedges Offers Gloomy Outlook at Free Library Event
Christopher Hedges was at the Free Library last night to speak about—though he did not read from—his new book with journalist Joe Sacco: Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt. The book, as detailed in this week’s Philadelphia Weekly, deconstructs American “sacrifice zones,” as he calls them—areas of the United States in which the people and resources have been used up and industry has moved on.
While going over many of the same themes Hedges talked about with PW, he offered several other statistics taken from the book. Like in Pine Ridge (a Native American reservation in South Dakota), for instance, at any given moment, 60 percent of the people don’t have running water or electricity. Eighty percent suffer from alcoholism.
Camden, he noted, has one industry: the open drug market. And it’s a food desert. The only supermarket in the once-booming New Jersey city is actually on the edge of town.
Hedges spoke of his book and the factors that led to it for 45 minutes, in which he touched on several other authors—most notably Cicero—and at one point referred to many corners of the internet as “electronic hallucinations to stop us from thinking.” He then took questions from the audience.
Since much of Hedges’ talk, and writing, has focused on the bad, people seemed eager for answers. What, if anything, can stop what Hedges refers to as the “corporate assault” on the United States and the world? His answer: A peaceful, populist movement similar to Occupy, he said, was the only way. It’s our “last, final hope.”
Working within the structure of government, he said, will not help because those within the structure continue giving people what they don’t want. For instance: Virtually all Democrats wanted a public option in the healthcare bill (didn’t happen); no one wanted to give the government the right to detain U.S. citizens in the NDAA (almost sort of happened); no one wanted to give Goldman Sachs a bailout and then some (totally happened). Hedges suggested we’re now at the point where the government is working against the people because the government, in collusion with corporate interests, is not scared of the people.
But you know who was? Richard Nixon, he said. And that’s part of the reason why he called Nixon our “last liberal president.” Since he was scared of the people, he had to sign liberal legislation to appease them.
A populist movement on the streets is not going to be easy, he said, and it’s not going to be created overnight. Similarly, he said, there’s no way of knowing if the movement will take the form of Occupy or something else. Or what will spark it. That said, before we get there, populism could very well lead to fascism, he said; after all, there’s a lot of hate to go around and a lot of Koch Brothers money to fund it.