Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How Corporate and Political Forces Have Almost
Neutralized All Avenues of Resistance in US Culture

From AlterNet, my favorite journalist with a master's in divinity from Harvard Chris Hedges on a depressing but real strategy for the left:

All conventional forms of dissent, from electoral politics to open debates, have been denied us. We cannot rely on the institutions that once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible. The only route left is to disconnect as thoroughly as possible from the consumer society and engage in acts of civil disobedience and obstruction. The more we sever ourselves from the addictions of fossil fuel and the consumer society, the more we begin to create a new paradigm for community. The more we engage in physical acts of defiance—as Bill McKibben and others did recently in front of the White House to protest the building of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would increase the flow of “dirty” tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico—the more we can keep alive a new, better way of relating to each other and the ecosystem.

Most important, we must stop being afraid. We have to turn our backs for good on the Democrats, no matter what ghoulish candidate the Republicans offer up for president. We have to defy all formal systems of power. We have to listen closely to the moral voices in our society, from McKibben to Noam Chomsky to Wendell Berry to Ralph Nader, and ignore feckless liberals who have been one of the most effective tools of our disempowerment. We have to create monastic enclaves where we can retain and nurture the values being rapidly destroyed by the wider corporate culture and build the mechanisms of self-sufficiency that will allow us to survive. The corporate coup is over. We have lost. The trolls have won. We have to face our banishment.

More here.

Of course, Hedges is riffing on his most recent book, Death of the Liberal Class, which strongly and, I think, successfully, establishes that traditional American liberal institutions, like the Democratic Party, labor unions, the news and entertainment media, the arts, and the universities, are all now effectively controlled by corporate ideology and influence, rendering them useless to actual liberals, while at the same time bending their function toward legitimizing and advancing the goals of the corporate state. That leaves the American left now lost in a wilderness the likes of which they have never faced.

That is, in spite of the non-stop ranting of right-wing demagogues to the contrary, the left has virtually no influence over the affairs of this country. But what to do?

I wholeheartedly agree with the notion of disengaging with the consumer culture and resisting all "formal systems of power." Whatever that may mean. Actually, I'm sure it means resisting traditional "liberal" institutions because they now stand against liberalism, but resistance to power more generally, and pulling out of consumerism, have yet to be defined--I know that Hedges, for instance, no longer owns a television, if only to evade the constant barrage of materialism and pro-capitalist messages. I guess this is up to liberals to determine for themselves.

This notion of creating liberal monastic enclaves, however, appears to be, at first glance, kind of silly. But if you think for like two seconds about how the right wing came to power, it becomes a much more compelling thought. That is, go back to the late 1940s and you'll see that conservatism, at that point, was very much in the same position that liberalism is in today, something of an ideological wilderness, albeit with the latent power of big business waiting in the wings. This was when concerned conservatives began several grass roots efforts that most watchers believed hadn't a chance in hell of succeeding. They established conservative journals like William Buckley's National Review. They established conservative universities like Pepperdine. They found ways to join together fundamentalist Christians with anti-communist businessmen. Eventually, they established right-wing think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. This all came to a head when they found their perfect spokesman, Ronald Reagan, and ran him for president, and, amazingly, he won. The rest we already know.

In short, these liberal "enclaves" for which Hedges calls are in essence the creation of an alternate ideological infrastructure, insulated from the propaganda and influence of the corporate state, laying in wait for the day when the plutocracy has so utterly squeezed the life out of the American citizenry that fresh ideas will be like manna from Heaven.

I think I can get behind that.