The World as It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress by Chris Hedges (2001)
Okay, here is the fact. Everyone must buy and read and reread Chris Hedges’ books. The writing is passionate, the facts and logic of his statements are unassailable, and he is saying things that NO ONE ELSE IS SAYING because, no doubt of suppression by the people who are profiting from the status quo. But especially in his writings on the Israel vs. Palestine genocide and terrorism being waged and the lies behind it and ongoing playing of the Holocaust card that seems to be why the USA gives them 5 billion dollars annually, the freaking evangelical Christian’s give them a pass for once by invoking the “Judeo-Christian” beliefs as crucial — despite thousands of years of Christian persecution because the Jewish religion denies Christ as the Messiah so I am just mystified why they constantly get a pass on anything they do; oh wait, THE PALESTINIANS are Muslim maybe? My ignorance is showing because I am not sure. I will have to look it up.
I have long harbored a suspicion, after seeing a profoundly moving photograph of a lone Palestinian woman fighting back to prevent her removal from the rubble of her home with dozens of Israeli soldiers preparing to drag her away by any means necessary, that things were not being portrayed objectively, factually, or appropriately. Chris Hedges, on the other hand, was there and provides essays in this book that are a serious wake up call. And I am proud to say, my candidate of choice, Bernie Sanders, has been the first person I have heard that actually spoke up on behalf of the Palestinians. The essays on the Middle East are absolutely must read. But there are many others that concisely illuminate other issues as well.
For example, “Opium, Rape, and the American Way” from November 2, 2009 (p. 237):
The warlords we champion in Afghanistan are as VENAL, as opposed to the rights of women and basic democratic freedoms, and as heavily involved in opium trafficking as the Taliban. The moral lines we draw between us and our adversaries are fictional. The uplifting narratives used to JUSTIFY the war in Afghanistan are PATHETIC attempts to redeem acts of SENSELESS BRUTALITY. War cannot be waged to instill any virtue, including democracy or the liberation of women. War always EMPOWERS those who have a PENCHANT FOR VIOLENCE and access to weapons. War TURNS THE MORAL ORDER UPSIDE DOWN and abolishes all discussions of human rights. War banishes the just and the decent to the margins of society. And the weapons of war do not separate the innocent and the damned. An aerial drone is our version of an improvised explosive device. An iron fragmentation bomb is our answer to a suicide bomb. A burst from a belt-fed machine gun causes the same terror and bloodshed among civilians no matter who pulls the trigger.
This paragraph has to be one of the best written arguments against war than any other I have read. I appreciate his concern for the women in particular. Like the bullshit claim that we were bringing democracy to Iraq: the women were not allowed to taste true democracy. And in Afghanistan that we have wasted so much money on, the women still get acid poured in their faces, raped, child brides, and a girl, Malala Yousafzai, was SHOT IN THE HEAD to discourage all girls from wanting to be educated. Because an educated sex slave is not as obedient as an illiterate and totally ignorant of any even limited options for another life. This is the same reason slaves in this country were forbidden to learn to read. YOU CANNOT KEEP A PERSON WHO READS from thinking and questioning the status quo. This is one reason why Hitler and others always end up BURNING BOOKS. This is why librarians FIGHT SO HARD against banned books and censorship. And also why they refuse to release computer records of what people are reading to government authority lest the authorities draw false conclusions and implications from what people read.
For example, I read (well only a little before I could not continue without vomiting) some of an Ann Coulter book. Everything in it was lie after lie and venomous beyond belief. I had always previously turned her off as a talking head on TV because she was so virulently and hatefully argumentative in support of her false beliefs, as well as pandering to try to get someone, anyone, to throw her a bone of legitimacy by some political appointment or — my guess is — she has hopes that by endorsing Trump — she might even get to be Vice President! She is at least as qualified as SARAH PALIN, not that that is saying much. But whatever deficiencies she has, she is at least smart. But I am not sure the combination of naked ambition, narcissism, and no actual “public service” in the traditional sense would be better than a Palin two heartbeats from the presidency. Besides, The Donald has too much ego to let another narcissist anywhere near him; she would find it difficult (at least I hope so) to be sufficiently deferential to him or pretty much everyone else, just as she shows nothing but contempt when having any discussion. She gaslights, claims she’s joking or using hyperbole (“Do you know what that word means?”), then says, no that is what I believe.
So after my failed attempt to listen to one of her books on CD (the reader captured the condescension and superiority tone of the words all too well), I picked up another, this time on her, called BRAINLESS: The Lies and Lunacy of Ann Coulter. It looks very good (by Joe McGuire) but I had to get from interlibrary loan, and am backed up in my reading by library deadlines, so may have to do it justice at another time.
Continuing on with more Opium (p. 237+):
“We need to tear the mask off of the fundamentalist warlords who after the tragedy of 9/11 replaced the Taliban,” Malala Joya, who was expelled from the Afghan parliament two years ago for denouncing government corruption and the Western occupation, told me during her visit to New York last week. “they used the mask of democracy to take power,” she said. “They continue this deception. These warlords are mentally the same as the Taliban. The only change is physical. These warlords during the civil war in Afghanistan from 1992 to 1996 killed sixty-five thousand [65,000] innocent people. They have committed human-rights violations, like the Taliban, against women and many others.”
“In eight years less than two thousand Talib have been killed and more than eight thousand [8,000] innocent civilians have been killed,” she went on:
“We believe that this is not war on terror. This is war on innocent civilians. Look at what they did in May in the Farah province, where more than 150 civilians were killed, most of them women and children. They used white phosphorus and cluster bombs. There were two hundred civilians on 9th September  killed in the Kunduz province, again most of them were women and children. You can see the Web site of professor Marc Herold, this democratic man, to know better the war crimes in Afghanistan imposed on our people. The United States and NATO eight years ago occupied my country under the BANNER OF WOMAN’S RIGHTS and DEMOCRACY. But they have only pushed us from the frying pan into the fire. They put into power MEN WHO ARE PHOTOCOPIES OF THE TALIBAN.”
Afghanistan’s boom in the trade in opium, used to produce heroin, over the past eight years of occupation has funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to the Taliban, al-Qaida, local warlords, criminal gangs, kidnappers, private armies, drug traffickers, and many of the senior figures in the government of Hamid Karzai. The New York Times reported that the borther of President Karzai, Ahmed Wali Karzai, has bee collecting money from the CIA although he is a major player in the illegal opium business. Afghanistan produces ninety-two percent [92%] of the world’s opium trade that is worth some $65 billion, the United Nations estimates. The opium feeds some fifteen million [15,000,000] addicts world-wide and kills around 100,000 people annually. These fatalities should be added to the rolls of ware dead.
Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said that the drug trade has permitted the Taliban to thrive and expand despite the presence of 100,000 NATO troops. [Who are probably paid handsomely to look away, though he does not say so.]
“The Taliban’s direct involvement in the opium trade allows them to fund a war machine that is becoming technologically more complex and increasingly widespread,” said Costa.
We live in a very intertwined world of many unintended consequences along the lines of “no good deed goes unpunished” sort of sense. As far as I can tell from television news, Afghanistan is little more than rocks and sand. How the people ever managed to survive there at all is beyond my spoiled modern lifestyle can comprehend. The opium production to heroin seems to produce an endless and easily produced crop. Even if, hypothetically, the UN or some such said, ok this is bad, lets just give them $65 billion to live on and they can plant food or use the land in better ways. GREED and CORRUPTION would simply take the money at the top and the women and children would get nothing or possibly scraps. And they would still secretly grow the poppies because their is no “enough” when it comes to greed (witness the Koch Brothers).
Plus the dramatic shrinkage of heroin for the 15 million addicts around the world (I wonder how many in the US along?) would cause a dramatic price rise, making poor addicts steal more or prostitute themselves, or whatever it takes to get their next fix. So then we maybe should consider state sponsored cheaper than private for profit providers treatment centers, like marijuana decriminalize use, and build a government controlled source to provide addicts with their hits for free as long as they try to stick with the program, or something like that, that would take it out of criminal gangs profit, prevent the needs for stealing and prostituting themselves, provide affordable (free) treatment centers that would probably pay for themselves by offsetting the massive money spend on the drug war.
Clearly we are not winning the drug war, the addicts are no less victims that the legally sanctioned tobacco addiction that turns billions of dollars of profit over to private industry at the selling and then the health care system when users get cancer. We are fucked up in a moralistic and judgmental attitude toward “weak” moral characters that become addicted to anything — when, in fact, the shit is DESIGNED to be addictive and the private industries pay lobbyists millions to keep their little niche of addiction production going — with government subsidies. Why not a too big a killer, let them fail. Find other work for the tobacco farmers and any American workers involved in the production of the cigarettes?
Malala Joya (mentioned earlier) goes on to describe the reality of Afghanistan life.
“The drug lords are the only ones with power. How can you expect these people to stop the panting of opium and halt the drug trade? How is it that the Taliban, when they were in power, destroyed the opium production and a superpower not only cannot destroy opium production but allows it to increase? [payoffs, greed, profit-sharing?] And while all this goes on, those who support the war talk to you about women’s rights. We do not have HUMAN rights now in most provinces. It is as easy to kill a woman in my country as it is to kill a bird. In some big cities like Kabul, some women have access to jobs and education, but in most of the country the situation for women is HELL. Rape, kidnapping and domestic violence are increasing. These fundamentalists during the so-called free elections made a misogynist law against Shia women in Afghanistan. This law has even been signed by Hamid Karzi. All these crimes are happening under the name of democracy.”
Thousands of Afghan civilians have died from insurgent and foreign military violence. And American and NATO forces are responsible for almost half the civilian deaths in Afghanistan. Tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have also died from displacement, starvation, disease, exposure, lack of medical treatment, crime, and lawlessness resulting from the war.
“Where do you think the $36 billion of money poured into country by the international community have gone?” Joya asked:
“This money went into the pockets of the drug lords and the warlords. There are 18 million people in Afghanistan who live on less the two dollars [$2.00] a day while these warlords get rich. The Taliban and warlords together contribute to this fascism while the occupation forces are bombing and killing innocent civilians. When we do not have security, how can we even talk about human rights or women’s rights?”
He has a chapter on How the Corporations Broke Ralph Nader and America, Too that includes some of the material I alluded to in my previous Chris Hedges post. Another on BP and the oil spill and related general issues. Liberals Are Useless, December 7, 2009, which is very very sharply worded and sadly, accurate (p. 71):
They talk about peace and do nothing to challenge our permanent war economy. They claim to support the working class, and vote for candidates that glibly defend the North American Free Trade Agreement [NAFTA – Bill Clinton]. They insist they believe in welfare, the right to organize, universal health care, nd a host of other socially progressive cause, and will not risk stepping out of the mainstream to FIGHT FOR THEM. . . .America’s liberal class [is] an object of public derision. . . . How can an organization with the oxymoronic title Progressive for Obama even exist? Liberal groups like these make political satire obsolete. . . . I expected nothing but a continuation of the corporate rape of the country. And that is what he has delivered. (p. 71-72)
“You have a tug of war with one side pulling,” Ralph Nader told me when we met on a recent afternoon:
The corporate interests pull on the Democratic Party the way they pull on the Republican Party. If you are a “least-worst” voter you don’t want to disturb John Kerry on the war, so you call off the antiwar demonstrations in 2004. You don’t want to disturb Obama because McCain is worse. And every four years both parties get worse. There is no pull. That is the dilemma of the Nation and the Progressive and other similar publications. There is no breaking point. What is the breaking point? The criminal war of aggression in Iraq? The escalation of the war in Afghanistan?Forty-five thousand [45,000] people DYING A YEAR because they can’t afford health insurance? The hollowing out of communities and sending the jobs to fascists and communist regimes overseas that know how to put the workers in their place? THERE IS NO BREAKING POINT. And when there is no breaking point you do not have a moral compass.”
God, imagine what life would have been like if Ralph Nader had become President! I weep for the loss of a better and even possible future since he would have been instrumental in addressing climate change and banksters back in the day!
LIBERALS IN NAME ONLY
[Hedges] I save my anger for our bankrupt liberal intelligentsia, of which, sadly, I guess I am a member.
Anyone who says he or she cares about the working class in this country should have walked out on the Democratic Party in 1994 with the passage of NAFTA. And it has been only downhill since. If welfare reform, the 1999 Financial Services Modernization Act, which gutted the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act — designed to prevent the kind of banking crisis we are now undergoing  — and the CRAVEN decision by the Democratic Congress to continue to fund and expand our imperial wars were not enough to make you revolt, how about the refusal to restore habeas corpus, end torture in our offshore penal colonies, abolish George W. Bush’s SECRECY LAWS, or halt the warrantless wiretapping and monitoring of American citizens? The imperial projects and the corporate state have not altered under Obama. The state kills as ruthlessly and indiscriminately in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan as it did under Bush. It too, bows before the conservative Israel lobby, refuses to enact serious environmental or HEALTH-CARE REFORM, regulate WALL STREET, end our relationship with PRIVATE MERCENARY CONTRACTORS, or stop handing obscene sums of money, some $1 trillion a year, to the military and arms industry. At what point do we stop being a doormat? At what pint do we fight back? We may lose if we step outside the mainstream, but at least we will salvage our self-esteem and integrity.
HEALTH CARE REFORM
The whole book is filled with the best writing and opinions and judgments that I may have ever read. But I love the title of his essay on healthcare reform: This Isn’t Reform, It’s Robbery (August 24, 2009). It begins with a quote from Harper’s Index, September 2009:
Percentage change since 2002 in average premiums paid to large US health insurance companies: +87%
Percentage change in the profits of the top ten insurance companies: +428%
Chances that an American bankrupted by medical bills has health in insurance: 7 in 10
Capitalists, as my friend Father Michael Doyle says, should never be allowed near a health-care system. They hold sick children hostage as they force parents to bankrupt themselves in the desperate scramble to pay for medical care. The SICK DO NOT HAVE A CHOICE. Medical care is NOT A CONSUMABLE GOOD. We can choose to buy a used car or a new car, shop at a boutique or a thrift store, but there is NO CHOICE between illness and health. And any debate about health care must acknowledge that the for-profit health-care industry IS THE PROBLEM and MUST BE DESTROYED. This is an industry that hires doctors and analysts to DENY CARE to patients in order to increase PROFITS. It is an industry that causes HALF of all BANKRUPTCIES. And twenty thousand [20,000] Americans who died last year because they did not receive adequate care condemn these corporations as complicit in murder. (p. 57)
Those numbers are probably underestimated or have increased despite Obamacare. He compromised out the gate by presenting a REPUBLICAN Heritage Foundation conservative think tank program implemented by Republican Mitt Romney for pity’s sake. Campaigned on SINGLE PAYER and gave it up instantly upon election. Now Hillary, who couldn’t get it done before just wants us to accept “half a loaf” and “build” on the great freaking achievement of the ACA. Now I am not saying it completely sucks, although praising it for being better than nothing is damn faint praise. The principle thing it did, to my mind, is the elimination of PRE-EXISTING conditions. Especially because the insurance companies used the slightest mistake or scrupulously investigation on your personal life to deny you claims. Jokingly hold a cigarette and a drink at a costume Halloween party and they will claim you lied on your form when you checked “never smoked” and so on. Pre-existing conditions led to many a person being scared of gene research because it could be taken to illustrate that you were BORN with a likelihood of heart disease or cancer or something. Heck, I’m surprised the insurance companies didn’t use your parents health issues to claim you might have a pre-existing condition too.
The real debate, the only one that counts, is how much money our blood-sucking insurance pharmaceutical, and for-profit health services are going to be able to siphon off from new-health care legislation. The proposed plans rattling around Congress all ensure that the profits for these corporations will increase and the misery for ordinary Americans will be compounded. The corporate state, enabled by both Democrats and Republicans, is yet again cannibalizing the Treasury. It is yet again pushing American, especially the poor and the working class, into levels of despair and rage that will continue to fuel the violent, proto-fascist movements leaping up around the edges of American society. And the the traditional watchdogs — those in public office, the press and citizens groups — are as useless as the perfumed fops of another era who busied their days with court intrigue at Versailles. Canada never looked so good.
Remember he noticed the fascism rise here first. It has become a topic of considerable conversation now with Trump and authoritarian theocracy advocate Ted Cruz as leading Republican contenders who all feature lots of angry white men at their events, and especially the Trump ones since he actually TELLS HIS SUPPORTERS to punch people in the face that are there to protest him, or maybe just standing while being black.
The Democrats are collaborating with lobbyists for the INSURANCE industry, the PHARMACEUTICAL industry, and for-profit health-care providers to craft the current health-care reform legislation. . . . And these lobbyists have already killed a viable public option and made sure NOTHING in the bills will impede their growing profits and CAPACITY FOR ABUSE.
“It will basically be a government law that says you have to buy their defective product,” says Dr. David Himmelstein, a professor at Harvard Medical School and founder of Physicians for a National Health Plan. . . . Health insurance is not a race to the top; it is a race to the bottom,” he told me from Cambridge, Massachusetts:
“The way you make money is by abusing people. And if a pubic-option plan is not ready and willing to abuse patients, it is stuck with the expensive patients. The premiums will go up until it is noncompetitive. The conditions that have now been set for the plans include a hobbled public option. Under the best-case scenario, there will be tens of millions [who] will remain uninsured at the outset, and the number will climb as more and more people are priced out of the insurance market.” (page 58-59)
. . . . The lobbyists have, as they did with the obscene bailouts for banks and investment firms, hijacked legislation in order to fleece the citizens. . . . President Barack Obama’s director of health care policy, who will not discuss single-payer as an option, has served on the boards of several health care corporations.
Obama and the congressional leadership have shut out advocates of single-payer. The media, including papers such as the New York Times, treats single-payers as a fringe movement. The television networks rarely mention it. And yet between 45-60 percent of doctors favor single payer. Between 40 and 62 percent of the American people, including 80 percent of registered Democrats, want universal, single-payer, NOT-FOR-PROFIT health care for all Americans. The ability of the corporations to DISCREDIT and SILENCE voices that represent at least half of the population is another SAD TESTAMENT to the power of our CORPORATE STATE.
Well we all know how, so far, even the limited changes to health care in this country has turned out. Once the Republicans got both houses, or some other trigger, the attacks on the newly passed legislation began. I am not sure if it is all for show or what exactly they hope to achieve other than waste time and taxpayers money by trying to vote it down or modify it or take it to the Supreme Court. (With their sandbagger Scalia, now thankfully dead, plus the other “Republicans first” and role as objective constitutional justices second, no make that third after their Catholic faith and personal beliefs without consideration of the beliefs of other citizens, like, hmm let me think, WOMEN!) I think the record now stands at 60 failed attempts to get rid of it. And since the insurance companies are making out like bandits, I think it must be all show and time wasting and distraction and an excuse to get nothing else done, which was their goal the minute Obama got elected. Pretty sure it would have been similar to if Hillary had gotten elected, but maybe she has enough dirt on them to keep them somewhat restrained.
And through it all they NEVER ONCE presented ANY alternative plan, but, like Trump, just keeps saying “It’ll be soooo much better. Trust me, if will be Yuge! Such a winning plan, it’ll be great!” When asked for some details or even broad brushstrokes, they shut up, play coy, and say, not going to tell you now, that’ll give my great ideas away for others to capitalize on! Bullshit.
So READ THIS BOOK and all else Chris Hedges has written and you will join us in reality based America.
My one complaint is that he does not discuss or even seem to see how the DENIAL OF REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM of women colors everything everywhere. The reality of misogyny is touched on a bit, but it could be argued that it is a core source for many negative consequences of social lives in “civilization” today. For example, religion is fatally misogynistic. And religion (monotheism in particular) is particularly divisive and REQUIRES that men kill each other for their respective gods. Theists are no better than cults who sacrificed virgins or cut out the hearts of warriors and smeared the blood on them to “take” their opponents strength [though illogical since they are dead and you are not, so wouldn’t it be weakness? well, there is no actual RATIONAL thought behind some beliefs, religious and otherwise.
So we are left with a civilization that devalues women at every level, at every age, at every turn. And men who are glorified for being MANLY MEN, strong and able to kill the enemy without compunction or conscience. And often that enemy is a woman. It is amazing that we haven’t killed each other yet. But, given the current election craziness in the U.S. and terrorism and madness around the world, and climate change and polluted water poisoning us all, I would not be surprised if bookmakers in Las Vegas are taking odds on the end of the world as we know it.
To end on a cheerier note: Vote for Bernie Sanders and democrats down ticket and PAY ATTENTION TO judges as well because W. stacked the courts with conservatives that are killing women, literally. And the freaking school boards!!!!!! These are ideal soil for the Lack of Intelligence design folks to get their false beliefs taught to our children. They fail to grasp the difference between the use of the word THEORY in a scientific sense (The Theory of Evolution) and dismiss it, yet find the concepts of God and Noah’s ark, and a 6,000 year old earth that was created in 6 days credible. Home schooling should be considered child abuse! Dinosaurs did NOT peacefully coexist or coexist with humans. They were not killed by the Flood because Noah didn’t let them on the ark.
Politics used to not mean too much because it was true, both are equally corrupt and remain so based on the extensive election fraud this year and restrictions and dog’s breakfast of a “system” we have that wouldn’t pass muster if we were overseeing such a vote in a foreign country.
But this year is different. This year we have Bernie Sanders. Stay strong, spread the word, phonebank and just talk to your friends and neighbors so that they are aware that this time, it can really make a difference. We don’t have to settle for the lesser of two evils. We don’t have to settle for half a loaf Hillary. Bread and Roses, not Half a Loaf! Bernie 2016. The bastards haven’t won yet.
NOTE: all excessive use of capitalization and bold and such like is mine to emphasize the points I feel are crucial.