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March 30, 2009 | by  | in Opinion |
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Chris Hedges Nails It

I’ve been having a rough week, guys.

After watching Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform-Domestic Policy Subcommittee, making the newsrounds about how money from the $700 Billion tax-payer funded bailout is being used for things like million dollar executive bonuses and billion dollar loans to Dubai and billion dollar investments in China and for outsourcing thousands of American jobs overseas to India. I wanted to flush myself down the toilet.

This bailout business has been driving me crazy since Hank Paulson first told us the sky was falling back in September ’08 (then took off with the money), and I couldn’t make heads or tails as to why these bailouts kept coming. I hate these bailouts; I thought only Dennis and I were on the same page, as even Obama’s Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, has been more than happy to throw our money at these companies, because they’re “too big to fail.”

I sought refuge in news-trawling (as if my perception of events existed independently of their actual occurrence) and ran into some articles by Chris Hedges—journalist, author and all round big-brain on American and Mid East pols and stuff. “Finally,” I thought, “Someone making sense!” However, just like reality, Hedges’ perspective, which I will now share with you, is hard and a little scary at times.

Hedges, like myself, questions the logic of attempting to resurrect a financial system that was based on borrowing and assumption. Despite how much money we pump into it, it’s gone… and it’s not coming back. More importantly, do we really want it back anyway—a “false economy,” as Hedges puts it—an economy based on consumption rather than production?

This problem isn’t fixed by simply electing a new President; it’s part of a bigger system. Although Obama stands for change, he’s surrounded himself with people who continue to service the corporate state. Geithner, Larry Summers and Robert Ruben have all spent their careers empowering the engine that created the financial collapse of the system we live in today. All are systems managers of a system that’s failed.

America is suffering from a “culture of illusion,” and Hedges warns us of the dangers therein. Similar to the writings of Andrew Bacevich, Hedges asserts that Americans believe that they can get absolutely everything they want, despite the reality of the situation. He’s right; every driving force in American society—our consumer culture, celebrity culture, corporate culture, the Christian Right, even Oprah—reinforces this idea that if we just dig down deep enough, everything will be alright. Now this is all well and good if you’re writing an inspirational self-help book, but the implications of this attitude go far. I’m reminded of Al Gore’s book, The Assault on Reason, which basically is about how reason and logic no longer factor into the American decision making process.

The danger is that while you’re wishing in one hand, the walls close in on you. He likens the experience to that of a child’s; “If I can’t see you, you don’t exist. I’m not listening, la-la-la-la-la!”

Now for the scary part:

If we cling to this culture of illusion, then there eventually comes a point when our situation becomes too bad to ignore any longer. “When things start to go sour, when Barack Obama is exposed as a mortal waving a sword at a tidal wave, the United States could plunge into a long period of precarious social instability.” His fear is that when the camel’s back finally breaks, America, reverting back to that state of childishness, will look for a savior—a demagogue. Couple this social unrest with our newly created corporate armies and defense firms, and you’ve the perfect recipe for an all-American police state.

Basically, everything is ready to go. With unemployment numbers growing, the threat of food shortages looming, and no social safety net to speak of, the implementation of totalitarian fascism could be easily legislated—especially given the recent news that Bush had literally suspended the 1st and 4th Amendments to counter “terrorism,” and Americans had effectively been living under a dictatorship for that past seven years (they’re only now starting to investigate that little gem).

Orwell wrote that the two fundamental tactics used by totalitarian systems are fraud and force. We’re seeing the fraud now, with each bailout emptying our treasury and the money promptly disappearing. Hedges begs the question, “when comes the force?”

The unfettered free market has become our surrogate religion, a force of nature that can’t be questioned. The response to this has been this bizarre form of socialism for the rich. Ironically, under Bush, we saw the largest transference of wealth (upwards) in American history. It’s not a question of socialism, but rather what kind: for the people or for the elite? It’s the same elite who are looting the treasury.

Hedges’ new book, Empire of Illusion, is coming out in July of this year. Sure’s on my reading list.

“Do we know the name of the person running Exxon Mobil or Raytheon? This is where real power is,” warns Hedges. This power is anonymous. Combine secret power with our corporate occupied pseudo-democracy bordering on a police state and—should America become restive, which is likely—the capacity for control will be extremely high.

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About the Author ()

Andrew Mendes is an American studying International Relations and Public Policy at Victoria. He enjoys following politics and reading lots of news.

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