Chris Hedges: we live on the cusp of a great revolutionary moment

From an interview of Chris Hedges conducted by Rudyard Griffiths:

* Unpack for us why you think we live on the cusp of a great revolutionary moment?

As a journalist, I have covered two Palestinian uprisings, the revolutions in Eastern Europe, the street demonstrations that brought down Slobodan Milosevic. You know as a reporter the tinder is there; you never know what ignites it. Even the purported leaders of the movement don’t know what the spark will be – it is a mysterious force. But as long as the state does not respond rationally to the needs and rights of the citizenry, as long as it continues to exploit, there is always blowback.

And the system of global capitalism is breaking down. It is no longer able to expand the way it did in the past. It has consolidated wealth into the hands of a tiny, global, oligarchic elite.

More importantly, the ideological foundation of unfettered, unlimited capitalism is losing its hold on the imagination of large numbers of people who are not benefiting from this global system. And you see it in terms of people turning against their political elites. For example, the approval rating for the U.S. Congress is in the single digits, and voter turnout is at all-time lows. That there is something seismic happening below the surface is undeniable. When it will play out, how it will play out, what it will look like – having covered these things in the past – it is impossible to predict.

* Why do you think so-called “elites” are to blame?

They have destroyed the liberal institutions and mechanisms that made piecemeal and incremental reform possible. And that is when you reach a very dangerous moment; in essence, the system seizes up. Liberal institutions are designed to ameliorate and address the suffering of the underclass. That is what happened when capitalism broke down in the 1920s and 1930s, and we got the New Deal. [U.S. president Franklin D.] Roosevelt said his greatest achievement was that he saved capitalism. But we’ve lost those mechanisms in the name of anti-communism and the implantation of a neo-liberal, free-market ideology that has eviscerated the safety valves by which liberal capitalist democracies could address the problems of the dispossessed.

* Where do you see this revolutionary surge coming from when the idea of revolt would seem the last thing on the mind of average middle-class families?

The Occupy movement. The sons and daughters of the middle class who left college in the United States with tremendous debt and found there was no place for them in the workforce. Canada is also moving in this direction. You have walked away from the Kyoto Protocol and passed one of the most draconian anti-terrorism laws in the industrialized world – in some ways, it’s even worse than that of the United States.

Canada, like the U.S., has also militarized its police forces. Your government carries out wholesale surveillance. The destruction of privacy itself is quite worrying when, as we know, governments that accrue this kind of power use it for their own ends.

* Are you calling for revolution in the face of perceived injustices, or predicting this will be part of our future?

I’ve lived through disintegrating societies. Anarchy frightens me because it can very easily devolve into violence, as it did in Yugoslavia. I don’t want this to happen. I wish that we lived in a functioning democracy where real electoral and social reform is possible. But the United States has a very violent culture. As long as corporate power has a stranglehold on our institutions and our government, including our mass media, it will do what it’s designed to do and that is to exploit until exhaustion or collapse. And eventually there will be a response, as we’re already seeing in the streets of Baltimore and the streets of Ferguson. And eventually there will be a confrontation. Don’t forget: They rolled out tanks on the streets of Ferguson against unarmed demonstrators. I fear this is what will continue to happen unless we find a mechanism to check and thwart corporate power.

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