Chris Hedges: America, The Failed State

Authored by Chris Hedges via TruthDig.com,

Our “corporate coup d’état in slow motion,” as the writer John Ralston Saul calls it, has opened a Pandora’s box of evils that is transforming America into a failed state. The “unholy trinity of corruption, impunity and violence,” he said, can no longer be checked. The ruling elites abjectly serve corporate power to exploit and impoverish the citizenry. Democratic institutions, including the courts, are mechanisms of corporate repression. Financial fraud and corporate crime are carried out with impunity. The decay is exacerbated by the state’s indiscriminate use of violence abroad and at home, where rogue law enforcement agencies harass and arrest citizens and the undocumented and often kill the unarmed. A depressed and enraged population, trapped by chronic unemployment and underemployment, is overdosing on opioids and beset by rising suicide rates. It engages in acts of nihilistic violence, including mass shootings. Hate groups proliferate. The savagery, mayhem and grotesque distortions familiar to those on the outer reaches of empire increasingly characterize American existence. And presiding over it all is the American version of Ubu Roi, playwright Alfred Jarry’s gluttonous, idiotic, vulgar, narcissistic and infantile king, who turned politics into burlesque.

“Congress works through corruption,” Saul, the author of books such as “Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West” and “The Collapse of Globalism and the Reinvention of the World,” said when we spoke in Toronto. “I look at Congress and I see the British Parliament in the late 18th century, the rotten boroughs. Did they have elections? Yes. Were the elections exciting? Yes. They were extremely exciting.”

Rotten boroughs were the 19th-century version of gerrymandering. The British oligarchs created electoral maps through which depopulated boroughs—50 of them had fewer than 50 voters—were easily dominated by the rich to maintain control of the House of Commons. In the United States, our ruling class has done much the same, creating districts where incumbents, who often run unchallenged, return to Congress election after election. Only about 40 of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives are actually contested. And given the composition of the Supreme Court, especially with Donald Trump poised to install another justice, it will get worse.

The corruption of the British system was amended in what Saul called “a wave upwards.” The 1832 Reform Act abolished a practice in which oligarchs, such as Charles Howard, the 11th Duke of Norfolk, controlled the election results in 11 boroughs. The opening up of the British parliamentary system took nearly a century. In the United States, Saul said, the destruction of democracy is part of “a wave downwards.”

The two political parties are one party—the corporate party. They do not debate substantive issues. They each support the expansion of imperial wars, the bloated military budget, the dictates of global capitalism, the bailing out of Wall Street, punishing austerity measures, assaulting basic civil liberties through wholesale government surveillance and the abolition of due process, and an electoral process that has cemented into place a system of legalized bribery. They battle over cultural tropes such as abortion, gay rights and prayer in schools. We elect politicians based on how we are made to feel about them by the public relations industry. Politics is anti-politics.

The Republican Party built its political base in these culture wars around Christian fascists, nativists and white supremacists. The Democratic Party built its base around those who supported workers’ rights, multiculturalism, diversity and gender equality. The base of each party was used and manipulated by elites. The Republican Party elites had no intention of banning abortion or turning America into a “Christian nation.” The Democratic Party elites had no intention of protecting workers from predatory corporatism. Everyone was sold out. The ascendancy of a populist right, dominated by racists and bigots, is the inevitable product of the corporate coup d’état, Saul said. He warned we should not be complacent because of President Trump’s imbecility. Trump is immensely dangerous. “The insipid,” Thomas Mann wrote in “The Magic Mountain,” “is not synonymous with the harmless.”

“How could a civilization devoted to structure, expertise and answers evolve into other than a coalition of professional groups?” Saul asked in “Voltaire’s Bastards.” “How, then, could the individual citizen not be seen as a serious impediment to getting on with business? This has been obscured by the proposition of painfully simplified abstract notions which are divorced from any social reality and presented as values.”

“The rational elites, obsessed by structure, have become increasingly authoritarian in a modern, administrative way,” he wrote in another section of the book. “The citizens feel insulted and isolated. They look for someone to throw stones on their behalf. Any old stone will do. The cruder the better to crush the self-assurance of the obscure men and their obscure methods. The New Right, with its parody of democratic values, has been a crude but devastating stone with which to punish the modern elites.”

All despotic regimes, Saul said, carry out their final battle for control by contending against public officials and government bureaucrats, the so-called deep state, which views the rise to power of demagogues and their sleazy enablers with alarm. These traditional courtiers, often cynical, ambitious, amoral and subservient to corporate power, nevertheless engage in the decorum and language of democracy. A few with a conscience win minor skirmishes to slow the rise of tyranny. Despots see these courtiers and democratic institutions, no matter how anemic, as a threat. This explains the assaults on the State Department, the Justice Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Education and the courts. Despots use their appointees to undermine and destroy these institutions, mocking their existence and questioning the loyalty of the professionals who staff them. The reviled and neutered public employee surrenders or walks away in despair. Last year, the entire senior level of management officials resigned at the State Department. Resignations continue to bleed the diplomatic core, as they do at other agencies and departments, and last week included James D. Melville Jr., the U.S. ambassador to Estonia, and Susan Thornton, the nominee to be assistant secretary for East Asian affairs.

“For the President to say the EU was ‘set up to take advantage of the United States, to attack our piggy bank,’ or that ‘NATO is as bad as NAFTA’ is not only factually wrong, but proves to me that it’s time to go,” Melville said in the post that announced his resignation.

Once a process of deconstruction is complete, the system calcifies into tyranny. There remain no internal mechanisms, even in name, to carry out reform. This corrosive process is being played out daily in Trump’s Twitter rages, lies, smears and the barrage of insults he levels against public servants, including some of his own appointees, such as Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as well as institutions such as the FBI.

Witnessing this, Saul berates the American press too, which he said willingly plays its part in the charade for ratings and advertising dollars.

“Trump gives these astonishingly Mussolini-ish press conferences,” he said. “He says to the press, ‘Shut up. Stop!’ The press screams at him like a mob, a bunch of cattle. How can they be taken seriously? It is like the end of the Roman Republic. Important political leaders from the Senate, along with their rivals, would move around Rome with 50 people to protect them. Scenes, exactly like Trump’s interactions with the press, defined the end of the Roman Republic. Nobody knew what was going on. There was no dignity. You can’t have a democracy without a level of respect and dignity. You only have chaos. This chaos eventually leads to a call for autocratic order. Trump benefits from the confusion, even though he resembles a cartoonish figure out of a funny novel, a character from Jean Genet’s ‘The Balcony,’ although without the self-awareness.”

Trump’s decision to launch a trade war—Canada will impose punitive measures on $12.63 billion worth of imported American goods in response—is an example of the damage a despot who has little understanding of the economy, politics, international relations or law can do. These self-inflicted wounds, Saul warned, see despots intensify attacks on the demonized and the vulnerable, such as Muslims and the undocumented. Despots frantically scapegoat others for their mess, often inciting violence among their supporters to placate an inchoate rage.

“I’ve always opposed trade deals not because I oppose trade,” Saul said, “or because I thought they were about getting a fair balance in the trade, but because the trade deals were about something else. They were about deregulation. They were about handing power to corporations and banks. They weren’t about trade. Trump has again and again attacked the Canadian dairy system. Nobody has stopped to ask him, ‘Why are you opposing this instead of adopting it for yourself?’ A lot of American dairy farmers would like to have the Canadian system.”

“The free market approach to agriculture produces a surplus that drives prices down and destroys the income of farmers,” Saul said. “There are two ways of responding to this. One of them is subsidizing. Europe, following the old social democratic approach, subsidizes their agricultural sector. This drives down the income of farmers, so [the governments] subsidize [agriculture] more. They have enormous surpluses. Periodically, they’re throwing millions of tomatoes on the streets.”

“The United States claims it embraces the free market, but it does the same thing as the Europeans,” Saul said. “It too heavily subsidizes the agricultural industry. This leads to American dairy farmers producing too much milk. This economic argument says the way to win is to mass-produce cheap goods. This is the Walmart argument. You’re not selling your milk or cheese for enough to make a living. The end result is, even though you subsidize them, the farmers go bankrupt. They commit suicide. You have terrible unhappiness in the [U.S.] dairy community.”

“We have a very efficient management system in Canada that keeps the prices up, not so high that working-class people can’t buy milk and cheese, but it keeps the prices up high enough that farmers can make a proper living,” Saul said. “Because farmers can make a proper living they’re not committing suicide. What Trump is saying to Canadians is that they should give up a system that works so Canadian farmers can commit suicide with American farmers.”

“The problem with the Western world is surplus production,” Saul said. “We’re in surplus production in almost every area. But there is a terrible distribution system where people around the globe suffer and die from starvation. This is a distribution problem, not a production problem.”

Saul said the imposition of tariffs and the crude insults Trump uses against American allies—he called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “dishonest and weak”—are rapidly destroying America’s clout and standing in the global hierarchy. This behavior is having very negative political, economic and social consequences for the United States.

“The whole world, the Western world in particular, invested enormously in the idea that the United States is the leader,” Saul said. “The idea that the United States is to be admired. What’s sad about it is Americans take it for granted that the world loves them. They’ve never analyzed the responsibilities that come with being the leader. It’s what you expect from a good parent. You act in a certain way. People want to identify with the United States. It’s been that way since the Second World War. All this is being thrown away. Like or dislike Obama, he rebuilt a great part of the world’s admiration for the United States. I know what his failures were. But I also know his strengths. He was a president who was capable of acting and talking like the intelligent, civilized American that everyone wants to admire.”

“But there’s always a shadow to the bright tower,” Saul went on. “Trump’s feeding that shadow. ‘Americans are stupid. Americans are corrupt. Americans are not educated. Americans can’t be trusted.’ The whole list. The longer the chaos goes on, the worse it gets.”

The collapse of the legislative and executive branches of government has now been accompanied by the collapse of the judiciary. The loss of an independent judiciary, Saul warned, is especially ominous.

“The biggest problem in the United States is a very powerful and deeply corrupted Supreme Court,” Saul said. “This will set patterns for decades. It will be hard to undo the evil being put into place.”

Saul despaired, at the same time, over the Trump administration’s attack on public education, which he called “the most fundamental service of government when it comes to a democracy.”

“What holds democracy up?” Saul asked. “What makes democracy work? Public education is number one. A well-educated citizen. [Secretary of Education] Betsy DeVos is undoing that. There is a special place for her in hell.”

U.S. trading partners and allies such as Canada and European states will, he said, reduce their dependence on the American market. The traditional strategic and political ties to Washington will be steadily weakened. And when the next financial crash comes, and Saul expects one to come, the United States will be bereft of partners when it needs them most.

“If you treat your closest allies as a threat, who is going to stand with you?” he asked.

Comments

powow Mon, 07/09/2018 - 23:16 Permalink

 

"The unholy trinity of corruption, impunity and violence”

So true. America has become Israhell's spawn. Spitting image.

An unholy alliance BORN IN HELL that changed America forever.

 

Dutti powow Mon, 07/09/2018 - 23:45 Permalink

Chris Hedges writes:

"And presiding over it all is the American version of Ubu Roi, playwright Alfred Jarry’s gluttonous, idiotic, vulgar, narcissistic and infantile king, who turned politics into burlesque."

Why would anybody want to waste precious time  by continuing to read the rest after such an idiotic comparison?

In reply to by powow

philipat Four chan Tue, 07/10/2018 - 01:42 Permalink

There's a lot of truth in this article. But also far too much BS and I have removed Hedges from my list of "worth reading".

Small example. Does anyone really think that Public "education" in the US has been a resounding success? If not, why continue with a failed system and IMHO tackling the Dept of Education is a much overdue necessity.

I'm also increasingly tired of such articles pointing out that everything is broken. We know that already. What we need to be doing collectively is exploring ways to fix it, neutralize the Deep State and help the sheeple to wake up to the truth. In a Constitutional Republic, (in theory) the power remains with the people. But the US population in general is sure not using that power. And, back to the previous point, education (or the lack thereof, deliberately in my view) and propaganda/indoctrination have been have been substantial contributors to the failure.

For one supposedly dedicated to "common sense" such as Hedges, there really isn't a lot to be found in this piece.

In reply to by Four chan

philipat Blano Tue, 07/10/2018 - 06:19 Permalink

Yes, me too. Hodges, who allegedly writes "common sense" is clearly a closet Libtard "progressive" where common sense is oxymoronic. In this example, hassling "undocumented" persons (a/k/a illegal aliens) is, in fact, law enforcement. So he is apparently, like the Libtards, against borders and the equal application of US law to all. I wonder with people like this, which part of "illegal alien" do they not understand?

In reply to by Blano

Bendromeda Strain philipat Tue, 07/10/2018 - 07:34 Permalink

Closet Libtard? Closet??

The Republican Party built its political base in these culture wars around Christian fascists, nativists and white supremacists. The Democratic Party built its base around those who supported workers’ rights, multiculturalism, diversity and gender equality.

Gee, sounds to me that Chrissie thinks the party of Hillary, Debbie WS and Pedesto are all sweetness and light. He's a closet nothing except for closet intellectual, and I would put him in the designation of "water closet" at that!

In reply to by philipat

esum HillaryOdor Tue, 07/10/2018 - 07:29 Permalink

hedges/saul.... loser libtard crybabies

we had to put up with 8 years of the chicago bendover mulatto bathhouse towelboy assclown

now they will have to put up with 16 years of draining the swamp

far as the exodus from the state dept.... good riddance ... all the agencies mentioned should have the same...

brennan and the treasonous rot at the doj/fbi should be brought to justice and clintons given justice... 

hey is today the day we hear about the SETH RICH MURDER...???

In reply to by HillaryOdor

keep the basta… Dutti Tue, 07/10/2018 - 00:07 Permalink

And he described Obama’s speeches as intelligent. His speeches were appalling, spiteful-queen one liners.

Putin spoke at the end of October at the UN re American entitlement and end of hegemony. Obama followed up with yet another childish foolish toe pointing bit of queen ( as it used to called a variety of gay ) silliness.

In reply to by Dutti

Number 9 monk27 Mon, 07/09/2018 - 23:29 Permalink

i could write this doom porn over n over in my fvkn sleep.

next week flip a couple paragraphs top to bottom and presto.. another ground breaking article..

dont kid yourself, i authored a blog for years until the death threats became too much of a hassle and then they murdered a friend of mine..

so suck on it fvkhead

 

In reply to by monk27

Bendromeda Strain Lump Tue, 07/10/2018 - 07:47 Permalink

While I too find it easy to see an empire in decline (and haven't we all been treated to generous helpings of Kunstler, Strauss, et al.), somehow the whining of Hedges just has that unmistakable scent of napalm in the morning. It might not be capital W winning, but it feels like winning nonetheless.

This arse had little to say about the 8 years of the Obamanation facade. The true demonstration of "Eminence Front". Let us not forget that King Canute actually said he would make the oceans recede.

In reply to by Lump

Endgame Napoleon monk27 Tue, 07/10/2018 - 01:41 Permalink

He is intelligent and makes some apt points, but not without the dripping identity politics. I question whether his living—the roof over his head—has ever depended on the gap between progressive theory and ground-level reality.

Take a big government agency, staffed with between 80% & 90% Black employees who—displaying the exact opposite of  progressive ideals—harshly bullied out most of the white people before they got civil servant status. 

Doubt that Chris took a bunch of tests, waited for months on a state list to interview and jumped through a bunch of other hoops to get this low-wage job, only to have this happen, with the adjacent, large-scale state agency likewise featuring the same reverse-racism workforce composition. 

Doubt that he has either interviewed at or worked in 8 larger corporate call centers and back offices, featuring the same overt reverse racism, being told that he was not a “culture fit” in some cases. These were mostly nationally known companies in a Southern state with a majority-white population.

One such company, holding a bigly pharma contract with government, had a minority momma manager who paraded 9 out of 10 Black permanent hires through training rooms where 187 temps were located, laughingly saying “we need a diversity panel.” If I had a management position, and if I mocked minorites in that manner, I would be fired unceremoniously in a hot minute.

Between this type of thing and the even more ubiquitous workplaces full of fake-feminist crony-absentee moms (of all colors), I have seen almost nothing but this sort of yahoo unprofessionalism, especially in large-scale workplaces.

I am not alone. In the lead up to the unsurprising Trump victory, I listened to caller after caller on C-SPAN, complaining about similar situations. Many of them were in areas of the country where immigrants from Latin America cry racism, while, as one man put it, “hiring their friends.” That was his PC way of describing what his grandson was facing: workplace after workplace where it is okay for so-called “minorities” to openly discriminate. 

Most of us in the Silent Majority stayed silent. We had to due to the new form of politeness, which is not real politeness to individuals. This is the least polite era in American history with a PC veneer that, if you peel it back even to tell the truth, vilifies you as a racist. 

At some point, progressives are going to have to drop this fake-racism narrative. The Millennial generation is bigger that the Boomer generation, and it is half non-white, while the Z generation is majority-minority, like the many majority-minority workplaces with mostly Xer and Boomer employees in majority-white regions.

I was a progressive for many years, so I know the arguments, albeit Chris is smart enough to come up with some I have not heard before. 

Only problem: Many things at the ground level do not fit into the progressive narrative that I accepted for so long, including the surprising identity of some of the harshest critics of the unfair-cubed means-tested welfare programs that cover rent, groceries and other monthly bills for single moms and illegal aliens in single-breadwinner households, in addition to providing them with monthly cash assistance and up to $6,431 in refundable child tax credits.

”The system” has helped to drive down wages for decades, providing employers with a “voted best for moms” workforce with “somethin’ comin’ in,” and many minoroty women do not like the fact that “the poor,” womb-productive applicants for welfare can afford to sport salon nail jobs, while non-welfare-eligible, college-educated government employees make less in a week than the recipients’ EBT allotment (alone).  

It is a RIGGED system.

I do not see 18th century Britain—but Tammany Hall II—in the contemporary USA. Tammany Hall politicans played the race card constantly, using it to disguise their graft, as do Democratic politicians. It worked then because of the numbers; it works now for the same reason.

In the Industrial Age, the USA had seen wave after wave of unfettered immigration, leading to many of the same things we see today: factory pieceworkers, sweatshop wages, crowded tenement living, high suicide rates and wild riches concentrated in the hands of a few. 

The rich get insanely rich, but you cannot flood the labor market with so many foreign workers, much less paying them to reproduce while working for low wages in the least “austere” way imaginable, without driving wages down for 40 years.

Add on the fact that automation is reducing the number of full-time jobs, and you have a recipe for something far, far worse than Tammany Hall. 

Congress restricted immigration in 1924. The widespread prosperity of the post-WWII era would not have occurred if mass waves of immigrants had kept pouring in, diluting wages by competing for jobs and driving up rent prices by competing for units. Right at the height of America’s widespread middle-class prosperity, Ted Kennedy helped to reverse that immigration restriction. 

Surprise!

We are there again after 40 years of mass-scale immigration, bolstered by a welfare system on steroids that assists womb-productive legal / illegal immigrants in undercutting non-welfare-eligible citizens in the labor market.

When legal / illegal immigrants work for low, traceable, part-time income, in households with sole, male breadwinners and US-born instant-citizen kids, they qualify for free food, free rent, free monthly cash and up to $6,431 in refundable child tax credits. 

A refundable child tax credit for maximum womb productivity, at $6,431, equals 3 to 4 months of full-time earned-only income for non-welfare-eligible non-womb-productive citizens, struggling to cover rent on earned income alone, in the many states where per-capita income is $20k or below.

Tammany Hall politicians did a lot of favors for the factional groups they pandered to, but it was nothing compared to what today’s Tammany Hall II lobbyist-fed Uniparty politicians do for illegal aliens. That is because the employers of those illegals fuel their campaign war chests, likewise providing them with lucrative, six-figure lobbying gigs after they leave office.

When you think about the function of a Republic———which is to represent the interests of voting citizens———it is much worse today. At least, the turn-of-the-century immigrants came legally and were not buttressed by umpteen layers of 100%-free, non-contributory welfare, whereas todays representatives stand the republic on its head. They do not just pander to immigrant groups; they represent even illegal aliens (citizens of other countries) much more than voting citizens. 

 

In reply to by monk27

Scanderbeg Number 9 Mon, 07/09/2018 - 23:49 Permalink

Of course he is. They all are.

I stopped reading as soon as I noticed the "Muh Undocumented" and TDS bullshit.

Next comes the typical sob stories about Dindus getting shot after committing violent crimes or attacking the police and the mindless repetition of the word "corporate" ad nauseam.

Or that "we must continue to have massive trade deficits because "he and his NeoLib masters say so".

America is failing because shitlibs like the author decided to mass import nearly 100 million foreigners and forced the country to integrate at gun point.

Hence we are no longer a real nation and collapsing through Balkanization and social dysfunction.

MY country was JUST FINE before people like the author destroyed it.

The real question is why the fuck are the Tylers posting this trash?

Very bad Tylers.

In reply to by Number 9

putaipan Number 9 Mon, 07/09/2018 - 23:50 Permalink

i'm all about chris hedges .... but damned if i didn't see him conclude an interview with ralph nader

with a masonic handshake. i mean, sweet baby jesus, hedges and nader too? not such a small club and no-

i ain't in it. too much bullshit in the past boys. i admit i am no expert, so if someone would like to

check it for me, have at it.

In reply to by Number 9

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In reply to by Lost in translation

whitedragon Mon, 07/09/2018 - 23:19 Permalink

This fashionable rage against corporations is ridiculous.

Corporations can do no evil without liability in court. It is always armed government agents that knock down doors and kidnap people at gunpoint. It is government agents who absolve certain entities from responsibility.

Corporations are just groups of like-minded people with a common goal. They are using the same levers of power available to everyone, except they do it better than others, less-organized groups.

If you wish to eliminate the destructive powers you loathe, take away power from government agents to treat you as second-class citizens.

Corporations just use the system that you allow into existence.

CompassionateC… Mon, 07/09/2018 - 23:19 Permalink

It wouldn't be a failed state of if we got rid of tRump and let Hillary take her rightful seat as the president who would then implement True Communism.

Folks, True Communism truly works it's just that it has never been tried but we all know Hillary could pull it off.  Only blatant sexism from white males stands in the way!

falconflight Mon, 07/09/2018 - 23:22 Permalink

What a tired, trite, twittle dee, twittle twat is this Chris Hedges.  Listening to his lamenting about how if only Socialism/Communist were in control, life would spring eternal.  FSTV and Link should be renamed Hedges 1 and Hedges 2 TV.  Thx Tyler for my daily bandwidth dose of metamucil.

Hulk Mon, 07/09/2018 - 23:23 Permalink

I used to think this guy was smart, but statements such as Trump rages against the FBI shows me he is actually clueless...