Chris Hedges Delivers the Ultimate Trump Takedown

I usually don’t pay attention to colonial
politics but there’s very outrageous things taking place. When people come to our territories, we ask
them if they’re coming with a good heart and a good mind. The song I sang coming up the aisle is one
of our paddle songs. It comes from a relative of ours named Rose
Green from the Stolo Nation. So we would get in our canoes and go out and
greet who was coming in. And we went out and greeted every boat no
matter where they were coming from. This land is not just for the English, and
just for the French. It’s only 150 years old, this thing called
Canada. It’s not for anyone to say who can be here
and who can’t be here. This is how we coexist. So many of us I see in this audience, we’ve
been here on the front lines fighting for our environment and this beautiful place. But now you have to fight for the children. So that’s the message my ancestors are giving
you today. Chris Hedges speaks of the best of his prize-winning
journalism as amplifying the voices of the dispossessed. We see that when he speaks at Standing Rock,
at the Women’s March, standing beside Chelsea Manning, and the whistleblowers, when he stands
with the leaders of Black Lives Matter. But Chris is also a daring intellectual. His interviews with activists and the thinkers
of our day may reinforce his opinions as does his practice as a reader. But the analysis is his own. And those of our who spend our lives challenging
authority have learned to use his voice to reinforce our research with his, to strengthen
our personal integrity with his, to cherish and emulate his determination to learn and
to speak truthfully. His address tonight is likely to, once again,
stiffen our spines. The final stages of capitalism, Karl Marx
predicted, would be marked by global capital being unable to expand and generate profits
at former levels. that sustained them. Democracy, social welfare, electoral participation,
the common good and investment i n public transportation, roads, bridges, utilities, industry, education, healthcare and the protection of the ecosystem would be sacrificed to feed the mania for short-term
profit. These assaults would destroy the host. This is the stage of late capitalism that
Donald Trump represents. Trump and his reactionary capitalists who have seized 34 of 50 governorships And 68 of 99 state legislatures 49 of which are bicameral plan to oversee the final campaign of corporate pillaging of America and the rest of the planet. It will be crass and brazen. as crass and brazen as the fleecing
of the desperate people, hoping for a miracle in the face of dead-end jobs and ruinous personal debt who patronized Trump’s casinos and the casinos springing up across the United States and Canada — or who shelled out thousands of dollars for the sham of Trump University. He is unleashing a kleptocracy — the word
comes from the Greek klépto, meaning thieves, and kratos, meaning rule, so it is literally
“rule by thieves” — one that will rival the kleptocracies carried out by Suharto in
Indonesia and Marcos in the Philippines. It is not that Trump and his family will use
the influence of government to increase their wealth, although this will certainly take
place on a massive scale; it is that hundreds of billions of federal dollars will be diverted
into the hands of cronies, sleazy bankers, unethical financial firms and scabrous hedge
fund managers. Everything will, to use a business term, be
“harvested.” The decaying pillars of the liberal state
in America will be obliterated. At the same time, the militarization of America is being accelerated. The defense budget will be increased by 10
percent, or 54 billion dollars, although the United States already spends more than the defense budgets of the next 7 countries combined. The paramilitary forces of Immigration and
Customs Enforcement which will soon hire 10,000 more agents and the Border Patrol, which
will hire 5,000 more agents, along with Homeland Security, have all deputized local and
state police to function as their auxiliaries. They will be flooded with cast-off military-issue equipment. These paramilitary forces will not disband
once they have finished terrorizing and deporting some of the 11 million undocumented workers
in the Untied States. They will turn on their next victims — Muslims,
African-Americans, Asians, dissidents. This militariziation of society is designed to carry out the race war that Trump and those around him see as inevitable at home and abroad. In poor communities of color, this race war has already begun. Racial profiling. Random police stops. Raids at homes and businesses. People of color pulled from vehicles at checkpoints. Seizures of individuals with no criminal records
or who never committed a serious crime. Imprisonment without trial. Expedited deportation hearings and removal
proceedings that violate the most basic human rights. The arrest of a beneficiary of the Deferred
Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Daniel Ramirez Medina, 23, who along with
the program’s other 750,000 successful applicants had revealed all personal history to the government
in applying for DACA status. Parents separated, perhaps forever, from their
children. The hunted going underground. The end of the rule of law. The abandonment of the common good. The obliteration of a social state in which
institutions and assistance programs — from public education to Social Security and welfare
— make justice, equality and dignity possible. White Europeans who are undocumented are not
being targeted. The executive orders of Trump are
directed against people of color. They begin from the premise that white Americans
are the true victims of neoliberalism, deindustrialization and falling living standards. The Trump orders are written not to make America
great again but to make America white. They are an updated version of the Nazis’
Nuremberg laws, the Jim Crow laws, the Chinese Exclusion Act and the Naturalization Act of
1870. They are intended to institutionalize an overt
racial hierarchy in the United States, one already advanced in the miniature police states where people of color live in marginal communities. In these impoverished enclaves there is no
right to trial or due process. Militarized police kill with impunity, and
the courts lock people away often for life. Rights are treated as privileges that can
instantly be revoked. The poor, especially poor people of color,
are exempted from moral consideration. They are attacked as impediments to social cohesion. And these impediments must be eliminated. Jews — their community centers enduring threats
of violence and their graveyards desecrated — will also be persecuted. American fascism is rapidly being cemented into place
by uniformed and heavily armed paramilitary goons clutching the flag and the cross and
reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and the Lord’s Prayer. “Little or no prospect of rescue from individual
indolence or impotence can be expected to arrive from a political state that is not,
and refuses to be, a social state,” the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman wrote. “Without social rights for all, a large
and in all probability growing number of people will find their political rights of little
use and unworthy of their attention. If political rights are necessary to set social
rights in place, social rights are indispensable to make political rights ‘real’ and keep
them in operation. The two rights need each other for their survival;
that survival can only be their joint achievement.” Presidential chief strategist Stephen Bannon,
in his public comments and his films such as “Generation Zero,” has embraced a historical
determinism worthy of Karl Marx. He posits that Western culture has been contaminated
and is being destroyed by darker races and barbaric religions and belief systems. His conspiratorial view of history and society
sees a global war between the white race and the lesser breeds of the earth as not only
inevitable but one that will reinvigorate and purify America. This idea of regeneration through violence which has always been part of the American myth is also a central tenant of fascism. Racists and conspiracy theorists such as Bannon,
Michael Anton, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka constitute Trump’s ideological brain
trust. Gorka goes so far as to argue that the failure
to understand the evil of radical Islam stems from a “systematic subversion of the national
security establishment under the banner of inclusivity, cultural awareness and political
correctness.” In a 2014 speech, Bannon said, “I believe
we’ve come partly off-track in the years since the fall of the Soviet Union and we’re
starting now in the 21st century, which I believe, strongly, is a crisis both of our
church, a crisis of our faith, a crisis of the West, a crisis of capitalism.” “There is a major war brewing, a war that’s
already global,” Bannon said. “It’s going global in scale, and today’s
technology, today’s media, today’s access to weapons of mass destruction, it’s going
to lead to a global conflict that I believe has to be confronted today. Every day that we refuse to look at this as
what it is, and the scale of it, and really the viciousness of it, will be a day where
you will rue that we didn’t act.” Bannon is a proponent of the theory popularized
by authors William Strauss and Neil Howe in their books “Generations: The History of
America’s Future, 1584 to 2069” (1991) and “The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy
— What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous With Destiny”
(1997). This authors argue that roughly every 80 years,
roughly an average human life span, the country goes through a cataclysmic crisis. This crisis triggers war, industrious slaughter, and genocide, and lasts for a decade or more. In its aftermath they argue the social order is rejuvenated. Strauss and Howe highlight the American Revolution
of 1775-83, the Civil War, the Great Depression and World War II as examples of how the cycle
works. Pseudo-intellectuals such as Strauss and Howe
play the role that Paul de Lagarde, Julius Langbehn, Arthur Moeller van den Bruck and
Alfred Rosenberg played for the Nazi Party. They give an intellectual veneer to racist
conspiracy theories, a virulent nationalism, a hatred for culture and the lust for domination
through violence. I share Bannon’s distaste for corporate
globalization, free trade agreements, the failure to put Wall Street bankers in jail,
the bank bailouts and crony capitalism and would even concede that Americans wallow in
the moral swamp of a culture of narcissism. He is right when he attacks the two major
political parties as the one “party of Davos.” But his solution to the purported crisis — total
war by the white race to regain its ascendancy — is insane, as are the causes he cites:
a New Deal that turned citizens into whining dependents; the permissiveness of the 1960s;
white guilt that made the country cater, in his words, irresponsibly to African-Americans by giving them social
service programs and undeserved mortgages that led to the 2008 financial meltdown; an
intellectual and a liberal class composed essentially of traitors who hate America; and the “new barbarity” of “Jihadist Islamic fascism.” Racism, misogyny, the inherent cruelty of
capitalism and the crimes of empire, from Wounded Knee to Vietnam and Iraq, simply do
not exist in Bannon’s mystical nationalist worldview. He insists that the white male aristocratic
elites who formed a republic that enslaved African-Americans, exterminated Native Americans
and denied the vote to women and white men without property created “a church and a
civilization that really is the flower of mankind.” This is the myth he wants to recover. It may be that the deep state — the shadowy
world of the security and surveillance bureaucracy, the arms industry, Wall Street, Silicon Valley
and corporations that actually rule the country — disturbed by Trump’s impulsivity, irrationality
and incompetence will move to replace him. This was certainly the idea when the organs
of internal security used a wiretap to discredit and remove Michael Flynn, and it is what is happening now with the leaks about the Attorney General’s two meetings withe Russian Ambassador. But the ascendancy
to the White House of Michael Pence, a more polished and disciplined politician who will
vigorously advance the agenda of the Christian Right, will not make things better – indeed
they may make things worse. Those being placed now into positions of power
are agents of destruction. Betsy DeVos is moving to defund our system of public
education and use government vouchers to expand corporate charter school chains and those
run by the Christian right. Scott Pruitt is dismantling the Environmental
Protection Agency. He has already called for a 25% reduction in the EPA’s budget, the elimination of 3000 jobs and the slashing of numerous programs including a 70% cut to its climate protection program that oversees cutting emissions of greenhouse gases. Bannon was the dark hand behind the ban on Muslims entering the United States from seven Muslim-majority
countries — a ban you can expect to see extended if the Trump administration is successful
in removing a stay issued by a district court or issuing a new executive order. Bannon was behind the order to the Department
of Homeland Security to draw up lists of Muslim organizations and individuals in the United
States that, in the language of the executive action, have been “radicalized” and
“provided material support to terrorism-related organizations in countries that pose a threat
to the United States.” Such lists will be used to criminalize Muslim
leaders and the institutions and organizations they built. Then, once the Muslims are dealt with, there
will be new Homeland Security lists that will allow the government to target the press,
activists, labor leaders, dissident intellectuals and the left. “Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and
that’s my goal too,” Bannon told the writer Ronald Radosh in 2013. “I want to bring everything crashing down,
and destroy all of today’s establishment.” This culture of destruction was launched 4 decades ago by corporate forces. The corporate elites, terrified by the mobilization
of the left in the 1960s, or by what political scientist Samuel Huntington called America’s
“excess of democracy,” built and funded counter-institutions to delegitimize and marginalize
critics of corporate capitalism and imperialism. They bought the allegiances of the two main
political parties. They imposed obedience to the neoliberal ideology
within academia and the press. This campaign, laid out by Lewis Powell in
his 1971 memorandum titled “Attack on American Free Enterprise System,” was the blueprint
for the creeping corporate coup d’état that 45 years later is largely complete. The dismantling of democratic institutions,
places where the citizen has agency and a voice, is far graver than the ascendancy to
the White House of the demagogue Trump. The coup destroyed our two-party system. Labor unions are a spent force. The press is corporatized. Universities have been purged of dissidents
and independent scholars who criticize neoliberalism and decry the decay of democratic institutions
and political parties. Public broadcasting and the arts — places
where voices not beholden to corporate power should find a sanctuary — have been defunded
and forced to beg for corporate money, which, comes, of course, with corporate censorship. And it is expected that what little money the government gives to public broadcasting and organizations such as the National Endowment for the Arts will soon be eliminated under Trump. The courts have been stacked with judges whose
legal careers were spent serving corporate power, a trend in appointments that continued
under Barack Obama. Money has replaced the vote, which is how
someone as unqualified as Betsy DeVos can buy herself a Cabinet seat. And the Democratic Party, rather than sever
its ties to Wall Street and corporations, is naively waiting in the wings to profit
from a Trump debacle. This coup destroyed more than our democratic institutions. It destroyed the very credibility of liberal democracy. Self-identified liberals such as the Clintons
and Barack Obama mouthed the words of liberal democratic values while making war on these
values in the service of corporate power. The revolt we see rippling across the country
is a revolt not only against a corporate system that has betrayed workers, but also, for many,
the ideas and values espoused by a bankrupt liberal class. This is very dangerous. The discrediting of liberal democracy will
allow the radical right to cement into place in America and much of Europe and other parts of the globe a form of fascism. Presidential adviser Stephen Miller, an ardent
white supremist, in an interview on Face the Nation on CBS was quite blunt about what to
expect. “We have a judiciary that has taken far
too much power and become in many cases a supreme branch of government,” he said. “Our opponents, the media and the whole
world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president
to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.” History may not repeat itself, but it echoes. The framers of our Constitution, steeped in
the history of ancient Greece and Rome, attempted to provide checks and balances to keep the
American republic from falling, like their ancient counterparts, into oligarchy and tyranny. This kind of historical knowledge – dismissed
as frivolous by our consumer culture and business elites – allows us recognize the familiar warning
signs on the road to tyranny. If we studied the collapse of ancient Greece,
Rome, the Weimar Republic or the former Yugoslavia we would be far more alert to the current
march towards despotism. Thucydides, who wrote that the tyranny the
Athenian empire imposed on others it finally imposed on itself, is a better guide to our
future than Milton Friedman or Ayn Rand. The historian Fritz Stern in “The Politics
of Cultural Despair,” his book on the rise of fascism in Germany, warned repeatedly of
the danger of a bankrupt liberalism. Stern, who saw the same dark, irrational forces
at work today that he watched as a boy in Nazi Germany, argued that the spiritually
and politically alienated are the prime recruits for a politics centered around cultural hatreds
and personal resentments. Stern told me that in Germany there was a yearning
for fascism before the word fascism was invented. “They attacked liberalism,” Stern wrote
of the fascists emerging at the time in Germany, “because it seemed to them the principal
premise of modern society; everything they dreaded seemed to spring from it; the bourgeois
life, Manchesterism, materialism, parliament and the parties, the lack of political leadership. Even more, they sense in liberalism the source
of all their inner sufferings. Theirs was a resentment of loneliness; their
one desire was for a new faith, a new community of believers, a world with fixed standards
and no doubts, a new national religion that would bind all Germans together. All this, liberalism denied. Hence, they hated liberalism, blamed it for
making outcasts of them, for uprooting them from their imaginary past, and from their
faith.” It turns out, 45 years later, that those who
truly hate us for our freedoms are not the array of dehumanized enemies cooked up by
the war machine — the Vietnamese, Cambodians, Afghanis, Iraqis, Iranians or even the Taliban,
al-Qaida or ISIS. They are the financiers, bankers, politicians,
public intellectuals and pundits, lawyers, journalists and businesspeople cultivated
in the elite universities and business schools who served as Matt Taibbi says, as the guardians of the orthodoxy of neoliberalism and empire. In the twilight phase of capitalism, wealth
is no longer created by producing or manufacturing. It is created by manipulating the prices of
stocks and commodities and imposing a crippling debt peonage on the public. Our casino capitalism has merged with the
actual gambling industry. This is an economic model designed to prey on the desperate — young
men and women burdened by student loans, underpaid workers crushed by credit card debt and mortgages, bankrupt towns and cities forced to borrow to maintain municipal services and sell off municipal assets from sewers and water treatment plants to their parking authority to corporations. Casino magnates such as Sheldon Adelson – who
has advocated attacking Iran with nuclear weapons — and hedge fund managers such as
Paul Singer – who buys distressed or defaulted bonds at pennies on the dollar and then successfully
sues for full repayment — which is how we trashed the Argentine economy — and Robert Mercer add nothing of value to society. They do not generate money but instead redistribute
it upwards to the 1 percent. They use lobbyists and campaign contributions
to rewrite laws and regulations and build monopolies — this is how the drug company
Mylan in the United States raised the price of an EpiPen used to treat allergy reactions, from $57 in 2007
to $500. They have given themselves the legal power
to carry out a tax boycott, loot the Treasury, close factories and send the jobs
overseas, and gut social service programs. These corporate mandarins are, if we speak
in the language of God and country, traitors. They are parasites. Financial speculation in 17th-century England
was a crime. Speculators were hanged. The heads of most of today’s banks and hedge
funds and the executives of large corporations, such as Walmart and Gap, that run sweatshop
death traps for impoverished workers overseas deserve prison far more than most of the poor
students of color I teach within the prison system, people who never had a fair trial
or a fair chance in life. When a tiny cabal seizes power — monarchist,
communist, fascist or corporate — it creates a mafia economy and a mafia state. Trump is not an anomaly. He is the grotesque visage of our collapsed
democracy. Trump and his coterie of billionaires, generals,
half-wits, Christian fascists, criminals, racists and deviants play the role of the Snopes clan in some of
William Faulkner’s novels. The Snopes filled the power vacuum of the
decayed South and ruthlessly seized control from the degenerated, former slave-holding
aristocratic elites. Flem Snopes and his extended family — which
includes a killer, a pedophile, a bigamist, an arsonist, a mentally disabled man who copulates
with a cow, and a relative who sells tickets to witness the bestiality– are fictional
representations of the scum now elevated to the highest level of the federal government. “The usual reference to ‘amorality,’
while accurate, is not sufficiently distinctive and by itself does not allow us to place them,
as they should be placed, in a historical moment,” the critic Irving Howe wrote of
the Snopeses. “Perhaps the most important thing to be
said is that they are what comes afterwards: the creatures that emerge from the devastation,
with the slime still upon their lips.” “Let a world collapse, in the South or Russia,
and there appear figures of coarse ambition driving their way up from beneath the social
bottom, men to whom moral claims are not so much absurd as incomprehensible, sons of bushwhackers and muzhiks drifting in from nowhere and taking over through the sheer outrageousness of their
monolithic force,” Howe wrote. “They become presidents of local banks and
chairmen of party regional committees, and later, a trifle slicked up, they muscle their
way into Congress or the Politburo. Scavengers without inhibition, they need not
believe in the crumbling official code of their society; they need only learn to mimic
its sounds.” Trump and those around him believe in one truth. Which is whatever they proclaim at the moment although any such declaration may contradict what they said a few hours before. They are possessed by one idea: conflict. They sanctify violence, misogyny, a disdain for empathy, and the self-appointed right to engage in bouts of frenzied rage. These characteristics, they insist, are a sign of strength and virility. Their highest aesthetic is militarism, violence, and war. Without conflict, without enemies real or imagined, their ideological structures and their racism collapse into a heap of contradictions and absurdities. Christian fascists are the vanguard of
this emerging American fascism. They ferret out facts and formulas that buttress
their peculiar worldview and discard truths that contradict their messianic delusions. They mouth a few Biblical clichés to justify
bigotry, homophobia, chauvinism and repression. It is propaganda masquerading as ideology. These Christian fascists are singularly incurious. They are linguistically, culturally and historically
illiterate about the Muslim world, and about most other foreign cultures, science and intellectual
pursuits, yet blithely write off one-fifth of the world’s population – Muslims — as
irredeemable and dismiss climate change as a hoax. The inability of white supremacists and Christian
fascists to recognize the humanity of others springs from their spiritual and intellectual impoverishment. They mistake bigotry for honesty. They mistake their ignorance
for innocence. They cannot separate fantasy from reality. Such people are, as author James Baldwin said,
“moral monsters.” Evil, for them, is embodied in the dehumanized
other. Once the human personification of evil is
eradicated, evil itself is supposed to disappear. Except, of course, that as soon as one group
of human beings is annihilated, another human embodiment of evil rises to take its place. The Nazis began with Jews. Our fanatics are beginning with Muslims and
the undocumented. History has shown where they will go from
here. “The nationalist is by definition an ignoramus,”
the Yugoslav writer Danilo Kis writer said. “Nationalism is the line of least resistance,
the easy way. The nationalist is untroubled, he knows or
thinks he knows what his values are, that’s to say national, that’s to say
the values of the nation he belongs to, ethical and political; he is not interested in others,
they are no concern of his, hell — it’s other people, other nations, another tribe. They don’t even need investigating. The nationalist sees other people in his own
images — as nationalists.” Like all utopians these people believe that their agenda
is being implemented for our benefit. They are like Cardinal Robert Bellarmine,
who oversaw the burning of Giordano Bruno at the stake and who argued that eradicating
heretics does them a favor because it saves them from their own damnation. It is impossible to have a rational dialogue
with people who view reality through the binary lens of black and white — us and them. They do not recognize the right of dissent. Dissent is at best obstruction and probably
treason. Fanatics, in power, always become inquisitors. Trump has no coherent belief system
or coherent ideology. but his ideological vacuum is being filled — by
the Christian Right. What comes next, history has shown, will not
be pleasant. A corrupt and inept ruling elite, backed by
the organs of state security and law enforcement, will transform workers into serfs. The most benign dissent will be criminalized. The ravaging of the ecosystem will propel
us ever closer towards extinction. Hate talk will, as stagnation and decay continue,
call for attacks against Muslims, undocumented workers, African-Americans, feminists, intellectuals,
artist, dissidents, all of whom will be scapegoated for the country’s decline. Magical thinking will dominate our airwaves
and be taught in our public schools. Art and culture will be degraded to nationalist
kitsch. All the cultural and intellectual disciplines
that allow us to view the world from the perspective of the other, that foster empathy, understanding
and compassion, will be replaced by a grotesque and cruel hypermasculinity and hypermilitarism. The language of racism, bigotry, misogyny
and homophobia will infect our national discourse. Reality and a discourse based on verifiable
fact and truth is under assault. Verbal confusion reigns. Truth and illusion have merged. Mental chaos makes it hard to fathom what
is happening. We feel trapped in a hall of mirrors. Revealed lies are answered with new lies. The rational is countered with the irrational. Cognitive dissonance prevails. We endure a disquieting shame and even guilt. Tens of millions of Americans, especially
women, undocumented workers, Muslims and African-Americans, suffer the acute anxiety of being pursued
by a predator. All this is by design. Demagogues always infect the governed with
their own psychosis. The lies pour daily out of the White House
like flocks of pigeons: Donald Trump’s election victory was a landslide. He had the largest inauguration crowds in
American history. 3 million to 5 million undocumented immigrants
voted illegally. Climate change is a hoax. Vaccines cause autism. Immigrants are carriers of “tremendous infectious
disease.” The election was rigged—until it wasn’t. We don’t know “who really knocked down”
the World Trade Center. Torture works. Mexico will pay for the wall. America will be great again. Trump, a 70-year-old with orange-tinted skin
and hair that Penn Jillette has likened to “cotton candy made of piss,” is, as Trump
often reminds us, “very good looking.” He does not read. He knows little of history, politics, law,
philosophy, art or governance but insists, “my IQ is one of the highest — and you
all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure,
it’s not your fault.” He goes on to say of the mediocrities he has installed in his Cabinet, that they
have “by far the highest IQ of any Cabinet ever assembled.” It is an avalanche of absurdities. And this mendacity would be easier to repulse
if the problem was solely embodied in Trump. But even in the face of a rising despotism,
the Democratic Party and the liberal class refuses to denounce the corporate forces that eviscerated our democracy, impoverished the country, and created Trump. The neoliberal Trump demonizes Muslims, undocumented workers and the media. The neoliberal Democratic Party demonizes
Vladimir Putin and FBI Director James Comey. No one challenges corporate power. The warring elites pit alternative facts against
alternative facts. All engage in demagoguery. And we will, I fear, be condemned to despotism
by Trump and by the cowardice and dishonesty of the liberal class. The order for some employees of several federal
agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s
research service, the National Park Service and the Department of Health and Human Services,
to restrict or cease communication with the press or members of Congress, along with the
attempt to impose 10-year felony convictions on six reporters who covered the inauguration
protests, is part of a campaign to marginalize reality itself and replace it with fantasy. Facts for demagogues depend solely on those
who have the power to create them. And the goal of the Trump administration is to
create an artificial consistency an absorbing and endless spectacle that advances its warped perception of the world. It must, as it has day after day, dominate our lives as it reconfigures reality. Fantastic and absurd assertions are treated seriously, a process that over time erodes the power of the rational. “Before they seize power and establish a
world according to their doctrines, totalitarian movements conjure up a lying world of consistency
which is more adequate to the needs of the human mind than reality itself; in which,
through sheer imagination, uprooted masses can feel at home and are spared the never-ending
shocks which real life and real experiences deal to human beings and their expectations,” Hannah Arendt wrote. “The force possessed by totalitarian propaganda
— before the movements have the power to drop iron curtains to prevent anyone’s disturbing,
by the slightest reality, the gruesome quiet of an entirely imaginary world — lies in
its ability to shut the masses off from the real world.” This assault on fact, on truth, on reality, is empowered by the loss of credibility of our democratic institutions and it has thrown the country into an existential as well as an economic crisis. The courts, universities and press are no
longer trusted by tens of millions of Americans who correctly see them as organs of the corporate
elites. These institutions are traditionally the mechanisms
by which a society is able to unmask the lies of the powerful, critique ruling ideologies
and promote justice. Because Americans have been bitterly betrayed
by their institutions, the Trump regime can attack the press as the “opposition party,”
threaten to cut off university funding, taunt a federal jurist as a “so-called judge”
and denounce a court order as “outrageous.” The decay of democratic institutions is the
prerequisite for the rise of authoritarian or fascist regimes. This decay has given credibility to a pathological
liar. The Trump administration, according to an
Emerson College poll, is considered by 49 percent of registered voters to be truthful
while the media are considered truthful by only 39 percent of registered voters. Once American democratic institutions no longer
function, once large sectors of the public believe, as Trump says, that the press is
“the enemy of the American people,” reality becomes whatever absurdity the White House
issues. Most of the rules of democracy are unwritten. These rules determine public comportment and
ensure respect for democratic norms, procedures and institutions. Trump has, to the delight of his supporters,
rejected this political and cultural etiquette. Arendt noted that when democratic institutions
collapse it is “easier to accept patently absurd propositions than the old truths which
have become pious banalities.” The chatter of the liberal ruling elites about
our democracy is itself an absurdity. “Vulgarity with its cynical dismissal of
respected standards and accepted theories,” she wrote, infects political discourse. This vulgarity is “mistaken for courage
and a new style of life.” Trump’s theatricality works. He forces the press and the public to repeat
his lies, inadvertently giving them credibility. He is always moving. He is always on display. He has no fixed belief system. Trump, as he consolidates power, and adopts
the ideology of the Christian right seamlessly forges the magical thinking of the Christian right with his own magical thinking. Idiocy, self-delusion, megalomania, fantasy
and government repression will come wrapped in images of the Christian cross and the American
flag. The corporate state, hostile or indifferent
to the plight of the citizens, has no emotional pull among the public. It has long presented political candidates as celebrities. Campaigns eschew issues to make people feel
good about candidates and themselves. Ideas are irrelevant. Emotional euphoria is paramount. The voter is only a prop in the political
theater. Politics is anti-politics. It is reality television. Trump proved better at this game than his
opponents. It is a game in which fact and knowledge do
not matter. Politicians, like celebrities, are manufactured
personalities. Reality is what you create. Entertainment is paramount. The skillful manipulation of emotion is confused
with knowledge. We were conditioned for a Trump. The lies create a climate in which everyone
is assumed to be lying. The truth becomes suspect and obscured. Narratives begin to be believed not because
they are true, or even sound true, but because they are emotionally appealing. The aim of systematic lying, as Arendt wrote,
is the “transformation of human nature itself.” The lies eventually foster somnambulism among
a population that surrenders to the magical thinking and ceases to care. It checks out. It becomes cynical. It only asks to be entertained and given a
vent for its frustration and rage. Demagogues produce enemies the way a magician
pulls rabbits out of a hat. They wage constant battles against nonexistent
dangers, rapidly replacing one after the other to keep the rhetoric at a fever pitch. “Practically speaking, the totalitarian
ruler proceeds like a man who persistently insults another man until everybody knows
that the latter is his enemy, so that he can, with some plausibility, go out and kill him
in self-defense,” Arendt wrote. “This certainly is a little crude, but it
works — as everybody will know who has watched how certain successful careerists
eliminate competitors.” To recover our mental balance we must respond
to Trump the way victims of trauma respond to abuse. We must build communities where we can find
understanding and solidarity. We must allow ourselves to mourn. We must name the psychosis that afflicts us. We must carry out acts of civil disobedience
and steadfast defiance to re-empower others and ourselves. We must fend off the madness and engage in
dialogues based on truth, literacy, empathy and reality. We must invest more time in activities such
as finding solace in nature, or focusing on music, theater, literature, art and even worship
— activities that hold the capacity for renewal and transcendence. This is the only way we will remain psychologically
whole. Building an outer shell or attempting to hide
will exacerbate our psychological distress and depression. We cannot, as the Democratic Party appears
to be doing, hope that the 2018 or 2020 elections will solve our dilemma. These reactionary forces, which have been
plotting for four decades for this moment, extend far beyond the Trump White House. Their tentacles reach across national borders,
meaning no country, including Canada, is immune. As the state increases the levels of violence
against nonviolent dissent we must never respond with violence. The use of violence, including property destruction,
and taunting the police is a gift to the security and surveillance state. It allows the state to demonize and isolate
a mass movement. It drives away the bulk of the population. Violence against the state is used by the
authorities to justify greater forms of control and repression. The corporate state understands and welcomes
the language of force. This is a game the government will always
win and we will always lose. If we are perceived as a flag-burning, rock-throwing,
angry mob that embraces violence, we will be easily crushed. We can succeed only if we win the hearts and
minds of the wider public and ultimately many of those within the structures of power, including
the police. When violence is used against nonviolent protesters
demanding basic forms of justice it exposes the weakness of the state. It delegitimizes those in power. It prompts a passive population to respond
with active support for the protesters. It creates internal divisions within the structures
of power that, as I witnessed in the revolutions in Eastern Europe, paralyze and defeat those
in authority. Martin Luther King Jr. held marches in Birmingham,
Ala., rather than Albany, Ga., because he knew Birmingham Public Safety Commissioner
“Bull” Connor would overreact and expose the city’s racist structures. The acts of resistance — including the massive
street protests the day after the inauguration and later the demonstrations that grew out
of the ban on Muslims, the Department of Energy’s refusal to give the Trump administration a
list of employees that worked on climate change, acting Attorney General Sally Yates’ refusal
to enforce the travel ban and hundreds of State Department staff members’ signing
of a memo opposing the immigration restrictions — terrify those around Trump. We have the power to make any country ungovernable. But we do not have much time. Corporate power is global It will make it harder and harder
to organize, get into the streets to carry out the nationwide strikes, including within
the federal bureaucracy. And this resistance must also be accompanied by an alternative vision
of a socialist and anti-capitalist society. Because the enemy is, in the end, not Trump or Bannon, it is corporate power. And if we do not dismantle corporate power we
will never stop fascism’s seduction of the white working class and unemployed. Now is the time not to cooperate. Now is the time to shut down the systems of
power. Now is the time to resist. It is our last chance. The fanatics are moving with lightning speed. So should we. Hope comes from the numerous protests that
have been mounted in the streets, at town halls led by First Nations people, held by members of Congress and at flash points such as Standing Rock. It may also come from the 2.5 million civil
servants within the U.S. federal government if a significant number refuse to cooperate. “The new president is clearly aware of the
power wielded by civil servants, who swear an oath of allegiance to the U.S. Constitution,
not to any president or administration,” We must engage in these battles on the local
and the national level. We must, in our own community, mobilize to
prevent the deportation of undocumented workers, the evictions from homes of the unemployed,
those with disabilities, the elderly or those living on small, fixed incomes. The reclaiming of our democracy will only
happen only when we make our physical presence felt in public spaces. We once had within our capitalist democracy
liberal institutions — the press, labor, third parties, civic and church
groups, public broadcasting, well-funded public universities that were capable of responding to outside pressure from movements. They did so imperfectly. They provided only enough reforms to save
the capitalist system from widespread unrest or, with the breakdown of capitalism in the
1930s, from revolution. They never addressed white supremacy and institutional
racism, misogyny, or the cruelty that is endemic to capitalism. But they had the ability to ameliorate the
suffering of the poor and working men and women. These liberal institutions exist now only
in name. They are props in the democratic facade. There are, as the political philosopher Sheldon
Wolin wrote, no institutions certainly left in America that can authentically be called democratic. We will have to build new, radical movements
and, most importantly, new, parallel institutions that challenge the hegemony of corporate power. It will not be easy. It will take time. We must not be seduced by foundation money and grants from established institutions that blunt the radical restructuring of society Trusting in the system to carry out reform and wrest back our democracy ensures our enslavement. We will have to pit power against power. We will have to defy the rules. We cannot be predictable. We must disrupt the machinery of governance. And none of this will come by forming flash mobs
on the Internet. It will come by building real and enduring
relationships within our communities the old way – person by person. It will come when we take time to listen. And we have to surprise those in authority. And these kinds of protests – not the choreographed
boutique activism where you stay within free a free space area or are politely taken to sit in
a jail cell for a few hours — are greeted with real anger by the state. If we are to succeed we will have to make
alliances with people and groups whose professed political stances are different from ours
and at times unpalatable to us. We will have to shed our ideological purity. The Chicago organizer Saul Alinsky argued
that the ideological rigidity of the left — sometimes that can be epitomized in identity politics
and political correctness — effectively severed it from the lives of working men and women. This was especially true during the Vietnam
War when college students led the anti-war protests and the sons of the working class
did the fighting and dying in Vietnam. But it is true today as liberals and the left
dismiss Trump supporters as irredeemable racists and bigots and ignore their legitimate feelings
of betrayal and very real suffering. Condemning all those who support Trump is political
suicide. Alinsky detested such moral litmus tests. He insisted that there were “no permanent
enemies, no permanent allies, only permanent power.” We must also acknowledge our own failures
on the left, our elitism, our arrogance, our own misoygny, our refusal to root our politics locally in our communities. Rosa Luxemburg understood that unless we first
address the most pressing economic and physical needs of the destitute – something understood
by Vancouver Rape Relief & Women’s Shelter and Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution
— we will never gain credibility or build an effective resistance movement. Revolt surges up from below. Politics is a game of fear. Those who do not have the ability to make
power elites afraid do not succeed. The movements that opened up the democratic
space in America — the abolitionists, the suffragists, the labor movement, the communists, socialists, anarchists, the civil rights and labor movements — developed a critical mass and a militancy that forced
the centers of power to respond. The platitudes about justice, equality and
democracy are just that. Only when power is threatened does it react. Appealing to its better nature is useless. It doesn’t have one. The days ahead will be dark and frightening. But as Immanuel Kant reminded us, “if justice
perishes, human life on earth has lost its meaning.” The moment we rise up to defy radical evil
we are victorious. The moment we stand alongside the oppressed,
and accept being treated like the oppressed, we are victorious. The moment we hold up a flickering light in
the darkness for others to see another narrative, another way of being, we are victorious. The moment we reopen a public library or save
a public school or provide a sanctuary to a battered woman or affordable housing — we are victorious. The moment we thwart the building of a pipeline
or a fracking site, we are victorious. And the moment those in power fear us, we
are victorious. If nothing else Let those who come after us say we tried. Let them say that we kept hope alive. Let our lives be an example of the empathy
and justice that all authoritarian regimes and dictatorships seek to eradicate. Let us love our neighbors as ourselves. Thank you.

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