Chris Hedges at truthdig recently criticized the liberal tendency to retreat into lofty conferences as the America of our imaginations becomes harder to square with an increasingly disturbing reality:
. . .at a moment when we desperately need citizens and institutions willing to stand up against corporate forces for the core liberal values, values that make a democracy possible, we get the ridiculous chatter and noise of the liberal class.
The moral outrage of the liberal class, a specialty of MSNBC, groups such as Progressives for Obama and MoveOn.org, is built around the absurd language of personal narrative—as if Barack Obama ever wanted to or could defy the interests of Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase or General Electric. The liberal class refuses to directly confront the dead hand of corporate power that is rapidly transforming America into a brutal feudal state. To name this power, to admit that it has a death grip on our political process, our systems of information, our artistic and religious expression, our education, and has successfully emasculated popular movements, including labor, is to admit that the only weapons we have left are acts of civil disobedience. And civil disobedience is difficult, uncomfortable and lonely. It requires us to step outside the formal systems of power and trust in acts that are marginal, often unrecognized and have no hope of immediate success.
Okay, so maybe he doesn’t sound like he’d be a lot of fun to hang out with at a party, but it’s hard to imagine that even those who would reflexively dismiss his message don’t also sense, at least on some level, that he’s right. The direction we’re heading in is not a good one.
It’s a conclusion I’ve been coming to myself over the past few years, but like most people, I find it easier to dismiss the implications than to examine them. I’m busy, I’m tired, I have kids, and civil disobedience doesn’t fit easily into my lifestyle. Still, as my mind strains to focus on work, family, television, my health – literally anything else – a small, possibly Catholic, part of my brain rebels and won’t let me off the hook. Maybe I’m struggling with the reluctant budding of some godawful new level of political commitment (my inner-Homer Simpson is mortified at the mere thought). When the scales tip completely for me I think I’ll know what to do, but in the mean time I just have to continue to let it sink in.
Hedges brings it home starkly:
Either we begin to militantly stand against the coal, oil and natural gas industry or we do not. Either we defy pre-emptive war and occupation or we do not. Either we demand that the criminal class on Wall Street be held accountable for the theft of billions of dollars from small shareholders whose savings for retirement or college were wiped out or we do not. Either we defend basic civil liberties, including habeas corpus and the prosecution of torturers or we do not. Either we turn on liberal institutions, including the Democratic Party, which collaborate with these corporations or we do not … If the liberal class remains gullible and weak, if it continues to speak to itself and others in meaningless platitudes, it will remain as responsible for our enslavement as those it pompously denounces.