A call to action: Hedges’ latest rallies readers for the difficult days ahead


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This brilliant book will be uncomfortable reading, especially for progressive people.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/05/2015 (2692 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

This brilliant book will be uncomfortable reading, especially for progressive people.

Chris Hedges, the radical Pulitzer Prize-winning bestselling journalist who has covered revolutions and uprisings around the globe, writes about the difficult times ahead.

His book is polemical, poetic and encyclopedic. He weaves together plenty: personal stories; analyses of the America’s role in creating terror abroad and suppressing dissent at home; citations from leading revolutionary theorists; apocalyptic prophecies; interpretations of classic literature; and exhortations to rebel non-violently.

Ian Jackson / THE CANADIAN PRESS files Wiebo Ludwig.

Although extremely readable, the seamless quality of the excellent writing is deceptive — its apparent simplicity belies its great depth. Thus his theme can be summarized, but the book cannot be. The cumulative effect is far greater than the sum of its parts.

The effects of climate change and the oppression of the people will create uprisings of the dispossessed and the fearful. These uprisings might very well turn into another kind of tyranny, similar to the outcomes of the Arab Spring and former Yugoslavia’s nationalisms. There are individuals, however, who might make a difference — rebels who stand for justice and tolerance and peace, no matter what.

Those rebels are people who are possessed with what Reinhold Niebuhr called “sublime madness.” They do what they do because they can do no other, they “are driven by a profound empathy, even love, for the vulnerable, the persecuted and the weak.”

Although Hedges is not terribly optimistic about the possibilities, his book emboldens these rebels and provides some guidance — based on his analysis, research and experience — to help create good revolutions rather than new tyrannies.

“Revolutions take time,” he says. “They are often begun by one generation and completed by the next.” He says further, “I do not know if the new revolutionary wave and the rebels produced by it will succeed. But I do know that without these rebels, we are doomed.”

Kirsty Wigglesworth / The Associated Press files Julian Assange.

Each of the seven chapters has a fascinating portrait of a rebel.

We meet a few well-known rebels such as Edward Snowden, American founding father Thomas Paine, WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange and Canada’s own Wiebo Ludwig, “who waged the first significant war in North America against hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as ‘fracking.'”

But there are others we meet: a volunteer trying to help the sad victims of hurricane Sandy; a lawyer persecuted and imprisoned for issuing a press release on behalf of a client and disobeying not a law, but an administrative order; a spokesman for the Zapatistas who explains why the movement switched quickly from violent to non-violent revolutionary tactics; a white Jewish South African who became a revolutionary and worked with the ANC; the black revolutionary Mumia Abu-Jamal, whose trial has been condemned by Amnesty International.

Hedges eloquently describes the sacrifices they all made and the inner peace with which they have all lived in the face of those sacrifices. It is that inner peace Hedges ultimately takes as the theme of his book. There is no turmoil in the minds of these rebels. They are very inspiring.

Hedges’ view of the coming dismal times is equally eloquent and stunningly depressing. Based on reasonable probabilities, there will be death and destruction, a “new Dark Age,” in which “communities and communal organizations that manage to break free from the dominant culture will find a correlation between the amount of freedom they enjoy and the amount of independence they attain in a world where access to land, food and water has become paramount.”

He warns of increased state oppression of dissent — in the spread of global capitalism and the accumulation of power and money by the few — through a surveillance society and police transformed into military units (shades of Bill C-51). His research shows frightening trends.

(For those concerned with charges of plagiarism in Hedges’ last book, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, a careful analysis of the charges shows it is solely a question of whether one chooses to be cynical about what Hedges says were mistakes in attribution, or about what the accuser says anonymous people told him. There is no way to ascertain any more truth than that about the charges.)

Citing Sartre, Hedges ends by saying: “I do not fight fascists because I will win. I fight fascists because they are fascists. And this is a fight that in the face of the overwhelming forces against us requires that we follow those possessed by sublime madness, that we become stone catchers and find in acts of rebellion the sparks of life, an intrinsic meaning that lies outside the possibility of success. We must grasp the harshness of reality at the same time as we refuse to allow this reality to paralyze us. People of all creeds and people of no creeds must make an absurd leap of faith to believe, despite all the empirical evidence around us, that the good draws to it the good. The fight for life goes somewhere — the Buddhists call it karma — and in these acts we make possible a better world, even if we cannot see one emerging around us.”

This is a thought-provoking, profound and inspiring book that deserves to be read by anyone concerned about the future of our world. But be warned: it attacks whatever complacent feelings you may have and may spur you on to become a rebel.


Chris Hedges.

Lawrie Cherniack is a Winnipeg mediator and adjudicator.

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Christian Palma / The Associated Press files A supporter of Mexico's Zapatista National Liberation Army.

Updated on Saturday, May 23, 2015 8:09 AM CDT: Formatting.

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