The other day, on April 15, veteran journalist, war correspondent and truthdig.com columnist Chris Hedges was interviewed on RT News about the state of American society, repeating his oft stated warnings about the long corporate assault on and takeover of politics, the seeming death of reason and critical thinking in public discourse, and the development of a feudalistic "totalitarian democracy" in which the vast majority of the population is reduced through a media manufactured state of ignorance, inability to think clearly, and entertainment dazed complacence to a state of serfdom as a renewable 'resource' for a capitalism defined by American and multinational big business, and critiquing from this perspective the US budget developments of the past few days.
The budget is closing American schools and libraries across the country while firing teachers and taking away collective bargaining rights, Hedges notes, while banks and the largest corporations are not paying any taxes, including Bank of America, Exxon Mobil, and GE. Protesters gathered on Saturday April 17 at New York City's Union Square for the Sound of Resistance protests, part of the US Uncut tax weekend protests challenging the banks, most notably Bank of America, for avoiding paying taxes.
usuncut.org's about page states that:
US Uncut is a grassroots movement taking direct action against corporate tax cheats and unnecessary and unfair public service cuts across the U.S. Washington's proposed budget for the coming year sends a clear message: The wrath of budget cuts will fall upon the shoulders of hard-working Americans. That's unacceptable.
Obama seeks to trim $1.1 trillion from the budget in the next ten years by cutting or eliminating over 200 federal programs, many dedicated to social services and education. For instance, it cuts in half funding to subsidize heating for low-income Americans; limits an expansion of the Pell grant program for students; and decreases Environmental Protection Agency funding by over 12%.
Meanwhile, Republicans are using their new House majority to slash spending even more brutally. The GOP has made it clear that they are bent on raiding funds for Social Security, Medicare, education; determined to kill health care reform; and gut needed investments in infrastructure, climate change and job creation, at a time when America needs it most.
These cuts will come on top of very painful austerity measures made at the state-level across our nation–-worth hundreds of billions--since the recession began.
In short, budget cuts demonstrate that Washington has abandoned ordinary Americans.
What is making the situation worse is the ignorance of politicians and others leaping around he fringes. Hedges also reminds that the US is the only industrialized nation in the world that argues over the existence of evolution. Magical thinking, combined with a military superpower, is frightening, he says. "We invest emotional energy on the ridiculous and the sublime... the liberal class has been decimated... what used to be unconstitutional is now legal", he says, pointing to illegal searches under the Patriot Act and corporate bailouts under the health care legislation. The rights and needs of citizens are being ignored in favor of corporations.
While all across the blogosphere and in mainstream media I watch people argue about which faction of the 'corporatist party' to elect in 2012, I’m reminded strongly here of something Chris Floyd wrote nearly four years ago, in September 2007:
Tomorrow is here. The game is over. The crisis has passed — and the patient is dead. Whatever dream you had about what America is, it isn’t that anymore. It’s gone. And not just in some abstract sense, some metaphorical or mythological sense, but down in the nitty-gritty, in the concrete realities of institutional structures and legal frameworks, of policy and process, even down to the physical nature of the landscape and the way that people live.
The Republic you wanted — and at one time might have had the power to take back — is finished. You no longer have the power to keep it; it’s not there.
It won’t come with jackboots and book burnings, with mass rallies and fevered harangues. It won’t come with “black helicopters” or tanks on the street. It won’t come like a storm – but like a break in the weather, that sudden change of season you might feel when the wind shifts on an October evening: everything is the same, but everything has changed. Something has gone, departed from the world, and a new reality has taken its place.
As in Rome, all the old forms will still be there: legislatures, elections, campaigns – plenty of bread and circuses for the folks. But the “consent of the governed” will no longer apply; actual control of the state will have passed to a small group of nobles who rule largely for the benefit of their wealthy peers and corporate patrons.
To be sure, there will be factional conflicts among this elite, and a degree of free debate will be permitted, within limits; but no one outside the privileged circle will be allowed to govern or influence state policy. Dissidents will be marginalized – usually by “the people” themselves. Deprived of historical knowledge by an impoverished educational system designed to produce complacent consumers, not thoughtful citizens, and left ignorant of current events by a media devoted solely to profit, many will internalize the force-fed values of the ruling elite, and act accordingly. There will be little need for overt methods of control.
"Civil disobedience is the only tool we have left" Hedges says in the RT interview. It is a process of years and years and it is unclear what triggers a massive reaction, such as the demonstrations in Egypt. "The tinder is here but what triggers it will probably be fairly innocuous" he predicts...
"My fear is that if those of us who care about an open society and care about protecting democracy don't begin to carry out acts of civil disobedience, this rage could be hijacked — or it already is being hijacked — by these proto-fascist movements gathered around the Tea Party that speak in the language of violence and bigotry; that celebrate the gun culture; that demonize Muslims, undocumented workers, homosexuals — Look, I've watched these kinds of movements grow in the breakdown of Yugoslavia and I don't take this rhetoric lightly."
Whither America, indeed. Or wither, America?