Chris Hedges talks resistance against status quo

The capitalist order is cracking, climate change is shattering the very structures of the natural world, and resistance is our only option to survive.

That was the message renowned author and journalist Chris Hedges brought to Santa Monica during a talk at the Santa Monica Women’s Bay Club on Sunday.

Word spread that Hedges would be in town. The lines outside the club were a few blocks long, and the main hall was filled to capacity.

Hedges gained prominence after taking part in a team of New York Times reporters who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for their coverage of global terrorism. But in 2003, he was fired from the newspaper after heavily criticizing the war in Iraq during a commencement speech at Rockford College in Illinois.

Hedges is now a celebrated columnist and author of best-sellers about war and modern America such as "Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt" and "War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning," which was quoted in the Oscar-winning film "The Hurt Locker." He came to Santa Monica to discuss America as it stands today amid a continuing global economic crisis, climate change and the government shutdown.

Robert Scheer, editor-in-chief of the online journal "Truth Dig," introduced Hedges. Upon taking the podium to rousing applause from an audience of all ages, Hedges compared modern American society to Herman Melville's classic novel "Moby Dick."

Hedges compared the doomed quest of Captain Ahab and the crew of the Pequod in their search for the great white whale to the rise and fall of a civilization.

"Those on the ship, on some level, know they are doomed, just as many of us know our civilization and ecosystem cannot stand the continued assault by corporate capitalism," said Hedges.

He said that society lives under the illusion that the great changes now happening are of little concern, and we will simply adapt.

Continuing with quotes from Nietzsche and descriptions of modern America where wages remain stagnant, Hedges spoke about the rising cost of living, a good education becoming less affordable, and our leaders, both Republican and Democrat, catering to corporate interests.

Hedges discussed the recent Occupy movement, and how the assaults on the encampments by local authorities were an example of state powers quickly silencing flashes of popular resistance.

"Physical courage and moral courage can be distinct; one can be brave on a battlefield and a coward before human evil," he said.

Resistance, Hedges said, will come through protest, even if it means arrest, through creating art and forming a sense of community.

During a question-and-answer session following the lecture, Hedges warned that the ongoing government shutdown is a disturbing sign of the kind of "malfunction that infects dying civilizations."

"We're seeing the dysfunction of empire," he said.

After the event, Hedges discussed the need for the modern students to take some time to think and escape from the restless, technology-dominated world.

"The modern culture has made it extremely difficult to think; there's just constant intrusion," he said. "I don't have a TV. I try to read every night."

For students preparing to jump into a world where opportunities might seem scarce in a time of economic uncertainty, Hedges added that students are also being thrown into tremendous debt while college administrators are making a generous amount of money.

"If you got up in France and announced to French university students that they had to pay $50,000 a year to go to college, they would shut the damn country down," Hedges said. "And that's exactly what we need to start doing here."

Alci RengifoComment