Yes, it snowed! Wednesday was a snow day all over Leelanau County, with an accumulation of well over a foot between bedtime on Tuesday and noon on Wednesday. It was good to stay home doing laundry, baking brownies, reading and writing and watching to see if the plow had come yet. I'm starting this post with the weather news because the title of my last seemed to promise an image and then didn't include one. These pictures are from Wednesday at home (above) and Thursday in Northport (below).
But now, on to the book of the day.
The liberal church, the press, universities, culture, labor and the Democratic Party have all failed us, says Chris Hedges. These institutions continue to speak in the rhetoric of liberal values but have sold out to--and now act in--alliances that have turned them into collaborators with the corporate state and the enemies of liberal values. The strength of Chris Hedges’s Death of the Liberal Class (NY: Nation Books, 2010) is in the evidence he puts forth and the fearless conclusions he draws from that evidence. The weakness is his tendency to reiterate, at unnecessary length, claim statements emphasizing blame and predicting further disasters. I found his argument convincing but suspect that many, some of whom might otherwise have been convinced, will dismiss his book because the author’s passion leads him to go on and on and on.
That’s a very general assessment. On the technical side, there is a problem with the index, obviously constructed before the final version of the text. For example, a reader sent to page 16 by the index must look to page 15 for the desired content. Very annoying.
The foregoing caveats are not to keep you away from the book, only to warn you that you shouldn’t look for a “smooth ride.” Nor is it escape reading. If, however, you care about the future of your country and the world and are not afraid to have your most cherished liberal beliefs challenged, Death of the Liberal Class is must reading.
When Bill Clinton pushed through NAFTA, I started having serious doubts, but I was only disappointed in Clinton, not in the Democratic Party. It didn't occur to me to be disappointed in the party--and what alternative was there for anyone who believes in a role for government? When John Kerry lost, I tried to think it might be for the best, since he would have inherited an impossible situation. Better, I thought, to let Bush flounder for another four years until it’s obvious that a party pushing him to the White House doesn’t deserve to stay there. So then, yes, I was hopeful with Barack Obama—voted for him, was thrilled that he won the election, felt pride in my country. Now? Well, you?
Do you wonder about the eclipse of Ralph Nader, and do you think he brought it on himself? What do you think of “free trade” agreements, sold to us on trust with the specious argument that “globalization is inevitable”? (Death is inevitable, I kept reminding people who gave me that reply, but does that mean we should commit suicide today?) Do you feel that loving your country requires you to give allegiance to a foreign policy of permanent warfare? If you were raised as a Christian, does present-day Christianity seem strangely different from what you remember as a child? Can you think of a single arena of American life that has not been invaded by corporate culture?
Colleges and universities are run on a “business” model, more and more prisons and military roles “privatized,” and who thinks even to question these days the idea that hospitals should be run for profit? The churches with the fastest-growing congregations are the ones preaching the gospel of money, the idea that God wants you to be rich. Hedges began with an investigation into print media, the publishing world, but when his first publisher (Knopf) objected to some of the author’s “negative” views, he took his book elsewhere and expanded it to cover pretty much all of American life and the ways that liberalism has been watered down by liberals themselves so that it can no longer oppose the erosion of liberal values.
Here are some glimpses into the book, which I hope you will buy and read in its entirety.
The tragedy of the liberal class and the institutions it controls is that it succumbed to opportunism and finally to fear. It abrogated its moral role. It did not defy corporate abuse when it had the chance. It exiled those within its ranks who did. And the defanging of the liberal class not only removed all barriers to neofeudalism and corporate abuse but also insured that the liberal class will, in its turn, be swept aside.
The mechanisms of control, which usually work to maintain a high level of fear among the populace, have produced, despite these admissions of failure [banking crises], the “patriotic” citizen, plagued by job losses, bankrupted by medical bills, foreclosed on his or her house, and worried about possible terrorist attacks. In this historical vacuum, the “patriotic” citizen clings to the privilege of being a patriot....
For an introduction to the book from the author himself, see this eloquent and compelling video.
The video serves as a preview of the argument presented in the book. I have not presented that argument here. I could not hope to do Hedges justice, and his book deserves attention.