Citizen Action Monitor

What makes activist Chris Hedges resist and fight for life even when all the signs around us deny that possibility?

“Fighting for the sanctity of life is always worth it. Because you know, if we don’t fight, then we are finished.”

No 531 Posted by fw, July 25, 2012

In a wide-ranging, personal conversation with Chris Hedges about his life and work, Bill Moyers candidly asks his guest —

In one of your earlier books, you wrote that, quote, “We stand on the verge of one of the bleakest periods in human history, when the bright lights of civilization blink out, and we will descend for decades, if not centuries, into barbarity.” Do you really think that’s ahead? [And then follows up with this zinger]: You just — you and your wife a year and a half ago had your fourth child. How can you introduce another life into so forlorn a future?

To read Hedges’ response, read below the excerpted transcript of the 51-minute interview. To watch the entire interview or to access the full transcript, click on this title: Chris Hedges on Capitalism’s ‘Sacrifice Zones’, Moyers & Company, July 20, 2012. Alternatively, the embedded video is posted at the end of this post.

HEDGES’ RESPONSE TO MOYERS’ PROVOCATIVE QUESTION

Bill Moyers — In one of your earlier books, you wrote that, quote, “We stand on the verge of one of the bleakest periods in human history, when the bright lights of civilization blink out, and we will descend for decades, if not centuries, into barbarity.” Do you really think that’s ahead?

Chris Hedges — If there’s not a radical change in the way we relate to the ecosystem that sustains life, yes. And I see, if you ask me to put my money down, I see nothing that indicates that we’re preparing to make that change.

Bill Moyers — But here’s another paradox then, you present us with a lot of paradoxes. You just — you and your wife a year and a half ago had your fourth child. How can you introduce another life into so forlorn a future?

Chris Hedges — That’s not an easy question to answer. I look at my youngest son, and his favorite book is Out of the Blue, which are pictures of narwhales and porpoises and dolphins. And I think, “It is most probable that within your lifetime, every single one of those sea creatures will be dead.” And in so many ways, I feel that I have to fight for them.

That even if I fail, they’ll say, “You know, at least my dad tried.” We’ve deeply betrayed this next generation on so many levels. And I can’t argue finally, you know, given the empirical facts in front of us that hope is rational. And I retreat, like so many people in my book, into faith. And a belief that resistance and fighting for life is meaningful even if all of the outward signs around us deny that possibility.

Bill Moyers — That faith in human beings?

Chris Hedges — Faith in that fighting for the sanctity of life is always worth it. Because you know, if we don’t fight, then we are finished. Then we signed our own death sentence. And Camus writes about this in The Rebel, that I think resistance becomes a kind of way of protecting our own worth as an individual, our own dignity, our own self-respect. And I think resistance does always leave open the possibility of change. And if we don’t resist, then we’ve essentially extinguished that hope.

Bill Moyers — H. L. Mencken, the celebrated iconoclast of the early part of the last century once wrote, “The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naive and usually idiotic. He is more likely one who likes his country more than the rest of us and is those more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debouched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime, he is a good citizen, driven to despair.” Is that you?

Chris Hedges — Yeah–

Bill Moyers — A good citizen driven to despair?

Chris Hedges — Yes. And a good citizen driven to despair who will not remain apathetic and passive. And, you know, in every single place that we went to, Camden, West Virginia, Pine Ridge, we found these utterly magnificent human beings. I mean, this woman Lolly in Camden, African American woman, who you know, raised her own children. And I think by the time she was done, 19 others.

Her fiancé was shot and killed, one of her little seven-year-old daughters died of an asthma attack because they didn’t have the right medicine. And I said, “Lolly, how do you do it?” And she said, “I never ask why.” And when you spend time in the presence of people like that, and they were everywhere you know, they understood what they were up against.

It is deeply empowering. Because not to resist, not to fight back is on a very personal level to betray these people. And when you build relationships, as over the two years Joe and I did, with figures like that, it really, you know, almost comes down to something that simplistic. You can’t betray Lolly. You can’t betray any of these great figures who’ve stood up. Because their fight is our fight. And oftentimes they’ve endured far, far more– well, they have endured far, far more than I have endured or ever will endure.

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This entry was posted on July 25, 2012 by in counterpower of one, leadership, moral & ethical counterpower and tagged , .
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