Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Chris Hedges: Saving the Planet Means Overthrowing the Ruling Elites

We must embrace a new radicalism. 

Friday’s climate strike by students across the globe will have no more impact than the mass mobilizations by women following the election of Donald Trump or the hundreds of thousands of protesters who took to the streets to denounce the Iraq War. This does not mean these protests should not have taken place. They should have. But such demonstrations need to be grounded in the bitter reality that in the corridors of power we do not count. If we lived in a democracy, which we do not, our aspirations, rights and demands, especially the demand that we confront the climate emergency, would have an impact. We would be able to vote representatives into power in government to carry out change. We would be able to demand environmental justice from the courts. We would be able to divert resources to the elimination of carbon emissions.

Voting, lobbying, petitioning and protesting to induce the ruling elites to respond rationally to the climate catastrophe have proved no more effective than scrofula victims’ appeals to Henry VIII to cure them with a royal touch. The familiar tactics employed over the past few decades by environmentalists have been spectacular failures. In 1900 the burning of fossil fuel—mostly coal—produced about 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year. That number had risen threefold by 1950. Today the level is 20 times higher than the 1900 figure. During the last decade the increase in CO2 was 100 to 200 times faster than what the earth experienced during the transition from the last ice age. On May 11 the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii recorded 415.26 parts per million of COin the air. It’s believed to be the highest concentration since humans evolved. We will embrace a new paradigm for resistance or die.

The ruling elites and the corporations they serve are the principal obstacles to change. They cannot be reformed. And this means revolution, which is what Extinction Rebellion seeks in calling for an “international rebellion” on Oct. 7, when it will attempt to shut down city centers around the globe in acts of sustained, mass civil disobedience. Power has to be transferred into our hands. And since the elites won’t give up power willingly, we will have to take it through nonviolent action.

Protests can be the beginning of political consciousness. But they can also be empty political theater. They can be used to celebrate our moral probity—advertisements, especially in the age of social media, for ourselves. They can be a boutique activism in which protesters allow themselves to be funneled through police barricades and arrests are politely choreographed, resulting in a few hours in jail and the credentialing of the demonstrators as radicals. They can be used to distance ourselves from a repugnant political figure such as Donald Trump, while leaving us silent and complicit when the same policies are carried out by a supposed progressive such as Barack Obama. This is a game the state has learned to play to its advantage. As long as we do not disrupt the machine, as long as we protest according to their rules, the elites will let us march through the streets of Washington in pussy hats or walk out of school for a day.

When power is threatened, as it was in the sustained protests during the Occupy encampments and at Standing Rock, the ruling elites react very differently. They employ the full weight of the surveillance state to demonize the protesters, arrest and detain the leadership and infiltrate agents provocateurs to carry out violent assaults to justify the use of the police and security forces to shut the protests down[….]

Click here to read full essay.

Copyright 2019 Chris Hedges. Published in TruthDig.

5 comments on “Chris Hedges: Saving the Planet Means Overthrowing the Ruling Elites

  1. Arlene Weiner
    September 26, 2019

    It’s absolutely unhelpful, IMO, to posit that the parties are the same. Many people believe this, or that they are “two evils,” and either waste their vote or don’t vote. Consider that Al Gore ran as the Democratic candidate and very nearly won. He was sounding the alarm on climate change (global warming) in the 1980s.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      September 26, 2019

      Thanks, Arlene.


    • Vox Populi
      September 26, 2019

      You’re right that the D. and R. parties are not the same. The first is dominated by Neo-liberals who talk left while giving Wall Street and the Defense industry everything they ask for. The second is dominated by Neo-fascists who talk right while giving Wall Street and the Defense industry everything they ask for. There are Democrats, such as Gore, Sanders, Warren, and others who try to speak the truth. And there are Republicans, mainly journalists like George Will and David Brooks, who try to speak the truth. But Hedge’s point is that the progressive movement needs to ramp up our protests because the marches and rallies we’ve held in recent years have achieved nothing. I agree with him on this.


  2. Don Krieger
    September 25, 2019

    Dear Michael –

    I admit to lacking trust in a Chris Hedges, a commentator who was syndicated in RT, a notoriously unreliable rag. I have read his piece. It is a laundry list of genuine and important issues. But the take-away for action is ” … noncooperation with authority … defying in every nonviolent way … waves of sustained civil disobedience until the machine is broken.”

    In other words, his proposed “solutions” are exclusively destructive. That is an approach which cannot fail to encourage the rise of violence and chaos since governments and unhinged individuals must and will react with force. Hedges offers no solution of any kind to any of the problems he describes. Rather this piece serves the Machiavellian interests of the same “ruling elites” who are its stated targets. This is classic propaganda, nothing more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      September 25, 2019

      Thanks, Don. You are not alone in your distrust of Chris Hedges. When I’ve posted his essays in the past, a number of readers have objected to his arguments. But I think that he represents an important point of view: Liberation theology applied to American society. That being said, I think he’s dead wrong on several issues in his past essays, including his skepticism that the Russians helped get Trump elected. The evidence is overwhelming that they did. But in this essay, I think he’s onto something. We need to ramp up our protests because the marches and rallies have had little effect. Suppose we borrow the strategy that the kids used last Friday and just walk off our jobs, go into the streets and make our concerns known? The powers that depend on us keeping the wheels of society turning would have to listen.


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