The Pathology of the Rich: An interview with Chris Hedges
While waiting for some wood glue to dry, I thought I would share this with you.
A few of the high points:
JAY: Well, not so much an example of deep, rich understanding, but–.
HEDGES: No, but of how–you know, affirmative action for the rich. And I came–certainly my mother’s side of the family–from, you know, lower working class. I mean, people–one of my uncles lived in a trailer in Maine, and certainly people with no means. And I would juxtapose the world I was in with that world. And it was very clear that it wasn’t about intelligence or aptitude. The fact is, if you’re poor, you only get one chance. If you’re wealthy like Bush, you get chance after chance after chance after chance. So you’re a C student at Andover, and you go to Yale, and you go to Harvard Business School, and you’re AWOL from your National Guard unit, and you’re a cokehead, and it doesn’t really matter. You don’t even really have a job till you’re 40 and you become president of the United States.
. . . .
JAY: And it’s not some, like, inherent evilness or something, but you are brought up as a super-rich or very rich in a culture, in a school, in a milieu where everyone’s there to serve you. It’s your right to be served.
HEDGES: Yeah. It’s very distasteful to see, because, you know, I would go to the homes of friends of mine and watch–and let’s remember they’re children, 11, 12 years old, ordering around adults–their servants, their nannies. And I begin that piece by talking about Fitzgerald, who came from the Midwest to Princeton and went through much of the experience that I went through, and that apocryphal exchange–which didn’t take place, but it does represent the difference between Hemingway and Fitzgerald–where Fitzgerald at one point had written–the story is that he said the rich aren’t like you and I, and Hemingway is supposed to have quipped, yes, they have more money. Well, Hemingway, like on many things, was wrong. The rich are different, because when you have that much money, then human beings become disposable. Even friends and family become disposable and are replaced. And when the rich take absolute power, then the citizens become disposable, which is in essence what’s happened. There is a very callous indifference.
The one area though that Hedges does not go into well in this interview, and his previous pieces, is that of the Bourgeoisie capitalists. The management class and engineers and doctors and lawyers and business men and college professors who not only support, but quite often praise the elite oligarchs. Like groupies. In some ways they are even more morally bankrupt and hideous:
JAY: You quote in your article Karl Marx writing, “The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships,” Marx wrote, “the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas.” Why did that hit you?
HEDGES: Well, because the whole notion of the free market–laissez-faire capitalism, globalization–is a very thin rationale for unmitigated greed by a tiny oligarchic elite. And they have made sure that that ideology is taught in universities across the country. And people, especially economists, who deviate from that ideology have been pushed aside, have become pariahs. And yet the driving ethos of that ideology is really to justify the hoarding of immense amounts of wealth by a very tiny percentage of, you know, the upper ruling class. That’s what it is.
.. . . .
JAY: Just quickly, for people who don’t know what we’re talking about, we’re talk about the House Un-American Activities, McCarthyism, and a real campaign to try to move anyone with a kind of progressive socialist idea out of anything.
HEDGES: Right. And they were effective, I mean, in a way, far more effective than in Europe. I mean, in Europe, you’ll still have a residue. We’ve been robbed of language by which we can express the reality of what we’re undergoing. And that’s because, you know, our radical populist dissident movements, those who offered a critique of the power elite, have been banished or silenced.
And when the unions began supporting McCarthyism and the anti-communism of the cold war, it was their suicide march.
JAY: You say you can’t do incremental reform. The elite can’t even pass regulations that would serve their own interests, in terms of controlling financial speculation, for example, a simple change in terms of position limits at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, that anyone that wants some kind of functioning capitalist system would want to have this so that you don’t have another financial collapse as 2008. They can’t even pass that.
HEDGES: But they don’t—the people who are running Wall Street don’t give a damn about–they know it’s going to collapse. And what they’re doing is stealing as fast, as much as they can on the way out the door. There’s a very deep cynicism.
Precisely! But as Hedges points out later on, if they think they can escape or hide…they are sadly mistaken.
JAY: So it’s up to us. Don’t expect anything from the oligarchs.
HEDGES: No. And not only that, they are creating systems in terms of exploitation not only of us but of the ecosystem that, if left unchecked, will ensure the extinction of the human species. It may already be too late, of course. But, you know, allowing the fossil fuel industry or these corporations to determine our relationship to the environment is a form of collective insanity at this point.
Yes, it’s up to us….revolt !