Friday, December 2, 2011

Chris Hedges at Occupy Harvard – feeding plutocracy and why the cops are scared

Chris Hedges spoke to Occupy Harvard three nights ago. There are three vids up of the discussion, and you should carefully and closely watch each one. Hedges lays out clearly the power of Occupy, the process of revolution, and the steps we need to take to get there.

Hedges begins by declaring, “Harvard exists to feed the plutocracy… It is an institution that epitomizes the dead ideas of the one percent.” He discusses the unique responsibility of Harvard students to call to account the world leaders who regularly come to Harvard to speak. Apparently, you cannot even get into Harvard Yard unless you have a Harvard ID card. So outsiders do not have the access to get at the one percent leaders and call their bullshit to their faces.

Hedges then references Crane Brinton’s 1938 book, The Anatomy of Revolution, quickly describing how a revolution is created. First, is the creation of a rapacious oligarchy, followed by the destruction of the middle class. The elites become insensitive to the plight of working men and women, and especially the poor. The oligarchy becomes so entrenched that people who thought they had trained to become part of the system, can find no entry into it. Hedges uses the word “déclassé” to describe these people. And the revolutionary moment always begins with the demand that the elites be removed – which, of course, the elites refuse to even discuss.

Hedges explains that the elites' request for Occupy to issue formal demands is an insidious attempt to drag Occupy back into the dead system and contain it. “The power of the Occupy movement is that it won’t go there. It realizes a fundamental truth about American politics… there is no way to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs.”

Hedges plainly states that if we continue to allow people like Larry Summers and Robert Rubin to determine our future, “we will be finished. Not just finished economically, but finished in terms of the assault on the eco-system on which the human species depends for survival. This is, quite literally, a fight for life.” Agronomists are warning that for every one degree increase in temperature, there will be a ten percent decline in crop yields.

In the second vid, Hedges explains the special responsibility of Harvard students to confront the world leaders, like Newt Gingrich, who come to Harvard to talk.

Then, he turns back to political economy: “Remember, in the seventeenth century, speculators were hung.” He notes that Solon forgave all debts in the Athenian empire after “the criminal class took control. And that’s essentially what we have. This institution [Harvard] is paying deference to individual and to systems that commit crimes."

[I want to interject here that this is one particularly weak point of the left in the U.S. – it has ignored the history of how organized crime literally took over U.S. politics and much of the U.S. economy in the 1960s through 1980s. A very important example is Penny Sue Pritzker, who was the national finance chair of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. According to the Wikipedia profile of Penny Sue, she is the 263rd richest person in the U.S., with an estimated net worth of US $1.7 billion. Also in 2011 Forbes listed her as the world’s 651st richest person. The Pritzker family fortune today is based on Hyatt hotels – the hotel chain that last summer turned heat lamps on picketing workers -- during a heat wave.

[The seed money for the Pritzker fortune came from grandpa Abe Pritzker, who was a tax attorney for the Chicago mob. We want to elect more and better Democrats, but what do you do when the main source of funds for Democrats is so badly tainted? Btw, for the whole scary and sordid tale, I recommend Supermob: How Sidney Korshak and His Criminal Associates Became America's Hidden Power Brokers, by Gus Russo, Bloomsbury USA, 2006. And just so you know I’m not picking on just Democrats here: one of the mob’s all time favorite pols was Ronald Reagan, beginning with St. Ronnie’s days as head of the actors’ guild. This history that so many want to ignore goes a long way in explaining why and how it is that today many of the elites at the top are functionally psychopaths. No, really - literally:
In a study published by the journal Psychology, Crime and Law, Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon tested 39 senior managers and chief executives from leading British businesses. They compared the results to the same tests on patients at Broadmoor special hospital, where people who have been convicted of serious crimes are incarcerated. On certain indicators of psychopathy, the bosses's scores either matched or exceeded those of the patients. In fact, on these criteria, they beat even the subset of patients who had been diagnosed with psychopathic personality disorders.

The psychopathic traits on which the bosses scored so highly, Board and Fritzon point out, closely resemble the characteristics that companies look for. Those who have these traits often possess great skill in flattering and manipulating powerful people. Egocentricity, a strong sense of entitlement, a readiness to exploit others and a lack of empathy and conscience are also unlikely to damage their prospects in many corporations.
--- How the rich rig the system]
Asked about the destruction of education in the classics and the humanities, Hedges noted that is exactly what the corporatist state initiated in the early 1900s, with the efforts by Carnegie and others to make American education more geared toward “vocations.” “They made war against all those elements in society that had the power to transform… There’s a huge difference between teaching people what to think and teaching people how to think. There is a very subtle and very pernicious assault on those disciplines that teach you how to think, because thinking is subversive. Thinking forces you to challenge assumptions and structures, and question them. . .”

[And this is another issue where the left has failed miserably. As Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. noted in his book The Cycles of American History, the founders of America steeped themselves in classical studies.
To live without a having a Cicero and a Tacitus at hand, said John Quincy Adams, a founding son, “seems to me as if it were a privation of one of my limbs.” As Adams’s cousin William Smith Shaw put it: “The writings of Tactitus display the weakness of a falling empire and the morals of a degenerate age…. They form the subject of deep meditation for all statesmen who wish to raise their country to glory; to continue it in power, or preserve it from ruin.
[As Bernard Bailyn wrote in his great 1967 study, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution,
BB 23-24. Most conspicuous in the writings of the Revolutionary period was the heritage of classical antiquity. Knowledge of classical authors was universal among colonists with any degree of education, and their works abound in the literature. From the grammar schools, from private tutors and independent reading came a general familiarity with and the habit of reference to the ancient authors and the heroic personalities of the ancient world. “Homer, Sophocles, Plato, Euripides, Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Aristotle, Strabo, Lucian, Polybius, Plutarch, and Epictetus, among the Greeks; and Cicero, Horace, Vergil, Tacitus, Lucan, Seneca, Livy, Nepos, Sallust, Ovid, Lucretius, Cato, Pliny, Juvenal, Curtius, Marcus Aurelius, Petronius, Suetonius, Caesar, the lawyers Ulpian and Gaius, and Justinian, among the Romans”-all are cited in Revolutionary literature; many are directly quoted.

BB 25 What gripped their minds, what they knew in detail, and what formed their view of the whole of the ancient world was the political history of Rome from the conquests in the east and the civil wars in the early first century b.c. to the establishment of the empire on the ruins of the republic at the end of the second century a.d. For their knowledge of this period they had at hand, and needed only Plutarch, Livy, and above all Cicero, Sallust, and Tacitus—writers who had lived either when the republic was being fundamentally challenged or when its greatest days were already past and its moral and political virtues decayed.”
When Hedges was asked where Occupy was headed, he responded by listing the seven or eight revolutions he has covered as a correspondent – all the revolutions in East Europe, both of the Palestinian uprisings, and others -- and told the story of how he was sitting one night, in Leipzig, with a group of leaders of the East German opposition. They told him they thought the division of Germany would end within the next year or two. Well, that was the night of November 9, 1989, and just two hours later, jubilant Berliners were tearing down the Berlin Wall. So, Hedges concluded, no one really knows.
Week after week, month after month, these clergy held these candle-lit vigils. It was slow at first – people forget this – but then suddenly it began to grow. And Honnecher… sent a paratroop division down to Leipzig – but they won’t attack the demonstrators. It’s always when the foot soldiers of the elites won’t carry out the forms of draconian control, that these dead regimes crumble. That’s why it is so important not to respond to police provocation, and to respect the blue uniformed police who are working class.

Vid 2 ends and vid 3 begins with Hedges continuing to explain that in Zucotti Park, there was a marked difference in how the police treated Occupiers when police supervisors were not around. The policemen and policewomen know, because they are inside the edifice of power, how dead and corrupt it is. They know even better than we do. “That’s why they’re so frightened.”

Asked about Harvard’s relationship to elites, such as Henry Kissinger [and remember, Timmy Geithner’s first job was at Kissinger Associates], Hedges said “This is Harvards role; this is what Harvard does: it gives polish to figures like Kissinger and McNamara who should have spent the rest of their lives in jail for committing war crimes. The power of what Occupy Harvard is doing, is by subverting that narrative, they are exposing the people for what they really are.”

[Hedges mentions that when protesting Harvard students walked out of neoliberal economist Greg Mankiw’s class, they were hissed and booed – and confronted by the college Republican club, all wearing their college Republican sweaters. Brown shirts.]

When asked how he could advocate treating the police with respect when the police are clearly engaging in brutal repression, Hedges pointed to the immense public relations disaster police actions have created, and noted that it establishes for the public the clear dichotomy between the elites and us: "We have something to offer and something to say. And the only language they’re capable of is that of force. And it just exposes them for who they are.” He noted that when he was arrested in front of the White House, along with the military veterans, many police officers – almost all of whom are also in the National Guard and have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan - quietly told them, as they gently handcuffed them, “Keep doing what you’re doing. These wars stink." Hedges continued, "I think that’s a glimmer of what’s happening within the structures of control. I’m not excusing what they [the police] do. In the end, they will have to make a moral decision, a difficult decision. They’re the weak link in the chain. And when we break that link, we win. And that has been true of every revolution in human history."


Tear Down Wall Street

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