The ruling classes always work to keep the powerless from understanding how power functions. This assault has been aided by a cultural left determined to banish "dead white male" philosophers.
I began with anger towards my father and his persecution of the Women in my family and the ugliness of his actions towards all of us. That was the beginning of my politics. Later my progressivism would grow out of new approaches to the recognition and treatment of familial abuse. My sense of right and wrong, of justice itself, was directly and experientially attached, to a recognition of power relationships. Of a child’s dependency on her/his parents, both physically as well their conditioning to accept and repeat the learned behaviors. It’s often a hellish repetitive pattern, tedious and often dangerous. Making a mockery of life itself. The intrusion of healthy self-empowerment and self reliance is, in my experience, the single most powerful societal evolution, leading straight into Feminism, LGBT Rights, and other liberating social movements. I am an educated person. I have gained enormously from that experience. But the roots were planted and thrived in the works of liberation psychotherapists, Carl Jung and Fritz Perls, amongst many others. They put my feet on the ground, and my eyes in the skies. Justice first lives in the heart. Your decency Mr. Hedges is remarkable and shines out. When you enter a prison i imagine the stones tremble. Every person in that prison deserves compassion and love. If not freedom? (What is freedom?)
One minor quibble. Capitalism has in the past crushed Socialism. The future, in my opinion, is a future far more socialist than capitalist. Marx, like all good philosophers played the long game. Like MLK’s arc of justice, we must look past our own brief existences. Otherwise I’d go crazy.
I am 75 and autistic and just learning how to write so it is hard to argue with Chris Hedges but I think John Ralston Saul makes a good case for non Western philosophy. Saul's 2015 The Comeback and his 1993 tribute to Hannah Arendt Voltaire's Bastards (The Dictatorship in the West) make a very good case for a complete do over.
Saul's The Collapse of Globalism and the Reinvention of the World seems rather prophetic
"Neoliberalism is neither new nor liberal." John Ralston Saul
In his Doubter's Companion: A Dictionary of Aggressive Common Sense 1994 Saul calls Cynicism democracy's greatest threat.
I think I need to listen to Phil Ochs again sing.
I mean what can an expert on European history, two time head of PEN International and Socratic philosopher know about evolution.
A Small Circle of Friends and there but for fortune.
Before I forget
Mark Twain is my favourite Socratic philosopher but I think Hannah Arendt was correct we are neither good nor evil we are as John Ralston Saul pointed out writing about Robert McNamara simply banal.
Yet another brilliant essay!
I love your work & appreciate what you do!
I just became a paid subscriber for real to tell you that and get as much of your work that I can!
I did nearly 5 years in federal prison, there wasn't shit available to us, some HVAC training course, but you had to have 5+ years to sign up.
The people receiving an education from you while inside are for real fortunate AF!
You gotta be the only person wearing that collar I respect.
Thanks again for what you do!
Humans need to take the best ideas and leave the rest of the bad ideas. Of course they have to be educated in order to make such decisions on their own without their pastor or parents or spouse telling them what to believe. It is a rough road to hoe, when most Americans can't tell fantasy from reality or socialism from communism or capitalism...
I love this post. My favourite part was the paragraph that started as follows.
"I spoke about Aristotle’s distinction between the good citizen and the good person. The good person’s loyalty is not to the state. The good person “acts and lives virtuously and derives happiness from that virtue.”"
The Marx quote is also interesting:
"The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production."
I never quite understood why the American Right goes crazy when they hear the name of Marx. Why is all this fuss about a dead philosopher who was refuted by history? Now it makes more sense. Our ruling class certainly has an interest in us not discussing a quote like the one above.
I ordered the book by Wolin.
Hope to read more on the course you are giving.
One of my friends comments that one of the reasons we in North America are so philosophically illiterate is that in Europe they teach philosophy in High School. In North America we teach mathematics. We teach that every question has a right answer, and you can be judged on a scale of one to a hundred on how correct your answer is. But the really important questions in life do not have answers. They require decisions. What is the good? Is there a God? What is truth? What is the good society? Power is the ability to make a decision. Stripped of the ability to make philosophical decisions, people are powerless pawns of the machine.
Thanks once again for giving me grist for contemplating.
I'm about to become homeless, betrayed by a neighbor "friend" who, drunk one night, came over here and picked a fight with my wife, he turned back on us, walked outside and called the landlord, telling them my wife is still staying with me, in violation of Section 8 policy. Nice "friends" who want to help me get rid of my wife. The Housing Authority told me to "Go Camping" because they fear the landlord will file an unlawful detainer. My wife was staying here until the shelter opens up -- brand new facility -- we've been waiting months. The neighbors, for instance, have many people living in there, and surely most are not on the lease, but these people, one, a former child soldier from Africa, were spies for the landlord, a corporate outfit from Colorado who bought up most of the ghetto apartments in the neighborhood who take Section 8. They're advertising the wretched apartments as green luxury units because the rent in Marin County is so high, like $2,500/month and more for the ghetto. I live in Revolutionary Catalonia I think, most of the residents speak Spanish.
We have a great camp in the marsh, but I worry about my wife, she just turned 64 and should be blasting the heater indoors instead of eating terribly in the freezing October nights. The fuss that people make over their apartments is the same as the fuss made over who lives where in hell, IMHO. I couldn't imagine what I would have to do to maintain these units with all the bourgeois fuss. The landlord was literally shaking when she realized a homeless person was living in one of her (she's not a licensed Property Manager, can't complain to the DRE) apartments. I have seen this shaking rage over homelessness before. I think those people drink, or something.
Every time I have been homeless I quickly go to the shelter, and have had a wonderful awakening to the humanity in my fellow man. There are many great women in the marsh, too, I'm hoping my wife makes good friends too. We share whatever we have in the land of Cockaigne, it is pretty Utopic aside from the fasting due to poverty and the insects. In the winter it floods, becomes Waterworld, I have to hire a carpenter to build structures to keep us above the flood.
I'm making friends with these people, this ain't drug seeking behavior or whatever the county thinks justifies their tough love policies. We're not 5 year olds, but many are dirtbags, having long ago found themselves exiled in a ritual of exclusion from Bourgeois Society. I studied Political Theory with Jack Schaar at UC, Santa Cruz while taking a degree in Cultural Anthropology. We all went to the Philosophy Department to study Foucault with David Hoy. I had an astounding education, Angela arrived from SF State in my final year. Politics is one level of abstract thinking, Philosophy, the Continental Philosophy of our beloved pedagogue,is even more abstract. I wish I had known about David Bohm while at school, and started some conversations. "Absolute Vodka corrupts Absolutely" is the bourgeois in joke for Political Theory students. At school, you could visit Schaar's home in Felton, up in the hills somewhere, and the lucky ones got a beer (with Jack and his wife).
Beautiful: "My father hated ignorance and loved the ignorant."
Btw, I love your writing. Not sure how to describe it, it jumps all over the place but these jumps dont feel random at all to me. Interesting, surprising, refreshing. Also the mix between personal stories and general insights is wonderful. I am wondering what form you would choose if you would go beyond writing comments. Something totally new and original, somewhere between a poem and an essay?
I guess I will know soon, just subscribed to your substack,
We live practical lives by means of the state. But the state does not define all possible forms of value. It declares by its structure a state of value, open to criticism and change. We progressives live in the hope that that such criticism and change will lead to moral improvement and justice in the state.
One may defy bad law, to do so honorably requires an intellectual understanding of why a specific law, or set of laws, is bad. It is frightening for an individual to oppose state power. There is no action without courage. There is no courage without the support of others.
There is no guarantee of success.
There is always the work.
This is not an easy world to live in.
Gotta get your students into Epicurus and Lucretius too!
This line, "But the study of political philosophy, as well as ethics, is different. Not for the answers, but for the questions," and the many fundamental questions CH poses after it, encapsulate this piece. Do any of our so-called political "leaders" ever ask such questions? This piece appeared on the eve of the 22nd anniversary of 9/11 and the 50th anniversary of the coup that toppled the Allende government in Chile. Violence and fraud are virtues in time of war, whether that war is aimed at leftists or radical Muslim terrorists. The US was complicit in the Chilean coup, and it was our actions in the Muslim world that generated the hatred that resulted in the 9/11 attacks. America isn't an introspective nation, as James Baldwin noted many years ago; we fear fundamental questions because the answers might undermine all the systems of power by which we operate at home and abroad.
Another good article keep up your good work in the prison industrial complex Chris. One of my favorite philosophers is Upton Sinclair and his book first printed in 1922 "The Goose Step a Study of American Education" is quite enlightening. In his introduction he says "Six hundred thousand young people are attending colleges and universities in America. They are the pick of our coming generation, they are the future of our country. If they are wisely and soundly taught, America will be great and happy, if they are misguided and mistaught, no power can save us. What is the so-called "higher education" every year you pay a hundred million dollars of public funds to help maintain it,. You take it for granted that this money is honestly and wisely used, that the students are getting, the best, the "highest" education money can buy. "Suppose I were to tell you that this education machine has been stolen? That a bandit crew have got hold of it to work, not for your benefit, nor the benefit of your sons and daughters, but for ends very far from these? That our six hundred thousand young people are being deliberately and of set purpose, not wisdom but folly, not justice but greed, not freedom but slavery, not love but hate?" With chapter titles like "The little gosling, The college goose, the university goose, The goose-steppers, Interlocking directorates and The university of the House of Morgan to name a few is a guide for the building blocks of todays Universities of censoring the most enlightened and the promotion of greedy duplicitous hucksters.
One small nit. ‘No one in medical school is reading 19th century medical texts. “
Actually having been a chair/medical educator at a uni ranked first by TLS, may I contradict? They do and if they don’t, they should. The clinical descriptions from the 19th century have not been surpassed for most diseases. Sure, they had nothing else they could do but observe and ~ none of available treatments worked. And from a scientific point of view, reading how very smart people tackled problems they had no chance of solving is hugely helpful. Precisely the same generic mistakes are made today. From a huge fan 🤩.