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Ian McColgin
12-13-2010, 08:56 AM
I can think of no more appropriate message in this season that’s supposed to be about the birth of hope than this little jewel contrasting what might be called “political realism” with “people’s realityism.”

Disclosure note: Like Hedges, I studied under the great James Luther Adams and grew in that profoundly American religious democratic activist tradition which from colonial times to the present is the real thing that ennobles us.

Published on Monday, December 13, 2010 by TruthDig.com

No Act of Rebellion Is Wasted

by Chris Hedges

I stood with hundreds of thousands of rebellious Czechoslovakians in 1989 on a cold winter night in Prague’s Wenceslas Square as the singer Marta Kubišová approached the balcony of the Melantrich building . Kubišová had been banished from the airwaves in 1968 after the Soviet invasion for her anthem of defiance, “Prayer for Marta.” Her entire catalog, including more than 200 singles, had been confiscated and destroyed by the state. She had disappeared from public view. Her voice that night suddenly flooded the square. Pressing around me were throngs of students, most of whom had not been born when she vanished. They began to sing the words of the anthem. There were tears running down their faces. It was then that I understood the power of rebellion. It was then that I knew that no act of rebellion, however futile it appears in the moment, is wasted. It was then that I knew that the Communist regime was finished.

“The people will once again decide their own fate,” the crowd sang in unison with Kubišová.

I had reported on the fall of East Germany before I arrived in Prague. I would leave Czechoslovakia to cover the bloody overthrow of the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu. The collapse of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe was a lesson about the long, hard road of peaceful defiance that makes profound social change possible. The rebellion in Prague, as in East Germany, was not led by the mandarins in the political class but by marginalized artists, writers, clerics, activists and intellectuals such as Vaclav Havel , whom we met with most nights during the upheavals in Prague in the Magic Lantern Theater. These activists, no matter how bleak things appeared, had kept alive the possibility of justice and freedom. Their stances and protests, which took place over 40 years of Communist rule, turned them into figures of ridicule, or saw the state seek to erase them from national consciousness. They were dismissed by the pundits who controlled the airwaves as cranks, agents of foreign powers, fascists or misguided and irrelevant dreamers.*

I spent a day during the Velvet Revolution with several elderly professors who had been expelled from the Romance language department at Charles University for denouncing the Soviet invasion. Their careers, like the careers of thousands of professors, teachers, artists, social workers, government employees and journalists in our own universities during the Communist witch hunts, were destroyed.* After the Soviet invasion, the professors had been shipped to a remote part of Bohemia where they were forced to work on a road construction crew. They shoveled tar and graded roadbeds. And as they worked they dedicated each day to one of the languages in which they all were fluent—Latin, Greek, Italian, French, Spanish or German. They argued and fought over their interpretations of Homer, Virgil, Dante, Goethe, Proust and Cervantes. They remained intellectually and morally alive. Kubišova, who had been the most popular recording star in the country, was by then reduced to working for a factory that assembled toys. The playwright Havel was in and out of jail.*

The long, long road of sacrifice, tears and suffering that led to the collapse of these regimes stretched back decades. Those who made change possible were those who had discarded all notions of the practical. They did not try to reform the Communist Party. They did not attempt to work within the system. They did not even know what, if anything, their protests would accomplish. But through it all they held fast to moral imperatives. They did so because these values were right and just. They expected no reward for their virtue; indeed they got none. They were marginalized and persecuted. And yet these poets, playwrights, actors, singers and writers finally triumphed over state and military power. They drew the good to the good. They triumphed because, however cowed and broken the masses around them appeared, their message of defiance did not go unheard. It did not go unseen. The steady drumbeat of rebellion constantly exposed the dead hand of authority and the rot and corruption of the state.

The walls of Prague were covered that chilly winter with posters depicting Jan Palach. Palach, a university student, set himself on fire in Wenceslas Square on Jan. 16, 1969, in the middle of the day to protest the crushing of the country’s democracy movement. He died of his burns three days later. The state swiftly attempted to erase his act from national memory. There was no mention of it on state media. A funeral march by university students was broken up by police. Palach’s gravesite, which became a shrine, saw the Communist authorities exhume his body, cremate his remains and ship them to his mother with the provision that his ashes could not be placed in a cemetery. But it did not work. His defiance remained a rallying cry. His sacrifice spurred the students in the winter of 1989 to act. Prague’s Red Army Square, shortly after I left for Bucharest, was renamed Palach Square. Ten thousand people went to the dedication.

We, like those who opposed the long night of communism, no longer have any mechanisms within the formal structures of power that will protect or advance our rights. We too have undergone a coup d’état carried out not by the stone-faced leaders of a monolithic Communist Party but by the corporate state. We too have our designated pariahs, whether Ralph Nader or Noam Chomksy, and huge black holes of state-sponsored historical amnesia to make us ignore the militant movements, rebels and radical ideas that advanced our democracy. We opened up our society to ordinary people not because we deified the wisdom of the Founding Fathers or the sanctity of the Constitution. We opened it up because of communist, socialist and anarchist leaders like Big Bill Haywood and his militant unionists in the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).*

We may feel, in the face of the ruthless corporate destruction of our nation, our culture, and our ecosystem, powerless and weak. But we are not. We have a power that terrifies the corporate state. Any act of rebellion, no matter how few people show up or how heavily it is censored by a media that caters to the needs and profits of corporations, chips away at corporate power. Any act of rebellion keeps alive the embers for larger movements that follow us. It passes on another narrative. It will, as the rot of the state consumes itself, attract wider and wider numbers. Perhaps this will not happen in our lifetimes. But if we persist we will keep this possibility alive. If we do not, it will die.*

All energy directed toward reforming political and state structures is useless. All efforts to push through a “progressive” agenda within the corridors of power are naive. Trust in the reformation of our corporate state reflects a failure to recognize that those who govern, including Barack Obama, are as deaf to public demands and suffering as those in the old Communist regimes. We cannot rely on any systems of power, including the pillars of the liberal establishment—the press, liberal religious institutions, universities, labor, culture and the Democratic Party. They have been weakened to the point of anemia or work directly for the corporations that dominate our existence. We can rely now on only ourselves, on each other.*

Go to Lafayette Park, in front of the White House, at 10 a.m. Dec. 16. Join dozens of military veterans, myself, Daniel Ellsberg, Medea Benjamin , Ray McGovern , Dr. Margaret Flowers and many others who will make visible a hope the corporate state does not want you to see, hear or participate in. Don’t be discouraged if it is not a large crowd. Don’t let your friends or colleagues talk you into believing it is useless. Don’t be seduced by the sophisticated public relations campaigns disseminated by the mass media, the state or the Democratic Party. Don’t, if you decide to carry out civil disobedience, be cowed by the police. Hope and justice live when people, even in tiny numbers, stand up and fight for them.*

There is in our sorrow—for who cannot be profoundly sorrowful?—finally a balm that leads to wisdom and, if not joy, then a strange, transcendent happiness. To stand in a park on a cold December morning, to defy that which we must defy, to do this with others, brings us solace, and perhaps even peace. We will not find this if we allow ourselves to be disabled. We will not find this alone. As long as a few of us rebel it will always remain possible to defeat a system of centralized, corporate power that is as criminal and heartless as those I watched tumble into the ash bin of history in Eastern Europe.*

Copyright © 2010 Truthdig, L.L.C.

Chris Hedges is a senior fellow at The Nation Institute. His newest book is "Death of the Liberal Class ." You can find out more about the Washington protest at www.stopthesewars.org

seanz
12-13-2010, 01:57 PM
Are ya gunna go?

:)

Ian McColgin
12-13-2010, 01:59 PM
Actually, not likely.

Tom Montgomery
12-13-2010, 02:36 PM
We... no longer have any mechanisms within the formal structures of power that will protect or advance our rights. We... have undergone a coup d’état carried out... by the corporate state. We... have our designated pariahs, whether Ralph Nader or Noam Chomksy, and huge black holes of state-sponsored historical amnesia to make us ignore the militant movements, rebels and radical ideas that advanced our democracy. We opened up our society to ordinary people not because we deified the wisdom of the Founding Fathers or the sanctity of the Constitution. We opened it up because of communist, socialist and anarchist leaders like Big Bill Haywood and his militant unionists in the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

We may feel, in the face of the ruthless corporate destruction of our nation, our culture, and our ecosystem, powerless and weak. But we are not. We have a power that terrifies the corporate state. Any act of rebellion, no matter how few people show up or how heavily it is censored by a media that caters to the needs and profits of corporations, chips away at corporate power. Any act of rebellion keeps alive the embers for larger movements that follow us. It passes on another narrative. It will, as the rot of the state consumes itself, attract wider and wider numbers. Perhaps this will not happen in our lifetimes. But if we persist we will keep this possibility alive. If we do not, it will die.

All energy directed toward reforming political and state structures is useless. All efforts to push through a “progressive” agenda within the corridors of power are naive. Trust in the reformation of our corporate state reflects a failure to recognize that those who govern, including Barack Obama, are... deaf to public demands. We cannot rely on any systems of power, including the pillars of the liberal establishment—the press, liberal religious institutions, universities, labor, culture and the Democratic Party. They have been weakened to the point of anemia or work directly for the corporations that dominate our existence. We can rely now on only ourselves, on each other.

It seems to me that if one agrees with Chris Hedges public protest is not enough. Necessary, but not enough in itself. And not even the first step.

What is required is organized non-participation and civil disobedience. For instance, organize to, as a group, refuse to pay that portion of the Federal Income Tax being used to finance the war machine and to subsidize Corporate America. Fill the prisons with tax protesters. Organize to boycott Federal elections. Let the World know that any U.S. National Election result is irrelevant because a vast portion of the U.S. population refuses to participate.

Do such things and then take to the streets in organized protest.

Ian McColgin
12-13-2010, 02:39 PM
Tom is right. No one thing does it but so many different things can help that every person of disciplined will can find something. One great thing about participatory democracy is that it's not one thing, but almost as many things as people. Additionally to political actions are economic actions like co-ops, bottom up led unions, etc.

Keith Wilson
12-13-2010, 08:53 PM
We, like those who opposed the long night of communism, no longer have any mechanisms within the formal structures of power that will protect or advance our rights. We too have undergone a coup d’état carried out not by the stone-faced leaders of a monolithic Communist Party but by the corporate state.With all respect for Mr. Hedges, this is bull crap. Yes, monied interests and corporations have way too much influence, but this is so exaggerated that it bears only the most tenuous connection to reality.

Ian McColgin
12-13-2010, 08:57 PM
So Keith, are you convinced that voters hold the power to make reality based decisions uninfluenced by the corporatly owned media and that politicians are servants of the people, uncontroled by the vested interests.

Keith Wilson
12-13-2010, 09:04 PM
Every human being has the power to make his own decisions. In what utopia have politicians ever been servants of the people uninfluenced by the vested interests, or have people been uninfluenced by propaganda? That is a very long way from "We have undergone a coup d’état carried out by the corporate state."

Normally I have no truck with the right's yammering about "elitism", but claiming someone has been brainwashed by the coprporate media when he doesn't agree with you might be interpreted as just a little condescending, perhaps?

Tom Montgomery
12-13-2010, 09:08 PM
We are in the midst of a situation unique in American History: We have been involved in two costly foreign wars while Federal revenue has been reduced by extensive tax cuts. Meanwhile the U.S. Military has become completely professionalized.

What does this mean? The average U.S. citizen has no skin in the game. We are for the most part emotionally and psychologically detached from the cause of our economic distress.

Keith Wilson
12-13-2010, 09:12 PM
The wars are not a major cause of our economic distress.

We have plenty of problems. The claim that "We have undergone a coup d’état carried out by the corporate state" is still fatuous hysterical nonsense.

Tom Montgomery
12-13-2010, 09:15 PM
The wars are not a major cause of our economic distress.

The wars -- completely discretionary, by the way -- coupled with the G.W. Bush tax cuts are the major cause of our economic distress.

Are there other economic issues that need resolution? Absolutely. But no solution to our Federal economic mess can omit disengagement from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan along with tax increases.

Paul Pless
12-13-2010, 09:18 PM
The wars are not a major cause of our economic distress.

We have plenty of problems. The claim that "We have undergone a coup d’état carried out by the corporate state" is still fatuous hysterical nonsense.wow keith, you are really being almost overly reasonable of late:d

Ian McColgin
12-13-2010, 09:19 PM
One of the good things about struggeling for and through democracy is that not all need to do the same thing or even see things in the same terms. Anyone in good faith trying to make the world a better place for others is fine with me. It does not matter if they see things the way I see them or the way Hedges sees them or how Barney Frank or Barak Obama or whoever sees it. What matters is protecting the weak, comforting the ailing, and joining with the oppressed in their quest for control over their own lives. And by the way, much of this can be done by building a good wooden boat.

Keith Wilson
12-13-2010, 09:20 PM
The wars . . . coupled with the G.W. Bush tax cuts are the major cause of our economic distress.No. A very severe recession mainly due to chicanery in the financial markets, allowed by lax regulation, is the major cause of our current economic distress. The federal debt is a real problem, but over the medium and long term, not right now..


What matters is protecting the weak, comforting the ailing, and joining with the oppressed in their quest for control over their own lives.Amen!

Ian McColgin
12-13-2010, 09:25 PM
But seriously Kieth, how did we get to such lax regulation if the corporate interests didn't lobby and pay for it?

Tom Montgomery
12-13-2010, 09:27 PM
No. A very severe recession due to chicanery in the financial markets, allowed by lax regulation, is the major cause of our current economic distress. The federal debt is a real problem, but over the medium and long term, not right now..

Take away the waste of American treasure in two unnecessary wars and the Federal Government can act to mitigate the recession without running up the Federal debt to such astronomical levels.

I have little patience for those who are willing to spend dollars and lives untold to prosecute foreign wars but are loathe to spend a dime to help their neighbor.

Keith Wilson
12-13-2010, 09:28 PM
Again, I agree that corporations and monied interests have too much influence, and have done much harm. I'm taking issue with Mr. Hedges' histrionics: "We have undergone a coup d’état carried out by the corporate state." This is silly. We haven't. Equating the degree of repression today in the US with communist Czechoslovakia is foolish and counterproductive.

Prague, 1969:

http://breakingdownstereotypes.com/memories_from_our_people/image002.jpg



I have little patience for those who are willing to spend dollars and lives untold to prosecute foreign wars but are loathe to spend a dime to help their neighbor.I agree completely.

Tom Montgomery
12-13-2010, 09:59 PM
.
But Keith! We have been at war for going on a decade! With no end in sight! The GWOT is completely open-ended!

This is unheard of! What are we doing? What do we imagine we can accomplish? And at what cost?

If the U.S.A. had a draft during the last 10 years, and the armed forces consisted of conscripted citizen-soldiers rather than professionals, the current politcal debate in this country would be VERY different!

We are in deep, deep trouble.
.

leikec
12-13-2010, 10:05 PM
The wars are not a major cause of our economic distress.

We have plenty of problems. The claim that "We have undergone a coup d’état carried out by the corporate state" is still fatuous hysterical nonsense.


+1


Jeff C

purri
12-13-2010, 10:20 PM
The wars are not a major cause of our economic distress.

We have plenty of problems. The claim that "We have undergone a coup d’état carried out by the corporate state" is still fatuous hysterical nonsense.
West Point etc instils a corporate mindset, no?

Duncan Gibbs
12-13-2010, 10:32 PM
There's certainly the strongest nexus yet between western governments and corporations right now. It would seem that Government debt in the US is strongly linked to both corporate chicanery and the over-indulgence of the military industrial/petro-chemical complex and it innumerable hangers on. To say blithely that it's one thing or the other ignores the infinite complexity of the rather tangled web. I would further argue that even if one is politically aware or corporately brainwashed the power of individuals or small to medium sized groups of individuals is non-existent, and that applies to many of our nations.

I don't see the fatuousness of Hedge's prose, rather a quaintness of 1960 "right-on"ness that fails to deal with the contemporary situation with contemporary sophistication. Assange is perhaps this age's Yippie.

Keith Wilson
12-14-2010, 09:53 PM
But Keith! . . . .I wasn't defending the "GWOT" and I didn't say that it was a good situation. I said that the wars in Irag and Afghanistan were not a major cause of our current economic troubles,


There's certainly the strongest nexus yet between western governments and corporations right now. I disagree. For much of the late 19th and early 20th century, in the US at least, the connection was much closer. It wasn't a good thing then either.

skuthorp
12-14-2010, 10:50 PM
A reasoned discussion of such matters is rthe most dangerous thing to the status quo there is. Keep it up, the spoilers will be here soon enough.