American Autumn

Panache!

Why we must fight.
Chris Hedges: Why we must fight!

AP Photo/The Times-Picayune, Matthew Hinton

Audio version read by George Atherton – Right-click to download

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My three-year-old son’s favorite book is Out of the Blue. It has large color photographs of sea animals, from plankton to clownfish to orcas. I often find my son, dressed in his pajamas, on the floor of his bedroom in the morning carefully turning the pages of the book. And every time I hear him naming out the magnificent creatures before him, my heart breaks. Within my son’s lifetime, if there is not a radical reversal in human behavior, the oceans of the world, and the life systems they support, will die.

I fight for my children. It is not about me. It is about them. The deep despair I feel over our collective inability to acknowledge, much less confront, the catastrophic dislocations ahead of us is offset by a fierce desire as a father to make sure I have summoned all my energy and resilience to defy the corporate systems of death that are exploiting human beings and the natural world until their exhaustion or collapse. At least, I hope, my children will look back and see that their father did not remain passive as the ecosystem was destroyed in the name of profit, and the world was reconfigured by corporations into a terrifying neofeudalism, a kind of totalitarian capitalism. At least they will see, I hope, pictures of their father being hauled off to jail in defiance. I resist not out of hate but out of love, a love for all the things the deformed culture of corporate profit finds meaningless and sentimental – children, lakes, mountains, trees and the song of a wood thrush deep in the forest.

The consequences of severe climate change are unavoidable. The freak weather patterns, the wild fires and tornadoes sweeping across Midwestern states, along with the droughts and severe flooding in China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Australia, along with the soaring temperatures across the Earth, are upon us. And this is only the start. But what is most frightening is that the rapid and terrifying acceleration of global warming, which is disfiguring the ecosystem at a swifter pace than even the gloomiest scientific studies predicted a few years ago, have been met with collective denial and self-delusion. Global temperatures have already gone up one degree and begun the rapid melting of the Arctic. Every rise of one degree Celsius means a ten percent reduction in grain yields. If we stopped all carbon emissions today temperatures would continue to rise by at least a degree, perhaps more. A sudden epiphany would not save us from drastic climate change, large scale human migrations, rising sea levels, famine and endemic food shortages. Welcome to our brave new world.

The only viable option to save the human species from self-immolation – ending our dependence on fossil fuels – is ignored by the industrialized world’s power brokers, who have shredded the tepid climate agreement made at Kyoto. The last thin hope for reform and reversal will come through sustained acts of civil disobedience and open defiance of the formal systems of power. It means getting arrested. This is the conclusion drawn by many of our most prescient and important voices, including Wendell Berry and Bill McKibben.

Working within the system to reform it has failed. Working outside the system to defy it may also fail. Let’s be honest about this. The corporate structures of power are indifferent to the needs, rights or desires of the ordinary citizen – not to mention the planet – and have hijacked all systems of power from mass communications to electoral politics to the courts.

It is understandable that a realist would despair. And if I was to retreat into self-absorption I would find a small plot of land where I would never have to hear another leaf blower, and find what comfort I could in my family, my books and the whispers and beauty of the natural world. But to give up is not morally permissible. It is to condemn, as Sitting Bull reminded us, the born and the unborn, as well as the flora and fauna, which Sitting Bull also considered sacred, to misery and death. We have no right to do that. We must stand and fight for life.

We must fight for those who come after us, for those who at this moment are too small, too weak and too disempowered to fight, for the born and the unborn, for those who, like my son, have not yet lost the capacity for wonder and awe before the natural world. We owe our children that. The hardest moral stance and the greatest act of courage will be to see clearly, like Sitting Bull, the darkness and the power of the forces of death arrayed against us and yet find the fortitude to resist. Sitting Bull’s greatest fear at the end of his life was that he had not fought hard enough for his people and that they might revile him.

Resistance preserves our personal dignity as autonomous human beings. It means we have not allowed ourselves to be classified as objects. It is a way to defy our obscurity. Life is short. We all die. Nearly all battles for justice will long outlive us. I find my solace in faith. It is not the faith of any orthodox creed or religion but the faith that we are called to do the good, or at least the good in so far as we can best determine it, and then to let it go. We do not know where this good goes or if it goes anywhere. The Buddhists call this good karma. But faith means that acts of resistance – for true spirituality is always about resistance – are never meaningless, although all tangible signs may point toward failure and defeat. This faith gives me great comfort.

It is the faith that Cyrano de Bergerac expressed as he lashed out in his final battle, a battle he knew he could not win. Mortally wounded and facing Death, he suddenly rises. “Not here! Not lying down!”

His friends spring forward to help him. “Let no one help me,” he tells them as he props himself against a tree. “Only the tree … Let the old fellow come now! He shall find me on my feet, sword in hand … ”

“What’s that you say?” Cyrano calls out to the darkness. “Hopeless? Why, very well! But a man does not fight merely to win! No! No, better to know one fights in vain! … You there, who are you? A hundred against one. I know them now, my ancient enemies: Falsehood! There! There! Prejudice, Compromise, Cowardice!”

He swings with his sword. “What’s that? No! Surrender? No! Never, never! Ah, you too, Vanity! I knew you would overthrow me in the end. No! I fight on! I fight on! I fight on!”

He stops, breathless and dying. “Yes, all my laurels you have riven away And all my roses; yet in spite of you, There is one crown I bear away with me, And tonight, when I enter before God, My salute shall sweep all the stars away From the blue threshold! One thing without stain, unspotted from the world, in spite of doom. Mine own!”

He springs forward, his sword aloft.

“And that is … ”

The sword falls from his hands. He totters and falls into the arms of Roxane and his friends.

“That is … my panache.”

Chris Hedges is married to Canadian actress Eunice Wong They live with their children in Princeton, New Jersey. Hedges’ latest book is a collection of his essays called The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress.

278 comments on the article “Panache!”

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Page 5 of 28

Anonymous

I have a question for you malcontent protestors. I was listening to some audio of your little tutorial on hand gestures and your chanting in Chicago. If I think 90 percent of you are out of work bums looking for a handout from working people would that be a twinkles up or twinkles down hand gesture. Also I heard one of your brethren proclaim that he can have sex with an animal or anything else he chooses. So my question would be, are any of you currently having sex or in a relationship with an animal? I would discourage you from having sex with animals, you might give them fleas.

Anonymous

I have a question for you malcontent protestors. I was listening to some audio of your little tutorial on hand gestures and your chanting in Chicago. If I think 90 percent of you are out of work bums looking for a handout from working people would that be a twinkles up or twinkles down hand gesture. Also I heard one of your brethren proclaim that he can have sex with an animal or anything else he chooses. So my question would be, are any of you currently having sex or in a relationship with an animal? I would discourage you from having sex with animals, you might give them fleas.

Anonymous

Following in the wake and energy of Occupy, Adbusters should work with Slow Food USA, organize a national group dinner effort in place of the upcoming holiday spending. Family budgets are tight already, not many will spend, and so encourage the spirit of the holidays, group dinners, local farm dinners, instead of packaged gifts and gilded cocktail parties. Work the anti consumer message, and "your vote is your dollar in this day and age", dont spend but gather as an equal community. Send a message to corporations, better design, less mass generic crap, no pointless spending, quality products (non GMO, etc)

Michelle could certainly publicy support such an idea.

Anonymous

Following in the wake and energy of Occupy, Adbusters should work with Slow Food USA, organize a national group dinner effort in place of the upcoming holiday spending. Family budgets are tight already, not many will spend, and so encourage the spirit of the holidays, group dinners, local farm dinners, instead of packaged gifts and gilded cocktail parties. Work the anti consumer message, and "your vote is your dollar in this day and age", dont spend but gather as an equal community. Send a message to corporations, better design, less mass generic crap, no pointless spending, quality products (non GMO, etc)

Michelle could certainly publicy support such an idea.

Digital Democracy

We have been admonished by your poignant and powerful insights into the nature of the issues confronting us. Please continue to share your opinions as they are of great value to us and in this way we are able to see and understand the points of the establishment. That way we can have civil argument and discussion regarding the problems of big-bank corporate finance and the endemic corruption of the system at large. Indeed you have helped us realize the future need for an advanced digital democracy which allows all people to participate in the process of government from legislation to implementation we have to tools to create a digital democracy, with the partificipation of those interested in the specific areas they choose to express interest in.

A model of mass participatory democracy would involve the extensive data available to government to be 'outsourced' to the population such that we are able to go to a website and account for the expenditures of Our government; the legislation, infastructure, the resource capital. All of this made available for citizens to be able to ponder and think about, possibly to find efficient innovations and new ideas which can be implemented to enhance the functionality of a nation clearly in decline of good sense and decent ideas. As far as I could tell from your argument.

Government should be public to the people, we should make a digital democracy which acts as a twin governing body. Well not really because it would have no real power, but it would be an active simulation of a digital democracy, and experiment worth doing for gathering the potential energy of citizens concerned that traditional democracy has let them down. Imagine if legislation had to be read by citizens first who would choose themselves to participate in the process where they express the interest and intellectual capacity to engage in said process.

A digital democracy would really not have to consist of national boundaries, there could be broad discussion therein, having to do with the collective agreement of many individuals on how we choose to proceed from a global level of agreement. If millions of people from many countries collectively decided through a digital democracy that they would not buy GMO foods, then we would have the strength of organization working to bring about those 'laws' we choose to abide by as free citizens of the earth. The weight of numbers has the power to make traditional governments adhere to the power of our collective will as 'consumers' which is not our term, its their term, we are free citizens of the world, we are sentience of the earth, we are what we choose to be and this is the birth of Our century.

A digital democracy would consist of people submitting ideas and collecting information to a profile style website with more interactive capability, ie. google earth with resource data, economic data, employment and ecological information. But having a compendium of knowledge about the world and how it works, and having it updated by individuals working on their own field of interest be it political, economic, ecological etc. To create the future we need to understand the infastructure of the present and how we can transition to a sustainable world driven by something other than greed. We all share something, and we all have our unique take on it, The Occupy protests most commonly seem to have the criticism that there is no single demand. A digital democracy would be able to make make use of all relevant data submitted by citizens, and in so doing, over time, we would have created a model of how the world works with very specific information and ideas to placate the critics who will invariable never want such a dangerous idea to empower 'consumers'. Imagine model for debate and ideas, for mass agreement of how we make use of our economic power. Our power comes in numbers, and we are all individuals, we can choose to participate in democracy, we can choose to take the root of direct power, digitally.

Facebook has something like half a billion people talking about what shows they watch or uploading images of their children. But just 50 million people working together on a broad platform to give voice to the many would yield a great deal of not just economic power but of day to day influence on how people come to understand their role in democracy. If we all agree on something, it will be known, we have power when we choose to have it, An organizational model like no other, the internet is here for us to innovate, here for us to use and create, a digital democracy. Technology is not just for launching missiles from drones, for digital spying by governments, for RFID chips...Its for citizens of the earth.

Digital Democracy

We have been admonished by your poignant and powerful insights into the nature of the issues confronting us. Please continue to share your opinions as they are of great value to us and in this way we are able to see and understand the points of the establishment. That way we can have civil argument and discussion regarding the problems of big-bank corporate finance and the endemic corruption of the system at large. Indeed you have helped us realize the future need for an advanced digital democracy which allows all people to participate in the process of government from legislation to implementation we have to tools to create a digital democracy, with the partificipation of those interested in the specific areas they choose to express interest in.

A model of mass participatory democracy would involve the extensive data available to government to be 'outsourced' to the population such that we are able to go to a website and account for the expenditures of Our government; the legislation, infastructure, the resource capital. All of this made available for citizens to be able to ponder and think about, possibly to find efficient innovations and new ideas which can be implemented to enhance the functionality of a nation clearly in decline of good sense and decent ideas. As far as I could tell from your argument.

Government should be public to the people, we should make a digital democracy which acts as a twin governing body. Well not really because it would have no real power, but it would be an active simulation of a digital democracy, and experiment worth doing for gathering the potential energy of citizens concerned that traditional democracy has let them down. Imagine if legislation had to be read by citizens first who would choose themselves to participate in the process where they express the interest and intellectual capacity to engage in said process.

A digital democracy would really not have to consist of national boundaries, there could be broad discussion therein, having to do with the collective agreement of many individuals on how we choose to proceed from a global level of agreement. If millions of people from many countries collectively decided through a digital democracy that they would not buy GMO foods, then we would have the strength of organization working to bring about those 'laws' we choose to abide by as free citizens of the earth. The weight of numbers has the power to make traditional governments adhere to the power of our collective will as 'consumers' which is not our term, its their term, we are free citizens of the world, we are sentience of the earth, we are what we choose to be and this is the birth of Our century.

A digital democracy would consist of people submitting ideas and collecting information to a profile style website with more interactive capability, ie. google earth with resource data, economic data, employment and ecological information. But having a compendium of knowledge about the world and how it works, and having it updated by individuals working on their own field of interest be it political, economic, ecological etc. To create the future we need to understand the infastructure of the present and how we can transition to a sustainable world driven by something other than greed. We all share something, and we all have our unique take on it, The Occupy protests most commonly seem to have the criticism that there is no single demand. A digital democracy would be able to make make use of all relevant data submitted by citizens, and in so doing, over time, we would have created a model of how the world works with very specific information and ideas to placate the critics who will invariable never want such a dangerous idea to empower 'consumers'. Imagine model for debate and ideas, for mass agreement of how we make use of our economic power. Our power comes in numbers, and we are all individuals, we can choose to participate in democracy, we can choose to take the root of direct power, digitally.

Facebook has something like half a billion people talking about what shows they watch or uploading images of their children. But just 50 million people working together on a broad platform to give voice to the many would yield a great deal of not just economic power but of day to day influence on how people come to understand their role in democracy. If we all agree on something, it will be known, we have power when we choose to have it, An organizational model like no other, the internet is here for us to innovate, here for us to use and create, a digital democracy. Technology is not just for launching missiles from drones, for digital spying by governments, for RFID chips...Its for citizens of the earth.

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