Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Inverted Totalitarianism and Fragile Democracy

Author Chris Hedges urges there are no longer any institutions in society -- media, education, labor unions, religion, or political parties -- which can be considered "democratic."  Instead, in the USA we now have what Hedges calls "inverted totalitarianism."  In inverted totalitarianism, individual particpation in democratic processes is orchestrated and tightly controlled.  Instead of individuals being empowered to govern their communities, corporations (through political contributions and lobbying) dominate processes of power, with the government and other social institutions acting as the servant of the large corporations.  What are the ramifications of corporate control of our economic and social institutions, for the future of western society?

In a relatively scathing critique of liberal / intellectual progressives, Hedges attributes rise of "inverted totalitarianism" in the USA to moral complacency that originates out of the comfort of middle class status on the part of the intelligentsia and their resulting unwillingness to risk their status in ways that could be career-damaging.

After noting the cleverly manipulative and successful channeling by monied interests in society of right wing outrage in the direction of "government," instead of the more rightly placed outrage which should be directed against consolidation of power and criminal activity on Wall Street (which was revealed as criminal in the banking / real estate meltdown), Hedges goes on to say, "rage against the liberal class is not misplaced, because [it] has failed to protect liberal values and institutions that protect individuals against corporate totalitarianism."

Various institutions that have "sold out" to corporate interests include both political parties, education, and news media.  Hedges also lays blame upon the institutional church.  Hedges observes that while the traditional liberal church has historically played a significant role in progressive movements (such as civil liberties and the social gospel movement), at this time in history the church has abdicated its responsiblity to confront what he characterizes as a very virulent, heretical movement called Christian Fascism.  He bluntly states what many "liberal" Christians are afraid to say:  "Christian fascists are not Christian. . . . They have utterly perverted the message of the gospel."

When asked why hasn't the Church taken on the right wing, Hedges replies that the liberal church is, itself,  bankrupt.  Assaulted by the same forces that have destroyed other institutions in society, the Church lacks the stomach to take on a difficult battle with the forces that have usurped the Christian gospel.  Not that he thinks the church ought to abdicate.  To the contrary, he argues, "What’s the point of going to seminary if you get into wider culture and you see people grossly distorting the gospel and you do nothing?"

Charging persons from all sectors of liberal society (in the greater sense) to confront the evil of corporate domination and totalitarianism, Hedges says, "There are moral imperatives that are more important than expediency. . . . The great correctives to democracy are not given to us from the top down, they’re fought for from the bottom up. . . . If the liberal class doesn’t begin to fight for moral imperatives, this legitimate rage [against corporate control of all processes in society] will be expressed in a terrifying right wing backlash that will obliterate the anemic democracy that we have in place” in this country.  Ultimately, Hedges warns, if the remnants of liberal society fail to act, our failure will usher in a new era of increasing and, increasingly intolerant and oppressive, full fledged corporate totalitarianism.

*Chris Hedges is a cultural critic and author who was a foreign correspondent for nearly two decades for The New York Times, The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor and National Public Radio.  His books can be accessed at the following link:  Chris Hedges

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