Kindness – Organization – Resistance

He seems to have a bug-a-boo about online relationships…

Christopher Hedges
America, The Farewell Tour

We have a brilliant peroration close to the end of the CBC Ideas show he quotes from his book and this is what he says about the topic of resistance at 52.07

Those who fight against cultural malice […] have discovered that life is measured by infinitesimal and often unacknowledged acts of solidarity and kindness. These acts of kindness like the nearly invisible strands of a spider’s web spin outward to connect our atomized and alienated souls to others. This belief held although we may never see empirical proof is profoundly transformative. But know this, when these acts are carried out on behalf of the oppressed and the demonized, when compassion defines the core of our lives, when we understand that justice is a manifestation of love, we are marginalized and condemned by our sociopathic elites. Those who resist effectively in the years ahead may not be able to stem economic decline, the mounting political dysfunction, the collapse of empire and the ecological disasters but they will draw from acts of kindness and the kindness of others, the strength and courage to endure. It will be from these relationships, ones formed the way all genuine relationships form, face to face, rather than electronically, that radical organizations will rise from the ashes to resist.

https://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/christopher-hedges-farewell-america-1.4911396

Intrigued I went to the book (aided by an index where the term “kindness” appears — no entry for “electronic”). I noticed that the aside is starker in the book (my transcribing commas here are dashes there)

But they will draw from acts of kindness, and the kindness of others, the strength and courage to endure. It will be from these relationships — ones formed the way all genuine relationships form: face to face, rather than electronically — that radical organizations will rise from the ashes to resist.

Genuine/fake

p. 22

Political rhetoric has been replaced by the crude obscenities of reality television, the deformed and stunted communication on Twitter, professional wrestling, and the daytime shows in which couples discover if their husband or wife is having an affair. […] These electronic hallucinations […] have replaced reality.

p. 39

Pireaus was filled with taverns and brothels. […] Pireaus was where elaborate spectacles and bawdy entertainment diverted the population from the sober vocation of citizenship. It was what the arena was to ancient Rome, what electronic screens and huge sporting events and concerts are to modernity.

p. 40

These distorted images of reality — our array of electronic images were beyond Plato’s imagination — provoked irrational desires. It was a visionless life.

p. 83

Many people, especially young people, sit far too long in front of screens seeking friendship, romance, affirmation, hope, and emotional support. This futile attempt to achieve a human connection electronically, a connection vital to our emotional and psychological well-being, especially in a society that condemns so many to the margins, exacerbates the alienation, loneliness, and despair that make opioids attractive.

p. 217

This is more about mood modulation. Affect modulation. Using technologies to dampen anxieties and exit the world. We don’t just see it in Las Vegas. We see it in the subways every morning. The rise of all of these screen-based technologies and the little games that we’ve all become so absorbed in. What gamblers articulate in a desire to really lose a sense of self. They lose time, space, money value, and a sense of being in the world.

p. 232

The disparity between the glittering world that people watch and the bleak world they inhabit creates a collective schizophrenia. It manifests itself in diseases of despair — suicides, addictions, mass shootings, hate crimes, and depression. We are to blame for our own misfortune.

Hope means rejecting the thirst for public adulation. It means turning away from the maniacal self-creation of a persona that defines social media. It means searching for something else — a life of meaning, purpose, and, ultimately, dignity.

pp. 250-251

“We have to listen to people unlike ourselves,” [Michael] Gecan said, observing that this will be achieved not through the Internet but through face-to-face relationships. “And once we’ve built a relationship we can agitate them and be willing to be agitated by them.”

[…]

The corporate state, he said, has learned how to manipulate protests and render them impotent. He dismissed as meaningless political theater the boutique activism in which demonstrators coordinate and even choreograph protests with the police. Activists spend a few hours, maybe a night, in jail are “credentialized” as dissidents. Pecan called these “fake arrests.” “Everyone looks like they’ve had an action,” he said. “They haven’t.” […] “There things have to be happening in great organizations: people have to be relation, people have to be learning, people have to be acting,” he said.

pp. 308-30

There is no shortage of artists, intellectuals, and writers, from Martin Buber and George Orwell to James Baldwin, who warned us that this dystopian era was fast approaching. But in our Disneyfied world of intoxicating endless images, cult of the self and willful illiteracy, we did not listen. We will pay for our negligence.

Cult of the self / care of the self
Nuance.

When I first heard the kindness passage on CBC, it seemed to me that Hedges’s demonizing of electronic communication was a tick that betrayed a return of the repressed. Having read the whole book I would suggest that it is a form of nostalgia. In his railing against magical thinking, Hedges risks missing the thinking that does occur online.

That said, the socialist programme he summarizes (pp. 304-305), is set in the context of constant struggle:

There will be a never-ending battle of ideas, those spun out by the elites to justify their privilege and power and the radical theorists who will expose the ideas as tools of repression and hold up an alternative.

We cannot pick and choose whom among the oppressed it is convenient to support. We must stand with all the oppressed or none of the oppressed. This is a global fight for life against corporate tyranny. We will win only when we see the struggle of working people in Greece, Spain, and Egypt as our own struggle. This will mean a huge reordering of our world, one that turns away from the primacy of profit to full employment and unionized workplaces, inexpensive and modernized mass transit, especially in impoverished communities, universal single-payer health care and banning for-profit health care corporations. The minimum wage must be at least $15 an hour and a weekly income of $500 provided to the unemployed, the disabled, stay-at-home parents, the elderly, and those unable to work. Anti-union laws, like the Taft-Hartley Act, and trade agreements such as NAFTA, will be abolished. All Americans will be granted a pension in old age. A parent will receive two years of paid maternity leave, as well as shorter work weeks with no loss in pay and benefits. The Patriot Act and Section 1021 of the National Defence Authorization Act, which permits the military to be used to crush domestic unrest, as well as government spying on citizens, will end. Mass incarceration will be dismantled. Global warming will become a national and global emergency. We will divert our energy and resources to saving the planet through public investment in renewable energy and end our reliance on fossil fuels. Public utilities, including railroads, energy companies, [internet providers?], the arms industry, and banks, will be nationalized. Government funding for the arts, education, and public broadcasting will create places where creativity, self-expression, and voice of dissent can be heard and seen. We will terminate our nuclear weapons programs and build a nuclear-free world. We will demilitarize our police, meaning that police will no longe carry weapons when they patrol our streets but instead, as in Great Britain, rely on specialized armed units that have to be authorized case by case to use lethal force. There will be training and rehabilitation programs for the poor and those in our prisons, along with the abolition of the death penalty. We will grant full citizenship to undocumented workers. There will be a moratorium on foreclosures and bank repossessions. Education will be free from day care to university. All student debt will be forgiven. Mental health care, especially for those now caged in our prisons, will be available. Our empire will be dismantled. Our soldiers and marines will come home.

The week and the vulnerable, especially children, will no longer be sacrificed on the altars of profit and the needs of empire. The measure of a successful society will not be the GDP or the highs of the stock market but human rights. Children will never go to be hungry. They will live in safety and security, be nurtured and educated, and grow up to fulfill their potential.

Opportunities for a genuine care of the self: both face-to-face and through computer-mediated communication. Not either-or.

And so for day 2334
04.05.2013

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