Book review: “America: The Farewell Tour,” by Chris Hedges.
W e’ve been had. In America: The Farewell Tour, by Chris Hedges, the reader is taken on a tour of history and economics that highlights our current dysfunction as a nation. Hedges describes our current debt slavery, social dysfunctions and all around misery as being directly traceable to big corporations and government collaborations.
I’ll start with our underemployment and unemployment problem, which seems to serve as a gateway to the rest of our issues as a nation. When money and the means to make the money you need to survive becomes scarce, then desperation sets in. When one feels like life is a hopeless hamster wheel one is forever running in ( exhausting oneself and yet never getting anywhere), one will seek escape.
Escapes in this country we have aplenty and yet all that most of these escapes manage to do is to plunge us deeper into debt, while encouraging us to exist in a fantasy world where life is simple, our enemies are obvious and ever present and we have easy access to those things we fervently believe will give us pleasure.
We are told that our enemies are those who differ from us, be it racially, religiously or economically. We exist in an atmosphere of fear of the ” Other,” an atmosphere where our fear morphs into anger and we become eager to lash out, much to the dismay of would- be allies and much to the delight of those who fancy themselves our masters.
We are encouraged to while away our money as the fat cats get even more obese. Gambling, drug and alcohol addiction, prostitution, trying to get overpriced and yet generally worthless ” toys” all keep us broke and in the thrall of the only winners of this game, our corporate masters. Cities are in decay and we are at each others’ throats for the most idiotic reasons while the 1% keeps us distracted and docile.
Free speech in this country has become endangered by the very system that was supposed to protect it. The Christian Right and the Secular Left have become grotesque caricatures of Fascism on one hand and Communism on the other. The Center seems to have dropped from sight.
Our military engagements have contributed to a more militaristic stance at home in that the media trumpets that we are under threat and the best thing we can do is shut the hell up and get back to producing. As Big Business has taken over our government ( a long time before Bush Jr. got into office), our lives have been reduced to one distraction after the next. Anything we need to dull the pain in our own lives, we eagerly grasp for.
The sustainability of all this is a lot more fragile than the bigwigs want to admit. Soon, people will wonder exactly why they are working for pennies and their superiors are making so much more money than they are that they’re actually in a different social class. Hard work no longer leads to a significant income. There are foreign countries out there whose goodwill we need to successfully coexist with our neighbors.
We can not trust those in the halls of power to look after our interests and we should anticipate fierce resistance to any sustained attempt to change the status quo. In the end, all the government has to do today to squelch resistance is to send in armed police and to use force, while commanding the media to vilify resisters as misfits, if not active traitors.
Chris Hedges posits that change might still be possible, but our society needs a complete overhaul. We need to face and acknowledge our history, we need to actively work for change and we need to get the big corporations out of power and put the power back where it belongs: into the hands of a functional republic with a well- informed population.