Book Club tomorrow!

By 1JustCity Citizen
February 24, 2016

Want to Join the book club?

You still can!

Read all three chapter summaries posted so far and then feel welcome to join us at McNally tomorrow at 7pm! Sign up at the main desk for a discounted late-comers rate!

Chapter 3 – The Invisible Revolution 

In this chapter Hedges talks about what is means to start an invisible revolution.

“Revolutions, when they begin, are invisible, at least to the wide society. They start slow discrediting of an old ideology and an old language used to interpret reality and justify power. Human societies are captive to and controlled by language. When old ideas are shattered, when it is clear that the official words and ideas no longer match the reality, the institutions that buttress the ruling class deflate and collapse (pg. 67).”

People are at the mercy of a particular language, which has become the medium of expression for their society (pg. 67).

The linguist Edward Sapir writes, “…the “real world” is to a large extent unconsciously built up on the language habits of the group…. We see and fear and otherwise experience very largely as we do because the language habits of our community predispose certain choices of interpretation (pg. 68).”

“Our inability, as citizens to influence power in a system of corporate or inverted totalitarianism, along with the loss of our civil liberties, weakens the traditional political vocabulary of a capitalist democracy. The descent of nearly half the country into poverty or near-poverty diminishes the effectiveness of the rhetoric about limitless growth and ceaseless material progress. It undermines the myth of American prosperity. The truths are dimly apparent. But we have yet to sever ourselves from the old way of speaking and formulate a new language to explain us to ourselves. Until this happens, the corporate state can harness the old language like a weapon and employ the institutions of power and organs of state security to perpetuate itself (pg. 68).”

“Resistance, as Berkman points out, is first about learning to speak differently and abandoning the vocabulary of the “rational” technocrats who rule. Once we discover new words and ideas through which to perceive and explain reality, we free ourselves from neoliberalism, which functions, as Benjamin knew, like a state religion. This effort will take place outside the boundaries of popular culture and academia, where the deadening weight of the dominant ideology curtails creativity and independent thought (pg. 70).”

Hedges outlines Zapatista Army of National Liberation (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN), often referred to as the Zapatistas; a revolutionary leftist political and militant group based in Chiapas, the southernmost state of Mexico and their journey as they formed the most important resistant movement over the last two decades. The Zapatistas began by using violence, but they soon abandoned it for the slow, laborious work of building thirty-two autonomous, self-governing municipalities. The shift from violence to nonviolence was what gave the Zapatistas their resiliency and strength.

Hedges highlights the transformation by the EZLN as an example of severing ourselves from the corporate state and build self-governing communities. The goal is not to destroy but to transform. And this is why violence is counterproductive. We too must work to create a radical shift in consciousness. We must, as the Zapatistas slogan insisted, “Be a Zapatista wherever you are.” And this will take time, drawing larger and larger numbers of people into acts of civil disobedience. We too must work to make citizens aware of the mechanisms of power. An adherence to nonviolence will not save us from the violence of the state or from the state’s hired goons and vigilantes. But nonviolence makes conversion, even among our oppressors, possible. And it is conversion that is our goal (pg. 76).”

Hedges turns to the ruling idea of neoclassical economics and the gap between our economic and social reality. The belief that “people have rational choices among outcomes” than can be identified and associated with values, that “individuals maximize utility and firms maximize profits,” and that “people act independently on the basis of full and relevant information” is a “just-world” theory.” “A just-world theory posits that the world is just. People get what they deserve. If you believe that the world is fair, you explain or rationalize away injustice, usually by blaming the victim.” – pg. 77

“The point about just-world theory is not that it dispenses justice, but that it provides a warrant for inflicting pain.” – pg. 77

“There are two core doctrines in economics, Offer said. “One is individual self-interest. The other is the invisible hand, the idea that the pursuit of individual self-interest aggregates or builds up for the good of society as a whole. This is a logical proposition that has never been proven. If we take the centrality of self-interest in economics, then it is not clear on what basis economics should be promoting the public good. This is not a norm that is part of economics itself; in fact, economics tells us the opposite. Economics tells us that everything anyone says should be motivated by strategic self-interest. And when economists use the word ‘strategic,’ they mean cheating.” – pg. 78

“…once again there is a gap between what the model tells us should happen and what actually happens (pg. 79).”

“when those is authority are expounding their doctrines through Enlightenment idioms… we must ask, is this being done in good faith? And here I think the genuine insight provided by the economics of opportunism is that we cannot assume it is being done in good faith.” – pg. 79

“In an age of scarcity, it will be imperative to set up new, more egalitarian models of distribution. Clinging to the old neoclassical model, Offer argues, could erode and perhaps destroy social cohesion and require the state to engage in greater forms of coercion (pg. 80).”

“Once they unite, those who have had their expectations dashed and concluded that they will not be able to rise economically and socially will become our triggers of revolt. This consciousness is part of the self-knowledge of service workers and fast-food workers. It is also part of the consciousness of the swelling population of college graduates caught in a vise of low-paying jobs and obscene amounts of debt (pg. 82).”

“We have created a criminal “caste system.” This caste system controls the lives of not only the 2.3 million people who are incarcerated but the 4.8 million people on probation or parole. Millions more people are forced into “permanent second-class citizenship” by their criminal records, which make employment, higher education, and public assistance difficult or impossible (pg. 83).”

“…nonviolent movements succeed twice as often as violent uprisings. Nonviolent movements appeal to those employed within the power structure, especially the police and civil servants, who are cognizant of the corruption and decadence of the power elite and are willing to abandon them (pg. 84).”

“The ability to draw those within the systems of power into movements creates paralysis and crippling divisions within the ruling elite. And this is fundamental to all successful revolts. Internally members of a regime – including civil servants, security forces and members of the judiciary – are more likely to shift loyalty toward nonviolent opposition groups than toward violent opposition groups (pg. 84).”

“Revolutions when they erupt, are to the wider public sudden and unexpected, because the real work of revolutionary ferment and consciousness is, as Berman observed, invisible. Revolutions expose their face only after revolutionary ferment has largely been completed (pg. 85).”

“Throughout history, those who have sought radical change have always had to begin by discrediting the ideas used to prop up ruling elites and constructing alternative ideas and language. Once ideas shift for a large portion of a population, once the vision of a new society grips the popular imagination, once the old vocabulary no longer holds currency, the power elite is finished, although outwardly it may appear that nothing has changed. But this process is difficult to see and often takes years. Those in power are completely unaware that the shift is taking place. They will speak, like all dying elites, in the old language until they finally become figures of ridicule (pg. 85).”

“Because revolution is evolution at its boiling point you cannot ‘make’ a real revolution any more than you can hasten the boiling of a tea kettle,” Berman wrote. “It is the fire underneath that makes it boil” how quickly it will come to the boiling point will depend on how strong the fire is (pg. 86).”

“Social upheaval without clear definition and direction, without ideas behind it, swiftly descends into nihilism, terrorism, and chaos. It consumes itself. This is the minefield we will have to cross (pg. 86).”

“By the time ruling elites are openly defied, there has already been a nearly total loss of faith in the ideas – in our case, neoclassical economics and globalization – that sustain their structures of power. The process of understanding this can take years, but once people do understand it, “the slow, quiet, and peaceful social evolution becomes quick, militant, and violent,” as Berkman explained. “Evolution becomes revolution.” I prefer the gradual reform of a functioning, liberal democracy. I hear the process of massive social engineering. I detest the poison of violence. I would rather live in a system in which our social institutions permit the citizenry to nonviolently dismiss those in authority and promote the common good, a system in which institutions are independent and not captive to corporate power. But we do not live in such a system. We live in a system that is incapable of reforming itself. The first step to dismantling that system is to dismantle the ideas that give it legitimacy. Once that is done, though the system may be able to cling to power through coercion and fear for years, it will have been given a mortal blow (pg. 87).”

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