Share on Google Plus Share on Twitter Share on Facebook 2 Share on LinkedIn Share on PInterest Share on Fark! Share on Reddit 2 Share on StumbleUpon 2 Tell A Friend 1 (7 Shares)  
Printer Friendly Page Save As Favorite View Favorites View Stats   23 comments

Exclusive to OpEdNews:
Life Arts

Chris Hedges' 'Genocide' Jeremiad: More Heat than Light

By (about the author)     Permalink       (Page 1 of 1 pages)
Related Topic(s): ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; , Add Tags Add to My Group(s)

Funny 2   Touching 1  
View Ratings | Rate It

opednews.com

Become a Fan
  (28 fans)
- Advertisement -

He who lives by the suspect, sweeping generalization, as does Chris Hedges, is vulnerable to analytic close reading (pinpointing ill-defined terms) and even simpler queries: is this true, does this apply, is the context right? Somehow I don't see how his annoyingly high level of abstraction in his "Science of Genocide" advances the moral, political, even hortatory progress the icon of the left seeks.

I find his overwrought equivalences between at best superficially comparable categories to lower his credibility. To wit, the US was (presumably is) "as morally bankrupt as the Nazi machine" or "Soviet regime with which it was allied." Just how morally bankrupt were "the Nazi machine" is left wholly to our imagination, a default to the abyss of infinity. My mind blanks out when all the key terms of a loose comparison blur so badly. The U.S. is today morally suspect without pouring on the Hitler or Stalin distortions -- even complex distinctions with long-past eras.

Likewise, "the Japanese had been on the verge of surrender" is offered as plain fact, rather than the controversial claim argued over by experts. Why did it take two horrendous A-bombs? Ditto: "atomic blasts, ignited in large part to send a message to the Soviet Union, were a reminder that science is morally neutral." Put aside the message-sending (not germane, hard to prove), what the atomic bomb showed is that high-tech science is/was anything but neutral, a clear contradiction. Blithely, Hedges claims science simply results "in collective enslavement and mass extermination." One fraction of science perhaps but not most, not all the medical breakthroughs, immunizations, or food, chemical. and water safety instruments, let alone better weather and ocean reports or measures of looming climate change.

Much "government weapons science" is not neutral, indeed onerous, but the widespread applications of science and technology reflect many variables, such as: business organization, public policy, majority rule, and billions of daily consumer decisions. Hedges' overgeneralizations obscure more than they clarify when one analyzes even first-order implications of overdone, polemical claims.

Was it really, all by itself, "science, industry and technology that made possible the 20th century's industrial killing"?  All the while, where is one affirmation that countless breakthroughs delivers a higher, more comfortable, longer-lasting quality of life for billions and billions. Check out the mortality rates from before 1900 and discover the vast majority of the earthlings now live twice as long as the average baby born in the 1700s -- and by and large in better health.

Science exiles religion?

Finally, inspect Hedges' unconvincing sermonizing: "science has supplanted religion. We harbor a naive faith in the godlike power of science . . . it feeds our hubris and sense of divine empowerment. And trusting in its fearsome power will mean our extinction."   Who the hell is "we"? In fact, all gains of knowledge add to our sense of empowerment but not all lead to blind hubris.   And tell the 44% of Republicans who are evangelical types religion (or God) is dead.   In my layman view, total species extinction is more likely from asteroids -- or some pandemic science can't restrain.

Speak for yourself, Mr. Hedges, not for everyone, not humanity, not the entire globe. Science doesn't mean knee-jerk extinction, though excessive misuse of machinery for hundreds of years by billions of users will cut populations and living conditions. The enemy isn't merely the tools but all the tool users, in the billions, making individual choices daily. Steven Pinker's work speaks to a mass reduction in organized killing nowadays, despite all that destructive science and population concentrations. Progress is not an entire illusion in today's high-tech, industrial world.

The point is that Hedges' sweeping generalizations, however useful as political war cries, wither under the simplest logical challenges. To say science and industry equate with industrial killing is, frankly, to throw the baby out with the bath water. Nearly all, even the less affluent, live better, with less pain and suffering, thanks to this immoral, "criminal conspiracy" called technology. What sane person refuses surgery after a ruptured appendix?   Or AIDs intervention? Or antibiotics for the myriad of infectious blights that are easily cured today and would have, only a century ago, wiped out thousands. Who refuses to use computers because they could be the work of the high-tech, science devils?

Yes, we live in dark and dangerous times, and our politics are decidedly unhealthy. But do the times get brighter when we sacrifice logic, clear thinking and wider contexts to accept, with more passivity than we should, this kind of ominous, unhelpful overstatement? Not for me, thanks, whatever Hedges' real accomplishments. I respect his activism, even his fine Occupy analyses, but not his addictive fondness for overwrought, historic and philosophic obfuscations.

Hortatory and Homiletic


Paul Kibble, a shrewd, more sympathetic commentator, captures the Hedges appeal, and limitations, while speaking to my points:

"I find myself agreeing with Hedges on many issues from a general philosophical/political perspective, but disagree with him when it comes down to particulars. He tends to play fast and loose with alleged historical parallels and substitutes broad, high-flown rhetoric for logic. I am thus frequently put off by his more operatic pronouncements, which I think are a function of his formal training.

"He does, after all, hold a degree from Harvard Divinity School as well as a B.A. in English. Perhaps that accounts for the hortatory, or rather homiletic, tone of his writing: he is not so much trying to persuade as to convert, winning souls for the Good Fight. In structure and style his articles are not closely reasoned analyses of an issue but jeremiads, in the root sense of that word: he is like an Old-Testament prophet calling an erring nation to account, demanding that it repent lest it incur eternal damnation."     
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

 

Educated at Rutgers College (BA) and UC Berkeley (Ph.D, English) Becker left university teaching (Northwestern, U. Chicago) for business, founding and heading SOTA Industries, high end audio company from '80 to '92. From '92-02 he did marketing (more...)
 

Share on Google Plus Submit to Twitter Add this Page to Facebook! Share on LinkedIn Pin It! Add this Page to Fark! Submit to Reddit Submit to Stumble Upon


Go To Commenting

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Writers Guidelines

Contact Author Contact Editor View Authors' Articles
- Advertisement -

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Summer in the GOP Asylum: "Who are these guys?"

Trickle-down Gulf Wreck-onomics

"Apocalypse Now' Vogue Engulfs Chicken Littles

Moses Kaput -- Rightwing Ten Commandments To Serve Looming Theocracy

Deadline Looms To Fund Critical Ocean Plastic-Trash Film

"God Particle' Refudiates the Religious Right

Comments

The time limit for entering new comments on this article has expired.

This limit can be removed. Our paid membership program is designed to give you many benefits, such as removing this time limit. To learn more, please click here.

Comments: Expand   Shrink   Hide  
7 people are discussing this page, with 23 comments
To view all comments:
Expand Comments
(Or you can set your preferences to show all comments, always)

If I am correct, and Mr. Hedges overwrites, then I... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Aug 8, 2012 at 11:58:23 AM
In the ' Judean War' by Lyons Feichtwanger, Josepg... by Mark Sashine on Wednesday, Aug 8, 2012 at 1:00:54 PM
I don't find Hedges' seemingly unaware "sanctimony... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Aug 8, 2012 at 1:36:02 PM
is love. Warning people is love. I mentioned hate ... by Mark Sashine on Wednesday, Aug 8, 2012 at 1:52:21 PM
No, love is not simply "worrying about people," wh... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Aug 8, 2012 at 2:20:50 PM
it was a dialogue invented by Lyons Feichtwanger.I... by Mark Sashine on Wednesday, Aug 8, 2012 at 2:44:52 PM
that's what I called it the "Flavius dialogue," si... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Aug 8, 2012 at 3:04:32 PM
so my comments could be attributed to the role of ... by Mark Sashine on Wednesday, Aug 8, 2012 at 3:37:04 PM
It's not part of my current life, and after so man... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Aug 8, 2012 at 5:21:11 PM
It's not part of my current life, and after so man... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Aug 8, 2012 at 5:22:36 PM
Have you washed your hands today, Robert? I'm glad... by Ned Lud on Friday, Aug 10, 2012 at 9:09:56 AM
Sir... I have to disagree with you concerning Chri... by James Harrison on Wednesday, Aug 8, 2012 at 5:03:42 PM
thanks for your clear and full comment.  I ha... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Aug 8, 2012 at 5:20:08 PM
then why write a perfectly fine comment, though it... by Robert S. Becker on Thursday, Aug 9, 2012 at 11:17:20 PM
Mr. Becker's talents are best used when aimed at... by Thomas Brown on Friday, Aug 10, 2012 at 9:08:58 AM
In two years here and 50 articles, I bet no more t... by Robert S. Becker on Friday, Aug 10, 2012 at 9:40:59 AM
How about a critique of the Declaration of Indepen... by Rob Kall on Friday, Aug 10, 2012 at 9:10:26 AM
If I thought the Declaration was full of statement... by Robert S. Becker on Friday, Aug 10, 2012 at 10:03:12 AM
1) after ten years o... by Robert S. Becker on Friday, Aug 10, 2012 at 9:20:28 AM
Mr. Becker, no reader has given you even one 'thum... by Kathleen O'Grady on Tuesday, Aug 14, 2012 at 12:39:45 AM
click hereand many responses at Hedges' Truthdig s... by Robert S. Becker on Tuesday, Aug 14, 2012 at 11:02:26 AM
that focus entirely on personal comments, make sna... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Aug 15, 2012 at 8:25:45 AM