This is part two of a two part transcript that's over 5000 words.
In this interview, Chris Hedges talks about the template being used to harvest America-- at the expense of the middle class, the sacrifice zones feeling the most pain, and the blood price we've paid for the rights they are trying to take away.
Rob Kall: Okay, so there were definitely problems. How do you see the big picture evolving then, with resistance, with civil disobedience? What are the next steps?
Chris Hedges: Well, it's the Ruling Class that determines the parameters of rebellion. And I've covered movements all over the world. I've covered the revolutions in Eastern Europe, I covered both of the Palestinian uprisings, the Intifadas, I covered the street demonstrations that brought down Slobodan Milosevic, I've of course covered the collapse of Yugoslavia itself. And when the ruling elite cannot respond rationally, i.e. institute mechanisms to mitigate the despair, and anger, and frustration that has been visited on the population, then there is always a backlash, but no one, not even the purported leaders of movements, have any idea, number one, what will set it off, and [two] what it will look like. But that "something" is coming, I have no doubt, especially having spent the last two years in the poorest pockets of the United States. And I just want to throw in, that the reason I did it with Joe Sacco, and fifty pages of the book are illustrated with drawings and comic panels that outlined people's lives, give them a kind of filmic quality, is because these people are invisible, and these Sacrifice Zones are invisible, the Corporate Media, especially the airwaves, just virtually don't cover it at all. You know, things are only getting worse. The fact that Congress refused to extend unemployment benefits means that hundreds of thousands of Americans are going to be thrust into destitution, and tens of thousands of those people are going to lose their homes.
You know, corporations know only one word, and that's "More." And they are going to push and push and push until there is a backlash. Now, a rationale response would have included, at a minimum: a serious jobs program specially targeted at people under the age of 25, a moratorium on foreclosures and bank repossessions, a rational health care system, Medicare for all, forgiveness of student debt, that's a minimum. And we didn't get that. We got "The Iron Fist." We got the physical erasement of the encampments, the closure of the encampments, and absolutely not one piece of legislation that responded to the grievances that pushed people into those encampments. So, something's coming, but you know, as a reporter I've been in the midst of these movements, and I can tell you that absolutely nobody knows. There's a kind of mysterious life force to these movements, and they take on a kind of life of their own once they start. But, you know, that it's coming, I know. But ,when it comes, what triggers it, will it be called Occupy, what will it look like, I don't know.
image by Joe Sacco, from the book, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt
Rob Kall: You talk in your book, you use a couple of phrases that I just want to throw out there for you to discuss a little bit: violence of poverty, internal colonies, sacrifice zones, and contemporary slavery in America that exists now. You talk about how there are more blacks under control now in the U.S. between prisons, parole, and probation than there were slaves ten years before the civil war.
So, violence of poverty, internal colonies, sacrifice zones, slavery, can you talk on some of those?
Chris Hedges: Yeah, I mean this is not anything that comes as a surprise to African Americans, but once African Americans especially in the South were enfranchised, meaning they could vote, you created, starting in the 70's, this prison system, and we now have twenty-five percent of the world's prison population, that essentially disenfranchised them once again: the same kind of techniques under Jim Crow. So, I was just in Alabama; thirty-four  percent of black males in Alabama do not have the right to vote because they have been in prison, and that becomes a mechanism by which you keep people trapped in these "internal colonies;" they can't get a decent education, they can't find meaningful employment, and they can't leave! They don't have access to credit, and if they become too restive they get hauled off to prison. These are visible and invisible walls that hem these people in. Both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X spoke about this. Both of them understood that if there was not economic justice, there would never be racial justice, and while the upper third, at best, of African Americans were integrated through a kind of legal victory, as a result of the Civil Rights movement, into the economy, for the bottom two-thirds, life is worse than when King marched on Selma, and King was very cognizant of that, and his language toward the white liberal class became very bitter toward the end of his life. He, like Malcolm, was calling the "good whites" unconscious racists for refusing to provide the resources to those in the inner cities to help them live a life of dignity, and break, again, this culture of dependence that we saw on Pine Ridge and that we saw in Southern West Virginia. So, yeah, that's where these terms come from.
Rob Kall: "Sacrifice Zones," what are Sacrifice Zones, and "Internal Colonies?"
Chris Hedges: They are places where citizens have been utterly dis-empowered and forced to kneel before the dictates of the marketplace. So, it's the marketplace that determines the relationship to the environment, to work, to politics, the law, to everything, and that is very true. I mean, Big Coal owns Southern West Virginia. Natives have been dis-empowered, you know, since they were corralled into Indian agencies. That's also true for Camden, which is, you know, per capita, not only the poorest city in this country, but has fifty two  homicides, which seems pretty certain that by the end of the year they'll also be, per capita, the most dangerous city in the country. So, these are the places that went first and we turned our back on them. In Biblical terms, we "forgot our neighbor." And now, what's being done to them, is being done to us, as we watch as corporations reconfigure the global economy into a form of Neo-feudalism and workers around the world are told that they have to be "competitive;" in essence, with prison labor in China and sweatshop workers in Bangladesh who make twenty two  cents an hour.
Rob Kall: Now, what do you think of the Electoral System and electoral politics, and the hope that change will come through there?
Chris Hedges: Well, I think it should be completely evident to anybody who escapes from this massive bombardment of Propaganda, which is costing 2.5 billion dollars, that change is not coming. Change has not come and will not come through the political system.
Rob Kall: So, does it matter who wins this election?
Chris Hedges: No, the personal narratives of the candidates don't in any way disrupt the operation of the Corporate State, and the best example of that is the complete continuity between the policies of the Bush Administration and the Obama Administration: whether that's on civil liberties, Wall Street, the expansion of imperial war, you know. Yeah.
Rob Kall: So, you refer in your book, while writing about West Virginia about a couple of things. You talk about Massey Coal, which controls one and a half million [1,500,000] acres in the U.S., and then you talk about Blair Mountain, the largest civil uprising since the Civil War. Can you comment on that whole world, and that uprising, and where we can find something like that?
Chris Hedges: It's an important part of our history to remember that all of the rights that workers in this country gained were paid for with the blood, literally, of workers in Homestead and Ludlow and Blair Mountain and other places, because these companies hired gun-thugs, and Pinkertons, and "goon squads." You know, whether it was in Scranton, Pennsylvania or Welch, West Virginia, to physically intimidate workers who were trying to organize. And unfortunately with the breaking of labor unions, and the passages of laws that have been detrimental to the American working class, whether it's the Taft-Hartley Act of 1948, which makes it difficult to organize, or Clinton's NAFTA, we are sort of back to where we started from, with this difference: now, it's a global economy. So, workers in country after country can be played off of each other, and that part of our history has largely been erased. I would venture to say that very, very few American school children have ever heard of Blair Mountain.
Rob Kall: You mention NAFTA, what's your feeling about global trade agreements, about...?
Chris Hedges: It's great if you're Apple, it's pretty bad if you're a worker (laughs).
And you look at the conditions that the 700,000 workers in China endure to make Apple products, and the New York Times actually did a pretty good series a couple of months ago on it, and it's just awful, and that's the world we are headed for.
Rob Kall: And what do you feel about both TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) and global trade agreements? What should the U.S. do with them?
Chris Hedges: Well, the problem with all of those agreements is that they're written to increase corporate profits, not to protect the working class.
Rob Kall: Last question, and I appreciate the time. I know you've got six more interviews going today. You finished the book talking about how thirty - plus years ago, you were a boxer. And it's an interesting metaphor that you bring that up now. How do you see that applies to people who care about activism, and making something change in this world?
Chris Hedges: Say that question again?
Rob Kall: You wrap up the book talking about how you were a boxer, and...
Chris Hedges: Well, only as a metaphor. I used it as a metaphor because there were moments when, as a semi-pro, we would have pros who would come who were in training just to sort of "tune up," and they would allot you... if you had long professional fight records, you weren't allowed to fight in these clubs, so they'd lie. And as soon as they got in the ring, everybody knew, including us, and then those fights became about something else. They became about personal dignity. It was pretty clear fairly quickly that you weren't going to win, and nevertheless, every once in a while, they get careless. And that I felt that I had the same kind of feeling that I had thirty years ago, when I was fighting boxers who were fare more adept and skilled than I was, that the mighty can fall, that the system is that arrogant, that out of touch, that corrupt, and that decayed, that we can bring "em down.
Rob Kall: Is that what you've seen in some of the countries that you've covered as a journalist?
Chris Hedges: Yes, it reminds me very much of the rot of the Communist Dictatorships in Eastern Europe. I think they're that far gone.
Rob Kall: Alright. I'm sorry, one last question. Are there any websites that you do recommend to people, where they can go and get this kind of thinking? Truthdig is where you do your column, any others?
Chris Hedges: Yeah, I mean, you know, I think Truthout, Common Dreams".
Rob Kall: OpEdNews?
Chris Hedges: OpEdNews" you know, Naked Capitalism, The Guardian. I mean, you know, there's places to go.
Rob Kall: Alright, and what project are you working on now? Anything?
Chris Hedges: Well, right now I'm pretty much just speaking and pushing the book, and I'll start another book eventually, probably pretty soon, but I'm not doing it now.
Rob Kall: Alright, Thanks so much Chris. Thank you.
Chris Hedges: Alright, bye.