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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 8/12/19

Fear vs. Fear

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The old rules of politics no longer apply. The only language understood by Donald Trump and his coterie of con artists, billionaires, generals, misfits and Christian fascists -- and a Democratic Party that has sold us out -- is fear. Calling out Trump's lies and racism does not matter. Calling out his nepotism and corruption does not matter. Calling out the criminality of his administration does not matter. Calling out its incompetence and idiocy does not matter. Calling out the abject subservience of the ruling elites to corporate power does not matter. Trump and his Democratic Party opponents are immune to moral suasion.

The more we engage in this empty kabuki theater with its predictable outlandish outbursts, usually from Trump, and predictable outraged responses, usually from Democrats, the more certain are government paralysis and corporate tyranny. The drivel and invective that passes for political discourse is a giant hamster wheel that goes nowhere. It masks the root causes of our political and economic decline and fractures the population into warring camps that increasingly communicate through violence, which is why the United States has suffered mass shootings with three or more fatalities more than 30 times this year.

We will save ourselves only by pitting power against power. And since our two major political parties slavishly serve corporate power, and have few substantial differences on nearly all major issues from imperialism to unfettered capitalism, we must start from scratch. The political personalities, including those on the left such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders, Ilhan Omar and Elizabeth Warren, are distractions. They have no power within the Democratic Party, as Nancy Pelosi often reminds us. They serve to reduce politics to personal feuds, the currency of the vast reality show perpetrated for profit by corporate media. The daily back and forth by these personalities diverts our attention from the rapid consolidation of wealth and power by the ruling elites, the degradation of the ecosystem into a toxic wasteland and the eradication of basic freedoms and rights. The American political system is not salvageable. It will be overthrown in a mass uprising -- a version of which we saw recently in Puerto Rico -- or vast swaths of the globe will become uninhabitable and the rich will feed like ghouls off the mounting human misery. These are the two stark options. And we have very little time left.

The Democrats, if they had a functioning political party and were not owned and managed by corporations, could easily displace Trump and demolish the Republican Party in electoral landslide after landslide. From poll after poll, as Charles Derber points out in his book "Welcome to the Revolution," we know what the majority of Americans want. A whooping 82% think wealthy people have too much power and influence in Washington, with 70% singling out large businesses as having too much power. Nearly 80% support stronger rules and enforcement of regulations on the financial industry. Nearly half of Americans think economic inequality is "very big," and 34% concede it is "moderately big." Almost 60% of registered voters and 51% of registered Republicans favor raising to $18,000 from $14,820 the maximum amount that workers can make and still be eligible for the earned income tax credit.

A staggering 96% of Americans, including 96% of Republicans, believe money in politics is to blame for the dysfunction of the American system. Close to 80% believe wealthy Americans should pay higher taxes. Nearly 60% favor raising the federal minimum wage requirement to $12 an hour. Sixty-one percent, including 42% of Republicans, approve of labor unions. Sixty percent of Americans think "[i]t is the federal government's responsibility to make sure all Americans have healthcare," and 60% of registered voters favor "expanding Medicare to provide health insurance to every American." Nearly 60% favor free early-childhood education, and 76% are "very concerned" about climate disruption. Eighty-four percent support requiring background checks for all gun buyers. Fifty-eight percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

A genuine populism and New Deal socialism are the only hope of thwarting the rise of neofascist movements. This, however, will never be permitted by the Democratic Party hierarchy, led by figures such as Pelosi, Joe Biden and Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who are acutely aware they would instantly lose their power without the prop of hundreds of millions of corporate dollars. They, and their corporate sponsors, will block all reform even if it means another four years of Trump and the extinguishing of democracy. The only thing they have to sell us is fear -- fear of Trump and the Russians. While Trump sells the fear of immigrants, Muslims, people of color and those he brands as socialists. This is a toxic diet.

The greatest traitors in America are not Trump and his neofascist minions shouting "Lock her up" or "Send her home," but a decadent, morally bankrupt, self-identified liberal elite consumed by greed. They orchestrated the social inequality that permits Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to control more wealth than the bottom 50% of the American population. They pay lip service to the climate crisis but have not done anything to halt the sixth great mass extinction. The fossil fuel industry, under the Democrats and Republicans, continues to pump carbon emissions into the atmosphere. The polar ice caps disappear. The sea levels rise. The deforestation expands. The clogging of the oceans with floating islands of plastic that poisons our food chain is unchecked. No one among the ruling elites has any intention of restraining a bloated, out-of-control military that consumes half of all discretionary spending while half the country lives in poverty or near poverty, the federal deficit looks set to exceed $1 trillion by the end of this fiscal year and the nation's infrastructure disintegrates.

All meaningful resistance takes place outside the formal political structures. The 10-day protest in April in London led by Extinction Rebellion which saw 1,130 people arrested as crowds repeatedly shut down major parts of the city in demonstrating against the failure of the ruling elites to confront the climate catastropheis what we must emulate. Extinction Rebellion has called for a strike by workers around the world in October, a strike in which thousands of arrests are anticipated.

We have exceeded the 350 parts per million of atmospheric CO2 that climate scientists said was the level at which we still might have thwarted societal collapse. Last July was the hottest in recorded history. We are currently at 415 ppm of CO2, with enough heat in the system to ensure 450 ppm of CO2 within a decade. A temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-Industrial Age measurement guarantees catastrophic climate disruptions.

"We're looking at the collapse of the world's agriculture systems," Roger Hallam, the co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, told me when we spoke in London. "Long before the sea level rises, we're going to have a world economic collapse because we're not going to be able to feed ourselves. That's what's sh*tting everyone. That's why people are in a panic. In the U.N., in academia, in the elites, they're looking at this. They're pulling their hair out. We have this repressed media space so it's not obvious to everyone. I think this is the role of Extinction Rebellion -- to break through that repression. Once you break through it, people will say, yeah. The whole thing is beyond bad.

"We need to insulate all housing stock," he said. "We need to turn over the economy so that it's completely electrified. We need to have all the energy coming from renewables. We need a social transformation, so the rich are taxed and pay their fair share. We need to organize communities around quality of life so that people can learn to adapt to these changes, these traumatic changes. This is a matter of physics. It's not a matter of political opinion. These changes are coming. It's far too late for massive increases in temperature not to happen. What we're looking at now is whether we're going to go extinct or not. I know that sounds like science fiction, but it's true. We need to look at the figures. It's like going to the doctor. This is cancer. You don't like it, that's fine, but it's not going to stop you from dying. The only option is do you want to accept that this is the situation? Or don't you? If you don't, you're going to die. If you do, there is a chance. But you're going to have to get a move on it.

"We're saying this to everyone in society, not just to progressives," he said. "Wake up! At the end of the day, we've all got kids. We've all got young people we know. If we have any empathy or responsibility for the young generation, it's all hands on deck. The most civilized way of dealing with the situation is to come together as a country, as a world, in citizen assemblies, and allow the ordinary people of the world to decide what to do. After all, it's their lives."

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Chris Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.

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