This transcript of part of a recent talk by Chris Hedges in Vancouver covers the section of the video linked below from 30:35 to 41:58.
In the twilight phase of capitalism, wealth is no longer created by producing or manufacturing. It is created by manipulating the prices of stocks and commodities and imposing a crippling debt peonage on the public. Our casino capitalism has merged with the actual gambling industry. This is an economic model designed to prey on the desperate — young men and women burdened by student loans, underpaid workers crushed by credit card debt and mortgages, bankrupt towns and cities forced to borrow to maintain municipal services and sell off municipal assets, from sewers and water treatment plants to their parking authority, to corporations.
Casino magnates such as Sheldon Adelson — who has advocated attacking Iran with nuclear weapons; and hedge fund managers such as Paul Singer — who buys distressed or defaulted bonds at pennies on the dollar and then successfully sues for full repayment — which is how he trashed the Argentine economy; and Robert Mercer, add nothing of value to society. They do not generate money but instead redistribute it upwards to the one per cent. They use lobbyists and campaign contributions to rewrite laws and regulations and build monopolies. This is how the drug company Mylan in the United States raised the price of an EpiPen used to treat allergy reactions, from $57 in 2007 to $500.
They give themselves the legal power to carry out a tax boycott, loot the Treasury, close factories and send jobs overseas, and gut social service programs. These corporate mandarins are, if we speak in the language of God and country, traitors. They are parasites. Financial speculation in 17th-century England was a crime. Speculators were hanged. The heads of most of today’s banks, and hedge fund managers, and the executives of large corporations, such as Walmart and The Gap, that run sweatshop deathtraps for impoverished workers overseas, deserve prison far more than most of the poor students of color I teach within the prison system, people who never had a fair trial or a fair chance in life.
When a tiny cabal seizes power — monarchist, communist, fascist, or corporate, — it creates a mafia economy and a mafia state.
Trump is not an anomaly.
He is the grotesque visage of our collapsed democracy.
Trump and his coterie of billionaires, generals, half-wits, Christian fascists, criminals, racists and deviants (intense applause), play the role of the Snopes clan in some of William Faulkner’s novels. The Snopes filled the power vacuum of the decayed South and ruthlessly seized control from the degenerated, former slave-holding aristocratic elites. Flem Snopes and his extended family — which includes a killer, a pedophile, a bigamist, an arsonist, a mentally disabled man who copulates with a cow, and a relative who sells tickets to witness the bestiality, — are fictional representations of the scum now elevated to the highest level of the federal government (cheers and extended applause).
“The usual reference to ‘amorality,’ while accurate, is not sufficiently distinctive, and by itself does not allow us to place them as they should be placed, in a historical moment,” the critic Irving Howe wrote of the Snopeses. “Perhaps the most important thing to be said is that they are what comes afterwards: the creatures that emerge from the devastation, with the slime still upon their lips.”
“Let a world collapse in the South or Russia, and there appear figures of coarse ambition, driving their way up from beneath the social bottom, men to whom moral claims are not so much absurd as incomprehensible, sons of bushwhackers and muzhiks [peasants] drifting in from nowhere and taking over through the sheer outrageousness of their monolithic force,” Howe wrote. “They become presidents of local banks and chairmen of party regional committees, and later, a trifle slicked up, they muscle their way into Congress or the Politburo. Scavengers without inhibitions, they need not believe in the crumbling official code of their society, they need only learn to mimic its sounds.”
Trump and those around him believe in one truth, which is whatever they proclaim at the moment, although any such declaration may contradict what they said a few hours before. They are possessed by one idea: conflict. They sanctify violence, misogyny, a disdain for empathy, and the self-appointed right to engage in bouts of frenzied rage. These characteristics, they insist, are a sign of strength and virility. Their highest aesthetic is militarism, violence, and war. Without conflict, without enemies real or imagined, their ideological structures and their racism collapse into a heap of contradictions and absurdities.
Christian fascists are now the vanguard of this emerging American fascism. They ferret out facts and formulas that buttress their peculiar worldview and discard truths that contradict their messianic delusions. They mouth a few Biblical clichés to justify bigotry, homophobia, chauvinism, and repression. It is propaganda masquerading as ideology. These Christian fascists are singularly incurious. They are linguistically, culturally, and historically illiterate about the Muslim world, and about most other foreign cultures, science and intellectual pursuits, yet they blindly write off one-fifth of the world’s population — Muslims — as irredeemable, while they dismiss climate change as a hoax.
The inability of white supremacists and Christian fascists to recognize the humanity of others springs from their spiritual and intellectual impoverishment. They mistake their bigotry for honesty. They mistake their ignorance for innocence. They cannot separate fantasy from reality. And such people are, as author James Baldwin said, “moral monsters.” Evil for them is embodied in the dehumanized other. And once the human personification of evil is eradicated, evil itself is supposed to disappear. Except, of course, that as soon as one group of human beings is annihilated, another human embodiment of evil rises to take its place.
The Nazis began with the Jews. Our fanatics are beginning with the undocumented and Muslims. And history has shown where they will go from here.
“The nationalist is by definition an ignoramus,” the Yugoslav writer Danilo Kis wrote. “Nationalism is the line of least resistance, the easy way. The nationalist is untroubled; he knows, or he thinks he knows, what his values are, that’s to say national, that’s to say the values of the nation he belongs to, ethical and political. He is not interested in others. They are no concern of his; hell, it’s other people, another nation, another tribe. They don’t even need investigating. The nationalist sees other people in his own image — as nationalists.”
Like all utopians, these people believe that their agenda is being implemented for our benefit. They are like Cardinal Robert Bellarmine who oversaw the burning of Giordano Bruno at the stake and who argued that eradicating heretics does them a favor because it saves them from their own damnation.
It is impossible to have rational dialogue with people who view reality through the binary lens of black and white — us and them. They do not recognize the right of dissent. Dissent is at best obstruction and probably treason. Fanatics, in power, always become inquisitors.