Artistic expression, along with most religious worship, is largely self-absorbed narcissism meant to entertain without offense.
Hedges explains how the current rise of demagogues on the right can be seen as the direct result of the failure of the liberal class to offer any credible alternative to the corporate state:
The collapse of liberal institutions means those outside the circles of power are trapped, with no recourse, and this is why many Americans are turning in desperation toward idiotic right-wing populists who at least understand the power of hatred as a mobilizing force.
Aside from the usual themes present in Hedges' critique, I would like to highlight a quote in his essay from political scientist Russell Jacoby, which, in his book The End of Utopia: Politics and Culture in the Age of Apathy, writes:
The left once dismissed the market as exploitative; it now honors the market as rational and humane. The left once disdained mass culture as exploitative; now it celebrates it as rebellious. The left once honored independent intellectuals as courageous; now it sneers at them as elitist. The left once rejected pluralism as superficial; now it worships it as profound. We are witnessing not simply a defeat of the left, but its conversion and perhaps inversion.
The inversion of the left is a very interesting concept which can be observed in the current smear campaign of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange coming from all sides, including the liberal class and the establishment media.
Another good example of this inversion was clear in the recent debate over Don't Ask, Don't Tell between Lt. Dan Choi and Queer Activist Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore which took place on Democracy Now last Friday. In the debate, Sycamore pointed out the absurdly hypocritical situation that the liberal class has put itself in on the Don't Ask, Don't Tell debate. By pretending to champion civil liberties, the liberal class has put itself in the awkward position of promoting the Empire and its deadly military machine. Dan Choi, without a hint of irony, proudly made his own the title of one Chris Hedges' recent books War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning in order to justify the U.S. military machine:
I know this is going to sound like fingernails on the chalkboard to some of your viewers, but war is a force that gives us meaning.
Sycamore, appropriately rebutted:
When Dan Choi says that war is a force that gives us meaning, I want to know what is the meaning of the US obliterating Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan? What is the meaning of soldiers pressing buttons in Nevada in order to destroy entire villages? You know, the meaning is that the US is involved in wars for corporate profit and oil resources.
And I’ve heard, you know, Dan Choi’s coming out story, and it’s a harrowing tale. And as queers, you know, most of us grow up in a world that wants us to die or disappear. And I think we see that with the coverage of the epidemic of teen suicides. So we shouldn’t be telling queer teens, "Oh, when you grow up, you can become part of the same system that’s destroying not only your life, but the lives of everyone in the world."
We need to be fighting for universal access to basic needs, things like housing and healthcare and the right to stay in this country or leave if you want to. We need to be fighting for comprehensive sex education, for AIDS healthcare, for senior care, for safe houses for queer youth to escape abusive families. And the problem with all this attention on the war machine, all this support for, you know, soldiers to serve openly in unjust wars, the problem is that the military is what’s taking away the ability to fund everything in this country that would actually benefit, you know, the people who need the most. You know, the war budget—if we could just, you know, take half the US war budget, we’d be able to have everything that we want in this country, whether it’s renewable energy, whether it’s, you know, housing for everyone, whether it’s healthcare, whether it’s food on the table. I mean, we need to get back to a struggle for basic needs.
The question is: how do we get back to a struggle for basic needs when the liberal class has abandoned its historical core principles and values?
At this point, it seems that the most pressing question we have in front of ourselves is what Lenin asked himself and the left slightly over a century ago: What Is To Be Done?