People familiar with my writing will know by now that I tend to focus on what I consider to be four root causes of dysfunction responsible for the ascendancy of the increasingly oppressive and tyrannical corporate state: the 24/7 mind-numbing corporate media propaganda the citizenry is exposed to; a supranational ruling elite that has been able to sever their fortunes from that of national governments and the citizenry, thus giving them no incentives to act in a decent and humane manner; a government that has been totally captured by the ruling elite through a system of legalized bribery; and a thus-far fractured progressive/activist movement incapable of mustering the type of strength necessary to take on the corporate state (or proto-fascism).
In my arguments, I often reference the writings of Chris Hedges, because I feel his conclusions support them. I often recommend people watch the Real News Network's series of Chris Hedges interviews by Paul Jay in order to get a better understanding of these arguments, especially these three: The Liberal Elite has Betrayed the People They Claim to Defend; As a Socialist, I Have No Voice in the Mainstream; We Must Grasp Reality to Build Effective Resistance. And the reason for that is that I consider Hedges one of the most important social justice activists and intellectuals of our times.
Well, I now will add another person to that list: Henry Giroux. In the latest episode of Moyers & Company, he delivered one of the most clear (and accurate) descriptions of our current (dysfunctional) system I've ever seen. And not only that, he shares his ideas about what to do about it.
He describes our current system as "Zombie Politics," and does a masterful job at justifying metaphor in his argument.
In his book, Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism, author and scholar Henry Giroux connects the dots to prove his theory that our current system is informed by a “machinery of social and civil death” that chills “any vestige of a robust democracy.”Before I continue, I'd like to point out that a counter-argument I've gotten from people who disagree with my views is that if one is to believe that our current system is as corrupt and dysfunctional as I argue it is, then that somehow helps spread despair and a sense of hopelessness. My answer to that argument is always that to the contrary, the first step necessary for fixing the problem is to have an accurate understanding of the system as it is. Also, I never argue that we should give up on politics, on the electoral system. My argument is that yes, we need to stay engaged in the electoral system, but at the same time recognize that because of endemic influence-peddling corruption, the political system will remain largely unresponsive to the needs of the people without an organized social justice movement against the corporate state.
Well, as they say, I could not have put that argument better than Mr. Giroux:
No, let's just reform the system. Let's work within it. Let's just run people for office. My argument would be, you have one foot in and you have one foot out. I'm not willing to give up the school board. I'm not willing to give up all forms of electoral politics. But it seems to me at the local level we can do some of that thing, that people can get elected. They can make moderate changes.The emphasis is mine
But the real changes are not going to come there. The real changes are going to come in creating movements that are longstanding, that are organized, that basically take questions of governance and policy seriously and begin to spread out and become international. That is going to have to happen.
He also points out that it is important to start developing a vocabulary that accurately describes the actual situation on the ground (something that Hedges also points out often), and of the need for "the movement" to become more organized.
To say the very least, one is to develop cultural apparatuses that can offer a new vocabulary for people, where questions of freedom and justice and the problems that we're facing can be analyzed in ways that reach mass audiences in accessible language. We have to build a formative culture. We have to do that. Secondly, we've got to overcome the fractured nature of these movements. I mean the thing that plagues me about progressives in the left and liberals is they are all sort of ensconced in these fragmented movements that seem to suggest those movements constitute the totality of the system of oppression that we are facing. And they don’t.The emphasis is mine
Regarding the "Zombie" metaphor, here's how he explains it...
Death. It's a death machine. It's a death machine because in my estimation it does everything it can to kill any vestige of a robust democracy. It turns people into zombies, people who basically are so caught up with surviving that they have no-- they become like the walking dead, you know, they lose their sense of agency-- I mean they lose their homes, they lose their jobs.The emphasis is mine
And so this zombie metaphor actually operated at two levels. I mean, at one level it spoke to people who have no visions, who exercise a form of political leadership that extends the politics of what I call war and the machineries of death, whether those machineries are at home or abroad, whether they're about the death of civil liberties or they're about making up horrendous lies to actually invade a country like Iraq.
So this-- the zombie metaphor is a way to sort of suggest that democracy is losing its oxygen, you know, it's losing its vitality, that we have a politics that really is about the organization of the production of violence.
It's losing its soul. It's losing its spirit. It's losing its ability to speak to itself in ways that would span the human spirit and the human possibility for justice and equality.
And there is so much more... He talks about how the system has left young people behind to fend for themselves; how it uses the media as a propaganda tool; how is turning into a repressive police state; and about the cold-hearted brutality of it as the result of having been captured by corporatist cartels.
BILL MOYERS: So this is why you write that America’s no longer recognizable as a democracy?I found the interview compelling, riveting, and hopeful (the zombie metaphor notwithstanding) in that he believes that we as a people are capable of rising up to the occasion. He argues that "[w]hat hope is predicated on is the assumption that life can be different than it is now. But to be different than it is now, rather than romanticizing hope and turning it into something Disney-like, right, it really has to involve the hard work of A) recognizing the structures of domination that we have to face, B) organizing collectively and somehow to change those, and C) believing it can be done, that it's worth the struggle.
HENRY GIROUX: No. Look, as the social state is crippled, as the social state is in some way robbed, hollowed out and robbed of its potential and its capacities, what takes its place? The punishing state takes its place...
We can turn the American horror story caused by the captured of our government institutions by corporatist cartels into a story of freedom and democracy. But we first need to understand the true nature of the system, and then unite in solidarity to change it.
I highly recommend you watch the entire interview!