on March 2, 2014
Hedges describes how the capitalist system has grown through various waves of victimization and exploitation of minority groups within America. He describes the plight of the slave , the theft of indian lands by vested interest groups from the majority, and the exploitation of the south east U. S. coal miner and impact on their health and their communities. It is a book with a philosophy and a purpose and clearly reflects both. I would recommend this book be read by a mature reader, who can put it into perspective, recognize the injustices and have compassion and understanding for the victims and commit themselves through their understanding to never support abusive behaviour towards any class of people anywhere for the purpose of material benefit.
on October 19, 2014
There are some people in America the 1% who don't know what a life in poverty is like living in daily desperation to survive well I dedicate this book review to those of you who have never had to taste the bitterness of being poor in America. I am going to focus my attention on chapter 2 "Camden, New Jersey" as an African-American man aged 58 I have seen and lived through the triumph and failure of the civil-rights movement as for this movement's failure on the bottom of page 64-65 "The United States is home to almost twenty-five percent of the world's prison inmates. One out of every three African American males go to prison. More African Americans today are subject to the coercive forces of correctional control through prisons, probation, or parole than were enslaved a decade before the Civil War. The days of segregated buses and lunch counters may be over, but integration never became a reality except for a few middle class blacks. Integration would mean new taxes to lift African-Americans out of their internal colonies, new schools to educate the poor and give them a chance, and making sure there were jobs available with living wages. The civil rights movement was a legal victory, not an economic one. And the economic barriers remain rigid and impenetrable for the bottom two-thirds of African-Americans whose lives today are worse than when King marched in Selma. The violence of overt segregation ended. The violence of poverty remains. Wealth was never redistributed. And when cities were deserted by whites, who took with them the jobs and tax base to keep those cities alive, who made it plain by their departure that they would not live with or allow their children to be educated with blacks, city halls were turned over to compliant black elites whose loyalty rarely extended beyond their own corrupt inner circle. White power hid, as in any colony, behind black faces." On the middle of page 65 an excellent description is given of where us poor people live "Camden sits on the edge of the Delaware River facing the Philadelphia skyline. A multilane highway, a savage concrete laceration, slices through the heart of the city. It allows commuters to pass overhead, in and out of Philadelphia, without seeing the human misery below. We keep those trapped in our internal colonies, our national sacrifice zones, invisible."
One important aspect of poverty is the unhealthy diet of us poor people as stated on the bottom of page 75 "Camden, like many poor pockets in the United States, is a food desert. Camden is dominated by Church's chicken- where nearly everything on the menu, from Jalapeno Cheese Bombers to the Double Chicken N Cheese, is fried- and doughnut shops. Grease and sugar. Decay and crime. Despair and poverty. Cities and manufacturing hubs across the country suffered similar assaults, but in Camden the breakdown was total, and the city, at least as a self-sustaining community, was obliterated." The monstrous specter of economic segregation reared its ugly head once again as stated in the middle of page 76 "Economic segregation is the new, acceptable form of segregation. And it turned New Jersey into one of the most segregated states in the nation. Mount Laurel, seized by developers, became a haven for whites fleeing urban decay. Its original inhabitants could no longer afford to live there. The blacks were driven from their land, forced into squalid internal colonies such as Camden." The American Flag is not in my apartment and never will be until us poor people the 99% will be able to live like decent human beings with dignity rather than having to wallow in dire poverty. This book should be read by all those 1% who don't know what it is like to be poor in the good old U.S. of A.
on June 19, 2013
It is hard to believe this book is on my library shelf, unrestricted access. I have requested more of Mr Hedges' writing, from the titles he has made a career of telling it like it is.
We tried open revolt, though, in 1968 and beyond. It didn't work. Violence gets you stomped by the man and non-violence also gets you stomped by the man.
I'd say what is required is patience. The system will fall of is own weight, that is clear. So we wait. But meanwhile we must survive and that requires wit and guile. It is difficult but it is possible to choose worthwhile work that harms no one and brings benefits to many. It is possible to use the system, to game it, to create a small corner of the world where sanity prevails.
But then, I'm retired and I'm just reiterating my personal point of view, now that of an old man. If I was 18, maybe I would agree about that revolt thing...
on May 6, 2014
Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt takes the reader on a journey to an Indian reservation in the west, a run-down Camden New Jersey, the agricultural fields of Florida, and the environmental wastelands of West Virginia. We see how the people who live in these places are exploited for their labor or left to wallow in despair as the victims of a de-industrialized and slowly collapsing economy. This book is definitely a wake up call to all those Americans who still live comfortably within the confines of suburbia or to the lucky few who live in wealthy neighborhoods. Most of them still remain in denial as they ignore all the warning signs and all the despair of their underclassmen, but the coming collapse will affect everyone, not just the poor and downtrodden. The story of America might end up becoming a tragedy as this country continues to cannibalize itself, while destroying our environment in the process.
This book doesn't leave much to hope for. Although the Occupy Movement gave a glimmer of hope, it quickly died out. My only hope is that after the American economy, wall street, and the big banks collapse; Americans will wise up and form a new economic and governmental system that is sustainable, environmentally friendly, and better represents all of America, not just a select few.
Every empire that has ever existed has fallen, the American empire is no different.
on January 8, 2015
It's about a handful of locations around the US where people are leading absolutely miserable lives of poverty, hopelessness, and degradation. The basic crux is that human beings are being exploited almost to the point of sacrifice and slavery in the name of greed, selfishness, and general immorality, and that it is a precursor to what is in store for the majority of us as an inevitable consequence of the political and economic ideologies that we've adopted.
At its best, the book is moving, informative, and insightful. It does an excellent job of showing the bigger picture without losing focus on the single individuals being harmed the most. What impressed me more than anything else was the moral core to the book -- the central purpose and moral clarity that informed basically all of it. He never shies away from condemning evil or pointing to the root cause of evil, and the moral outrage and empathy are palpable. Ultimately, it's an outstanding book of insight and a call to action that everyone should read.
The intersection of corporate interests and government in the US has been an unfortunate one for most Americans. Without any hyperbole, it can safely be estimated that dozens of books and hundreds of articles have already been written on the topic. The Hedges-Sacco book is a worthy addition and well worth reading.
The author (Hedges) devotes sections to Native Americans, coal miners, agricultural workers and the "Occupy" movement and supplements the text with extensive graphics by Joe Sacco. It should hardly come as a shock that the featured groups are currently (and have been for a very, very long time) dispossessed, ruthlessly exploited and perenially disadvantaged. Nonetheless, the stories are genuinely shocking and push every emotional "hot button" on the panel. If these stories (reminiscent of Upton Sinclair and John Steinbeck) don't move the reader, callous indifference or overwhelming self-interest must be responsible. It is easy enough to empathize and the authors make certain that, by tying the particulars to specific corporate-government policies, the reader generalizes his/her indignation to include and condemn the entire "system". Given the abundant evidence to support the claims of the "99%" documented elsewhere, this is appropriate. The emotional force of this book nicely compliments the more objective analysis given by Stiglitz, Krugman and other analysts.
Hedges maintains his narrative force until the final chapter which deals with the Occupy movement. At this point, he falls prey to insipid sloganeering, vacuous analysis and fatuous, dramatic prophecies that "The times, they are a changing". The absence of a program, a glaring deficiency which Hedges takes as an asset, was but one of many reasons for the demise of the project. The concept of "participatory democracy" which Hedges extolls as a form of grass-roots anarchism was doomed from the start: just read the history of the SDS in Miller's excellent, "Democracy is in the Streets": I wish he had done so rather than parroting platitudes. The abject and predictable failure of Occupy and Hedges' inability to understand it's deficiencies is in glaring contrast to the strengths of the rest of the book.
In summary, while Hedges-Sacco proffer no panaceas and have no stunning, new insights, their obvious sympathies and sincere advocacy are, or should be, strong motivations for readers to act in accordance with emotional "best practice" and objective self-interest and vote for less myopic, more egalitarian and more sustainable policies. It seems self-evident, at least to the more introspective, less doctrinaire (or ideologically motivated) and historically astute reader that the present mode of governance in the US is not sustainable: there is too much social and economic polarization and accumulating layers of resentment and cynicism for that to be possible. A more logical, coherent and organized opposition than Occupy will be needed; otherwise, we will be inhabiting a "bleak house", indeed.
on June 16, 2013
There is so much to like about Chris Hedges's and Joe Sacco's, Days of Destruction Days of Revolt (Nation Books, New York, 2012), I hardly know where to begin.
What's not to like when a book that speaks the unvarnished truth? Corporations flourish, ordinary people languish; the super rich get richer, ordinary people suffer; the American Dream is an illusion, with "winners" tap-dancing uneasily over the freshly dug graves of those for who have long since lost hope. Do you want change? Behold the national security state, the smartly clad and well-armed local police departments, the smug prosecutors, Wall Street and the politicos, dancing hand-in-hand round and round in Washington while the rest of us turn away in disgust.
Hedges tells it like it is. Sacco illustrates.
This work is part text and part graphic presentation. I was at first put off by the graphic component. Times are grim. This is no time for comic books, I found myself thinking. But as I studied the graphic portraits of despair in such places as the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, the desolate streets of Camden, New Jersey, the desiccated mountains of West Virginia, or the plantation-like cruelty supporting the tomato harvesting agribusiness in Immokalee, Florida, I was moved by the grimness on the look of the characters' faces. These line drawings convey what words have difficulty expressing. Call it dignified hopelessness: There are Americans who read their death warrants written on corporate ledgers of firms too big to fail who nonetheless continue to speak the truth.
I devoured this book in an afternoon, feeling as though I had found friends: My ruminations about a country adrift, corporate fat-cats hand-in-hand with their cronies in government turning the nation into a fascist fat farm, these thoughts don't mark me as a solitary grievant. There are thousands, if not millions, of Americans thinking and feeling the same thing. Hedges gives voice to a grumbling evidence to any who will listen.
Hedges and Sacco traveled to some of the most distressed regions of the country to see how the dispossessed live. Their reports are grim: Alcoholism and despair on the Pine Ridge reservation; drug use and rage in the ghetto; fear and exhaustion in immigrant communities; wary resignation in coal country. But alongside all this misery the bitch goddess profit and her handmaidens in the form of corporate thuggery and political diffidence among the elite. It's enough to make you want to ...
Well, what, exactly?
The book ends with a chapter on the Occupy Movement that flourished in an instant, and then vanished almost as quickly as it came. Hedges interviews Occupiers, and you can hear something like flinty hope in their voices. They may not have had a vision of how to reconstruct a better world. It was enough to assert that the world as it is fails to deliver what is both needed and promised. There was, and there remains, a value in refusal. Where has that struggle gone?
Hedges writes too briefly about a trial in Utah of an activist named Tim DeChristopher, who disrupted a Bureau of Land Management auction in 2008 - he sought to impede the Bush administration's selling of federal land to gas and oil interests. DeChristopher hoped to rely on jury nullification to defend himself. He was devastated when the judge told jurors they could do no such thing. The judge "said it was not their job to decide [what]... is right or wrong, but to listen to what he said the law was and follow that even if they thought it was morally unjust. They were not allowed to use their conscience." The fact that he was surprised by the fact that the law can be applied devoid of conscience was oddly refreshing. Perhaps people can be taught to reclaim their sovereignty.
When DeChristopher was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison, he told the judge: "I am here today because I have chosen to protect the people locked out of the system over the profits of the corporations running the system. I say this not because I want your mercy, but because I want you to join me."
Fat chance the judge will do that; it is far easier to decide cases according to law, to put blinders on about who writes the law to serve what interest -- a sleeping people are easily managed.
Jury nullification remains, in my view, a powerful means of citizens' taking direct action to challenge the law, a topic I wrote about at length in Juries and Justice. (Sutton Hart, 2013). I've not seen enough written on the topic and its potential to radicalize and mobilize ordinary people in literature about what can be done to reclaim the promise of the American dream.
The final chapter on the Occupy movement rings with hope and fiery prose. "There are no excuses left. Either you join the revolt or you stand on the wrong side of history." I like the sentiment, but the call to "create monastic enclaves where we can retain and nurture the values being rapidly destroyed by the wider corporate culture and build the mechanisms of self-sufficiency that will allow us to survive," rings a little defeatist and hollow - even prosaic, even if, as it seems, it is the only realistic course. The American century has ended, and with it visions of common dreams.
And that is, I suppose, the flaw in this otherwise wonderful book. The world is unhinged. Corporations and government are joined at the hip in a new form of something like fascism. The new national security or surveillance state promises security at the expense of a numbing uniformity. If ever there were a time that the anarchists in our history looked like prophets, it is now. I wonder why Hedges couldn't bring himself more directly say so? When even radicals pull punches the future seems dark indeed.
on September 11, 2012
Kindle Book Non fiction
I've read both extremes of previous reviews of this book and heard the author's interview on Democracy Now (sept 11 2012) and am beginning to think that both political parties ARE simply the same party (the money party) with two different names, and that the country is being led down the path to economic slavery. I can't deny any of the charges made by the author. And he writes well.
The Chicago teachers strike only enforces the need for a new, distinct, third party in this country. So I agree with the first reviewer on this site. But I also agree with the last reviewer, which pans the book. This reviewer claims that the author is only stirring up white guilt for political gain. I am an 80 year old white male who believes that white guilt bloody well needs stirring up.
on May 9, 2013
I am familiar with Camden, NJ and W.Va., two of the three 'sacrifice zones' he writes about. His depiction is accurate and to the point. A 'must read' for anyone who wants to know what is really going on--you won't see any of this in the evening news.
on August 16, 2014
I enjoyed reading this book especially with the combination between journalism and photography. It's a bit over-the-top. Chris Hedges probably would describe his spaghetti as being destructive, but still he makes some great points and you have to exaggerate and get in the face of others from time to time to make your point. The writing style is truly his own and it almost takes on comic-book proportions especially when his awesome prose is combined with the illustrations. If you want to remember what is wrong with this country and can't find that on the evening news or daily papers or interweb, this will help you feel plenty depressed. If you are in the 1% and you can't figure out why everyone hates you, read this.