the great delusion

Sculpture José Resende / Radial Leste, São Paulo/ photo: A. Saggese
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By CHRIS HEDGES*

The radical evil we face is as real under Donald Trump as it will be under Joe Biden

Joe Biden and the administrators of the deep state are returning to power. Donald Trump and his circle of clowns, racists, crooks and Christian fascists are sullenly preparing to leave office. American pharmaceutical corporations are beginning to roll out vaccines to mitigate the world's worst COVID-19 outbreak, which has resulted in more than 2.600 deaths a day. America, as Biden says, is back, ready to take its place at the head of the table. In the battle for America's soul, he assures us: democracy prevailed. Progress, prosperity, civility and a reassertion of American prestige and power are – as we were promised – weeks away.

But the real lesson we must learn from the rise of a demagogue like Trump, who received 74 million votes, and a pandemic that our for-profit health industry has proved unable to contain, is that we are losing control as a nation. and as a species. Far more dangerous demagogues will emerge from the neoliberal and imperialist policies that the Biden administration will embrace. Much worse pandemics will sweep the globe with high rates of infection and mortality, an inevitable result of our continued consumption of animals and animal products, and the reckless destruction of the ecosystem we and other species depend on to live.

“One of the most pathetic aspects of human history,” wrote Reinhold Niebuhr, “is that each civilization expresses itself more pretentiously, combines its partial and universal values ​​more convincingly, and claims immortality for its finite existence at the very moment when that the decay leading to death has already begun.”

Biden's nominations come almost exclusively from Democratic Party and corporate elite circles, those responsible for massive social inequality, trade deals, deindustrialization, militarized police, the world's largest prison system, the austerity programs that abolished social programs. like the welfare, the renewed Cold War with Russia, massive government surveillance, endless wars in the Middle East, and the deprivation and impoverishment of the working class. O The Washington Post writes that "about 80% of employees at the White House and the agency he announced have the word 'Obama' on their resumes because of previous jobs in the White House or on Obama's campaigns." Bernie Sanders, apparently rejected in his efforts to become Secretary of Labor in the Biden administration, has voiced his frustration with Biden's appointments. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was barred by House Democrats from a seat on the E&C (Energy and Commerce Committee) for its support of Green New Deal. The message from the Biden administration to progressives and left-wing populists is very clear – “Drop dead.”

The list of new government officials includes retired Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, who is being nominated for Secretary of Defense. Austin is on the board of Raytheon Technologies and is a member of Pine Island Capital, a company that invests in defense industries and which also includes Antony Blinken, Biden's nominee for Secretary of State. Blinken, a former Deputy National Security Advisor and Assistant Secretary of State, is a strong supporter of the segregated state of Israel. He was one of the architects of the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, and a supporter of the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, resulting in yet another failed state in the Middle East.

Janet Yellen, former chairman of the Federal Reserve under Barack Obama, is slated for Treasury Secretary. Yellen as chair of CEA (Council of Economic Advisers) of Bill Clinton and later as a member of the board of the Federal Reserve, supported the repeal of the law Glass-Steagall, which led to the banking crisis of 2008. Supported the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It also lobbied for a new statistical metric aimed at reducing seniors' Social Security payments. Yellen supported “quantitative easing” that provided trillions in virtually interest-free loans to Wall Street, loans used to bail out banks and companies, and engage in mass stock buybacks, while victims of financial fraud were abandoned.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry will become a special envoy on climate issues. Kerry championed the massive expansion of domestic oil and gas production, largely through hydraulic fracturing, and, according to Obama's autobiography, worked doggedly to convince those concerned about the climate crisis to "offer grant concessions to the oil industry." nuclear power and the opening up of more US coastlines to oil drilling offshore".

Avril Haines, Obama's former CIA deputy director, will become Biden's director of national intelligence. Haines oversaw the expansion of Obama's killer drone program abroad and supported the nomination of Gina Haspel as head of the CIA, despite Haspel's direct involvement with the CIA's torture program carried out in black territories around the world. Haines called Haspel "intelligent, compassionate and fair". Brian Deese, the executive in charge of the “climate portfolio” at BlackRock, who invests heavily in fossil fuels including coal, and who served as a former economic adviser to Obama who championed austerity measures, has been chosen to direct the White House's economic policy.

Neera Tanden, former assistant to Hillary Clinton, was chosen to be director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Tanden, as head of the Thinktank of the Democratic Party, the Center for American Progress, raised millions in black money of Silicon Valley and Wall Street. Your donors include Bain Capital, Blackstone, Evercore, Walmart and the military company Northrop Grumman. The United Arab Emirates, a close ally of Saudi Arabia in the Yemen war, also gave the Thinktank between 1,5 million and 3 million dollars. She ridicules Sanders and his supporters in the news and on social media. She also proposed a "thread" on the Democratic platform calling for the bombing of Iran.

The perpetuation of the Biden administration's deeply unpopular wars and onerous neoliberal policies will be accompanied by a fervent demonization of Russia, most recently accused of cyberattacks. A new Cold War with Russia will be used by Corporate Democrats to discredit domestic and foreign critics and divert attention from the country's political stagnation and corporate plunder. will allow the MSNBC and the The New York Times, who spent two years spreading empty conspiracies of the “Russiagate”, spread a daily stream of emotionally charged rumors and dark accusations about Russia. TV celebrities like Rachel Maddow will rant night after night about Russia, ignoring the corruption of the Biden administration. The only reason Russia is not blamed for election rigging in 2020, as opposed to 2016, by the Democratic Party is because Trump was defeated.

Biden, after his defeat at the Nevada Democratic Party conventions by Bernie Sanders, where Sanders won more than twice as many of his votes, immediately played the “Russia card” telling the CBS News that “the Russians don't want me to be nominated, they like Bernie”. Hillary Clinton started this dirty game when she attacked 2016 Green Party presidential candidate Jil Stein as a “Russian asset” and, in 2020, she leveled the same accusation against Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. Democrats need an enemy, real or fictional, and Silicon Valley and major industrialists will not allow them to attack China.

More of the same means more disaster. If we are to reclaim our open society and save the ecosystem, we must abolish the corporate grip on global economic and political power. If we want to avoid zoonotic diseases like COVID-19, swine flu, avian flu, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (mad cow disease), Ebola and SARS, we must stop consuming animals and their bodily secretions. We must abolish factory farming and adopt a vegan diet. And we must keep fossil fuels in the ground.

Devastating the rainforest for cattle to graze and vast tracts of agricultural land dedicated to growing monocultures to feed animals for human consumption account for up to 91% of Amazon rainforest destruction since 1970. Loss of forests is one of the biggest contributors to climate change. Animal agriculture is the main cause of ocean dead zones. The oceans could be devoid of fish by 2048. Every minute, 7 million pounds of feces are produced by animals raised for human consumption in the US alone. The continued destruction of natural habitat, along with the vast factory farms that use 80% of the US's antibiotics and breed drug-resistant pathogens that spread to human populations, portend new forms of the Black Death.

The belief that we can maintain current levels of consumption, especially of animal products, capitalist expansion, imperialist wars, a dependence on fossil fuels and abject subservience to unrestrained corporate power, which solidified the worst inequality in human history, is not a form of hope, but a suicidal self-delusion. We are not following the policies of the Biden administration and the global ruling elite into the vast bright lands of a new and glorious future, but economic misery, vast climate change, waves of new and more virulent pandemics, of which COVID-19 it is a mild precursor, along with the irreversible collapse of ecological systems and frightening forms of social collapse, authoritarianism and neo-fascism.

Global warming is inevitable. It cannot be stopped. At best, it can be slowed down. In the next 50 years, Earth will most likely warm to levels that will make entire parts of the planet uninhabitable. Tens, perhaps hundreds, of millions of people will be displaced. Millions of species will go extinct. Cities on or near the coast, including New York and London, will be submerged.

The oceans absorb much of the excess CO2 and heat from the atmosphere. This absorption is rapidly warming and acidifying ocean waters, resulting in deoxygenation of the oceans. Each of Earth's five known mass extinctions was preceded by at least part of what climate scientists call the "deadly trio" - ocean warming, acidification and deoxygenation. The next mass extinction of marine life is already underway, the first in about 55 million years.

This is not defeatism. It's realism. It looks like we've gained four years from Biden's election, but if we don't use it wisely - and there's nothing in Biden's nominations that offers any motivation - we're just rebuilding a poor Potemkin village, soon to be swept away by a political whirlwind and a hurricane. environment that are forming around us.

One of the lessons I learned from covering wars and revolutions as a foreign correspondent is that the political, economic and cultural systems erected by any society are fragile. The facade of power remains in place, as I saw in Eastern Europe during the 1989 revolutions and then in Yugoslavia, long after terminal rot had eaten away at the foundations. This façade tricks society into thinking that authority structures remain solid, impervious to collapse. So when the collapse arrives, which should have been foreseen long ago, it seems sudden and incomprehensible. The ensuing chaos is disorienting and frightening. The cognitive dissonance between the perception of power and its rapid dissolution feeds self-delusions. It creates, as I witnessed in the former Yugoslavia, what anthropologists call crisis cults, such as outlandish conspiracy theories, fascism and the embrace of proto-violence to purge society of the demons to blame for national disaster. Hate becomes the highest form of patriotism. The vulnerable are scapegoats. Intellectuals, journalists and scientists rooted in a fact-based world are shunned. The ruling elites and ruling structures lose all credibility. This breakdown is often a portal to a world of nihilism and blood-soaked fantasy.

After four years of lies, escalating racist violence, stunning ineptitude, rampant corruption and abject failure to deal with a national health crisis, Trump has expanded his base by 11 million votes. this should be a huge flashing red alert. Worse yet, 70% of Trump voters, 51 million Americans, believe that the "Radical Left Democrats" and the deep state manipulated elections through “electoral fraud”, including importing Venezuelan voting machines, illegitimate mail-in ballots, and the mass destruction of Trump ballots by election officials. One hundred and twenty-six Republican House members joined in a lawsuit filed by 18 Republican state attorneys general asking the Supreme Court to overturn Biden's victory. The vast majority of Republican senators refused to recognize the election results after the November vote. Electoral College voters were forced in several states to hand their votes over to state legislatures under armed guard. About two dozen armed protesters carrying American flags and chanting "stop the robbery" descended on the home of Democratic Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. Seven hundred members of the white nationalist group, the Proud Boys, took to the streets of Washington this past weekend to protest the alleged election theft, leading to more than three dozen arrests, four stabbings, the vandalization of four black churches and banners and signs from the Black Lives Matter torn and burned.

Trump may be gone soon, but he leaves behind a party that is overtly authoritarian, averse to authoritarian norms, an enemy of science and fact-based discourse, and an attempted coup d'état. Next time they won't be so disorganized and inept. This hostility to democracy by one of the two ruling parties, supported by millions of Americans, many of whom have been betrayed by Biden and the leaders of the Democratic Party, will not dissipate, but will increase, especially as the “hammer” of economic dislocation, including the impending evictions of millions of Americans, strikes the country.

The decades-long corporate assault on culture, journalism, education, the arts, universities and critical thinking has left those who speak this truth marginalized and ignored. These “Cassandras”, excluded from the national debate, are dismissed as unhinged and depressingly apocalyptic. The country is consumed by a mania for hope, which our corporate overlords so generously provide, at the expense of the truth. It is this illusory hope that will curse us.

The Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, who, along with other writers and artists, tried desperately to warn of the suicidal madness of the First World War, wrote about what he called "the mental superiority of the defeated". Your anti-war play, Jeremiah, based on the biblical prophet Jeremiah who issued warnings in vain, illustrated that those who face reality, however bitter it may be, are able to endure and overcome it.

“Awake, doomed city, that you may save yourself,” cries the prophet in Zweig's play. “Awake from your heavy drowsiness, ignore, lest you be killed in your sleep; wake up, for the walls are collapsing and will crush you; wake up”.

But the warnings of Jeremiah, called the “weeping prophet,” were ignored and ridiculed. He was attacked for demoralizing the people. There were plots against his life. When the Babylonian army captured Jerusalem, Jeremiah, like Julian Assange, was in prison.

“I have always been drawn to showing how any form of power can harden the heart of a human being, how victory can bring mental rigidity to entire nations, and to contrast this with the emotional force of defeat that penetrates painfully and terribly into the soul.” wrote Zweig in his memoirs, “Yesterday's World”. “In the midst of war, while others, celebrating triumph too soon, were proving to each other that victory was inevitable, I was plunging into the depths of catastrophe and looking for a way out of them.”

We cannot use the word “hope” if we refuse to face the truth. Any hope rooted in self-delusion is fantasy. We must lift the filter of our eyes to see the danger before us. We must heed the warnings of our own prophets. We must destroy the centers of power that lure us and our children, like the "Pied Piper of Hamelin", to certain doom. The walls, daily, are closing in around us. The radical evil we face is as real under Trump as it will be under Biden. And if this radical evil is not crushed, then the world ahead will be one of mass torment and death.

*Chris Hedges is a journalist. Author, among other books, of Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle (Nation books).

Translation: Joao Victor Magalhães de Almeida .

Originally published on the website ScheerPost.

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