Public lectures, church services, labor unions, Veterans of Foreign Wars halls, Masonic halls, Rotary clubs, the Knights of Columbus, the Lions Club, Grange Hall meetings, the League of Women Voters, Daughters of the American Revolution, local historical societies, town halls, bowling leagues, bridge clubs, movie theater attendance (at a 20-year low), advocacy groups such as the NAACP and professional and amateur theatrical and musical performances cater to a dwindling and graying population. No one is coming through the door to take the place of the old members. A generation has fallen down the rabbit hole of electronic hallucinations—with images often dominated by violence and pornography.For Mr Hedges, it's corporate totalitarianism providing the narcotics that once were the province of state totalitarians.
Totalitarian societies, including our own, inundate the public with a steady stream of propaganda accompanied by mindless entertainment. They seek to destroy independent organizations. In Nazi Germany the state provided millions of cheap, state-subsidized radios and then dominated the airwaves with its propaganda. Radio receivers were mounted in public locations in Stalin’s Soviet Union; and citizens, especially illiterate peasants, were required to gather to listen to the state-controlled news and the dictator’s speeches. These totalitarian states also banned civic organizations that were not under the iron control of the party.I concur in part and dissent in part. Yes, it's hard to find younger model railroaders, or ferroequinologists, or bowlers or bridge-players (outside the ranks of hedge fund managers?) And the movie theaters are not responding well to pay-per-view and online streaming and other ways to see it when you want, with whom you want, with home-made popcorn. I have given up on the local movie house, in reaction to having to sit through commercials during the dead time between screenings and then enduring another half hour of commercials from the announced start time of the feature until the feature actually starts.
The corporate state is no different, although unlike past totalitarian systems it permits dissent in the form of print and does not ban fading civic and community groups. It has won the battle against literacy. The seductiveness of the image lures most Americans away from the print-based world of ideas.
But apart from the NAACP, which has become a voter-mobilization auxiliary for the Democrats, the institutions Mr Hedges names have been demonized by the self-styled progressives as exclusionary (Masons, Moose, Eagles, Rotary and Kiwanis) if not downright retrograde (American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Sons or Daughters of the American Revolution, fundamentalist churches.) Mr Hedges can't even resist a dig at Traditional America in introducing the stock-car racers as an example of the virtual and alienated crowding out the actual and social.
The steady decline of the white male heaven that is NASCAR—which has stopped publishing the falling attendance at its tracks and at some speedways has begun to tear down bleachers—is ominous. It is the symbol of a captive society.Perhaps, perhaps, one day, even in the fever swamps of the identity-politics left, someone will recognize that good intentions don't lead to good results. After thirty or forty years of calling out the stock car racers for their casual sexism (those babes in Daisy Dukes) or environmental insensitivity (souped up automobiles with big engines) or retrograde attitudes (those rebel battle flags in the tailgating area) perhaps there's more at work than a few young adults shackled to their devices, nicht wahr?
Mr Hedges, be careful what you ask for.
We must leave our isolated rooms. We must shut out these images. We must connect with those around us. It is only the communal that will save us. It is only the communal that will allow us to build a movement to resist. And it is only the communal that will sustain us through mutual aid as climate change and economic collapse increasingly dominate our future.What happens, though, when that connection takes the form of a conservative insurgency?