Hedges envisions imploding empire

Journalist speaks on U.S. economic crisis and political upheaval.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Christopher Hedges speaks on the state of America on Tuesday in Fisher Auditorium. Hedges predicted an end to the era of U.S. dominance.

Christopher Hedges, Pulitzer Prize and Amnesty International-winning journalist, spoke on the subject of the decline of the American empire Tuesday.

MU Peace Studies and the Center on Religion & the Professions sponsored the event at Fisher Auditorium. After being introduced by adjunct professor Bill Wickersham, Hedges began by describing the recent economic downturn.

"The recession is a daily bleeding of thousands of jobs which will soon turn our economic crisis into a political crisis," Hedges said.

Referencing recent riots in France, Turkey, Greece and Iceland, Hedges said it is only a matter of time before unrest "descends upon us."

Hedges said the passed stimulus package will do nothing substantial to alleviate the financial crisis.

The stimulus plan falls short, he said, because it embodies "regressive politics that devote taxpayer dollars to mafia capitalists rather than the victims."

After speaking in broad terms of the economic crisis, Hedges honed in on the ensuing political atmosphere, terming it "our Brave New World."

Referencing Director of Intelligence Dennis Blair's testimony to the Senate last Thursday, Hedges paralleled the current economic crisis to the global depression of the 1920's and '30s, warning of political instability and high levels of violent extremism.

"The political turmoil will expose the bankruptcy of our collective faith in the free market and the absurdity of an economy based on the goals of endless growth," he said.

Hedges said citizens must regulate the political system and have an active role in government.

"We must be willing to walk away from major parties, including the Democratic party, until the Democrats feel enough pressure to adopt the agenda of the common citizen," he said.

Hedges suggested that instead the goal should be to "mobilize citizens around core issues of justice, to force politicians and parties to respond to our demands, and rewarding those who champion those ideals with votes."

Hedges ended his speech with an appeal to the individual citizen's responsibility and potential.

"We stand on the verge of a massive economic and political dislocation," he said. "If we do not become angry and muster within us the courage to confront and challenge the corporate state that is destroying our nation, we will have squandered our credibility and integrity at the moment we need it most."

He also addressed the role of the media.

"The media has become corporatized, and corporations have a very peculiar effect, that is they silence you on what you know most about," Hedges said.

After a question-and-answer session, champagne was served, and members the audience toasted to 2008 Nobel Peace Prize winner Martti Ahtisaari and sang "We Shall Overcome."

Representatives from Global Action to Prevent War attended, including Wickersham and Iman Labadia.

Wickersham brought Hedges' nationally focused speech to the university level.

"Universities deal with real human problems," Wickersham said. "Of the list of issues Hedges just addressed, how many of these do you see addressed or included in the university mission statement or course curriculum?"

Mentioning both the peace studies and environmental studies programs, Wickersham said more emphasis could be placed on addressing these issues, but ultimately, it is students who need to take the lead.

Speaking on behalf of the GAPW, Labadia said they are trying their best to fight nuclear proliferation.

"We need to create a new grassroots movement," she said.

Labadia said Obama is a great man, but his hands are tied.

"Without pressure, he cannot help us," she said. "The sea of humanity that we all saw at his inauguration, where are they now? He needs the power of the people behind him."

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