Chris Hedges: What is coming Next

Pulitzer winner Chris Hedges: These “are the good times — compared to what’s coming next”

Chauncey DeVega

April 28, 2020 11:00AM (UTC)

Empires fall a little bit at a time and then all at once. Over the last two decades, America has proven itself to be well along on that journey. The coronavirus pandemic has simply pushed our nation further along that downward spiral. 

Ultimately, the pandemic has further exposed and exacerbated — for those still somehow in denial about the decades-long reality of America as a decaying empire — deep political, social, economic, cultural and other societal problems.

The country’s infrastructure is rotting. Trump presides over a plutocratic, corrupt, cruel, authoritarian, pathological kakistocracy. The commons is being reduced to rubble while the ultra-rich extract ever more wealth and other resources from the American people. Excessive military spending has left the United States incapable of attending to the basic needs of its people. A culture of distraction and spectacle has rendered many Americans incapable of being responsible engaged citizens. Our public educational system does not teach critical thinking skills. Radical right-wing Christians, white terrorist organizations and other neofascist paramilitaries and extremists are engaging in a campaign of thuggery, intimidation and violence against multiracial American democracy.

Writing at the Atlantic, George Packer described this woeful state of affairs:

The crisis demanded a response that was swift, rational, and collective. The United States reacted instead like Pakistan or Belarus — like a country with shoddy infrastructure and a dysfunctional government whose leaders were too corrupt or stupid to head off mass suffering. The administration squandered two irretrievable months to prepare. From the president came willful blindness, scapegoating, boasts, and lies. From his mouthpieces, conspiracy theories and miracle cures. A few senators and corporate executives acted quickly — not to prevent the coming disaster, but to profit from it. When a government doctor tried to warn the public of the danger, the White House took the mic and politicized the message.

Every morning in the endless month of March, Americans woke up to find themselves citizens of a failed state.   

In the New York Times, Pulitzer-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen diagnosed the health of America’s body politic in the age of Trump and the pandemic he has empowered and accelerated: 

If anything good emerges out of this period, it might be an awakening to the pre-existing conditions of our body politic. We were not as healthy as we thought we were. The biological virus afflicting individuals is also a social virus. Its symptoms — inequality, callousness, selfishness and a profit motive that undervalues human life and overvalues commodities — were for too long masked by the hearty good cheer of American exceptionalism, the ruddiness of someone a few steps away from a heart attack.

Chris Hedges, the Pulitzer-winning journalist, author, and philosopher, is not surprised by America’s decline. In places such as the former Yugoslavia, he has personally witnessed what happens when societies fall apart. In his most recent book, “America: The Farewell Tour,” Hedges both details the country’s many cultural and political crises and what could potentially happen next. The coronavirus crisis has shown his analysis to be eerily prescient.

In this conversation, Hedges warns that the tumult and pain of Trump’s coronavirus crisis is but a preview of far worse things in America’s future, as social inequality and political failure combine to create a full collapse of the country’s already declining standard of living, as well as its ailing democracy.

Hedges also explains how the Democratic Party and its presumptive presidential nominee, Joe Biden, will likely not be able to respond to the Age of Trump and the economic and social destruction created by gangster capitalism, in combination with the coronavirus pandemic. Why? Because the Democrats are also part of the plutocratic establishment that has failed the American people.

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