Chris Hedges: The Myth of Human Progress

Friedrich Nietzsche in “Beyond Good and Evil” holds that only a few people have the fortitude to look in times of distress into what he calls the molten pit of human reality. Most studiously ignore the pit. Artists and philosophers, for Nietzsche, are consumed, however, by an insatiable curiosity, a quest for truth and desire for meaning. They venture down into the bowels of the molten pit. They get as close as they can before the flames and heat drive them back. This intellectual and moral honesty, Nietzsche wrote, comes with a cost. Those singed by the fire of reality become “burnt children,” he wrote, eternal orphans in empires of illusion…..

The human species, led by white Europeans and Euro-Americans, has been on a 500-year-long planetwide rampage of conquering, plundering, looting, exploiting and polluting the earth—as well as killing the indigenous communities that stood in the way. But the game is up. The technical and scientific forces that created a life of unparalleled luxury—as well as unrivaled military and economic power for a small, global elite—are the forces that now doom us. The mania for ceaseless economic expansion and exploitation has become a curse, a death sentence. But even as our economic and environmental systems unravel, after the hottest year [2012] in the contiguous 48 states since record keeping began 107 years ago, we lack the emotional and intellectual creativity to shut down the engine of global capitalism. We have bound ourselves to a doomsday machine that grinds forward….

“One of the most pathetic aspects of human history is that every civilization expresses itself most pretentiously, compounds its partial and universal values most convincingly, and claims immortality for its finite existence at the very moment when the decay which leads to death has already begun,” Reinhold Niebuhr wrote……

via Chris Hedges: The Myth of Human Progress and the Collapse of Complex Societies – Chris Hedges – Truthdig.

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Jonathan Erdman

Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

2 thoughts on “Chris Hedges: The Myth of Human Progress”

  1. Perhaps this is why disdain for the arts and education is one of the early warning signs of fascism and why the arts have been budget cut severely and those of us who majored in the Liberal Arts in college are criticized for not being “practical” enough, as though the arts just don’t matter.

    Now more than ever, we need artists and philosophers but now more than ever they are disenfranchised.

    Yes, we are a nation in denial, but will the whole world be next?


  2. It’s difficult because the artists and philosophers who would question the system really have to do so, mostly, from the outside. There are some professors and artists and authors who can make a living, paid by the system, while still substantially questioning that same system; but for most of us, we have to live on the economic fringes, which of course is something in itself that reduces our credibility in societies mainstream. So, it takes quite a commitment to deprive one’s self in order to truly and substantially critique and deconstruct the status quo….But that’s just what the old-school “lovers of wisdom did”: Jesus, Socrates, the pre-Socratics, the Buddha and his early followers, etc. So, we do have examples. Personally, I find living in the mainstream of society to be misery, so I’m happy (much happier) living on the fringes.


Consider this post an invitation, an invitation to comment and collaborate ~ In Solidarity, JE

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