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Chris Hedges: The Careerists and the Banality of Evil - The Sickness Unto Death

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Published : July 27th, 2012
1653 words - Reading time : 4 - 6 minutes
( 14 votes, 4.1/5 ) , 9 commentaries
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“We run heedlessly into the abyss after putting something in front of us to stop us from seeing it.”

Blaise Pascal, Pensées

The consciousless functionary guided by expediency is the very image of the regulatory and banking bureaucrat of today, from Tim Geithner to Gary Gensler to Ben Bernanke, and further, almost every member of the governments of the Western World. Expedient amorality is de rigeur these days among the entitled class of power brokers who serve the system, which in their minds is themselves, as a privileged, ruling class.

And it is that very dryness of human empathy, the lack of vigor in moral conviction, the willingness to accept great crimes and injustices as the unfortunate but "necessary outcomes" required by The System, that makes all the difference between a Franklin D. Roosevelt and a Barack H. Obama, between a living human being and a whited sepulchre full of dead men's bones.

After a time it becomes so easy to day, 'I am sorry madam, but the system requires that your child must die.' And so the ceremony of innocence is drowned.

This is not capitalism. Capitalism does not demand that we destroy human lives for the sake of maximizing profits without reference to the public which it is intended to serve, using any and all means which that end justifies. The Market is not an end to itself. The Market is not God. This is beyond capitalism. This is tyranny.

Careerism. Favoritism and expediency for the sake of the system that rewards them. It is a pernicious form of selfishness and self-indulgence, a privileged arrogance.

To paraphrase John Kenneth Galbraith, "The modern economist is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior justification for selfishness.” I am sorry, but it is out of our hands. The Market demands it.

And this is not a choice of poverty for the sake of truth. It is merely the choice made between 'enough' and 'more,' where more represents not a very comfortable living, but the fabulous, ostentatious wealth and power that seems to have become the god of the scions of the me generation.

And it is a sickness, unto death.

The Careerists
By Chris Hedges
Jul 23, 2012

The greatest crimes of human history are made possible by the most colorless human beings. They are the careerists. The bureaucrats. The cynics. They do the little chores that make vast, complicated systems of exploitation and death a reality. They collect and read the personal data gathered on tens of millions of us by the security and surveillance state. They keep the accounts of ExxonMobil, BP and Goldman Sachs. They build or pilot aerial drones. They work in corporate advertising and public relations. They issue the forms. They process the papers. They deny food stamps to some and unemployment benefits or medical coverage to others. They enforce the laws and the regulations. And they do not ask questions.

Good. Evil. These words do not mean anything to them. They are beyond morality. They are there to make corporate systems function. If insurance companies abandon tens of millions of sick to suffer and die, so be it. If banks and sheriff departments toss families out of their homes, so be it. If financial firms rob citizens of their savings, so be it. If the government shuts down schools and libraries, so be it. If the military murders children in Pakistan or Afghanistan, so be it. If commodity speculators drive up the cost of rice and corn and wheat so that they are unaffordable for hundreds of millions of poor across the planet, so be it. If Congress and the courts strip citizens of basic civil liberties, so be it. If the fossil fuel industry turns the earth into a broiler of greenhouse gases that doom us, so be it. They serve the system. The god of profit and exploitation. The most dangerous force in the industrialized world does not come from those who wield radical creeds, whether Islamic radicalism or Christian fundamentalism, but from legions of faceless bureaucrats who claw their way up layered corporate and governmental machines. They serve any system that meets their pathetic quota of needs.

These systems managers believe nothing. They have no loyalty. They are rootless. They do not think beyond their tiny, insignificant roles. They are blind and deaf. They are, at least regarding the great ideas and patterns of human civilization and history, utterly illiterate. And we churn them out of universities. Lawyers. Technocrats. Business majors. Financial managers. IT specialists. Consultants. Petroleum engineers. “Positive psychologists.” Communications majors. Cadets. Sales representatives. Computer programmers. Men and women who know no history, know no ideas. They live and think in an intellectual vacuum, a world of stultifying minutia. They are T.S. Eliot’s “the hollow men,” “the stuffed men.” “Shape without form, shade without colour,” the poet wrote. “Paralysed force, gesture without motion.”

It was the careerists who made possible the genocides, from the extermination of Native Americans to the Turkish slaughter of the Armenians to the Nazi Holocaust to Stalin’s liquidations. They were the ones who kept the trains running. They filled out the forms and presided over the property confiscations. They rationed the food while children starved. They manufactured the guns. They ran the prisons. They enforced travel bans, confiscated passports, seized bank accounts and carried out segregation. They enforced the law. They did their jobs.

Political and military careerists, backed by war profiteers, have led us into useless wars, including World War I, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. And millions followed them. Duty. Honor. Country. Carnivals of death. They sacrifice us all. In the futile battles of Verdun and the Somme in World War I, 1.8 million on both sides were killed, wounded or never found. In July of 1917 British Field Marshal Douglas Haig, despite the seas of dead, doomed even more in the mud of Passchendaele. By November, when it was clear his promised breakthrough at Passchendaele had failed, he jettisoned the initial goal—as we did in Iraq when it turned out there were no weapons of mass destruction and in Afghanistan when al-Qaida left the country—and opted for a simple war of attrition. Haig “won” if more Germans than allied troops died. Death as score card. Passchendaele took 600,000 more lives on both sides of the line before it ended. It is not a new story. Generals are almost always buffoons. Soldiers followed John the Blind, who had lost his eyesight a decade earlier, to resounding defeat at the Battle of Crécy in 1337 during the Hundred Years War. We discover that leaders are mediocrities only when it is too late.

David Lloyd George, who was the British prime minister during the Passchendaele campaign, wrote in his memoirs: “[Before the battle of Passchendaele] the Tanks Corps Staff prepared maps to show how a bombardment which obliterated the drainage would inevitably lead to a series of pools, and they located the exact spots where the waters would gather. The only reply was a peremptory order that they were to ‘Send no more of these ridiculous maps.’ Maps must conform to plans and not plans to maps. Facts that interfered with plans were impertinencies.”

Here you have the explanation of why our ruling elites do nothing about climate change, refuse to respond rationally to economic meltdown and are incapable of coping with the collapse of globalization and empire. These are circumstances that interfere with the very viability and sustainability of the system. And bureaucrats know only how to serve the system. They know only the managerial skills they ingested at West Point or Harvard Business School. They cannot think on their own. They cannot challenge assumptions or structures. They cannot intellectually or emotionally recognize that the system might implode. And so they do what Napoleon warned was the worst mistake a general could make—paint an imaginary picture of a situation and accept it as real. But we blithely ignore reality along with them. The mania for a happy ending blinds us. We do not want to believe what we see. It is too depressing. So we all retreat into collective self-delusion.

In Claude Lanzmann’s monumental documentary film “Shoah,” on the Holocaust, he interviews Filip Müller, a Czech Jew who survived the liquidations in Auschwitz as a member of the “special detail.” Müller relates this story:

“One day in 1943 when I was already in Crematorium 5, a train from Bialystok arrived. A prisoner on the ‘special detail’ saw a woman in the ‘undressing room’ who was the wife of a friend of his. He came right out and told her: ‘You are going to be exterminated. In three hours you’ll be ashes.’ The woman believed him because she knew him. She ran all over and warned to the other women. ‘We’re going to be killed. We’re going to be gassed.’ Mothers carrying their children on their shoulders didn’t want to hear that. They decided the woman was crazy. They chased her away. So she went to the men. To no avail. Not that they didn’t believe her. They’d heard rumors in the Bialystok ghetto, or in Grodno, and elsewhere. But who wanted to hear that? When she saw that no one would listen, she scratched her whole face. Out of despair. In shock. And she started to scream..."

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Choose your loyalty wisely, because you may be spending a very long time with what you serve. And even if it is not a conscious choice of the moment, what you do, or do not, determines to whom you belong.

"Know you not, that to whom you yield yourselves as servants to obey, his servants you are; whether of a corruption unto death, or of a righteousness unto life?"

It is not surprising that people sell themselves so badly, but rather that they also do it so cheaply.



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Hedges does it again in this article. Brilliant work. Thanks for posting it.

About Jim C. Ignore him. Responding to him gives him unwanted credibility.

Rate :   19  4Rating :   15
Jim C's arguments are a bit strained here, but at least he is not calling people names like Mr. Hart has been doing to him.
Rate :   11  29Rating :   -18
NEWSWIRE...comment results just in.

Silver...Jim C
Rate :   8  17Rating :   -9
Now thats a worthy comment. NOT!
Rate :   13  7Rating :   6
James Howard Kunstler talks about the failure of Maxist's economics (though he calls it Capitalism) and urges a ridiculous return to nature, a world made by hand.

Thomas DiLorenzo condemns the U.S. Government's use of torture and then rants against President Lincoln and General Sherman stopping the South from tortuing slaves.

Now Chris Hedges mentions bureaucratic stupidity (a real problem) and brings up the failure to act on climate change -- impliying that if only the right bureaucrat got into power (to act and control lives) the world would enter the Promised Land.

All three are master of showing us one thing and then....presto change-o....producing another. Magicians all three, and bad ones at that.
Rate :   15  44Rating :   -29
Another Jim C comment with nothing said as it relates to the article. Just more hate but this time directed at multiple targets. Why waste text hating only one author at a time when you can nail three of them at once. Doesn’t matter that he looks like a moron because he's off topic again, it only matters that he has vented his hate.

As long as he serves his masters in big government all is well in Jim’s fantasy world.
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You have many questions that nobody is willing to answer. You put them the wrong way.
Rate :   0  3Rating :   -3
Jim C., i do not believe you have quite gotten the gist of what Hedges wrote, for if you did, you would not have taken him to task for his supposed infrence. It is quite obvious that Hedges does not think very much of bureaucrats and even less for their ability to think for themselves and act independantly. No matter the system that they are in charge of, they carry out their function without questioning its legality, sanity, or impact.
What it is that must be changed is the system. It is not the bureaucrats who make the policies that they are to carry out, but in the case of "public servants", it is their political masters and in the case of corporate paper pushers, it is upper management. Hedges correctly notes that it is the mindless obedience of the zombie class in carrying out their jobs that gives the ruling classes their power. But he does not call for a revolt of the zombies in that he realizes all too well that they are followers, not leaders....And while he does not say so explicitly, what is implied is that if you give the zombies a system to run that provides a tangible good, they will also do so without question. Afterall, we just have to look around us for examples where the bureaucracy does a pretty good job of administering the positive policies of their political masters, places such as Finland and Sweden are but two examples.

With respect to Hart's comment on Jim C.'s comment, methinks you are being a bit too harsh in that Jim actually was (in part) responding to what he believed Hedges was implying. Yes, he misunderstood. But i can live with that. His rather gratuitous jab at the two authors having nothing whatsoever to do with this article was quite uncalled for, i would agree. However, saying that his comment makes him look like a moron (not the first time you have done so) does nothing to burnish your own reputation and comes dangerously close to violating the Comment Policy. Heck, i had a comment of mine yanked for far less.
i will also add that when you first graced us with a comment (about Jim C.--what else?--) i was rather pleased to read it in that you were spot on in observing that most of his posts to JHK articles were the same old same old, as you put it, and often had little to do with what JHK was currently writing and more to do with his take on things written long ago. That was certainly fair comment and as might be evidenced from the rather disproportinate number of green arrows it received, you were not alone in finding Jim's comments to be both rather predictable and tiresome. Some probably even cheered you for suggesting that a possibile explanation for Jim carrying on as he does is that he has gone off his meds, implying that he is psychologicly imbalanced. That i would think is in very poor taste; the act of an insensitive bully really and quite surprising that it did not lead to those comments being deleted. But as time has gone on, your comments became even more predictable than Jim's and though i am not keeping score at home, it seems to me that the vast majority of your posts have nothing whatsoever to do with the article, but rather are solely aimed at what Jim has posted. And so your posts have become every bit as much predictable and tiresome. Just as we are all too well aware of Jim's opinion of JHK and have grown weary of seeing it posted week after week, we now all know what you think of Jim. Others may not have grown quite as tired of reading it as have i, but i am quite certain that i am not alone and should you continue, others will also grow tired of more of the same old same old from you. Jim may not be able to contain himself, i do not know. But you must be aware by now that your attempt to get him to change his ways is not working. Bearing in mind that Einstein defined insanity as repeating the same action and expecting a different result, one may fairly ask how long will you persist with your monomania before throwing in the towel? You might also consider whether your barrage of comments aimed squarely at him is only encouraging him to be even more prolific; a negative feedback loop that only intensifies with each repetition of the cycle? Yet i fear that you both look forward with eager anticipation to each new Monday and a fresh piece from JHK: Jim so he can do his usual hatchet job on JHK and you for the opportunity to trash Jim. It is kind of sad really that 2 reasonably bright and articulate people should get so bogged down with petty peeves when we live in such interesting times with momentous events taking place nearly every day.
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vox, you are correct that my posts have been leveled directly at Jim C alone. You’ve also indicated that you understand why, which I appreciate. I enjoy engaging in conversations whether it be in person or through various forms of media. It’s in an atmosphere where divergent opinions are openly shared that understanding beyond what we ourselves would ever discover on our own takes place. Being a rather stubborn individual I willfully admit that my mind has been changed on many occasions because civil discourse took place. There are articles that I don’t agree with both on 24hgold and other sites but in almost every case I come away with, if not a changed mind then at least a better understanding of the author’s mind set. My peeve is when someone hijacks any such forum for the express purpose of broadcasting their narrow minded hatred of other individuals engaged in the process. My first responses to Jim C were an attempt to get his attention with some left handed humor (my apologies to all the left handed people, this is a common expression where I live that is used without malice), the meds thing for instance, and hopefully let him understand that his comments are first and foremost hate campaigns and always at least 90% off topic. I can only express that as he has proven that rational and focused commentary are outside of his abilities and my comment’s then obviously focused trying to impart on him that what he has to say grates on individuals, not because of an opposing stance to a particular article or idea, rather because of his continued irrational frothing at the mouth.

Your assessment that my comments have spurred him on seems to be accurate. Rational minds would take negative feedback and then reflect on their validity. Irrational minds simply enjoy the fact that they have drawn attention to themselves allowing more opportunities to crow the same material and smear any individuals whom they perceive have wronged them.

I thank you for the rebuke, as is I was growing weary of this nonsense and was ready to simply stop visiting this forum. I do have to wonder why though, have Jim C’s comments not been removed for being off topic and simply repetitive? Looking at his history this has been going on for some time.
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Hedges does it again in this article. Brilliant work. Thanks for posting it. About Jim C. Ignore him. Responding to him gives him unwanted credibility.  Read more
pcanon - 7/30/2012 at 5:22 PM GMT
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