The Dance of Death – article by Chris Hedges – from “Truthdig”

My short intro to the article, “The Dance of Death”

Have we entered into another “millennium madness” when the powers that be have destroyed society and we are about to plunge headlong into the terror that immediately precedes and follows the inadmissible truth: that society has lost it’s raison d’être and needs to destroy itself in order to begin again with a new modus operandi?  As the article below describes vividly, have we entered into the spirit of Thanatos, the death instinct of a global civilization?

If that is the case, what does one do, here and now? If society is going to commit suicide and nothing can stop it, is there any point in struggling against the elites’ madness which can only give them more time to enjoy their immoral pursuits purchased through every sort of illegal shenanigan and millions of deaths?

What would a truly wise person do, knowing this is indeed the case; having admitted that global society is in exponential decline and once again dancing the dance of death?

{Posting the entire article here to save you having to jump through the “link hoops” of web surfing…}

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The Dance of Death | Truthdig

“…Sigmund Freud wrote that societies, along with individuals, are driven by two primary instincts. One is the instinct for life, Eros, the quest to love, nurture, protect and preserve. The second is the death instinct. The death instinct, called Thanatos by post-Freudians, is driven by fear, hatred and violence. It seeks the dissolution of all living things, including our own beings. One of these two forces, Freud wrote, is always ascendant. Societies in decline enthusiastically embrace the death instinct, as Freud observed in “Civilization and Its Discontents,” written on the eve of the rise of European fascism and World War II. …”


Chris Hedges

The Dance of Death  (Chris Hedges)

Posted on Mar 12, 2017

Mr. Fish / Truthdig

The ruling corporate elites no longer seek to build. They seek to destroy. They are agents of death. They crave the unimpeded power to cannibalize the country and pollute and degrade the ecosystem to feed an insatiable lust for wealth, power and hedonism. Wars and military “virtues” are celebrated. Intelligence, empathy and the common good are banished. Culture is degraded to patriotic kitsch. Education is designed only to instill technical proficiency to serve the poisonous engine of corporate capitalism. Historical amnesia shuts us off from the past, the present and the future. Those branded as unproductive or redundant are discarded and left to struggle in poverty or locked away in cages. State repression is indiscriminate and brutal. And, presiding over the tawdry Grand Guignol is a deranged ringmaster tweeting absurdities from the White House.

The graveyard of world empires—Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Mayan, Khmer, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian—followed the same trajectory of moral and physical collapse. Those who rule at the end of empire are psychopaths, imbeciles, narcissists and deviants, the equivalents of the depraved Roman emperors Caligula, Nero, Tiberius and Commodus. The ecosystem that sustains the empire is degraded and exhausted. Economic growth, concentrated in the hands of corrupt elites, is dependent on a crippling debt peonage imposed on the population. The bloated ruling class of oligarchs, priests, courtiers, mandarins, eunuchs, professional warriors, financial speculators and corporate managers sucks the marrow out of society.

The elites’ myopic response to the looming collapse of the natural world and the civilization is to make subservient populations work harder for less, squander capital in grandiose projects such as pyramids, palaces, border walls and fracking, and wage war. President Trump’s decision to increase military spending by $54 billion and take the needed funds out of the flesh of domestic programs typifies the behavior of terminally ill civilizations. When the Roman Empire fell, it was trying to sustain an army of half a million soldiers that had become a parasitic drain on state resources.

The complex bureaucratic mechanisms that are created by all civilizations ultimately doom them. The difference now, as Joseph Tainter points out in “The Collapse of Complex Societies,” is that “collapse, if and when it comes again, will this time be global. No longer can any individual nation collapse. World civilization will disintegrate as a whole.”

Civilizations in decline, despite the palpable signs of decay around them, remain fixated on restoring their “greatness.” Their illusions condemn them. They cannot see that the forces that gave rise to modern civilization, namely technology, industrial violence and fossil fuels, are the same forces that are extinguishing it. Their leaders are trained only to serve the system, slavishly worshipping the old gods long after these gods begin to demand millions of sacrificial victims.

“Hope drives us to invent new fixes for old messes, which in turn create even more dangerous messes,” Ronald Wright writes in “A Short History of Progress.” “Hope elects the politician with the biggest empty promise; and as any stockbroker or lottery seller knows, most of us will take a slim hope over prudent and predictable frugality. Hope, like greed, fuels the engine of capitalism.”

The Trump appointees—Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson, Steve Mnuchin, Betsy DeVos, Wilbur Ross, Rick Perry, Alex Acosta and others—do not advocate innovation or reform. They are Pavlovian dogs that salivate before piles of money. They are hard-wired to steal from the poor and loot federal budgets. Their single-minded obsession with personal enrichment drives them to dismantle any institution or abolish any law or regulation that gets in the way of their greed. Capitalism, Karl Marx wrote, is “a machine for demolishing limits.” There is no internal sense of proportion or scale. Once all external impediments are lifted, global capitalism ruthlessly commodifies human beings and the natural world to extract profit until exhaustion or collapse. And when the last moments of a civilization arrive, the degenerate edifices of power appear to crumble overnight.

Sigmund Freud wrote that societies, along with individuals, are driven by two primary instincts. One is the instinct for life, Eros, the quest to love, nurture, protect and preserve. The second is the death instinct. The death instinct, called Thanatos by post-Freudians, is driven by fear, hatred and violence. It seeks the dissolution of all living things, including our own beings. One of these two forces, Freud wrote, is always ascendant. Societies in decline enthusiastically embrace the death instinct, as Freud observed in “Civilization and Its Discontents,” written on the eve of the rise of European fascism and World War II.

“It is in sadism, where the death instinct twists the erotic aim in its own sense and yet at the same time fully satisfies the erotic urge, that we succeed in obtaining the clearest insight into its nature and its relation to Eros,” Freud wrote. “But even where it emerges without any sexual purpose, in the blindest fury of destructiveness, we cannot fail to recognize that the satisfaction of the instinct is accompanied by an extraordinary high degree of narcissistic enjoyment, owing to its presenting the ego with a fulfillment of the latter’s old wishes for omnipotence.”

The lust for death, as Freud understood, is not, at first, morbid. It is exciting and seductive. I saw this in the wars I covered. A god-like power and adrenaline-driven fury, even euphoria, sweep over armed units and ethnic or religious groups given the license to destroy anything and anyone around them. Ernst Juenger captured this “monstrous desire for annihilation” in his World War I memoir, “Storm of Steel.”

(Page 2)

A population alienated and beset by despair and hopelessness finds empowerment and pleasure in an orgy of annihilation that soon morphs into self-annihilation. It has no interest in nurturing a world that has betrayed it and thwarted its dreams. It seeks to eradicate this world and replace it with a mythical landscape. It turns against institutions, as well as ethnic and religious groups, that are scapegoated for its misery. It plunders diminishing natural resources with abandon. It is seduced by the fantastic promises of demagogues and the magical solutions characteristic of the Christian right or what anthropologists call “crisis cults.”

Norman Cohn, in “The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Messianism in Medieval and Reformation Europe and Its Bearing on Modern Totalitarian Movements,” draws a link between that turbulent period and our own. Millennial movements are a peculiar, collective psychological response to profound societal despair. They recur throughout human history. We are not immune.

“These movements have varied in tone from the most violent aggressiveness to the mildest pacifism and in aim from the most ethereal spirituality to the most earth-bound materialism; there is no counting the possible ways of imagining the Millennium and the route to it,” Cohen wrote. “But similarities can present themselves as well as differences; and the more carefully one compares the outbreaks of militant social chiliasm during the later Middle Ages with modern totalitarian movements the more remarkable the similarities appear. The old symbols and the old slogans have indeed disappeared, to be replaced by new ones; but the structure of the basic phantasies seems to have changed scarcely at all.”

These movements, Cohen wrote, offered “a coherent social myth which was capable of taking entire possession of those who believed in it. It explained their suffering, it promised them recompense, it held their anxieties at bay, it gave them an illusion of security—even while it drove them, held together by a common enthusiasm, on a quest which was always vain and often suicidal.

“So it came about that multitudes of people acted out with fierce energy a shared phantasy which though delusional yet brought them such intense emotional relief that they could live only through it and were perfectly willing to die for it. It is a phenomenon which was to recur many times between the eleventh century and the sixteenth century, now in one area, now in another, and which, despite the obvious differences in cultural context and in scale, is not irrelevant to the growth of totalitarian movements, with their messianic leaders, their millennial mirages and their demon-scapegoats, in the present century.”

The severance of a society from reality, as ours has been severed from collective recognition of the severity of climate change and the fatal consequences of empire and deindustrialization, leaves it without the intellectual and institutional mechanisms to confront its impending mortality. It exists in a state of self-induced hypnosis and self-delusion. It seeks momentary euphoria and meaning in tawdry entertainment and acts of violence and destruction, including against people who are demonized and blamed for society’s demise. It hastens its self-immolation while holding up the supposed inevitability of a glorious national resurgence. Idiots and charlatans, the handmaidens of death, lure us into the abyss.

 

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12 thoughts on “The Dance of Death – article by Chris Hedges – from “Truthdig”

    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Hi Shera, I know it’s difficult. I tried installing the translate app on my blog but for whatever reason, it doesn’t seem to want to install. Yours works so well!!! Take care o’ you, that’s what’s important.

      Reply
  1. Rosaliene Bacchus

    “What would a truly wise person do, knowing this is indeed the case; having admitted that global society is in exponential decline and once again dancing the dance of death?”
    ~ Great question, Sha’Tara. As a person who is aware of our civilization’s decline and mindless pursuit of self-destructive behavior, I believe that reaching out to others with compassion (as you often emphasize) and acceptance will make a great difference in the growing chaos of our lives. As a brown-skinned immigrant in the US, it meant a great deal to me that my dear friend, Angela, a white American, welcomed me into her life.

    Reply
    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Thank you Rosaliene. I wanted someone else to say it!!! Yes, the road to enlightenment and greater awareness is compassion in order to develop our now-deadened sense of empathy. It will at times appear to be a total loss, a waste, but imagine a few drops of oil “wasted” inside a gear assembly. Without that oil, the gears would grind themselves to slag and everything would stop. Our willingness to expend ourselves compassionately will mean that some will be given life they otherwise would not have. It will also mean that we have discovered what it means to be human and that in itself will be our greatest accomplishment. And we will also learn what self-empowerment is really all about.

      Reply
  2. Bélanger Robinson

    Great piece, Sha’Tara. I especially appreciated the line “Hope, like greed, fuels the engine of capatalism.” The professor that I wrote about in my about page pressed us hard on capitalism and materialism. It created a lot of dissonance for me, and I try to resist. But as is pointed out, this is a huge system at work. It’s so real that I had to take an ice cream break to mentally recover a little. Keep up the good fight!

    Reply
    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Thank you for that insightful comment. Due to my upbringing (long story and getting longer) I can’t help but keep pointing out the obvious. I’m somewhat detached from it all, having accepted that the world of man needs to purge itself (or to be purged) before it can rise again. This I “know” and that is, it will rise again – in another millennium, and how surprising is that, huh? The hundred years pre, and post, 3000 are going to see something never seen here: man’s evolution from a mostly physical-centered being to a spiritual-mental being, compassionate, empathetic, able to relate to its “dead” or disembodied minds and fully capable of deep space travel. (Another long story, as to how I got that information…) A thousand years isn’t such a long time after all, when one knows one will be sharing in them.

      Reply
  3. Woebegone but Hopeful

    There have been enough examples and warnings from history and belief systems, all well here we go then…..
    Unless of course there’s an enlightenment which rejects the Church of the Corporate.
    (But what do I know? I’m in training to be a Crazy Old Guy)

    Reply
    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Thanks for the comment, Roger. That would have to be some enlightenment! There are three major divinities that rule man’s world and which man gives his life to, and from which rule no one is exempt: God, i.e., Religion, then the State, and then Money. Each of these illegitimate powers take turn ruling man and ruining the earth. Some may disagree about including “God” in it, but I only see “God” through the workings of Religion as a major Power, and that speaks for itself. So any global human enlightenment must, of necessity, reject the lure and lies of all three Powers. Against these, I raise “the sword of the Spirit” which in my terminology translates as self-empowerment and compassion. That’s the enlightenment man must seek and gain in order to come to terms with his age-old dilemma of worshiping idols and finally topple them for good.

      Reply
      1. Woebegone but Hopeful

        Hi Sha’Tara.
        I’d nuance ‘God’ in this context as those who have reached a position of power and influence within a Faith system but have lost touch with the basic message (if they ever had it) coupled with the distressing part of Humanity’s makeup which allows some to use any excuse to reinforce their prejudices. Jesus had a few harsh words on such folk.
        It would seem to me, in these times the better statement is not ‘My Religion is’ but ‘My Faith is’

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