“Colonized by Corporations,” a column by Chris Hedges (Truthdig, 5/14) brings together multiple themes and concepts from the course — colonialism, decolonization, exploitation, revolution, legitimacy, violence, ideology, racism and white supremacy, to name a few. Hedges argues that theorists of colonial rule like Frantz Fanon offer the best insights into the functioning of our own system, which he calls a “corporate state”:
“We have been, like nations on the periphery of empire, colonized. We are controlled by tiny corporate entities that have no loyalty to the nation and indeed in the language of traditional patriotism are traitors. They strip us of our resources, keep us politically passive and enrich themselves at our expense. The mechanisms of control are familiar to those whom the Martinique-born French psychiatrist and writer Frantz Fanon called “the wretched of the earth,” including African-Americans. The colonized are denied job security. Incomes are reduced to subsistence level. The poor are plunged into desperation. Mass movements, such as labor unions, are dismantled. The school system is degraded so only the elites have access to a superior education. Laws are written to legalize corporate plunder and abuse, as well as criminalize dissent.”
In order to challenge the “corporate state,” Hedges argues we must first recognize ourselves as “colonized subjects.” But, as Fanon observed in “Black Skin, White Masks,” the psychological mechanism of cognitive dissonance often inhibits such recognition:
“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.”
On the question of the “revolutionary potential” of different social classes and class “fractions,” Hedges concurs with Marx, that the marginalized poor (lumpenproletariat), as a group, present little threat to the ruling elite.
“The real danger to the elite comes from déclassé intellectuals, those educated middle-class men and women who are barred by a calcified system from advancement. Artists without studios or theaters, teachers without classrooms, lawyers without clients, doctors without patients and journalists without newspapers descend economically. They become, as they mingle with the underclass, a bridge between the worlds of the elite and the oppressed. And they are the dynamite that triggers revolt.”