Questioning the current state of society

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This morning’s “Big Thinking” lecture, lead by author Chris Hedges, truly embraced Congress 2012’s principles of transform, inspire and challenge.

His lecture, which focused on the topic of unregulated capitalism and the effects it has on society, engaged the crowd and made them question the validity of corporate institutions and political behaviour.

“Everything turns into a commodity; human beings become commodities, the natural world becomes a commodity … this is a process we are undergoing,” Hedges told the crowd. “My question is: How did we get here?”

Hedges looked back to the First and Second World Wars as well as the events that occurred in between them in order to answer his question. During the wars, he explained, popular progressive movements were shut down, and propaganda that fed on people’s emotions took over.

“People are moved by emotion, not fact,” he stated.

According to Hedges, propaganda eventually led to the slow destruction of the media, which is now highly censured, and contributes to the controlling effect unregulated capitalism has on society.

“The demise, especially of newsprint, is something deeply harmful, perhaps even catastrophic to our democracy,” explained Hedges.

Unreliable news sources result in skeptical information, which allows institutions to have more power over society, because citizens are unaware of ongoing events. This is a result of propaganda being used in powerful institutions to spread corporate values.

“What they seek to do is upend traditional values,” stated Hedges. “[They] replace it with a cult of itself … consumption of inner compulsion.”

Hedges add that the result is the destruction of the pillars of liberalization: press, labour, culture, religious institutions, public education and democracy.

“We have descended into a political process where it has become utterly impossible to fraught the centers of power,” he explained. “They have created a system whereby they control both our political and economic life.”

He stressed the importance of the power of defiance while combating unregulated capitalism and its effects on politics and society as a whole.

In order to successfully combat these prevalent issues, he stated, non-violent protests, such as the Occupy Movement and the student protests in Montreal, are needed.

“We are in one of those periods of history where the language and the vocabulary we use to describe the reality around us no longer matches that reality itself, and we are in the process of inventing or creating a new language, a new way to explain and cope with reality,” he concluded. “I encourage all of you to do what I’ll be doing in a few days in New York … and that’s get out on the street”

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