With a trademark blend of heavy-handed polemic and sharply observed detail, Hedges (Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt, 2015, etc.) writes a requiem for the American dream.
“This moment in history marks the end of a long, sad tale of greed and murder by the white races,” writes the author. “It is inevitable that for the final show we vomited up a figure like Trump.” There’s not much room for evenhanded debate in the face of such language, but that’s beside the point: Hedges is ticked off, as ever, and here he is in full-tilt righteous indignation, making it clear that it’s not just Christians who are awaiting the apocalypse. Hedges limns an America whose economy is presupposed on mindless consumption and permanent war, in which the rich are now busily honoring Karl Marx’s prediction that in the end times, “the capitalist system would begin to consume the structures that sustained it”—health care, education, infrastructure, and so forth. That much seems inarguable. Hedges doubles down on the apocalyptic prophecy as his argument builds: “Droughts, floods, famines, and disease will eventually see the collapse of social cohesion,” he writes, “including U.S. coastal areas.” Nobody said that climate change and its effects would be pretty, but the author lays it on thickly as he delivers a comprehensive, onrushing litany of the horrors that await us. Where he uses hard data—as when he calculates that despite at annual expenditure of $76 billion in the war on drugs, overdose deaths have increased by 400 percent since 1999—Hedges is nearly unassailable. Where he relies on mere rhetoric, as in a rather strange disquisition on sex work, sadism, and capitalism, he’s less satisfying. His breadth of reference, however, is refreshing, drawing on the likes of Plato, Émile Durkheim, and Eric Voegelin—and lots of Marx—for reinforcement.
While often an exercise in preaching to the choir, the book is also a fiery sermon that weighs the nation and finds it wanting.