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Days Of Destruction, Days Of Revolt h/c

Days Of Destruction, Days Of Revolt h/c back

Chris Hedges & Joe Sacco


Page 45 Review by Dominique

“What was done to Native Americans was a template. It would be done to people in the Philippines, Cuba, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and is now finally being done to us.”

That’s right, us. As in you and I. Being of Anglo-Saxon origin isn’t going to save us, it just allowed us a few more years grace. And although this book deals exclusively with American problems pretty much everything has a parallel in the UK. Cheery thought, eh?! So that’s the kind of book you are getting here. Not an investigation or a proposal, rather an explanation of exactly where we are and how we got here, brought to life by interviews with those who have been most affected.

Is it really that bad, though? Are we really doomed to be the helpless, hapless worker bees slaving to enrich the 1%? Surely our Governments won’t let that happen? They work for us and they have the ultimate power, yes? A snippet from a 2011 Silicone Valley dinner conversation suggests otherwise.

President Obama asks Steve Jobs, “What would it take to make iPhones in the United States [instead of outsourcing the jobs abroad, as they do now]?” Steve Jobs replies, “Those jobs aren’t coming back”.

That’s the sound of the Leader of the Free World, the man with his hand on the Big Red Button, being shot down by a guy whose company makes gadgets. The United States of America offers to do whatever it takes to bring jobs to its citizens and the corporations reply “Ummm, don’t call us, we’ll call you”. Fun Fact: that same year, Apple Inc. made a $400,000 dollar profit per employee. So it’s not that they can’t afford to make stuff in the U.S.A. They just would rather not, and keep the money.

The books works forward chronologically, detailing the effects of Capitalism (i.e. the valuing of money over everything and anything else, including human life) since the creation of the United States of America. From the endless broken treaties with the Native Americans we move to the mountain tops of West Virginia where White American folk live amongst the dust and ruins of the endless blasting for coal. There used to be jobs (albeit hard and dangerous jobs) mining the coal from under the ground but even those opportunities are gone now as the mining giants simply blow the tops off the mountains, sift out the coal and leave absolute devastation in their wake. It’s more efficient, meaning it requires far fewer workers. The people of the region are therefore surplus to requirements. They earn nothing, they own nothing, they spend nothing. Corporate American has no use for them and so, by extension, neither does the United States of America. Their lives are as shattered as the Native American tribes who were thrown off the land in the first place in the name of jobs and prosperity. Each location we move to tells a similar story: legal slavery replaced with wage slavery, low paid workers replaced with even lower paid workers, few jobs turning into no jobs. What is “finally being done to us” becomes clear as we explore the concept of the “race to the bottom”; drive wages down, drive profits up; riches for a few, austerity for the rest of us.

The system described above is, of course, unsustainable. No wages means no money means no spending means no profits. Doesn’t matter how cheap you make an iPhone, if no one has a dollar to their name no one is going to buy one. But while they are still able to make a profit it seems no one cares about the long-term effects. And as long as we have children to feed and bills to pay we certainly aren’t going to rock the ever-more-unstable boat, are we? And so we have the “Destruction” part of the title; it is this theme which makes up the bulk of the book and where Joe Sacco’s talent for bringing people’s stories to life is used. Every so often the polemic gives way to a personal experience, narrated by a local and drawn by Sacco. An old-school Virginia woodsman turned activist, an ex-gangster Native American, a white-trash drug addict; each story giving personal context to the sweeping arcs of doom. Truthfully, there is too little Sacco; I would love it if, in future, he did a full book of all the conversations and interviews touched upon here. They give meaning and substance to the problems created by unchecked corporate greed. We end up thinking not just about grand ideals and political movements but about people’s crappy lives and how much better they could and should be if only we would do things differently.

And this is where the “Revolt” part of the title comes in, mostly in the form of the Occupy protests which swept through the US and Europe in the wake of the epic financial fail-fest we now find ourselves suffering through. It’s an interesting if depressingly short section which covers a few notable upheavals in history and explores the sort of things we might expect to see in the near future. The general theme is that the system is broken and it’s time to make a new one. Given how things are going at the moment it’s a pretty persuasive argument.

If you like stuff like NO LOGO or follow the Occupy movement with interest you may want to check out this book. It’s also possibly one for the Sacco fans but do be warned that this is mostly prose, with some illustrations and strips by Joe Sacco: his contributions make up a fairly small portion of the page count.
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