Journalist, activist, and Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges will be speaking in Peterborough this month as part of the Precarious Festival. His talk, “Writing as Resistance,” will address the role of the artist in society.
In his article “The Artist as Prophet” he writes, “Culture, in times of distress, is not a luxury but a life raft.” Art is how we tear down false narratives, and make “the invisible visible.” Art gives us perspective, where we would otherwise be immersed.
Hedges has spoken out against the corporate state, mass incarceration, and the tactics of antifa in his weekly Truthdig column. He is also the Emmy-nominated host of On Contact, where he discusses many of the same issues.
The common denominator beneath all of Hedges’ work is peaceful and upstream resistance to the severe and worsening wealth disparity that is an ever-growing issue the world over. His disapproval of antifa tactics is grounded in his firm belief that their efforts support the fascist agenda more than they undermine it.
By engaging in violence, they lose the moral high ground and give the state an excuse to increase police powers, ultimately worsening the deeper problem, while playing into the alt-right’s narratives about the left. “The focus on street violence diverts activists from the far less glamorous building of relationships and alternative institutions and community organizing that alone will make effective resistance possible. We will defeat the corporate state only when we take back and empower our communities.”
His work as a Princeton University professor teaching in a New Jersey state prison has led him to theatre, where he was able to empower a community. Caged, a stage play collaboratively written by 28 male inmates, is due to premiere in New Jersey next spring, after reaching its Kickstarter goal in 15 days. The project is a raw portrayal of life behind bars, written in the voices of those who are living that experience firsthand, often with no end in sight. Its long-term goal is to create an educated resistance against mass incarceration, and change a system “driven by greed.” They are resisting in words, using “those talents, passions, feelings, thoughts and creativity that make us complete human beings.”
Social justice and the arts seem to be quite contented bedfellows. There are plenty of local examples of these two fields coming together to better our community. For instance, Nourish Project became involved in the Precarious Festival after several of the festival’s participants appeared in their Basic Income video series. Pushback, the documentary about poverty and homelessness in Peterborough, was made by artists and supported by the Peterborough Poverty Reduction Network.
Hedges writes, “It is necessary to turn to a handful of poets, writers, and other artists. These artists, who often exist on the margins of mass culture, are our unheeded prophets.”
Chris Hedges will be in Peterborough on November 20 as part of the Precarious Festival, with a meet-and-greet fundraiser at Catalina’s at 6pm, followed by his talk, “Writing as Resistance,” at Market Hall at 7:30p (more info).