Consider a country that has the highest poverty rate, the highest infant mortality rate, the largest international arms sales, and the highest homicide rate among industrialized nations. That’s where Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco began their exploration of a failing system, before drilling down to the village level to show us what is happening at the foundation of economic, social, and spiritual collapse in America.
Yes, that America. Our America.
These few areas represent a far greater number of “sacrifice zones,” where health, environment, and the overall quality of life have been stripped by corporate greed. The authors begin their survey in South Dakota, where Native American tribes were done out of traditional lands by the U.S. government back in the 19th century, despite a treaty that granted the land to the Lakota in perpetuity. Why? Because the government agents valued the land’s gold, coal, and other resources far more than they valued ethics, morals, or justice.
This strategy of theft worked so well for entitled individuals and commercial interests that corporations continue to use it to this day.
In Camden, New Jersey, “Poverty is a business,” according to Hedges and Sacco, and the CEO is a powerful individual who is neither an elected official nor a Camden resident. Despite that, he alone decides who gets contracts and state funds, which pieces of legislation pass, and who runs for public office.
Similar power is held by the coal companies in Appalachia that blast away mountains, pollute the air and water, and for all practical purposes enslave the population. “…[F]ight back against an outfit that can take the tops off of mountains?” asks one resident who likely speaks for the majority. “I’m scared every time I do anything…. I am afraid of gettin’ killed.”
In Immokalee, Florida, it is the immigrants who fall victim to the American Dream. They come here following the promise of a better life; by the time they realize that the promise is merely bait, these dreamers are snared—victims of human traffickers, forced to work in toxic agricultural zones, or as prostitutes or domestics. They aren’t paid enough, if at all, to buy their way out; they dare not complain to the authorities. They are prisoners of the giant companies that depend upon this sort of slave labor to make their profits.
If you wonder why the Occupy Movement doesn’t explain clearly just what it’s complaining about and what it wants, this is why: the corruption goes so deep and the crimes against humanity are so many and so heinous that it is difficult to believe and impossible to express in words.
This may well be the most important book of the century, and yet Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt barely scratches the surface of our reality. But even that small peek into the system is mind-numbing. This book has the potential to wake us up—really Wake Us Up—to what is happening. The question is this: once we recognize the size and strength of the enemy, will we be so intimidated that we roll over and play victim? Or will we take a stand when and where we can, in small ways, alone or together, to start taking down the behemoth?