01/24/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Chris Hedges, Barack Obama and Psychological Evolution

Chris Hedges is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America. Recently Hedges reviewed the pessimistic views of Joseph Conrad and concluded:

Those who attempt to mend the flaws in the human species through force embrace a perverted idealism. Those who believe that history is a progressive march toward human perfectibility, and that they have the moral right to force this progress on others, no longer know what it is to be human. In the name of the noblest virtues they sink to the depths of criminality and moral depravity. This self-delusion comes to us in many forms. It can be wrapped in the language of Western civilization, democracy, religion, the master race, Liberté, égalité, fraternité, the worker's paradise, the idyllic agrarian society, the new man or scientific rationalism. The jargon is varied. The dark sentiment is the same.


The brush is pretty broad. I immediately wondered whether it extended to Barack Obama. Apparently so. This was posted last June regarding Iran and the Middle East:

Barack Obama, when we need sane leadership the most, has proved feckless and weak. He, and the Democratic leadership, is as morally bankrupt as those preparing to ignite our funeral pyre in the Middle East.

My reasons for optimism relate, I guess, to my early sense in life that we are indeed all part of a whole and that at least a degree of goodness is not beyond our reach.

Proof of my general attitude is not exactly plentiful. Here is an instructive video about the state of moral evolution today.

Jonathan Haidt and Tom Munnecke talk about Positive Psychology, the emotions of elevation of elevation and awe, Christopher Alexander's Pattern Languages, Group selection, morale psychology, evolutionary systems theory, fitness functions, Martin Seligman's Akumai meetings, and the possibility of creating cascades of goodness. Barbara Marx Hubbard, who was interviewed separately, appears in the background. Filmed on the campus of UC Santa Barbara on Dec. 10, 2008. Videography by Jeremy Saville.


The decisive moment referred to in the video is one that I have enjoyed more than once and that has essentially formed my point of view, in good times and bad. It abolishes in some respects the distinctions between soul, mind and body.

It does not pretend to plumb anything beyond the "immanent frame". But it does foster and validate a solidarity with all. it opens the door to a spectrum understanding which recognizes id and ego and superego, but which adds on to these a higher self.

It is appreciation of the higher self, without denying the entire spectrum, that marks an evolution which proceeds more rapidly, as the video suggests, than we have suspected in the past.

UPDATE: Widening The Enquiry -- from 3 Quarks Daily

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