Capitalism’s sacrifice zones: Some people are happy to destroy the lives of others for a profit


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I grew up in West Virginia. Practically from the day I was born, I was exposed to the idea of what a strip mine is. When I saw The Lorax on TV for the first time, I would have been about six, and I can recall drawing an immediate connection to the barren wasteland hell-pit down the hill from my parents’ house as I watched. My childrhood was spent in an area where the “Truffula trees” were hard, black and underground, but the point Dr. Seuss wanted kids to instinctually grok, I can assure you, was not lost on me.

Large coal companies have been coming in and raping the land without opposition for decades. That is the way things are in West Virginia. Without opposition? Who am I kidding, they roll out the red carpet for the pleasure, because residents of the state are so desperate for the work. When your family is hungry, it’s all about the here and now. The coal companies write the laws in WV. This is how they’re able to saw the tops off of once pristine mountains and hills, fuck up the drinking water and destroy the soil, generally leaving the place looking like a lunar landscape in their wake.

When the coal is gone, West Virginia is going to be a big hole in the middle of the country. That’s all that’s going to be left of it. The people who live there who would like to stop it, can’t stop anything and most people outside of the state are either totally unaware of what’s going on there or they simply don’t care.

Very few images of the so-called “sacrifice zones” left behind by rapacious late-stage Capitalism make it to the mainstream media. Once in a while, maybe, but what goes on in the hills of Appalachia isn’t really the stuff of The New York Times, CNN or even MSNBC. The state is too far removed from the media centers and corridors of power, so the mountain tops keep getting removed and now the guy living in the mobile home down the road has sold the fracking rights to his five acres. Who gives a shit about your drinking water?

The answer, quite frankly, doesn’t seem to be anyone. This is just the way it goes…

In the latest episode of Moyers & Company, national treasure Bill Moyers interviewed Chris Hedges and a message that seldom reaches a national audience got some wide exposure. It was riveting, must-see TV:

There are forgotten corners of this country where Americans are trapped in endless cycles of poverty, powerlessness, and despair as a direct result of capitalistic greed. Journalist Chris Hedges calls these places “sacrifice zones,” and joins Bill this week on Moyers & Company to explore how areas like Camden, New Jersey; Immokalee, Florida; and parts of West Virginia suffer while the corporations that plundered them thrive.

“These are areas that have been destroyed for quarterly profit. We’re talking about environmentally destroyed, communities destroyed, human beings destroyed, families destroyed,” Hedges tells Bill. “It’s the willingness on the part of people who seek personal enrichment to destroy other human beings… And because the mechanisms of governance can no longer control them, there is nothing now within the formal mechanisms of power to stop them from creating essentially a corporate oligarchic state.”

The broadcast includes images from Hedges’ collaboration with comics artist and journalist Joe Sacco, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, which is an illustrated account of their travels through America’s sacrifice zones. Kirkus Reviews calls it an “unabashedly polemic, angry manifesto that is certain to open eyes, intensify outrage and incite argument about corporate greed.”

 

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Posted by Richard Metzger

 

 

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