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Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt
Chat with Chris Hedges about his new book, hosted by Wade Rathke.
Camden, New Jersey, with a population of 70,390, is per capita the poorest city in the nation. It is also the most dangerous. The city’s real unemployment — hard to estimate, since many residents have been severed from the formal economy for generations — is probably 30 to 40 percent. The median household income is $24,600. There is a 70 percent high school dropout rate, with only 13 percent of students managing to pass the state’s proficiency exams in math. The city is planning $28 million in draconian budget cuts, with officials talking about cutting 25 percent from every department, including layoffs of nearly half the police force. The proposed slashing of the public library budget by almost two-thirds has left the viability of the library system in doubt. There are perhaps a hundred open-air drug markets, most run by gangs like the Bloods, the Latin Kings, and MS-13. Camden is awash in guns, easily purchased across the river in Pennsylvania, where gun laws are lax.Camden, like America, was once an industrial giant. It employed some 36,000 workers in its shipyards during World War II and built some of the nation’s largest warships. It was the home to major industries, from RCA Victor to Campbell’s Soup. It was a destination for immigrants and upwardly mobile lower middle class families. Camden now resembles a penal colony.
In Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges and American Book Award winning cartoonist Joe Sacco show how places like Camden, a poster child of postindustrial decay, stand as a warning of what huge pockets of the United States will turn into if we cement in place a permanent underclass. In addition to Camden, Hedges and Sacco report from the coal fields of West Virginia, Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and undocumented farm worker colonies in California. With unemployment and underemployment combined at far over ten percent, as Congress proposes to slash Medicare and Medicaid, Food Stamps, Pell Grants, Social Security, and other social services, Hedges and Sacco warn of a bleak near future—where cities and states fall easily into bankruptcy, neofeudalism reigns, and the nation’s working and middle classes are decimated. A shocking report from the frontlines of poverty in America, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt is a clarion call for reform.
Chris Hedges, a senior fellow at The Nation Institute, spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He was part of The New York Times team that won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for the paper’s coverage of global terrorism. He writes a weekly original column for Truthdig, and has written for Harper’s magazine, The New Statesman, the New York Review of Books, The Nation, Adbusters, Granta, Foreign Affairs, and other publications. He is the author of the bestsellers Death of the Liberal Class, Empire of Illusion, and War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, among others.
Joe Sacco, one of the world’s greatest cartoonists, is widely hailed as the creator of war reportage comics. He is the author of, among other books, the American Book Award winning Palestine, Footnotes in Gaza, which received the Ridenhour Book Prize, and Safe Area: Gorazde, which won the Eisner Award and was named a New York Times Notable Book and Time magazine’s best comic book of 2000. His books have been translated into fourteen languages and his comics reporting has appeared in Details, the New York Times Magazine, Time, Harper’s, and the Guardian. (Perseus Books)