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"....
And when we flew over the Appalachians, and it's a terrifying experience, because you realize only then do you realize how vast the devastation is. Just as when we were both in the war in Bosnia, you couldn't grasp the destruction of ethnic cleansing until you actually flew over Bosnia, and village after village after village had been razed and destroyed.
And the same was true in the Appalachian Mountains. And these people are poisoned. The water is poisoned, it smells, the soil is poisoned. And the people who are making tremendous profits from this don't even live in West Virginia--
Bill Moyers: You said something like, "While the laws are West Virginia are written by the coal companies, 95 percent of those coal companies--"
Chris Hedges: Right.
Bill Moyers: "--are not in West Virginia."
Chris Hedges: That's right. They no longer want to dig down for the coal, and so they're blowing the top 400 feet off of mountains poisoning the air, poisoning the soil, poisoning the water.
They use some of the largest machines on earth. These draglines, 25-stories tall that are very efficient in terms of ripping out coal seams. But by the time they left, there's just a wasteland. Nothing grows. Some of the richest soil, some of the purest water, and these are the headwaters for much of the East Coast, You are rendering the area moonscape. It becomes inhabitable. And you're destroying you know, these are the lungs of the Eastern seaboard. It's all destroyed and it's not coming back.
And that violence is visited on these communities. And you see it played out. I mean, Camden, New Jersey, which is the poorest city per capita in the United States and always, the one or two in terms of the most dangerous, it's a dead city. There's nothing left. There is no employment. Whole blocks are abandoned. The only thing functioning are open-air drug markets, of which there are about a hundred.
And you're talking third or fourth generation of people trapped in these internal colonies. They can't get out, they can't get credit. And what that does to your dignity, your self-esteem, your sense of self-worth.
BILL MOYERS I was struck by your saying Camden is "beset with the corruption and brutal police repression reminiscent of the despotic regimes that you covered as a correspondent for the New York Times in Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America." You describe a city where the per capital income is $ll,967. Large swaths of the city, as Joe Sacco Shows us, are abandoned, windowless brick factories, forlorn warehouses.
Chris Hedges: At one point in the 50s, it was a huge shipyard that employed 36,000 people. Campbell's Soup was made there, RCA used to be there. But there were a variety of businesses it attracted in that great migration a lot of unskilled labor from the South, as well as immigrants from New York
Because without an education, it was a place that you could find a job. It was unionized, of course, so people had adequate wages and some protection. And then it just-- everything went down. With the flight of manufacturing overseas.
It's all gone. Nothing remains. And that's why it's such a stark example of what we've done to ourselves, without realizing that the manufacturing base of any country is absolutely vital to its health. Not only in terms of its economic, but in terms of its, you know, the cohesion of a society because it gives employment....
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