Here’s the crux of the argument presented in Empire of Illusion, a disturbingly invigorating book on the demise of our North American society.
The more we sever ourselves from a literate, print-based world, a world of complexity and nuance, a world of ideas, for one informed by comforting, reassuring images, fantasies, slogans, celebrities, and a lust for violence, the more we are destined to implode…. The worse reality becomes, the less a beleaguered population wants to hear about it, and the more it distracts itself with squalid pseudo-events of celebrity breakdowns, gossip and trivia. These are the debauched revels of a dying civilization.
More on Empire of Illusion here:
More on Chris Hedges can be read here:
Chris Hedges’ Empire of Illusion is a must-read for those who want to go into the impeding crises our country face with their eyes wide-open. In the last of the book’s chapters on today’s political leadership, Hedges holds out little hope for the actions of President Barack Obama. Here’s a rather pessimistic take on the state of the Union (pg 178):
The road ahead is grim. The United Nations’ International Labour Organization estimates that some 50 million workers will lose their jobs worldwide in 2009. The collapse had already seen close to 4 million lost jobs in the United States by mid-2009. The International Monetary Fund’s prediction for global economic growth in 2009 is 0.5 percent – the worst since the Second World War. There were 2.3 million properties in the United States that received a default notice or were repossessed in 2008. And this number is set to rise, especially as vacant commercial real estate begins to be foreclosed. About 20,000 major global banks collapsed, were sold, or were nationalized in 2008. An estimated 62,000 U.S. companies are expected to shut down in 2009.
We have few tools left to dig our way out. The manufacturing sector in the United States has been dismantled by globalization. Consumers, thanks to credit card companies and easy lines of credit, are $14 trillion in debt. The government has spent, lent, or guaranteed $ 12.8 trillion towards the crisis, most of it borrowed or printed in the form of new money. It is borrowing to fund our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And no one states the obvious: We will never be able to pay these loans back. We are suppose to spend our way out of the crisis and maintain our part of the grand imperial project on credit. We are supposed to bring back the illusion of wealth created by the bubble economy. There is no coherent and realistic plan, one built around our severe limitations, to stanch the bleeding or ameliorate the mounting deprivations we will suffer as citizens. Contrast this with the national security state’s preparations to crush potential civil unrest, and you get a glimpse of the future.
This excerpt was from Chris Hedges’ masterful Empire of Illusion. To read how Hedges views the Obama presidency, read “Buying Brand Obama” and other columns on the state of today’s political scene south of the border:
I am currently reading a thought-provoking book on the end of literacy and the triumph of spectacle – Chris Hedges’ Empire of Illusion. Here’s a snippet on modern politicians (pg 46):
Those captive to images [ed. -the majority of our population today] cast ballots based on how candidates make them feel. They vote for a slogan, a smile, perceived sincerity, and attractiveness, along with the carefully crafted personal narrative of the candidate. It is style and story, not content and fact, that inform mass politics. Politicians have learned that to get votes they must replicate the faux intimacy established between celebrities and the public. There has to be a sense, created through artful theatrical staging and scripting by political spin machines, that the politician is “one of us.” The politician, like the celebrity, has to give voters the impression that he or she, as Bill Clinton use to say, feels their pain. We have to be able to see ourselves in them. If this connection, invariably a product of extremely sophisticated artifice, is not established, no politician can get any traction in a celebrity culture.
In Canada, to see evidence o f this, we need only look at men of substance who did not make it in the glare of politics, when they failed to connect: Joe Clark, John Turner, Paul Martin and, more recently, Stephane Dion.