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Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle Paperback – October 5, 2010
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"Remarkable, bracing and highly moral, Empire of Illusion is Hedges' lament for his nation."
"Each chapter of Empire of Illusion makes a strong case for how different illusions — of literacy, love, wisdom, happiness — taken together are destroying the American mind, culture and the nation itself."
— National Post
"Each chapter torches one of our cultural illusions."
— The Globe and Mail
"Hedges is a fan of big ideas, and in Empire of Illusion, he draws upon the culture of professional wrestling and pornography, the elite university, positive psychology and the financial crisis to fashion a social theory of everything."
— Winnipeg Free Press --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Even better is that the author's style is approachable and non judgemental. This isn't an academic talking down to the masses, but a very solid reporter presenting findings in an accurate, logical style.
Every American should read this, and then consider whether to buy that glossy celebrity oriented magazine or watch that "I want to be a millionaire" show. The lifestyle and choices being promoted by the media, credit card companies, and by the celebrity culture in general, are toxic and a danger to our society's future.
I don't know if there's really anything new here; many of the ideas Hedges puts forth have been floating around in the neglected dark corners of our national discourse, but Hedges drags them all out into the daylight. Just about every social/cultural/economic/political ill you can think of is mentioned at some point in the text and laid at the feet of the villains whose insatiable greed has destroyed this once-great country. Hedges is bold. He predicts nothing less than the end of America. Indeed, he claims America has already ended. The American Dream is nothing more than an illusion being propped up by wealthy elites obsessed with power and the preservation of their lifestyle, a blind academia that has forgotten how to critique authority, and a government that is nothing more than the puppet of corporations. Meanwhile, mindless entertainments and a compliant news media divert and mislead the working and middle classes so they don't even notice that they are being raped to death by the power-elite and the corporations.
(Don't misunderstand. This is no crack-pot conspiracy theory. It's not about secret quasi-mystical cabals attempting world domination. Rather, Hedges paints a credible picture of our culture in a state of moral and intellectual decay, and leaders corrupted by power and greed who have ceased to act in the public interest.)
At times Hedges seems to be ranting and accusing without providing evidence or examples to substantiate his claims. But that might only be because his claims have already been substantiated individually elsewhere, and Hedges's purpose here is a kind of grand synthesis of many critical ideas. Indeed, an exhaustive analysis of all the issues he brings forth would require volumes rather than a single book. In any case, I challenge anyone to read this book, look around honestly at what's happening in America, and conclude that Hedges is wrong.
One final note: this book is not for the squeamish. The chapter about pornography is brutally explicit. Still, I think it is an important book, and it would be good if a lot more people would read it, discuss it, and thereby become dis-illusioned.
Corporations will continue to have a presence and set standards within the halls of educational and governmental institutions with impunity. Limited monetary measures, other than governmental, exist for public educational institutions, both secondary and post-secondary. Historically, Roman and Greek political elitists operated in a similar manner and may have set standards for today's plutocracy. Plebeian societies were helpless and powerless, with few options, to enact change against the political establishment. Given the current conditions, America is on a downward spiral to chaos.
His book is a clarion call for action. Parents and teachers have warned repeatedly that too much emphasis is placed on athletic programs at the expense of academics. Educational panels, books and other experts have done little to reform the system and its intransigent administrators.
Today's illusionary and corrupted officials, corporate and government, are reminiscent of the narratives penned by Charles Dickens. Alexander Hamilton referred to the masses as a "great beast" to be kept from the powers of government. Edmund Burke used propaganda to control "elements of society". Walter Lippmann advised that "the public must be kept in its place". Yet, many Americans just don't get it. They continue to be hood-winked by politicians using uncontested "sound bites" and "racially-coded" phrases to persuade voters. Divide and conquer is the mantra--rich vs. poor; black vs. white. According to Norm Chomsky's writings, "In 1934, William Shepard argued that government should be in the hands of `aristocracy and intellectual power' while the `ignorant, and the uninformed and the antisocial element' must not be permitted to control elections...."
The appalling statistics and opinions outlined in the book demonstrate the public ignorance of the American culture; the depth and extent of the corporatocracy and the related economic malaise; and, the impact substandard schools have on their lives. This is further exemplified by Jay Leno's version of "Jaywalking". On the streets, he randomly selects passersby to interview, which seems to validate much of these charges.
We are all culpable. We are further susceptible to illusions. John Locke said, "Government receives its just powers from the consent of the governed". This idea was recently usurped by the U.S. Supreme Court where representative government is called to question, rendering "our" consent irrelevant. Every voting election is an illusion. Each election, at the local and national level, voters never seemingly "miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity" to eliminate irresponsible and unresponsive officials.
Walt Kelly's quote "We have met the enemy and he is us" prevails!