Monday, August 1, 2011

Empire of illusion: The end of literacy and the triumph of spectacle

By Chris Hedges

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

When I find a book that challenges me to think and question, I want to shout about it to the world.  This is, indeed, one of those books.  It’s far more than that, however, for it clearly illustrates how fantasy, illusion, and escapism infuse our society, economy, and political system as one reviewer noted.  It doesn’t require a stretch to accept his observations; if you are a media user and an observer of popular culture, you will easily (and readily) confirm what he writes.

Chris Hedges is a terrific writer, and the material he writes about here (literacy, love, wisdom, happiness, and America) closely relate to all of us.  This is one of those “must read” books that will not only capture your imagination but will dwell in your thoughts long after you put this book down.

I thought his selection of subjects was excellent, his use of other thinkers and writers for support of his observations was outstanding, and his obvious reporter skills for precision and accuracy were well demonstrated.  Yes, it is “gloom and doom”; however, I truly believe that he is on the right track.  He does not set out to solve the problems he details, nor is he into “future gazing.”  He simply and methodically reports — as a competent reporter should.  And what he writes about, whether it is pro-wrestling, the porn industry, celebrity culture, or the dumbing down (corporate takeover) of higher education (and “the military-industrial-academic complex” (p. 91), is not just engaging, it overwhelms the senses.

He writes in Chapter 5, “The Illusion of America”: “At no period in American history has our democracy been in such peril or the possibility of totalitarianism as real.  Our way of life is over.  Our profligate consumption is finished.  Our children will never have the standard of living we had.  This is the bleak future.  This is reality.  There is little President Obama can do to stop it.  It has been decades in the making.  It cannot be undone with $1 trillion or $2 trillion in bailout money.  Nor will it be solved by clinging to the illusions of the past” (p. 145).

This is an important book, and as I said at the outset of this review, it is truly a “must read” for everyone.  We live in a time where spectacle triumphs!

This book can be found at Empire of Illusion: The end of literacy and the triumph of spectacle

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