Chris Hedges’ Empire of Illusion

Over the Spring Break, I reread Chris Hedges Empire of Illusion. This truth teller delivers a knockout blow to those living in their illusions:

We are a culture that has been denied, or has passively given up, the linguistic and intellectual tools to cope with complexity, to separate illusion from reality. We have traded the printed word for the gleaming image. Public rhetoric is designed to be comprehensible to a 10 year old or an adult with a sixth grade reading ability.

An image based culture communicates through narratives, pictures, and pseudo-drama. Scandalous affairs, hurricanes, untimely deaths, train wrecks–these events play well on computer screens and television. International diplomacy, labor union negotiations, and convoluted bailout packages do not yield exciting personal narratives or stimulating images. In an age of images and entertainment, in an age of instant emotional gratification, we neither seek nor want honesty or reality. Reality is complicated. Reality is boring. We are incapable or unwilling to handle its confusion….We become trapped in the linguistic prison of incessant repetition. We are fed words and phrases like war on terror or pro-life or change, and within these narrow parameters, all complex thought, ambiguity, and self-criticism vanish.


The only question, the self interrogation that is necessary, is “What can I do about this before it is too late?”


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