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Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle by Chris Hedges
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“We’ve bought into the idea that education is about training and “success”, defined monetarily, rather than learning to think critically and to challenge. We should not forget that the true purpose of education is to make minds, not careers. A culture that does not grasp the vital interplay between morality and power, which mistakes management techniques for wisdom, which fails to understand that the measure of a civilization is its compassion, not its speed or ability to consume, condemns itself to death.”
Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
“A culture that does not grasp the vital interplay between morality and power, which mistakes management techniques for wisdom, and fails to understand that the measure of a civilization is its compassion, not its speed or ability to consume, condemns itself to death.”
Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
“Sadism dominates the culture. It runs like an electric current through reality television and trash-talk programs, is at the core of pornography, and fuels the compliant, corporate collective. Corporatism is about crushing the capacity for moral choice and diminishing the individual to force him or her into an ostensibly harmonious collective. This hypermasculinity has its logical fruition in Abu Ghraib, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and our lack of compassion for our homeless, our poor, the mentally ill, the unemployed, and the sick. ... We accept the system handed to us and seek to find a comfortable place within it. We retreat into the narrow, confined ghettos created for us and shut our eyes to the deadly superstructure of the corporate state.”
Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
“Inverted totalitarianism, unlike classical totalitarianism, does not revolve around a demagogue or charismatic leader. It finds expression in the anonymity of the Corporate State. It purports to cherish democracy, patriotism, and the Constitution while manipulating internal levers.”
Chris Hedges , Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
“The words consent of the governed have become an empty phrase. Our textbooks on political science and economics are obsolete. Our nation has been hijacked by oligarchs, corporations, and a narrow, selfish, political, and economic elite, a small and privileged group that governs, and often steals, on behalf of moneyed interests. This elite, in the name of patriotism and democracy, in the name of all the values that were once part of the American system and defined the Protestant work ethic, has systematically destroyed our manufacturing sector, looted the treasury, corrupted our democracy, and trashed the financial system. During this plundering we remained passive, mesmerized by the enticing shadows on the wall, assured our tickets to success, prosperity, and happiness were waiting around the corner.”
Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
“The porn films are not about sex. Sex is airbrushed and digitally washed out of the films. There is no acting because none of the women are permitted to have what amounts to a personality. The one emotion they are allowed to display is an unquenchable desire to satisfy men, especially if that desire involves the women’s physical and emotional degradation. The lightning in the films is harsh and clinical. Pubic hair is shaved off to give the women the look of young girls or rubber dolls. Porn, which advertises itself as sex, is a bizarre, bleached pantomime of sex. The acts onscreen are beyond human endurance. The scenarios are absurd. The manicured and groomed bodies, the huge artificial breasts, the pouting oversized lips, the erections that never go down, and the sculpted bodies are unreal. Makeup and production mask blemishes. There are no beads of sweat, no wrinkle lines, no human imperfections. Sex is reduced to a narrow spectrum of sterilized dimensions. It does not include the dank smell of human bodies, the thump of a pulse, taste, breath—or tenderness. Those in films are puppets, packaged female commodities. They have no honest emotion, are devoid of authentic human beauty, and resemble plastic. Pornography does not promote sex, if one defines sex as a shared act between two partners. It promotes masturbation. It promotes the solitary auto-arousal that precludes intimacy and love. Pornography is about getting yourself off at someone else’s expense.”
Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
“Washington has become our Versailles. We are ruled, entertained, and informed by courtiers -- and the media has evolved into a class of courtiers. The Democrats, like the Republicans, are mostly courtiers. Our pundits and experts, at least those with prominent public platforms, are courtiers. We are captivated by the hollow stagecraft of political theater as we are ruthlessly stripped of power. It is smoke and mirrors, tricks and con games, and the purpose behind it is deception.”
Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
“Most of these students are so conditioned to success that they become afraid to take risks. They have been taught from a young age by zealous parents, schools, and institutional authorities what constitutes failure and success. They are socialized to obey. They obsess over grades and seek to please professors, even if what professors teach is fatuous. The point is to get ahead, and getting ahead means deference to authority. Challenging authority is never a career advancer.”
Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
“Ironically, the universities have trained hundreds of thousands of graduates for jobs that soon will not exist. They have trained people to maintain a structure that cannot be maintained. The elite as well as those equipped with narrow, specialized vocational skills, know only how to feed the beast until it dies. Once it is dead, they will be helpless. Don’t expect them to save us. They do not even know how to ask the questions, And when it all collapses, when our rotten financial system with its trillions in worthless assets implode and our imperial wars end in humiliation and defeat, the power elite will be exposed as being as helpless, and as self-deluded, as the rest of us.”
Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
“The moral nihilism of celebrity culture is played out on reality television shows, most of which encourage a dark voyeurism into other people's humiliation, pain, weakness, and betrayal.”
Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
“In The Republic, Plato imagines human beings chained for the duration of their lives in an underground cave, knowing nothing but darkness. Their gaze is confined to the cave wall, upon which shadows of the world are thrown. They believe these flickering shadows are reality. If, Plato writes, one of these prisoners is freed and brought into the sunlight, he sill suffer great pain. Blinded by the glare, he is unable to seeing anything and longs for the familiar darkness. But eventually his eyes adjust to the light. The illusion of the tiny shadows is obliterated. He confronts the immensity, chaos, and confusion of reality. The world is no longer drawn in simple silhouettes. But he is despised when he returns to the cave. He is unable to see in the dark as he used to. Those who never left the cave ridicule him and swear never to go into the light lest they be blinded as well.”
Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
“The assault on education began more than a century ago by industrialists and capitalists such as Andrew Carnegie. In 1891, Carnegie congratulated the graduates of the Pierce College of Business for being “fully occupied in obtaining a knowledge of shorthand and typewriting” rather than wasting time “upon dead languages.” The industrialist Richard Teller Crane was even more pointed in his 1911 dismissal of what humanists call the “life of the mind.” No one who has “a taste for literature has a right to be happy” because “the only men entitled to happiness… is those who are useful.” The arrival of industrialists on university boards of trustees began as early as the 1870s and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business offered the first academic credential in business administration in 1881. The capitalists, from the start, complained that universities were unprofitable. These early twentieth century capitalists, like heads of investment houses and hedge-fund managers, were, as Donoghue writes “motivated by an ethically based anti-intellectualism that transcended interest in the financial bottom line. Their distrust of the ideal of intellectual inquiry for its own sake, led them to insist that if universities were to be preserved at all, they must operate on a different set of principles from those governing the liberal arts.”
Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
“For Socrates, all virtues were forms of knowledge. To train someone to manage an account for Goldman Sachs is to educate him or her in a skill. To train them to debate stoic, existential, theological, and humanist ways of grappling with reality is to educate them in values and morals. A culture that does not grasp the vital interplay between morality and power, which mistakes management techniques for wisdom, which fails to understand that the measure of a civilization is its compassion, not its speed or ability to consume, condemns itself to death. Morality is the product of a civilization, but the elites know little of these traditions. They are products of a moral void. They lack clarity about themselves and their culture. They can fathom only their own personal troubles. They do not see their own bases or the causes of their own frustrations. They are blind to the gaping inadequacies in our economic, social, and political structure and do not grasp that these structures, which they have been taught to serve, must be radically modified or even abolished to stave off disaster. They have been rendered mute and ineffectual. “What we cannot speak about” Ludwig Wittgenstein warned “we must pass over in silence.”
Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
“As porn has gone mainstream, ushered two decades ago into middle-class living rooms and dens with VCRs and now available on the Internet, it has devolved into an open fusion of physical abuse and sex, of extreme violence, horrible acts of degradation against women with an increasingly twisted eroticism. Porn has always primarily involved the eroticization of unlimited male power, but today it also involves the expression of male power through the physical abuse, even torture, of women. Porn reflects the endemic cruelty of our society. This is a society that does not blink when the industrial slaughter unleashed by the United States and its allies kills hundreds of civilians in Gaza or hundreds of thousands of innocents in Iraq and Afghanistan. Porn reflects back the cruelty of a culture that tosses its mentally ill on the street, warehouses more than 2 million people in prisons, denies health care to tens of millions of the poor, champions gun ownership over gun control, and trumpets an obnoxious and super patriotic nationalism and rapacious corporate capitalism. The violence, cruelty, and degradation of porn are expressions of a society that has lost the capacity for empathy.”
Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
“The women in porn plead to be abused. They call themselves whores and sluts. They are beaten and penetrated by groups of men. Their faces are covered with semen from dozens of masturbating men, their anuses are penetrated repeatedly by lines of partners, and they are raped. The women portrayed in the films exist to fulfill the desire of men in the most degrading and painful way possible. Nearly all porn dialogue includes lines from women such as I am a cunt, I am a bitch. I am a whore. I am a slut.”
Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
“The cult of self dominates our cultural landscape. This cult has within it the classic traits of psychopaths: superficial charm, grandiosity, and self-importance; a need for constant stimulation, a penchant for lying, deception, and manipulation, and the inability to feel remorse or guilt. This is, of course, the ethic promoted by corporations. It is the ethic of unfettered capitalism. It is the misguided belief that personal style and personal advancement, mistaken for individualism, are the same as democratic equality. In fact, personal style, defined by the commodities we buy or consume, has become a compensation for our loss of democratic equality. We have a right, in the cult of the self, to get whatever we desire. We can do anything, even belittle and destroy those around us, including our friends, to make money, to be happy, and to become famous. Once fame and wealth are achieved, they become their own justification, their own morality. How one gets there is irrelevant. Once you get there, those questions are no longer asked.”
Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
“Here, in the land of happy thoughts, there are no gross injustices, no abuses of authority, no economic and political systems to challenge, and no reason to complain. Here, we are all happy.”
Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
“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 ask to be indulged and comforted by clichés, stereotypes, and inspirational messages that tell us we can be whoever we seek to be, that we live in the greatest country on earth, that we are endowed with superior moral and physical qualities, and that our future will always be glorious”
Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
“Women, porn assets, whether they know it or not, are objects They are whores. These whores deserve to be dominated and abused. And once men have had their way with them, these whores are to be discarded. Porn glorifies the cruelty and domination of sexual exploitation in the same way popular culture, as Jensen points out, glorifies the domination and cruelty of war. It is the same disease. It is the belief that “because I have the ability to use force and control to make others do as I please, I have the right to use this force and control.” It is the disease of corporate and imperial power. It extinguishes the sacred and the human to worship power, control, force, and pain. It replaces empathy, eros, and compassion with the illusion that we are gods. Porn is the glittering façade, like the casinos and resorts of Las Vegas, like the rest of the fantasy that is America, of a culture seduced by death.”
Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
“The wild pursuit of status and wealth has destroyed our souls and our economy. Families live in sprawling mansions financed with mortgages they can no longer repay. Consumers recklessly rang up Coach handbags and Manolo Blahnik shoes on credit cards because they seemed to confer a sense of identity and merit. Our favorite hobby, besides television, used to be, until reality hit us like a tsunami, shopping. Shopping used to be the compensation for spending five days a week in tiny cubicles. American workers are ground down by corporations that have disempowered them, used them, and have now discarded them”
Chris Hedges , Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
“We live in imaginary, virtual worlds created by corporations that profit from our deception.”
Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
“People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster. —JAMES BALDWIN”
Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
“Those who suffer from historical amnesia, the belief that we are unique in history and have nothing to learn from the past, remain children. They live in an illusion.”
Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
“the property that grounded the self in Romanticism was sincerity, and in modernism was authenticity, then in postmod ernism it is visibility.10”
Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
“Premda zvuči kao ironija, ali činjenica je da su sveučilišta stotine tisuća ljudi obučila za poslove koji će uskoro jednostavno nestati.Obučila su ljude da održavaju ustroj koji se ne može održati. Elita, jednako kao i oni koji su stekli uske, specijalizirane, gotovo zanatske vještine, znaju jedino kako hraniti zvijer sve dok ne umre. A, kad jednom umre, ostat će bespomoćni. Ne očekujte da će nas spasiti. Ne znaju kako. Ne znaju čak ni kako postavljati valjana pitanja. A kad se sve uruši, kad naš truli financijski sustav s tim tisućama milijardi bezvrijedne aktive doživi imploziju i naši imperijalni ratovi završe poniženjem i porazom, elita moćnika razotkrit će se kao bespomoćna i samozaluđena jednako kao i svi mi ostali.”
Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
“When times are not so prosperous, we think at least our successful career will save us and our families from failure and despair. We are attracted, against our skepticism, to the idea that poverty will be alleviated by the crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table. . . . Some of us often feel, and most of us sometimes feel, that we are only someone if we have made it: can look down on those who have not. The American dream is often a very private dream of being a star, the uniquely successful and admirable one, the one who stands out from the crowd of ordinary folk, who don’t know how. And since we have believed in that dream for a long time and worked very hard to make it come true, it is hard for us to give it up, even though it contradicts another dream that we have—that of living in a society that would really be worth living in.”3”
Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
“A furious and sustained backlash by a betrayed and angry populace, one unprepared intellectually and psychologically for collapse, will sweep aside the Democrats and most of the Republicans. A cabal of proto-fascist misfits, from Christian demagogues to simpletons like Sarah Palin to loudmouth talk-show hosts, whom we naïvely dismiss as buffoons, will find a following with promises of revenge and moral renewal. The elites, the ones with their Harvard Business School degrees and expensive vocabularies, will retreat into their sheltered enclaves of privilege and comfort.”
Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
“The rage bubbling up from our impoverished and disenfranchised working class presages a looming and dangerous right-wing backlash. I spent two years traveling the country to write a book on the Christian Right called American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. I visited former manufacturing towns where for many the end of the world is no longer an abstraction. They have lost hope. Fear and instability have plunged the working classes into profound personal and economic despair, and, not surprisingly, into the arms of the demagogues and charlatans of the radical Christian Right who offer a belief in magic, miracles, and the fiction of a utopian Christian nation. And unless we rapidly re-enfranchise our dispossessed workers into the economy, unless we give them hope, our democracy is doomed.”
Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
“Pozitivistička psihologija, poput celebrity kulture, nezadrživ nagon da se kupuje i privlačnosti masovne zabave kao sredstva odvraćanja pozornosti, pothranjuje se osjećajem nesretnosti što ga izaziva izolacija i gubitak osjećaja zajedništva. Korporativistička postavka kako se sreća može pronaći kroz prilagodbu i podčinjavanje korporativnoj kulturi okrutan je trik zato što upravo korporativna kultura podržava i hrani u ljudi tu veliku boleštinu i odvojenost od stvarnog kao obilježje kulture opsjene.”
Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
“Što se više udaljavamo i raskidamo veze sa svijetom pismenosti, svijetom napisane riječi, svijetom složenosti i nijanse, svijetom ideja i pojmova i zamjenjujemo ga oku ugodnim, umirujućiim slikama, fantazijama, sloganima, celebrityjima, pohlepom za nasiljem, to smo sve bliži urušavanju i imploziji. Kako nastavljamo propadati, a patnje nam narastaju, poput ljubitelja hrvačkih spektakla što se organiziraju u sklopu World Wresting Entertainmenta, ili ljudi što brkaju pornografiju s ljubavlju, počinjemo žudjeti za ugodom, umirenjem i ljepotom opsjene. Opsjene u nama bude osjećaj ugode. To postaje naša stvarnost.”
Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle

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