Friday, July 31, 2009

Think About It

I'm a Cassandra and I know it. I write a lot about the decay in our institutions, the rot in our leadership and the environmental and ecological cataclysm that's descending on us from so many directions.

One of my favourite contemporary chroniclers, Chris Hedges, explains how we will be paying dearly for a society in self-delusion. Think about it:

The childish idea that we can always prevail, that reality is never an impediment to what we want, is the central motif of illusion peddled on popular talk shows, by the Christian Right, by Hollywood, in corporate retreats, by the news industry and by self-help gurus. Reality can always be overcome. The future will always be glorious. And held out to keep us amused and entertained are spectacles and celebrities who have become idealized versions of ourselves and who, we are assured, we can all one day become.

The cultural embrace of illusion, and the celebrity culture that has risen up around it, have accompanied the awful hollowing out of the state. We have shifted from a culture of production to a culture of consumption. We have been sold a system of casino capitalism, with its complicated and unregulated deals of turning debt into magical assets, to create fictional wealth for us and vast wealth for our elite. We have internalized the awful ethic of corporatism -- one built around the cult of the self and consumption as an inner compulsion -- to believe that living is about our own advancement and our own happiness at the expense of others. Corporations, behind the smoke screen, have ruthlessly dismantled and destroyed our manufacturing base and impoverished our working class. The free market became our god and government was taken hostage by corporations, the same corporations that entice us daily with illusions though the mass media, the entertainment industry and popular culture.

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 and a celebration of violence the more we implode. We ask, like the wrestling fans or those who confuse love with pornography, to be fed lies. We demand lies. The skillfully manufactured images and slogans that flood the airwaves and infect our political discourse mask reality. And we do not protest. The lonely Cassandras who speak the truth about our misguided imperial wars, the global economic meltdown and the imminent danger of multiple pollutions that are destroying the eco-system that sustains the human species, are drowned out by arenas full of fans chanting "Slut! Slut! Slut!" or television audiences chanting "Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry!" 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.


LMA said...

Denial is a defense mechanism we all use when reality becomes too painfull and overwhelming. That's why Obama's message "yes we can" was so powerfull. We need more leaders who have the courage to tell people they have to make sacrifices to overcome the problems the world faces, i.e., show us a better way.

The Mound of Sound said...

I don't know that we can rely on our leaders to effect the sea change in public perception and attitudes we so badly need. This may be one of those extremely rare, one in a lifetime situations where the public will have to lead, even stampede our leaders into pulling those levers of power we've placed in their hands.