Friday, August 20, 2010

A Passage From "Empire of Illusion"

I am reading an excellent and exceptional book right now called "Empire of Illusion", by Chris Hedges.  This is a nonfiction book that covers our descent as a culture into a state of illusion.  Hedges shows us some of the mechanisms and devices that are used to distract us from the collapse that is occuring all around us.  I really want to talk about this book more once I finish it (I'm around two-thirds through it now, and I've only been reading it since yesterday).  Anyway, I just wanted to provide a passage from the book that I found especially compelling and that which I find myself thinking about, and discussing on the blog often.  It's in the chapter "The Illusion of Wisdom".  In advance, my apologies to Mr. Hedges if I am giving out more than what is appropriate. 

"Obama is a product of this elitist system.  So are his degree-laden cabinet members.  They come out of Harvard, Yale, Wellesley, and Princeton.  Their friends and classmates made huge fortunes on Wall Street and in powerful law firms.  They go to the same class reunions.  They belong to the same clubs.  They speak the same easy language of privilege, comfort, and entitlement.  The education they have obtained has served to rigidify and perpetuate social stratification.  These elite schools prevent...the 'best selves' in the various strata in our culture from communicating across class lines.  Our power elite has a blind belief in a decaying political and financial system that has nurtured, enriched, and empowered it.  But the elite cannot solve our problems.  It has been trained only to find solutions, such as paying out trillions of dollars of taxpayer money to bail out banks and financial firms, to sustain a dead system.  The elite, and those who work for them, were never taught how to question the assumptions of their age.  The socially important knowledge and cultural ideas embodied in history, literature, philosophy, and religion, which are at their core subversive and threatening to authority, have been banished from public discourse."

This last paragraph of the chapter particularly rings true. 

"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 don't know how.  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 implodes 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." 

Copyright 2009 by Chris Hedges.  Published by Nation Books.

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