Empire Of Illusion - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Empire Of Illusion

Empire Of Illusion

Published January 18, 2015

Biggi Veira, musician, GusGus

Biggi Veira, musician, GusGus

I read an interesting book last year, Chris Hedges’ ‘Empire of Illusion: The End Of Literacy And The Triumph Of Spectacle’. Even though it’s focused on U.S. affairs and realities, I found it corresponded with developments in Iceland and our current government’s policies to the point of discomfort.

Chris depicts a world where demagoguery and stupidity have conquered, where the education system aims only at producing a malleable workforce, where the media has been commandeered by the ruling classes and has abandoned any pretence of keeping the authorities in check and speaking truth to power, instead wholly devoted to providing braindead entertainment and propagating a distorted worldview in the service of its owners. On the surface, the public has little to complain about, as it now resides entirely on the surface level. The public is intellectually castrated, completely assimilated to economic models where it plays the role of subservient workforce in service of the elites.

Ideology is dead. Democracy is an illusion. Critical thinking has been deemed impractical and unprofitable, entirely abandoned by educational institutions. Scholars’ focus is so narrow and localized that any kind of ethical or contextual overview is all but impossible. The media’s role as a Fourth Estate has evaporated, as the public is uninterested in—and unable to comprehend—anything beyond sports and vapid entertainment.

Chris Hedges seems uninterested in finding reasons for optimism. Rather, he delves into the blackest night of a future that is already deeply rooted in modern-day America. In the end, he attempts to console us with a single paragraph, citing humankind’s deeper natures.

Especially interesting to me was a chapter entitled “The Illusion Of Happiness,” which revolves around corporations’ attempts to quell any negativity or attempts at critical thinking amongst their employees.

I detect similar sentiments in Iceland. From our president, from our Prime Minister, from the bishop, and from others. “Negativity is so boring, so tiring, so 2009, it doesn’t contribute and provides no opportunity.”

I disagree. It’s true that negativity isn’t constructive in nature, but for people who foster no particular vision of what they desire, determining what one doesn’t want is a great starting point. And for me, the reality that Chris depicts—that grim future that’s currently gaining a foothold—is the opposite of what I desire, for myself, for my friends and for my descendants. I suspect that most people would agree.

This leaves us with the question of how we can collectively work against going there, what concrete actions we can take to veer off that path.

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