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Thread: American Irrationalism - Chris Hedges

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    Default American Irrationalism - Chris Hedges

    American Irrationalism

    By Chris Hedges

    From Truthdig

    The false values of reality TV have been carried over into the current presidential race. Shown here, Donald Trump on 'The Apprentice.'

    There is no shortage of signs of impending environmental catastrophe, including the melting of the polar ice caps and the rise of atmospheric carbon to above 400 parts per million. The earth's sixth mass extinction is underway. It is not taking place because of planetary forces. Homo sapiens are orchestrating it.
    Americans are at the same time bankrupting ourselves by waging endless and unwinnable wars. We have allowed our elites to push more than half the U.S. population into poverty through deindustrialization. We do nothing to halt the waves of nihilistic violence by enraged citizens who carry out periodic mass shootings in schools, malls, movie theaters and other public places.
    The political and financial elites flaunt their greed and corruption. Donald Trump appears to pay no federal income taxes. Hillary and Bill Clinton use their foundation as a tool for legalized bribery. Our largest corporations have orchestrated a legal tax boycott. The judicial system is a subsidiary of the corporate state. Militarized police conduct public executions of unarmed people of color. Our infrastructure, including our schools, roads and bridges, along with our deindustrialized cities, are in ruins. Decay and rot -- physical and moral -- are pervasive.
    We are blinded to our depressing reality by the avalanche of images disseminated by mass media. Political, intellectual and cultural discourse has been replaced with spectacle. Emotionalism and sensationalism are prized over truth. Highly paid pundits who parrot back the official narrative, corporate advertisers, inane talk shows, violent or sexually explicit entertainment and gossip-fueled news have contaminated cultural life. "Reality" television, as contrived as every other form of mass entertainment, has produced a "reality" presidential candidate.
    Mass culture, because it speaks to us in easily digestible cliche's and stereotypes, reinforces ignorance, bigotry and racism. It promotes our individual and collective self-glorification. It sanctifies nonexistent national virtues. It takes from us the intellectual and linguistic tools needed to separate illusion from truth. It is all show business all the time.
    There are hundreds of millions of Americans who know that something is terribly wrong. A light has gone out. They see this in their own suffering and hopelessness and the suffering and hopelessness of their neighbors. But they lack, because of the contamination of our political, cultural and intellectual discourse, the words and ideas to make sense of what is happening around them. They are bereft of a vision. Austerity, globalization, unfettered capitalism, an expansion of the extraction of fossil fuels, and war are not the prices to be paid for progress and the advance of civilization. They are part of the savage and deadly exploitation by corporate capitalism and imperialism. They serve a neoliberal ideology. The elites dare not speak this truth. It is toxic. They peddle the seductive illusions that saturate the airwaves. We are left to strike out at shadows. We are led to succumb to the racism, allure of white supremacy and bigotry that always accompany a culture in dissolution.
    We cannot, for this reason, discount the possibility that Trump will be elected president. The election outcome will be decided by whatever emotion Americans feel when they cast their ballots.
    Celebrity narratives, manufactured pseudo-drama, sex scandals, natural disasters, insults and invective, mass shootings and war flash before us in a constant jumble of images on ubiquitous screens. The sensory assault obliterates reality. A former congressman who sends a picture of himself in underwear to a woman is a national news story. Sober examinations of our economic, foreign, judicial and environmental policies are dismissed as too complicated and boring. They do not produce engaging images. The electronic media's sole goal is to attract viewers and advertising dollars. It has conditioned us to demand a nonstop vaudeville act.
    Because of this mass indoctrination, we have become infected by what Daniel Boorstin in "The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America" calls "social narcissism." The bottomless narcissism of Trump and the Clintons caters to this social narcissism. They reflect back to us our desperate longing for, as well as celebration of, entertainment, celebrity, wealth, power and self-aggrandizement. It is not only advertising and public relations, as Boorstin pointed out, that carry out the incessant manufacturing of illusions that feed social narcissism.
    Journalists, book publishers, politicians, athletes, entertainers, positive psychologists, self-help gurus, the Christian right and talk show hosts all feed the mania for illusion. They all chant the insane mantra that reality is never an impediment to what we desire. We can have anything we want if we work hard, get an education, believe in ourselves, grasp that we are exceptional and see the impossible as always possible. It is magical thinking. And magical thinking is the only real commodity the elites have left offer to us. Make American Great Again. Or American already is great. Take your pick of idiotic cliche's.
    "We tyrannize and frustrate ourselves by expecting more than the world can give us or than we can make of the world," Boorstin wrote. "We demand that everyone who talks to us, or writes for us, or takes pictures for us, or makes merchandise for us, should live in our world of extravagant expectations. We expect this even of the peoples of foreign countries. We have become so accustomed to our illusions that we mistake them for reality. We demand them. And we demand that there be always more of them, bigger and better and more vivid."
    The incessant search for instant gratification and the most appealing image, including the image of ourselves we manufacture for others on social media, has robbed us of the ability to examine ourselves and our society. It has extinguished the truth. The terminal decline of the American empire, the utter inability of our elites to manage anything important, the climate crisis, widespread poverty and despair do not fit with the illusion. So these realities are blotted from public consciousness. The poor are rendered invisible. The foreign policy debacles will be fixed with more bombs. Only the Soviet and fascist dictatorships, along with the medieval Catholic Church, controlled thought as effectively.
    Candidates Trump and Clinton have no plans to halt our slide to oblivion. They are part of the circus. They, like all of the other elites, profit from the system that is destroying us. They lack the incentive and probably the capacity to challenge the structures and assumptions that define corporate capitalism. They function as high priests. They peddle the illusions. They laud our ingenuity and strength. They preach the inevitability of human progress and American exceptionalism. They tell us what we want to hear. They appeal to our emotions, as does all of mass culture. They do not acknowledge reality. That would spoil the show.
    We vote for slogans, manufactured personalities, perceived sincerity, personal attractiveness and the crafted personal narratives peddled by candidates. Office seekers create the illusion of intimacy established between celebrities and their audiences. We see ourselves in them; admirers of the "winner" Trump see themselves as becoming him. No politician succeeds without such artifice. Today's politics is just one more product of a diseased culture. Our political leaders are much like the celebrities who, in Boorstin's words, "are receptacles into which we pour our own purposelessness. They are nothing but ourselves seen in a magnifying mirror."

    The quest for identity through mass culture is self-defeating. We can never achieve what these illusions tell us we can achieve. We can never be who we want to be. It is a ceaseless chase from one chimera to the next. And this is why at the end we fall into despair and rage. It is why huge parts of the country no longer hold genuine political ideas. It is why people vote according to how they feel. It is why hatred and fear are a potent political platform. It is why we are sleepwalking into oblivion.
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

  2. #2

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    A powerful essay.
    The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.
    Carl Jung - Aion (1951). CW 9, Part II: P.14

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    Default somewhat on the same theme....i.e., we're at the edge of the abyss and time is all but out!


    We Are The Means By Which The Oligarchs Stay In Power: We Are Not Innocent.

    By Arlan Ebel

    Survivor of Andersonville Prison
    (image by unknown)
    The Internet is overflowingwith evidence of the love people have for seeing themselves as innocent victimsof oligarchy. We love to soothe ourselves with the image of smiling doe-eyeddumbness as innocence. But it is just ignorance and ignorance is not innocence;it is just the condition of not yet being conscious of reality. Jesus didn'tsay we needed to be innocent as doves. He said we needed to be innocent as dovesand wise as serpents. Please reflecton what a severe demand this actually is. It means you are required to bothlook reality straight in the face and not flinch into compromising evil. Wisdomis a road of glowing coals and it is the road before bare-footed us. Realinnocence is what allows you to endure the road of your wisdom. Reality is severeand it always spews out the tepid and lukewarm. It always spews out ignoranceand fear. The gates of paradise are narrow and fiery and the soft fat boys andgirls can't get through and will get severely burned.
    So I have a question. Do youreally believe in, or rather know, the truth-reality of yourrebellion? Do you really know that even if the enemies of truth lay you down indeath that your truth will live on? And if you don't know this then do youreally have anything to stand on but the most flimsy hope?
    And if you don't know this thenhow do you come to know it? That is the crucial question because without this youcan never be anything other than doe-eyed dumbness doomed to melt in thefurnace of the real world.
    I once had a conversation witha long-time acquaintance about a certain concrete-lined building in a Naziconcentration camp that was literally stuffed with people who were left thereto starve to death. Of course we talked about what these people might do toeach other as they went psychotic on their way to starvation. Gruesome, to saythe least. Downright terrifying. And the Nazi guards and officers made surethat the prisoners who had not yet been stuffed into this building knew exactlywhat was going on with this building. This awareness was used as a means ofcoercing information from people. Cooperate and tell us something or your bodywill be added to the starvation blob in the building. My acquaintance admittedthat he wasn't sure if he would have the 'balls' to refuse cooperation. "I ain'tgoin' in there."
    But of course we know that sucha building could never exist in the USA. We are, as a people, simply beyondsuch a possibility. We can do genocide on dumb Native Americans and leave thesurvivors to rot away on the margins of society and we can lynch n---ers, setthem on fire, drive nails into their skulls, but a white American would neverforce another white American in a starvation-hell building. All those storiesand photos of the 'atrocities' at Fort Sumter-Andersonville Prison are probablyjust Russian propaganda because we are, after all, the greatest country thathas ever existed on this planet.
    What is it going to take for usto finally drop the pretenses, drop the games, drop the BS, drop the denial andfinally look ourselves straight in the face and admit that we are not innocentdoves and that we are not on the road of wisdom, but once again on the road tothe nightmare building?
    Some people are going to haveto pay the ultimate price, but everyone is going to have to pay some price. Andit has to start now. It begins with you giving every day of your life tofinding real ways of standing up to the web of oligarch evil and being willingto carry it out and accept the consequences. It begins with making it clear toeveryone that you know where you stand and where you will not be moved from.The only real protection you have is your loyalty to truth and whatever friendsare willing to stand with you. If the day comes when the nightmare building issuddenly in view, all the excuses and the apologies and the tears won't mean athing. The only thing that means anything is what we become and what we do now.
    If I had the occasion to put abullet in the skull of any particular Power-Vampire presently in operation andsucceeded in doing so, it wouldn't do anything meaningful. He or she wouldsimply be replaced and I would be executed as psychotic traitor or in hidingfor the rest of my life. What we need are masses of conscious people in the livingprocess of dismantling the system. And this cannot be done without hugesacrifices. We have to be brave enough, wise enough, and innocent enough tomake it through the perilous gap between the old world and the new one. Butwhat specifically do we do? This is what we should be seriously andrelentlessly discussing because anything else is not only a waste of time, itis more steps down the wrong road. Please help to start this discussion.
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Lemkin View Post

    What is it going to take for usto finally drop the pretenses, drop the games, drop the BS, drop the denial and finally look ourselves straight in the face and admit that we are not innocent doves and that we are not on the road of wisdom, but once again on the road to the nightmare building?
    Oh yes.
    The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.
    Carl Jung - Aion (1951). CW 9, Part II: P.14

  5. #5

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    It* won't be long now unless radical movements challenge the entire rotten system and build an alternative one. The system is too rotten, IMO, to be reformed. This can be done peacefully, but it takes awareness and action and at the moment both are missing in large supply.

    *End of Empire and what passes for civilization
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Lemkin View Post
    It* won't be long now unless radical movements challenge the entire rotten system and build an alternative one. The system is too rotten, IMO, to be reformed. This can be done peacefully, but it takes awareness and action and at the moment both are missing in large supply.

    *End of Empire and what passes for civilization
    I get this ref frequently -radical, as of recently. It's bullshit, the whole sentiment's bullshit. There's fuck all u can do 'against' these ppl - they're inside your heads, & are a marching verbande of basketcases. ‘Google has power to control elections, can shift millions of votes to Clinton’ – Robert Epstein - Published time: 1 Nov, 2016 03:51

    Look at that moronic 'Parker' bollocks. It's like a self-indulgent ju-ju for the happily gullible.
    [SIZE=1]Martin Luther King - "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
    Albert Camus - "The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion".
    Douglas MacArthur — "Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword obviously never encountered automatic weapons."
    Albert Camus - "Nothing is more despicable than respect based on fear."[/SIZE]

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Barwell View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Lemkin View Post
    It* won't be long now unless radical movements challenge the entire rotten system and build an alternative one. The system is too rotten, IMO, to be reformed. This can be done peacefully, but it takes awareness and action and at the moment both are missing in large supply.

    *End of Empire and what passes for civilization
    I get this ref frequently -radical, as of recently. It's bullshit, the whole sentiment's bullshit. There's fuck all u can do 'against' these ppl - they're inside your heads, & are a marching verbande of basketcases. ‘Google has power to control elections, can shift millions of votes to Clinton’ – Robert Epstein - Published time: 1 Nov, 2016 03:51
    Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
    - Margaret Mead
    Your lost in your defeatism and perhaps too much what is going on in your own head and somatic sensorium. Every positive change that EVER has come about in any society has come from hard work by a small group of committed souls, gathering others around them - working from the bottom up. Those in power have NEVER made any positive changes unless forced to and never will. I don't really propose forcing them to, except as a stop-gap measure; I'm talking about replacing them and throwing them on the trash heap of history. If one is defeated before trying with all one's might - then they have you negating your own power by believing their propaganda lies. They wouldn't spy on us and try to control us, break up out organizations, kill our leaders, infiltrate us if they didn't fear us, for they KNOW that if we only know our own power and harness it we can defeat them. They tremble at the thought of bottom up democracy and truth-telling; of the bulk of humanity acting in THEIR OWN interests and not in theirs. They are like the Wizard of Oz, one only needs to look behind the curtain and call their bluff. It is NOT a cake walk, but what have we to loose, but our chains?! Read lots of Howard Zinn...and he history of positive changes in the USA. They never ever came from those in power....and it is long overdue to relieve them of their positions of control.

    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that the grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn
    The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. Martin Luther King, Jr.
    Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals. Martin Luther King, Jr.
    Last edited by Peter Lemkin; 11-01-2016 at 06:40 PM.
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

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