The author, Chris Hedges, discusses five illusions: literacy, love, wisdom, happiness, and America itself. Granted you’d probably have to already be leaning towards some of his ideas to be receptive to them he does make a good case for each.
First, very surprisingly, he takes us in to the world of WWE (wrestling). This illusion plays in to the idea of victimization in America. Long gone are the days of the evil Communist and the freedom loving American. Our villains and heroes are much more nuanced and everyone has a story. Partly the fault of psychology, Americans are well aware that every demon has a history. The rapist was raped and the murderer saw his father murdered, the adulterer never felt love from mom and the kidnapper had three miscarriages. Everyone has a story as to why their so bad, no one is truly responsible for their own actions.
The next chapter is, at times, unbearable. Chris Hedges takes us in to the dark world of pornography. Insanely this is a pastime for may American men and increasing women and youth. But pornography, as Chris Hedges makes clear, is not actually about sex as it is about power. Women are **** and men are all powerful. Pornography is essentially prostitution on film. What is the illusion here? Love. For many factors, including the abundance of pornography, the expectations men and women have of each other are increasingly unrealistic. The bizarre sexual images men (and women) fill their minds with can never be played out in real life, leaving them dissatisfied and increasingly addicted. Pornography, as popular as it is, is millions of Americans dark secret but if it were pulled in to light as Chris Hedges does in his book it would be clear that such an industry should seize to exist for its addictive qualities, it’s part in ruining marriages and it’s abuse of women.
Hedges takes us in to academia where he finds the illusion of wisdom. Academia has become no better then it’s for- profit counterparts. People go to college so they can get a good job not so that they can have a greater understanding of the world. Hedges make the point that as we get more and more specialized in school and in our fields we can end up being a means to great evil then if we were actually taught to think. Think of a factory worker on a line who simply places a small part in to a machine day after day only to realize later on that the machines he helped to build were actually parts of an atomic bomb used to kill millions unjustly. Everyone will say “I was just doing my job”, but if doing your job means maintaining and unjust system doesn’t one have a responsibility to those who are hurt?
The illusion of happiness, Hedges makes the point that the influx of positive psychology in American corporations has caused us to embark on a Huxleyan- like society were “everyone’s happy now”. Employers have found that they can actually manufacture happiness instead of actually doing anything to improve the job. Employees are taken to conferences were they are
commanded encouraged to be happy. The are told to be team players, broken up in to smaller groups and encouraged to share intimate details of their lives. Hedges gives us an alarming example of the effects these groups have on employees when a team member gets hurt on the job and everyone in the group has to were a ‘be safe’ sticker on their uniform -embarrassing, no? Instead of having to improve worker conditions employees are embarrassed in to silence.
Lastly, the illusion of America, it was the more difficult chapter to get through and the most alarming. America as a freedom loving democracy is a joke. The right to pick an American idol is not democracy, nor is the right to chose a president from the candidates who raise the most corporate money. Why are we still using oil? Why is Guantanamo bay still open? Why are we still at war? Hedges argues simply because it is in the interest of the elites to keep it that way.
Excellent book, thankfully, he does end the book on a good note, but I’ll let you read for yourself.
Book Review written by Nuriddeen Knight