Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Distinguish

"A public that can no longer distinguish between truth and fiction is left to interpret reality through illusion. Random facts or obscure bits of data and trivia are used to bolster illusion and give it credibility, or discarded if they interfere with the message. The worse reality becomes--the more, for example, foreclosures and unemployment sky-rocket--the more people seek refuge and comfort in illusions. When opinions cannot be distinguished from facts, when there is no universal standard to determine truth in law, in science, in scholarship, or in reporting the events of the day, when the most valued skill is the ability to entertain, the world becomes a place where lies become true, where people can believe what they want to believe. This is the real danger of pseudo-events and why pseudo-events are far more pernicious than stereotypes. They do not explain reality, as stereotypes attempt to, but replace reality. Pseudo-events redefine reality by the parameters set by their creators. These creators, who make massive profits peddling these illusions, have a vested interest in maintaining the power structures they control."
--Chris Hedges, "Empire Of Illusion: The End Of Literacy And The Triumph Of Spectacle", p. 51

Monday, September 29, 2014

Complicated

"In an age of images and entertainment, in an age of instant emotional gratification, we neither seek nor want honesty or reality. Reality is complicated. Reality is boring. We are incapable or unwilling to handle its confusion. We ask to be indulged and comforted by clichés, stereotypes, and inspirational messages that tell us we can be whoever we seek to be, that we live in the greatest country on Earth, that we are endowed with superior moral and physical qualities, and that our future will always be glorious and prosperous, either because of our own attributes, or our national character, or because we are blessed by God. In this world, all that matters is the consistency of our belief systems.  The ability to amplify lies, to repeat them and have surrogates repeat them in endless loops of news cycles, gives lies and mythical narratives the aura of uncontested truth.  We become trapped in the linguistic prison of incessant repetition.  We are fed words and phrases like war on terror or pro life or change, and within these narrow parameters, all complex thought, ambiguity, and self--criticism, vanish."
--Chris Hedges, "Empire Of Illusion: The End Of Literacy And The Triumph Of Spectacle", p. 49

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Image-Based

"An image-based culture communicates through narratives, and pseudo-drama. Scandalous affairs, hurricanes, untimely deaths, train wrecks--these events play well on computer screens and television. International diplomacy, labor union negotiations and convoluted bailout packages do not yield exciting personal narratives or stimulating images. A governor who patronizes call girls becomes a huge news story. A politician who proposes serious regulatory reform or advocates curbing wasteful spending is boring. Kings, queens, and emperors once used their court conspiracies to divert their subjects. Today cinematic, political and journalistic celebrities distract us with their personal foibles and scandals. They create our public mythology. Acting, politics and sports have become, as they were in Nero's reign, interchangeable."
--Chris Hedges, "Empire Of Illusion: The End Of Literacy And The Triumph Of Spectacle", p. 49

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Seeded

"Hour after hour, day after day, week after week, we are bombarded with the cant and spectacle pumped out over the airwaves or over computer screens by highly-paid pundits, corporate advertisers, talk-show hosts, and gossip-fueled entertainment networks.  And a culture dominated by images and slogans seduces those who are functionally literate but who make the choice not to read.  There have been other historical periods with high rates of illiteracy and vast propaganda campaigns.  But not since the Soviet and fascist dictatorships, and perhaps the brutal authoritarian control of the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, has the content of information been as skilfully and ruthlessly controlled and manipulated.  Propaganda has become a substitute for ideas and ideology.  Knowledge is confused with how we are made to feel.  Commercial brands are mistaken for expressions of individuality.  And in this precipitous decline of values and literacy, among those who cannot read and those who have given up reading, fertile ground for a new totalitarianism is being seeded."
--Chris Hedges, "Empire Of Illusion: The End Of Literacy And The Triumph Of Spectacle", p. 45

Friday, September 26, 2014

Functional

"Functional illiteracy in North America is epidemic. There are 7 million illiterate Americans. Another 27 million are unable to read well enough to complete a job application, and 30 million can’t read a simple sentence. There are some 50 million who read at a fourth-or-fifth-grade level. Nearly a third of the nation’s population is illiterate or barely literate--a figure that is growing by more than 2 million a year. A third of high-school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives, and neither do 42 percent of college graduates. In 2007, 80 percent of families in the United States did not buy or read a book."
--Chris Hedges, "Empire Of Illusion: The End Of Literacy And The Triumph Of Spectacle", p. 44

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Illusioned

"We risk being the first people in history to have been able to make their illusions so vivid, so persuasive, so 'realistic' that they can live in them. We are the most illusioned people on earth. Yet we dare not become disillusioned, because our illusions are the very house in which we live; they are our news, our heroes, our adventure, our forms of art, our very experience."
--Daniel J. Boorstin, "The Image: A Guide To Pseudo-Events In America"

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Fed

"We had fed the heart on fantasies,
The heart's grown brutal from the fare"
-- William Butler Yeats, "The Stare's Nest By My Window"

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Image II

"Now the death of God combined with the perfection of the image has brought us to a whole new state of expectation. We are the image. We are the viewer and the viewed. There is no other distracting presence. And that image has all the Godly powers. It kills at will. Kills effortlessly. Kills beautifully. It dispenses morality. Judges endlessly. The electronic image is man as God and the ritual involved leads us not to a mysterious Holy Trinity but back to ourselves. In the absence of a clear understanding that we are now the only source, these images cannot help but return to the expression of magic and fear proper to idolatrous societies. This in turn facilitates the use of the electronic image as propaganda by whoever can control some part of it."
--John Ralston Saul, "Voltaire’s Bastards"

Monday, September 22, 2014

Shut

"People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state on innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster."
--James Baldwin

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Maple

The maple tree that night
Without a wind or rain
Let go its leaves
Because its time had come.
--Eugene McCarthy, "The Maple Tree"

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Evaporates

"Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy."
--Franz Kafka

Friday, September 19, 2014

Character IV

"Maybe a nation that consumes as much booze and dope as we do and has our kind of divorce statistics should pipe down about character issues. Either that or just go ahead and determine the presidency with three-legged races and pie-eating contests. It would make better TV."
--P. J. O'Rourke

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Moon

"What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous."
--Thomas Merton

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Escape

"You don't resign from these jobs, you escape from them."
--Dawn Steel (On Hollywood)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Truest

"Broken things are powerful."
Things about to break are stronger still.
The last shot from the brittle bow is truest.
--Eugene McCarthy, "Courage After Sixty"

Monday, September 15, 2014

Affluent

"With breathtaking rapidity, we are destroying all that was lovely to look at and turning America into a prison house of the spirit. The affluent society, with relentless single-minded energy, is turning our cities, most of suburbia and most of our roadways into the most affluent slum on earth."
--Eric Sevareid

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Bridge

Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, "Don't do it!"

    He said, "Nobody loves me."
    I said, "God loves you. Do you believe in God?"
    He said, "Yes."
    I said, "Are you a Christian or a Jew?"
    He said, "A Christian."
    I said, "Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?"
    He said, "Protestant."
    I said, "Me, too! What franchise?"
    He said, "Baptist."
    I said, "Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?"
    He said, "Northern Baptist."
    I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?"
    He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist."
    I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?" He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region."
    I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?"
    He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912."
    I said, "Die, heretic!" And I pushed him over.

--Emo Philips

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Enslaving

"One of the best ways of enslaving a people is to keep them from education... The second way of enslaving a people is to suppress the sources of information, not only by burning books but by controlling all the other ways in which ideas are transmitted."
--Eleanor Roosevelt, newspaper column, November 11, 1943

Friday, September 12, 2014

Persistent

"The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something. The millions who are in want will not stand by silently forever while the things to satisfy their needs are within easy reach. We need enthusiasm, imagination and the ability to face facts, even unpleasant ones, bravely. We need to correct, by drastic means if necessary, the faults in our economic system from which we now suffer. We need the courage of the young. Yours is not the task of making your way in the world, but the task of remaking the world which you will find before you. May every one of us be granted the courage, the faith and the vision to give the best that is in us to that remaking!"
--Franklin D. Roosevelt
Oglethorpe University Commencement Address, May 22, 1932

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Fame II

"Fame is an illusive thing -- here today, gone tomorrow. The fickle, shallow mob raises its heroes to the pinnacle of approval today and hurls them into oblivion tomorrow at the slightest whim; cheers today, hisses tomorrow; utter forgetfulness in a few months."
--Henry Miller

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Working

"The two-party system has given this country the war of Lyndon Johnson, the Watergate of Nixon, and the incompetence of Carter. Saying we should keep the two-party system simply because it is working is like saying the Titanic voyage was a success because a few people survived on life-rafts."
--Eugene McCarthy
Chicago Tribune (September 10, 1978)

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Executives

"For years I have told my students that I have been trying to train executives rather than clerks. The distinction between the two is parallel to the distinction previously made between understanding and knowledge. It is a mighty low executive who cannot hire several people with command of more knowledge than he has himself. And he can always buy reference works or electronic devices with better memories for facts than any subordinate. The chief quality of an executive is that he have understanding. He should be able to make decisions that make it possible to utilize the knowledge of other persons. Such executive capacity can be taught, but it cannot be taught by an educational program that emphasizes knowledge and only knowledge. Knowledge must be assumed as given, and if it is not sufficient the candidate must be eliminated. But the vital thing is understanding. This requires possession of techniques that, fortunately, can be taught."

Carroll Quigley. The Evolution of Civilizations. 2nd ed. 1979. p. 420

Monday, September 08, 2014

Prefer

"I would prefer not to."
--Herman Melville, "Bartleby the Scrivener"

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Illusions II

But, man, you're never going to get any truth from us. We'll tell you anything you want to hear; we lie like hell. We'll tell you that, uh, Kojak always gets the killer, or that nobody ever gets cancer at Archie Bunker's house, and no matter how much trouble the hero is in, don't worry, just look at your watch; at the end of the hour he's going to win. We'll tell you any shit you want to hear. We deal in *illusions*, man! None of it is true! But you people sit there, day after day, night after night, all ages, colors, creeds... We're all you know. You're beginning to believe the illusions we're spinning here. You're beginning to think that the tube is reality, and that your own lives are unreal. You do whatever the tube tells you! You dress like the tube, you eat like the tube, you raise your children like the tube, you even *think* like the tube! This is mass madness, you maniacs! In God's name, you people are the real thing! *WE* are the illusion! So turn off your television sets. Turn them off now. Turn them off right now. Turn them off and leave them off! Turn them off right in the middle of the sentence I'm speaking to you now! TURN THEM OFF...
--Howard Beale, "Network"

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Hand

"Whenever death may surprise us, let it be welcome if our battle cry has reached even one receptive ear and another hand reaches out to take up our arms."
--Che Guevara

Friday, September 05, 2014

Worthy III

"Most people were raised to think they are not worthy. School is a process of taking beautiful kids who are filled with life and beating them into happy slavery. That's as true of a twenty-five-thousand-dollar-a-year executive as it is for the poorest."
--Bill Talcott, Organizer
Quoted in Studs Terkel, "Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do"

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Sled

"If you are not the lead sled dog, the world looks pretty much the same every day."
--Author Unknown

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Tragedy III

"Life's tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late."
--Benjamin Franklin
(1706-1790) US Founding Father

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Blindfold

"In the ancient world individuals have sold themselves as slaves, in order to eat. So in society. Here is a witch-doctor who can save us from the sorcerers -- a war-lord who can save us from the barbarians -- a Church that can save us from Hell. Give them what they ask, give ourselves to them bound and blindfold, if only they will!  Perhaps the terrible bargain will be made again. We cannot blame men for making it. We can hardly wish them not to. Yet we can hardly bear that they should."
--C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), British novelist
Source: Willing Slaves of the Welfare State, first published in The Observer on July 20, 1958

Monday, September 01, 2014

Wilderness

"I am not a Labor Leader; I do not want you to follow me or anyone else; if you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of this capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, some one else would lead you out. You must use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourself out of your present condition; as it is now the capitalists use your heads and your hands."
--Eugene Eebs, "Life of Eugene V. Debs" by Stephen Marion Reynolds, in Debs : His Life, Writings and Speeches (1908) edited by Bruce Rogers and Stephen Marion Reynolds, p. 71

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Obsolesence

"Perhaps it is this specter that most haunts working men and women: the planned obsolescence of people that is of a piece with the planned obsolescence of the things they make. Or sell."
--Studs Terkel