Chris Hedges, from page 44 of his book Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle (Nation Books, 2009):
We are a culture that has been denied, or has passively given up, the linguistic and intellectual tools to cope with complexity, to separate illusion from reality. We have traded the printed word for the gleaming image. Public rhetoric is designed to be comprehensible to a ten-year-old child or an adult with a sixth-grade reading level. Most of us speak at this level, are entertained and think at this level. We have transformed our culture into a vast replica of Pinocchio’s Pleasure Island, where boys were lured with the promise of no school and endless fun. They were all, however, turned into donkeys—a symbol, in Italian culture, of ignorance and stupidity.
And once reason, literacy, and difficulty have been abandoned as values—and random pursuits of low-grade sensuality and fun exhaust themselves—what does a disfunctional culture reach for next?
Fundamentalist religion and Herderian politics, right?
Whether we are talking about traditionalist Islam in other parts of the world, or fundamentalist Christianity in the United States, this is the globe’s cultural Janus: contingent and unintegrated sensual and visual culture is paired with conservative religious and poltical culture as reaction; the one functions ironically as the door to the other. Jonathan Franzen gets close to this same idea when he writes, in his new novel Freedom, the following:
The personality susceptible to the dream of limitless freedom is a personality also prone, should the dream ever sour, to misanthropy and rage.
And where does that put the Enlightenment oriented liberal committed to difficulty and critical thinking?
Image source: Wikipedia Commons.