• In total there are 7 users online :: 0 registered, 0 hidden and 7 guests (based on users active over the past 60 minutes)
    Most users ever online was 1230 on Sun Jul 14, 2024 2:51 am

Ch. 1: The Illusion of Literacy

#75: Nov. - Dec. 2009 (Non-Fiction)
User avatar
oblivion

1G - SILVER CONTRIBUTOR
Likes the book better than the movie
Posts: 826
Joined: Sat Aug 29, 2009 11:10 am
14
Location: Germany
Has thanked: 188 times
Been thanked: 172 times

Re: Ch. 1: The Illusion of Literacy

Unread post

I was reading a lecture Joseph Campbell gave in 1974. Regardless of what one may think about him, he says "We are in what is called a wasteland. T.S Elliot put his finger on it, back there in 1922. What is a wasteland? It is a land of people living without aspiration, going through the routine of their lives, doing things they are told to do because they don't have the courage to do something they want to do... We are in a realm what I would describe as a terminal moraine of myths. But the interesting things about a mythological image is that you can interpret it in your own way...
I can see looking at the young people today the myths they are living by. Everyone is going around in a masquerade. And the only ones that are hard to take are the ones who take their masquerade seriously. The real wonderful thing is to play the game--that's as man has developed always..." (in Parabola Magazine,Vol 34, No 4.).
Campbell tackles the problem in 1974 and quotes Eliot, who tackled it in 1922. Seems like this isn't exactly a new topic, is it?
Hedges, Campbell or Eliot: certainly words of warning to an eternal problem.
Gods and spirits are parasitic--Pascal Boyer

Religion is the only force in the world that lets a person have his prejudice or hatred and feel good about it --S C Hitchcock

Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it. --André Gide

Reading is a majority skill but a minority art. --Julian Barnes
User avatar
CWT36
Sophomore
Posts: 266
Joined: Wed Aug 05, 2009 12:04 pm
14
Location: Riverhead, Long Island
Has thanked: 3 times
Been thanked: 6 times
Contact:

Re:

Unread post

DWill wrote:Everyone will have his or her own opinion as to which form of popular entertainment is the worst. My impression of wrestling is that it is mainly carnival that the fans don't take seriously as violence; there is a lot of the fun of melodrama in it for them. A client at work who is devoted to it says cheeerfully that it's all fake. There have certainly been, and are still, worse entertainments than this.
I don't believe that the problem is people thinking that wrestling is real, the true problem is much more subtle. The real damage is that things like wrestling slowly, but noticably, erode at general standards of society. There is no doubt that standards of acceptable behaviour and acceptable language have significantly lowered in our lifetime. I don't think you can point at wrestling alone and say it has caused this, but I think you can point at an amalgem of causes; wrestling, music, television, advertising, video games, internet and more.

I laugh today when I hear songs that our parents thought were inappropriate or controversial, they seem absolutely benign by today's standards. But maybe our parents were right. We made an occasional curse word and covert sex or drug inference acceptable, and that started us on the road to the profanity laden mysogonistic music that is everywhere today.

I remember as a boy that we had to "dress properly" anytime we flew on an airplane, which meant a sportcoat and tie. It seemed ridiculous. Now I see people get on airplanes in pajama pants and slippers and I realize that society should have some level of expectation of people, but we don't.

I hate to sound like a crotchety old guy when I'm still shy of 50, but even as a bleeding heart liberal I think we should elevate the standards of society.
-Colin

"Do not tell fish stories where the people know you; but particularly, don't tell them where they know the fish." -Mark Twain
User avatar
DWill

1H - GOLD CONTRIBUTOR
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame
Posts: 6966
Joined: Thu Jan 31, 2008 8:05 am
16
Location: Luray, Virginia
Has thanked: 2262 times
Been thanked: 2470 times

Re: Ch. 1: The Illusion of Literacy

Unread post

oblivion wrote:Campbell tackles the problem in 1974 and quotes Eliot, who tackled it in 1922. Seems like this isn't exactly a new topic, is it?
Hedges, Campbell or Eliot: certainly words of warning to an eternal problem.
No, it's not a new topic. It seems to be a problem created by capitalism. Spreading wealth out creates opportunities for more of the population, as without poverty they have the wherewithal to buy things and indulge in more expensive entertainments. The new consumer class is also essential to the growth of consumer economies. The intellectual class has always looked on the philistines with great disdain. I can't necessarily deny that our whole culture is becoming more debased, but I think it's good to keep in mind the source of most of the criticism. Would I want to endorse the social vision of T.S. Eliot, or his contemporary W.B. Yeats? No, these were both anti-democratic writers. Eliot presents a powerful vision in "The Wasteland," but he also idealizes England's past, wanting us believe in an Elizabethan golden age. Intellectuals write most of the books in the world, but they shouldn't be immune from criticism themselves.
User avatar
DWill

1H - GOLD CONTRIBUTOR
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame
Posts: 6966
Joined: Thu Jan 31, 2008 8:05 am
16
Location: Luray, Virginia
Has thanked: 2262 times
Been thanked: 2470 times

Re: Re:

Unread post

CWT36 wrote:I laugh today when I hear songs that our parents thought were inappropriate or controversial, they seem absolutely benign by today's standards. But maybe our parents were right. We made an occasional curse word and covert sex or drug inference acceptable, and that started us on the road to the profanity laden mysogonistic music that is everywhere today.

I remember as a boy that we had to "dress properly" anytime we flew on an airplane, which meant a sportcoat and tie. It seemed ridiculous. Now I see people get on airplanes in pajama pants and slippers and I realize that society should have some level of expectation of people, but we don't.

I hate to sound like a crotchety old guy when I'm still shy of 50, but even as a bleeding heart liberal I think we should elevate the standards of society.
The legacy of the 1960s seemed to be a very mixed one! Once our best capitalists found out that most of this cultural destruction and innovation had great commercial potential, the old standards of dress, behavior, and taste were finished.
User avatar
oblivion

1G - SILVER CONTRIBUTOR
Likes the book better than the movie
Posts: 826
Joined: Sat Aug 29, 2009 11:10 am
14
Location: Germany
Has thanked: 188 times
Been thanked: 172 times

Re: Ch. 1: The Illusion of Literacy

Unread post

DWill wrote:Intellectuals write most of the books in the world, but they shouldn't be immune from criticism themselves.
This quote should be emblazoned on everything in gold! I enjoyed your comments.
Gods and spirits are parasitic--Pascal Boyer

Religion is the only force in the world that lets a person have his prejudice or hatred and feel good about it --S C Hitchcock

Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it. --André Gide

Reading is a majority skill but a minority art. --Julian Barnes
User avatar
etudiant
Masters
Posts: 467
Joined: Sat Jun 27, 2009 3:33 pm
15
Location: canada
Has thanked: 64 times
Been thanked: 174 times

Re: Ch. 1: The Illusion of Literacy

Unread post

Naw CWT36, you’re not getting old and crotchety. Thinks really have changed a great deal.

There was a popular TV show in the 1950s called “I Love Lucy”. In one of the episodes, the wife of the one of the protagonist married couples became pregnant. There was great controversy at the time over whether the word “pregnant” could be used on TV. Fast forward to today, where a well known CBC TV interviewer offered a brief opinion on oral sex during his program, causing not a ripple of comment.

I think that even looking at movies from the 60s and 70s, and certainly earlier, one can detect a shift in manners and communication style.



"No, it's not a new topic. It seems to be a problem created by capitalism. Spreading wealth out creates opportunities for more of the population, as without poverty they have the wherewithal to buy things and indulge in more expensive entertainments. The new consumer class is also essential to the growth of consumer economies."



I think one of the defining characteristics of developed and relatively affluent countries is the existence of a middle class. It is this group that tends to keep money in circulation, promoting employment and industry. Some of the most benighted places in the world today have not developed a middle class. The expansion of the middle class took place largely because of social legislation, and often in defiance of capitalism, IMO.

I feel somewhat ambivalent about how having money relates to being boorish, ignorant, or uninformed. Certainly there are many examples in history of those at the top of the socio-economic pyramid setting new standards of depravity and crudeness. And we have seen many bone-headed decisions from the elite, from the charge of the light brigade to Iraq. But I suppose there are others at the base of the pyramid who take the intellectually and culturally easy road, and relax with the Jerry Springer show.
"I suspect that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose"
— JBS Haldane
User avatar
oblivion

1G - SILVER CONTRIBUTOR
Likes the book better than the movie
Posts: 826
Joined: Sat Aug 29, 2009 11:10 am
14
Location: Germany
Has thanked: 188 times
Been thanked: 172 times

Re: Ch. 1: The Illusion of Literacy

Unread post

Due to the recent cases of teenagers running amok and killing fellow students, teachers, passers-by and ultimately, themselves, in Germany, there has been a highly public discussion on banning violent computer games. Though I agree that these games show no respect for life, human or otherwise, I nevertheless find it naive to assign one single cause to the problem. This seems like a scape-goat attitude. Technology seems to have been chosen as the demon. Playing the devil's advocate here: assuming these teenagers were not playing computer games (most of them were found to have been devout players of violent pc games) but instead reading violent literature (and here again, one of them was indeed an avid reader and highly intelligent to boot)--would this result in a book-burning orgy? Parents' groups here attempted to have public "violent computer games" burning but their success was rather limited, to say the least.
I think Hedges would be well-advised to bring up a few more arguments, a few more causes, to make his point. Problems in or with society are rarely cuased by one, two or things things. They tend to be inextricably mingled and confused.
Gods and spirits are parasitic--Pascal Boyer

Religion is the only force in the world that lets a person have his prejudice or hatred and feel good about it --S C Hitchcock

Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it. --André Gide

Reading is a majority skill but a minority art. --Julian Barnes
User avatar
DWill

1H - GOLD CONTRIBUTOR
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame
Posts: 6966
Joined: Thu Jan 31, 2008 8:05 am
16
Location: Luray, Virginia
Has thanked: 2262 times
Been thanked: 2470 times

Re: Ch. 1: The Illusion of Literacy

Unread post

oblivion wrote:I think Hedges would be well-advised to bring up a few more arguments, a few more causes, to make his point. Problems in or with society are rarely cuased by one, two or things things. They tend to be inextricably mingled and confused.
We never seem to be able to have the good without also having the bad. I wish it weren't so, but there seems no avoiding it. A society probably always declines as it advances, advances as it declines. It is very hard, probably impossible, to tell from a contemporary viewpoint which predominates. History passes judgment later on.

I agree with your earlier comment on the video games. There isn't much that I like less than such entertainment, but banning a particular product is likely to be futile or even counterproductive (creating a market for the illicit and forbidden). This would be like putting out a small fire while all around the forest still burns. The conditions that enabled the video games to be produced are what is significant; it's a mistake to see the games themselves as a cause.
User avatar
tbarron

1F - BRONZE CONTRIBUTOR
Wearing Out Library Card
Posts: 242
Joined: Sun Oct 04, 2009 7:26 am
14
Location: Oak Ridge, TN
Has thanked: 39 times
Been thanked: 53 times
Gender:
United States of America

Re: Ch. 1: The Illusion of Literacy

Unread post

I remember a history teacher in high school reading the class a passage that ran something like....
Tom's history teacher wrote:Young people these days have no respect for their elders. They use impolite words and their behavior is crass. They should speak of their fathers with honor and their mothers with love, but instead they spew disrespect and filth everywhere. Government officials look the other way while thieves rob the people blind. No one will go out of his way to help his neighbor and an honest man must defend himself at every turn. What is the world coming to?
After we had discussed it for a few minutes, he revealed that it had been come from a Mesopotamian clay tablet from 3000 BCE or so. His point was that people have been complaining about society going to the dogs since the beginning of human civilization. Somehow we seem to keep muddling along.

Have you read anything by William Shakespeare or Geoffrey Chaucer lately? Folks in the Middle Ages were as bawdy and rowdy as they come and their bawdy poets now stand as our cultural icons. How's that for ironic? Medieval life could be extremely violent at times, on a personal level, much more so that anything any of us middle class folks in developed nations have to deal with. The games that evolved into American football, rugby, and soccer were essentially ruleless excuses to commit mayhem on the lads from the neighboring village. The most popular spectator sport of the time, tilting at the lists at tournaments, was a good way to get killed. Our current sports are violent, but not quite as violent as the medieval version in my estimation.

Chaucer's father (long before Geoffrey's birth) was kidnapped by relatives who tried to force him to marry a cousin to consolidate and preserve the family's fortune and real estate, then rescued through force of arms by another branch of the family. And this was a relatively wealthy, classy family! Try that in Peoria and see how far you get.

I think human nature and behavior are more or less as they have always been, sometimes a little better, sometimes not, but more or less fairly consistent. Language and culture never stops evolving, every few years we seem to have to have a war, and when people are confronted by new values and trends, perspectives and attitudes, they usually don't like it.

That's how it seems to me. :)
Tom
User avatar
etudiant
Masters
Posts: 467
Joined: Sat Jun 27, 2009 3:33 pm
15
Location: canada
Has thanked: 64 times
Been thanked: 174 times

Re: Ch. 1: The Illusion of Literacy

Unread post

Certainly there was more violence and unwitting cruelty in the past. The Romans used to lead collections of wild animals into public forums for the only purpose of killing them in front of spectators. Come to think of it though, the Spanish still stage bullfights, to their shame and disgrace.

But I think it is not sufficient to lump in the Hedges book with the broad sweep of history. The assertions he makes are very relevant to us today, even if they have some similarities to the past. And in some ways the situation today is unique.

If one lived on a rural farm, and had never seen a person from another country, or had access to much in the way of reading or other forms of information, they could be somewhat forgiven for making foolish, shortsighted, or even mean-spirited decisions. But today, when one is a short Google away from most of what the human race knows and has experienced, and is still coming to the same narrow-minded conclusions, then that is something worth ruminating about.

This suggests to me not a lack of information, or education, or socialization, but a retreat from the intellect. Why this is so seems unclear, but Hedges makes a case that this is a real phenomenon.

Many of the ideas punted about in the highest strata of society today are ones that would likely appeal to that above mentioned farm hand from 1800. The salient point is that they have considerable appeal today. The political pronouncements from George Bush or Sarah Palin, for example, are crafted to appeal to the simplest souls. Yet both have found broad appeal. Why this occurs is an important question.
"I suspect that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose"
— JBS Haldane
Post Reply

Return to “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle - by Chris Hedges”