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Ch. 2: The Illusion of Love

#75: Nov. - Dec. 2009 (Non-Fiction)
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Chris OConnor

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Ch. 2: The Illusion of Love

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Ch. 2: The Illusion of Love
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oblivion

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Re: Ch. 2: The Illusion of Love

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Obviously a revolting chapter.....and meant to be. Here again I understand and even agree with Hedges' concern about what America (or the world) is coming to; about triviality, moral decline, illiteracy and voyeurism reigning over true information, value, intelligent debate and human interaction. However, Hedges specifically neglects to mention the growth (okay, here I am in Germany, so this may not be relevant) of humanistic endeavors, desperate fights to do good in the world, to place animal rights in the (here again, German) constitution........in a word: compassion. As we've all learned in physics, one action causes another. And I think he leaves this point out. I certainly refuse to believe that the emotional world of love no longer exists and that all men hate women and simply can't wait to humilate and physically harm them. Nor do I believe that women expect and encourage this type of behaviour. I know this is not his point, but I think the book would have been better off.....and his points more valid......if his argumention weren't so one-sided and if it were better balanced. One-sided argumentation is not necessarily the best choice. Doomsday news is usually always so bleak and depressing as well as unbelievable, that people tend to disregard it.
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
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Re: Ch. 2: The Illusion of Love

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oblivion wrote: I know this is not his point, but I think the book would have been better off.....and his points more valid......if his argumention weren't so one-sided and if it were better balanced. One-sided argumentation is not necessarily the best choice. Doomsday news is usually always so bleak and depressing as well as unbelievable, that people tend to disregard it.[/color]
I haven't received the book yet, but my initial question about it was similar to the one you raise. There is a problem of comparison implicit in approaches like Hedges'--where he deplores the low end of our culture. Does he--or could he--give any valid comparison with a previous era in which the common denominator was supposedly higher? It's easy to be disgusted with the way things are and to then take refuge in the idea that the past was better. But what if the past was both better and worse? Then do we have a more or less equalizing trend? To give just one example, 60 years ago racism was the order of the day in the U.S. On that measure, we have improved markedly. And in other areas of life we might say that we are better off than we were in the mid-20th century. Does the tawdriness of our popular culture really mean we're going to hell in a handbasket? Does it reflect such a change in values as Hedges seems to believe? I apologize if if my assumptions about the book are wrong.
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Re: Ch. 2: The Illusion of Love

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On that measure, we have improved markedly
Exactly my point. Hedges paints an Endzeit, doomsday picture and absolutely flat-out refuses to acknowledge any improvements, any positive aspects of contemporary society. I do share his concern with the "way things are going" and that literacy is not assuming a place in society where we'd like for it to be. But on the other hand, can we simply say that all past societies (and believe me, most past populations were NOT literate as a whole......being literate was not expected or, for that matter, attainable) were bad, brutal, horrible because they did not have the chance to be literate as we do today??? And here again, some so-called "brutal" societies managed to produce wonderful literature (for Pete's sake...."Beowulf" is a marvelous literary achievement but it reflects the brutality of the society it came from. Does this literary achievement mean our ancestors were on the right track then simply because they managed to come up with an epic? Does this negate the brutality?). On the other side of the coin, I know quite a few still-living people who experienced WWII, Germans, who were condemned to suffer the same atrocities as Jews, Gypsies, etc because they were found hiding them, preaching against the Nazi regime, giving food and water to people piled into death trains. In other words, they had civil courage, high morals and humanity......and several of these people couldn't even read. Literacy does not necessarily make one a better person.
So, that said, I do agree with Hedges' worry that society is "worshiping" trivality, and preferring to call stars and VIPS their gods instead of taking a stand to simply be atheist, for example.
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
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Boheme
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Re: Ch. 2: The Illusion of Love

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I do agree with the criticism that Hedges presents only one side of his argument. Maybe he did it on purpose to shock people out of their complacency? At the end of his book he does comment on how love and moral courage are the qualities that may save, and gives examples of those who have stood up to brutality in different ways, so he does end on a somewhat positive note. Yet, as mentioned, we have improved and evolved as society in many ways. My neighbourhood here in Montreal is known for its social activism as well as a variety of groups fighting for the rights and improvement in the lives of the intellectually handicapped, those living at or below the poverty line, youth at risk, abused women, etc. etc., so there is definitely another side to the coin. To me, Hedges is taking aim at big business - these many-tentacled corporations that are wielding real power and dividing society into a large section of have-nots and the very tiny one of the haves.

I also wonder if Hedges is deploring the fact that now, with so much information available to us, this kind of “voluntary simplicity” is no longer an excuse to ignore what is going on? I’ve heard people say that women who work in the porn industry are doing it by choice. That’s an easy answer. What gets messier is when we think of these women as having been abused children, who grew up in harrowing conditions feel worthless, and lack the means to do other things with their lives.

I saw a documentary once on the foster system here. . Abused children may be rescued from their abusers and put into foster care. Some of the lucky ones get good families who consider them as their own. But they are basically wards of the state and can be shuffled around from family to family almost on a whim. And at 18, they’re on their own. If they had the misfortune of being in a group home, they are quite literally out on the streets. Then where do you go? Maybe you want to start college. How can you do that when you don’t even have a place to live anymore? You need to start providing for yourself, but you don’t have the skills to find a decent job, manage a budget, find an apartment, etc. Some of these end up in the porn industry. So, if we ease our conscience and say “it’s their choice”, what about the conditions that are at the root of that precipitated these women towards these kinds of choices?

And when Hedges makes the point of how large corporations are behind this type of exploitation, I feel powerless and think, “how do we dislodge this beast - exploitation in the name of capitalism - that’s crushing these individuals?
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Re: Ch. 2: The Illusion of Love

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I think Hedges does put up a one-sided argument for the most part. A thorough exploration of different viewpoints would have been more effective. In discussing the huge budget deficits now being run up, for example, he suggests that they will never be repaid. Many economists, such as the NY Times’ Paul Krugman, have pointed out that although large, these numbers aren’t unprecedented in relation to US GDP, and are not unmanageable given a reasonable growth rate in the near future.

Looking back into history, I think we can always find examples of better, or worse times. Certainly, as oblivion has said, literacy was not all that widespread until relatively recently. But I think we have to make a fine distinction here. Many examples of horrible behaviors in the past were based on belief. Wrong-headed, uninformed, ignorant, even abhorrent to our modern eyes, but very often it was the belief system of the times, based on the state of knowledge and its dispersal at that point in time.

I think what Hedges is getting at is that many of the trends he describes are not the result of erroneous belief, but of no belief. People are afloat on an ocean of information today, but are too apathetic to lift their heads and look out at the coming waves. In the past, many may not have been able to participate very fully in civil life due to illiteracy, poverty, class discrimination, or other reasons. But in these times, there were often very difficult obstacles to overcome, given society’s rules and structures. Today however, few in the relatively wealthy and democratic countries of the world could find a credible excuse to not be reasonably up to speed on the world, or at least on their own communities, when we have the world funneled in through a cell phone.

In the nineteenth century, it was thought that criminal personality traits could be diagnosed by examining the contours of an individual’s skull. A bump here or there might have ominous significance; an indication of what was going on inside. Laughable by today’s standards, but given the state of science at the time, a reasonable proposition. Today we have the specter George Bush winning two terms in the White House, and Sarah Palin coming close enough throw a scare into most who have an IQ number higher than their shoe size. Yet a surprisingly small number of people were willing to do the modern day equivalent of feeling their heads. Even many journalists, educated and experienced in political science have often come up with little in the way of critical discourse.

I think this was one of Hedges main points. Those that disconnect themselves from the world of ideas and critical thought, and are content to submerge themselves in trivia and fantasy make themselves vulnerable to manipulation, and more likely to buy into outlandish ideas, with serious consequences.
"I suspect that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose"
— JBS Haldane
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Boheme
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Re: Ch. 2: The Illusion of Love

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Those that disconnect themselves from the world of ideas and critical thought, and are content to submerge themselves in trivia and fantasy make themselves vulnerable to manipulation, and more likely to buy into outlandish ideas, with serious consequences.
With that sentence I think you summed up the theme of Empire of Illusion.
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