Empire of Illusion – A Review

Empire of Illusion[1] is a truly disturbing book. Chris Hedges has illustrated, succinctly, the impending future of the American economy. Are we to believe that the situation is as dire as Hedges and his many quoted colleagues suggest? I’m not the one to answer that question, but I would mention that the truth must be in there somewhere.

At the risk of sounding a slight bit prudish, I found his chapter on “love” to be somewhat distasteful. His point, which was reasonable and probably right on the money, could have been made in much less graphic language. Though, I suppose, when one is battling the ever present illusions of pseudo-events and corporatism, a little shock value can go a long way.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even if I came away with a newfound consternation for my own future.  Being Canadian, I wonder what the landscape of the world will look like after the death of Americanism.

Reading a book such as this brings with it a certain sense of depressive foreboding, and in-so-far as it holds the potential to shatter the illusions of our ‘Reality TV world‘, the reader must find some purpose to the book, beyond simply disillusionment.  For my part, Empire of Illusion inspired me to contact my local Federal Government Representative, and ask what precisely is being done to protect me, a Canadian citizen, from the collapse of Americanism.  Below is:

An Open Letter To Gary Goodyear MP, On The Imminent Collapse Of Americanism

Dear Mr. Goodyear,

I’m writing to you today out of concern for my family, my neighbours and my community.  I, like many Canadians, feel disconnected from the Canadian politico, in fact, I feel as though I know more about American politics than our own.

That said, I have recently finished reading Pulitzer Prize Winner Chris Hedges’ newest book titled: Empire of Illusions, The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle, which, if you haven’t, I would strongly encourage you to read.  This book paints a frighteningly bleak picture of the economic future of our closest international neighbours.  It speaks of the illusions that have been spoon fed to middle and lower class Americans over the past 30 years and longer, illusion such as corporatism, commercialism, free market economics and popular entertainment.  It speaks of corporate control over government and the coming failures of all social systems, and soon of an entire economy.  Most frighteningly, it speaks of a voting populous who knows nothing of the pending collapse of their county, of a people who would rather indulge in the fantasy of pseudo-events presented by reality TV and corporately controlled punditry, than to protest the gross injustices that take place behind a thin veil of patriotism and national security.  Even to a Canadian, Mr. Hedges presents a sobering picture.

Now, I’m a moderately educated somewhat intelligent man.  I’m in my mid-thirties, married, employed and one could say that I’m a member of Ontario’s lower-middle class citizenry, though some months my household teeters just above the poverty line.  From this position, and having just put down Mr. Hedges book, I find myself wondering what my government is doing to protect me, to insulate my community from the apparently inevitable collapse of our largest international trading partner.

I am not so naïve as to misunderstand that Mr. Hedges is using his medium to support a political narrative of his own, and I do take his words with a grain of salt.  However, I can’t help but notice that the same mechanisms used by American Corporatists to corrupt government, to hijack the economy and to plunder the rights of their citizenry, are entrenched here in Canada as well.  We watch American TV programming (though in large part due only to a lack of options), we emulate American consumerism, our primary and secondary schools struggle with literacy and motivation, our higher learning resources are starting to resemble elitist job-skills farms rather than the purveyors of knowledge and wisdom they were intended to be.  In short Mr. Goodyear, it appears that we are following our American neighbours down the proverbial toilet.

Colloquially, to be disillusioned is thought of as a negative idea, as though it is a better thing to be fooled by the illusions of TV and popular culture, than to shed the naïveté of a society that is addicted to entertainment and to actually think about the consequences of our collective actions.  When I look around myself, at coworkers, at the children of neighbours and friends and at a Canadian political culture I know nearly nothing about, I am truly afraid.  Our youth is distracted by the allure of the American dream, a dream that has long been dead, and in their distraction lays all the opportunity needed by Corporate Elites to plunder our rights as well.  The first glimpse of which might be seen in Mr. McGuinty’s Harmonised Sales Tax(?).  Whether we survive the imminent collapse of Americanism in our world or not, we are standing on the edge of a precipice and I fear that when the worst happens, we won’t even recognise that the ground beneath our feet disappeared long ago.

This is a plea, rather than a complaint or a suggestion, a plea for help in surviving the coming years.  I don’t know what to do, I don’t know who else to ask and I don’t know if it’s already too late.  What I do know is, my household is already in a precarious position, and I can’t imagine what life will be like in Mr. Hedges’ future.

Please take my sentiment to our leaders in Ottawa, in the hopes that my voice may be added to those already being heard on these issues.

Yours Truly,

Martin J. Clemens

(Disillusioned, but not yet disenchanted)

At the time of writing, no response has been received by Mr. Goodyear, nor any representative of his office.  Empire of Illusions is available for purchase in Commercial Indignation’s Recommended Reading Bookstore.


[1] Empire of Illusions: The End of Literacy and The Triumph of Spectacle – Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize winning author of the bestselling War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, is currently a senior fellow at The Nation Institute and the Anschutz Distinguished Fellow at Princeton University, and writes for many publications including Foreign Affairs, Harper’s, The New York Review of Books, Granta and Mother Jones. He is also a columnist for Truthdig.com.

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