by Chris Hedges
Nation Books, 2009
It’s safe to say that no one “enjoys” reading Chris Hedges. He has the darkest worldview of any human being I know, but he is one of those rare individuals I categorize as truth tellers. The truths he tells are unpleasant, yes, but I believe, as he does, that we should not be ostriches, with our heads in the sand. This, I think, is his self-appointed mission in life, to awaken us to certain harsh realities of modern civilization before they destroy us. It takes considerable courage for an author to do this.
Empire of Illusion, with its equally ominous subtitle, is Hedges’s attempt to alert us to the furtive takeover of America by “the corporate state.” The first four chapters tell how we have allowed ourselves to be mesmerized, distracted, and duped by spectacle, perpetrated by the corporate state which has steadily seized control of America since the Reagan years. These chapters are unpleasant – sometimes even revolting – and it is acceptable, if you choose, to spare yourself the pain of reading some of them. But the fifth and final chapter, “The Illusion of America,” is absolutely vital; it tells us where our treasured American democracy is today, and it may surprise many readers to discover how doomed we might actually be.
Hedges wrote Empire of Illusion at the onset of the 2008 financial crisis, so his worldview in this book is even darker than I’ve come to expect from him. Yet fundamentally he is a truth teller, and we had best wake up and take heed.
Two other recent works by Chris Hedges: The cheerily titled Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, written with cartoonist/journalist Joe Sacco, may be his best and most important book yet. The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress, is a compilation of his journalism. Read any Chris Hedges book you choose; you may fall into near-despair, but you will see what’s coming.