Whole Brain Catalog

American Psychosis

What happens to a society that cannot distinguish between reality and illusion?

Image on left by TOM MIHALEK/AFP, on right STILL FROM WRECKING BALL

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The United States, locked in the kind of twilight disconnect that grips dying empires, is a country entranced by illusions. It spends its emotional and intellectual energy on the trivial and the absurd. It is captivated by the hollow stagecraft of celebrity culture as the walls crumble. This celebrity culture giddily licenses a dark voyeurism into other people’s humiliation, pain, weakness and betrayal. Day after day, one lurid saga after another, whether it is Michael Jackson, Britney Spears [or Miley Cyrus], enthralls the country … despite bank collapses, wars, mounting poverty or the criminality of its financial class.

The virtues that sustain a nation-state and build community, from honesty to self-sacrifice to transparency to sharing, are ridiculed each night on television as rubes stupid enough to cling to this antiquated behavior are voted off reality shows. Fellow competitors for prize money and a chance for fleeting fame, cheered on by millions of viewers, elect to “disappear” the unwanted. In the final credits of the reality show America’s Next Top Model, a picture of the woman expelled during the episode vanishes from the group portrait on the screen. Those cast aside become, at least to the television audience, nonpersons. Celebrities that can no longer generate publicity, good or bad, vanish. Life, these shows persistently teach, is a brutal world of unadulterated competition and a constant quest for notoriety and attention.

Our culture of flagrant self-exaltation, hardwired in the American character, permits the humiliation of all those who oppose us. We believe, after all, that because we have the capacity to wage war we have a right to wage war. Those who lose deserve to be erased. Those who fail, those who are deemed ugly, ignorant or poor, should be belittled and mocked. Human beings are used and discarded like Styrofoam boxes that held junk food. And the numbers of superfluous human beings are swelling the unemployment offices, the prisons and the soup kitchens.

It is the cult of self that is killing the United States. This cult has within it the classic traits of psychopaths: superficial charm, grandiosity and self-importance; a need for constant stimulation; a penchant for lying, deception and manipulation; and the incapacity for remorse or guilt. Michael Jackson, from his phony marriages to the portraits of himself dressed as royalty to his insatiable hunger for new toys to his questionable relationships with young boys, had all these qualities. And this is also the ethic promoted by corporations. It is the ethic of unfettered capitalism. It is the misguided belief that personal style and personal advancement, mistaken for individualism, are the same as democratic equality. It is the nationwide celebration of image over substance, of illusion over truth. And it is why investment bankers blink in confusion when questioned about the morality of the billions in profits they made by selling worthless toxic assets to investors.

We have a right, in the cult of the self, to get whatever we desire. We can do anything, even belittle and destroy those around us, including our friends, to make money, to be happy and to become famous. Once fame and wealth are achieved, they become their own justification, their own morality. How one gets there is irrelevant. It is this perverted ethic that gave us investment houses like Goldman Sachs … that willfully trashed the global economy and stole money from tens of millions of small shareholders who had bought stock in these corporations for retirement or college. The heads of these corporations, like the winners on a reality television program who lied and manipulated others to succeed, walked away with hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses and compensation. The ethic of Wall Street is the ethic of celebrity. It is fused into one bizarre, perverted belief system and it has banished the possibility of the country returning to a reality-based world or avoiding internal collapse. A society that cannot distinguish reality from illusion dies.

The tantalizing illusions offered by our consumer culture, however, are vanishing for most citizens as we head toward collapse. The ability of the corporate state to pacify the country by extending credit and providing cheap manufactured goods to the masses is gone. The jobs we are shedding are not coming back, as the White House economist Lawrence Summers tacitly acknowledges when he talks of a “jobless recovery.” The belief that democracy lies in the choice between competing brands and the accumulation of vast sums of personal wealth at the expense of others is exposed as a fraud. Freedom can no longer be conflated with the free market. The travails of the poor are rapidly becoming the travails of the middle class, especially as unemployment insurance runs out. And class warfare, once buried under the happy illusion that we were all going to enter an age of prosperity with unfettered capitalism, is returning with a vengeance.

America is sinking under trillions in debt it can never repay and stays afloat by frantically selling about $2 billion in Treasury bonds a day to the Chinese. It saw 2.8 million people lose their homes in 2009 to foreclosure or bank repossessions – nearly 8,000 people a day – and stands idle as they are joined by another 2.4 million people this year. It refuses to prosecute the Bush administration for obvious war crimes, including the use of torture, and sees no reason to dismantle Bush’s secrecy laws or restore habeas corpus. Its infrastructure is crumbling. Deficits are pushing individual states to bankruptcy and forcing the closure of everything from schools to parks. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have squandered trillions of dollars, appear endless. There are 50 million Americans in real poverty and tens of millions of Americans in a category called “near poverty.” One in eight Americans – and one in four children – depend on food stamps to eat. And yet, in the midst of it all, we continue to be a country consumed by happy talk and happy thoughts. We continue to embrace the illusion of inevitable progress, personal success and rising prosperity. Reality is not considered an impediment to desire.

When a culture lives within an illusion it perpetuates a state of permanent infantilism or childishness. As the gap widens between the illusion and reality, as we suddenly grasp that it is our home being foreclosed or our job that is not coming back, we react like children. We scream and yell for a savior, someone who promises us revenge, moral renewal and new glory. It is not a new story. A furious and sustained backlash by a betrayed and angry populace, one unprepared intellectually, emotionally and psychologically for collapse, will sweep aside the Democrats and most of the Republicans and will usher America into a new dark age. It was the economic collapse in Yugoslavia that gave us Slobodan Milosevic. It was the Weimar Republic that vomited up Adolf Hitler. And it was the breakdown in Tsarist Russia that opened the door for Lenin and the Bolsheviks. A cabal of proto-fascist misfits, from Christian demagogues to loudmouth talk show hosts, whom we naïvely dismiss as buffoons, will find a following with promises of revenge and moral renewal. And as in all totalitarian societies, those who do not pay fealty to the illusions imposed by the state become the outcasts, the persecuted.

The decline of American empire began long ago before the current economic meltdown or the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It began before the first Gulf War or Ronald Reagan. It began when we shifted, in the words of Harvard historian Charles Maier, from an “empire of production” to an “empire of consumption.” By the end of the Vietnam War, when the costs of the war ate away at Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and domestic oil production began its steady, inexorable decline, we saw our country transformed from one that primarily produced to one that primarily consumed. We started borrowing to maintain a level of consumption as well as an empire we could no longer afford. We began to use force, especially in the Middle East, to feed our insatiable thirst for cheap oil. We substituted the illusion of growth and prosperity for real growth and prosperity. The bill is now due. America’s most dangerous enemies are not Islamic radicals but those who sold us the perverted ideology of free-market capitalism and globalization. They have dynamited the very foundations of our society. In the 17th century these speculators would have been hung. Today they run the government and consume billions in taxpayer subsidies.

As the pressure mounts, as the despair and desperation reach into larger and larger segments of the populace, the mechanisms of corporate and government control are being bolstered to prevent civil unrest and instability. The emergence of the corporate state always means the emergence of the security state. This is why the Bush White House pushed through the Patriot Act (and its renewal), the suspension of habeas corpus, the practice of “extraordinary rendition,” warrantless wiretapping on American citizens and the refusal to ensure free and fair elections with verifiable ballot-counting. The motive behind these measures is not to fight terrorism or to bolster national security. It is to seize and maintain internal control. It is about controlling us.

And yet, even in the face of catastrophe, mass culture continues to assure us that if we close our eyes, if we visualize what we want, if we have faith in ourselves, if we tell God that we believe in miracles, if we tap into our inner strength, if we grasp that we are truly exceptional, if we focus on happiness, our lives will be harmonious and complete. This cultural retreat into illusion, whether peddled by positive psychologists, by Hollywood or by Christian preachers, is magical thinking. It turns worthless mortgages and debt into wealth. It turns the destruction of our manufacturing base into an opportunity for growth. It turns alienation and anxiety into a cheerful conformity. It turns a nation that wages illegal wars and administers offshore penal colonies where it openly practices torture into the greatest democracy on earth. And it keeps us from fighting back.

Resistance movements will have to look now at the long night of slavery, the decades of oppression in the Soviet Union and the curse of fascism for models. The goal will no longer be the possibility of reforming the system but of protecting truth, civility and culture from mass contamination. It will require the kind of schizophrenic lifestyle that characterizes all totalitarian societies. Our private and public demeanors will often have to stand in stark contrast. Acts of defiance will often be subtle and nuanced. They will be carried out not for short term gain but the assertion of our integrity. Rebellion will have an ultimate if not easily definable purpose. The more we retreat from the culture at large the more room we will have to carve out lives of meaning, the more we will be able to wall off the flood of illusions disseminated by mass culture and the more we will retain sanity in an insane world. The goal will become the ability to endure.

Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the New York Times, is the author of several books including the best sellers War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

582 comments on the article “American Psychosis”

Displaying 521 - 530 of 582

Page 53 of 59

stitch

The American people voted in as racist ways as they have in the past. The idea that because someone is black, that they are different or more able to create change for all the problems that lie in America and the rest of the world is just as racist as voting against him because you believe this black man will change things that you arent quite comfortable with. In the end he is still hardly different than any other president. He is against and for basically everything anyone in government has been. He is not going to change anything radical. And the truth is he cant, even if he wanted to. He is just a mascot after all. He is the face for a party, that is the government, controlled by the wealthy and privileged. I believe any other reasoning is a "twilight of illusion".

We do need rebellion, so the minority isnt trodden on anymore. We dont just need people who believe they are good. Seek the truth and gain knowledge, then realise what you can do to be good.

This article was so well written, its nice to know the new york times actually has some good journalists.

stitch

The American people voted in as racist ways as they have in the past. The idea that because someone is black, that they are different or more able to create change for all the problems that lie in America and the rest of the world is just as racist as voting against him because you believe this black man will change things that you arent quite comfortable with. In the end he is still hardly different than any other president. He is against and for basically everything anyone in government has been. He is not going to change anything radical. And the truth is he cant, even if he wanted to. He is just a mascot after all. He is the face for a party, that is the government, controlled by the wealthy and privileged. I believe any other reasoning is a "twilight of illusion".

We do need rebellion, so the minority isnt trodden on anymore. We dont just need people who believe they are good. Seek the truth and gain knowledge, then realise what you can do to be good.

This article was so well written, its nice to know the new york times actually has some good journalists.

Anonymous

I actually voted for him because Palin is retarded, had McCain choose a different VP I would have most likely voted for him. Remember brash over-generalizations are horrible things as you just stated all American's voted for him because he was black. This is obviously false since there are a multitude of American's who voted for Obama for different reasons. Don't over generalize an entire diverse population of people and sum up what they all think like you know everything about them. That's plain egotistical. Who are you to say that you know the exact reason why every American votes a certain way? Who are you to assume that you know the opinion's and ideas' of every single American?

Anonymous

I actually voted for him because Palin is retarded, had McCain choose a different VP I would have most likely voted for him. Remember brash over-generalizations are horrible things as you just stated all American's voted for him because he was black. This is obviously false since there are a multitude of American's who voted for Obama for different reasons. Don't over generalize an entire diverse population of people and sum up what they all think like you know everything about them. That's plain egotistical. Who are you to say that you know the exact reason why every American votes a certain way? Who are you to assume that you know the opinion's and ideas' of every single American?

stitch

I think you are not quite getting what I am saying. When people say things like, look here is change. Here is progress, because Barrack Obama got in. I think what is most likely for that to mean is that its because he is the first Black president. Otherwise there isnt particularly much difference, He is not doing anything radical so the radical thing is really his race. I am talking about the idea around there being some kind of drastic change and people feeling as though they are good and progressive for voting for him not reasons for everyone voting for him.

stitch

I think you are not quite getting what I am saying. When people say things like, look here is change. Here is progress, because Barrack Obama got in. I think what is most likely for that to mean is that its because he is the first Black president. Otherwise there isnt particularly much difference, He is not doing anything radical so the radical thing is really his race. I am talking about the idea around there being some kind of drastic change and people feeling as though they are good and progressive for voting for him not reasons for everyone voting for him.

Singingcowboy674

You know, I was really starting to get behind this guy till he let in with the "Bush bashing". Now, do I think Bush was a good man? No. Do I think Bush was a good President? No. Then again I also do not think that Clinton was a good President, nor Barry Soetoro, AKA Barrack Obama. Our nation started it's great collapse long, LONG ago. Though I dearly love the man I've learned about in school and still have a great personal respect for, ol' Honest Abe himself signed this country's death warrant.

You might ask why I would or how I could say such a thing about the man who "set the captive's free" (not taking anything away from Christ, just borrowing the phrase). Well, prior to the Civil War, aka The War of Northern Aggression, aka The War Between the States and a couple other aka's, this great nation that we live in was made up of a patchwork of 33 individual states. Sovereign, individual states. It was a country in which each individual state in the Union was equal to that of the Union itself. When flown side by side, the flag of the United States of America flew at the same staff (height) as that of the state. It was in many ways like the European Union is today. Each state was self governed and they each granted the Federal government the rights to govern particular aspects of the overall nation that made us up. Two representatives from each state was represented in the Senate. The job of a Senator was to pass laws that were thought beneficial to the Federal system. There was also a House of Representatives that was made up of several more representatives from each state to "represent" the rights of the people. Notice those that were representing the Federal government was out numbered by the individuals that made up the House of Representatives. The job of the House was to keep Federal control in check. Therefore a balance of power.

Enter said problem. After the split from the war, the nation was turned up on it's ear. You had gone from a nation of individual states to, TWO nations of individual states that had their own similar way of doing things. Now the Southern Federation had to be melded into the Northern Federation's House and Senate, Presidency, etc. When Abraham Lincoln reformed the states he created a Federalist nation. When the south surrendered at Appomattox, they not only surrendered their right to own slaves, etc., they effectually surrendered their individual statehood to be melded into what would from there on out be referred to as the US. Now, people didn't think too much about that kind of thing. It's just words right? Well, yeah, at least sometimes, but, in this case, it was very meaningful and that small difference made a big change. Once the war was over, the United States of America (a group of individually sovereign nations coming together to work in unison and brotherhood to govern and defend common interests) as it was always formerly referred to as, gave way to the US (a corporatist nation in which states were no longer recognized as sovereign entities).

Once the Corporation of America was brought to life so did our slightly downhill yet ever increasing in steepness, decline begin. The fox had been given the keys to the chicken coop. The wolf was now watching over the flock, drooling with anticipation. The founding fathers of our once and still but unsure for how long, great nation warned us against letting the government get too big. We are no different though from any other nation or empire that has fallen. The life cycle of a nation, any nation, including our own is as follows:

1. from bondage to spiritual faith;
2. from spiritual faith to great courage;
3. from courage to liberty;
4. from liberty to abundance;
5. from abundance to complacency;
6. from complacency to apathy;
7. from apathy to dependence;
8. from dependence back into bondage.

As a nation, we have brought forth another "Declaration of Independence". Yet this one will not bring forth freedom but will bring forth bondage and death. Not only to our country as a whole but to individuals as well. We have, through our actions, even if not in word, declared independence from Our Sovereign God. We have abandoned the principals in which this great nation was first founded. The enemy said "Oh, don't worry about that...let somebody else worry about that. You just watch the game. Finish watching American Idol or Survivor. There are plenty of others who are looking out for those kind of things." Speaking of governance over our nation. "Who cares about politics anyway?!" "My opinion doesn't count. They are all crooked anyway" (which is absolutely true nonetheless). We have fell asleep at our post and the enemy has crept in and now has a knife at our throats.

We don't get out of this one alive folks. The die has been cast. God's patience has finally reached it's zenith. Like a piece of elastic that is at it's breaking point. We have declared independence from God and as any loving father would do, this most Loving Father, has granted us our emancipation. He has not abandoned those though that call themselves after His own Son's name though. He still looks on us with mercy. This is why the Luciferian machine known as the UN and Capitol Hill and the world banking system have to this point failed to be able to get it's hands around our throats. As soon as He has gathered His little flock though, this is when the conflagration will begin. The choice has been made. The die has been cast. The nation will ultimately give way to the evil that it has for so long lusted after. On that day though, there will be no "Idol". There won't be Monday Night Football or baseball or basketball games. Hockey, soccer, wrestling, you name it. Those that are left will find themselves in sackcloths and ashes. All the distractions that the "Family" has illustriously crafted to lull us into lethargy will fall away. For then, no longer will there be a need for such pacifiers. Once total control is gained and all power seized, you can protest all you want and they'll just shoot you for your troubles. The peoples in our systems of government are evil. It matters not who sits in the chair of the Oval Office. Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Independent....IF they can get the nomination to run, they are evil. You cannot get a nomination without having this mantel set upon your head. Allegiance to the Order. To doing things they way they want you to do them in order to accomplish their goals of dominance over humanity. And we sleep while they plot. We'll be asleep when the flash of the first nuke hits. We are a sleeping people who are in for a rude awakening.

God bless the peoples of America. We sure do need it.

Singingcowboy674

You know, I was really starting to get behind this guy till he let in with the "Bush bashing". Now, do I think Bush was a good man? No. Do I think Bush was a good President? No. Then again I also do not think that Clinton was a good President, nor Barry Soetoro, AKA Barrack Obama. Our nation started it's great collapse long, LONG ago. Though I dearly love the man I've learned about in school and still have a great personal respect for, ol' Honest Abe himself signed this country's death warrant.

You might ask why I would or how I could say such a thing about the man who "set the captive's free" (not taking anything away from Christ, just borrowing the phrase). Well, prior to the Civil War, aka The War of Northern Aggression, aka The War Between the States and a couple other aka's, this great nation that we live in was made up of a patchwork of 33 individual states. Sovereign, individual states. It was a country in which each individual state in the Union was equal to that of the Union itself. When flown side by side, the flag of the United States of America flew at the same staff (height) as that of the state. It was in many ways like the European Union is today. Each state was self governed and they each granted the Federal government the rights to govern particular aspects of the overall nation that made us up. Two representatives from each state was represented in the Senate. The job of a Senator was to pass laws that were thought beneficial to the Federal system. There was also a House of Representatives that was made up of several more representatives from each state to "represent" the rights of the people. Notice those that were representing the Federal government was out numbered by the individuals that made up the House of Representatives. The job of the House was to keep Federal control in check. Therefore a balance of power.

Enter said problem. After the split from the war, the nation was turned up on it's ear. You had gone from a nation of individual states to, TWO nations of individual states that had their own similar way of doing things. Now the Southern Federation had to be melded into the Northern Federation's House and Senate, Presidency, etc. When Abraham Lincoln reformed the states he created a Federalist nation. When the south surrendered at Appomattox, they not only surrendered their right to own slaves, etc., they effectually surrendered their individual statehood to be melded into what would from there on out be referred to as the US. Now, people didn't think too much about that kind of thing. It's just words right? Well, yeah, at least sometimes, but, in this case, it was very meaningful and that small difference made a big change. Once the war was over, the United States of America (a group of individually sovereign nations coming together to work in unison and brotherhood to govern and defend common interests) as it was always formerly referred to as, gave way to the US (a corporatist nation in which states were no longer recognized as sovereign entities).

Once the Corporation of America was brought to life so did our slightly downhill yet ever increasing in steepness, decline begin. The fox had been given the keys to the chicken coop. The wolf was now watching over the flock, drooling with anticipation. The founding fathers of our once and still but unsure for how long, great nation warned us against letting the government get too big. We are no different though from any other nation or empire that has fallen. The life cycle of a nation, any nation, including our own is as follows:

1. from bondage to spiritual faith;
2. from spiritual faith to great courage;
3. from courage to liberty;
4. from liberty to abundance;
5. from abundance to complacency;
6. from complacency to apathy;
7. from apathy to dependence;
8. from dependence back into bondage.

As a nation, we have brought forth another "Declaration of Independence". Yet this one will not bring forth freedom but will bring forth bondage and death. Not only to our country as a whole but to individuals as well. We have, through our actions, even if not in word, declared independence from Our Sovereign God. We have abandoned the principals in which this great nation was first founded. The enemy said "Oh, don't worry about that...let somebody else worry about that. You just watch the game. Finish watching American Idol or Survivor. There are plenty of others who are looking out for those kind of things." Speaking of governance over our nation. "Who cares about politics anyway?!" "My opinion doesn't count. They are all crooked anyway" (which is absolutely true nonetheless). We have fell asleep at our post and the enemy has crept in and now has a knife at our throats.

We don't get out of this one alive folks. The die has been cast. God's patience has finally reached it's zenith. Like a piece of elastic that is at it's breaking point. We have declared independence from God and as any loving father would do, this most Loving Father, has granted us our emancipation. He has not abandoned those though that call themselves after His own Son's name though. He still looks on us with mercy. This is why the Luciferian machine known as the UN and Capitol Hill and the world banking system have to this point failed to be able to get it's hands around our throats. As soon as He has gathered His little flock though, this is when the conflagration will begin. The choice has been made. The die has been cast. The nation will ultimately give way to the evil that it has for so long lusted after. On that day though, there will be no "Idol". There won't be Monday Night Football or baseball or basketball games. Hockey, soccer, wrestling, you name it. Those that are left will find themselves in sackcloths and ashes. All the distractions that the "Family" has illustriously crafted to lull us into lethargy will fall away. For then, no longer will there be a need for such pacifiers. Once total control is gained and all power seized, you can protest all you want and they'll just shoot you for your troubles. The peoples in our systems of government are evil. It matters not who sits in the chair of the Oval Office. Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Independent....IF they can get the nomination to run, they are evil. You cannot get a nomination without having this mantel set upon your head. Allegiance to the Order. To doing things they way they want you to do them in order to accomplish their goals of dominance over humanity. And we sleep while they plot. We'll be asleep when the flash of the first nuke hits. We are a sleeping people who are in for a rude awakening.

God bless the peoples of America. We sure do need it.

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