There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration.
The words consent of the governed have become an empty phrase. Our textbooks on political science and economics are obsolete. Our nation has been hijacked by oligarchs, corporations, and a narrow, selfish, political, and economic elite, a small and privileged group that governs, and often steals, on behalf of moneyed interests. This elite, in the name of patriotism and democracy, in the name of all the values that were once part of the American system and defined the Protestant work ethic, has systematically destroyed our manufacturing sector, looted the treasury, corrupted our democracy, and trashed the financial system. During this plundering we remained passive, mesmerized by the enticing shadows on the wall, assured our tickets to success, prosperity, and happiness were waiting around the corner.
Inverted totalitarianism, unlike classical totalitarianism, does not revolve around a demagogue or charismatic leader. It finds expression in the anonymity of the Corporate State. It purports to cherish democracy, patriotism, and the Constitution while manipulating internal levers.
Washington has become our Versailles. We are ruled, entertained, and informed by courtiers — and the media has evolved into a class of courtiers. The Democrats, like the Republicans, are mostly courtiers. Our pundits and experts, at least those with prominent public platforms, are courtiers. We are captivated by the hollow stagecraft of political theater as we are ruthlessly stripped of power. It is smoke and mirrors, tricks and con games, and the purpose behind it is deception.
Sadism dominates the culture. It runs like an electric current through reality television and trash-talk programs, is at the core of pornography, and fuels the compliant, corporate collective. Corporatism is about crushing the capacity for moral choice and diminishing the individual to force him or her into an ostensibly harmonious collective. This hypermasculinity has its logical fruition in Abu Ghraib, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and our lack of compassion for our homeless, our poor, the mentally ill, the unemployed, and the sick. … We accept the system handed to us and seek to find a comfortable place within it. We retreat into the narrow, confined ghettos created for us and shut our eyes to the deadly superstructure of the corporate state.
We’ve bought into the idea that education is about training and “success”, defined monetarily, rather than learning to think critically and to challenge. We should not forget that the true purpose of education is to make minds, not careers. A culture that does not grasp the vital interplay between morality and power, which mistakes management techniques for wisdom, which fails to understand that the measure of a civilization is its compassion, not its speed or ability to consume, condemns itself to death.
from Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle by Chris Hedges
Translation from the Anglo-Saxon by Michael Alexander
Who liveth alone longeth for mercy,
Maker’s mercy. Though he must traverse
Tracts of sea, sick at heart,
- Trouble with oars ice-cold waters,
The ways of exile – Weird is set fast.
Thus spoke such a ‘grasshopper’, old griefs in his mind,
Cold slaughters, the death of dear kinsmen:
‘Alone am I driven each day before daybreak
To give my cares utterance.
None are there now among the living
To whom I dare declare me throughly,
Tell my heart’s thought. Too truly I know
It is in a man no mean virtue
That he keep close his heart’s chest,
Hold his thought-hoard, think as he may.
No weary mind may stand against Weird
Nor may a wrecked will work new hope;
Wherefore, most often, those eager for fame
Bind the dark mood fast in their breasts.
So must I also curb my mind,
Cut off from country, from kind far distant,
By cares overworn, bind it in fetters;
This since, long ago, the ground’s shroud
Enwrapped my gold-friend. Wretched I went thence,
Winter-wearied, over the waves’ bound;
Dreary I sought hall of a gold-giver,
Where far or near I might find
Him who in meadhall might take heed of me,
Furnish comfort to a man friendless,
Win me with cheer.
He knows who makes trial
How harsh and bitter is care for companion
To him who hath few friends to shield him.
Track ever taketh him, never the torqued gold,
Not earthly glory, but cold heart’s cave.
He minds him of hall-men, of treasure-giving,
How in his youth his gold-friend
Gave him to feast. Fallen all this joy.
He knows this who is forced to forgo his lord’s,
His friend’s counsels, to lack them for long:
Oft sorrow and sleep, banded together,
Come to bind the lone outcast;
He thinks in his heart then that he his lord
Claspeth and kisseth, and on knee layeth
Hand and head, as he had at otherwhiles
In days now gone, when he enjoyed the gift-stool.
Awakeneth after this friendless man,
Seeth before him fallow waves,
Seabirds bathing, broading out feathers,
Snow and hail swirl, hoar-frost falling.
Then all the heavier his heart’s wounds,
Sore for his loved lord. Sorrow freshens.
Remembered kinsmen press through his mind;
He singeth out gladly, scanneth eagerly
Men from the same hearth. They swim away.
Sailors’ ghosts bring not many
Known songs there. Care grows fresh
In him who shall send forth too often
Over locked waves his weary spirit.
Therefore I may not think, throughout this world,
Why cloud cometh not on my mind
When I think over all the life of earls,
How at a stroke they have given up hall,
Mood-proud thanes. So this middle earth
Each of all days aeth and falleth. ‘
Wherefore no man grows wise without he have
His share of winters. A wise man holds out;
He is not too hot-hearted, nor too hasty in speech,
Nor too weak a warrior, not wanting in fore-thought,
Nor too greedy of goods, nor too glad, nor too mild,
Nor ever too eager to boast, ere he knows all.
A man should forbear boastmaking
Until his fierce mind fully knows
Which way his spleen shall expend itself.
A wise man may grasp how ghastly it shall be
When all this world’s wealth standeth waste,
Even as now, in many places, over the earth
Walls stand, wind-beaten,
Hung with hoar-frost; ruined habitations.
The wine-halls crumble; their wielders lie
Bereft of bliss, the band all fallen
Proud by the wall. War took off some,
Carried them on their course hence; one a bird bore
Over the high sea; one the hoar wolf
Dealt to death; one his drear-checked
Earl stretched in an earthen trench.
The Maker of men hath so marred this dwelling
That human laughter is not heard about it
And idle stand these old giant-works.
A man who on these walls wisely looked
Who sounded deeply this dark life
Would think back to the blood spilt here,
Weigh it in his wit. His word would be this:
‘Where is that horse now? Where are those men? Where is the hoard-sharer?
Where is the house of the feast? Where is the hall ‘s uproar?
Alas, bright cup! Alas, burnished fighter!
Alas, proud prince! How that time has passed,
Dark under night’s helm, as though it never had been!
There stands in the stead of staunch thanes
A towering wall wrought with worm-shapes;
The earls are off-taken by the ash-spear’s point,
- That thirsty weapon. Their Weird is glorious.
Storms break on the stone hillside,
The ground bound by driving sleet,
Winter’s wrath. Then wanness cometh,
Night’s shade spreadeth, sendeth from north
The rough hail to harry mankind.
In the earth-realm all is crossed;
Weird’s will changeth the world.
Wealth is lent us, friends are lent us,
Man is lent, kin is lent;
All this earth’s frame shall stand empty. ‘
So spoke the sage in his heart; he sat apart in thought.
Good is he who keeps faith: nor should care too fast
Be out of a man’s breast before he first know the cure:
A warrior fights on bravely. Well is it for him who seeks forgiveness,
The Heavenly Father’s solace, in whom all our fastness stands.
Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.