Posted by: bwoof | September 16, 2009

Hedges, CBC, Mac, and Moore

What a coincidence. We have returned moments ago from a Science in the City lecture at the Mac Innovation Centre featuring writer/journalist Chrisempireofillusion Hedges, author of the new release titled Empire of Illusion: the End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.  As I logged on to this plog I simultaneously got the Sonos going and flipped to CBC. At the very moment the host introduced none other than Chris Hedges! No doubt it was a segment taped earlier in the day. Too weird! Especially since I had typed the first two words of today’s plog title. Naturally, I had to add the CBC part.

So, as I write about Chris, I’m hearing him on internet radio. I hope I can keep my learnings organized for they are many.

First, it’s important to see how this learning ramble started, so buckle down for a longer plog tonight.

Some time ago I became intrigued by a Christopher Hitchens book titled God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. I disagree with the first part of the title and concur with the second half, but that explanation we’ll save for another day. I read the book and then discovered three different teachers at school who also read it. Our discussions were more than interesting and truly contribute to my learning.  Hitchens is a good writer, but pompous (in my opinion) and at times makes broad statements that I think are unfair and just as culpable of error as the ‘religionists’ for whom he seems to reserve his most vitriolic condemnations.

One day one of the teachers mentioned another author, the aforementioned Chris Hedges, who wrote a counter-point to Hitchens and other writers who tip to the athesit camp (Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris for example). He contends that their bent against god is just as religious as those who tip to god. Well, that’s my layperson’s paraphrase.

The point is, that on that day I was introduced to Chris Hedges and I rather liked his punchy spars against the cocky Hitchens and company. Yes, indeed, good dialogue is a great sport.

Fast track to this past weekend when I saw an article in the Hamilton Spectator about a free lecture to be given by Hedges. Free sounded good as did an excuse to visit the newly opened Innovation Centre. It’s a refurbed factory and shows every sign of being a wonderful re-start to an old and tired brownfield in the Hammer.

So, I signed up for two tickets and also sent the info to the same person who had introduced me to Hedges in the first place. Seredipity is such a good teacher.

You’ll have to read Hedges for yourself but here are a few notes from tonight’s talk. He was engaging as were the interesting people who crowded into the hall. I sat beside a PhD communications student/adjunct lecturer with whom we had a delightful conversation.

Hedges was introduced by a Mac prof and I can’t recall which of the two said which of the following quotes, but you’ll get the point anyway. It was a little hard to write in the dark on the sticky notes which I happened to have in my pocket.

~ most journalists have lost their independence and are either entertainers or stenographers

~ intellectuals in America are domesticated and devoid of courage

~ we have ‘celebrity culture’ and destroy that which we worship (Hedges gave a poignant remembrance of Michael Jackson to prove the point)

~Michael Jackson had a caucasion death-face and his memorial service was a variety show with a coffin

~ the ethic of unfettered capitalism is really a celebration of image over substance

~ consumption has become an inner compulsion

~ classical totalitarianism happens when politics dominates economics, and inverted totalitarianism happens when economics dominates politics

~ Benetton and Calvin Klein are the precursors to “Brand Obama”…unfortunately Obama was endowed with ‘saviour’ qualities and he won’t be able to deliver

~ America is devolving into a 3rd world nation, an Empire of Illusion…the end of all great societies tends to illusion

~ when Hedges asked a top-level financial pundit/friend which European country would best weather the financial crisis, the person answered, “None. But I would say Canada.”  Note: Hedges extolled the wisdom of our former finance minister, Paul Martin

~ don’t veer away from print-based society

~ when we ask our young people to ‘be competitive’  in a global economy we are really saying “you have to become serfs’

Well, that’s a lot of learning or at least exposure to intriguing ideas. And, as I have been plogging along, Hedges is now finished his CBC interview and none other than Michael Moore is being interviewed. He’s here for TIFF and the launch of his new movie vs. Capitalism. What an interesting evening!

Grateful for:

  • the ‘academy’ and the prof at Mac who had the vision for the lecture series, Science in the City  (video of  Hedges’ lecture will be available online on Sept 28 at this link)
  • brownfields being transformed
  • getting permission from Brandon to use the awesome photo that graces this plog and depicts my metaphor for learning. Thank you!

Curious about:

  • John Ralston Saul, Bill McGibbon, Neil Gabler, Ray Bradbury, I. F. Stone, and C. Wright Mills, all people referenced in tonight’s talk and intro
  • the boy to whom I gave bus fare today…did he actually take the bus? And did he find the probation officer in time?
  • Burkina Faso and W’s upcoming trip to do work and build a wall around The Village of Hope


  1. Is this serendipity or what – I am currently reading it as we speak (type?)!

    Great book! Brilliant insight!

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