By Dennis Mellersh
It could be said that a society and its culture is a scaled-up version of the individual, and as such, its creativity depends on wrestling with and sorting out a divergent set of competing ideas, philosophies, beliefs and principles.
If this approach is true, then author and social critic Chris Hedges’ belief about our current society and culture being devoid of such creativity-inducing conflicts could be considered a red flag of caution.
In speaking about the “cultural landscape” of America, in his recent book Unspeakable, Hedges says for example, “…most of theater produced today, like the rest of our cultural landscape is Disneyfied junk”
On the cultural landscape in general, Hedges comments:
“There has been a near virtual disappearance of dissident and artistically critical voices. Alexis de Tocqueville warned that when democratic populism collapses, when it no longer permits its citizens to engage in a meaningful way politically, it is replaced by an empty cultural populism.”
“This cultural populism, he [Tocqueville] said, is characterized by the trivial – a bland uniformity, expressions of bitterness and resentment and a mindless patriotism. He called this democratic despotism. It is a world of depoliticized citizens hermetically sealed inside a banal cultural and intellectual vacuum.”(1)
Hedges pursues this idea at considerable length in a scathing indictment of America in his earlier 232-page book, Empire of Illusion: The end of literacy and the triumph of spectacle.
It is a rather grim assessment of what Hedges at one point describes as a “dying civilization.”*
(1) Chris Hedges, Unspeakable, Hot Books, Skyhorse Publishing, New York, 2016