The following excerpt is from several speeches given by Joe Bageant at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky University at Lexington, and the Adler School of Professional Psychology in Chicago. He was invited to speak on American consciousness and what he dubbed "The American Hologram," in his book, Deer Hunting With Jesus. They are put together in this article, Escape from the Zombie Food Court.
Much truth in Bageant's assessment of society. The schism in our society between right and left, religious or not, war and peace is deepened and made more viral from relentless media hype and corporate control. Truth has certainly been compromised in our corporate driven society.Yet it all seems so normal. Certainly the psychologists who have prescribed so much Prozac that it now shows up in the piss of penguins, saw what they did as necessary. And the doctors who enable the profitable blackmail practiced by the medical industries see it all as part of the most technologically advanced medical system in the world. And the teacher, who sees no problem with 20% of her fourth graders being on Ritalin, in the name of "appropriate behavior," is happy to have control of her classroom. None of these feel like dupes or pawns of a corporate state. It seems like just the way things are. Just modern American reality. Which is a corporate generated reality.
Given the financialization of all aspects of our culture and lives, even our so-called leisure time, it is not an exaggeration to say that true democracy is dead and a corporate financial state has now arrived. [...]
So how is it that we Americans came to live in such a parallel universe? How is it that we prefer such things as Facebook (don't get me wrong, I'm on Facebook too), and riding around the suburbs with an iPod plugged into our brain looking for fried chicken in a Styrofoam box? Why prefer these expensive earth destroying things over love and laughter with real people, and making real human music together with other human beings -- lifting our voices together, dancing and enjoying the world that was given to us? Absolutely for free.And the answer is this: We suffer under a mass national hallucination. Americans, regardless of income or social position, now live in a culture entirely perceived inside a self-referential media hologram of a nation and world that does not exist. Our national reality is staged and held together by media, chiefly movie and television images. We live in a "theater state." [...]
The TV goldfish bowlYou may or may not watch much television, but the average American spends almost one-third of his or her waking life doing so. The neurological implications of this are so profound that they cannot even be comprehended in words, much less described by them. Television constitutes our reality in the same fashion that water constitutes the environment in a goldfish bowl. It's everywhere and affects everything, even when we are not watching it. Television regulates our national perceptions and our interior ideations of who we Americans are. It schedules our cultural illusions of choice. It pre-selects candidates in our elections. By the way, as much as I like Obama, I fully understand he is there because he was selected by the illusion producing machinery of television, and citizens under its influence. It is hard to underestimate the strength of these illusions. [...]It is fair to say that television and the American culture are the same thing. More than any other factor, it is the glue of society and the mediator of our experience. American culture is stone cold dead without it. If all the TVs in America went black, so would most of America's collective consciousness and knowledge. Because corporate media have replaced nearly all other previous forms of accumulated knowledge. [...]The media have colonized our inner lives like a virus. The virus is not going away. This commoditization of our human consciousness is probably the most astounding, most chilling accomplishment of American capitalist culture. [...]
Americans are conditioned to reject any affective attachment that does not have a happy ending. And in that, we remain mostly a nation of children. We never get to grow up.