from the book

Burning All Illusions

by David Edwards

South End Press, 1996


"We can ... be controlled by simply not being informed, by limiting our access to the facts so that we perceive no need to be concerned or take action ..."


" ... truth, compassion and understanding seem a side issue and even a hindrance in our lives devoted to improving our standard of living and 'having fun'."


Erich Fromm, The Art of Being

"Our whole social system rests upon the fictitious belief that nobody is forced to do what he does, but that he likes to do. This replacement of overt by anonymous authority finds its expression in all areas of life: Force is camouflaged by consent; the consent is brought about by methods of mass suggestion."

p 7

Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, Manufacturing Consent.

" [The Propaganda Model] ... reflects our belief, based on many years of study of the workings of the media, that they serve to mobilize support for the special interests that dominate the state and private activity, and that their choices, emphases, and omissions can often be understood best, and sometimes with striking clarity and insight, by analyzing them in such terms."


In fact [the propaganda model] is intended to account for a system of control far tighter than anything imagined by Orwell, or practised by totalitarian governments. The achievement of this extreme level of control, it is argued, is ultimately facilitated precisely by the fact that it is almost completely invisible. The ultimately secure system of control, after all, would be one presenting every appearance of complete freedom - for who, then, would perceive any need to challenge it? This would represent a system of control far beyond any based on totalitarian force.


... modern democracies are in thrall to a system of control so complete that it surpasses anything achieved by totalitarianism ...


... powerful state and business elites seek to determine the basic framework of modern social goals: maximum economic growth generated by maximized corporate profit, fueled by mass production, fueled by mass consumerism.


... any threat to compromise the basic, unchallengeable goal of maximum economic growth from maximum corporate profit is vigorously and consciously opposed at home and abroad.


Mark Hertsgaard in conversation with David Barsamian

[... major media corporations tend to avoid reporting that seeks out root causes of the problems that afflict our world:]

" ... that's the kind of reporting that raises very serious and pointed questions about the way our society is organized, about power relations in our society, about the advantages of and problems with a capitalist system. It raises real questions about the status quo. Those questions are not going to be asked on a consistent basis within news organizations that are owned by corporations that have every interest in maintaining the status quo. Those corporations are not going to hire individuals to run those organizations who care about that kind of reporting. Therefore, those individuals are not going to hire reporters who do that kind of reporting, and so you're not going to see it.... Generally, if you start as a reporter early in your career you pick up the messages and it becomes almost instinctive. You don't even realize all of what you've given up, all of the small compromises that you've made along the way."


According to the propaganda model, the media will tend to emphasize and ignore news according to its appropriateness for state and above all corporate ends.Thus, for example, human rights offences committed by clients of the United States supporting US corporate aims will tend to be downplayed or overlooked, while offences by states deemed to be unsupportive or enemies-of US corporate interests will tend to be vigorously emphasized.

In Manufacturing Consent, Chomsky and Herman argue that elite state managers are essentially drawn from - and/or controlled by - the same pool of ehte managers controlling the major corporations and, for this reason, state interests are often indistinguishabie from corporate interests.


Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark in is book The Fire This Time: US War Crimes In The Gulf, suggests that the media plays an important part in maintaining our ignorance and passivity:

"The media, owned by the wealthy, speaking for the plutocracy, has the dual role of anaesthetizing the public to prevent serious consideration or debate of such staggering human issues as world hunger, AIDS, regional civil wars, environmental destruction, and social anarchy, and emotionalizing the people for aggression, all without a serious military threat in sight."


Erich Fromm

"From the fight against the authority of Church, State, and family which characterize the last centuries, we have come back full circle to a new obedience; but this obedience is not one to autocratic persons, but to the organization. The 'organization man' is not aware that he obeys; he believes that he only conforms with what is rational and practical."


" ... we are completely free to write what we like so long as we do not threaten to interfere with state or corporate interests. Even when we do go beyond these limits, we will still be free to write such a challenge without being dragged from our beds in the middle of the night (the inefficient totalitarian way). Instead, we will simply tend not to find a publisher, will tend not to be supported by advertising, will tend not to have significant audience out-reach and so will tend to be ignored or drowned-out by those who are supported by major publishers and advertising."


Noam Chomsky
[... corporate consumerism will tend to discourage the capacity of people to imagine alternative ways of living.]

"They (the public) ought to be sitting alone in front of the TV and having drilled into their heads the message, which says the only value in life is to have more commodities or live like that rich, middle class family you're watching and to have nice values like harmony and Americanism.That's all there is in life. You may think in your own head that there's got to be something more in life than this, but since you're watching the tube alone you assume, I must be crazy, because that's all that's going on over there. And since there is no organisation permitted-that's absolutely crucial-you never have a way of finding out whether you are crazy, and you just assume it, because it's the natural thing to assume."


... our culture needs to be infused with a 'buying environment', it needs to be swamped in 'muzak' encouraging us to have fun-and fun requires that we do not consider anything too seriously. For were we to do so, the version of common-sense reality to which we are continually encouraged to adhere (that fun, status and consumption are everything) would be revealed for the childish absurdity that it is.


R.D. Laing, The Politics of Experience

"The 'normally' alienated person, by reason of the fact that he acts more or less like everyone else, is taken to be sane... The condition of alienation, of being asleep, of being unconscious, of being out of one's mind, is the condition of the normal man. Society highly values its normal man. It educates children to lose themselves and to become absurd, and thus to be normal. Normal men have killed perhaps 100,000,000 of their fellow normal men in the last fifty years."


... the orthodox version of religious understanding - as a matter of believing in an authoritarian, cosmic overlord - has long suited the requirements of the powerful institutions in our society, emphasising as it does that we should worship an all-powerful God precisely because He is all-powerful (with clear implications for our attitude towards His earthly representatives).


Because state and corporate power depend on a similar set of unchallenged, unquestionable distortions and delusions, incoherence remains vital for their survival. After all, to present a coherent explanation as to why the Third World is starving, why the environment is falling apart, why there was a Cold War, why Panama was invaded, why there was a Gulf war, why forty per cent of British children live below the poverty line, and so on, would immediately involve revealing the truth that society is built on a set of necessary illusions. Consequently, the news we see and read, like education at school, must consist of a stream of disconnected, disembodied facts, with no context, no coherent explanation of meaning or significance, no background and no logical framework by means of which they could be understood. Because the only logical framework that fits-that the Western world is motivated by corporate profit at very nearly any human and environmental cost-is disallowed, a confused hotchpotch of ill-fitting, irrational frameworks must be invented and bolted together. Any number of surveys have revealed the extent to which the majority of people have no coherent grasp of what is happening in the world. (This does not at all indicate, as many claim, that the mass of people are stupid; only that they have been, in effect, brainwashed ...).


Noam Chomsky, in the book Necessary Illusions said,

[people must be made to worship the 'revealed truth', unquestioningly:]

"In the modern secular age, this means worship of the state religion, which in the Western democracies incorporates the doctrine of submission to the masters of the system of public subsidy, private profit, called free enterprise. The people must be kept in ignorance, reduced to jingoist incantations... and 'emotionally potent oversimplifications 'that keep the ignorant and stupid masses disciplined and content."


Because the Nicaraguan Sandinista regime was more concerned with implementing social welfare and land reforms to help Nicaraguan peasants than with serving US corporate interests, and because this could not be allowed to become 'the threat of a good example' (Oxfam) to other Third World victims in thrall to Western corporate needs, and because this truth could not be allowed to pass through the corporately-run filter system, a whole web of fabrications and distortions simply had to surround the 'monstrous', 'totalitarian' Nicaraguan regime bent on global revolution (how else could we explain our hostility to a regime bent on ameliorating the condition ofthe poor.). There had to be some explanation, something to fill the vacuum of understanding. Thus, the Sandinistas had to come to be seen to have a much worse human rights record than El Salvador and Guatemala (supportive of US corporate interests), and to be threatening the US with non-existent MIG jets.


H.L. Mencken, journalist

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."


... the level of effort elites generally devote to concealing their destruction of foreign peoples and to generating hatred towards different nationalities and colours (with propaganda campaigns containing all manner of fabricated lies), suggests that such a society is a real possibility and that the inate compassion, understanding and peaceableness of the average individual are tendencies not easily overcome.


... the propaganda system of thought control demands that you and I live by absurd religious, ethical and philosophical notions; and that the truth is not compatible with the exploitative and irrational goals of corporate consumerism and so is filtered out, not by conscious collusion, but by natural operation of market forces.


President Woodrow Wilson

'Since trade ignores national boundaries and the manufacturer insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation must follow him, and the doors of the nations which are closed against him must be battered down.... Colonies must be obtained or planted, in order that no useful corner of the world may be overlooked or lefe unused.'


Susan George, author

'Food has become: a source of profits, a tool of economic and political control; a means of insuring effective domination over the world at large and especially over the "wretched of the earth".. . Multinational agribusiness wants to grow cheap and sell dear (meaning mainly to Western markets that can afford to pay) and totally ignore the needs of poor people who cannot become 'consumers'.


David Pepper

'Western false consciousness about the Third World is amply illustrated by Band Aid and other mass-media charity events. The cloying self-congratulatory tone of the 'generous' stars melds with the frenzied pointlessness of the supporters' sponsored activities to produce a rich cocktail of hypocrisy. Purged of some of their guilt, the participants then return, none the wiser, to lifestyles and politics (masquerading as non-politics) that create the very situation which their 'charity' had sought to alleviate.'

The truth beyond Western philanthropy being that:

'Every time weaker nations have attempted to reallocate their resources and undertake land reform [to feed starving populations], powerful interests emanating from the rich world and its multilateral bodies have thwarted their efforts.'

By means of economic strangulation, proxy armies, or outright invasion, as the peasants of Chile, Nicaragua,Vietnam, E1 Salvador, Cuba and Haiti among many others know only too well. The reason for the opposition to local, self-preserving initiatives is simply that the goal of the Western powers:

'... is not, and never was, to feed today's undernourished or starving millions, but to perpetuate poverty and dependence for altogether "valid" political and economic reasons'.


Susan George, author

'Today the State more often than not protects not the right to food but those who violate the right to food. This is the case in countries in the First or Third Worlds which are governed on behalf of banks, corporations or the landholding classes; where the rights of property always supersede the right to eat.'


The forbidden truth is that we are living by a set of lies which are necessary for short-term profit, at the expense of human physical and psychological life and global environmental integrity.We are living in a system where power ensures that the requirements of profit take priority over the requirements of living things-including the need to know that this is the case. Consequently our freedom extends as far as, and no further than, the satisfaction of these requirements, with all else being declared neurosis, paranoia, communism, extremism, the work of the devil, or Neptunian nonsense.

I can only find answers, you can only find answers, the world can only find answers, when you and I as individuals escape the pacified herd, escape the system of control around us and in our heads and recognize the two voices shouting louder even than the massed might of propaganda - the voices inside our desolated hearts and outside in the desolated environment.


[In mythological tales] the hero comes to realize that he does not feel depressed and empty because of personal weakness, he is not unhappy at work, or in relationships, because he is not trying hard enough, because he is too fat, or ugly, or stupid, but because he has been tricked into living the life prescribed by society at the expense of his own. Upon perceiving this truth (either consciously or unconsciously), the hero answers this 'call to adventure' and leaves the social boundaries to disappear into the heart of the forest (of radical doubt) to search for his or her own true life. (The word 'hero' should not be imagined to refer to a superior, perfect person, in the sense in which the word is generally used, but to the person who is determined to radically challenge the assumptions and certainties of conformity.The hero is not a superior person. On the contrary, the hero is any person prepared to throw off the baggage of social delusion, including the notion that some people are superior to others.


There is, after all, great security to be found in the herd; we love to belong, and leaving-if only in spirit-is traumatic. A wild oscillation may ensue between our desire for truth and our desire to belong, so that, for a while, we may swing so violently between the two that we are no longer sure what we believe any more. It is almost as if the mind cannot immediately accept the shock of abandoning too rapidly our old cherished beliefs, our old guides to life; so we grow into our new view of the world bit by bit.

... We may succeed, intellectually and theoretically, in turning against the entrenched beliefs of consumerism, but what about us - what are we going to do about it? Initially, we may well feel that we are phonies, armchair iconoclasts, prepared to criticize society, while continuing to work, play and consume in the usual way. And what a dismal prospect this is - that, perhaps, whilst we can never again go back to our earlier values, yet we may not have the courage to go forward.

Where, then, are we? In some limbo, some space between worlds?

In this situation, our lives may seem a hopeless confusion, a bewildering mixture of doubt, self-doubt and inaction. For all our lives, our materialist culture has insisted that a particular version of life is the good life, that we are alive and young only once, that we must make the best of it - by consuming as much as we can while we last. We consider our new ideas, our awareness of the destruction of the very life-support systems on which we depend; but then we also consider our old awareness of ourselves, of our dramatically short and troubled existence, and we feel that we owe it to ourselves to make dhe best of it as defined by society.We think, perhaps, of our career, our family, our standard of living, our friends, our security, and ask ourselves if it is not crazy to think that we should be prepared to radically change the way we live for the sake of a 'mere idea'. There follows, perhaps, a process of continuing doubt and re-afffirmation of our ideas-and we wonder if anything will ever come of it.

This is the lot of those who have become aware of the destructive nature of the way we live, who no longer find the world view of consumerism credible or even sane. .Apart from the intrinsic conflict involved, the difficulty of the situation is often exacerbated by isolation and by the absence of a clear direction in which we might proceed.


Erich Fromm

'This is a society which needs to make man fit in a complicated and hierarchically organised system of production widh a minimum of friction. It creates the organisation man, a man widhout conscience or conviction, but one who is proud of being a cog, even if it is only a small one, in a big and imposing organisation. He is not to ask questions, not to think critically, not to have any passionate interests, for this would impede the smooth functioning of the organisation. But man is not made to be a thing, he is not made to shun asking questions. Hence, in spite of 'job security,' 'old-age pensions,' and the satisfaction of belonging to a large and 'nationally known' outfit, man is disquieted and not happy.

H.L. Mencken

'Governments, whatever their pretensions otherwise, try to preserve themselves by holding the individual down... Government itself, indeed, may be reasonably defined as a conspiracy against him. Its one permanent aim, whatever its form, is to hobble him sufficiently to maintain itself.


When even a few people gain sufficient information and motivation to organize and protest, the illusion of popular impotence begins to be eroded.The economic costs of controlling protests are high, whilst the very act of confrontation threatens to dissolve the illusions of freedom and democracy on which the system depends. Protests of this type can lead to the identification of a 'crisis of democracy', as occurred during the 1970s when anti-war and civil rights protesters threatened to become invoIved in the political arena. Now, as then, politicians insist that peaceful protest is a threat to democracy.This is certainly true if by democracy we mean government by the few, for the few. Genuine freedom and democracy, however, have only ever been won by this type of collective action and protest.This is why it has always been important for those who govern us to keep us as isolated as possible, to ensure that we are imbued with a sense of impotence before our 'superiors' and 'betters' (the British class system functions as a non-stop illusion factory in this respect, spinning all manner of fictions regarding the innate superiority of the wealthiest sections of the population).

The widespread sense of apathy, hopelessness and even despair among many (particularly young) people today is not at all a reflection of the realities of what is possible, but rather of the sophistication of the system of thought control by which those possibilities have been obscured.


Gore Vidal

'Although AIDS can be discussed as a means of hitting out at unpopular minorities, the true epidemic can never be discussed: the fact that every fourth American now alive will die of cancer. This catastrophe is well kept from the public by the tobacco companies, the nuclear power companies and other industries that poison the earth so that corporate America may enjoy the freedom to make money without the slightest accountability to those they are killing.'


Fritjof Capra - The Turning Point

'The numerous horror stories of corporate behaviour in theThird World which have emerged in recent years show convincingly that respect for people, for nature, and for life are not part ofthe corporate mentality. On the contrary, large-scale corporate crime is today the most widespread and least prosecuted criminal activity.'


George Kennan, Head of US State Department Planning Staff, 1948

'.. .we have 50% ofthe world's wealth, but only 6.3% of its population... In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction... We should cease to talk about vague and-for the Far East-unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratisation.'


Michael Parenti - on the brutal truth of US foreign policy

'My goal is to try to get people away from saying,'Isn't it terrible how this goes on, what a strange foolish creature man is?' and point out to them that most of us aren't strange or foolish. We don't want these kinds of things to go on. These things are the product of a particular kind of social organisation and a particular use of class power.'


All too often we respond in dependably Pavlovian fashion to the call for the destruction of some monstrous threat: Iraq, Libya, Nicaragua, Cuba, Vietnam (personalized as Saddam Hussein, Qaddafi, Ortega, Castro and Ho Chi Minh, in order to obscure the fact that it is actually men, women and children who are destroyed). The process is simplicity itself: human rights abuses are raised and pushed to the fore by the government (while those committed by us and our allies go unnoticed), 'experts' detail the awesome danger posed, other 'experts' confirm that this or that leader really is a monster capable of any amount of madness, our leaders offer to come to our rescue in the name of all that is holy and decent. Before we know it, we are cheering at the TV screens, admiring the footage of bombs curving down to their targets, and marching mindlessly off to war as part of some Just Cause, with the corpses of Third World people and of the truth-strewn among the wreckage.


... Faced with a consensus especially one endorsed by authority-modern individuals show an extreme tendency to conform; that is, to think and do as others do, or as others tell them to do, without question. It seems that the majority of people today are incapable of challenging even self-evident nonsense, while others defer to authority to the point of barbarism.

This modern susceptibility to conformity and obedience to authority indicates that the truth endorsed by authority is likely to be accepted as such by a majority of people, who are innately obedient to authority. This obedience-truth will then become a consensus truth accepted by many individuals unable to stand alone against the majority. In this way, the truth promulgated by the propaganda system-however irrational-stands a good chance of becoming the consensus, and may come to seem self-evident common sense. History suggests that there are few, if any, limits to the level of absurdity that can be reached by such a consensus-belief in an underground cave full of sadistic devils, in the benevolence of plainly psychotic dictators, in the passionate devotion of modern states to freedom and democracy when the entire world is run (and put at risk) by the profit motive, and so on.


... rationalization [is] the phenomenon whereby we believe something, not as a result of a rational consideration of the facts, but because we want to believe it, because it serves some pre-determined purpose...


The point is that no one likes to see their own actions as monstrous or destructive, we all want to believe we are 'good guys' and so we all tend to rationalize what we do in terms of grand ideals- we are doing our duty, controlling the 'bewildered herd' for their own good, bringing God to the backward races, fulfilling our 'manifest destiny', building a great benevolent empire, administering economic medicine that will lead to a bright future for all, only doing what someone else would have done anyway so it doesn't matter, or whatever else happens to fit the bill. The important thing is to declare these things, but not look too closely at the actual facts of destruction and the real motivation behind it.


Through endless repetition the mass media determine what is normal, and rapidly manipulate the views of the populace towards the 'accepted' goal...


The cliche of the transformation of young socialist into old conservative is not a change from idealism to pragmatism, but from rationality to rationalization.


... the truth of corporate involvement in the devastation of the Third World cannot be allowed to reach the public for fear of impeding that exploitation.


The goals of corporate consumerism require that we accept its values, that we fail to seek better alternatives, that we reject the possibility of finding better alternatives ('psycho-babble'), that we fail even to see the existence of a problem to be solved, that we therefore live according to an entirely inadequate set of values, that we therefore live in complete confusion, that we therefore suffer profound and devastating psychological, physical and environmental disease; that we suffer and, if necessary, die for profit.


[Noam] Chomsky's truly great contribution to the struggle for human freedom is that he has taken what we have been persuaded to believe is an insane idea, a product only of individual neurosis-the idea that society is not free and quite possibly not even sane-and shown it to be empirically, demonstrably true; he has provided the vital support for the individual to be able to declare him- and herself sane against the insanity of society, despite a million voices declaring that it is the occasional doubter who is mad.



... our task is surely to seek to understand, and thereby extricate ourselves from the mechanisms that prevent us from developing the capacity for critical thought. Above all, we need to keep asking questions.

Why does the US President talk of his hope that the 'peace process' in the Middle East will be guided by the 'wisdom and compassion of the Almighty', when few people believe in this type of God any more, when the system he fronts has no regard whatsoever for Christian ideals, when those managing that system would advise psychiatric help for anyone who actually believed the observance of such ideals was a guiding principle of policy? Why are leaders who speak in this way not roundly denounced for attempting to deceive the public? Why is the historical and documentary record not raised to demonstrate the deceit? Why are such banal lies allowed to become axiomatic truths through the silence of journalists, religious leaders, teachers and the rest? Why do intellectuals merely sit and laugh cynically at such lies when they are not irrelevant, not a joke, when they have a powerful effect on what people come to believe, when history shows that such deceptions are a cornerstone of exploitative power?

Why do we never discuss or understand anything in depth? Why does nobody understand why the United States, rather than the United Nations, is 'mediating' in the Middle East and Haiti? Why the West furiously railed against 'the New Hitler' Saddam Hussein's destruction of the Iraqi Kurds (although only when it served our purpose), while Yeltsin's assault on the people of Chechnya, with the barbaric cluster-bombing of civilian populations, is met with barely a murmur of disapproval, with US Secretary of State Warren Christopher describing the Russian assault as merely 'ill-conceived and ill-executed' ? When UN condemnation of Indonesia's invasion of East Timor was vetoed by the West? When the United States itself invaded Panama, killing 3,000 civilians to arrest one man?

Why are we so obsessed with keeping up with current events but not with understanding those events? Why does no one discuss the fact that it is often literally impossible to make sense of what is happening on the basis of the reports we see on the news (certainly the case with regards to Haiti)? Why is this not a source of outrage in democracies whose life-blood is supposed to be the free flow of information, when our representatives are acting and even killing other human beings in our name, but we have no understanding of what they are doing or why? Is this all a way of making us feel we are seeing the truth, when all we are seeing is a stream of useless, meaningless facts?

Why can we not vote on the issues we want to see investigated in the news, when the fate of places like Haiti, Iraq, Panama, Grenada and Chechnya show such a marked tendency to be 'disappeared' from the news? Why can we not vote for the commentators we would like to see giving their perspective on the news, when Fairness In Accuracy And Reporting found that of 1,530 guests interviewed on the prestigious US Nightline public affairs programme, 92% were white, 89% were male and 80% were professionals, government officials, or corporate representatives, with the issues covered 'closely aligned with the agenda of the US government'?

Why do governments and companies justify their actions on the basis of the need to 'create jobs', as if profit was a secondary issue, as if everyone gained equally, as if the quantity and not the quality of jobs was the only issue? Why does not everyone who has ever worked for a corporation, who knows the truth, not expose such nonsense, such complete reversals of the truth, for the transparent deceptions they are? Why are jobs 'created' but never 'destroyed'-only 'lost'? Why are politicians protected from the public, from all genuinely awkward questions, when it is we who are their leaders? Why are our political representatives treated with such reverence and awe in a democracy that is supposed to place 'the people' in highest regard? Why can we not see that people like John Major, Bill Clinton and George Bush are just men, just individual people like you and I (regardless of the podium they stand on and the cut of their suits) who need to give account of themselves, who need to convince us that they are worthy of our attention, let alone our respect?

Why are so many of our artists so bleakly world-weary, so convinced of the hopelessness and tragedy of life when, each and every night, we look up to behold a self-evident mystery that is your mystery, my mystery? Why is the search for truth deemed neurotic, but the acceptance of superficial platitudes deemed practical? Why is it considered realistic to dismiss human life as absurd, but naive to dismiss our social system as absurd? Why is it considered realistic to deem people innately wicked, but simple-minded to deem our political and economic system innately wicked? Is realism what is real, or what is required to be real?

Why is our society still not in love with (or even tolerant of) that wonderful menagerie of 'asses', 'Neptunians' and assorted 'wild men [and women] on the wings 'who, over the years, have sought the truth motivated, not by financial or political power, but by a sincere desire to understand the world? Why can we not see the obvious parallels between the burning of Giordano Bruno at the stake, the denouncement of the writings of the great humanist Spinoza as monstrosities 'forged in hell by a renegade Jew and the Devil', the dismissal of that braying 'ass' Copernicus before Luther, and the abuse meted out to Chomsky-that 'liar', 'crackpot', purveyor of 'absolute rubbish', that 'self-hating Jew'? Why, with the spectacle of all history before us, do we not automatically suspect absolutely everyone declared respectable, unbiased and praiseworthy by those who have power over us?

Why does our society find it unworthy of discussion that we and our precious, impressionable children are continuously hounded by advertisers with the same set of interests (profit from mass consumption) propounding the same essential view of the world (happiness and status through unrestrained consumption) ? Why does it not occur to us that this continuous flood of propaganda might be a threat to our view of reality, might be a threat to our independence and sanity? Why does that not send even the tiniest chill up our spines?

Is it because our political and economic systems are rooted in a great system of necessary lies? And when we find ourselves so convinced by those lies that our hearts sink to see how irrelevant our search for truth suddenly seems, then what damage must that system of lies be doing inside us?

How could we ever hope to find contentment when we are required to live lives based on profitable illusions? When the most important issues to which we devote ourselves have become getting that new car, moving to that new house, getting that extra promotion for the extra money; when these really have become the central concerns in our lives, though we don't really know why, or what anything is really all about-how can we hope to be happy, or sane? How can we hope to build relationships, to find love, on these foundations?

People talk of the emptiness of life, which may sound nebulous and other-worldly. But let us put it another way: how can we be happy when we have a complete lack of understanding as to why we are doing what we are doing? How can we feel good about life when it makes no sense to us? Is that what we mean when we call life meaningless? And if we are not able to interpret that sense of meaninglessness in terms of failure to understand, because the system has trained us not to think that way, then is that why we interpret our sense of meaninglessness in terms of life not leading to some goal?

We are required to misinterpret our own problems because, like this book, the alternatives seem to make no sense in the 'real' world that continuously assaults our senses. The world tells us that 'of course this is the right way to live - there is no other way', so the problem must lie outside the political and economic system.

Everyone wants to find answers to life. Everyone needs genuine relationship with other people, peace of mind, fulfillment, a sense of community and belonging. Everyone wants to be free from crippling stress and dullness and boredom. Everyone wants life to continue on this planet.

Let us, then, put a last question as simply as possible - how on earth can we ever hope to answer these questions adequately, if we are not free to consider or answer them in ways that do not suit the requirements of corporate consumerism?

Burning All Illusions

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