October 11, 2009

Chris Hedges
c/o Nation Books
116 East 16th Street, 8th floor
New York, NY 10003

Dear Chris Hedges:

The enclosed DVD is about a matter of great importance. I hope you will take a few minutes to look at it.  But first, since I shall be posting this on my web site nobabies.net as an open letter, let me review your book very quickly as some of my readers may not have read it yet. 

I happened to see you interviewed on TV, and you struck me as a man with intelligence and conscience, so I read your book and was not disappointed.  The book is Empire of Illusion, The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle, Nation Books, 2009.  I was so impressed that I am ordering four copies for friends and family to get their reactions.  That may be a mistake.  They are about the only four people who still talk to me so I try to treat them gently.

Your first chapter about the way melodramatic spectacles like professional wresting have supplanted reading and your second about the way that love has been supplanted by sex and reduced to a commodity rather troubled me.  My older brother, a very learned and thoughtful man, once remarked about Guernica, the painting by Picasso showing the bombing of the little town of that name, that it was somewhat ambiguous whether this was a protest against violence or a celebration of violence.  Picasso was that good.  It is like the old remark that good satire gives you the uncomfortable feeling that it might be the real thing while great satire gives you the nauseating feeling the next time you see the real thing that it might be satire.  You are very good at what you do, which left it an open question, but only for the time being.

In your third chapter you hit your stride and tear into academia among other things with great force and in the fourth you savage the idea that if you think you are happy, then you must be happy.

The common theme is that in each quarter, American culture has become more superficial and less substantial and in each case the common people have been betrayed by the powerful.  And then you wrap it up in the end describing this as a kind of common madness, a yearning after oblivion because of their hollowed out lives.  Like other empires before we go the way of orgy, spectacle and apathy into collapse.  When you say that the escape is through mutual human love, it is a masterstroke.  The great 1852 movie “Scaramouche,” which begins with a touching scene and ends with a revelation that reinterprets everything that was happening in the first scene.

Then three sentences from the end you release the payload.  Love is about sacrifice, “Something nearly every parent understands.”   

All of the terrible things you confront in your book (except maybe the environmental issues – did you say methane chimney’s in the Arctic ocean already?) are solvable.  Our crisis is a crisis of the heart.  All granted.  But why now?  Why at this particular moment in history.  Why not a hundred years ago or a hundred years from now?  Look at the book Habits of Empire.  Imperialism is not a new thing for us.  Nor are odious elite.  Why do we lose our nerve just now?

I am a literal minded man.  It is my strength and my weakness.  It’s part of my professional training as a diagnostic radiologist.  I am always thinking, “So it appears, but what is really going on out of sight?”  I don’t care about dark purposes or twisted minds.  I just want to know what is really happening. 

And what is going on is that we are not having enough babies to survive.  We can bring in immigrants, but somehow another person’s baby is a statistic.  It is for your own baby that you will make sacrifices.  That is our failure of heart.  That is our lack of sacrifice or even foresight.  We don’t have babies of our own, not enough.  Well we know it, although we speak only in euphemisms like “ageing population.”  And this has been going on in the developed world for about thirty years, more are less as far back as you trace our current decline.  Without babies we despair.  We go mad.  We become the subject of really interesting books. 

And why not more babies?  Why not enough. 

And now I release my own payload.  It’s genetic.  Little villages can survive indefinitely unless some urban power wipes them out.  Yet cities are always either shrinking or recruiting.  Villages: plenty of babies.  Cities: not enough babies.  And our nation is one great city.  We have created this huge gene pool, and it just does not work.  It can’t work.  It isn’t choice.  People want babies.  But our mad scramble anything-goes mating strategy is demographic suicide.  You have to marry within the village

Of course you don’t believe me.  You can’t possibly believe me.  I wouldn’t respect you if you believed me.  You want evidence.  You will only decide on evidence.  You insist on verifiable data. 

That’s where the DVD comes in.  It won’t take long.  The proof is there.  Or you can come to the web site and read for hours.  Even that does not have all the proof I have lined up and ready to go.  But the DVD has enough.

So here I sit, a little old hermit in his cave holding the secret of the ages on my knees peering out into the sunlight where the dashing young heroes like yourself, brightly armed, armor clad, scarlet plumed, prancing chargered, scour the earth for adventure.  Threaten the realm, endanger a baby, break the heart of a woman and lance is lowered, hoof strikes sod … you get the point.  An effort is made, but only if they know about it.  This old hermit is doing his best to warn people.  Have a look at the evidence.  Then call me up.  I would appreciate your input. 


Linton Herbert MD

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