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AUTHOR'S DESCRIPTION OF
A NATION GONE BLIND: AMERICA IN AN AGE
OF SIMPLIFICATION AND DECEIT
..........I was born in 1941 (I have two memories from the Second World War), struggled through adolescence in the 1950’s, spent most of the 1960’s getting educated, and, from 1970 or so until spring 2006 worked, in one form or another, as an English prof. That’s my life, and A Nation Gone Blind is a book about the changes that, during it, I’ve seen for myself—changes in American art, literature, academics, high culture and low, mass media, and—far, far from least—politics. The state of America’s cultural and intellectual health—as can now be seen by anyone who either dares or cares to look—seems to me disastrous, the state of the nation in general one of desperate emergency. The fact is that America may, conceivably, no longer even now be a free republic, and another fact is that it may, just as conceivably, lack the inner strength ever to become one again. Yet in spite of this situation, almost no one—and I mean nation-wide—is writing or speaking openly, broadly, penetratingly, or persuasively about it or them, and certainly they’re not reaching a wide enough or a responsive enough audience. It’s as though speaking the truth about America’s politico-cultural health has itself become taboo. Or, worse, it’s as though Americans have become blind to the very fact, nature, and extent of the real emergency they’re now living in the midst of.
..........Energetic, argumentative, often personal, plain in style—there are even some laughs—the book has three chapters that draw in various ways on my own experiences as writer, teacher, and reader. Each takes up an aspect of the whole argument. "Watching America Go Blind" argues that the mass media have had infinitely greater debilitating influence on the ways people see and think than has ever been fully realized, then goes on to demonstrate the damage by analyzing a number of American writers—well known and less well known—who reveal themselves unable to see, show, tell, or reason logically in regard to any plain or empirical truth about the experience of living and writing in America today. "The Death of Literary Thinking in America" turns to the academic humanities and the ruin that’s been brought about there through political correctness, politicizing of the curriculum, and, most importantly (in what I call throughout the book "The Age of Simplification"), the rejection, most especially in literary studies, of education (from "e" and "ducere," meaning to lead someone "out," presumably from inexperience and un-knowing) and its replacement with indoctrination (from "in" and "dogma," meaning to push beliefs into someone).
.........."Consumerism, Victimology, and the Disappearance of the Meaningful Self" shows how the passive-making influence of the mass media, combined with the disappearance not only of literary thinking but of empiricism itself, results in the disappearance of thinking and its replacement by feeling, a confusion that has brought about, among other things, the replacement of the study of things with the study of attitudes, and the replacement of the self with the group. Yet the people in or for whom these changes have occurred remain utterly unaware of them, unable to see the significance of what has happened.
..........In the face of such collapse as A Nation Gone Blind explains and describes, the question obviously arises, "Among the blind, who will lead?" No answer is given, but I dedicate my book to the urgent and passionate belief that every single American, from top to bottom, had at least better start looking for one—that is, if there’s to be any hope at all, as Benjamin Franklin once remarked, of keeping the republic we were given.