September 30, 2006

Morris Berman B&N Talk

Morris Berman
Talk at Barnes & Noble, Washington, D.C
May 6, 2006


Blogger RossB said...

Dear Mr. Berman: Have been reading your recent book "Dark Ages America" with pleasure, relief, pain, and most importantly the joy of being stimulated to some thought process which allows me to continue to try and understand. I come to your book from my profession as a analytically trained psychotherapist practicing for over 30 years. What that experience has left me with is a sense of humility in the face of the kinds of questions your book raises as well as the kinds of questions my patients raise. That we are victims of a set of forces larger than ourselves, more insidious than we like to acknowledge, leaving us at times filled with despair or more likely rushing to impulsive-compulsive behavior-consumerism to relieve the strain. That we in America live with a dark lie-"dark" is so very apparent. That we hide ourselves from the lie behind our gated communities or in our steel boxes, is an expression of our need to pretend that it did not happen-slavery. That we have leapt to a belief in a "higher power" or "our president" is another expression of the same struggle each of us lives with. Simple solutions to complicated problems we all search for, yearn for. Yet my training and my experience looking in ward has left me with the only conclusion being to learn how to tolerate the pain of my life, the pain of failed aspirations and dreams believed in so fervently as a youth "you can do any thing you set your mind to". As I have learned to tolerate this pain I have found myself slowly beginning to accept it then understand it. With understanding has come ever so fitfully compassion for myself and others. It is unfinished work but it has begun. If I may be so presumptuous as to suggest that Psychoanalysis or it's variety of manifestations to date and during the coming decades will offer a crack in the facade of humanity. As Leonard Cohen says "and that’s how the light gets in". Thank you so much for writing all your books. They truly offer a oasis in this sometimes limitless expanse of desert. Ross

9:22 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Ross:

Many thanks for writing, and for your words of support; I'm glad DAA was of some value to you. I did actually write one psychology book, in 1989, under the title "Coming to Our Senses," which you can get off of Amazon (despite what they say) or direct from the distributor, Book Clearing House in Harrison NY ( Given your professional interests, it might be something you'd enjoy.

As far as psychoanalysis fixing anything, letting in any light--yes, it will for individuals here and there, but I do not believe it can change the country in any way, really. An entire nation can't go to a therapist, obviously; and the US is in such unbelievable denial anyway, that it wouldn't go if it could. As I say in DAA, the future lies elsewhere, not in the USA. We now have the destruction of habeas corpus, which existed in the West since 1215; and the specter of senators and congressmen falling over each other to legalize torture and secret detention. Res ipsa loquitur, eh? The thing speaks for itself.

Thanks again for writing, and my best to you-


4:11 PM  
Blogger Douglas F. Carhart said...

Dear Mr. Berman--Thanks so much for another wonderful book. I've read both "Reenchantment" and "Senses" when I was studying Archetypal Psychology (Jung, James Hillman, here in Sonoma, CA. years ago. The latest author who has really spun my head around is a local guy, Richard Heinberg, "The Party's Over", "Powerdown", etc. Are you
familiar with his work? His whole shtick is about how we have used up about half of our fossil fuel, and that when we start down that downward slope (when supply does not meet demand for the first time) things will really begin to change. The concept is known as Peak Oil. Forgive me if you are up on this, but if it's true, it throws a wrench in everything, globalization, empire, etc. If you haven't read it, I think you might really find it compelling. Have you? I'd love to hear your thoughts, and thanks again for your hard work on our very sad state of affairs. Thanks, Doug Carhart, Santa Rosa, CA

8:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Berman,

After reading the Reenchantment of the world in college I was inspired to find something to help change the predominate Cartesian paradigm. My search had led me to permaculture, a sustainable design system for human habitat and recently I have completed a permaculture certification course.

Do you think permaculture and ecovillages have the potential to be a significant role in the development of a better future?

thank you,

11:44 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Casey:

I honestly don't know; but in the spirit of the "monastic option" outlined in the Twilight book, I'd say: better to do it than not to do it. We can never be sure where the things we undertake in a positive direction are going to wind up.


4:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been reading "Reenchantment" for the past week or so and find it totally exciting, even though "dark". Ten years ago, a friend gave it to my husband, a Ph.D. physicist who worked his whole life for DuPont, and who has had insomnia for almost his entire adult life. He has never read it.

What excites me about your book is its connection to mine. For 20 years, I worked on a personal book I called "Coming to My Rescue" and just last summer, after many, many rejections, published it online myself.

For most of those 20 years, I did not know what I was doing, what the larger message of the book was; I was just trying to rescue myself. But now that it is OUT, I am hearing from people that, because they see it as honest, they find it "comforting" and even "healing", even though others call it "too dark."

But I think that in my groping way, writing episode after episode of a woman's struggles with passivity, (being "too little" is how she defines it"), and how she came to be so-defined, resonates with many, many people of all ages and both sexes.

I feel the connection with your work because, in a culture where Oprah is queen, where careers are the road to "success" (and the hoped-for pot of gold), there is an either/or quality to those "successes" and the struggles experienced by the ones who cannot make themselves "make it", with the result that there are untold millions of folks who feel they don't belong, are not worthy, etc., etc., which only reinforces their passivity.

Thank you for all your insights.

9:10 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear J:

And thank you for yours. There are a lot of things that depress me about a culture in which someone like Oprah is seen as talented or cutting-edge, but a big one is that if you reinforce the #1 pillar of the US psyche--that we are 1st and foremost individuals and should be able to make it on our own (what Oprah sadly calls "empowerment")--you get lionized by the American public. No one gets lionized for saying that there is something very screwed up with the culture of extreme individualism, one in which there is no social safety net and in which the definition of success--embodied in the Oprah world of money and celebrity--may actually be sick. And of course, the down side of not "making it" is that those who don't, in Oprah's value system, are "victims"
--losers--who must have something wrong with them (a failure of empowerment, quite obviously). When I see someone like that elevated to the status of a role model, wildly applauded and widely admired, I know there really is no hope for our poor country.

Thanks for writing-


12:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi There!

You are a really wonderful writer and obviously have some very important things to say. I have been researching cyclical theories of history for a while now so your last two books were a particular find for me. I passed one on to a friend who immediately ordered everything you wrote from After that coup I thought.. well, one down, 8 million of my neighbors to go! (I live in New York).

There are these creepy and in my mind pointless signs on the subway these days warning us to keep our eyes peeled for terrorists. They read "If you see something say something". I ordered a rubber stamp with that command and 1000 blank stickers which I began to fill with things I see (example 5 cops standing in front of a bag check talking to each other during rush hour subway traffic while hordes of people zip buy... Not that I like the bag checks-- but what a joke.) Anyway, for the most part they were erudite and illuminating and certainly extremely cathartic. I put them in phone booths on signs and other public places. It was such a tiny little gesture and certainly nothing aimed at catching the attention of the average urban zombie-- but I felt like if I had stumbled upon one of them I would be comforted to know that I'm not the only person able to comprehend larger patterns and their manifestations.

Sooo yes! You inspire! Thank you!

Also- I enjoyed your post on Colombia. I only went there once but I loved it which was a complete surprise. Two college aged boys came up to me at the park and recited a poem that they wrote. It wasn't a love poem either (THOSE I get a lot-- just kidding). It was very metaphysical-- I can't imagine anyone here sharing that with a stranger unless they were crazy and homeless (which is why I so appreciate the crazy and homeless!).

Good luck with everything and thanks again!

Carolyn Ward

1:23 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Carolyn,

Many thanks for writing. I Heart NY.

I guess we should be keeping our eyes fixed on the government these days, and reporting (to whom?) things like the legalization of torture and the repeal of habeas corpus. And they laughed when I said we were returning to the Dark Ages.

Stay in touch-


8:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Berman

I just finished reading Wondering God (which I agree is your best book so far, though I haven’t read the most recent one). I can’t really see much of a paradoxical sensibility integrated into what I would describe as the factional identity politics involved in your other political book or in this blog and I wanted to share with you a view of both collective and individual culture that makes this integration of paradox (and much else) into political culture possible. I just call what I want to describe “Healthy Culture”. By way of introduction, I offer the contents of a little flyer I had handed out in the past.

Healthy Culture
-- by Piankhy Thompson

“Truth is the First casualty of War. It is also the first condition of Peace”

“Everybody has a piece of the Truth and every body has a piece of the Lie.”

“Violence doesn’t work. Non-violence doesn’t work either. Maybe Healthy Culture will work”

—Piankhy Thompson

We all live in, are infected by, and suffer from, a sick Culture of Apart-ness, of Alienation. This culture, like all culture is comprised of Cosmology, Identity, Ritual, and Infrastructure. In the case of the dominant culture this means; a Cosmology of Apart-ness, an Identity-Politics of Apart-ness, Rituals of (inner and outer) Apart-ness, and Infrastructures of Apart-ness. Education (formal and informal) is the transmission of culture, and in our case it is the transmission of this sick culture. The factional political paradigms or our time (including anarchism, socialism, communism, feminism as well as, capitalism, libertarianism, nationalism, etc…) are all symptoms of, rather than cures for, this condition of sick culture. As such, none of them have any potential at all for changing anything that matters in any sustainable way. We have no time for this.

Since sick culture is the problem, it follows that Healthy Culture is the solution. So what is Healthy Culture and how does it manifest on the collective, political Level? Glad you asked. That happens to be the main topic of the workshop I am giving..(this parts not relavent here). Specifically I will speak of an extremely small, but vital and replicable, Cultural Pilot Project that is going on in the cultural microclimate of Twin Oaks Intentional community in Virginia, involving the practice of Healthy Culture; its cosmology of Togetherness (Integral Science), its Identity-Politics of Togetherness (Individual-Personhood), it’s Rituals of Togetherness (Life-Dance “rituals”) and its Infrastructure of Togetherness.

For more about the details of these four aspects of healthy culture I refer you to my two blogs; (which is more about theory) and (which is more about practice).

I hope you will go to both blogs and check them out and tell me what you think. Criticism is very much welcome (I know that they could use some editing). A recent entry called “Paradox and Healthy Culture”, which introduces what I call “Life-Logic” is probably most relevant to “Wandering God” but I think you will find most of the entries in both blogs of interest. I hope it’s clear in what you read that Friendship rather than “Followership” is the point of the whole thing and if healthy culture strikes you as just another “no-paradigm” paradigm, I hope you can help me both change that impression and whatever reality there may be behind it.

However, If you think there is something to it all, then perhaps we could find some way to collaborate in the furtherance (and modification) of the “cultural pilot project” mentioned above.

Thanks for reading (and for writing your books),


Piankhy Thompson

11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I'm a great admirer and have read Twilight & DAA. At this point my wife and I are ready to "Escape from America." I noticed in some of your comments that you recommend moving to Europe. But don't they have a host of problems to contend with, such as an aging population, falling birthrate, increased taxes to shore up the declining pensions and services, illegal immigration of muslims and africans, increased economic competitiveness and individualism due to globalization, etc.? I'm wondering if it's too late to move there as well? Would you be so kind as to comment on this, and to provide four or five additional recommendations that you may have heard about around the world where a couple could move to escape consumerism, vulgarity, debauchery, ignorance, kitsch, and to have quality of life, intellectual stimulation, feeling of community, loving neighbors, peace, quiet, etc.

Thank You, and Best Regards.


6:23 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Joseph:

As we both know, there's no utopia, and yes, Europe has a host of problems. I personally don't see it thru rose-colored glasses, such as may be found in Jeremy Rifkin's latest book, for example. All the things you list as drawbacks are certainly correct. However: there is better, and there is worse. European countries offer a social safety net, relatively inexpensive health care, and a vision--the idea of 25+ nations working together for the common goal of peace and community. Your taxes are high there, but at least they don't go toward the maintenance of a failing empire and the butchering of hundreds of thousands of civilians in the Middle East. You'll work less as well: Americans on the average work 350 hours more per year than Europeans do. Also, Europe is *interesting*; people talk about other things besides money, television, and the latest technological toys. You also will have the opportunity to learn other languages and read newspapers that report actual news, instead of national mythologies. Still a good bet, in short.

As for me, after giving it a lot of thought, I chose a small town in Mexico. Utopia? No. Better than the US? Sin duda, amigo.

Good luck, and thank you for writing-


4:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard your interview with Against the Grain on KPFA today 5-14-07. With regard to your notion of frivilous technology I take issue with your use of the CD as an example. From an ecological and ease of use standpoint they are FAR superior to vinyl. Vinyl sucked and was fragile. I hated having to get up every 20 minutes to flip the record over or change it. An enormous pain in the butt!! I say this to point out that the ideas you express are appropriate and right on with regard to personal alienation and useless frivilous technology and other things (celebrity chefs!). But I would say look for better examples since crappy ones cause people to reject the message.

6:39 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Anonymous:

I fear you are missing the forest for the trees. Sure, lots of individual technologies are better than their predecessors, but the net effect of a society that revolves around technological improvement is a society saturated with garbage, and empty of meaning. If that's the ultimate cost, I'll take vinyl any ol' day of the week!


8:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Berman,

Great thanks for your most pessimistic work thus far. I appreciate your candidity throughout the book, which I have read through twice now.
Your message is something of deep importance to Americans (or should be). I am from the UK. The comparisons, and lack thereof, I can make are many (which, of course, is not a good thing).
Something I have noticed, which will disappoint, is that the common Englishman is heading in the same direction as the common American. This is, of course, forgetting how to use one's brain and taking delight in unfettered ignorance. Mainland Europe is quite a bit different from the US and Britain, but, I fear that before too long we will start seeing the same patterns.
If you sleep with the President your country, too, will climb in bed with him; that's the way it works, and it has taken quite a toll on the British public.
Students, Schools, Education, Healthcare, Society, all of which are much better than they are in the States. However, as I said before, these are on the decline. Perhaps in your comparisons of the US to other countries, such as those in Europe, you could exclude the UK. It would make your argument much more compelling!

Thanks again, Sir, it's a pleasure to read your work.


Tim Johnston

11:09 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home