November 10, 2006

Letter to an Ecstatic Liberal

I wrote the following in response to a letter from a friend of mine in the wake of the midterm elections of 7 November 2006. He was very excited about the Democrats having taken the House and the Senate; now, he assured me, everything was going to change. This is my reply:

Dear John:

I share your disgust of the GOP &c., but I'm not sure that very much has changed. This country has millions of Rumsfelds, millions of Bushes; they walk the streets of our great nation every day, and if we eliminate one particular Rummy or Bush, there is no doubt that they can be quickly replaced by clones (e.g. CIA-man Robert Gates, another useful idiot). Head of the Hydra, as the saying goes. Consider this:

1. According to the Miami Herald (11/8/06), the leading House Democrats say that there will be no cutting of funds for the war in Iraq. They also, in both the lead-up to the election and the aftermath, have never mentioned the words "withdrawal plan" or "timetable for withdrawal." The truth is that we are talking abt the difference between Empire and Empire Lite; big deal. The changes the Dems are now proposing deal with minimum wage and stem-cell research. Important? Maybe; but I see these as basically cosmetic. There is no addressing the fundamental error of globalization, US capitalism, and the agitated foreign policy that is typical of an empire in its death-throes. Any president who might try--think of Jimmy Carter--would be out the door in fairly short order.

2. The so-called shift to blue states is a mirage. After all, the great American people would be cheering Mr. Bush if Iraq had been a victory. They have no objection to an immoral foreign policy, or even a severely misguided one; they only think in terms of win or lose. Hence, the so-called liberal tilt in the House is due to the fact that at least 9 very conservative Dems won GOP seats--some tilt. As for the Senate, Va. was the swing state, and this by a mere 7,000 votes.

3. In the wake of the election, Nancy Pelosi vowed a "move to the center." I don't know if you've noticed, but since about 1978 the so-called center is on the far right. Arthur Schlesinger's famous argument about how the American people can only be wooed from the "vital center" remains true, except that that center is violent, stupid, and basically moribund. So she's moving to the center, but to what end? Recall that line from Gore Vidal: US politics consists of a single party with 2 right wings.

The bottom line: the US is broken; there ain't nothin' gonna fix it.

With kind regards,
Maury Berman

44 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Berman,
What a great letter! I wish more people would take the time to really learn more about our foreign policy, and what the Democrats stand for. You're right - the "center" is not the center, but the far right. In fact, Harold Ford, Jr. - the democratic Senator for Tennessee - wants prayer in our school!

Anyway, I'm just a 19-year-old college student myself, but the number of people who believe in Creationism, and just the general lack of scientific knowledge, is disheartening. I'm thinking of moving to Canada.

Your friend,
Ehrich

8:16 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Ehrich:

Last I read, 47% of Americans believe in Creationism; we are the laughingstock of the developed world. As for Canada, it has a lot of good features, and I spent 7.5 years there myself. Still have some good friends there, in fact. But all in all, it's not that inspiring...there's a kind of "flat" quality there that could eventually wear you down. Why not head for Europe, learn another language, and have a social safety net you can rely on in your old age? It's also the case that the European "project" is a noble one--to join a large number of diverse nations in harmony, live in peace,and certainly, eschew any imperial ambitions. Stay here, and you'll be paying taxes for an imperial project that slaughters hundreds of thousands of civilians on the other side of the world in the name of some purported "democracy." And will keep doing it, make no mistake about it: Vietnam, Iraq I, Iraq II, and probably Iran next on the agenda. You'll work like a dog--350 hours more per year than the average European--And what can you talk with your American neighbors about, really? The latest computer they bought, complete with lawn mower attachment? This is a no brainer, my friend: a better life awaits.

Buena suerte/Bonne chance/Viel Glueck/Buona fortuna--

mb

10:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This does not sound like the Morris Berman I read in the "Reenchantment of the World" 21 years ago at the University of Pennsylvania. That book and its powerful historical insights invigorated me and changed the course of my life. It inspired me to work for progressive change because the arguments convinced me of a change in perception that linked intellect and faith.

Pessimism is not a viable operating philosophy. People or a person of conviction and faith (not necessarily religious) can and do change things. Whining is for permanent losers. If you try, you may succeed or fail. If you whine and take the sidelines, you are guaranteed to fail. Life is too short to be anything but a constructive doer.

5:58 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Anonymous:

If you read Dark Ages carefully, you'll see that I am optimistic abt the human spirit, but not abt the US. The Reenchantment trilogy is not about one country; it's about the course of human development--which will go on, despite the self-destructiveness of the US. So there is hope, but not for America, imo.

I also have to add that I don't think Dark Ages is "whining"--at all--and I don't think pessimism is a mistake or for losers. Blind optimism has characterized much of US history and the American psyche, and it certainly has its positive side; but it has also been heavily naive, and ignored the very real tragic dimension of human life (something that Europeans and Asians are well aware of). Naive optimism is for intellectual lightweights, really; and optimism in a no-exit context, which is where the US has finally wound up--*that's* for losers!

Good luck, in any case--
mb

9:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Morris: I heard your interview on the Charney Report. It was excellent and inspired me to order some of your books. Just hearing you on that program also gave me a different perspective on Charney. Thanks for your excellent analysis. As for this topic, unfortunately you are right and I don't have as much optimism as many others on the left for where we are headed. Another good writer is Neil Ferguson and his many books on "empire" including his latest, War of the World. I think we're in really deep dodo and the only hope we have is to inform the masses with books like Ferguson and yours.
Best,
Hank Roth
http://up-yours.us/

10:05 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Hank:

Many thanks for writing. The only trouble I have with Ferguson (Niall, no?) is that he is pro-empire, and thinks both the British and American ones were/are just fine. Ask the Indians, is my reply; ask the Vietnamese and the Iraqis. The guy could use a good dose of George Orwell ("Shooting an Elephant") and Graham Greene (The Quiet American).

Thanks again, and all the best to you-

mb

9:04 AM  
Anonymous Bill said...

I guess I'd have to side more with the "fight the good fight" crowd. What's the saying? "Ex nihilo nihil fit." Improbable outcomes need *their* beginnings, too.

Al Gore's movie on global warming has just come out on DVD. Here is a guy who has spent a good part of his life thanklessly trying to make a case for something as unsexy as global warming, but eventually found a way to bring this "unsexy" issue to a mass audience. I believe it's now the third-highest-grossing documentary in the U.S. to date. Could all his effort finally engender the turning point on raising pubic consciousness enough that something can be done? I don't know, but I think the issue would have been hopelessly more obscured by the (post)modern din without his efforts. The issue of global warming mainly has to do with how we live, and addressing *it* would include addressing how we live.

That's on the large scale.

On the small scale:

The actor Richard Dreyfuss went away to Oxford for two years to learn "how to teach civics," and he talks about it here on Bill Maher's Real Time clip:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oyL8sexGaD8
(around the 3:55 mark)

What he mentions toward the end of the show is that the Martha's Vineyard public school system is having a conference regarding bringing Civics back into the classroom. Here is more on that particular conference:

http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/
duboard.php?az=view_all&address=364x2764937
(Cut&paste this whole address into a web browser; I split it so it would fit.)

I'm not entirely convinced that America is a lost cause. There are people who "get it," both in the audience and at the occasional podium.

I think we yearn for a "we" consciousness, and we stuff that yearning with toys and war because that's all that seems to be available to us. But occasionally we are reminded of other ways, such as our common relationship to mother Earth (in the Gaia sense) and to each other (our common values codified by Civics classes).

12:25 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Bill:

Well, I hope you're right. As I often say in public lectures, some of my best friends are activists. BTW, I'm assuming your reference to "pubic consciousness" was a Freudian slip. When I read it, I couldn't help thinking that that was just about the only sort of consciousness likely to get raised in this country, but I suppose that would be just a bit *too* cynical.

Yeah...in the Twilight book, I talk about individual efforts and the "new monastic option," and I would never *dis*courage someone from trying to do something. It's just that in my heart of hearts, I really do feel it's too little and too late; that there is no rabbit to be pulled out of a hat by now. My reason for believing that is pretty much limned in the Dark Ages book: the very same structural factors that led to American expansion during the 1st century of our history, slowly turned on us after that and finally led to our contraction, esp. after WW2. The books that have been popular as of late, such as Kevin Phillips' American Theocracy, are able to hold out hope to their readers because of faulty analysis: it's the Bush admin, it's the neocons, etc.--as if our current downward spiral were some sort of accident, without long historical preparation. The fact that our problems really are centuries-old and structural means that there can be no substantive turnaround, imo; all the Dems can offer at this pt, and all 99% of the American people are willing to entertain, are cosmetic solutions. Al Gore's movie will come and go, because Americans fully enjoy wasting energy and consuming at a gross level. I live in Mexico now, where we have no heat or a/c, and we just make do; it's no big deal, really (you learn to wear sweaters and a hat indoors in winter, for example, tho I grant you that Minnesota is a different story). Do you think nortenos would be willing to make that kind of "sacrifice"? And you're right, we stuff our yearning with toys and war because little else seems possible in our present context; but this too has a long history, and Americans have, on some twisted level, come to love toys and war. There are, in short, limits to the "false consciousness" argument. I watch gringos who come down here for a holiday literally "take over" a small restaurant with loud conversation and arrogant body language, and I wince from embarrassment. Imperialism is something you learn in your bones, and civics classes, I fear, cannot finally change the structure of personality itself--which is what it would take to save us, I'm guessing.

But thanks for engaging the argument, and giving us all a different take; I appreciate it.

Saludos,
mb

10:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been reading a pre-publication copy of Dark Ages America that I snagged from my ex-wife, and coming right after "The Road" by Cormac MCarthy it's a pretty heavy burden. However, I'm gratified that it says (much better than I can) what I've been saying for, yes, decades. But it begs the question "What Is To Be Done?" (to coin a phrase).

I'm all for sandbagging the rising waters (W. certainly isn't going to; he didn't when he had the chance in New Orleans), and for myself I'm not overly concerned. But what shall I recommend to by kids, in their twenties?

I hope this reaches you - I don't know from blogs. I'm still into fountain pens and sealing wax.

Bill

6:04 PM  
Anonymous Paul Chambers said...

Dear Mr. Berman,

I recently finished reading "Dark Ages America" and found it profoundly disturbing, depressing, and strangely exhilirating. It confirms much of what I have sensed is wrong with our country, especially in the pervasiveness of materialism and the measure of all things, including human beings, by their usefulness in generating money and power. I am reminded of the Old Testament prophets who braved ridicule, banishment and even death to tell a people the unvarnished truth about themselves . It may cause you slight discomfort to be compared with a biblical prophet but, in as much as they pointed towards truth in the hopes of cleansing and freeing a people, you have that in common with them. Your comparison of our present state with that of the late Roman Empire resonates strongly with me as I have sometimes,in my own mind, seen the dark similarities. I tend to be sceptical about any qualitative change in the direction we are going. The forces are overwhelming. Individuals can be good, open to truth and seek to grow but to move a nation beyond wealth and power, greed and meaness, would take a convulsion. I have often wondered what a nation or world would be like if it truly grounded itself in the intrinsic value of human beings. All institutions, government, commerce, all human endeavor subservient to human life and it's fulfillment. Well, maybe someday, when we wake up from our collective daydream. Thanks for your trumpet blast, I think some of us are now awake.

With Regards and Best Wishes,

Paul Chambers

12:02 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Bill and Paul:

Thank you for your kind letters. I recall, being interviewed by a newspaper in Boulder CO last April, just when DAA was released, what I thought the fate of the book would be. I said I thought it would be largely vilified and ignored...which is what happened. Its publication, and my subsequent book tour, were effectively nonevents. It was dishonestly savaged by the NY Times, and buried by other books promising that everything could be reversed if only we did this or that ("we" never being clearly defined). But I didn't write it to be popular; I wrote it because I felt that somehow, somewhere, there needed to be a true profile of what had happened to the US, a kind of "archive" for those Americans who could stomach it. I certainly knew you don't attain best-seller status by saying Checkmate...although wistfully, I do kind of wish more than 20,000 people in a nation of 300 million had bothered to read it, so that a real discussion of our national dilemma (which happened in the postwar period only during the Carter presidency, and spelt his doom)might take place. So much for that.

Bill, as for recs for your kids: tell them to move to Europe. Tell them to go to graduate school there, become fluent in Italian, Spanish, German, French, whatever; get a job there when they graduate; get the equiv. of a green card; and stay. It isn't Shangri-La, by a long shot; but at least they will be able to get a rigorous education, live in a "community" that has a positive purpose in the world, and be assured (I'm hoping) of a social safety net, both then and esp. in old age. From a distance, they can watch their peers living a high-stress, workaholic life, paying taxes to support phony wars, living without habeas corpus and with a regime that tortures "legally", and having no real medical protection or social security. Sorry to be so cynical here, but there really is a fork in the road between where the two continents are going, and why should your kids be condemned to live out their lives on a descending spiral? Better be on a trajectory that is at least trying to nurture a humane way of life, is my feeling abt it all.

Anyway, thanx again, guys--I appreciate your taking the time to write.

--mb

10:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Berman you are so correct in everything that you say in your book and in all of your analysis. I have been seeing this for awhile and it seem like everyone is asleep. America was built on slavery, slaughtering, killing, raping, castration and hate. I know that you are not a religious man but I am a christian and believe the bible where it states that you reap what you sow and those who live by the sword shall die by the sword. All the evil and hate that America has sown all over the world is coming back on here and the American empire is on a downward spiral and on its last leg. The American public is an ignorant bunch. The public educational system has failed and kids are dropping out without no good prospect for any quality of life and people do not care. Take a look at the talk shows on TV. There is a war on the poor and a push to put more in the poor class. The america public still is an evil, hateful, racist, ignorant bunch. I was on the highway the other day and traffic was heavy. No one wanted to yield to anyone and just driving like they own the highway. I had someone blow their horn at me and give me the middle finger. I can remember all the times I crossed the street and people actually sped up instead of slowing down.Take alook at what happened the other day with the police opening fire on a group of black men at a bachelor party for no reason and kiling that young man who was supposed to be married that bery same night and now there are two kids with no daddy. I can go on and on and on as I am sure that you can. The bottom line is that this is a sick nation with a bunch of sick people and everyone is racing to hit rock bottom and have no ideal. There is no turning around America is on a downward spiral and there there is no turning backwards. When she hits rock bottom she will be there for good she has no friends but to many enemies. In fact I say that many will try to stick the fork in her to make sure that she is down for good. Mr.Berman I would love for you to post this and would love to hear what you have to say about all of this.

Also Mr.Berman I saw that you recommended for some to move to Europe. Well I have been thinking long and hard about moving myself for I will not go down with this thing and burn with the rest of them. Mr. Burn I am a African-American man and would not only like to move somewhere where there is a safety net but that I would not have to put up with alot of racism like I do in America and I would not mind learning a foreign language. What would you recommend Mr. Berman.

7:03 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Anonymous:

Two books you might want to check out, both by black authors (and Carter, BTW, is a prof. of law at Yale): Stephen Carter, "Civility," and Randall Robinson, "Quitting America." These will, I suspect, give you a lot to think about, altho you seem to be doing quite a bit in that dept. already.

As for the condition of the US: I doubt anything can wake us up. Consider this: I recall a news report I heard on the radio, this around Aug. 20, that (in Indiana, I think it was) a 4-yr-old child shot a 20-month-old child in the chest. So we now have 4-yr-olds toting guns in this country, and murdering infants less than 2 yrs old. You know that old legal phrase, res ipsa loquitur? The thing speaks for itself. In fact, the event made no difference at all; it was just "another event." The newscaster went on to discuss the latest antics of some rock group, or whatever.

So I agree with you: becoming an ex-patriate is, sadly enough, a reasonable option, because absolutely nothing can turn the US around at this point. As to where you might go...well, check out Randall Robinson, but this is always a personal decision. I would suggest, however, whatever your choice turns out to be, that you visit for a few months first, before actually taking the plunge, so you have some sense of whether your chosen country is really for you.

Good luck, my friend-

mb

7:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Berman,

Thank you for your candid response; I am definitely looking at cities in Europe now.

But I wanted to mention something to you that I saw the other day: I was watching the CNN News network, and the anchorwoman was reporting the day’s top news headlines. The top story that day was the war in Iraq, and the increasing violence within the country. The anchorwoman reported: "The violence is increasing in Baghdad, as 250 Iraqi civilians are killed after a series of explosions." The screen then cut to an image of Iraqis on the streets of Baghdad, setting cars on fire and protesting. Afterward, the anchor woman continued on to the next "top story": how American shoppers are standing in line, waiting for stores to open up, so they wouldn't miss the day-after-Thanksgiving sale! This made me think. What a striking difference between our world and Iraq’s--they’re over there fighting for their lives (because of us), and the only thing on our minds is shopping. It doesn’t seem to concern the American mainstream, and even the anchorwoman seemed unaffected by the difference (or did she even notice?).

Anyway, I just wanted to say that I really appreciate your work, Mr. Berman, especially your book, The Twilight of American Culture. Everything you wrote changed my perspective on a lot of things, including the direction I want to take my life. I also enjoy those beautiful quotes you put in the book--along with the haunting "beatnik" poem near the end. Really inspirational!

And as for the New Monastic Individual, I think I know someone who qualifies: my older sister, Summer. She is truly amazing--a 26-year-old registered nurse/part-time student. She earns over $6,000 a month, which could afford her a fancy car, clothes, and the latest technological gadgets. However, she lives in a modest one bedroom apartment, and rides her bike to work everyday. The only thing electronic in her apartment (besides her computer) is her toaster. She owns very few material possessions, but does volunteer work taking care of orphans in Africa. She’s traveled to Japan, Spain, England, Italy, and went kayaking and skiing up in Canada. She mountain climbs, bike-rides, travels around the world, and helps others. But she is modest and never calls attention to herself, nor does she ever demand undeserved respect. She would never consider her actions in any way heroic. She doesn't have to, she just is. So, while most other 26-year-old American women are busy chatting away on their cell phones, or buying the latest iPod/fax machine/carb counter all-rolled-into-one, I think about my sister, who is out there saving lives, and never asks for anything in return. She does her part to help the environment, keeps herself informed with the latest news, reads scientific books and Noam Chomsky. But most importantly--she forms intelligent, educated opinions about the world around her. I believe we all get only one chance to do something remarkable with our lives. To me, my sister just "gets it." Is that the NMI way of life? Because I truly believe that people like her always leave a quiet--but lasting--legacy.

Thank you for your time. I really appreciate it!

Sincerely,
Ehrich
http://boyinasuitcase.livejournal.com

12:58 AM  
Anonymous Peter Y. Paik said...

Dear Mr. Berman,

I am a great admirer of your book, which opens up an unflinching perspective upon the underlying problems of our country. I just came across an article in Slate, by Diane McWhorter. She also makes the disturbing (especially since it is still all too rare and infrequent) point that people have turned against Bush not because of some inner moral reckoning but rather for the wholly practical reason that the war is going badly. The link is below:

http://www.slate.com/id/2154567/nav/tap1/

McWhorter notes how Senator Durbin's comparison of Guantanamo with Nazi policies led to a blow-up focusing on a historical atrocity which wholly overwhelmed the point he was making about the current, ongoing atrocity of the cruel and inhuman treatment of those imprisoned there.

I am using your book, Dark Ages America, for a class I am teaching in Global Studies at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. I have found it, along with John Lukacs' Democracy and Populism, to be the most sobering and clear-sighted commentary on what the US has become and what challenges and ordeals we face in the not-so-distant future.

Warmest regards,
Peter Y. Paik

11:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But all in all, it's not that inspiring...there's a kind of "flat" quality there that could eventually wear you down.

Yup. That's us. If second-tier societies didn't maintain that flat, boring, bland quality, our colonial betters (the US, Britain, and France) would never know how inherently fascinating they are.

Oh, well. As we say, we'll always have the trees.

1:37 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Time for a multiple letter, I guess.

Ehrich: Have to tell you, I sometimes really hate technology. I wrote a reply to your nice letter yesterday, posted it--or thought I did--and it evaporated. Man...But turning to the issues you raise, I guess when news is entertainment, every story is equivalent. Sound postmodernism, I suppose, and surely the death knell of any form of intelligent citizenry. As for your sister: she's the daughter in Lew Welch's poem that got away. Now, you be the son. (Don' worry, you can do it.)

Peter: Thanks for your support, and your kind remarks. Delighted to hear you are using DAA in your classes. *You'll* be delighted to hear that the pb edition will be out in April, and will cost $11 less. Meanwhile, keep me posted on how the process of de-brainwashing undergraduates is going. I always felt if I could reach 2 out of 50, I was doing extremely well.

Anonymous: Sorry if I came off as too critical of Canada; it was just my experience, after all. And certainly, "flat" is much better than off the wall, which is what is now happening to the US. Truth is, I loved Montreal (2 yrs) and very much enjoyed Vancouver (almost 3).

7:22 PM  
Anonymous Roger Conway said...

Taking your lead from the "new monastic individuals" I'm not quite ready to give up on the US. In fact, I've titled my new blog The New Monastic Individuals in perhaps the vain hope that others will exert the same effort. The effort is to raise awareness of how far we have fallen in the disenlightenment into the shadow of the neo-dark ages.

Check us out at rcsnmi.blogspot.com. As it says in the last line of "Alice's Restaurant", pretty soon you're a movement.

Thanks. Roger

8:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Berman, I will forewarn you that one of my past English professors always had one criticism to level at me; that I become "overwhelmed with the exuberance of my own verbosity". I was speaking with my Dad a few months ago re: the state of American society, and started in on my chaos theory rant. (My theory being that we as a whole have reached the crisis point, can no longer adapt our behaviours in a self-saving fashion and are falling off the edge into extinction.) Further, I feel that this is comparable to fractals... the small is a replica of the large; i.e., a grain of sand has the same shape as a pebble, which has the same shape as a rock, which has the same shape as the mountain from which it broke, you get the idea. So fractal theory says that if the elected (I use the term loosely)leaders of a country are stupid and dishonest, the governors and mayors will be and so, as you go further down the line, will be the citizens. Dad said he had a book for me to check out. Ta-da! You, Mr. Berman, had a new buyer for "Dark Ages America" and "The Twilight of American Culture". I found "Twilight" personally compelling, as I have a son who is currently a sophomore at St. John's College in Annapolis, where they use the Great Books program exclusively.
"Dark Ages" led me to eventually read "Messages to the World, the Statements of Osama bin Laden". Why? Well, because I realized that despite my mouthing off all the time, I was woefully ignorant about what the hell we thought we were doing in Iraq, how we got there, and felt that I should be better informed about the whole thing; and not just from the American viewpoint. bin Laden is pretty much a fanatical nut. However, he seems to have evolved into this persona in response to the actions of the U.S. over the years. I bet if we hadn't been messing around in the Middle East all these years, the man would have been an amazing preacher for his faith. Further, the dude is not hiding in a cave somewhere, as the government wants us to believe. He's got internet hook-up and news broadcasts coming in. He seems to be better informed than the average American. For example, in one of his addresses in 2004, he references Guantanamo Bay as a secret holding prison of the U.S. At that time, our guy was saying "we have no secret prisons." (Which was later followed by "Well, yeah, we do, but we don't torture people." Now, of course, we can torture people because we are re-interpreting the Geneva Conventions.) In any case, I think you've done a great service with your books. I, for one, have found them to be cause for greater introspection and a thirst for better self-education. Plus, I happen to enjoy the fact that I agree with you. Makes me feel like less of a nut. LOL
On a last note, I wonder about something I heard on the news the other day. The reporter spoke about the Iraq committee's recommendations, and quickly mentioned that one was the idea of sanctioning Iraq if they don't meet certain dead-lines for self-control. So, wait. Did I hear that correctly? We go to a foreign country, blow them to hell and back, ruin their infrastructure, force a new ill-fitting form of government on them, bring them to the point of civil war, and now we are going to punish their civilians further if they don't clean up this mess quickly enough themselves? Sounds like a Kafka novel.
Okay. I'm done.
Thank you for putting pen to paper, Mr. Berman.
Sincerely, Teri Schooley

7:29 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Teri:

Yes, what a great foreign policy we´ve got: self-control for everybody except the US. Then we wonder why the Islamic world hates us and why Latin American is going socialist. Some top-flight minds we´ve got over at the Pentagon, CIA, DOS, and etc. As far as Osama goes, you might want to check out the profile and discussion in Anonymous, ie Michael Scheuer, ¨Imperial Hubris¨. Scheuer was the CIA´s point man on Osama for 17 yrs, then resigned. He reviews the grievances Osama has voiced repeatedly about our treatment of the Islamic world, and concludes by saying that the guy obviously has a point. I really encourage you to check these out. Meanwhile, we live in a country where the president is a sadist and war criminal, and where, according to a recent Gallup poll, 39% of the population thinks Muslims should be required to carry or wear some sort of identification as Muslims. I would be embarrassed for this nation if the figure were 3.9%, but 39% is like surreal. Why not just pin yellow stars on them all and start rounding them up?

As for his Internet sophistication...I got a kick out of the fact that when, last year, Osama referred to ¨Rogue State¨ by Wm Blum, American reporters had no idea who this prolific American author was and had to scramble to the library to identify him. One can only wonder if the same thing might have happened had Osama referred to Herman Melville.

Well, you get the picture. And while I genuinely applaud Roger Conway´s intention to organize New Monastic Individuals, as I described this fraction of the American public in the Twilight book, one has to pause for a moment and think about the source material actually available to us. A tenth of 1%, if
we´re lucky? I mean, 87% of American youth cannot locate Iraq on a world map, and 11% can´t locate the US! At what point is the writing on the wall showing up in neon?

Thanks for your input, in any case--I appreciate it.

-mb

12:01 AM  
Anonymous Teri Schooley said...

Dear Mr. Berman, When I was looking for information on bin Laden, I passed over "Imperial Hubris" as the synopsis read that the author concluded we needed to blast the Muslim world to hell and gone. However, perhaps I made a mistake in disregarding the other info available in the book?
Yesterday on the news, the anchor discussed the fact that our new Sec Def did not know the difference between Sunni and Shiite, then a map appeared behind him and he patiently pointed to the countries in the Middle East, explaining which country was predominantly of one sect or the other. He also casually explained that the Shiite would be more likely to support a fanatical splinter group "such as bin Laden's". The whole procedure made me wonder about the amazing ability of the wordsmiths in the government: look how they have changed the very idea of who the "enemy" is. First Bush spoke of al-Qaeda, then named Saddam, then terrorists in general...now, in case anyone wonders just exactly who American soldiers are aiming at when they kill all these Iraqi civilians, it turns out that, by golly, about half the citizens of Iraq actually are the "enemy".
More indicative of the soul-deep sickness in America is the fact that most of the wounded Americans coming home to recouperate can't wait to go back and kill more Iraqis.
We are a violent people. Unfortunately, we are also stupid, and that's quite a lethal combination.
Actually, we are REALLY embarrassingly stupid. Here's an anecdote for you: near the end of the last school year, my daughter was involved in an activity that required some use of the middle-school building on the week-ends. I noticed that the school was unusually busy on Saturdays, and finally asked a staff member what all the traffic was. It turns out that the last six weeks of the school year was devoted to "Saturday school"; all the kids in danger of failing a core class were being tutored by the staff (this included staff such as secretaries as well as the teachers) in an effort to bring them up to a passing grade. Never mind the obvious question of why the kids need ten months of "school" if the course-work can be covered in six weeks; the bigger issues are that the teachers have been told that no child can be allowed to repeat a grade for fear of losing our federal funding and that in a school of 700 students, between 70 and 100 of them were failing at least one core subject. I'm not really sure why they bother with the Saturday school; the teachers aren't going to fail any of these bright-eyed little darlings in any case. As an aside, we live in Maryland, which is supposedly doing well in its educational goals. I can only assume the bar isn't set too awfully high.
Thank you for taking the time to respond to my earlier letter; I value your opinion.
Sincerely, Teri Schooley

6:07 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Teri:

A couple of yrs ago Michael Scheuer gave a talk in DC that can only be called completely schizophrenic. This is, BTW, the guy that implemented Clinton's "extraordinary rendition" program in 1995, which provides for sending suspected terrorists (or anyone whom we don't like, really) to countries that will do our dirty work for us, in terms of torture--Morocco, Egypt, and the like. (Just so we're clear that aggressive torture procedures hardly began with the Bush Jr. administration.) Scheuer explained to the rather large audience that Bin Laden was motivated by goals that made very good sense in the Muslim world, and that his grievances against America were completely justified (spelled out in detail in his book). He then concluded the talk by saying that what we needed to do was "kill a lot more of these people." In the Q&A, I asked him how genocide could be the right response, given what he termed the "rightness" of the Islamic cause. Shouldn't we be *apologizing* to "these people," I asked. A few people in the audience began to applaud at this pt; Scheuer was at a loss as to what to say, except to pt out the obvious, that the admin was not going to apologize to the Islamic world for its shabby record in the Middle East. No kidding.

As for "the enemy," all that the US cares abt--and this has been true at least since the close of WW2--is *having* an enemy, since we don't have a clear identity of our own. It was kind of interesting to read that Dick Cheney, abt 2 wks before the Nov. election, was effectively calling those Americans who wanted us to quit Iraq, traitors ("giving aid and comfort to the enemy")--this being 61% of the US population. I'm guessing we could eventually, as part of the process of our social and political disintegration, get to the pt where everyone not an American, plus a large fraction of the US population, is an enemy.

As for violence and stupidity--as the saying goes, read my book.

Thanx again for writing-

mb

9:07 AM  
Anonymous Mr David M Boie said...

A more polished version of an early morning post written kind of hastily -

Thanks Morris,
Dave

Dear Mr. Berman,

Though feeling somewhat perplexed as to the direction your writing has taken, I found that your book, "The Twilight of American Culture" helped keep my innards just warm enough to make it through a winter of despair... by focusing on my resentment toward the powers that appear to be, I was at least able to stay warm.

I seem puzzled by the experience of a man who has felt his "body turn to light" ala your earlier "Coming to Our Senses," and yet continues to focus on the level of form: Political Going's-on, and what not. If America is currently chasing its own "American-Tale" into decline, which seems obvious from your latest books... why pin hope for individual transcendence on getting the dog to stop, or for that matter jumping off the back of the dog and heading for Europe?

As an "atmic" cell in this body-politic, I personally feel infinitely more compassion for the lived experience of my Brothers and Sisters, than I care what the Score at the End of Empire shall be.

Let us get cause and effect straightened out... at least in the case of global political bodies, the tension and fear entertained in each individual cell determines how the dog behaves. Yes there may be media feedback loops and ideological hallucinations in all this, but our primary concern has to be with the experience of conscious souls, human and otherwise.

I do appreciate the last two books you have written as they have "come out of your flow," and that process should be honored, I further thank you for the opportunity to watch the energy that inspired your earlier works flow though me, holding me and my "lil Western Intellect" together while I took my first faltering and fearful steps toward a learned discipline of looking inward. A rough ride I confess... but well worth the trip...

David M Boie

P.S. The stubbornness of bible thumping Creationists should not be viewed as a sign of stupidity, but rather evidence of the intense power of psychological denial... and in that Mirror we may see Creationism as a perfect inverse reflection of the American Intelligentsia's denial of any transcendent longing that doesn't involve sex, Marxism, or the latest Chic' fashion in Politically Correct Radical Relativist discourse.

In terms of moving stuck energy, the Creationists deserve a warm hug and a hand for enduring the cognitive dissonance created by their holding on to God in an age of atheistic science… all while the intelligentsia has played fast and loose with Unconscious manipulation. Whoever thinks they are "the players" in all this, they deserve a spankin... if only to help them cry for God... and I have plenty of material on my hard drive to deliver some crisp, refreshing blows with my virtual "switch."

Have fun folks, and don't be surprised to find me switch sides of the fence later on, as there be a tunnel underground so one can play all sides, as the Self inspires...

7:42 AM  
Anonymous Skip Mendler said...

Hi Morris!

I was going to write and ask if the election had changed your outlook - but I see that you've already addressed that question.

Here's a possibility that might be worth working for - maybe the US will be the last "dominant" country - perhaps we can lay down that entire concept. Rather than thinking about whether India, China, or Japan will be the next superpower, how might we encourage and contribute to the creation of a world that is not only multipolar, but maybe even nonpolar? Not to say completely cooperative (even I'm not that naively optimistic), but at least with power and influence sufficiently dispersed that no one culture/economic system/religion/society/whatever can claim sway over everyone else...

The counter-trend, of course, and also quite possible, is the spread of multiple, competing fascisms. Seems to me that the real danger of American fascism, while perhaps temporarily delayed by Nov. 06, has not been totally eradicated, by any means, and preventing its growth is a key task to focus on especially strongly in the next few years. I think that an approach that takes on each of those "fourteen points of fascism" from the Lawrence Britt article might be useful in this regard... what do you think?

6:43 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Skip:

Thank you for your contribution. I think the possibility of a nonpolar world is terribly remote, myself; to paraphrase Aristotle, politics abhors a vacuum. Multipolar might indeed be possible, not from the viewpoint that reasonable and intelligent decisions will move the planet in that direction--history doesn't work that way--but that we'll have a number of competing power blocks, none of which can get the upper hand.

With regard to American "fascism": we're not quite there yet, altho as I say in DAA, we might be one more terrorist attack away from a police state. One reason I left the US, myself, was that the endless feeling of being watched and monitored (and revelations abt the NSA proved my paranoia was real) finally got on my nerves a bit too much. Yet I was never afraid that a talk I was giving at a bookstore, say, would be broken up by brownshirts or the gov't, or that they would come to my house and drag me away in the middle of the night. Now *that's* fascism, and thank god, we're not quite there yet. But of course, as the economy gets weaker, and the anxiety over terrorism increases, I believe it will take only one triggering event to push us over the edge. A recent Gallup poll turned up the fact that 39% of the American people believe that the Muslim population should be required to carry on them, at all times, identification of themselves as Muslims. Really, why not just pin yellow stars on them all and be done with it? In short, we are not quite there yet, but certainly, the ground is fertile for a totalitarian-style regime. What really scares me is that I don't think very many Americans would object to this.

What *is* happening, worldwide, however, is not the spread of American "fascism" but of the American way of life, which identifies meaning with toys and money. Accompanying this is the destruction of community, and the shift from societies concerned with human welfare to "antisocieties" based on individualism and competition. "Soft fascism," we might call it. This is happening now quite dramatically in China, which is little more than the US in Mandarin. Much of Europe, of course, has been transformed (ie destroyed) by the American corporate-consumerist juggernaut; eventually, there may be no place left to hide. Fascism (like Communism), above all, is the destruction of the spirit.

Thanks again for writing-
mb

4:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Morris,

I think that all societies reflect aspects of human nature. Communism, ironically, was more Christian in its ideals than our own killer capitalism. Our society, here in the U.S., emphasizes greed and status. We want to be better than our neighbors, and have more things. This is an element of human nature visible in all cultures, but some cultures tame this, in my opinion negative aspect, better than others. We celebrate the morally bankrupt, rich, egomanic hollywood stars and people like Donald Trump. Our greed will eventually do us in as Globalization moves into its final phase. American companies will prosper, as American workers will be increasingly shut out of society. Yet, eventually, there wont be enough "rich" people to buy all of the crap everyone is producing so cheaply. I truly don't believe that 90+% of American society will be content with bread and circus, and a new way blending capitalism and socialism will have to evolve. Of course our lifetimes will be horrible, as cultural lag comes.

The one thing on which I disagree with you is that life is so much better in Europe and Canada, etc. I think that this is and will continue to rapidly change. I was in Germany during the 1980's, and it really was the golden time, when Socialism really worked, and I walked safely around Hamburg all night. Europe, during the 80's and 90's really was a better world. I live in Chicago, a decaying old giant now, and Chicago is all rich or poor with no middle class anymore. The near Western ghetoes resemble something out of war torn Africa, horrible. Unimaginable when seen through German eyes. I think the whole Western world is in crisis, and even though some countries such as Mexico and Canada are behind (really ahead in terms of humanism etc.) now, this will quickly change as America sucks them into a global free for all for wealth....What do you think? I mean the whole poor world cannot move into the first world, can they? Is there really enough wealth to go around? Or, are intellectual types just too pessimistic about all of this? Sometimes I wonder if you, I, and most Germans, and other protest voices simply just dicontented intellectuals who see what the majority cannot. We envision a world that never was and never will be? Just a thought...

Alex in Chicago..

10:56 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Alex:

Thank you for your thoughtful letter. I always enjoyed walking around Hamburg as well, and have a lovely monoprint of Oevelgoenne, which I bought at that art shop on Deichstrasse.

Of course, I have no idea what the future will bring, though I took a shot at it in the last chapter of DAA. We tend to forget that while there is progress in history, history does not consist of progress, as Marx and Hegel claimed. It's a lot more cyclical and ironic, with good and bad patches both. China will probably emerge as the next world power, but this is no great improvement, so far as I can see: it's values are ours, its socioeconomic inequality quite blatant by now, and in short it kind of looks like the US in Mandarin. The consumer society is the agenda there, and you may be right, that there is no holding back the American Way of Life, as a result. I'm not sure about differences with Canada, but if you live in a small town in Mexico, as I do, you are aware (as a gringo, anyway) of the notable absence of the inundation of pressure, greed, and the preoccupation with owning objects. Still, gringos trickle in, looking for a better life...and could well turn the place into a mini-California, as they have Ajijic, San Miguel de Allende, and Baja California. Europe's direction is probably the best, and its commitment to a different vision is quite clear...tho in the face of American pressure, and an aging population, it may be hard to maintain (which is what brought Gerhard Schroeder down, after all). Finally, hovering over all of this like a dark shadow is population growth and increasing pop. density, which makes the type of life you and I are talking about increasingly difficult to achieve...shades of the "reservation" on the edge of the dominant culture, in Brave New World. Anyway, that is the best I can do right now, on this crisp Christmas morn.

Have a Merry...

mb

3:06 PM  
Blogger s.a. conn said...

Dr. Berman,

Thank you for the continued refreshing breeze of the truth. I just finished Dark Ages America and appreciate your articulation of a nation of buffoons. There's more difference in identical twins than our two polical parties.

Regards,
Steve

5:37 AM  
Anonymous Ralph.S said...

The old Soviet-style 'all collectivism/suppressed indevidualism' social formula certainly carried its own seeds of self-destruction - as critics of the now dead and burried SU (Soviet Union) system so correctly points out.

But what about its still surviving ideologic counterpart; US, and its mirror-reflective 'all indevidualism/dimishing sence of collectivism'? Russian eye-witness Dmitry Orlov makes a very interesting comparitive slide-show talk, from an energy/infrastructure point of view:

Closing the 'Collapse Gap':
http://energybulletin.net/23259.html

My comment: I dont no more about the future of our worlds crumbling society-models then the rest of you guys. But something tells me that about 100-500 years from now, we all will come to understand and appreciate 'natures own model' much more then today.
I mean: look at how the organs within our bodies works together. Each big organ/small cell is allowed to be unicue - and perform its tasks in its own unicue ways. But at the same time; they all work unselfisly and relentlessly for the common collective good.

Or how Jesus (the real historic one) perhaps would have put it:
You can only be happy, aslong you strive to make your neighbor happy.

4:28 PM  
Blogger random traveler said...

Dr. Berman

I read DAA a few months ago (was inspired to read it after seeing your book talk on CSPAN) and have been chewing on it, in addition to several other works about the broader brushstrokes of history (eg: Toynbee, Jared Diamond).

A few points:

Let me begin with my perception of the Creationist, Luddite, Evangelical, and Cultural Conservative movements in this country. I did my final research in undergrad on the rise of the Christian Right and the thing that most struck me about them was that they seemed to function like a societal histamine. Having a beesting allergy myself, I came to this analogy in that, when one has an allergic reaction, it is never the allergen itself that kills, it is the body's response that is fatal. This sort of dynamic seems to have arisen in every collapsed society that I have studied. This observation leads me to my next points.

The trend toward collapse begs the question, "what was the original trigger for the fall?" It would have to have been something deeply structural. I think that your timing is quite close to the mark on the decline point (the point where the fall began should be obvious to anyone reading this blog). But then, what was the structural factor? We can tie the fall circumstantially to a series of events [very much as you did when you pointed to the abandonment of Bretton Woods in 1971 as one of the first acts of the decline], but can we find a more exact trigger for the decline?

Finally, I would posit what is probably the biggest question of all a la Lenin: What is to be done? I very much agree with you that nothing, not even the New Monastic Man, can or even should save the US as a political entity. That said, I think that there remains a vitally important role for the NMM to play in the way that the fall and its aftermath will play out. America is at a point in its development roughly analagous to that of Rome under Commodus, and that leads me to ponder. If we were living in the Roman Empire at that time, knowing what we do about the circumstances of the fall, how would we have mitigated the effects, or prepared for the aftermath of the collapse of Rome? Applying that extended hypothetical to our current situation, the answer should be obvious. The point of the NMM should be threefold (listed here in order of difficulty and, inversely, importance):

1. Guardian and protector of some of the remaining vitality and virtue of American culture.

2. To find and nurture a paradigm to replace the discredited paradigm upon which American political culture is based.

3. To form a Vanguard once the collapse is complete.

Once again, great book

8:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Berman,
I just finished DARK AGES AMERICA last night. I work at Milwaukee Shakespeare, where we are rehearsing MACBETH. (So needless to say, your allusion to the ghost at the banquet made me grin.)

First, thanks for your analysis. I felt for the first time that I'd read something which allowed me to wrap my head around patterns in US economic and foreign policy. While I know you were coming at it with a definite opinion about every event and cycle you discussed, I found learning some of the facts heretofore obfuscated by most of the media around me (and the gaps in my education) refreshing.

Oh, and don't get me wrong- I share most of those opinions.

Second, I have a question I'm wondering if you can address (you touched on the subject in the book). Forgive me if this is rather broad. While it is true that many arts organizations in this country are constantly working to survive, much less thrive, there are pockets of places (like Milwaukee, I think) where the cultural scene persists as a functioning part of the community. While our nation may be in a "final phase," do you see any regions/cities which may be able to "shore themselves up," to preserve some quality of life, and is that (or how might that be) related to the cultural (to include the artistic) life of that community?

Regards,
Marcy K.

11:59 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Marcy:

Thanx for writing. The bit about arts organizations and the community may fall under the category of "new monasticism" and cultural preservation that I discuss in Twilight. I think it's great, and eminently worthwhile. I don't think it can stop the disintegration and eventual collapse of the US; but (a) it can be very enjoyable: and (b) you might as well die with your boots on and your eyes open, so to speak. Lets also hope it attracts a few kids as well, eh?

Thanx again, and good luck to you-

mb

10:28 PM  
Anonymous Bill said...

I know that you're a fan (at least relatively speaking) of Carter, but I was wondering what your opinion is of Al Gore -- in terms of how closer you think he could lead this country in the direction you'd like to see it go.

To my knowledge, he's the first big politicians that publicly attacked the empire-like power grab of our current Executive branch (perhaps because he's not currently in office):

Transcript: January 6, 2006 Constitutional crisis speech
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/
article/2006/01/16/AR2006011600779.html

MP3 Audio (17 MB)
http://www.irregulartimes.com/gorejan06.mp3
Summery
http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0601/
S00122.htm

With his long, sustained work raising awareness of Global Warming, he seems to be one of the few politicians that recognize the need to prioritize some things over ceaseless economic growth.

Plus, he has a book coming out in May that addresses some of the very same issues you brought up in your book:

The Assault on Reason
http://www.amazon.com/Assault-Reason-Al-Gore/
dp/1594201226?tag2=gp04-20

There are rumors that he may enter the 2008 race in September.

Also, is another book in the works? Being a writer at your core, I can't see you abandoning your vocational raison d'être. Were you really signing off for good with your last book? Being such a fan of your consciousness trilogy, I'd hate to see someone with such a unique, important and articulate perspective silence himself before his time.

11:05 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Bill:

Many thanks for writing, and for your support. Gore strikes me as a man whose values are the right ones; the problem is what any single individual can do to change the direction of this country, the president included. As I say in DAA, Carter was a fluke; he got elected virtually by accident, in a very unusual time in our history. He eventually learned that a president can be a "mover" if he is moving with the general imperial current of postwar American history--the national security state. But no one can wield real power in the US if they are opposed to that agenda. The analogy might be a rhinoceros with a flea (the president) in its ear. The flea can perhaps get the rhino to look mildly in another direction (2 degrees from the set path); but it's the feet that count, and they don't deviate. I believe the real strength of DAA is showing how far back the structural properties of the US go--e.g., the suburban landscape to the 1920s, or the commercial value system to the 1790s. Robert Kagan's recent book, "Dangerous Nation," could have in fact been written by Noam Chomsky: from the get-go, we were restless and aggressive, expansionist to the core. Jimmy was the only president to suggest that there was something wrong with that set of values and behaviors, and I think it very unlikely that Gore will follow in his footsteps--not that it would matter.

Which brings me to (probably) my next book, altho since virtually no one reads my stuff, I'm not in any great hurry. But I've been convinced by writers such as Sacvan Bercovitch that the tramlines of the national personality, so to speak, rolled out along religious lines, and that these were laid in the early 17C. Hence, new title will be something like "Religion and US Foreign Policy," tho it wd be nice to come up with something a bit sexier, I suppose.

Which will, I'm guessing, conclude my "trilogy" on American history.

Thanks again for your interest and support-

mb

7:20 PM  
Blogger Artifex said...

I still didn´t have the chance to read any of your books cause they are soldout and there are no copies in spanish here, though I read some fragments in other webpages. I´m about to become a social anthropologyst, still need to produce the thesis. Anyway, It´s overwhelming to see all the ignorance in northamerican people. Hopefully people like you and most of the ones that leave comments here still have the necessary self awareness to get rid of the "mirage" (as you said) that rules your nation. I´m writing from Argentina, a "3rd world country". I happen to know that a lot of people has not the slightest idea where Argentina is, and they think we are like Mexico or they get confused with Brazil. We also have mirages and illussions, all countries have at least one. But it turns out that in 3rd world countries one can sees certain "counsciousness" of the social struggles because of the dominion of the "1st world countries", specially the US which had a lot to do with the different processes in latin american dictatorial goverments.

I am really pesimistic in my 25 y/o but I try do my best to help others to "reenchant the world" by speaking, writing, living as coherent as I can, and telling others that another world is possible.

Regards
Sebastian

1:16 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Estimado Sebastian:

Mira, mis libros estan (son?) disponibles. Para comprar "El reencantamiento del mundo,"
"Cuerpo y espiritu," y "Historia de la conciencia," escribe Cuatro Vientos Editorial en Santiago de Chile: 4vientos@netline.cl. Para comprar "El crepusculo de la cultura americana," escribe Sexto Piso Editorial en Mexico: erabasa@sextopiso.com. La secuencia de "El crepusculo," "La edad oscura americana," sera disponible de Sexto Piso en agosto o septiembre 2007.

Muchas gracias por su interes-

mb

4:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Berman,
Your observations are very interesting.
I would like to know why you recommend moving to Europe but not to Asia or Africa or South America or Australia-New Zealand or even Canada. The social safety net in parts of Europe has giant holes that are getting bigger every month.
Also if you don't mind telling, why do you continue to live in the USA instead of in Europe or someplace else? Do you think you can convince your fellow citizens to change course?
Thank you for your time and your interest in answering.

2:36 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Anonymous:

Thank you for your inquiry. I agree with you about Europe: thanks to the enormous pressure exerted by American market capitalism, European countries have been forced to go in a direction that is (I believe) often contrary to their own ideals. They are still way ahead of us, but that gap is slowly starting to close. This is why Gerhard Schroeder lost the election in Germany, for example; it became increasingly impossible, from an economic standpoint, to maintain democratic-socialist ideals. All of this is a great loss; the commitment to protection for all is part of what makes, or should make, modern Europe great.

As for other nations, I suppose one has to pick and choose. Australia, for example, has definitely gone in a right-wing direction under the government of John Howard; the place is not what it used to be even ten years ago. New Zealand, on the other hand, is a very different matter. South America is similarly uneven, although as anyone who reads the newspapers knows, many of the nations of S.A. have rejected US neoliberal economics and have decided to move in a democratic-socialist direction. (Venezuela I have reservations about, but that's a whole other discussion.) And then there is the matter of language barrier for most Americans (i.e., US-persons; Argentinians e.g. are Americans), and the question of what one would do in one's new country after one immigrated there. So, it's not an easy decision, obviously, and one that requires a lot of forethought.

As for me and why I remain in the US, that's not difficult to answer: I don't. As of last August, I moved to Mexico. Not a perfect place, by a long shot, but one whose people are possibly the most gracious and kind-hearted in the world. (Just watching how US-persons behave, as tourists, when they drift into town has been a great eye-opener for me in terms of understanding why we are so deeply disliked in nearly every corner of the planet.) I also have ties to Mexico going back to 1979, and very close friends in Mexico City and in the town where I live.

Which leaves your final question: Do I believe that I can persuade my fellow-Americans to change course: Not a bit. Not one iota. Not the slightest, tiniest amount.

Thanks again for writing-

mb

5:50 AM  
Blogger Monkey Courage said...

I've been seeing this trend for a decade when I realized in my first year of college that the United States had all of the qualities of the Roman Empire. Ever since I had been wondering about signs of collapse. (Its interesting to me that we are taught at a young age to admire the enduring quality of America.)

I watched one of your lectures online and you seemed to note that there was never a strong socialist movement in America. What is your opinion of the Anarchist movements and Labor movements in the turn of the last century that gave us 8 hour days, minimum wage, and child labor restrictions? Aside from the fact that it was eventually crushed with bloody force, it was certainly a force with which to reckon.

Thanks.

5:15 PM  
Blogger jjarden said...

Dear Morris,

You are the clearest and most truthful writer there is on the state of America, and I'm a great admirer of yours after reading Twilight and DAA, as well as listening to your radio interviews.

I'm not sure if you happened to catch tonight's news about the 18 year-old Kansas girl found dead after being abducted in a Target parking lot, but it's becoming painfully obvious that there's nothing our Politicians and Law Enforcement can do to protect us citizens, no matter what they do or say. I think we ALL realize that something has gone terribly wrong with this experiment we call America. Deep down we all know things are not right. We see it in our corrupt politicians. We see it in the growing violent crime, especially from gangs. We see it in our vulgar and crude culture and entertainment. We see it in our pathalogical celebrity worship. We see it in our materialistic culture where the name of the game is spending our lives chasing after money. It's a Dog's Race and a Mule's life that we are living, and we ALL know something is wrong. I believe the only solution is to ESCAPE the madness before it's too late. The only methods are to either leave America, or to move your family somewhere off the grid and out of mainstream society. I've reached a point in my 44 year-old life that I feel like I am a stranger in my own land, and I certainly was born in the wrong era. I cannot seem to find anyone with whom I can have a discussion about Voltaire...or Molliere....or Schopenhaur...and the list goes on. We are such a Dumb Nation that it's far from funny. I'm no genius, but I make a conscious effort to read the greatest writers throughout history, and frankly, I just don't have many kindred spirits out there, and as a result, I feel very alone.

Below is a little excerpt you may enjoy from "Civilization and Transcendence" by Srila Prabhupada.
It pretty much compares and contrasts our American way of life with those who are living "Deliberately," such as Thoreau, yourself, and hopefully me. I too wish to live deliberately, but I cannot afford to do it remaining in America, and therefore I wish to find a place in the world where I can follow my passion, which is to read...think...and write. My question to you is where do you recommend that I could accomplish my goal living cheaply, with sunny and warm weather? I know you've lived in Canada, and I think have spent some time in Mexico. In addition, I've read you recommending Europe. I think I would truly love Europe, unless my romanticized notion of the place is incorrect. I envision myself in Vienna discussing Freud with kindred spirits, or in Germany discussing Goethe. But then again, this may just be a dream. My concern with Europe is the Cost of Living, and of course the cold. Are there any other places you might recommend? Possibly Thailand? Philippines? Mexico? Caribbean? Mediterranean? Just thought I;d ask and see if you have any other recommendations. Thanks again for bringing your great work to us.

Sincerely,

Joe

**********************************
"People misunderstand Hinduism and the Vedic Culture. They label us
escapists, and that we are escaping from Reality and Progress. Yes, we ARE escaping reality...THEIR Reality. But their reality is a dog's race, and our reality is to advance self-realization and consciousness.
That is the difference. Therefore the mundane, materialistic workers
have been described as "Mudhas"...Mules. Why? Because the mule works very hard for no tangible gain. He carries on his back tons of cloth for the washerman, and the washerman in return gives him a little morsel of grass. Then the mule stands at the washerman's door, eating the grass, while the washerman loads him up again. The mule has no sense to think, "If I just get out of the clutches of this washerman,
I can get grass anywhere. Why am I carrying so much"? The mundane
workers are just like the mule. They're busy at the office...very busy. In the Vedic system, people are not lazy. They too are busy...busy working for a higher purpose. Of course, the materialistic workers, they see and say "These men are not working like us, like dogs and mules. So they are escaping." YES, escaping your Fruitless Endeavor.
**********************************

12:59 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Joe,

Yes, your view of Europe is a bit romantic, but all in all, there's so much there that is still rich. Every time I'm there, I love it, and can't help but notice the difference between places such as France and Italy, and a society such as ours, which values only one thing--money. The air is "thin," in the US; I doubt 1% of the population knows what a metaphor is (to take a single example). When quality is ridiculed as "elitism," you know a country is finished, eh?

Leaving the US is, of course, a very personal choice; but if you've made that decision, I'd suggest traveling around a bit, seeing how you feel about the various places you list. My decision to move to Mexico was nearly 30 years in the making; I 1st visited in 1979, and kept coming back. Plus, I have a lot of friends here, both in Mexico City and in the small town in which I live. It's hardly a perfect society, of course, but after spending years in a hostile, competitive environment, I can't tell you what a relief it is to live in a place where graciousness is the norm; where people and community come first. There is, of course, extreme poverty in Mexico; but there is also real economic poverty in the US as well (and getting worse by the day); and above all, a deep spiritual poverty that most Americans cannot understand and are largely unaware of--even though, on some level, they do (I believe) have a kind of dull awareness that their lives don't really make a lot of sense.

Anyway, I suggest you start the process of exploration for yourself, figure out what your real needs are and what matches them. There's a whole world out there, my friend. Go for it!

Thanks for writing-

mb

8:08 AM  
Anonymous Kristina said...

Dear Mr. Berman,

I believe in the accuracy and thoroughness of your research, and find myself in complete agreement with the vast majority of your analyses.

Here are some examples of our agreement: The Republican and Democratic parties are "Empire" and "Empire Lite." The relationship that exists between corporations and the government has warped into something that is of great detriment to the American (U.S.) people. The established power structure will not allow a non-imperialist president to be elected. Our civil liberties are being stripped away in the name of "security." We are one terrorist attack away from a police state. Most Americans remain in complacent denial.

I'm also intrigued by the historical and cultural parallels you draw between the U.S., the Roman Empire, and other parts of the world in various ages.

Strangely enough, our underlying conclusions must be the opposite, because I am a libertarian! I say this assuming that you are mostly or at least somewhat socialist-leaning.

I share your disillusionment of the U.S. "personality" of excessive consumerism and selfishness and the unchecked power of corporations. But I believe that programs devised (in essence) to force people to care about others must always backfire. I think "looking out for number one," though arguably callous, is very much a part of human nature (not just our culture). BUT...I also believe that through unfettered voluntary, mutual exchange, people can mutually benefit from the self-interest of everyone else. And because governments are made up of self-interested human beings, the more power given to those in government (even power meant to give them the levers to help people by redistributing resources equitably) only gives them the power to further the interests of elites at the expense of everyone else. Which is why socialism was such a wonderful vehicle and mask for totalitarianism in the Soviet Union. I know you have said that the Soviet Union is a terrible model to emulate, but in my view there is no government that will not eventually abuse the power they have. Which is why libertarians feel that the less power granted to governments beyond protecting the life, liberty, and property of the people, the better (and the freer the people.)

Thus, far from seeing individualism as the problem, I think an ever-increasing dependence on government plays a large role. Probably like you, I see corporatism as evil - but I'm talking about large companies benefitting from government largesse. I think it can be automatic to assume there is something morally reprehensible happening when a company becomes extremely successful, or its CEO extremely wealthy, though this may not be the case. I see truly "evil corporations" as being comprised of the very same individuals that comprise the corrupt elements of government. Between "government" and "capitalism," I think there is a better argument for government being inherently bad than capitalism, though both are instruments of power than can be abused, or, theoretically, handled responsibly.

Like minds exist under very different philosophies. There are strings of long paragraphs which you write that sound like perfect agreement with Congressman Ron Paul, the libertarian-minded presidential candidate going for the Republican nomination. His openness and honesty about the subjects you cover is unmatched by any other candidate. In the second Republican debate, he made the same comment regarding U.S. foreign policy and its role in provoking "blowback" that New Yorker writer Susan Sontag made, and an identical uproar (and calls of "traitor") ensued. He is largely ignored by the government/corporate controlled mainstream media.

Most of us are aware on some level that the relationship between government and corporations is fishy/sinister and has become more so very rapidly in the past century. We should all wonder why and try to find out. As a libertarian, I am learning about the origins of the Federal Reserve and how our fraudulent, inflationary monetary system has made government beholden to big bankers (and their corporate shareholders) ever since it was instated. The prevalence of unbacked credit, the devaluation of the dollar, and a host of problems caused by this illegal monetary system has contributed more to the multi-trillion dollar debt, and the financing of unconstitutional foreign conflict initiated by the U.S. than anything else. I hope that if you haven't already you will research this topic as a result of my comment and draw your own conclusions.

Like you, I tend to think that there may be little or nothing that can be done to reverse the collapse that is so far underway, when the causes are so complex and enmeshed, and reach very far back into the past. Nevertheless, I support Ron Paul, who probably himself doesn't think he has a chance of getting elected, and try to get him elected, because it rouses my spirits. Come what may, life will go on (unless it doesn't), and our spirits will rise to the occasion.

Thanks for your thought-provoking contributions.


Kristina

4:52 PM  
Anonymous Kristina said...

Dear Mr. Berman,

I hope I'm not being too long-winded, but after having read more of other people's comments and your replies, I wanted to add a few more libertarian talking points.

Ron Paul is the only politician I find to be sufficiently up in arms about the suspension (or removal) of habeas corpus, Bush's presidential directives granting the executive branch unheard of dictatorial power, and the Real ID Act (which may use new technologies to catalog and track everyone). His congressional voting record is 100% consistently in defense of the Constitution as it is written.

You and your readers have talked quite a bit about the decline of our education system and the rampant ignorance in our country. Anything under too much government influence tends to be run very poorly, and public education is one of the largest proofs of this.

I'm afraid you will consider libertarians and our views discredited because of the following things you would probably hate: we are in favor of legalizing private competition for many services provided by the government. The imminent collapse of Social Security was inevitable because it's a grand-scale Ponzi scheme. Giving our privacy and liberties away to the government so that they can protect us from an enemy is part of the same mentality as giving them our taxes so that they can choose our health care providers, our insurance plans, and eliminate our options in many other very personal areas under the guise of "saving" us from ourselves. If government dominates the health care industry, and health care suffers, I fear we will have no alternatives. Also, I think you are probably in favor of very stringent gun control, while I think that plays into the hands of corrupt government. Just as it plays into their hands for the public-schooled masses to be ignorant of history, geography, and world cultures (under government-enforced curricula). Also, we oppose globalization and any global policy-making and enforcing organizations, not because we are against free trade, but because those organizations that purport to be for free trade are just for creating regulations that make the world fertile for the birth of a world-wide government, destroying the sovereignty of free nations.

I don't want to give away my reponsibility to defend myself, to plan my retirement for myself, choose a doctor for myself, or any other decision about my life. I like having those responsibilities because they make me free. I won't let my fear that other people are too stupid or uneducated to take care of themselves seduce me into trying to plan their lives for them by giving more power to the government and fool myself that I can get the government to do what I want it to in regards to the way other people live their lives.

Sorry if I've gotten carried away! I am still learning about all these things and I'm curious about your response.

Thanks for reading this.

Kristina

6:17 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Kristina,

Well, it's a long discussion. The US purports to be "libertarian," esp. these days (what have we been doing since FDR's death but trying to roll back the New Deal?), in terms of a laissez-faire economy and politics. The result is an anti-society, a dog-eat-dog world of every person for themselves. The USSR was the opposite end of the spectrum, a world of total involvement in people's lives that did provide security from cradle-to-grave, but at far too high a price. I suspect we need something somewhere in the middle (Scandanavia, e.g.).

The key problem for me re: libertarianism is that it assumes a level playing field, i.e. that there is an equal opportunity for all. But that is blatantly untrue; in no way does that describe the situation in this country. Telling people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps when they have no shoes to begin with is finally a heartless philosophy. And that was my take on Ayn Rand, whom I found it painful to read: she had no heart, and had only contempt for people whose lives didn't turn out as well as hers. In short, this is not a person I can admire, or a philosophy I can endorse.

Thanks for writing-

mb

7:29 PM  

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