July 27, 2007

Interview on WYNE-FM, 23 July 2007

This is an interview I did with Gary Null, on New York's local NPR station. Link as follows:



Anonymous Thomas said...

Mr. Berman,

I am, as I'm sure many others are, anxiously awaiting your next book. Do you have any hints about when this might be and what kinds material you will deal with?

Also, I'd really appreciate it if you would post a list of recommended reading - fiction and non-fiction books that you feel are related to your writing.

Please continue writing. Yesterday I gave my summmer school students a passage from "Twilight" as a companion piece to Brave New World. It generated some pretty interesting discussion.

Thank you for your work,


9:36 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Thomas,

Thank you for your interest. It was great to hear you were challenging your students with material from Twilight. I always felt Huxley was on the rt track, much more so than Orwell in terms of future dystopian scenarios.

As for my current research, as you know, I turn things out very slowly. Between 1978 and 2006 I wrote 6 books, which is roughly a book every 5 years. The next one is slowly crystallizing in my mind, but will be a large synthetic work that I imagine will take me at least 5 years to finish. Nature of the beast, I fear.

As for a reading list: depends on what your interests are, of course. If it's about empire, you might tackle the items cited in the footnotes of DAA. But I read very eclectically, I have to say. Am currently embedded in Don DeLillo's latest, "Falling Man"--ah, if I cd only write like that! Just finished Thomas de Zengotita's book, "Mediated," which I thought was terrific. I'd also recommend Chalmers Johnson, "Nemesis," along with Paul Stiles, "Is the American Dream Killing You?", and Paul Christensen's book, "Strangers in Paradise." Hope that's a start.

Thanks again, and keep tweaking those students!-


10:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Morris,

I really enjoyed your interview. I agree with you. American individualism, so vaunted, is causing the downfall of our civilization. Bill Gates simply stole someone's ideas and he is worshipped for having a monopoly. What a wonderful god for us to worship. It is immoral to let one individual amass such a fortune.

I have a question for you. Jonathan Franzen wrote in his book "How to be Alone" how hard it was for him to read books and turn off the televison. Writing and reading are becoming ever less important. If a prize winning author admits that he gets mesmerized by his television, what hope is there for the ignorant masses? Are we entering a post literate-visual age? Many of my students do not know simple words. Any word that is not in normal conversation is beyond them. I also had a chance to talk to one of the owners of the Wall Street Journal and he admitted that the newspaper business is in dire straits. Do you think that reading, especially for the masses, is over?

Question #2 may seem a bit strange. I am recently married and have a child on the way, which is great. My wife and I live in the suburbs with little contact to neighbors. I live in the same affluent community I grew up in, but it is a very different world. My parents went to mixers in the 70's and there were many more kids and parents on the streets, etc.. Kurt Vonnegut said that the reason marriages fail is because two people don't make a community. One or both try to get too much out of one person. In the old days, if you fought you could talk to the tribe or extended family that lived near you. Now you are stuck together and no person, no matter how great, can provide everything for the other person. My wife would have been raising her child with other mothers and not isolated at home. I went to Ireland and my friend had 20 relatives living within 5 miles. Think of the support and love for that couple. What are your thoughts on modern marriage and children? Is this old fashioned? My Nigerian professor at college said that we are essentially polygamous, and that Americans are simply pretending to be monogamous. Maybe lack of community is putting too much pressure on couples to be "everything" for each other, which is impossible. I am fairly happily married, but like to analyze these things. Any thoughts on marriage or the state of marriage in the world/US? Would be curious to see if you agree with Kurt Vonegut. You are one of the few people whose opinion I really respect.


11:54 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Alec,

As far as reading, and any type of intellectual future for the US, we are utterly doomed. Check out the stats of American ignorance in both the Twilight book and DAA: 20% of Americans think the sun revolves around the earth, and 9% say they don't know which revolves around which. Something like 60% never read a book, and most of the rest read a book a year (which includes self-help stuff and the like). When Gore Vidal referred to the US (this in the Toronto Globe and Mail, 9 June 07) as "a nation of morons," he was probably being kind. As for the WSJ, last I heard the owners were considering selling it to Rupert Murdoch. We don't have to wait for the Dark Ages, my friend; they are already upon us.

As for marriage, I'm no expert, so will have to pass on that one; but you might check out the sections on the collapse of community and rise of suburbia in DAA. The truth is that extreme individualism, such as is practiced in the US, is a form of pathology, and I can't imagine a single institution that is not affected by the sad and stupid way we have decided to live.

Thank you for writing, and my best to you-


8:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, this discussion is fascinating.
Sorry to cast additional gloom into the conversation, but I can't help wondering if the rest of the world is in better shape than the US. Certainly from what I've seen of the Third World, things are bleaker there than here for all but the upper and upper-middle classes -- and for foreigners with money. So what if their problems don't stem from extreme individualism? Most of the population of the Third World seems to be screwed worse than the US population and seems to have been that way since before the US even came into being.
Also, most if not all of Europe is losing long-held perks like health insurance, subsidized housing and education and job security, and societies there appear to be having at least as much trouble as is the US with mutli-culturalism and immigration.
Finally -- Was the US ever a shining beacon of cultural and social achievement/enlightenment? Or are we/you just catching on to the indifference to others and to intellectual achievement that has always been a hallmark of most of the populace?
Thank you for your thoughts, especially if you can persuade me that there is reason for hope, somewhere.

1:54 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Anon.,

Wd love to answer you in extenso, but am currently staying with Turkish friends on the Aegean Coast and enjoying the rosy-fingered dawn and wine-red sea. Turkey is booming--quite prosperous (and expensive!) and with an upbeat feel to it rt now. As for yer comments on Europe, yes, under economic pressure from us, they are forced to cut back on what makes life decent and worth living. İt's quite amazing to leave the US (even momentarily) and grasp how little Americans understand abt what really counts in life. And they never will, my friend, and there is absolutely no hope for us as a result--not a shred.

Teşekürlar for writing-


12:58 PM  
Anonymous John said...

Hi, Im from Melbourne Australia.
I have read Coming To Our Senses, The Twilight of American Culture, and your new book.

You and your readers may find these two references of interest.
They both confirm your dark thesis and offer a way of transformation.

1. www.coteda.ocm
2. www.ispeace723.org

7:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Morris, John, Anon,
>I have a library of Morris Berman's books and always eagerly await the
>next one which I understand may be 5 years or more in the making. That's
>OK I find they are more than worth waiting for.
>Having said that something in me twinges when I hear Morris say as he did
>in the above post "It's quite amazing to leave the US and grasp how
>little Americans understand about what really counts in life. And they
>never will and there is absolutely no hope for us as a result - not a
>shred." I have traveled over much of the world and resonate with what
>Morris speaks of here as well, with my experiences of people who live in
>community, have values that put others first, not me first, and who often
>have extensive knowledge of world affairs.
>While I agree with the first part of his sentence I disagree strongly
>with the last part. There are many Americans who know what's important in
>life and their lived experiences are proof. I realize our problems of
>Empire are deep systemic ones and currently there are no systemic
>solutions on the horizon.
>Recent history though shows a real third way devloped for democracy as it
>did in Poland, Chile, Africa and other places. Just when the people were
>ready to begin effecting government policies, America came in to crush
>these revolutions of hope. If this movement happened once it can develop
>again, even in our country.When you give up hope there is no hope.

2:58 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Marianne,

Thanks again for writing. Just for the record: of course I was not saying that all situations are hopeless. As you say, Chile's wasn't, until the CIA stepped in (for this and many other similar cases, you might want to check out Wm Blum's appropriately titled study of the CIA, 'Killing Hope'). But the US situation is not comparable to (for example) Chile's: we are a dying empire, whereas they were a 'new' nation aspiring to self-determination. The comparison in our case is not Chile, but ancient Rome, I believe. Many 3rd World nations have been stretching to become born, so to speak; the US and Rome are or were overstretching toward a state of disintegration and collapse. And in cases like the latter, to quote Caesar, alea jacta est--the die is cast. It doesn't matter whether one possesses hope or not, because the objective conditions have overwhelmed the situation. Hope cannot and will not prevent the dollar from severe devaluation, nor can it, on a national basis, turn around a culture of meaningless corporate commercial consumption. (Jimmy Carter tried something like this, after all, and the American people made it clear where their heads were by electing Reagan by a landslide.) All we can reasonably expect is that these things will get worse. On an individual basis, of course, lots of responses are possible, including positive ones--as I discuss at length in the Twilight book. But such responses are not solutions in that they are not structural--and our problems are.

Don' know what else to tell you...


2:40 AM  
Anonymous rmarshall@rogers.com said...

Dear Morris:

One of my favorite statements of yours occurs in The Twilight of American Culture where you state that in 1962, Kennedy confronted the US Steel Corporation over price increases and forced it to back down. But now CEO's would be more likely to be invited to dinner at the White House. How true.

Next week, the leaders of the USA, Canada and Mexico (Bush, Harper & Calderon) will meet in Montebello, Quebec at a summit called the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP). One of the aims of the summit is to draw up a plan to integrate economic and security policies across the continent. The Council of Canadians claims that the "corporations are drafting government policy behind closed doors" because access to this conference will be denied to everyone except the politicians and a group of 30 corporate CEO's from these 3 countries. This group calls itself the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC) and their mandate is to help the government to 'identify and pursue initiatives that will create a more competitive North America.'

The truth is that these business leaders will make proposals that favour business over everything else and they will be making these proposals away from public scrutiny. So, in reality, the SPP summit will be driven by the corporate sector and shouldn't we be alarmed that opposition MP's, organized labour representatives, environmental activists or members of the public will be excluded? Corporate governance....geez who knew.


Robert Marshall

12:24 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Robert,

Thanks for the info. What is most telling is that practically nobody in the US will care abt this; 99% probably think it's a good thing. And the powers that be know this, which is why they can announce a secret meeting--they have an absolutely free hand. 'The Matrix' has arrived, clearly. Meanwhile, a life based on competition has destroyed what little life is left.

Onward and upward!


1:52 AM  
Anonymous Skeggia said...

Dear morris,
it's a dark ages for Italy too.
Congratulations for you work.
I would like to introduce to you the first book written by one blog collaborator.
In the work she comes analyzed the phenomenon (little known) of the Christian fondamentalismo in its American declination and of its relationships with the political power. Moreover he contains an entire one understood dedicated it to the situated galaxy of the Internet of fondamentaliste organizations: a most interesting travel in a disowned and alarming world, than servants to illuminate an aspect of the society American who too much often stretches itself to wanting to leave in shadow
for more information:

8:18 AM  
Anonymous Jimi Jones said...

Professor Berman: Something you said recently in an interview (I can't remember which one - I posted this here simply to increase my post's visibility) really struck a chord within me. In an aside you said something along the lines of "who really needed CDs?" I am an audiovisual archivist and have committed my life to the preservation of AV records. The life of an AV archivist has been severely complicated by the extreme wealth of audiovisual, particularly video, formats. There are literally HUNDREDS of video formats, all made and patented by warring companies, and NONE of them are built to last. One of the difficulties in video preservation is the fact that video media are machine-dependent. That is to say, it is not enough simply to preserve the tape (which is extraordinarily difficult in itself) - one must also preserve the playback machine. This is costly and time-consuming and is complicated by the fact that every few years a video format is discarded in favor of another one by companies who want to slightly increase their "formula" to gain market share.

Now why do I bring this up? Professional grousing? Not at all. I bring this up because we have had extraordinarily robust, preservationally sound media for decades. Motion picture film is, when well stored, very stable and can last for centuries. Also, it has the advantage of being eye-legible. That is to say, all you have to do to see what's encoded on a strip of film is hold it up to the light. Similarly, vinyl discs are a very stable form of audio recording media, and all you need for them is a turntable and a needle. We've had these formats for over a century, but market forces have caused a promulgation of NEW and EASY information recording media that are disastrously fragile and proprietary. It seems to me that market forces have caused us to invest heavily in information-recording formats that have the potential for leaving large gaps in the historical record, while the formats that we already had (which are, admittedly, bulky and more labor-intensive to use) would be much better for information-capturing.

I continually have to educate people to not throw away their 8mm home movies once they've copied them to DVD. People are stunned when they learn that these pieces of film have the power to outlast their DVDs by centuries. They're only thinking of the fact that they can't find a projector for their films, they don't want to take the time to thread the projector, etc etc. It's just so much EASIER to use a DVD! And I agree - for access, nothing beats digital media. However, for preservation of our shared historical record, digital audiovisual media are fraught with difficulties inherent in their design.

11:19 AM  
Blogger LauraGrace said...

Dear Mr. Berman,

I discovered The Twilight of American Culture in a used bookstore in Ashland, OR while I was there in July visiting my daughter. I have savored it during all the summer weeks since. I have read it at campsites and in living rooms as I've happily avoided the classroom that owns me from September to June. I knew I had to write to you when I read the last page, where you quoted the poet Lew Welch. I found Lew Welch myself while I was an undergraduate in English at UC Davis more than 30 years ago.

Thank you for articulating -- and affirming -- what I beleive I aim to do. I am a high school English teacher. I want to invite students into conversation; to teach them the value and pleasure of conversation, and how to converse. I want to give them a humane rationale for studying literature; and to share my pleasure in it. I have taught for more than 15 years, and was surprised and happy to see you cite other writers whose work has also helped me kick off a school year. I have passed out pages from Sven Birkerts' Gutenberg Elegies and from David Denby's Great Books, to name two.

Twilight will be my opening baton this year as I invite students to help create a monastery for ourselves, in all its connotations of communion and community. I hope by June that we'll see the rewards of monastic life are more lasting than their blue ribbons and test scores. We'll see.

It's very good to think about getting started again. Thank you very much for joining us. (You're back in high school now!) I look forward to reading your other books. May your tribe increase!

Best wishes,
Laura Bickford

1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Morris Berman

Last night I was drinking a cup of coffee in a well known NY/LI bookstore(hint:it wasn't Barnes and Noble or Borders.)

Your book "Dark Ages" was "sitting" in the next chair. I spent the next two and half hours reading it.

Without a doubt, "Dark Ages" is one of those books all Americans should read. Sadly, only a small fraction of a percent of Americans will read your book.

I agree with all of your main points in the book.

The one problem I have with your book is that you have nothing to say about the how the post-1965 non-European immigration fits into all of this.

I believe-from personal experience-that post-1965 non-European immigration has contributed massively to the shattering of a sense of community and a sense of place in America.

If there was or is a blueprint for destroying a sense of community and a sense of place-the two go hand and hand-the 1965 immgration reform act was the blueprint. The whole point of the Putnam study is that post-1965 immgration has generated enormous diversity withn the borders of the US but with a corrsponding decline in a sense of community.

The creeps who have been promoting the culture of atomized Americans who compete in American labor markets globalized through post-1965 immgration,free trade and outsourcing are also the very same ones most enthusiastic about racially balkanizing the US through immigration. Bill Gates is notorious for wanting to replace Euro-American engineers and computer programmers with Asian legal immigrations.

Anyhow, I would like to know what your views are on post-1965 immigration.


10:22 AM  

Mr. Berman:

I liked your interview as well as your trilogy, the two last books honestly I didn’t like as much though, maybe too political? Any way I found them interesting , but the trilogy really cleared many things for my existence. About your interview I’d love to say the following:

The belief in the new virtue of a citizen is that of one who pursues his self interest and is successful in an opportunistic environment which he reads that way, this archetype systematically turns to be a hero. This leaves to bad reasoning and an illusion that the individual is the basic unity of society that cannot think in terms of community but in the philosophy that a real man does it on his own. This makes high pressure and high stress be thought as fabulous, because it builds the individual who pursues his self interest.

This analogy can be done with the US in relation to the rest of the world, slogans of truth and democracy that subjugate others for a good cause, their cause. US people want to live an illusion with the way they relate with the world, because they live it as individuals. Like father like son… in God we Trust, that’s it. US people trust in God, not in the way others say they see them. So in other words they can’t see themselves as others see them. God is more important than “the other”, and God is an image of an ideal-self that each one must trust before anyone else: the enemy.

That belief can’t see the boomerang effect, because abstract belief is more important than feeling another in presence seeing the whole picture. One narrative is it, US people (I don’t like to say Americans or north Americans because I am Chilean and Canadian) can’t see themselves from outside, because they are built with the idea of taking the action of always tending toward a centre, with out the chance of a pause of seeing oneself from a margin or circumference. This causes a fear that cannot be even imagined, because the system or “American way of life” shows a fact: To be a winner pursue your self interests, work on them and everything starts to make sense like magic. This illusion works, so I don’t think US ‘ers are afraid of feeling themselves traitors or guilty for disagreeing with a religious cause, but instead feel loser’s for not playing an active part of this “functional system” that can fulfil the collective American dream or I’d rather say each ones separate American illusion? Here is a paradox: the centre of an illusion is less alive than being in the margin of a reality.

I remember once I sent you a essay in Spanish that talks about two-Europe’s and two-Americas, in it is something I quote something Nietzsche says: “The dissertation of God only exists because of his antithesis”, fear makes the illusion, the enemy causes our actions and the construction of our world or our illusion? The cosmos is a need, it’s just a portion of chaos we know and believe in to survive, if it works… well that’s even better. But Bush turns the speech around and says something like: “There is few chaos left in the world that we must convert with the truth that comes from the absolute, the cosmos, the free world we represent on earth.”

I believe that life is spectator of a mystery, and not the seek of salvation or evolution that heads toward heaven or light. As you quote in The Reenchantment of the World: “There are some who hate life but are afraid of death”. Why feel threatened? Why make the US ‘ers feel threatened? Easy: It’s the only way to sustain the American way of life. So I ask you: Is terrorism the price of the empire, or the empire is reinforced with terrorism? The chicken or the egg? I agree that the republic was based on the rejection of something else, a negative identity. Self-centred people that “live in a city on the hill” can’t see who they are, because they don’t contact others, instead grab on to the illusion that avoids contact, that avoids putting “another” in first place and himself really at the side, unless this means to persuade another by making him part of my illusion, falsely equal that attenuates my suspense by spreading my way of life in the unknown, opposite to the first. Black and white are inverted.

Manichaeism this way can have two readings, were evil is simply not wrong, its just different. Moral rigidity is an aggressive thought that hides the purpose of material greed, to build and defend an illusion, a city of God, a cosmos for insecurity and suspicion of the real and live world.

Once you wrote about an experience that you had in Colombia, you called a contact with the “real gold”. I agree with that story, I think human warmth or fondness for another can’t de replaced by a mental fantasy of another, warmth is the action of feeling a mystery within and between another, fantasy is a controllable thought that becomes addiction and forces reality to become one’s illusion. With all this, in my pour English not practiced, all I ask US leaders is to let the world turn.

12:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It has been three months since you posted something here. Are you well? Please post an update!

4:00 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Anonymous,

I know, I know; I've been terribly negligent. The problem is that I'm inundated with lecture invitations, and they require a ton o' work. Just got back from West Va. U and Colorado College; now I'm doing a bunch of lecs in Mexico, then Venezuela for 12 days in November, and then in Mexico again, Nov. 24-30. Things should settle down to a dull roar by early Dec. Remind me then, and I'll try to put something on the screen.

And thanx fer yer interest, BTW!

5:51 PM  

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