October 26, 2008

These Are Your Neighbors



Blogger Heather said...

This makes me feel sad and wonderful. After watching this I feel like a genius. Sad, because so many of my fellow country men can not name a country that starts with a U. Nor do they know the religion of Israel, but they also seem to want to invade their own country. I'm not necessarily all that surprised though, I was in a high school library about two years ago to tutor a child who was having great difficulty in school, when one of his college bound classmates asked me when the Civil War was (she thought it was in the 1930's).
Americans are planning on being the first to go to Mars, yeah that will be the day. China will more than likely get there first. I'll be happy and sad when they do, but you know what if they do good for them, they deserve it. While it seems that they (as well as a few other countries) put more emphasis on hard work and good grades, Americans only seem to want their children to become the next rock star.


8:16 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Be sure to read my next book, "The Dumbing Down of Mars" (ha ha).


10:30 PM  
Anonymous Melker63 said...

From my european/swedish perspective one would think that Barney Franks recent comment "Plenty of rich people that we can tax" would go by as relatively uncontroversial (He probably only meant about halfway back to the Reagan-years anyway).

Not so. Search above quote on YouTube - then spot-check some of the 4800+ reactions of this appearently outrageous traitorous comment. "Socialist pig" are just some of the nicer labels.

I simply refuse to believe that every negative reaction belongs to a millionaire. There GOT to be a majority of debtburden job-insecure worker-/middleclass-ignorants among these commenters.


Also, if you havent already; do a youtube-search on "John Cleese (part 2): Obama, Biden & Fox News". Although he may have a little to much faith on Obamas potential to really change the overal course, his comments are interesting nethertheless.

7:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Though I agree our educational system is pretty dumbed down here in the U.S. and, frankly, I wish I could afford to leave and move to another part of the world as Mr. Berman has done because I'm pretty fed up with this country overall, I must also say that this video is not completely fair. I think we could find equally "stupid" responses to similar questions asked of people in other parts of the world. Check out the response videos posted on youtube that suggest that the British and then the Germans are stupid. In fact, most travelers from other countries I've met while they're visiting the U.S. tell me they think this is a great country and they seem more clueless than the average American about government corruption and about how bad things have gotten in this country--and how bad things could get for them in their own countries if they're not careful. People are just clueless everywhere really, not just in the U.S.

It's funny, I recognize the video appears to have been shot in Santa Monica, CA (not a very intellectual spot, so I found that to be amusing having lived there for a time.)

Also given how expensive education is in this country, one needs to be a millionaire to go to college these days, and given the propaganda we Americans are exposed to on a daily basis by our biased, corporate-controlled media system, I think it's pretty amazing that so many Americans are at least informed and intelligent enough to recognize the idiocy of our current government in spite of all the lies we're constantly being told.

And I went to college and got good grades myself, but can't answer every question that's asked of me either. Nobody knows everything--especially when they're put on the spot and a camera is pointed at them.

And I'm finding myself a college graduate who earned good grades and can't find a decent job, can't earn a decent living and have outrageous mortgage-sized loans to pay back. The feds just sent me a notice that I won't be able to collect social security when I grow old, my tiny wages will be garnished and I can't get my tax refunds anymore because I can't pay off my student loans. Yeah, this is a great country and we're really rewarded for being intelligent, aren't we? Sometimes I find myself envying those who have less education than I do because a) they don't have this enormous debt, and b) ignorance is bliss and I'm sure it is a lot easier to be happy when you just don't know how bad things are.

Anyhow, I'm pretty angry at this country and agree with much that Mr. Berman has to say but I don't think Americans are as stupid as this video portrays us. But then again maybe I'm stupid in my lack of knowledge of my fellow American...

9:14 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Anon,

No, you're not stupid; but you *are* uninformed. It seems reasonable to say that this video could have been made anywhere, but the stats of American ignorance are massive and well documented. I give some of the figures in the Twilight book and DAA, and continue to collect the most amazing data:

-52% of Americans believe our enemy in WW2 was Russia, and our ally was Germany

-20% believe the sun revolves around the earth, and 9% say they don't know which revolves around which

-45% believe extraterrestrials have visited the earth

-Only 1 out of 7 Americans can find Iraq or Iran on a world map

-Etc. It's a very long list, and the conclusion is inescapable: intellectually, we are the world's joke, a collection of dummies. Even worse, many of us are proud of it. So yes, you can find clueless people everywhere; but I think we are off the scale when it comes to MPH (morons per hectare).

Keep smiling-


10:57 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Watching this hilarious video I was reminded of my niece who's now 25, a graduate of a private university and would probably not be able to answer many of the questions. From the time she was about 13 her equally shallow parents encouraged her in "sports." Long practices after the school day was over, out of town trips for games and tournamnents during the week and plenty of weekends and, despite lip-service to the value of education, schools were chosen on the basis of the "team" and Jaye's chances of being the pointguard. When I suggested one day that maybe, in the long run, this was a complete waste of time I was told "this is her strength and not everyone likes to read." Guess what? She's now working at a day care center for about $11/hour since she didn't bother to read the degree requirements to become a teacher--- even if all she wanted to teach was basketball. Her parents are furious they have to send her to school for another year to qualify for an actual job. I'm not trying to pick on her---she's a sweet kid and completely harmless but a nation of sports fanatics will not be leaders in the world. But to me the saddest thing about this wasted opportunity is her lack of curiosity and involvement in the world she lives in.

7:19 AM  
Anonymous teri schooley said...

Dear Mr. Berman,
Even more pathetic than the video itself are some of the comments remarking on the video. (Paraphrased) examples: "Who cares about that stuff anyway?", "If the US is so dumb, why are we number one in the world?", "You stupid Europeans. [Actually, I believe the video was made by a couple of Australians, but that's kinda near Europe, eh?] We saved your butts in WW2 and have been keeping the world safe since then, so go back to Europe." And one of my personal favorites, "They were talking to old people. If they asked some young people questions about computers and stuff, they'd see how we could blow them away with our superior intelligence." I like that one because it is so real-time "Palin-ish" and cuts to the heart of the ignorance of her devoted followers. It's not that they have the wrong answers, you see, it's that the questions aren't fair. Of course, now that Palin has her newest and bestest BFF, that silly little Elizabeth Somebody who was a contestant on "Survivor" and now "works" as one of the "panelists" on that morning talk show, we'll no doubt see much stronger intellectual rhetoric spilling forth from the campaign.
Anyone who doubts our collective mediocrity needs only look at these facts which are associated with the current election: "Joe the Plumber" is now in negotiations for a book deal and has been asked by local residents to run for Congress. Media pundits, with no apparent hint of disbelief, are suggesting that Palin will be the next leader of the Republican party and that she is planning her 2012 run for office. It doesn't occur to any of them that a woman who spent 6 years as a journalism student and who yet still cannot produce a sentence on her own that is grammatically correct is inherently of low intelligence and a woefully slow learner. At McCain and Palin rallies, the crowds roar "socialism" and "Marxism", without a clue as to what the words mean. (For that matter, McCain, Palin and a plethora of media talking heads don't seem to know either - I find myself foolishly talking to the TV, saying things like, "Define 'socialism'", or "Name a socialist country".) The crowds are equally comfortable and happy repeating, zombie-like, ANY phrase fed to them. "Joe, Joe, Joe," they yell when Palin mentions the not-named-Joe-who-is-not-a-plumber dude. Yesterday, she made a comment that McCain had recently talked to a supporter named Tito and....the crowd began roaring "Tito, Tito, Tito," before she even finished her sentence. For all they knew, she was getting ready to say that Tito was actually an Obama plant, or an illegal immigrant or something, but such is the trust of these morons that they assume a pearl of wisdom or a Story of Great Merit to be Passed on to the Generations is about to be imparted to them. Oh, treasure the moment, so you can tell your grandkids that you saw The Palin in person.
A measurable percentage of voters think that Obama is not an American because he was born in Hawaii.
A huge number of us seem to think we were founded as a "Christian" nation and as proof, offer the tidbits that our money has "In God We Trust" printed on it and our pledge has the words "under God" included in it.
Of more interest to the media than whether the "bailout" was a remotely reasonable idea, or what financial experts (aside from the "experts" who lobby for Wall Street firms) thought about it, was the exciting question of how to get those pesky conservative Republicans and darn liberal Democrats to all vote for it, and how the issue could best be used to the advantage of either candidate for President.
This election just has me grinding my teeth. All the stupids have come out of the closet and they get to vote. And some of them get to talk on TV. Like, in PUBLIC and all.
I suppose ignorance could be corrected with education, but stupid is forever.

8:44 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Susan and Teri,

I have to tell you guys to rent "Idiocracy" at Blockbusters. The story is situated 500 yrs from now, but it feels more like 10, with characters like Palin bringing it closer on a daily basis. I tell you, I'm more amazed that someone like Obama can be a candidate than folks like McCain and Palin, who talk as though they have fruit compote in their heads. Meanwhile, I get email all the time from academics telling me their students think the Civil War happened in the 1930s, etc. No matter how you slice it, there's no getting around the fact that we are a nation of dummies. Even worse, of clowns.

Is it true that Obama is a terrorist, and an ay-rab?


11:16 AM  
Anonymous teri schooley said...

Dear Mr. Berman,
I saw "Idiocracy". I think it's more like 5 years in the future.
Obama is not only a Muslim ay-rab terrorist fascist Marxist socialist tax-and-spender, the Fundamentalists claim he is the anti-Christ. My boss - if I didn't work from home, I surely wouldn't work for him - explained it to me thusly: according to the Bible, the anti-Christ will be a silver-tongued, dark-skinned man with a straight nose (what an odd little morsel that detail is) who is of Muslim descent. Since Obama *clearly* is using the Rev. Wright as a cover-up for his true Muslim beliefs, he fits the bill; ergo, he is the anti-Christ.
"Wait," I said, "the Bible reads that the anti-Christ is a Muslim?"
"Well, yes," frowned my boss, "everyone knows that."
I said, "Mohammad was born around 525 AD."
"Your point?"
"How could the Bible mention Muslims or Islam when that religion was founded 400 years after the last book of the Bible was purportedly written?"
"It says a man from the East. East of Jerusalem is, guess what, Iraq and Iran, and those kinds of places, y'know - Muslims."
"Well, actually, the most famous reference to men from the East are the Magi, and Biblical scholars now agree this referred to Chinese traders..."
"See," my boss said, "you need to come to church with me and learn the truth from my pastor."
And that's where I exited with all due speed, stage left, because there is simply no point in such vaporous discourse. One can't argue with these people; they *believe*, all evidence to the contrary.
However, in a delightful twist of karmic, or - who knows, divine? - irony, the music blaring on my radio when I started up the car was Pink Floyd's "The Wall".
"We don't need no education..."

3:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rachel Maddow reported on her show that a poll of early voters in Florida found that 6% of voters said they "don't know" who they voted for! Now that's scary...
Happy Halloween.

7:56 AM  
Anonymous teri schooley said...

Dear Mr. Berman,
I take back my words. "Idiocracy" won't happen in 5 years; it's here. Yesterday, McCain introduced "Joe the Plumber" to a crowd as his "role model" and said he was going to take Joe to Washington with him.
In the meantime, we have repeatedly invaded Pakistan's and Syria's territories, running sorties and killing people. Syria just filed a complaint with the UN. Bush is deregulating everything he can before he leaves office, although I have seen not one paper address the issue of how he does that while Congress is out of session. (He recently stopped the largest windfarm project in the country so government scientists could "study the impact on the environment". Not a peep of protest from the press or Congress.) He ordered a battalion of the army home so they can take up their new position - here, on home soil - with the sole and stated purpose of "crowd control and handling of civil unrest". No-one seems to find that odd or alarming.
And McCain, one of our presidential candidates, has Joe the Plumber as his role model.
We have entered the theater of the grotesque.
P.S.: If you can find a video clip, you must see the John Cleese interview on the subject last night with Keith Olbermann on "Countdown". Cleese was laughing so hard he almost fell off his chair.

5:15 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Teri,

Yes, "theater of the grotesque" describes the situation pretty well. Pres. Obama will smooth out the edges, but the basic content and goals of the empire will be the same. I recently received a small book in the mail from Prof. Thomas H. Naylor (Emeritus, Duke U.) called "Secession," giving reasons for why Vermont should secede from the (dis)Union. He fails to mention the Dolt Factor, however, which strikes me as Reason No. 1. We seem to have a 'republic' of buffoons, for buffoons, and by buffoons, and it is Naylor's hope that it perish from the earth. Long shot, but he does provide food for thought.

Good talkin' to ya...


10:41 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

I saw Idiocracy and it certainly captured the end result of our adolecent culture's love of violence, weapons, cheap sex and brainless entertainment. I thought the bit about watering the crops with (basically)Gatorade b/c it has "electrolytes" was priceless. No one knew what electolytes were anymore just that somehow we need them----the ultimate tribute to marketing. I'm doing my best to keep my sense of humor and see this for the side show it is and not the misery it's going to cause. Layoffs are starting in earnest here in the US and, while I'm not an economist, I would have to think they're only going to accelerate. My brother-in-law lost his computer job Friday and is going to apply to be a dealer at a local gambling casino as they're the only ones hiring----so much for a college education and years of experience! What's NOT on the news---or is only on once then never seen again----is actually far more disturbing than most of the headlines. I had read most of the things Teri mentioned but not the piece about troops being brought home to keep us in line. About a year ago I saw once and only once that Blackwater was bidding for a goverment contract to do "domestic surveilance". If that's not the perfect setup for our own KGB, then what is?

12:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with what Heather said. China, Germany, and other countries that have decent, hard-working cultures deserve to run the future world. They even respect their teachers. Can you imagine that? Let our American "students" all become rock stars, professional athletes, and models. They should all be just fine! Ha! The only reason that America took off after World War II was because the competition was destroyed (German)or severely disabled, as in England, etc. If it had been a war between America and Germany alone, we would have gotten destroyed in grand style. We only won (thank god we did) because we had so many more planes, cheap tanks, etc. Also, the Russians lost 30 million bleeding them dry. Now, our advantage of being the only big boy on the block is over, we are stupid, obese, and should lose the future. We live in a very decadent, hedonistic, unethical wasteland. The truth hurts, and you really have to open your eyes to the "truth." Yes, there are decent people here, but the system, as Mr. Berman points out, is broken and nothing working within that systemic framework will make a damn bit of difference.
Yes, I too have laughed and chuckled at how stupid people are, and how bad some of the big decisions are, but it's not funny when friends lose jobs, or violence occurs. This is going to be much nastier than what happened in the 1930s. Think Katrina all over the country. Even normal people are getting more rude and brash on the roads. Hasn't anyone else noticed this?

10:30 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

Well I haven't really noticed much difference in peoples drive, except for the fact they never let you know when they're getting over into your lane. I heard a comedian once joke that everyone should have their cell phone numbers printed on the back of their cars. So we could let them know how bad their driving is. The problem with this is that no one believes their driving is bad. Instead of questioning whether or not they took that left turn to fast and that's why they hit that guy who was pulling out of that parking space. What they do instead is honk (if they're polite) or yell obscenities, because to them that man never should have been there in the first place.

I have noticed though how nobody wants to take on any sort of responsibility for the current financial crisis. I know to many people who live way beyond their means, and now expect the government to help, though they are against any form of socialism.

There also seems to be a lack of self-reliance. There was a piece on the internet lately that stated "bad economy means more obesity". The author blamed the rise in food prices and bad economy for more obesity. This is true in part a Big Mac is cheaper than a salad, but one poster on the message boards actually suggested that people start cutting back on their meat consumption and growing their own vegetables, you would have that she had just dropped a bomb on the message board. AS one poster put it; "In other countries they have herds of sheep, berries, and farmland to grow food on. This is America, Americans shop at grocery stores."

And the other comments were far worse than that. You would have thought that most of them never heard of hunting, fishing, or victory gardens.

I hear parents complaining that they have to throw away there children clothing, because they got ripped or stained. Nobody sets stains anymore and mending piles are long gone. Has anyone else noticed that children no longer have patches on their clothing?

7:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just how stupid are we? After Obama's acceptance speech, Rachel Maddow on MSNBC said she was happy to hear Obama speak tough to our enemies. She added that, as far as she was concerned, the terrorists were nihilists intent on world domination. World domination? Doesn't she have that backwards?
It makes me sad that one of the most liberal voices on television doesn't seem to get it- but I guess it shouldn't surprise me either.

1:59 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Anon,

Well, it reminds me of Gore Vidal's comment, that in the US there is one political party with two right wngs. Once you see that, things become a lot clearer.

A recent article in the Wash Post (about a week ago) documented the fact that Obama's foreign policy was pretty much the same as McCain's. Bill Burton, one of Obama's campaign advisers, said that Obama's goal is to "unite America around defeating Al Qaeda." We can look forward to a long, fruitless conflict with Afghanistan, as Obama shunts troops from Iraq. But even if he secretly felt very differently, there's not much any candidate or president can do: the spectrum of political debate is so narrow in the US, and the American population so brainwashed, that there is zero room to move in a truly different direction. The 'change' Obama has promised is one of style, finally; and it was with some satisfaction that I read the statements recently of both Fareed Zakaria and Francis Fukuyama (one of the original neocons) that Obama is better suited "to manage the decline of America." For two years now I've been saying that the real purpose of Nov. 4 is to elect a funeral director. Well, we now have a very intelligent and smooth funeral director to carry out the job, but let's not forget that the real guest of honor at a funeral is--the corpse!

Thanx for writing,

10:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"China will more than likely get there first. I'll be happy and sad when they do, but you know what if they do good for them, they deserve it. While it seems that they (as well as a few other countries) put more emphasis on hard work and good grades, Americans only seem to want their children to become the next rock star."

You must be crazy. The U.S. may be in decline, but don't tell me that China represents ideals that trump those of the U.S. in its greatest moments. What is so great about figuring out how to do capitalism in a Stalinist petri dish and creating in the process the largest slave labor force in history? I recommend these two books for anyone who thinks China and/or other East Asian countries represent an advance over the U.S.:



11:41 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

You must be crazy. The U.S. may be in decline, but don't tell me that China represents ideals that trump those of the U.S. in its greatest moments. What is so great about figuring out how to do capitalism in a Stalinist petri dish and creating in the process the largest slave labor force in history? I recommend these two books for anyone who thinks China and/or other East Asian countries represent an advance over the U.S.:

Well I never said it's going to be great, I know just the opposite to be true. That's why I said I would be both happy and sad. I've had to many friends and relatives who've lived in, or grew up in East Asian. Some of their stories are horrifying to say the least. Trust me I don't want China any more than you do.

7:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, China is not a model, but their kids are studying hard, etc. Of course there are too many Chinese for every Chinese person to live like we do. Our kids, those that don't have parents from China or India, are not doing much. They mostly listen to I-Pods, chat nonsense on "Facebook." etc. They aren't reading. Go research this. I actually think that it benefits a Capitalistic society to have the masses uneducated. Only uneducated people would work for $5.00 an hour, never have vacations or health care, and put up with it. They aren't smart enough to question anything. It sounds like a pretty good plan. There is also the persistent illusion (myth) that anyone can make it and become wealthy. This illusion is nurtured, and encouraged in the media. Also, the masses are well fed (fast food) and distracted with video games and stupid t.v. and movies. Why do we need to educate the masses anyway? Most people don't seem genetically capable of being smart anyway in any country. Do we really need 300 million pseudo-intellectuals running around drinking Starbucks and reading the "New York Times"?Maybe we should leave the majority dumb alone, and try to stick with the intelligent and upper classes. A Capitalistic society only needs a few Fords or Einsteins anyway. The rest are worker types. In summary, I think that a class system is just fine as long as the upperclasses value the right things: hard work, education, etc. This is disintegrating with the "New Rich", but those were and still are the values of the "old rich" families in many parts of America today.

11:08 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Anon,

Take my word for it: no self-respecting pseudo-intellectual would be caught dead drinking Starbucks coffee.

This is so much fun!


1:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

File this one under: "These Are Your Leaders": T. Boone Pickens was on Jon Stewart last night; he roused the audience with his talk of using domestic natural gas as a transportation fuel. He concluded: "In America, we'll walk when we want to walk- not because we *have* to walk. In other words, Americans would gladly drive themselves right out of civilization, rather than rethink the way they live.

9:08 AM  
Anonymous JDG said...

Dr. Berman,

What you have to say is very disheartening; unfortunately, most of it is true. I am a university professor, and I have the opportunity to teach at different universities. I started at a very elite university and later moved to another state in the South, Florida. What is happening is the gap between the elites and the middle class/proles is that growing exponentially. The students at the elite university are motivated and well prepared and are receiving an excellent education. I cannot say the same for the state university. State universities in Florida are a JOKE. Many students, I estimate ten percent are functionally illiterate. However, the administration caters to them. Professors hand out As in search of good student reviews, etc. It is truly disheartening.


6:23 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear JDG,

Keep in mind what finished off the Church in the Middle Ages: the selling of indulgences. All you had to do to get into heaven was pay. Where is Martin Luther when we need him?


7:49 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home