October 05, 2009

Interview with Scott Noble

Scott Noble is an independent Canadian filmmaker who is making a film that interviews a number of critics of the American empire. I can't imagine something like this getting into American theaters, but I admire him for trying. Anyway, he sent me the links for the footage he did of me (this was in Boston, Dec. 2008), and I thought I'd post them for those of you who might be interested. I should warn you, however, that downloading might be a problem: the files are quite large, and if you can indeed download them, it will take a fair amount of time. That said, here's the info:




Enjoy (maybe)!



Blogger ryan kloostra said...

Great Interview. Loved every minute.

Seems like a couple of those "smart frogs" in Sweden made a mistake last night, though. Please comment on Obama's award. It seems odd that a man overseeing two wars and simultaneously making strikes in Somalia and Pakistan would be awarded a "Peace Prize." In that line of thought, I'm going to award the prostitute on the corner the Virginity Prize. Maybe it will motivate her to change...

Ryan G. Kloostra

11:46 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Ryan,

These things don't mean very much, really. Henry Kissinger won the award years ago, and is little more than a war criminal (consider Chile 1973, for starters). In the case of Obama, it's purely political: what they *want* him to achieve, not what he *has* achieved. Frankly, I doubt any president in American history has done less, in concrete terms, in his first nine months in office than Obama, with the possible exception of Calvin Coolidge. Meanwhile, Obama's support of (meaningless) war and the continuation of torture is a matter of public record. Be sure to see the short essay in the Oct. 8 NY Rev of Bks, "Entangled Giant," by Gary Wills.

Glad u liked the interview.


1:09 PM  
Anonymous Farbror Melker said...

"Seems like a couple of those "smart frogs" in Sweden made a mistake last night, though."

Well, the Nobel peace-price is actually administered by an Norwegian committe. This stems from the late 19:th century days then Norway was tied in a uneasy and unwanted union with Sweden. They got the responsibility of the peace-price as a gesture of nation-brotherhod love, so to speak.

7:19 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

The interviews offer a very lucid and concise overview of your perspective, I think.

I appreciated the references to the Frankfurt School, in particular. Could you elaborate a little more on your view of Marcuse and the Frankfurt School, today, pro and con? In other words, what's the "take-away value", for you?

6:14 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Kevin,

Well, that would take a very long reply, I fear. Nobody reads Marcuse these days, of course, but there's a lot I took away from that whole constellation, which includes Erich Fromm and perhaps stretches out to Hannah Arendt: the relationship between the 'good' and the 'bad' Enlightenment, for example, and the ultimate danger of a society that has degenerated to the pt that its culture = entertainment. The toughest nut to crack remains the issue of 'false consciousness': what do you do if people say, and really mean, that having 14 varieties of lip gloss is what is truly important to them? I recently ran across a description of the US saying that life now consisted of 'endless shopping and face lifts'. Richard Easterlin, in 'Growth Triumphant', pts out that Abe Maslow's hierarchy of needs proved to be a myth: when people have their material needs met, they just want more material goods, not art or spirituality. This leads us to Isaiah Berlin's assertion that you can't force enlightenment on people, what you get is totalitarianism. So the alternative is the vapid and banal society that the Frankfurt School analyzed and condemned--one-dimensional man. There is a straight line between Aldous Huxley saying that any one who has more than one dimension may eventually wind up on some marginal 'reservation' on the edge of society, thru the Frankfurt lit, and finally to Vance Packard's description of the US. Nobody's solved the problem, but Adorno and Horkheimer at least asked the crucial questions. It's odd that quality and elitism turn out to be truly radical positions.


8:04 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Thanks very much for your reply.

Your invocation of Huxley reminds me of the forward to Neil Postman's book Amusing Ourselves to Death, in which he compared the visions expressed in 1984 and Brave New World. I am no great fan of Postman's, in the main, but his little foreword is brilliant. A few excerpts, which I think will fall under "fair use":

"What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.

Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism.

Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.

Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.

In 1984, [...] people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. [...]

This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right".

11:22 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Kevin,

Thanx for the excerpts. Francis Fukuyama says something similar in "Our Posthuman Future," which I found very thought-provoking.


4:44 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Thanks for the Fukuyama reference, which I haven't read.

If this isn't too far off topic, I am wondering what you now consider to be the "bad Enlightenment"?

For me, in the areas of ideas and the humanities, the "bad Enlightenment" resides in the Allan Blooms and the Neil Postmans of the the world (Postman's hostile remarks about Nietzsche make Bertrand Russell appear to be an informed and balanced commentator, by contrast). Anything that questions the hegemony of Reason, Truth, and Morality is BAD, in the view of such types--which explains why Nietzsche's thought is anathema to them.

My view is that a "good Enlightenment" must take into account and rise to the challenges of a Nietzsche, rather than, say, engage in ad hominem remarks about his madness, or about German culture, in general (Postman, again). What do you think?

9:23 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Kevin,

By 'bad Enlightenment' I was referring specifically to the 'rationalization' (Weber) of culture, its scientization, such as Marcuse and the Frankfurt School discuss, whereby reason gets distorted to become instrumental, 'purposive-rational'. The FS correctly saw this as a far cry from Voltaire. Check out my Twilight bk, ch. 3. As for Postman and Nietzsche: well, I guess one cd also say that there is a gd and bad Nietzsche. The gd parts wd certainly include his pre-Freudian understanding of the human psyche, and his appreciation of raw energy (not all Zorbas are Hitlers).


9:46 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Thanks for the clarification. Did the Enlightenment itself get caught along with its opposite in a process of schismogenesis, I sometimes wonder?

In any case, I think that the "bad Nietzsche" was largely manufactured by others' misunderstandings, but I realize that one can say the very same regarding the "bad Enlightenment".

12:07 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Possibly, but more to the pt is the yin-yang phenomenon, whereby something pushed to its limit turns into its opposite (from political sensitivity to political correctness,e.g.). Nietzsche may have been the lyrical version of Weber, in many ways. "The Birth of Tragedy," which I regard as his finest work, talks about how Socratic reason finally turns around and bites its own tail. The book remains the best study of the internal contradictions of ancient Greece, and how they finally tore that civilization apart. Not so different from the Frankfurt Schl's take on the Enlightenment.

4:19 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

I had in mind the dialectic between the Enlightenment and Romanticism, but the enantiodromia you suggest is certainly a worthwhile and plausible view of the matter.

I've always lamented the idea of Snow's "two cultures", myself, however inevitable that development may have been. The 19th-Century Romantics, for instance, are often stereotyped as being squish-brained sentimentalists who effused over daffodils, but, as Richard Holmes's excellent new book The Age of Wonder shows, they found the scientific developments of their time fascinating and engaging (although, of course, they were not uncritically accepting of them; witness Frankenstein).

I also often remind others that the German Romantic poet Novalis, whose 1799 poem-cycle Hymns to the Night was a direct shot across the bow of the Aufklarung, was also a trained mining engineer.

Thanks, as always, for the thought-provoking dialogue. Your view of Nietzsche is especially refreshing, as not many academics seem to hold old Fritz's early works in great regard.

4:52 PM  
Anonymous Ross Nelson said...

I placed an mp3 of this interview at:

Instead of being a 1G-byte download, it's only 16.1M-bytes.

12:07 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Note to Francesco:

It's a policy on this blog to post letters of half a page, 3/4 at most. Beyond that, it becomes a drag for other readers, so I ask that those writing in be concise. In a word, three pages is not something I can post. In addition, while I appreciated your close reading of "Wandering God" and your questions, I don't really have time to conduct a detailed intellectual correspondence with you on the subject. So here's a suggestion: please summarize your questions/comments in a letter of about half a page, and send them to me at mauricio@morrisberman.com. This will enable me to address some of your concerns.

Thank you.


10:25 PM  
Blogger Ten Thousand Winds said...


Good interview with Morris Berman.
Check it out!!

5:03 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Winds,

That interview is posted somewhere on this blog...Jari conducted it with me by phone a year ago or so, I think it was. But thanks for the reminder, and glad you enjoyed it.


7:07 PM  
Blogger Pedro® said...

Morris. He dado con tu supuesto blog y me permito este espacio para felicitarte por tu trabajo, es realmente inspirador y concluyente. El Reencantamiento del Mundo fue escrito 2 años antes que yo naciera, sin embargo vino a mi vida cuando mi cabecita loca ya pensaba en conclusiones como las que tu llegaste.

Eres genial!... No encuentro la hora para seguir leyendo tus libros.

Felicidades, y gracias por el conocimiento que brindas.


6:00 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

In his latest column at truthdig, "A Reality Check From the Brink of Extinction," Chris Hedges writes: "We will not significantly reduce carbon emissions by drying our laundry in the backyard and naively trusting the power elite. The corporations will continue to cannibalize the planet for the sake of money. They must be halted by organized and militant forms of resistance." He quotes environmental activist, Derrick Jensen: "We need to shut down the oil infrastructure. I don't care, and the trees don't care, if we do this through lawsuits, mass boycotts or sabotage."

What do you think of Jensen's call for a "Deep Green Resistance" movement, whose objective is to accelerate the collapse of industrial civilization? Resist, do not comply.

8:08 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Here's some more evidence--as if any were necessary--that fighting the Philistines is a losing battle:

"Three Tweets for the Web",
by Tyler Cowen (Welcome the new world with open arms—and browsers).


The above-linked bilge, by an economics professor at George Mason University, is yet another paean to the glories of the Web, short information bits, multi-tasking, and the like.

At least there is one excellent comment to the article. Quoting the article's author, who writes,

"Researchers say that periodically checking your e-mail lowers your cognitive performance level to that of a drunk. If such claims were broadly correct, multitasking would pretty rapidly disappear simply because people would find that it didn’t make sense to do it."

The commenter rejoins,

"But people still get drunk, even though it certainly lowers your cognitive performance. And people do all sorts of unhealthy, irrational, uneconomic things--despite what economists think."

10:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Berman and all,

David Simon, the creator of "The Wire," is a genius, in my opinion, and he has talked about the decline of America in the 3 following videos links. In the third video, he was invited to talk about journalism, but ended up in a rant about the decline of America. The students didn't really understand, but I know all of you will. The first two are with Bill Moyer. All of these can easily be found on YouTube by typing in David Simon. I have never heard someone so semi-connected to the media talk in this way. I know that you are busy, Mr. Berman, but I would love to know what you think as well. I would just like to throw this out there.




9:45 PM  

You have a policy about long letters, but not spanish letters... right? Some spanglish then for a change:

Que interesante la relación que establece Kevin entre Orwell y Huxley, y las aprehensiones de ambos sobre el futuro, Huxley sin duda acierta en “Brave New World”. En el Origen de la Tragedia, Nietzsche (el Weber lírico) explica una “imagen” de Schopenhauer sobre lo “apolíneo”: La de un hombre sobre un barco muy frágil en la tempestad del mar que sin embargo se siente “tranquilo”, ¿cómo? lo explica por la apariencia del “principium individuationis”. La ilustración (que relaciono con esta “apariencia”) es un recurso individual en directa relación de uno con ello, no un instrumento para movilizar las masas por parte de terceros. Todos tenemos derecho a usar la ilustración para “medir” como empaparnos del ensueño dionisíaco, de estar ante lo dionisíaco y recurrir a lo apolíneo desde la “propia medida”. Sócrates se muerde la propia cola, porque promete sacarnos del “laberinto sofista”, creando una doble operación: invierte el sentido de la “apariencia” de implosivo a explosivo, y lo hace un fenómeno “colectivo”. La especulación así, como recurso individual ante el caos (visto como preciosa vacuidad), se proyecta y moviliza desde un sí mismo colectivo (ethos) en el caos. Si no es reactiva, ¿de donde emerge ahora? De donde emerge no es lo importante, sino como señala Schop, estar sobre la proa del bote mirando la tempestad y no en el interior del bote remando como esclavo que no mira nada y hace que todo avance.

¿Good or bad enlightment? Everyone can choose, and that I beleive must be the spirit of any system.

7:53 AM  

Dear Morris:

I see you recieve good visits, interesting relationship established by Kevin between Orwell and Huxley, and the apprehensions of both on the future, I agree Huxley undoubtedly succeeds in "Brave New World".

In The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche (the lyric Weber ) points out an "image" of Schopenhauer on the "Apollonian": That of a man on a very fragile boat in the sea storm that nevertheless feels "calm", how can that be? He explained that by the appearance of "principium individuationis. The enlightment (which I relate to this "appearance") is an individual action directly related to one with it, not a tool to mobilize the masses by third parties. Everyone's entitled to use the enlightment to "measure" how to soak in the Dionysian dream, to stand before the Dionysian with the use of our own Apollonian measure. Socrates bites his own tail, because he promises to get us out of the labyrinth sophist ", creating a double operation: he reverses the direction of the" appearance "of implosive to explosive, and makes a phenomenon a " collective one". Speculation as an individual resource to appeal before chaos (seen as beautiful emptiness), is planned and mobilized from a collective self (ethos) in chaos. If appearance was reactive before chaos, where does it emerge from now? From where it emerges is not important, but as Schop noted, the important is to be on the bow of the boat watching the storm with your own mental resources, and not inside the boat rowing like a slave who does not look at anything and makes all the effort in making progress advance. "Good or bad enlightment? Everyone can choose, and that I believe that must be the spirit of any system.

8:25 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

I tell ya, I go outta town for 5 days, and an avalanche pours in. I can't leave you guys alone for a minute. Shd say that I was on a 5-day silent retreat at a Benedictine monastery. It was great; I'm sure I'll write it up before too long. Anyway:

-Pedro: Gracias por escribir. I'm glad my work had such an impact on your life. I should tell you that a collection of essays, "Una cuestion de valores," will be coming out next year (some of the essays have already appeared in English on this blog), being published by Sexto Piso Editorial in Mexico City. I'm also trying to find a publisher for a dual-language edition of my volume of poetry, but this may take a bit longer. Anyway, hope you enjoy these as well.

-Art: I haven't read Jensen's work, but the problem with that formula is that it has minuscule support--what I call the "Kucinich vote." Edward Abbey advocated this sort of "ecotage" many years ago in books such as "The Monkey Wrench Gang." As US corporate-consumer culture spreads, more and more people want this destructive way of life; those are the facts. They are not resisting that culture; rather, they can't get enough of it. Hence, the only way out is through, so to speak: we shall have to do that way of life until it completely breaks down and there is no choice. Which I'm guessing is at least a couple of decades away. In the meantime, the choice for folks who write in to this blog is the "new monastic option" I describe in "Twilight": do what you can, in your own little world, to move in a healthy direction, and remember to enjoy yourself.

-Kevin: well, I don't have to tell you that a university professorship doesn't mean one is smart or wise.

-Andres: Thank you for your bilingual erudition. But I have to tell you that if you call me Morris one more time, I'm never going to post anything you write, ever, again. Me cachai? (Or else I might have to fly to Temuco and punch you.) As far as choice about enlightenment (or the Enlightenment) goes, what I think everybody has been suggesting above is that we are fast arriving at a point where there simply won't *be* any choice. I won't be around for most of it, I'm guessing, but 40 years from now, the days of "choice" will seem like some kind of strange and aberrant luxury. The commercial-capitalist "arc" that began around 1500 is now coming to a close, and with it--probably--the world of parliamentary democracy, John Stuart Mill, and US extreme individualism. "Was democracy just a moment?", as Robt Kaplan once put it. See my stuff on China: enforced "harmony" may become the order of the day, out of sheer necessity.

10:02 AM  

Querido Mauricio:

The choice is very personal, the problem is we “believe” we choose but it’s just an “invisibly assisted individualism”. The very one we believe to be “our self” is precisely the one that pulls us to “the no choice”, if we don’t manage to doubt in him enough as we must. If we don`t doubt in ourselves we just “go with the flow” as new age may applaud. That’s why happy ego’s are winners and the bitter all loser’s in the American way of life. Trust in yourself doesn´t always work alone, actually we just see that angle and try to jam the rest in, sometimes it works out but most of the times it doesn´t. In Spanish a “winner” splanglishly speaking, is an asshole literally speaking. That none seen dimension is what a think is the great paradox in life that if not seen, has as Nietzsche says: “the world inverted”. Please tell me a little more about the paradox, or I'll have to go to Guanajuato and punch you Mauricio, jajajaja

2:49 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Well Andres, if u come here 2 punch me, yer going to leave walking funny for the next 2 weeks. And about that, I have a definite choice, so be careful, amigo. However, as far as larger choices go, I've always had the feeling that they were choosing me rather than the reverse: what book to write, what city to live in, what job to take, what woman to get involved with. O, I always felt I was choosing; but in retrospect, I can see that some large, unseen force had determined it all. But that's just my opinion; I have no proof. Like Nietzsche in later years, I could be hopelessly deluded. jaja

9:05 PM  

Mi estimado Mauricio:

Exactly, it’s a feeling we can’t directly point out, but leads us as a group into the same, as long as we agree on certain ideas that converge teleologically, that can be visibilized in a certain way that makes a comun path with certain “milestones” or proofs that “measure” the leading us there. A reasonable faith San Agustin would say. The path to the “trance unitivo” mentioned in the Wondering God, that I call “el delirio mesiánico”. And the confusing is that this dimension kind of anticipates the real existence with others, the one we can`t prove, but shear and enjoy horizontally.

And sistematically we start ignoring it, we start giving it distant names said to once have been mentioned by strange and deluded people.

To have proof, you must repeat the “fenomeno”, to repeat the fenomeno, you have to control it, what can’t be controled or imagined configured (a mental control), doesn`t exist because it can’t be shared. And we are her to share and care. That’s what I think sustains this model, that it has to do with sharing, but a sharing that feeds individual domains in conflict and not colective souls as one real conection. It’s hard to tell the difference. Maybe this same method is what has lead us to asisted or narcissistic individualism? Maybe if your country would have been called “Deluded States of America” and not “United”, the world would connect better?

6:04 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Your messages always give me delirio mesianico; then when I write back, I'm usually in a (unitive) trance.

Yes, Deluded States of America would have been more accurate. In fact, after the flush of Revolution was over, the Founding Fathers began to have 2nd thoughts. This is well documented, tho most Americans aren't aware of it (but then, they aren't aware of anything, so why should this be an exception). Ben Franklin, for example, wrote that the experiment would fail because of the corruption of the American people--this around 1800! That guy was a smart cookie. And Benjamin Rush, the Philadelphia physician, predicted that the Republic would end in "an orgy of selfishness"--which is now coming to pass. All of this can be scientifically measured by the Buffoon Index (BI), which I have developed (what is the Nobel committee waiting for, I keep asking myself?). This measures the number of bufffoons per hectare(BPD) in any country at a given time. Thus while the BPD for Denmark, for example, is 0.6, for the US it's 94.2. It turns out that once the BI passes 22.8, the nation is finished, has no future. This number was exceeded in the US in the summer of 1971, so as you can see, it's been downhill from then on. (Chile, BTW, attained a BI of 462.6 on 11 September 1973.)

As for horizontal vs. vertical: I don't think they really are related states; they seem to exist in different worlds, different mental categories. So I'm not convinced that the delirio mistico can anticipate real existence with others, or can be shared in a meaningful way; esp. if one takes it seriously--which gurus and their followers typically do. As you know from reading Cuerpo y Espiritu, it can (and usually does) go in strange and unpredictable directions. People start worshiping the experience, when they would be better off worshiping a plant in their garden, or perhaps their sofa, or chile en nogada.


10:39 AM  

Don Mauricio:

Maybe in the “Deluded States of America”, 2nd thoughts were always the first thoughts but “undercovered”. Haven’t we heard or read in history from our great leaders: “My intentions where, but ups sorry, things just turned out this way”. Could this turn out to be a pattern, to have a proof of a process for history facts? Obviously in these terms the “experience” Rush states out fails, because it’s desighned to do so. As we call in spanish “pisar el palito”. If Denmark has a low BPD is a kind of “finish” becuase there is nothing else to be solved, it all works out in suspicious perfection. Have a future means to: “irse por un tubo” as we say here. Nothing structural to be resolved, just function and everything will by alright. Ufff that it self sounds depresing.

Graham Greene once made a parallel between Oslo and Naples. While Oslo was one of the most efficient cities in the world, it had the highest rates of depression and suicide, Naples, by contrast, a chaotic city by nature, did not know what depression was. Which one has a higher BPD my friend? I’d give you the noble for your poetic view and not this original measure system. Jajajaja, besides math doesnt have a noble prize becuase Nobel was a jealous mathematical. Jajaja. And your work is definitally better than Neruda’s, it’s like Jorge Teilliers work, the real chilean poet.

America Latina lives in different worlds although can’t be seen from it’s own people, in different mental categories, in “laberintos de soledad”. Delirio mistico is a way to desperitly find contact, and although gurus and followers look pretty calmed, they are neurotic figures. It’s what I mean with “anticipate real existence with others”, you get somewhere but it wasn`t it... maybe like Oslo?

I don´t worship experience, but take experience as a way of eternally being in the world, being in the pleasure of emptiness, convinced that nothing will really be solved, and finding in that it’s real beauty. Slow and “mediterraneo”, like Giuliano Campioni and his latin spirirt, I see in Nietzsche the paradox Deleuze saw and you mention in the Wandering God. I’d give you the nobel for those 4 traditions and not the BPD, one of the most poetic structures I’ve honestly read.

Take care amigo.

9:47 AM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Prof. Berman,

I just saw the film, "My Dinner With Andre", starring Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn, for the first time. I feel like I'm in some kind of trance. Wikipedia has this to say about the movie: "The dialogue contrasts Shawn's modest, down-to-earth humanism with Gregory's extravagant New-Age fantasies." I felt that was odd, as Gregory kept talking about how we are caught in a "dream world" and needed to wake up to reality. (shades of Buddhism and Gurdjieff) Towards the end of the film, Gregory talked about our need for periods of silence; Shawn said he was frightened about such moments. ( Happy Halloween! ) I look forward to your piece on your silent retreat.

10:10 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I had a hard time figuring out what u were saying, but I can tell you I'd personally prefer some combination of Naples and Oslo. And anyway, the Norwegians might be killing themselves for lack of light, for all we know. And speaking of Oslo, did u know that the Nobel committee actually resides there? I suggest you move there immediately, get yourself on the committee, and then you can nominate me for a Nobel prize in several categories (which, I agree with you, are long overdue and richly deserved).


Unfortunately, I saw that film 29 yrs ago, so the details are a bit hazy. But I recall Gregory as definitely on the vertical-ecstatic path, and Shawn (who is in real life a practicing Buddhist) on the horizontal-immanent one. Shawn constantly emphasizes the importance of immediacy, of what is in front of you--like his description of the cockroach in his cold coffee in the morning. In any case, the 2 of them have a rich collaboration; Gregory has, I believe, directed some of Shawn's recent plays. Be sure to read (or see, if you can), "The Fever" and "The Designated Mourner."


11:12 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

"And anyway, the Norwegians might be killing themselves for lack of light"

Excellent point. For all we know, higher incidences of such disorders may be related to disrupted circadian rhythms, or any number of other reasons. The difficulties with all these types of studies is that they are very imprecise with regard to causation.

Anyway, given the choice, I'd take Oslo over Naples, any day, myself, and the Faroe Islands over both, if I had the choice.

3:12 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

Andre: "What does it do to us, Wally, living in an environment where something as massive as the seasons or winter or cold, don't in any way affect us? I mean, we're animals after all...instead of living under the sun and the moon and the sky and the stars, we're living in a fantasy world of our own making."
Wally: "Yeah, but I mean, I would never give up my electric blanket, Andre..."

I think that Andre is an example of working through the vertical/mystical path, and arriving at a more paradoxical state. Wally, on the other hand, remains caught in a "consensus trance", more or less.

By the way, if you want to win the Nobel Prize, doing an interview with someone named Noble may not be the right mojo!

10:56 PM  

Dear Mauricio:

First of all I confess that it’s hard for me to write in english, and get ideas really strait. I think Greene was trying to make a point that Wittgenstein did: that the accuracy and precision of language does not necessarily improve communication.

Obviously a weekend in Ibiza sounds more pleasent than one in Siberia, but which is the measure or limit of a bad weather plan? That’s the problem of the world, obsessed in surviving and not living. Almagedon concerned (Zizek would say ) and not a beautiful Sunrise (an haiku would say).

Anyway we can agree that it would be easier to regulate the dumps of Naples, than improve the sun in Oslo right? Jajaja. Thanks Art for the paradox, and I can add: As you see what you really get with the mystical path is not a transformed cesspool (efficient and light mind to finish), but rather a dirty lotus (real and massive body to start). And the funny thing is this image gives me more hope than imagining a light mind, kind of Ken Wilber’s spiritual pump for $ 9.95.

What is the real gold you found in Colombia my friend? Reality and not ilusion I guess, but a reality so well mixed, that it sees what life has to show, closer to Naples than Oslo. Magic and illusion is necessary for hostile climates like Oslo for societies to function, but the raw view of life is enough for lush weather’s and exuberance as Naples, and again a specific abstraction blends as a complement with a specific context for both cases.

9:54 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

"Anyway we can agree that it would be easier to regulate the dumps of Naples, than improve the sun in Oslo right?"

And perhaps we can also agree that it is easier to ameliorate seasonal affective disorder via the consumption of a simple natural substance, such as melatonin, than to eliminate the complex social problems that lead to the dumps in Naples, right?

As you can see, this sort of debate can regress forever.

By the way, according to worldtravels.com,

"Although well into the northern latitudes, Oslo's climate is fairly temperate thanks to warm air being wafted across the Atlantic from the Gulf Stream. Summer weather in Oslo is mild and pleasant, with frequent hot spells, and plenty of long sunny days. In winter temperatures hover just above or below freezing".

That doesn't sound "hostile" at all, to me!

As to the alleged paradox and mysticism in Andre's quoted reference to our "fantasy world", I really don't see it. All he's saying in the quoted material is that reality = what is objective and outside us, and fantasy = what is subjective and inside us. It sounds quite conventional, to me.

6:02 PM  
Anonymous Art said...


"As to the alleged paradox and mysticism in Andre's quoted reference to our 'fantasy world'...It sounds quite conventional, to me." Are you disagreeing with Prof. Berman, who recalled Andre as "definitely on the vertical-ecstatic path", or with me? I hope you're not suggesting that our experience of the natural world ( when we can find it ) is "conventional".

4:33 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...


I am not necessarily disagreeing with anyone. Unlike you and Morris, I haven't seen the entire film, so I can go only by the quoted material. Therefore, I am wondering whether I have missed anything.

What I am calling conventional is the "reality = outside and unreality = inside" perspective expressed in Andre's statement, as quoted.

3:31 PM  
Anonymous José A. García Morales said...

Oh my gosh!!! Mauricio! got to watch this!!!


I could almost match every product to a cultural cancer.

Un fuerte abrazo!

PEPE (from your first seminar at Tec)

5:13 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

Sorry for the misunderstanding. Sometimes I'm like a free-wheeling holistic thinker: making connections where there's none to be found!

Prof. Berman:
I just started reading Wallace Shawn's first book of non-fiction, "Essays". In a recent interview with Democracy Now!, he said: "...even those of us who march in the streets in favor of peace and speak against imperialism, even we, perhaps consciously or unconsciously, enjoy being members of a powerful country that can crush other people. So that's a lot of what the book is about, a little bit of an attempt at self-examination." Destined to be a best-seller, don't you think?

2:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey! I have an idea. Let’s invent a world and label everyone dolts or rare smart guys like us, arrogantly categorize and describe their mystical experiences or versions of reality, and separate them into geographical/cultural enclaves! Wouldn’t that be fun?!

As I think about the future, particularly that of my grandchildren, I find myself drawn to the dolts who don’t have a shred of interest in what you guys are discussing, but they know how to do stuff. There is an amazing reservoir of knowledge and skill here in dolt America. I would bet that human resource is richer and deeper here than in any other country on earth.

A little more peculiarity ala Sepulveda and a little less scorn and categorizing would be refreshing from folks who are non-dolt intelligentsia. Does history teach us that the dolts are easier to indoctrinate than the intelligentsia? I know the non-dolts are better at avoiding fighting and cleaning the toilets, but it appears to me that those who are currently burning the planet are not stupid and uneducated. I’m sure you can clear this up for me.

Back to wiring the chicken house, and thinking about vertical vs. horizontal. Both incorrect I think. Notions of movement up, down, in, out, etc., are convenient simplicities. Consciousness is not local so immanent doesn’t make any sense does it? Merged, connected, here, is my perspective on that. Eliade was just another priest. Participatory (tribal?) consciousness (thank you Dr. Berman) is not linear in any way, and I think, our natural state. Having convinced myself of that particular fantasy I return to an attempted NMI status.

1:47 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yeah, Shawn is superb; a great hero of mine. You shd also read his play, "The Designated Mourner," in which he talks about the dolts and what they make possible, what they do to the country. In one scene, the central dolt takes a volume of poetry (John Donne, I think), puts it in the bathtub, and shits on it. He tells everybody, "I always was a lowbrow."

Which brings me to Dave. Dave, you can't imagine how depressing I find your response. This is the classic American frontier mentality. Of course there is a grain of truth in the Yankee can-do approach; but by and large it has fostered a deep anti-intellectualism in American life (Richard Hofstadter), and, as Shawn pts out, a hatred of people who really do think deeply and see thru the facade. I hope some day you'll read "The Contours of American History," by William Appleman Williams, which deals with this kind of frontier anti-intellectualism at some length. Your response is congruent with 99% of the American public, and it is a fundamental cause of our decline.

I also encourage you to read the Shawn play, esp. his intro, where he talks about the difference in audience reaction in the US and Greece. In the US, the only possible response to the intellectual who identifies the causes and effects of doltism is hatred of this person. The Greeks, on the other hand, from the trial of Socrates to the US-backed destruction of democracy in the 1970s, know well the crucial importance of such a person for any healthy society. You are clearly an American, not a Greek. I wish you luck with the dolts who have not a shred of interest in what we guys are discussing, but who can "do stuff." Whoopee.

(And now, of course, you can hate me; what other response could there be?)


8:25 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...


No problem. There's something inherent in Internet discourse that seems to lead to misunderstandings, despite the best of intentions. I am just glad when they can be clarified before ill feelings result.

By the way, I saw Wallace Shawn once in a bookstore in the Village. I did not speak to him, though, as I firmly believe that even "celebrities" deserve to be left alone!


I have four university degrees, three from the Ivy League, in the liberal arts, law, and library science. In my life, I have also planted, laid flooring in a stable, done simple roofing, and (the hardest work I've ever done) dug acres of post holes for a split-rail fence. As Morris says, "Whoopee!"

I wonder, though, where that makes me fit in the great dichotomous world of simple binaries, such as "intellectuals" and "practical laborers". Oh, wait! You're against such simple dichotomizing; I forgot! ;-)

9:10 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Pepe, amigo-

Gracias por escribir! Que haces tu en estes dias?


abrazos, como siempre...mb

10:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I think it puts you in a place similar to mine. I love good books,including those by MB, I have a degree and walk in both worlds, bleeding in one and wondering in the other. But I don't call "practical laborers" dolts. Some of them are. A lot of them are not.

Dr. Berman,

Well! I can assume, from your misreading and misunderstanding of what I wrote, that I did so poorly. Please permit a brief response. I don’t want to stick around long anyway. I can hear others sharpening their claws.

I wouldn’t argue with any of your points except to say that they don’t apply to me, or the way I think and act. Yes, I am an American but would gladly leave if my family did not depend upon me. I’ve lived in several other countries and I criticize this country as much as anyone including yourself but I am hesitant to make the sweeping generalizations you do because I have a lot of enjoyable contact with highly educated, intellectual people AND those with nearly zero education who do the work that feeds, clothes, houses, transports and protects those around them. I respect them both. None of this has anything to do with a frontier mentality or a love of America, or congruence with the American public.

As a guy who worked with his hands and still tries to, I’ve had more than my share of injuries and surgeries. When I’m lying there on the table I don’t care if the surgeon knows anything about the Greeks. When your house is in flames you won’t ask the fireman if he has read Adorno. (or maybe you will, after the fire is out?)

I could go on but what’s the point? I’ll end, as you did, with some snooty sarcasm. Good luck with your books and echo chamber. If you need help with the roof, toilet, garden, etc., call me. My Jewish wife, with her PhD, says you’re contemptuous. If it’s any consolation, she says the same about me.


11:45 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Your wife's reaction is mainstream America, Jewish Ph.D. or not. In this country, even the smart ones are not very bright. She wd certainly hate the central intellectual figure in Shawn's play, too. (She and 300 million others. And she's clearly in gd company; there are lots more of her in this country than there are of me, that's for sure.)

I don't think I misunderstood you at all. You basically ridiculed the sort of thing we discuss on this blog--anthro, sociology, history--and made it clear that you are drawn to a different type of knowing. You can say that consciously, it's not about American history or the frontier, but read Williams and think again--you are basically channeling mainstream American thought.

Sure, I know lots of bright folks in the US (altho many of them easily fall into the category of your wife; I mean hell, Robt McNamara was bright--!), and I'm sure the country also contains a lot of Yankee fix-it talent. I also know a number of talented mechanics, and they are good folks, not particularly of McCain's Joe the Plumber variety. But that's bean counting, and I'm talking abt the overall picture. Very few see thru their own programming, for example (you don't, as far as I can see); instead we have 300 million people mouthing American slogans. Which is how we get the politicians and policies that we have , and why someone like Dennis Kucinich gets .0001% of the vote. Do you recall Obama's remark, during his campaign, about how the working class in Pa. was bitter abt their econ situation, so they turned to guns and religion? This is too obvious for words--Marxism 101, really--and yet the ferocious response from Hillary and others was to denounce him, and say yay for guns and religion. Now this was a *truly* intelligent remark, and he had to back away from it in a hurry. In a word, the slightest ray of light is not allowed to make a public appearance in this country; which is why it is where it is.

One further example of what I'm talking abt. I have a friend who is a dean at a major university in the US. He was very struck by the section of the Dark Ages bk on Joyce Appleby, and her analysis of changing definitions of virtue in the 1790s in "Capitalism and a New Social Order." So he bought the bk and read it, and then tried to discuss it in various contexts--parties, or after faculty meetings--with his colleagues. He told me that after 30 seconds, their eyes wd glaze over and they wd change the subject; it was clear that these folks, with all their fancy degrees, could simply not tolerate analysis of the US at a really basic level. The brainwashing we go thru in childhood is simply too intense, and it never really leaves us.

It's kind of ironic: the Dark Ages bk was reviewed in Germany by the Berlin Tages Zeitung under the title, "Hopes of a Patriot." The writer said that my criticism was the true patriotism, in the US, because it could offer hope, if acted upon. He didn't say what the chances were, and he didn't have to. When even the smart ones are dumb, quo vadis?

Anyway, thank you for writing, and please understand that my intent was not to attack you personally; I'm sure you are a gd guy. It's just that I get depressed when I hear the gd guys mouthing formulas that go back 200 years. Pls, read Williams, if nothing else.


10:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Berman,

I don’t want to beat this thing to death, but a couple of final points. You’re right about the liberal, professionals with whom I associate. I am the under-educated guy in the room who said Kucinich was our only hope, who says Obama is more of the same, and recommends they read your books. They quickly ignore me as a cranky old foggie.

Recently finished Wright’s “What Is America,” on your rec. , and promise to read Williams too, although I think I know it already. Zinn and Chomsky are your neighbors on my bookshelf, along with Kropotkin, Bakunin, Marx, and Kovel’s “Enemy of Nature,” and many anthros, Shepard being my favorite.

We need intellectuals to help us find our way. I’m glad you’re there. My view of the world is this: there is a slow tsunami just over the horizon that cannot be stopped by even the best among us. I obviously did not learn this from the guys with whom I wade through the mud. But I want a few of them around when the wave hits.

Wife Stephanie representing mainstream America??!! Wow!! Am I going to have fun with this or what!!

With respect,


11:50 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


What the hell, let's beat it to death. What else have we (two old fogies) got to do with our time? I'm in Mexico City, just had lunch, and am now going to have a cappuccino and smoke a purito, so why not? Andele pues!

I agree with you that we're in the midst of a slow tsunami; or as Kurt Vonnegut once put it, "There's a shit storm coming." And that the fix is in; there's abs nothing we can do abt it now. And that u want people u love around u during such an epoch, regardless of whether they have read Wm A. Wms or not. It was for precisely this reason that I left the US, BTW; it's just not a loving place. Down here, I have two "families"; one guy I esp. like is my mecanico, Rafa, who fixes my house when something happens to it. He has a big heart and a dry wit, and I love hanging out with him. He even read one of my articles on life in America (in translation), and got a kick out of it.

As for your wife: recall the conclusion to my 1st response to you: I said you were likely to hate me. Well, her contempt definitely fills the bill, and makes her quintessentially American: if u don't like the message, kill the messenger. This is what Wally Shawn is trying to say as well. I also said: What other response could there be? Because people who don't think very deeply are only capable of contempt as a response. The last thing they are going to do is say, "Jesus, maybe the guy's right. Maybe I need to look into the source of that contempt, and the source of my opinions. Maybe, before I hit the rage button, and decide the guy is lower than pond scum, I ought to read Shawn and Wms and the folks who might help me understand why I'm a marionette walking around with a cassette tape stuck in my mouth."

As we say down here, cuando puercos vuelen--when pigs fly.

In any case, thank u for the exchange, compadre; I got a lot out of it.


3:41 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...


It was actually I, and not Art, who replied to you about having both academic experience and at least sporadic experience with manual labor.

My difficulty with your original response is that you seemed to be complaining about one dichotomy (the dolts versus the non-dolts) while simultaneously creating another one: The intellectuals versus the doers. Having read your more detailed responses to Morris, I now have a better idea of your more nuanced perspective, but your first post did leave the impression I mentioned.

I think that the disagreement between you and Morris stems from a basic misunderstanding. Morris, as I understand him, numbers American dolts at 300 million or so. Now, Morris may be facetious in his estimate, but, in a country with a population of around 307 million, at present, he can't possibly be limiting his assessment to those who wear blue collars and have callused hands!

Anyway, I am late to this party, and glad that everyone seems to have reached an understanding, of sorts.

4:23 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yes, Dave and I are currently organizing a love-in in Golden Gate Park; hope u can attend.


4:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I realized that later Kevin. Sorry about the error.

Golden Gate park....hmmm..if I did that stuff now I'd drop dead. (but happy!) Allen Ginsburg, watching the "summer of love" supposedly said, "what if we're wrong?"

Can I bring my rocker?


6:18 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

As long as u don't go off it.

9:44 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman and Dave, I've been reading your exchanges with interest and would like to wish you both well at your love-in and, while not wanting to stir the hornet's nest, would like to add my comment. I read The Designated Mourner and found all three of the characters to be both endearing and infuriating---just like real people. While The Dolt couldn't understand much of anything beyond a physical level, the Intellectual couldn't deal with or acknowlege his deep needs--remember, his son-in-law and daughter had to move back in with him b/c he was "ill" and couldn't cope on his own though he proved to be hale and hardy to the end. There's a great need for us to accept each other and not to overvalue our own talents and demean others abilities. Interesting, I thought, that Shawn had The Dolt as the designated mourner for Donne and (if I remember corretly) he understood that something value was lost even though he didn't understand it.

5:22 PM  
Anonymous farbror Melker said...

Snapshots on contemporary America retelled from visiting customers in Deborah Boles hairdresser-saloon: Google "Frontline: Close to home"

So much for the idea of Upper Eastside of Manhattan as a secure bastion of economical safety.

8:25 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Susan,

I'm not sure that the fact that these three people were 'real human beings' is the crucial point, or the one Shawn wishes to make. I believe the larger issue is the role each of them played in society. The Dolt winds up supporting a regime that is violent and stupid, and that kills his wife and father-in-law. The Intellectual is the person who tries to expose what the regime is all about. This is not exactly a small difference. I mean, Socrates may have been out of touch with his emotions as well, for all I know; I'm not sure that is terribly important in this context. As Shawn says, the real difference between the US and a nation like Greece is how The Intellectual is viewed. Americans just hate such a person, he says; they don't really have a repertoire of reactions to him, by and large. Greeks may not like such an individual level on a personal level, but they are very much aware of his importance for a healthy society.


7:49 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman, I understand the point you make that brutality wants to silence any criticism and is willing to kill to do it. When I visited the Holocaust Museum in DC I noticed the Nazis used the first few months of the Polish invasion rounding up all the intellectuals, priests, anyone who would speak with authority against them and executed them first. What I was trying to say (and I was reading them as individuals as well as symbols) is the unfortunate bad habit of any number of intellectuals to assume the high ground, strike a pose of superiority and infuriate the very people they probably would very much like to help. I hope you didn't take this as an attack on you--I was speaking generally. I watch these idiot Tea Baggers and want to weep. When their lives become more difficult the people they should blame --- stooge Congressmen, wantabe demigods, religious con men---will be leading the charge on the intellectuals. Maybe the problem has always been the same and the Greeks have figured it out---people resent being told what they don't want to hear and nobody wants to admit they're being played for a sucker.

9:17 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Susan,

I guess it's really a question of whether they can be helped (history suggests not); the 'infuriation' may be neither here nor there, if the outcome is the same (ignorance for the masses, martyrdom for the gadfly). Socrates made no difference for Athenian society, really; his impact was felt much later on--as when the US-backed Greek junta destroyed democracy for a time during the 1970s. He became a shining example for that society. (Consider, by contrast, the vilification of Tom Paine in our own.) But I suppose 'infuriation' gets attention, for what that's worth.

Two quotes from Adlai Stevenson I have always liked:

1. At Vassar College in 1956, one student said, "Governor Stevenson, you have every thinking person's vote." "No use," he shot back; "I need a majority." (Today he'd have to say, "I need more than 1%".)

2. His comment on the US: "a chaotic, selfish, indifferent commerical society" dominated by an "inner, purposeless tyranny of a confused and aimless way of life."

String him up!

9:33 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman, He'd be crucified today for the remark #2 beyond a doubt. Why are we Americans so defensive? Its as if we've lost our ability to hear anything negative no matter how honest or helpful it might be and we absolutely will not laugh at ourselves. I know only two or three people who know who Dennis Kucinich is much less that's he's one of the few honest men left in DC so if he's counting on even a measly 1% where I live, he can forget it.

9:01 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,
Tonight I read a letter and response on Joe Bageant's blog that said what I was trying to say in earlier posts about the misunderstanding and chasm between the working class and the elite. If you have the time or interest (and perhaps you have neither) I would be interested in your comments. Please forgive my presumption in requesting this but I do feel strongly about this---I came from a working class background and know their limitations but also their strengths. The two groups who should be natural allies and complement one another seem hopelessly estranged. I don't understand how well educated, insightful people are unable-or maybe unwilling-to communicate with the people they want to benefit.

9:32 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Susan,

I know Joe's work; I think he and I may have even corresponded at one pt, tho it was a long time ago. In any case, I admire what he is doing, but I can't see that he'll ever get through to a working-class audience, regardless of how sympathetic he is. They know what they know, period; it isn't very likely that any more than a tiny fraction, if that, is going to realize that the US is a 'hologram', as Joe puts it; a Matrix. But you have to realize that when I say Americans are dumb, I'm hardly just referring to the working class. Because I'm not merely referring to a lack of interest in Bach's unaccompanied cello sonatas; I'm referring to the brainwashing that leads almost all Americans to believe in the same things (see my essay on "conspiracy vs. Conspiracy"). Thus Chris Hedges, in "Empire of Illusion," argues that the elite of this country is dumb as well, and I agree completely. After all, Robert McNamara had an IQ through the roof, and he was an idiot (as he more or less came to admit, later in life), not to mention a war criminal (this he managed not to admit). For all I know, half the faculty at Harvard might fall into the same category. People such as Chris Hedges, or Noam Chomsky, or Wally Shawn, or Joe B.--what I call the "Kucinich vote"--probably don't number more than 1/2million, if that. The number of Americans who grasp the situation historically and sociologically, i.e. as a whole, are surely minuscule in number; and as Hedges says, if they use their voice (in writing or whatever), they get completely marginalized and neutralized. The show must go on, and does, with both the working class and the "educated" singing in the chorus. Surely, John McCain, with his college education and his 13 homes, is as deluded and fogged over as "Joe the Plumber," no?


10:41 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman, Thank you for your thoughtful answer---I do understand better what you mean. I was using the terms elite and intellectual interchangeably and mistook your meaning. The majority here are brainwashed in varying degrees (myself probably included) and if the current mess doesn't disilliusion them then nothing will. But I look at the people I work with and everyone's so busy and desperate to earn a living they only superficially question the status quo, if they question it at all. Dennis Kucinich, Bernie Sanders and the few like them in Congress might as well be Martians --- in fact, they'd get alot more attention if they were. But thanks for your answer and I hope you've had good news on publishing your novel.

7:26 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Susan,

Just fyi, I did manage to land an agent, who is keen on my novel and has put it on the desk of a decent (if not huge and mainstream) NY publisher. So, fingers crossed, and I'll keep everybody posted if things pan out.


7:58 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman, I was reading an article yesterday and "demagogue" was used and a dim light went on in my brain and, sure enough, when I checked my spelling on your blog I completely mangled the word. Please excuse my stupidity--I learned to spell phonetically and often do this. While this puts me firmly in the dolt category it also greatly increases my chances of being Sarah Pain's next ghost writer. Hopefully you got a good laugh.

9:26 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home