October 28, 2010

A Question of Values

Dear Friends:

For those of you who have suffered thru my various postings for 4.5 years, you now have an opportunity to relive your suffering in paperback form. Yes, it's finally available on Amazon, the collection of essays known as A Question of Values. As Amazon hasn't posted the description of the book just yet, let me do that now:

"A Question of Values is Morris Berman's seventh book of cultural history and social criticism, and his first book of essays, which were written during
2007-10. Timely and uncompromising, they range across four principal topics: American culture and politics; the human existential condition; a close look at the nature of "progress"; and some thoughts on where Western civilization, in general, is headed. These articles pull no punches regarding our current situation, and represent some of Berman's finest writing to date. He challenges his readers to rethink the accepted mainstream system of values, and argues that in the end, our problems are as ethical in nature as they are political. In the context of a value system that is rapidly turning against us, Berman's message is simple: change or die."

Christmas is almost upon us, so this would make an excellent stocking-stuffer; and if you send it to your mainstream, centrist friends, an excellent garbage can stuffer as well! (These folks need to be harassed, as I'm sure most of you will agree. Watch them read the book and chew on rugs, or beat their heads vigorously against the wall, just to relieve the ensuing tension.)

As some of you know, no publisher wanted to touch the book (this more for commercial than ideological reasons, although in the US the two tend to run together), so I am grateful to Amazon and their CreateSpace department for making self-publishing a possibility. They did a beautiful job with this, imo.

BTW, for you hispanohablantes out there, the Spanish translation of the book is being published in Mexico City by Sexto Piso, and should be out in February or March at the lastest: Cuestion de valores. Disfrutanlo!

In other news: my volume of poetry, Counting Blessings, is in the page proof stage and should be available (I'm hoping) sometime next month; the publisher is Cervena Barva Press. And, mirabile dictu, I'm in the process of signing a contract for the third volume of my American Empire series, entitled Capitalism and Its Discontents. (Some publishers do have cojones, I'm happy to report.) This should hit the bookstores by summer of 2011, if all goes well. I'm still struggling to get my novel, Destiny, published; I'll keep you posted on that one.

Thank you all for your support; it's been quite a ride, and I'm grateful to all of you for joining me.

-mb

135 Comments:

Blogger WCS Minor Circuit said...

Wow! This post has some of the best news I've seen all year! Trust that I'll be one of the first to buy your new book. On a sort of related note, I passed my copy of Dark Ages America around the office some time ago, and you'll be pleased to know almost everyone had some hostile criticism regarding your view of the US, further proving the book's point.

12:53 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Not a moment too soon, either!

I'm ordering my copy now, and will be reviewing it for Amazon as soon as I'm done with my first reading of it. The cover is simple & elegant, conveying a sense of both civilization & its disappearance, at least to my eye.

I'm even more delighted to hear about the forthcoming volume of poetry!

WCS Minor Circuit,

Love the reaction to DAA from your co-workers. Why am I not surprised? Whenever I'm silly enough to discuss such things with most people, I'm told not to be so negative, that everything will work out fine, just wait & see.

2:51 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Congratulations on your persistence and hard work. You are incredibly productive! I'm sure if 2012 turns apocalyptic, you'll still be writing away!

3:16 PM  
Blogger relmuche said...

Mauricio:

Just ordered one for a fan
and the other, just for fun....

I hope....

CONGRATULATIONS

3:32 PM  
Blogger Nicholas Colloff said...

Duly ordered - though I notice that it is only available on Amazon's US site so may indeed arrive for Christmas on this side of the Atlantic! I too will review it for 'Network' and 'The Friend'

3:51 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Kel-

In a cave, probably; altho I'm expecting to receive a cabinet apptment under Pres. Palin.

ha ha

6:14 PM  
Anonymous Tom Valovic said...

Please keep publishing Morris. I really have appreciated your work over the years and it's been a major influence on my own perspectives. I often reference (and enthuse unabashedly about) "Coming to Our Senses" in The Emergence Project's talks and lectures here in the Boston area (www.theemergenceproject.net).

7:06 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Tom-

Thanks for your kind encouragement. BTW, my poetry publisher is located in Somerville.

mb

8:34 PM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

Dear MB,

Congratulations!

I am writing this in between ordering your new volume of essays on Amazon and bringing up the video of the "time traveller spotted in Charlie Chaplin movie"--a woman walking down the street chattering in what appears to be a cell phone.

Imagine that this indeed happened--someone in the 21st Century through some quirk and quark of physics, wound up walking on to a location shot, and thus appears in several seconds of an early 20th C. celluloid metrage.

That she was so distracted by her technology that she didn't notice being squeezed by a wrinkle in time, however, would not challenge anyone's imagination.

----
Looking forward to a good read and discussion on this blog.

--Mark N.

10:05 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

Dr. B,

Bravo, Maestro! Just ordered two. The DAA 42 are alive and well!

1:24 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

I tell u, I'm so excited that I'm going to sell 42 (or 43 now?) copies of this bk!

7:11 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I'm glad you persisted and I've ordered my copy. The friend who recommended I read TAC got one for her birthday too as a belated thank you for introducing me to your writing. You deserve to be a best selling author and now, as so much of what you been saying for years is happening, I hope you'll get the recognition you have earned. Good luck with this book and all that follow.

10:33 AM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I think you're going to make it to 50 copies sold. I just ordered two; one for myself, the other for my local library. I honestly can't think of a family member who would actually read the book; at least the public library won't throw it out...probably. It will be waiting on the shelf for other lonely hearts.

2:25 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Art-

Check the library's garage sale 6 mos. from now.

2:55 PM  
Anonymous del said...

I just ordered a copy, so I think you're up to 45 (or maybe 46) copies now. You'll make 50 yet.

5:35 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Del-

I'm so excited I'm actually vibrating!

mb

11:06 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Friends,

Anybody out there (those of you who still have TVs) catch Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear"? The comedy, as usual, was hilarious; the musical performances were pretty good too. But at the end of the show, Jon Stewart asked the crowd if he could get "sincere" for a moment. He then went on to give a rather lengthy speech about reconciliation between liberal and conservative. He told us that we live in hard times, but not the end times. He said that, if the American people come together, we could solve our problems. (I can here MB gagging as he reads this). I certainly can't argue with the prevailing theme throughout the show: a call to greater reasonableness, tolerance and caring. But the feel-good finale fell flat, imo, as America will likely do as well.

5:16 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Art,

I didn't catch the speech, but I'd be more likely to be giggling than gagging. Stewart is obviously sincere, but this is part of the problem: voluntarism is the American idea of social change. You wonder if these folks ever heard of Marx. Even intelligent (so-called) Americans have no sense of social process and social change, or of the structures that determine things, or of how history works. How many times can folks like me say, "Jesus, man; get real!" That's why I keep saying that we've got 310 million morons on our hands. If Stewart is living in la-la land, then all of us are.

mb

6:53 PM  
Anonymous E. E. Heart said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Can you write a 200 pager to keep it doable for dolts/bozo's: Sociology for Dummies, explaining current structural hierarchy's and historical do dads , but with a better title; this could become an appreciated revered work of mastery, or a national treasure. Me too, ordering your essays next week.

2:28 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

E.E.-

I was thinking of that, but got derailed by my chopped liver cookbook, which is soaking up most of my time these days. "Schmaltz: Glue of the Universe" will soon be released by the Cholesterol Press.

mb

6:04 AM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Friends,

Check out the new Chris Hedges essay on Truthdig, "The Phantom Left", for his critique of the Jon Stewart rally. According to Stewart, Marxists are just as crazy as Glen Beck. Moderation in all things...blah, blah, blah.

10:17 AM  
Anonymous E. E. Heart said...

In regards to your little book on Smaltz you can attach a small can of cl to it and it will be very popular and in the front displays at barnes and noble and borders.

4:13 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Schmaltz.

4:33 PM  
Blogger PALOBLANCO-CAJANEGRA said...

Dear Mauricio:

It’s great to know that your first book of essays is out! And better, I see Relm is getting one for me! I clarify: not because I like your work, makes me your "fan", although jealous overprotective parents tend to deduce certain conclusions right?

Anyway I remember an idea you point out in your second book (Reenchantment) : “The elevation of technology to the level of a philosophy had its concrete embodiment in the concept of the experiment, an artificial situation in which nature's secrets are extracted, as it were, under duress. It is not that technology was something new in the seventeenth century; the control of the environment by mechanical means in the form of windmills or plows is almost as old as homo sapiens himself. But the elevation of this control to a philosophical level was an unprecedented step in the history of human thought.”

I’ve always some how seen this idea in your work, the technology elevated to a philosophical level has an ideological value, in which questions that “honestly” appear in “Americans” and all of us, make utopian scenarios envision as explanations of faith made later temporary and transient consensus events, but paradoxically (as you point out in other writings) these ideas are not and can be not existential solutions, but just instrumental solutions, as it always was before the seventeenth century. I believe the “nature” or line, sense and meaning of progress in a cultural and existential level, is what should move western civilization, a meaning so distant to what the solution (basically political-ideological) is given to the question of value today. Please tell me if you think I am wrong, but I do not believe that ideals as a value can humanize the technological frenzy. What can we really “value” rather than artificial philosophy used as a solution to save a world under duress, threat or haste?

Great to know there are "editores" with "cojones"!. Take care amigo.

9:45 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Andres-

Well, the subject of technology as ideology etc. is a big one...I deal with this in detail for the U.S., at least, in my forthcoming book...which I'm hoping will be out before next summer. This form of 'progress', like Communism, is 'the god that failed', it seems to me.

mb

10:48 AM  
Blogger PALOBLANCO-CAJANEGRA said...

Querido Mauricio, please let me plug in a word I left out of the question:

What can we really “value” rather than artificial philosophy used as a solution to save a world "professedly" (supuestamente) under duress, threat or haste?

10:52 AM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

From schmalz (German) to schmaltz (Yiddish) to schmaltzy (American English)...you old softie!

You dedicated your book to Peter Boltz; may I ask who he is?

1:48 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Art-

Turns out that schmaltz is a legitimate English word, like schmear (or perhaps shmuck; I've always spelled it w/o the c). In German, Schmalz (capital S, a noun). Then there's also schlep; or is it shlep? And of course shlemiel, shlemozzle, etc and etc. The mind boggles.

Peter Boltz: an old friend; one doesn't have too many of them in this life, sad to say.

mb

4:30 PM  
Blogger Neb said...

44, 45,... pretty soon your talking rent money. I'm putting 2 on top of whatever the count is. I've always wanted to cut and paste your stuff but what the heck, this'll be one of the better investments i make before the dollar collapses.

Chris Hedges on Stewart was on point.

2012 end of the world? When Biff (Back to the Future *) actually ran your country and he's still everywhere (in varying forms), my question is no longer when, but when does the end of the world stop happening? 10 years? 100 years? ...

7:31 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

From a speech John Cage gave in
1928, entitled "Other People Think":

"One of the greatest blessings that the United States could receive in the near future would be to have her industries halted, her business discontinued, her people speechless, a great pause in her world of affairs created...We should be hushed and silent, and we should have the opportunity to learn what other people think."

No such luck!

-mb

7:32 PM  
Blogger WCS Minor Circuit said...

Just to let you know, Dr. Berman, my copy of "A Question of Values" was delivered today. I think it'll serve as an excellent read, especially in light (or rather, in spite) of today's elections.

7:51 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Neb-

Jus' think of it as a cure for insomnia.

mb

8:09 PM  
Anonymous E. E. Heart said...

Smaltz: just an abbreviation. ;0)

8:21 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Then it would be Smtz.

8:48 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Journalist, Nomi Prins, has the first review of your book on Amazon. Just published, Matt Taibbi's "Griftopia", looks like a great read on our political/financial crisis. The time is ripe: when can we expect to see you interviewed on "Democracy Now!"?

1:23 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Art-

Actually, friends have been campaigning Amy Goodman for years to have me on the show, but she's clearly not interested. Possible reasons:

1. I'm not in the elite left-wing "club" (the left, no less than the right, is interested in celebs and those in the in-crowd; see my essay, Tongue in Chic).

2. She's progressive, I'm depressive. I see no future for America whatsoever, except a bad one; the progressives (aka fools) still have hope.

3. ?

mb

2:38 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

MB,

Cassandra is universally unwanted & unloved.

3:06 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

#3 You enjoy chopped liver (politically incorrect)

First Jon Stewart, now Amy Goodman. Even more depressing than the election results; and I live in Florida!

3:06 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Art-

Once you realize the whole country is full of shit, it clears up a lot of confusion.

mb

4:42 PM  
Anonymous Ray said...

Congrats Morris. Glad there are still loopholes left through which to bring your stuff out. Look forward to reading it. But surely the time will come when the collapsing culture industry can no longer deliver...Talk of sales figures in the high 40s suggests a solution in an elegant kind of meta-monastic option - Lets start up actual scriptoria! Let's start practicing our skills for the day when Morris' works will have to be reproduced by hand on paper/vellum stolen from abandoned Kinkos outlets, distributed surreptitiously by pack mules and read by the light of flickering lamps made from rendered human or squirrel fat in the Great Halls of ruined McMansions.

The thing to guard against in this scenario is the eventual emergence of any kind of irrational cultlike veneration of Morris' manuscripts a la Canticle for Leibovitz that might grow up around our vellum copies...

6:35 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Ray,

One thing I esp. liked about the Canticle book was that Liebowitz left behind grocery lists for delicatessen items. No problem w/that in my life, as my house is littered w/notes like: "Need 2 lbs. corned beef"; "Remember to buy chopped liver"; "Ritz crackers, cole slaw, macaroni salad," etc. Maybe I shd start writing these in Latin, tho "cole slaw" might be hard to translate. (Cicero did orate on sacrificial livers, however.) Anyway, Amazon informs me that sales of QOV are now up to 38, so we are 4 away from the magic 42 of the DAA42. I just hope I haven't peaked...How awful would it be to get to 41 and then, no more sales?

mb

8:18 PM  
Blogger Cj said...

Great book Dr. Berman. I'll order copies for open minded friends.

Chuck

9:04 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Chuck,

Glad u liked it; that was fast reading! Meanwhile, u might help me push this thing over the 42-mark barrier. I wonder if there is such a thing as a virtual champagne party.

mb

9:35 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Attention everyone! As of 9:25 p.m. edt, 4 Nov 10, we crossed the #42 barrier. That's right: Amazon sold 42 copies of "A Question of Values". The DAA42 is vindicated. As for me, it's life on easy street from now on. I'm going to take these royalties and make a hefty down payment on that villa in Tuscany I've had my eye on for so long. Whee!

10:28 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Mauricio,

Just don't forget us little people, now that you've hit the big time!

7:39 AM  
Anonymous Nocti said...

Yeah, I always knew you were really just in it for the money, Morris. ;-)

9:15 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

First, I am ecstatic to announce that we have crossed the #42 barrier: as of today, 43 copies have sold. Ka-ching! Villa in Tuscany, here we come.

Next, I want all members of the DAA42 to know that as soon as I have my new villa up and running, you will all be flown to Tuscany for the weekend of your lives (see "La Dolce Vita" for some idea of what's in store for you). I'm going to have champagne coming out of one water tap, chianti coming out of the other. We shall toast the simple life, condemn the rich, and then jump into vats of linguini bolognese. Servants will sprinkle parmesano on us. Che bello!

9:23 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: BTW, Tim: Thanks for fab review. You get yer very own personal vat of linguini.

9:34 AM  
Anonymous Art said...

Tim,

And thanks for the Amazon list, "Another Dark Age Coming?" I just added the Tim Robbins film, "Noise", to my Netflix queue.

MB,

I'm guessing that your servants will be able to accommodate my sensitivity to cow's milk cheese, and sprinkle sheep's milk romano instead? And of course there will be plenty of pastrami for the low-carb crowd?

3:13 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Art-

I've arranged for bullet trains to leave from Jewish delicatessens in Rome, laden with large platters of corned beef and chopped liver. This will be the Event of a lifetime.

mb

3:18 PM  
Blogger Cj said...

Hi Dr. Berman, are you familiar with Edurardo Galeano's work 'Mirrors'?

Also have you seen the movie 'The War Within'? This is a move all Americans should see but obviously won't.

Thanks again for your new book. I look forward to your future works.

This country is in a real mess and few see here see it. I'm of an age-58-where it would be difficult to relocate and when you consider familial implications it becomes increasingly difficult.

I often tell others, especially those that are younger, that were I in their shoes I'd get the hell outta Dodge...Nobody listens and I can see younger co workers, that I like, grinning when I go on a rant about how screwed we all are and that really bad times are coming.
Oh well.....

Chuck

3:44 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Mauricio,

Well, a fab book demands a fab review!

Seriously, reading these essays together really puts so much into focus, and makes the reader reflect & think. After the latest election results, this is just what I needed. Strange to say, but being able to look at things from the larger, deeper perspective you provide brings a sort of peace or acceptance ...

Art,

Hope you'll enjoy the film! It's not perfect, but the odds are you'll find that its message resonates. Interesting that the writer/director based it on his own life -- as a younger man, he did exactly what Tim Robbins' character does, and wound up doing some jail time for it.

5:50 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Chuck,

I tried to get into Galeano in the past, simply because I knew I 'should', but for some reason never took to his writing. As for yer co-workers: they won't be grinning when they are ex-workers, which is gonna happen to many of them sooner or later. Bad times are already here, amigo; 1 out
of 5 don't have jobs, millions lost their homes, and the middle class is now lining up at soup kitchens.

mb

11:13 PM  
Anonymous Nocti said...

"Strange to say, but being able to look at things from the larger, deeper perspective you provide brings a sort of peace or acceptance ..."


How about this for a larger perspective?

"Well, let it [American civilization] go with the rest, with these 'tribes of slaves and Kings' that have kept the world's dust astir for awhile. It won't affect the 'cost of living' in the worlds around Antares and Canopus, I suppose--this collapse of a pseudo-republic, built mostly of paper, and mortared with ink. They won't even know about it in the other planets of this system, unless they have rather better telescopes than ours. It seems of importance here, though; I suppose that the social upheavals of the ant-hill are of importance to the ants, too. But all colors will look alike in the night of Death.

In the meanwhile, the race goes merrily on. I think the motor-car should be the symbol of American civilization, with the motto, 'speed, dust, noise, and stink.' Joy-riding, if it's kept up long enough, and fast enough, generally has but one end".


--Clark Ashton Smith, letter to George Sterling, May 26, 1912. Aston Smith was nineteen years old when he wrote that letter, by the way.

4:48 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

"We would do well to give up the notion that we alone can keep the world in line, that only we can solve its problems....Our political structures no longer fit the circumstances of our lives. Outside of the bankrupt cities we live in Megalopolis which has no geographical limits. Wilderness is global park. I dedicate this work to the USA that it may become just another part of the world, no more, no less."

--John Cage, on the occasion of the Bicentennial, 1976

5:05 PM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

.".Can you imagine writing an affectionate poem about your health insurance agent in the United States, or to your HMO....?” QV, Preface [p. 2 ]
And, I might add, about the staff medical and otherwise, in American hospitals, who, apart from their expertise, are increasingly pressured to adopt a “for-profit-first” principle in handling their patients?
This past June I entered, injured and uninsured, the emergency room of an American hospital for the first time in more than thirty years. My bicycle had slid out from under me as I was going much too fast on a storm-drenched dirt trail, and in the fall I popped the middle bone of the second finger on my left hand completely out of its lower joint. I knew at minimum x-rays would need to be taken, the finger anesthetized and joint reset, and splint applied. From my experience I knew this was what I could expect in Africa, Indonesia, China, or Nepal, provided of course that a competent hospital or clinic could be found, which is not always likely in these parts of the world. But the trauma was relatively minor and the treatment would be therefore fairly straightforward.
But in the emergency room of a small American town, this injury demanded a dense application of drugs and technology, with hints of dire outcomes if I did not select the most "complete" array of treatment. Finding my blood pressure to be “quite elevated” they wanted to give me an EKG. I declined, telling them that I had had two espressos earlier that morning, that I had to ride my bike injured another ten miles to my car, and then drive twenty to the hospital, and quite frankly my anticipating the cost of this care was making my heart pump violently.. Noticing a small cut on my left hand, another doctor said I should have an antibiotic drip, as if I had plunged into the open sewers of Calcutta. This too, I refused, as I would in the ensuing minutes, an extra shot to kill the pain, and prescriptions for pain killers and pills to lower blood pressure, which I said would put me on a revolving door of medication I had seen few truly emerge any healthier. I even refused a splint, picking up a bargain six dollar one at a pharmacy on the way home.

The total bill for this "basic treatment" was two thousand five-hundred dollars: An amount inducing a psychological shock much deeper than the pain of the physical injury. It took me six weeks after filing a mountain of paper work on my income and finances (modest, I assure you) to get this sum reduced to two-hundred and fifty dollars. Mortality is everyone's "pre-existing condition, and to be so has become a sin in American culture.

11:54 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Mark,

Yeah, we've all got our American hospital stories, that's for sure. I could fill pages of this blog with them. In general, the US is hyperdoctored and overmedicated; everything is a large technological production; and we are inundated by TV ads for Claritan, Lunesta, and on and on. Meanwhile, it's the way of life in the US that is making people sick, if we can assume that most illness has a psychological component to it. The hostility of the receptionists and nursing staff of my doctor in Wash DC was enuf to make anyone ill; I even spoke to him abt it at one pt, and for one week after, these people behaved like human beings (a great acting performance, to be sure). As for my last operation in the US, in 2005, I received bills from doctors I had never met, amounting to huge sums of money which I cdn't possibly pay, and which my so-called insurance provider wdn't either. I wound up calling the doctors and offering them 50% of what they were asking; which they took immediately, since waiting for a resolution from the ins. co. is a losing proposition. As I said, I cd provide this blog with a long and boring list, which wd probably be familiar to most readers.

None of this will be addressed by Obama's health plan, of course. The power of Big Pharma to keep pushing drugs and TV ads is enormous; the hostility of American culture, obviously, cannot be legislated out of existence, any more than the dog-eat-dog way of life that makes people sick; and the medical ethos that wants to make a big deal out of everything is here to stay. My GP in Mexico wears jeans and a sports shirt, and sits in front of a 1935 Remington typewriter. He'll spend more than an hr w/me, in a leisurely way, talking about whatever problem I'm having, and in terms of expertise, he is first-rate. The cost for this comes to about US $30. I saw him last week, for the first time in 1.5 years, and he asked me if I was still playing tennis, and still teaching at the university in Mexico City.

I expect that the GOP will manage to derail the Obama health plan; it is impressive that in the months leading up to the vote on that, the med and drug establishment paid $1.5 million a day for lobbying efforts to defeat it. Meanwhile, the thing is a piece of shit anyway: it puts 32 million people on a health plan that is in fact fairly expensive, and which they will not be able to afford; and it has no public option, such as exists in Canada and Europe, so that once again, the corporations run the show for their own benefit. It's as gd an example as any of why things simply cannot be changed in the US; the best you can get is the appearance of change, and even that gets the Right up in arms. (Read my new book, Douche Bag Nation, etc.)

Hope yer feeling better, in any case.

mb

12:32 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

My Mom, my brother and his wife, and several of my friends are on high blood pressure meds; I wonder how many of them truly need it. Blood pressure normally rises with age, yet what's considered optimal BP by the medical profession decreases with each passing decade. Gotta sell more drugs, after all.

Acute illness and accidents require quick medical attention, of course. But for chronic disease, the New Monastic Individual should take seriously the practice of "preventative medicine", as doctors are the third leading cause of death in the US. Easier said than done: there's estrogenic BPA in our plastic water bottles, and fluoride in much of our tap water. I wouldn't be surprised if the water in Mexico is safer to drink than it is up here!

6:35 PM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

Dear M B,

Thanks. I appreciate your comments. The silver lining is that if this episode had not occured I would not have been inspired to search and find a place for a retreat--which turned out for me to be a Vedanta monastery I did not know existed before, sequestered in woods and farmland not an hour's drive from my house I was there for five day in July.

Art

You're right. The true cultivation of health prevents a lot of medicine, esp. the allopathic "big pharma" kind.

9:03 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Mark-

If u haven't seen the Michael Moore film "Sicko," now might be the time. Also, there's a classic by Christopher Isherwood that might interest u, "Vedanta for the Western World."

mb

10:08 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Kenny-

Could you send your post again? Either I hit Delete by mistake, or it failed to post. But I'd like to reply to it.

Thanx,
mb

4:22 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Mark--

I'm a nurse and I can assure you your experience is the norm. Health care is a racket, pure and simple. I've seen a steady decline over the last thirty years and the culture of for-profit is so entrenched there's no turning back now. Not only are the patients exploited but the staff is also. When the census drops, they're forced to either take a vacation day or simply be off without pay. When it rises, no additional nurses are added so the patient to nurse ratio is high and is unsafe for patient care. It's been at least two years since I've taken even a 15 minute lunch break and I'm not complaining; none of the other nurses have either. I hope every adult in America educates themselves on strategies for preventive health care and follows them religiously. No matter how devoted and honest individual providers may be, the system itself is fraudulent and they're forced to play by the system's rules.

A friend sent me an interesting article from Der Spiegel International written on 11/1/2010 titled A Superpower in Decline: Is the American Dream Over? If you just do a search for it on their web site you'll find it interesting reading.

7:49 AM  
Anonymous tim lukeman said...

Nocti,

As a fan of Clark Ashton Smith, I was delighted to be introduced to that quote, which of course is all too accurate. All of 19 years old, too -- how many contemporary 19 year olds could write that well, I wonder?

Mark,

I'm both addened & angered by your experiences, but not at all surprised. My brother-in-law was the victim of an insurance death panel -- the doctor wanted an MRI, but the insurance company said it was too expensive, and that he should continue treatment for what was believed to be Lyme disease. By the time it was discovered to be melanoma instead, it was too late to do anything but prescribe tons of painkillers until the end.

So much needless suffering & death could be stopped cold if there was more preventative medicine -- but the only thing that matters is saving a few dollars up front, I guess. Which isn't news to anyone here, of course.

Susan,

Thanks for the link to the Der Spiegel article.

Americans have lived beyond their means for decades. It was a culture long defined by a mantra of entitlement, one that promised opportunities for all while ignoring the risks. Relentless and seemingly unstoppable upward mobility was the secular religion of the United States.

That says it all.

Let me share Roger Ebert's latest blog post on loneliness:

http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2010/11/
all_the_lonely_people.html

(Just remove the return between "11/" & "all_the", then copy & paste into your browser.)

The comments posted in response are often heartbreaking, and point to the soul sickness of American culture. The most poignant one is all of 6 words long:

"I'm so alone in the world."

That is the ultimate ground of being for the modern American.

10:05 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Susan,

I lived in Germany for nearly a year, 20 yrs ago, and used to read Spiegel on occasion. A great magazine. And this article is devastating, thank u for it. Some pts I want to emphasize:

-"Some members of the same American middle class who had once planned to spend their golden years lying under palm trees are now lined up in front of soup kitchens."

-"The Desperate States of America are loud and distressed."

-"The country is reacting strangely to the loss of its importance--it is a reaction characterized primarily by rage. Significant portions of America simply want to return to a supposedly idyllic past. They devote almost no effort to reflection [duh! no shit, Sherlock!], and they condemn cleverness and intellect as elitist and un-American, as if people who hunt bears could seriously be expected to lead a world power." [This attack on our next president I find very offensive.]

-The current national debt of $13.8 trillion amounts to 94.3% of the GDP, and will exceed 100% by 2012.

-The official unemployment rate in the US is 10%; the real rate is about 20%.

-"A country with a limited concept of social cohesion, laughable from a European perspective...How strong is the cement holding together a society that manically declares any social thinking to be socialist?"

-"The United States of 2010 is a hate-filled country."

-Almost 45 millon Americans are considered poor. [Depends on your def of poor; a number of economic analysts have pointed out that it's much more than 45 million, if the definition is made realistic.]

-The article is accompanied by several graphs, including national debt and unemployment. This omits the most important graph of all: The number of Americans with their heads embedded in their rear ends (aka the Moron Index, or MI), which is fast approaching 310 million.

And so I say 2u all: "Palin in 2012!" Only she can finish the job begun by Ronald Reagan.

mb

10:46 AM  
Anonymous Mark S. said...

Hello Dr. Berman,

Susan--

What is the census? Is that the number of patients in your hospital?

My mum is a nurse as well and has worked for the National Health Service in England for over 30 years. She is actually now working as a Health Visitor which is a combination of a Social Worker and Nurse. She goes around in the local community and makes sure people are taking care of themselves. So for example, if you are a young couple expecting a baby, she will visit your home and help you through the pregnancy.

My uncle who lives in England was very sick recently and had to have his leg amputated because of blood clots and other complications. All of the pre and post operation care is taken care of and he doesn't need to worry about paying for anything. I talked to him over the weekend and he sounded in good spirits even though he has been through a very traumatic event. I imagine if he lived in the US, the insurance company would have tried to find some way not to pay for the operation. The NHS will also take care of his physical therapy and will pay for his prosthetic leg.

However, the new government is attempting to put in austerity programs like the ones that have been introduced in other European countries. The conservatives and the former labour goverment definitely seem to be influenced by their American counterparts. I do wonder why people in English speaking countries seem to be willing to sit back and take these cuts whereas people in other countries like France, Spain or Greece actually raise hell when their governments try to cut social programs.

12:03 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Mark-

It has a lot to do w/being Protestant (as opposed to Catholic), and having a very long-standing Anglo-Saxon tradition of every person should be completely self-sufficient, and support as somehow being shameful. The folks in France etc. riot because they see the gov't as violating its social contract; in the UK and US, they go drinking, because the idea of gov't is absence of social contract. Absence of social contract facilitated rapid economic and geographic expansion for the US and the UK, which acted as a (phony) substitute for social support. But it also meant that the system had feet of clay. So now England is washed up, and the US well on its way. Without, I may add, learning a damn thing.

mb

12:49 PM  
Blogger Nicholas Colloff said...

Even after the implementation of our austerity programme in the UK (misguided as its timing and structuring is) we will still be enjoying health care free at the point of delivery. This would appear (to date) to be a social compact that no one can dismantle.

That said I was struck on the train home from London today about the irony of reading 'How to get out of Iraq' as the man sitting next to me on the train babbled noisily about some business problem oblivious to his rudeness. He was smaller than me so I politely pointed this out to him and he did have the decency to look sheepish (though that may be a survival strategy)!

5:11 PM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

Dear MB

Christopher Isherwood--yes, I dipped into that anthology of his as well as his account of his experiences with his teacher, while I was on retreat. The monastery had a true library. The quietness in that room seemed to envelope one in an aura of radiant stillness. You know, it was hardly what most libraries have become: a location for the storage, retrieval and consumption of...what else?..."information."

Susan, Mark S et al.

Back when I was living in West Africa, a bus trip that should have taken twelve hours took thirty six because of a truck jack-knifed on the highway. During the delay a bug flew into my right ear. I had to douse it to death with water from my canteen. By the time I arrived in Accra I had a raging earache and fever. When I entered a clinic, I was in short time surrounded by staff and other patients, their gestures and bodies so disposed as to emanate
palpable sympathy and concern, and as relatively stark and crude the surroundings would seem to an American clinic, the message of care was quite clear.

8:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey everyone,
I think the ground work for the current lack of cohesion was laid down a long time ago.

Dr. Berman has mentioned this throughout posts here and I’m sure it will keep resurfacing in discussions. I recently finished Freedom Just Around the Corner (thanks for the recommendation Dr. Berman).

I need to keep reminding myself of the longer history. Outside of the myths we’re all told in school - early America was all about the biggest land grab in history, real estate speculation and scamming. The colonies didn’t care about the Native Americans they killed or the African slaves that built much of the country. The constitution (the same one Tea party folks are so fond of) was barely ratified as most of the colonies couldn’t see how it served their own self interests. One could argue that the arms exporting business started in the 1700’s as trees were stripped from the landscape to make ships for wars in Europe.

There have been a couple of exceptional periods but they have been just that – exceptional. Forgive me as I can’t for the life of me remember if I read it here or elsewhere, but someone I read recently said America was in a sense born bourgeois with an incredible continent of natural resources it never worked itself out of the dark ages with a social contract at its center.

It’s interesting that you mention Catholicism vs. Protestantism. I read (again, excuse my memory) somewhere that Indigenous folks in Mexico/Central America have recovered at far greater rates than Native Americans in the US as the Catholic church cared at least enough to convert and not just wipe out people. The indigenous population in Oaxaca has number matching pre-Cortez times. There’s similar historical thinking, I believe, related to Filipino identity.
I’ve lived outside of the US for almost three years now in several countries and I’ve yet to find a health system that isn’t more humane even if it is poorer or overstressed.

El Juero (juero59@yahoo.com)

8:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spiegel is a "real" magazine. If you look back at Time Magazine from the 1950s, you will also see a real magazine, thick with in depth articles. What happened to us? Time and Newsweek are just pretending to be magazines with half of it advertising and big photos. Place a current Spiegel German edition side by side with any crap U.S. magazine today, including the Atlantic, and see the difference. You don't even need to know German to sense it. Sad..sad...sad. Yet, Germans do everything better than we do, don't they? If it werent' for the Russians, thank god, we would be all marching under the Swastika or dead. They did Communism better than the Russians.. Germany is the real deal while America is lots of flash and showmanship...not much substance. America is full of lots of people "pretending" to govern, fix cars, report, teach, etc., lots of people going through the motions..not much knowledge or precision. Too bad..

9:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With all respect, sir, don't you find the idea of Palin with her finger on the nuclear button frightening and that at least must be prevented? You wrote that the best Progressives can hope for is to prevent fascism from taking hold here ( Oh God, must I vote for moderate Republicans just to keep the fascists at bay?). Isn't it therefore important to oppose Palin even though you argue that bringing the US to a screeching halt, which Palin would perfectly accomplish, would be good for the planet?

1:01 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Anon(1)-

Plainly put, America lacks gravitas; with a few notable exceptions, it always has, and as things have gotten increasingly empty and frivolous, its lightweight qualities are plain for all to see. Yes, Time etc. are a joke compared to Spiegel or the Economist; to find the equivalent in the US, you have to go to scholarly publications. The Italian daily, Corriere della Sera, has pages of cultural and intellectual analysis that would result in the bankruptcy of the NYT and other newspapers if they ever tried to run similar stuff; Americans, being lightweights themselves, wouldn't read it and couldn't understand it if they tried. Long overdue for the Statue of Liberty to be replaced by one of Mickey Mouse, I would think.

Anon(2)-

Despite Sarah's claim to a knowledge of foreign relations because she can see Russia from her window in Alaska, she doesn't know squat. Her advisers on the subject would be rather numerous, I suspect, and I'm guessing that she would be forced to consult them before nuking Iran or whatever. (It's for the same reason that I wasn't worried about this issue in the case of Bush Jr., and he was a messianic dolt.) So to be honest, I'm not too worried about that. On the domestic scene, however, she has clear and strong opinions and would be in a position to inflict serious damage on the empire--in this case with the approval of her advisers. Not good for the US, of course, but probably beneficial for the rest of the world. Meanwhile, pls don't overlook the comedy value of Sarah for Tina Fey and our native cartoonists. There isn't much to laugh about these days, and Mr. Obama is abt as exciting as goat turds; so I think Sarah could brighten our days, at least in that way. She would also be an international joke, accelerating the perception that the US is not to be taken seriously any more. (Add to this the Mickey Mouse statue of liberty, and we've effectively written our obituary.)

mb

6:48 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps to Susan:

Thanks for very kind review of QOV on Amazon; I'm glad to see the
DAA42 are doing what they can for the book's PR. Meanwhile, Amazon tells me that they have sold a total of 68 copies, which has me dizzy with joy--we are now 26 units over the regular readership of this blog. Is this amazing or wot? Maybe there *is* a god, I'll have to rethink my entire theological position.

"Come to my arms, my beamish boy! Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!" (Jabberwocky)

7:21 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps2 to Susan:

The bit about "in plain English" reminds me of a line from John Ruskin (one of my heroes), in vol. 3 of "Modern Painters": "The greatest thing a human soul ever did in this world is to see something, and tell what it saw in a plain way." I think if any of us can do that before we die, it's enough.

7:39 AM  
Blogger Cj said...

Hi Dr. Berman, the us government has started harassing wikileaks supporters. It just keeps getting worse.

http://www.salon.com/news/wikileaks/index.html?story=/opinion/greenwald/2010/11/09/manning

Chuck

9:15 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Chuck-

Always keep in mind: we're dealing w/people who are not too bright. As for this being a 'liberal' admin, what more is there to say? (Guantanamo remains open, and habeas corpus has not been reinstated.)

mb

9:26 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Chuck,

I've no doubt that all of our names are on some list somewhere ...

Mauricio,

I'd just found a volume of selections from Ruskin at a recent library sale; now it's going right to the top of my must-read-next list!

One of the joys of this blog has been your recommending so many worthwhile books. I look forward to years of good reading as the empire collapses outside my door.

10:52 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

"There is no wealth but life," he wrote. Tell it to Goldman Sachs.

1:53 PM  
Anonymous Nocti said...

The following is one of my favorite passages from Ruskin:

"There are many spots among the inferior ridges of the Alps, such as the Col de Ferret, the Col d'Anterne, and the associated ranges of the Buet, which, though commanding prospects of great nobleness, are themselves very nearly types of all that is most painful to the human mind vast wastes of mountain ground, covered here and there with dull grey grass or moss, but breaking continually into black banks of shattered slate, all glistening and sodden with slow tricklings of clogged, incapable streams; the snow water oozing through them in a cold sweat, and spreading itself in creeping stains among their dust; ever and anon a shaking here and there, and a handful or two of their particles or flakes trembling down, one sees not why, into more total dissolution; leaving a few jagged teeth, like the edges of knives eaten away by vinegar, projecting through the half-dislodged mass from the inner rock, keen enough to cut the hand or foot that rests on them, yet crumbling as they wound, and soon sinking again into the smooth, slippery, glutinous heap, looking like a beach of black scales of dead fish, cast ashore from a poisonous sea; and sloping away into the foul ravines, branched down immeasurable slopes of barrenness, w here the winds howl and wander continually, and the snow lies in wasted and sorrowful fields, covered with sooty dust, that collects in streaks and stains at the bottom of all its thawing ripples, I know no other scenes so appalling as these in storm, or so woful in sunshine".

[Modern Painters, 6.158-159)

9:24 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

There are no books by John Ruskin in my county library system. And most of his in-print work is available only in mass-market paperbacks. Years ago, I wish I had the foresight (not to mention the money) to collect great literature when they were still available in elegant (and long-lasting) clothbound editions. I guess I shouldn't hesitate to grab up a copy of the George Bush memoir while I still have the chance.

9:32 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Art-

There are a # of Ruskin biographies you might wanna check out, in lieu of his own work. Also, save up yer freq flyer miles and go to the Lake District. I actually stayed in the town of Coniston, where he is buried, and then took a ferry over to Brantwood, on Coniston Water, which was where he lived toward the end of his life, and which is a fabulous house, filled with tons of his stuff. As for Dubya, maybe u can get him to autograph it for u(this wd be a good oppty for u to throw your shoes at him and call him a dog).

Nocti-

I esp. like jagged teeth and glutinous heaps, myself.

mb

9:47 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

Dr. Berman,

I was away for a week or so and this looks like an excellent post.
That's a great line from Ruskin, "Tell what it saw in a plain way".
"Straight talk falls on deaf ears. Go ask the man under the bridge". A line from Grip, Inc., one of the greatest heavy metal bands of my youth. That line from the pre-chorus stayed with me, because they certainly were right. In the Empire, straight talk falls on deaf ears, and enlightment falls on closed minds.

Susan, thank you for mentioning the article from Spiegel. What a striking, brutal, spot-on read. Rage and hate-filled...they really nailed it. I know the empire is full of fools and greed is the national religion, but the anger and hate is what is most sickening to me. I have mentioned it here before, but it bears mentioning again and again...I am appalled on a daily basis by the random acts of hatred that my countrymen commit. I am not even referring to the murders and rapes, although we sure do hold our own in those categories as well. I'm talking about the horrifying, damaging, wonton violations of human dignity that I witness several times every day.
Somehow we've managed to become devoid of kindness, patience, empathy, tact,and graciousness in the public square...where else is this the case? How can a society like ours survive? How can it even be considered a society when it is merely a group of individuals who can't stand others living on the same landmass?

No matter who is in charge, no matter what corporations pull the strings, no matter what articles Hedges or Chomsky or anyone else writes about the corporate elites screwing the common man, the fact remains that we are 310 million people that revel in our lack of kindness, class, culture and wisdom, and there's no turning back.

11:29 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Your response to Mark about America's economic and geographical expansion as a lame substitute for a weak or non-existant social safety net was, for me at least, a profound insight. Do you then think that the elites of this country have and continue to engage in foreign adventurism just to keep the masses from thinking about how insecure their lives are here? I have known a few people who accept paying enormous healthcare bills with a certain amount of equinimity because, as they put it, "we need the money to fight terrorism," a tribute to the how successful govt. and media brainwashing is here. Amazing. The Afgan-Pakistan border is as long as from London to Moscow and thus could never be fully prtected, the Taliban now control 80% of Afganistan (see Nir Rosen on Democracy Now), yet few protest the war leading me to think that if Americans were reduced to living in grass huts they would accept their condition given that the monies were necessary to fight the terrorist without even thinking that being reduced to living in a grass hut was a form of terrorism on them.

7:53 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Joe and Dan,

Thanks for writing in. You guys summarize what I've been saying for a long time, that the American people are, by and large, violent and stupid. It was MLK who once said that this was the worst possible combination one could have. Regarding the thesis on geographic expansion as a brake on internal conflict, this is the theme of a bk by Wm Appleman Williams, "The Contours of American History," one of the most profound analyses of our nation I have ever read. He quotes James Madison saying precisely this thing, so I think we can say that the Founding Fathers knew what they were up to (nor was Madison entirely original; Wms traces the idea back to the Glorious Revolution in England, 1688). David Potter and Albert Borgmann picked up the idea in the 20thC in terms of a psychic or technological frontier: as long as there was something to buy, class conflict in the US would be muted. Now, with the (real) unemployment rate at nearly 20%, 11 million homes being foreclosed on, the (former) middle class lined up at soup kitchens, and people not able to spend their eyeballs out, internal hatreds emerge in full force, as they did during the Depression. Will the American people catch on to this shell game? Are dumb clucks aware that they are dumb clucks?

As for the issue of daily, "ordinary" violence: one reason I left the US was that it had become clear to me that Americans treated each other in a vicious way on a daily basis and weren't even aware of it (see my earlier post, "Ik Is Us")--it's just coin of the realm. Then you live in a place like Mexico, where the folks are gracious to each other on a daily basis, and the horror of US social life really stands out. Some years ago a Prof. Vega at UC Berkeley did a study of Mexicans in the US, and it turned out that the rate of mental illness among this group was exactly twice that of the rate of mental illness among Mexicans in Mexico. Quite obviously, the culture shock was too much to bear. I can't get over the US' labeling of Mexico as a 'failed state'--talk about pot and kettle. Most of the crime in Mexico is confined to the border, cities such as Ciudad Juarez, where the cause of it is wars between drug cartels--with the need for drugs being supplied by the American population (who hate their lives), and the guns being supplied by American arms dealers just north of the border--a reality that Mr. Obama publicly admitted when he visited Mexico shortly after his inauguration. In fact, the crime rate in Mexico City is 8 per 100,000 per annum--trivial, in short--which is almostly exactly what it is in Wichita KS or Stockton CA (in Ciudad Juarez it's 189 per 100,000 per annum). So let's be clear on which country is the failed state.

The Americanist (at Harvard) Sacvan Bercovitch pegged the US very well, I thought: it was "blind from birth." What could possibly be the fate of a country that contains 310 million angry morons, adrift w/o a soul, and lacking any values other than money? Duh!

mb

9:37 AM  
Blogger Neb said...

This has been rich blogging.  My thanks, also in the form of 2 of the Amazon 68 from last weekend. 

The joke I see here is that you folks are pointing to the absence of social cohesion.  I think there is a mental cohesion problem. 

Recently The media cdn't tell the difference between an airplane
(slow moving-seen all the time) and a missile (extremely fast moving-uncommon, very different experience) in the sky. It then spent hours hand wringing, debating, & anxiously waiting for the right answer from the Pentagon for which it said "plane." That this was several hrs of news is insane.

When society is not even interested in understanding their direct reality it is faced with, even in the small every day things (e.g. seeing Jesus in toast also on national news b4) , then there is a lack of common experience at a deeper level. Neuroscientists (e.g. Oliver Sacks, "The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat") spend careers observing the mentally ill on this. They should expand their population set to the general populace.

11:37 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Neb-

Some time ago I read a stat that said that at any given time, 25% of the American public was mentally ill. Of course, given the rather wide latitude of definition in the DSM IV, a lot fits into that category that didn't just a decade ago. Nevertheless, I actually thought it was a misprint; that they had meant to write 75%. Seems more realistic.

mb

2:01 PM  
Anonymous Nocti said...

"I esp. like jagged teeth and glutinous heaps, myself."

Likewise. And let's raise a glass to hirsute women, while we are at it (Ruskin-philes will need no explanation).

Bercovitch and the "blind from birth" comment: Can you tell me exactly where that derives? I am curious. I took Bercovitch's "Foundations of American Literature" class many years ago. He was a little obsessive, but a very astute investigator into what he called "the myth of America". I remember that Bercovitch used to ask the class faux-naive questions about American culture; as a Canadian, he would plead ignorance and incomprehension.

He also got irritated with us because he thought we weren't keeping up with the reading, and so he had his T.A.s draft weekly quizzes on the reading that we had to take.

3:20 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Joe,

Conversely, I've also noticed that when I do treat someone else decently & civilly, they're often surprised & absurdly pleased, as if I've done something special. This is truly sad, as it says that what we would once have called the barest minimum courtesy is now seen as something extraordinary & uncommon.

And more often than not, they'll tell me something like, "You know, not many people would even bother to do that now." They recognize the increasing absence of the social bond.

5:36 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Tim-

Jerry Seinfeld had a riff he did years ago in his nightclub act, about tip jars on the counters of cafes and other stores. "What service is being offered here that we should be tipping for it?", he asked. "Clearly, they aren't doing anything special. Perhaps it's for not hurting us. So what we need to say as we put money in the tip jar, is: 'Here's a little something for you for not smashing my face into the glass counter.'" Yes, it really has come to this.

Nocti-

Actually, that was a bit misleading on my part. I'll hafta check my notes, but "blind at birth" was the title of a review of Sacvan's work by another historian--David Harlan? I can't quite remember. I quote this in my new book (i.e., the one coming out next yr, not the essay bk). Harlan (or whoever) was saying that that's what Sac was saying abt the US.

mb

6:02 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Bad Is Good Dept.: On Aug. 6 newspapers ran the story that the Camden Public Library in NJ was planning to close its doors for good on Dec. 31. Most residents of the town don't or can't read, and there isn't any money to keep the library system open anyway. I saw this as the wave of the future, part of the Palinization of the US, which might eventually include tearing down the NY Public and replacing it w/a parking lot. This is good end-of-empire stuff, what we can look forward to as the collapse progresses. Then today, I read "City of Ruins" by Chris Hedges, which will appear in the Nov. 22 issue of The Nation. You can read it online by going to
http://www.thenation.com/article
/155801/city-ruins. It describes what can reasonably be called a Bladerunner world, and is a good description of Camden as a canary in a coal mine. In fact, Hedges writes that "Camden is the poster child of postindustrial decay." He continues:

"It stands as a warning of what huge pockets of the United States could turn into as we cement into place a permanent underclass of the unemployed, slash state and federal services in a desperate bid to cut massive deficits, watch cities and states go bankrupt and struggle to adjust to a stark neofeudalism in which the working and middle classes are decimated."

The guy who runs a tent city for the homeless in Camden, called Transitional Park, said to Hedges: "Take a look at the American Dream. In today's society no one is exempt from Transitional Park. Everybody is one paycheck away from being here."

Folks keep asking me when the collapse is going to occur, and I keep saying that we are in fact in the midst of it; it's proceeding as we speak. Today Camden, tomorrow Rapid City, the next day Sacramento...etc. Hedges' article is a good intro to the present, and to the future as well. Every day, another newspaper shuts down, another thousand house foreclosures take place, another ER has no funds to operate, etc. and etc. Clearly, time is not on our side. The GOP wants to kill the country, the Dems have no will or ideas to arrest this, and the "Kucinich/Nader vote" amounts to virtually nothing.

When an empire collapses, this is what it looks like.

mb

7:24 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

And what's even more disheartening is what is to be of today's children. I teach in a very inner-city elementary school where there are a number of students who are actually quite bright and have dreams of being doctors, lawyers and other professionals. Yet, where will be the moneys they will need to go to college without strangling them in a lifetime of debt? How sad. These are the kids who have amazing social skills and not an once of prejudice. They are, in a sense, the true democrats in their ability to talk and hold a decent conversation without the constant need for technological gadgets that so mark young people in the suburbs. But the system is doing everything possible to extinguish their enthusiasm for learning. They are subjected daily to a top down , stultifyingly dull math/reading curriculum that allows no opportunity for creative expression or, God forbid, critical analysis.They are being primed to be a part of a passive workforce with skills enough for Walmart and the like. Certainly a nation that has no interest in developing its young to their full potential is...you can fill in the expletive.
By the way, NYC just hired a women from a media outlet to head the public school system. She has absolutely no educational training. But what she does have is skill in handling a budget and firing people. I suppose she's somewhat more qualified than Arne Duncan, the Educational Secretary, who got the job being Obama's basketball partner.
Finally, I could just imagine how Indians in India must have felt for Obama to reference Gandhi and even visit his grave site. How a man can invoke the message of Gandhi while carrying on like a genocidal maniac in western Asia is truly breathtaking. And then look for ways to find common ground with the Republicans who have explicitely said that their goal is to make him a one term president leads me to think Obama must be a devotee of SM porn sites where the M person generally says something like "May I have one more, sir" as he or she is being viciously caned.

11:55 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Thank you for the link to the Hedge article on Camden. Is this America? The first critical comment offered by a reader who lives in Camden just seemed to underscore the direness and bleakness of Hedge's description and the poverty of the "solutions." I think "Transitional Park" is genius nomenclature! America is the ultimate transitional object that transitions into...a nihilistic amusement park.

12:30 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dan-

I think the phrase yer looking for is 'utterly and totally fucked'. Meanwhile, that an empty, worthless, pro-capitalist clown like Obama would be paying tribute to Gandhi, who stands for everything that our spineless president is not, is both pathetic and disgusting--and surely part of our decline (although I'm guessing that most Americans have no idea who Gandhi was; which ignorance is also part of our decline). We're toast, amigo.

mb

6:30 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Kelvin-

Well put. I tell ya, Camden is the logical endpt of American history. I wish my new book, "Capitalism and Its Discontents," could come out in 2-3 mos. Unfortunately, the publisher is scheduling a fall 2011 release, which is (in my experience) the norm for editing, page proofs, and the like. But the major point is that money was the supreme value on this continent from the late 16C, and hustling the supreme activity. Freedom basically meant free enterprise. The problem is that money is not a value, and this creates a hollowness at the core. So money and what it can buy become transitional objects, to fill the empty space; and if you throw in a lot of distractions (imperial adventures, technological innovations, jazz age, Hollywood, Cold War, etc.), you don't notice what's happening. But finally, what's happening becomes all too clear: Camden NJ. Where else could a valueless system have wound up? The article I cited from Der Spiegel is a little puzzled that the American reaction to political and economic collapse is rage; but this should not be puzzling at all. When the hollowness at the core becomes fully exposed, and Americans understand, not only that they have nothing but that they *are* nothing, rage is the inevitable result (since confronting the pain, which is what we really need to do at this pt, is more than they can take). So you not only get Camden, but also Tea Party and Palin and a descent into poverty, stupidity, and daily morbidity--with much more on the way.

Another German publication, TAZ, which is a major Berlin newspaper, did a review of DAA when it came out (the German edition actually appeared in 2005, a few months ahead of the American one), and titled it, "Hopes of a Patriot" (Hoffnungen des Patriots). This intrigued me. By this the author meant that I was America's last, best hope, in that if the country really took a look at its own fault lines, the ones I identify in the book, it might have a chance of saving itself. Of course, he didn't have high hopes for this taking place, and obviously neither do I. Prior to the release of DAA, a newspaper reporter (in Philly, I think it was) asked me what I thought the response to the bk wd be, and I said: "It will be vilified and ignored." Which is what happened; it never became part of the national dialogue because of the fear and horror of having such a discussion. I'd like to think this might be different for "Capitalism and Its Discontents," but I honestly don't see how that could happen. In fact, I could write the NY Times review of it right now: "A feeble and deeply misguided interpretation of American history, one that can only serve to distract us from the job at hand," etc. Hey, what're ya gonna do.

mb

7:15 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

...our spineless president...

Now valiantly defending the Bush tax cuts for the ultra-rich, while his budget council proposes cuts to Medicare & Social Security. "Die faster, ya worthless old codgers!"

The Hedges article is even more horrifying for not being all that surprising. Here in NJ the statewide assault on basic education continues apace, while taxes simply must be cut for the very rich, so they won't leave & make life difficult for the rest of us -- huh?!?!?

Transitional Park: Tomorrow's Future TODAY!

Dan,

Your description of your bright, hopeful students & their probable (non-)future is heartbreaking. At the same time as that tragedy unfolds, I see children who do have more possibilities being told that education is nothing but a job ticket, that learning for its own sake is pointless, lame, stupid, elitist. And they eagerly absorb that message.

8:23 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

And for a jaw-droppingly pathetic example of starry-eyed denial, just read the latest offering from David "all-the-depth-of-a-puddle" Brooks:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/12
/opinion/12brooks.html?ref=opinion

(Just remove the return between "11/12" & "/opinion" before cutting & pasting.)

9:51 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

That Brooks and Friedman write regular columns for the NYT tells u all u need to know abt the NYT. Compared to the no-b.s. reportage one finds at commondreams, alternet, truthdig, rollingstone, etc., the NYT has turned into a hoary joke. Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone once did an article entitled, "Somebody take away Thomas Friedman's computer before he types another sentence." During the Depression there was a Soil Bank program that paid farmers not to grow crops. We need a journalistic version of that: pay Brooks and Friedman not to write, for the love of god. In fact, pay the NYT to fold up. Rupert Murdoch bought the Wall St. Journal, which I figured would kill it; but then, look at what the WSJ spouts as 'common sense': if it folds, what wd be the loss? Although I have problems with screen technology in general (people scan, they don't read; it's largely in one eye and out the other), most of the print journalists in the US today collectively aren't worth the little fingers of Matt Taibbi or Chris Hedges.

OK, enuf ranting for one day (but I'll be back, as u know).

10:41 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Nocti-

Here's the dope:

Title: A People Blinded from Birth: American History According to Sacvan Bercovitch
Author(s): David Harlan
Source: The Journal of American History, Vol. 78, No. 3 (Dec., 1991), pp. 949-971

7:01 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Dr. Berman,

I'm cadging in on the reference you provided Nocti. Thank you! I've downloaded the Journal of American History article by Harlan and will read it next week.

You're comments on money not being a value are spot on! It could be the governing insight that explains good ole Amurrican violence and emptiness (aka enterprise).

8:52 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Kel-

If I remember correctly, Harlan is very critical of Bercovitch, but he comes off as a bit lame and defensive, like an American who just doesn't wanna face facts. The fact is, Bercovitch's work speaks for itself (Puritan Origins of the American Self, etc.). Berc did reply to Harlan, but the rebuttal cd have been much better; it seemed off the pt. Anyway, that's the background.

mb

9:32 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

I just read Brook's piece:The National Greatness Agenda. I mean where is my barf bag when I need it? He says we need to be patriotic especially since brave men and women who are fighting overseas for, as Chomsky would say, corporate interests. I mean the man is totally deranged. Greatness? Hey, Dave, before we deal with greatness how about a job, decent health care, a place to live? How about taming Wall Street, stop outsourcing, and enact campaign reform so serious minded people in the US can have a chance to get their opinions heard?
Reading Brooks is like reading a can of paint or, on second thought, drinking one.

10:09 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dan-

Brooks got his job at the NYT by writing a bk flattering the upper-middle class, i.e. the sort of people who run the NYT. The book was basically fluff; these folks saw it as possessing great insight ("All the News that Fits Our Views"). Like Friedman, he's a corporate shill...and a real lightweight. For an accurate picture of the upper-middle class, see Chris Hedges' latest book, on the liberal sellout. He won't be writing for the NYT any time soon, I suspect.

mb

6:08 AM  
Blogger Neb said...

Tim, Dan et al, doubling over cringing, dry heaving, whatever;
as they say, right back at ya. Collapse, DAA is hard to watch.

Obama had created a huge chasm for his supporters to cross prior to the election and then he widened it galactically after with his own words (60 Min). But somehow Michael Moore still wants to plead with him.

Anyone who wants to stop Freidman from writing is a friend of mine. Yes, him, Brooks, MSM are putting out a different kind of industrial pollution for which there is no bill, discussion or even thought about how it can be fined or abated. Indeed, the the line MB offers that grows deeper each day,

"it's the air you breath."

9:06 AM  
Blogger Mike Cifone said...

Dear Friends,

I write to all of you from the safely civilized nation of Finland, by way of their former partner, Sweden. For my love, it's southern Germany and southern Italy, but way up here at 60'lat, with little sunshine and bitingly cold damp winds, I still managed to find a warm tribe of Finns in a little slice of the American zeitgeist they referred to as a Jazz club: the beating heart of 'Nola and the Windy City, sung out the mouths of Brits, to a civilized group of souls, kindly working out their English for my friend and I. Within minutes of ordering our Scotches, we made friends with a Finn. ... And, he just wanted to get to know us; in fact, by the end of our conversation about music, food, family origins, we almost were hugging in some kind of spontaneous camaraderie that I just cannot explain (Champagne, berry Vodka and Scotch notwithstanding).

I wish I were here for longer than two days (academic absurdity: sandwiched a trip in between teaching out in Philly) -- in fact, I suspect that as I approach the Arctic Circle, letting go of the sun until summer, the warmheartedness of these human beings will keep on increasing, Reindeer and Moose and all. (I think Santa Claus is just a nice Scandinavian guy in a fat suit. Should pay him a little visit.)

In any case, thought you'd like to know that somewhere, in the waning light of winter's approach, there's a warm human heart waiting for us ... humanity is not dead yet. (And I'm at a conference on new approaches to quantum theory!)

Best wishes,
Mike Cifone.

9:07 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

What do you think about Stanley Fish's ongoing articles in the NYT about the value of a liberal education? From what I've read, more kids are majoring in business than the humanities and many universities are cutting back on their courses. Is this a trend in Europe and Mexico? I'm sure you have friends still teaching---what do they see?
The article on Camden, NJ was horrible and I'm afraid, prophetic. Where do we think we're going? Island was the last book written by Huxley and he described the end result we now see in Camden and Detroit:

"How cheap these gems of the abyss had become, how indescribably vulgar! Where there had been gold and pearl and precious stones there were only Christmas-tree decorations, only the shallow glare of plastic and varnished tin. Everything still pulsed with life, but with the life of an infinitely sinister bargain basement...a cosmic Woolworth stocked with mass-produced horrors. Horrors of vulgarity and horrors of pain, of cruelty, and tastelessness, of imbecility and deliberate malice."

I like your writing b/c it's straight forward and honest and, even though the NYT won't be asking you to submit Op-eds either, please remember---you're known by the company you keep. Chris Hedges, Chalmers Johnson, Chomsky---none of you will ever be the pampered darlings of the phony liberal establishment but all of you would be greatly missed if you stopped writing.

10:22 AM  
Blogger NoSpam said...

Morris,

Thanks for the Bercovitch reference. I'll have a look at it.

As I mentioned, I recall Bercovitch's lectures as casting a critical but dispassionate eye upon the development of American culture from its Puritan origins to the early 20th Century. We ended, I believe, with West's Day of the Locust. That fact explains much about Bercovitch's view of American culture, I think, and I am not surprised that he has aroused hostile reactions in the blinkered, patriotic mass.

12:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I have just finished "A Question of Values" and appreciated it so much. I have read "Twilight of American Culture" and "Dark Ages America" several times over so I really needed this latest "fix" so to speak.

It was pleasing to find that you referenced Chris Hedges several times. I also read him every time I get a chance.

In a way, I am very lucky because I live outside a small Quaker settled village in rural Virginia and have a small band of seekers around me, so I don't feel quite so isolated as I might.

I am eagerly awaiting your next book whatever it is. You really are appreciated.

S. Beverly

3:53 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

A sudden flood of mail...let me do my best.

Neb: I wasn't writing theory; the collapse is in the details, and it's all around us. Keep in mind that Obama is nothing more than a logo, and that his fans are living in la-la land, and you'll be all rt (or as well as can be expected). Also that the MD (Moron Density) increases every day--these are your neighbors!

Mike: Sounds pretty gd. What came to mind was the mnemonic med schl students use to memorize the 13 facial nerves: "On old Olympus' towering tops, a Finn and German viewed a hop."
On = olfactory
old = oculomotor
Olympus' = ocular
towering = trachial
tops = trigeminal
etc.

Susan: Expect the worst. I am not kidding. The US is a gigantic dolt factory, cranking out mindless idiots by the dozen. Even as we speak, future morons are popping out of wombs in OB-GYN wards across the nation. This is simple fact; it is not an exaggeration. When a civ collapses, this is what it looks like. If u aren't depressed, there is something seriously wrong w/u.

NoSpam: The masses don't read Bercovitch. After all, he uses words that have more than 2 syllables in them.

S: Sequel to DAA coming out next year. Title is "Capitalism and Its Discontents." Yr living situation sounds as gd as it can get in the US.

10:20 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Neb, you are right. Watching Michael Moore plead with Obama on the various talk shows recently is truly pathetic. Moore thinks there is a progressive Obama ready to burst forth and fight for the little guy and girl. Obama is not and never was a progressive. Hell, he reserves the right to assassinate any American anywhere in the world and has only strengthened the Patriot Act. He's also bombed 6 or 7 different countries so what then is the Right's problem with him other that he's black?
It looks like he got truly battered at the recent G20 in South Korea. I noticed that Iran was not mentioned in the final communique, for instance, and most if not all the Asian countries at the conference sided with China with regard to its currency dispute with the US, further proof of America's continued irrelevance on the world stage.

1:43 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dan-

There is also a major flaw in the Moore/Chomsky understanding of potential social change in the US. The two of them believe in a "wool-pulled-over-the-eyes" theory, as expressed in Noam's film, "Manufactured Consent." On this theory, the American people don't have the gov't they deserve; they've been duped; are inherently peace-loving and intelligent; and have had the wool pulled over their eyes by insidious forces, such as the Pentagon and the corporations. Remove the wool, and we'll be well on our way to democratic socialism, or social democracy, on this reckoning. But the theory of false consciousness can only be pushed so far, it seems to me. Most Americans do, as Janis Joplin usta sing, want a Mercedes Benz, and think that's what life is all about. 38 states have capital punishment, with the strong approval of the American public; 24% of that public believes that violence is OK in the pursuit of your goals; and our homicide rate is one of the highest in the world. As for intelligence: the stats of our stupidity are appalling. In a word, the wool *is* the eyes, and the American people *do* have precisely the gov't they deserve. There will be no "different" country if Obama does the right thing (per Moore); if Americans had really wanted change they wd have voted Nader or Kucinich. They will, in short, never wake up; but then, neither will Moore, apparently.

mb

7:43 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Things to Be Proud of Dept.:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/
11/14/us/14nazis.html?_r=1&hp

8:00 AM  
Anonymous Nocti said...

First, sorry about the Nocti/NoSpam confusion. I have a couple of different accounts, and I sometimes forget which one I am logged into.

When I wrote "blinkered, patriotic mass", I was referring to "masses" within the subset of cultural/literary critics, and not the masses, themselves. They wouldn't know Bercovitch from Bernstein.

2:40 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

RE: Nazis and the U.S.

"We want to fill our culture again with the Christian spirit...We want to burn out all the recent immoral developments in literature, in the theater, and in the press--in short, we want to burn out the poison of immorality which has entered into our whole life and culture as a result of liberal excess during the past...years."

-Adolf Hitler

2:43 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Moore/Chomsky: "...the American people don't have the gov't they deserve; they've been duped..."

I remember that during the health care debate, polls showed that the majority of Americans favored a public option. They didn't get one. And today, support for Obama's war in Afghanistan is waning. But the members of Congress aren't listening. In these cases at least, the American public can't really be accused of ignorance, only impotence. Corporate/government control seems to be the greater problem here.

True, Americans don't take to the streets like the French do. But what good did it do them? Their government increased the retirement age of French workers anyway. You said it yourself: if the dolts gain power, they will hurt you.

12:24 AM  
Anonymous Paul said...

After reading some of Bercovitch's I feel as though he's hit the nail on the head. The Puritan experience was certainly unique if somewhat neurotic. It seems though if the human spirit is to survive - things will have to change. Chase $$$ or being human. I think at this point there is really no going back. As you've mentioned "The barbarians are at the gate"... the only way forward is through - facing these ghosts of the past. Considering most people have no clue about this bit of American history (other than maybe celebrating Thanksgiving - which Native Americans 'don't' celebrate)... it still has a way of happening anyway. It's like dealing with an addiction... Maybe we'll have to become the Blade Runner dystopia before the light. With fear in charge it's bound to be a rocky ride, no doubt about it.

Anyway, thanks for the references. Interesting discussion as always.

QOV is on my xmas list...

3:00 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Art-

Well, I think demos in France and Greece made it clear to those gov'ts that they have to move with some degree of caution in the future. I don't think the demos were a waste of time, and they certainly build an esprit de corps among the protesters. In the US, it's largely roll over and let them do what they want.

As for what people actually want vs. what the gov't wants: depends on how the poll questions are framed. This has been demonstrated again and again. E.g.: Do you believe in universal health care? Yes. Are you willing to contribute to it? No. Are you in favor of socialized medicine? Definitely not. Do you feel the American people deserve some sort of protection in terms of health coverage: Yes. Etc. It may be true that from time to time, the gov't is out of sync with some fraction of the American people; but as far as I can see, the basic values of the two are never out of sync (see my essay on "conspiracy vs. Conspiracy"). Extreme individualism, endless frontier, money is the root of all good, our enemies are inevitably Evil--the psychology never really differs. Hence, I do think that America has the purest form of democracy ever: the people are getting precisely the gov't they want. (In the case of Obama, for example, what they wanted was the appearance of change, not actual change; he's delivering the goods. As for the Tea Party folks, they get to be angry, to be energized, to feel self-righteous; which is what *they* want. You get the idea.)

mb

9:54 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman and Art,

"Americans get the government they deserve.." vs "Americans have been duped."

Both are right to a point and together tell a fuller story. I don't think my neighbors and coworkers are dolts, just people who have, in many ways, been pounded into the ground with propaganda (death panel scare tactics to obscure the reality that the public option was the only real option for true reform),a culture desensitized to violence and cruelty and the isolation many people experience. The way questions are framed in public opinion polls seems to reflect the way the discourse was presented. A man who's done handyman work for me for several years was over a couple of weeks ago to do some simple repairs and was telling me about his neighbor. He lives in a development of manufactured homes and he (the neighbor) and his wife had a small piece of land out in the country. They moved the house there, paid all the fees, etc and then, two months later, got hit with more fees and taxes from the county and lost everything. Tim asked me if I watched Glenn Beck and said "he makes a lot of sense."

There's much in our country that is ridiculous, vicious and just plain stupid but it doesn't help that the babies being born today are systematically having the ground cut out from under them. Tim's neighbor would probably rate pretty high on the dolt-o-meter but, from what I see, most people, if given the chance and not crushed by economic despair, simply want to have a decent life and allow others the same.

9:06 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Susan,

The problem is that that may come close to being what a dolt is. The automatic passivity of Americans; the swallowing of The American Dream whole; the sitting in front of the TV and taking it all in uncritically; the never formulating any kind of analysis, any kind of critical question; the failure to read, to ask, to think--it's as though the whole nation were under water. Add to that the hostility of anyone different, of anyone who does ask the uncomfortable questions, and you have a portrait of what may be the most mindless nation in the history of the world. At root, it's not really a 'live and let live' philosophy at all.

mb

9:44 AM  
Blogger marianne said...

Susan,

The story about your handyman and MOrris's response is interesting to me in that both of you talk about this man in different ways. Because you know your handyman and he's worked for you for a number of years you have a hard time calling him a dolt. You have compassion for him and his situation. On the other hand he fits the definition of a dolt. He is the classic example of the passivity of many Americans.

My point: it's hard to face the fact that people we know and perhaps love are real, flesh and blood dolts. And it says something to me about being human when compassion comes in between this equation. Marianne

2:28 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Susan,

Let me refer you to another Susan in this 2008 article about Susan Jacoby's The Age of American Unreason:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/14
/books/14dumb.html?_r=1

The 978 comments posted in response are especially illuminating. And depressing, I have to add.

3:01 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

I'll quote one of those responses to the Jacoby article here:

I just think a country is a country. Why do I have to know them all? I'll look it up if I ever need to know. I also don't like this idea that we have to be all learned, because who has time for it? Is it really more important than enjoying yourself playing a video game (WoW is the best!) or two when you don't have the time? If life isn't about enjoyment, then you need to seriously point out how all the other emotions are useful. Sad, depressed, pensive, trying-to-make-sense-of-something-ancient, are ungratifying stuff to do. Once I'm dead, am I going to care that I done all that stuff? No, I'll be glad I played video games and had my girls.

3:33 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Well, as for dolts: perhaps the only way to deal w/this in a neutral or less unkind way is thru graffiti. A few yrs back I was down in the NY subway system and there was a sign posted that said:

CAUTION THIRD RAIL
HIGH VOLTAGE

Now I didn't have a crayon or magic marker w/me, and I figured if I tried to reach the sign I'd get run over or electrocuted; but I thought how neat it would be (if a tad cryptic) to crawl over there and write:

FORGET ABOUT THE VOLTAGE
WORRY ABOUT THE DOLTAGE

What an impact it might have, if these two lines appeared in every subway station or near every electrical power plant across the country. Mmm, mmm! Make my day. One might also add to this:

PALIN IN 2012

Another possibility, tho perhaps not as kind on dolts, is what John Maynard Keynes and his buddies usta do in London early in the
20th century. They would cruise the financial district, and when they saw some bloke in a 3-piece suit and homburg hat, they would lean out the window of their car and shout,

EXCUSE ME SIR, BUT YOU SEEM TO HAVE LOST YOUR SENSE OF PERSONAL IDENTITY!

I tell ya, the possibilities are endless.

8:05 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

RE: "automatic passivity"

Well, we're all passive about one thing or another. When you and I enjoy our corned beef, do we worry too much about the inhumane conditions the animals are kept under, or the environmental impact of corn and soy feed, or the unhealthy amount of sugar and chemicals added during processing? No, probably not; it tastes too good. Are we dolts, then? Or is it a matter of choosing our battles, so as to not become overwhelmed by all the darkness around us?

12:49 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Jesus Art, leave it 2u 2 start up w/food again! I'm tellin' ya, you need yer own blog entitled 'Art's Culinary Corner'. In the case of corned beef, I don't regard eating it as a crime, so I don't feel terribly doltish abt it. At least, it doesn't seem to be in the category of not being aware of what we did in Iraq or Vietnam. But as they say, Hey, that's just me.

mb

9:30 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Tim and Marianne,

I haven't read the Jacoby article yet but will, thanks for recommending it. I know Dr. Berman is right when he says the structural defects cannot be corrected, our nation is build on a love of money and uses it to construct fantasies (many of them destructive to the planet and other countries) and the overwhelming majority want a life of ease, smart phones, reality TV, Harry Potter, simple solutions that cause them no inconvience, slogans instead of policies, and are terrified the science of global warming is real so they deny it. I could count on one hand the number of people I know who ever ask themselves a difficult question or would ever acknowledge their complicity in the mess the US has created and wish to blame our problems on illegal immigrants, "terrorists", etc. But I see the casualties of the American Dream and their pain and struggles are very real. Moms returning to work a couple of weeks after giving birth b/c they have to pay the rent, kids taking psychotropic drugs prescribed by doctors seduced by big "consulting" fees, workers' hours slashed to maintain profits and on and on. I don't mean this as insipid sentimentality and am not a "bleeding heart liberal." I've worked in direct contact with people for over thirty years and have seen first hand the effects of our greed, indifference, cruelty and exploitation. Intellectuals can maintain an intellectual distance (and I'm not implying any criticism with this comment) and I'm not an intellectual. To me, it's a paradox that we can actively create the conditions of our own destruction and be perfectly blind to it.

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Seems like I hit a nerve, and I don't think it's because I started up with food again. You were pretty hard on Susan's handyman; I was just trying to point out that all of us are a little doltish about something. Forgive me for asking one of those "uncomfortable questions".

1:06 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Art-

Sorry to disappt u, but u didn't hit any nerves (altho I understand that's what u keep trying to do; u must be exhausted by now); quite wide of the mark, in fact. I have nothing personal against Susan's handyman, despite what u think. Nor does eating corned beef bother me in the least, or make me a dolt, imo. But it does seem to me that the food thing is getting a bit old...guess I hit a nerve?

mb

2:20 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Susan,

Believe me, I understand your empathy for those being destroyed by the very forces they support -- or have been trained to support, and never to question. I know many of them myself.

I think just about everyone wants a reasonably satisfying, meaningful life. It's just that so many can't see they're being encouraged & directed to pursue unattainable illusions, the promise of perfect & everlasting happiness, free of pain, free of ambiguity, free of responsibility.

It's an alluring, seductive offer, and I won't pretend that I haven't felt it myself over the years. Marx's famous line about religion being the opiate of the people is often taken as a sneer, when it's actually a recognition that pain & suffering absolutely demand some sort of surcease, even if it's an illusion.

So people who have been taught that consuming more more more will make them happy quite naturally go after it, and find that it doesn't help. Maybe even more will finally do the trick? Go after it!

The result? Disposable batteries in the Matrix, assimilated & replaceable units of the Borg -- is it any wonder such imagery abounds in contemporary mythmaking fiction?

It's a hell they've been programmed to pursue & embrace, even at the cost of their lives, and certainly of their souls. I see it & I'm torn between pity & horror & helplessness.

3:02 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Tim,

Thanks for your response. What it feels like to me when I hear a story like my handyman's or see the young nurse I know return to work three weeks after her baby's born is a slow, steady dehumanizing process where people are blocked from even simple, human desires being fulfilled. And these are replaced by what? The county's tax bills, the hospital corporation's P & L statement? That's why I hate it. I know, as a county, we're getting what we deserve with our love of money and power. I do think consent was manufactured and sold as a bill of goods called The Good Life.

6:29 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Susan-

Maybe karma applies to nations as well as to individuals...just a thought.

mb

6:50 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Probably right. The land he wanted to put his Palm Harbor home on we stole from the Mexicans who stole it from the Indians and most babies born in slavery didn't have much of a chance to bond with their mothers either. So the wheel of suffering rolls on.

7:28 AM  
Anonymous Nocti said...

For Morris and those who have bought A Question of Values, I've been meaning to ask:

Are you satisfied with the quality of the book as a physical object? How would you evaluate the quality of the typesetting, layout, binding, paper, and print? In other words, does it seem like a "real" book, or yet another semi-shoddy print-on-demand? product? Do you feel you received value for your money?

Not a burning or a topical issue, but I am just curious, as I may have to go this route myself, one day.

9:24 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Nocti-

I thought Amazon did a gd job. The only thing I'm slightly unhappy with is the size of the font, and I had no way of predicting how it would look on the page, from the sample they sent me online. With this particular font, 12-pt comes off looking a bit too large. Had I known, I wd have asked for 11-pt. But this seems like a small issue, all told.

mb

9:54 AM  
Anonymous Nocti said...

Thanks, Morris. Since you've also had books published by quality academic houses, I figure you'd be in a good position to compare.

Last question about this, but I'm also curious: Do you retain all rights, as well? In other words, if an actual publisher some day wanted to publish A Question of Values, do you have carte blanche to allow it?

1:40 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

As far as I know; and apparently this does happen if a bk is very successful. I.e., a "regular" publishing house will come along and buy it from Amazon, and author gets royalties etc. I did mention it to my agent, but as we are working on another bk rt now (the 3rd in the "America" series), he told me One thing at a time, bro.

9:20 PM  

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