November 26, 2010

FYI: Truthdig Review of "Question of Values"

68 Comments:

Anonymous Kelvin said...

Great review! But "introspective Americans?" When pigs fly!

11:50 AM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

This review should boost sales of the book past 100.

Some early commenters have taken issue with Nomi Prins' statement: "...any hope of resurrecting ourselves as a nation begins with a keener awareness of who we really are and why..."

One wrote: "Howard Zinn's point that the interest of the gov't and the interests of we, the individual citizens are not the same...That the gov't ignores the will of the people is termed 'democracy gap' by Chomsky."

It's hard to see the whole truth, even at Truthdig.

1:55 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Art-

I'm actually up to 153, and Amazon ranking is at 751 (this out of 7.5 million bks); but I have not quite yet recouped the $830 I had to invest to publish the book, and the villa in Tuscany, I fear, isn't any closer. Boo hoo.

Yeah, it's interesting to me how formulaic the Left is in this country, not much better than the Palinites. Zinn studied social movements; Chomsky, foreign policy. Neither examined the cultural history of the US, domestic economy/values/behavior. So their devotees can trot out notions of 'multiculturalism', 'democracy gap', and 'manufactured consent', ignoring the work of David Potter (especially--"People of Abundance," 1954; see my discussion of his thesis in DAA), Sacvan Bercovitch, Walter Hixson, Walter McDougall, Wm A. Wms, et al. Potter does an excellent job of showing that even when historians argue vs. the notion of a national character, they can't avoid using it as an unconscious working assumption; it's always there. The notion that there's a democracy gap because (e.g.) Americans are opposed to the Iraq war is a joke: Americans are opposed to war only when we are losing it, or when there's no quick resolution. If it's a "good" war (Gulf War of 91, early Vietnam, etc.) they are over-the-top patriotic (ie jingoistic). In fact, during Vietnam, the majority were enraged at the protesters, not at the soldiers who were napalming babies and burning villages. As for manufactured consent: the 'false consciousness' arg. can only be pushed so far. Chomsky's belief (or Moore's) that the corps have pulled the wool over the eyes of our countrymen is comforting if yer a progressive, but the truth is that the wool has *become* the eyes. John Steinbeck said it best when he remarked that in the US, the poor regard themselves as 'temporarily embarrassed millionaires.' Americans don't hate Babbitt (Upton Sinclair) or Lloyd Blankfein; they want to *be* Babbitt and Blankfein--that's their idea of the good life. The bottom line is that we are about as multicultural as a guitar with one string, when push comes to shove. When Janis Joplin sang, "Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz," as a satire of American aspirations, she was actually singing the national anthem.

We cannot, of course, wake the Palinites up; but it seems to me that the so-called left is almost as deluded. But I do understand their fear: once you recognize that the American people are *not* in conflict with the powers that be, you have to come to terms w/the fact that there are no levers of serious social change available, and that it's essentially Game Over. At that point, you become a supporter of Palin, agitate for the tearing down of the 42nd St. Library and construction of a parking lot, look forward to Rupert Murdoch owning all the newspapers in the country, and to Goldman Sachs taking over the health insurance business...

Sarah! Have my babies! Sex in the snow! Etc.

mb

4:17 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Sarah! Pls don't refudiate me. Together we shall stand up for North Korea. Don't believe what they tell u: it's yer mind I'm after, not yer body; yer frontal lobes, and that adorable corpus callosum of yours. We shall consummate our union on the ice floes of Alaska, and polar bears will smile upon us. We shall look out at Russia, and become experts in US foreign policy. Katie Curic and Barbara Bush will eat their hearts out w/jealousy, and we shall give birth to little Palinberms, the vanguard of the New America.

What is love? ’tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What’s to come is still unsure:
In delay there lies no plenty;
Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty [or fifty, what the heck],
Youth’s a stuff will not endure.

(Forgive me, folks; I seem to be suffering some kind of mental breakdown here. As the US collapses, so do I, apparently.)

7:21 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Morris,

You're in danger of committing a Palin-drome (sorta):

"Harass Sarah"

9:12 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Hmm. "Harass Sarah's Ass" might be a bit closer. But in truth, all I wanna do is honeymoon w/her on an ice floe in Alaska. Is that so much to ask?

9:34 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Americans are not even opposed to a war that's long and unwinnable anymore. Glenn Greenwald points out that today marks the point at which the US is in Afganistan longer than the Russians were. Where are the protests? The media continues to call the murderers uh, soldiers heros and politicians of all stripes (there really is only one stripe)continue to say that we need to support the troops because they are there defending our way of life without asking what is there about our way of life worth defending? This question never get asked and of course never will. So the good doctor is right. The only viable thing the Left can do in the US is try to prevent full blown fascism from taking power. But like everything else they'll probably fuck this up too.

9:50 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dan-

I guess some polls show a general disapproval of the two wars, but what that amounts to in practice is not clear. Anyway, we are in Afghanistan to defend Burger King and American Idol, that much *is* clear. If America was ever represented by Miles Davis or Emily Dickinson, those days are long gone. As for the so-called Left, a worse case of cranial-rectal impactment I have yet to find.

mb

10:34 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Dan,

Great points! Perhaps we should remain in Afghanistan (graveyard of empires), invade Iran, and start a war with North Korea so that, on the model of the Roman emperors Tiberius and Hadrian, we over-extend the Empire until it just implodes or vanishes into thin air.

11:50 AM  
Anonymous Jason said...

Didn't seem like many of the commenters (commentators?) had actually read the book and were discussing their own posts rather than MB's book or even the review...

2:02 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Jason-

Even worse, not a peep from Sarah, altho she knows what I feel abt her. I tell ya, women can be so cruel. Of course, she might have a more tropical honeymoon in mind...

mb

4:34 PM  
Blogger PALOBLANCO-CAJANEGRA said...

Querido Mauricio:

As I went threw the article, I remembered many of your ideas that came to my mind, and I guess the same happened to all of us who have followed you during this time. I haven’t recieved the book yet, still waiting for it, remember Temuco is closer to the south pole than it is to Palm Beach. Liked Nomi Prins article, and with all do respect she looks very pretty and interesting. Loved the comment and critic she made about Kakutani’s article on Dark Ages, a precise and elegant way of saying your theory is correct, and Kakutani’s reaction in that moment is exactly the problem of how US’ers interprete the thing’s others say about them and their “life style”. About Conspiracy v/s C, second point: US as a “being” (which is more than a religion as Nomi points out) is one of your topics that has most puzzled me. And I see it as a concrete self-ilusión to touch, that an individualist replaces with “being in touch” with others. This I believe is a basic that sustains the US model. But keeping in touch with the comunity, family and friends, and making something sustantial about that, can slow down the need for individualism in love with this “being” that takes it all, with out touching and feeling the real world.

Mision acomplished! I hope you do great with your book and it gives you calm and peace to keep writing and sharing your great material and experiences with all of us. Take care amigo and “VIVA MEJICO LINDO”!(Although a villa in Tuscany sounds great). Anyway, got some great boleros I will send for you and sarah from down here the south pole, boleros that warm the heart in cold circunstances.

Un abrazo

6:05 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Andres Amigo-

Good to hear from you, as usual. Please don't move to the south pole; Sarah and I will be honeymooning on the ice floes there, and don't want to be disturbed. Although I do look forward to the boleros; very kind of you. As for the huge cash flow coming my way, it's more like a trickle from this book, but I'm happy QOV is out there and that those who are interested can read it. Lastima, Toscana is a long ways off. Be sure to look out for the castellano version, Cuestion de valores, this spring. Meanwhile, portate bien, and perhaps I'll see you before too long.

abrazo fuerte,
mb

10:09 AM  
Blogger Gary A-- said...

There's a reference to Twilight in Anis Shivani's review of The Death of The Liberal Class by Chris Hedges. (if no one else has pointed it out.)


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anis-shivani/pessimism-porn-chris-hedges_b_788504.html

11:09 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

From *News of the Weird* by Chuck Shepherd:

"Clownmania: 1) Performers in New York's traveling Bindlestiff Family Cirkus protested in October against political campaign language referring to Washington, D.C. as a circus. Said Kinko the Clown, 'Before you call anyone in Washington a clown, consider how hard a clown works.'

2) Tiririca the Clown ('grumpy' in Portuguese), a professional clown, was elected by resounding vote to the Brazilian Congress from Sao Paulo in October under the slogan 'It can't get any worse'..."

I also learned that "coulrophobia" means "fear of clowns," and that this fear ranks third in Britain ("after spiders and needles").

I hazard the guess that coulrophobia is either nonexistent or ranks very low on the list of U.S. phobias. After all, we're a nation of clowns. Barnum & Bailey etc.

12:52 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Kel-

Many thanx for useful info. Keep in mind, however, that Kramer had a terror of clowns.

mb

1:00 PM  
Blogger Cj said...

Hi Dr. Berman, here's a link to an article you may find of interest:

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-gabler-zuckerberg-20101128,0,7889675.story

Chuck

1:26 PM  
Anonymous Paul said...

In addition to the Review of Chris Hedges there's a great interview with him on CBC radio.

http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/2010/11/nov-0210---pt-3-american-liberalism.html

3:15 PM  
Anonymous kkonkauai said...

Dear Mr. Berman,

I read two of your books while I was earning my degree in Native American Studies. I can't remember which one contains your discussion re: the U.S. and what kind of society it is that plunks down their children in front of T.V.s ; puts animals in zoos and all the Native peoples in reservations???

Please help! It's is driving me nuts trying to remember.

Mahalo from Hawaii,

KK

4:23 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

KK-

I think it was "Coming to Our Senses." Still available on Amazon or from the distributor, Book Clearing House (bookch@aol.com) in Harrison NY.

Aloha,
mb

4:33 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Morris,

Robert Kuttner's *The Sqandering of America* (2007, 1 year after DAA) presents the argument that a regulated U.S. economy is not presently possible because of massive propaganda to the contrary, but we could have it again as in the period from 1948 to 1973. Who are the perps of this massive propaganda? Isn't this Chomsky's false consciousness argument? And can we once more have a regulated capitalism? Is that a realistic expectation now?

On the other hand, Kuttner presents the economic issues in a way that I, a tyro in these matters, can grasp and his book complements DAA in useful ways. I know you cited Kuttner in DAA.

In spite of Kuttner's "optimism," his book ranks lower than DAA on Amazon's Bestsellers Rank.

I'm looking forward to getting my copy of QOV come the 1st.

10:35 PM  
Blogger Neb said...

It's easy for me to put praises to MB being in his amen corner.

But do you want a review to laugh or groan with? George Packer for the New Yorker reviews George Bush's "Decision Points"

The review startles and cracks me up at how dichotomous Bush's uhmmm, thiinking(?) is. You want shades of gray? Situational
ambiguity? What are you, a terrorist?

I'm thinking this book could be hysterical. I may very well get it. I can only imagine Sarah Palin's presidential memoirs could top this. And that may very well be worth the vote.

11:31 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Let me recommend Eric Wilson's superb little book, Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy, which lyrically & powerfully dissects the American obsession with happiness & distraction.

One point that he makes is that the need to avoid anything too troubling or disturbing, anything that requires reflection & suffering, winds up making the so-called "happiness" everyone pursues something desperate & horribly superficial.

A short quote:

If I reduce my teeming environment to a strategy for salvation or a plan for savings, then I perceive the landscape only through the window of my own desire for perfect happiness, for total security and contentment. In other words, I see only what fits into the grids of my own mind, networks devoted solely to my personal comfort. I'm not interested in the objective world. I am attuned only to those parts that I can transform into material to boost my ego. Wherever I look, I experience myself. I flatten the vast universe into a small round mirror onto which I project my blissful visions. I see surrounding me, whether I'm on mountain or sea, my own grimaced grin.

Sound familiar?

8:16 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

And from Michael Ventura's latest column:

http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/Issue/
column?oid=oid%3A1115340

First line:

"Barack Obama and Sarah Palin are actually the same person."

8:30 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Tim-

Ventura might be rt, but I sure as hell ain't gonna be honeymooning w/Barack on an ice floe in Alaska anytime soon, I'll tell u that.

Kel-

There's a section in DAA where I document the $3 billion poured into a right-wing propaganda campaign by Mellon Scaife and other wealthy conservative families since the late 70s. This is real. The impressive thing is how the American public swallowed it whole. Again, if you go back to the late 16C, we were already a 'nation' of hustlers with a 'me-first' slogan, so all of this was a natural progression. My pt is that Americans believe the Reaganite vision down to their socks, because it is a consumer-capitalist culture down to its socks. The alternative tradition (Thoreau, Emerson, Mumford, Jimmy Carter) never really had much of a chance.

mb

9:45 AM  
Blogger Mike Cifone said...

Dear Cj et al.,

Check out this review of both the film "Social Network" and Lanier's new book *You Are Not A Gadget*:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles
/archives/2010/nov/25/generation-why/

Makes good reading along with the LA Times article.

Now, even the ad-heavy socialite-pandering Philadelphia Magazine ran an article this week on the oft-repeated "the Internet is making us stupider" thesis (nicely argued by Carr in Atl. Mo.), which makes me wonder: is it now radical chic to be critical of F-bk, Twitter, and the Internet generation? I am worried.

I take it (from previous discussions) that once a critical thesis -- a negative thesis -- becomes radical chic, it gets drained of its truly critical power, and becomes, dialectically, an un-negative, and un-critical stance; that is, is becomes other-than-it-self: what was once a denial, becomes an affirmation: I am pro anti-F'bk. The affirmation becomes un-critical because the original negation has consumed itself, and no longer struggles against something definite (F'bk, etc.); rather, it struggles to emerge as a positive claim and so looses the force of the original negation.

In its new form -- as an assertion of a negative -- it looses the critical basis upon which the negation originally rested, and so becomes merely an "assertive" criticism, which can be easily repeated because it's been shorn of the necessary detail. This is easily brought to the very object of the original criticism itself (F'bk), where it can be safely considered, a neutralized conceptual manipulation.

In this way, the Internet is a perfect tool to destroy criticism: text, still the medium of (rapid, instant) communication is itself minimized and, as the Times article put it, the irrelevancies tend to drown out everything else.

11:21 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Mike-

I confess I got a bit of a headache rdg yr message. It reminded me of the centipede who finally cdn't walk because he began observing all of his legs. One can cut thru all of this like the Gordian knot: what are the facts--of increasing stupidity, cognitive damage, inability to contextualize, etc.? Pretty well established by Carr, Christine Rosen, and a whole host of researchers around the US. I don't thing we need to worry too much here about the negation of the negation etc., in other words. The data are in, and they are pretty clear.

mb

11:49 AM  
Blogger Neb said...

Tim, thx for the article. Ventura said

"...Obama swept into the nomination on the enthusiasms of people too young to know better and people who should have known better but were entranced ..."

Who are those who should've known better? If they existed they coulda rallied around Kucinich.

Anyway post 2012 is set. I'm just wondering how soon I'll be required to pray with co-workers before work starts.

12:19 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Hi Morris,

I found the Mellon Scaife documentation on pp. 154-155 of DAA and footnote 74 on page 349. You conclude that section by saying:

"If you doubt for a moment that there is a 'vast, right-wing conspiracy' in this country, you must be living on another planet. (p. 155 of DAA)."

Could you expound further on the fallacy of the false-consciousness argument as you see it? I guess I haven't grasped it. Is it that Americans are not innocent dupes of right-wing propaganda (= false consciousness) but that they fervently subscribe to it [we poor people will be moving on up, it's just that our turn hasn't arrived yet] and don't view it as propaganda at all?

1:00 PM  
Blogger Mike Cifone said...

Dear Morris,

Yes, I should have hit "delete" before I posted. Still, none of that research is really meaningful unless you see it as a meaningful whole, which is what philosophy tries to do; what you see, I think, is an idea working itself out as history. Question is, what is the idea and its dynamics? That's where philosophical thinking becomes tied to the idea/history.

This isn't the place, though, to try and work that out. Sorry to give you a headache, but that's the price you pay for attempting something philosophical. It's made worse by the format of a 'blog', so again, apologies.

2:53 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Kel-

Yeah, I think u got it. I'll be expanding on this more in my new bk, out next yr; but to put the diff between myself and Moore/Chomsky in a starker light: their model of what happened is rape (i.e., mind-rape), and my model is consensual sex. I cd give tons of examples of this, and do; but my favorite quote is from John Steinbeck, who wrote that "In the US, the poor regard themselves as temporarily embarrassed millionaires."

mb

3:23 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Kelvin,

That's the impression I get -- all too many Americans willingly buy into the mainstream model (or illusion, if you will), because they desperately want it to be true, and they've convinced themselves that they'll somehow be among the lucky few to come out on top.

But as Lily Tomlin once said, "Even if you win the rat race, you're still a rat."

3:23 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Ah, yes, I see...WOW...

Mind-rape vs. consensual sex makes it starkly clear.

4:23 PM  
Anonymous Al Cardiale said...

I am talking up your work everywhere. I've followed you for a very long time.

I have recommended you to readers on Alternet.com. Some are with you and don't know it...other's need your help!

Al Cardinale

4:31 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Al-

Many thanx. I did write Alternet, some guy there, because I had a personal connection to him. Of course, he didn't even bother to reply--par for the course. Why be polite when u can just hit Delete? is the idea, I guess. Getting any visibility is an uphill struggle.

mb

10:54 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Hi Tim,

Thank you for Tomlin's tautological joke: only rats can win rat races.

The phrases "willingly buy into the mainstream model (or illusion, if you will)," "desperately want it to be true," "they've convinced themselves" seem to imply "false consciousness." Anyway, my "aha" moment has fled and I'm once again puzzled.

I appreciate your thoughts and beautiful quotations.

Morris,

From where does the phrase "false consciousness" come? What does it mean? Who first used it?

3:47 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Here's how OED defines "false consciousness."

false consciousness n. (in later use esp. in Marxist theory) a belief or outlook that (supposedly) prevents a person from being able to discern the true nature of his or her (social or economic) situation.

Ger. falschen Bewustein

My comment: the parenthetical "supposedly" reveals the lexicographer's scepticism about the possibility of false consciousness. Is the explanation for this that the OED is a capitalist production?

4:22 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Kel-

falsche Bewusstsein. I believe Marx introduces the concept in his discussion of religion as the 'opium of the people,' but I'm not positive. The skepticism exists because one can never know another person's motives or beliefs for sure; and then he or she may not either. (Do any of us really know ourselves?) The whole thing is thus very tricky. Yes, I do believe that the brainwashing that goes on in the US, esp. re: the joys of the consumer society, is very powerful. On the other hand, what do you do if:

1. That 'joy' goes back 400 years, and the whole country is, in that sense, brainwashed? Does this mean that it's just a superficial culture?
2. The individuals in that culture *really* believe that owning objects is what life is about, and that 'ideals' are just so much b.s.?
3. There is a significant percentage of that population--possibly as high as 1/3 in case of contemporary US--who are poor, and who would indeed have a much better life if they had food/clothing/shelter and perhaps a phone and a car and a sofa and a stereo system and a few CDs?
4. Someone has a sacred experience (out-of-the-body or whatever) that they feel is more Real than real, and thus cannot be persuaded that this is an 'opiate' or something false?
5. Marxism itself becomes 'the opium of the intellectuals' (Raymond Aron)?

You get the idea...

mb

4:57 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Oops, sorry: I think it's falsches Bewusstsein (neuter gender). Scheisse!

5:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Damn, Dr. Berman, where have you been all my life?

I'm an old lefty with more books than devices (this being my only indulgence which, without it, I might not have ever found your work). I don't even have a cell phone.

There is no longer a left of any worth--today's "activists" have been supplanted by so-called liberals and libertarians--weak and ineffective tools, the new "chic" of a country going down, the same bought consumers as the rest of the population. They want their electronica and weed--that's what makes them happy, and concerned, if you want to call it that.

And it's pure hell living in the south in a conservative county in a conservative state in a conservative country. It has been, always will be until people come to their senses. I don't see that happening. Otherwise, $arah Palin (my name for her is Twitler) would be still making moose stew in Wasilla.

6:51 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Kelvin,

My fault for not phrasing it properly, I'm afraid!

My feeling is that most people know, on some inner level, that they've bought into a lie, an empty system. But they also know that they willingly bought into it, consciously accepted the deal: "Abdicate your responsibilities as citizens & whole human beings, and in return we'll keep you safe & happy with tons of great stuff."

It's why so many react so defensively if you question their worldview, however gently or tentatively. If they really felt it was strong, they'd just shrug it off. But they know that they've sold their birthright for a mess of pottage. Somewhere inside, deep within the gaping hole that tons of great stuff can't ever fill, they know that they've agreed to their own degradation.

It's rather like Dante's explanation of damnation in The Inferno -- in the end, no matter what the external pressures & factors, each individual ultimately makes a conscious choice to be damned.

As MB put it (so to speak), "Sure, let's screw! I'm screwed anyway, so what does it matter? " And they're screwed because they refuse to look beyond what they've bought. If they admitted what they've lost, what they've willingly forsaken, it might be too much to bear.

And one more thing. To break free of that Faustian bargain requires work & suffering & sacrifice. Even though they're suffering right now, at least it's suffering they're familiar with ... and there's certainly enough great stuff to distract them from it, right? Temporarily, anyway ...

7:55 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

By the way, when I talk about buying into the lie, I'm not excluding myself. I did plenty of that for most of my life! And found plenty of justifications for it, too.

8:00 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Anon-

Well, I don' own a cell phone either (thank god), nor a TV (the absence of which has significantly improved my life). But pls be careful abt what u say abt Sarah: I expect to be eating moose stew w/her on our honeymoon. We plan to make love on the ice floes, and she shall have my babies (aka Palinberms). Meanwhile, we might as well elect her pres, since the Left (whatever that means anymore) is a total pile of goat turds (speaking as kindly as I can). Anyway, I'm glad u found us here--we're called the DAA42, i.e. 42 people who participate in the blog abt Dark Ages America--and we try to tell it like it is and avoid any bloviation abt how the US is going to turn itself around and become some sort of enlightened political entity. Our goal is to analyze the depth of the kaka in which we find ourselves, the origins of it, and its intensity in future years. From that pt of view, we worship not only Sarah, but also Glenn Beck. Slogans for 2012 include:

PALINDROME, BRING IT HOME!

and

GLENN BECK, WHAT THE HECK!

You get the idea...

mb

10:05 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Here's a link to Derrick Jensen interviewed on Democracy Now!

http://www.democracynow.org/2010/11/15/author_and_activist_derrick_jensen_the

11:37 AM  
Anonymous Paul said...

After reading through about half of QOV I thought it only fitting to follow up with a little video I recently ran across as a glimpse of our 'national' holiday spirit courtesy of Youtube...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOshw4kIGR4&feature=player_embedded

As you've so eloquently pointed out in your books and on this blog - the nature of the beast in his final comments with the flag waving in the background. "we're better than this"? Really? Getting trampled for a $198 laptop?

"This 'is' the American way". Praise VISA...

2:05 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Here's another small but telling indicator:

http://www.salon.com/life/feature/
2010/12/02/steve_martin_92y_fiasco

From the article:

After a talk on Manhattan's Upper East Side between an art critic and the author of a book about the art world, a sold-out audience of 900 has been granted a refund because the conversation focused too much on art.

Apparently they wanted "King Tut," movie anecdotes, and balloon animals from Steve Martin. "Art? Who wants to hear about art?!?"

I notice that one of the first posts in response to this article directs readers to Idiocracy ...

12:31 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Honestly, if u just keep the image in your mind of 310 million people with their heads rammed up their asses, rolling around like doughnuts (while clasping cell phones), you have a pretty good explanation of why the decline of this nation cannot be reversed. (This is not quite as satirical as it sounds.)

12:42 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

MB,

What a bizarre yet plausible image that conjures up! Like something out of a science-fiction novel by a modern Swift, except that as you say, it's really not fiction.

Another post responding to the Steve Martin article:

It's long been a degenerate, exploitative rat race for artists in the U.S., the real dumb down is coming with college students taking the same attitudes about their professors' lectures.

Kelvin,

Thank you for the Derrick Jensen link. What he says is all too true, I'm afraid -- and I say this as one who loves & cherishes the best that a civilized society has to offer, and considers its disappearance a tragedy. I'll miss Miles Davis & Emily Dickinson & Paul Klee & Aristophanes & ...

Paul,

That video pretty much says it all, doesn't it? There's your real Race To The Top!

12:59 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Dear Morris,

Finished QOV. Felt that feeling of longing and sadness and disturbance that your books usually induce in me. But I cherish those feelings--at least I can still feel something!

For me, the following words are piercing:

"You'd better enjoy life while you can, because it's over pretty quickly, and you are going to be dead for a very long time [nox est una perpetua dormienda, as Catullus expressed it.] (QOV, p. 120)."

I like the bald expression of that notion.

On some level I know that's true but it's something I like to keep buried because it's too painful to confront--the anger at having been defrauded.

Thank you.

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Morocco Bama said...

Morris, I know it must chafe your hide as much as it does mine when puffed up, effete faux journalists like Tom Brokaw talk about the Greatest Generation. What complete horseshit. Greatest Generation, my ass. It was during that Greatest Generation that the Corporate State built its firm foundation and formidable base. Talk about selling your moral birthright. And, let's not forget, this Greatest Generation to whom Brokaw so fondly refers spawned the loathsome Baby Boom Generation.

Of course, to attempt to describe an entire set of people who fall into a specific birth date range monolithically is pure folly. Technically, I'm a Baby Boomer but I don't fit the description. Many do, though, I know, but what percentage is pure speculation.

The generation that brought us the bomb to end all bombs and used Japanese civilians as guinea pigs to test it. That's an awfully humorous definition of "Great."

By the way, did you not like my Charles Bukowski quote? I thought it was rather relevant and pertinent to the obvious sentiment.

6:23 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Kel-

You're welcome. Your reaction is what the Japanese call "mono no aware," a kind of melancholy feeling that is, at the same time, rather positive. I do feel that from time to time, and actually enjoy it.

At least Catullus did not write abt nox vomica; or am I thinking of nux vomica? You see what old age does.

mb

9:17 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Morris,

What refinement! No wonder the Japanese treated us like chumps.

Tim,

I guess we'll be in our night of one, unbroken sleep before civilization comes crashing down. But you have a point. I love Mozart, Haydn, etc. but I need an orchestra to play the music. That requires a whole host of materials and social arrangements that only a civilization can provide. On the other hand, modern industrial civilization has to date ravaged resources and the environment. But where's the political will to slow down the juggernaut? Japan opposes the extension of the Kyoto Protocols beyond 2012 (that fateful year) and people aren't expecting that much will be achieved at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Cancún, Mexico.

10:50 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Morris,

A book by Chogyam Trungpa, *Shambhala*, expresses that refined feeling of melancholy, or the enhancement of beauty in the midst of the ephemeral. It describes a secular way of life imbued with beauty inspired by the traditions of Asia, particularly the ancient cultures of China, Japan, Korea, and Tibet.

There's a program of study with five levels and advanced courses. I went to level one some years ago and during the Q&A blurted out to the preceptor my impression of how "romantic" I found some of the sentiments that Trungpa expressed in the book. I asked him if I was off base but he said that actually those notions are very intense and defined in those cultures.

I did not stick with the program but it did leave an impression that I'd like to explore. I'd appreciate anything else you might like to say about mono no aware. It seems to be related to the different kinds of creativity that you discuss both in QOV and Coming to Our Senses. Possibly also to craft traditions including Western Medieval.

12:11 AM  
Anonymous Paul said...

Tim,

What struck me about the video wasn't so much the throngs of people trampling over each other but the person who made/posted it sounded as if it was unique to the holidays and that a dose of morals and patriotism would wake "those people" up so the rest of the "responsible people" wouldn't have to confront their own complicity in any of it. (not that I fault his concerns) Unfortunately, we're all guilty of the indulgences that this culture has ingrained in us - yet only in matters of degree. I just don't think there are many people looking into their own personal role in the perpetuation of the National myth and find it easier to rally around "truth tellers" or the flag for comfort. It's not only "those people" over there at Wal-Mart... The one's who can't control themselves. It's the whole country.

Regarding QOV - I find it revealing how desparate people are to hold onto the national myth of being such a special and deserving people. America as a religion is definitely the life blood of what keeps us going. I suppose we'd be lost if it wasn't otherwise. Either that or we'd have been something other than who we are - another extention of Europe perhaps? What might have been?

Anyway, it's a mystery people never ask why they think we 'deserve' whatever boundless pile of goodies at whatever cost to whoever gets in our way? And what meaning is to be derived from living a life in pursuit of reaching the top of that pig pile?

Some value system...

12:21 AM  
Anonymous Morocco Bama said...

that requires a whole host of materials and social arrangements that only a civilization can provide.

Christ, how I deplore that word. It is used in so many ways and so many instances, and in my opinion, due to the constraints of linguistics, really cannot describe adequately what it purports to describe. As a result, it becomes an end all be all to describe the entirety of human social structures and is afforded the distinction of being the only path to the evolution of our species, when it is in fact quite the opposite. It will be the path to our extinction.

9:40 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Yeah...it's just that I'd find it hard to live w/o corned beef, libraries, and Beethoven. What are ya gonna do?

11:02 AM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dr. Berman,

Now seems like a good time to ask: What do you think of Paul Shepard's critique of civilization?

11:43 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Hi Morris,

In QOV there's a note to the reader saying that many of the essays first appeared in Spanish translation. How have they been received? Does your work in Spanish translation circulate to other countries in Latin America?

How's your Spanish coming along? I can read and understand Spanish fairly fluently but I can't carry my part of a conversation. I'll have to seek total immersion one of these days.

3:13 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Morocco-

Can't post stuff that's too long; try cutting it down by 50%.

Kel-

The bk will be out in Spanish trans this spring, if all goes well. As to reactions to indiv. articles in journals over past 3 yrs, I have no idea.

Art-

I discuss this in the Reenchantment bk, I think, and perhaps in Wandering God, tho I can't remember exactly. And in the 'animal' chapter of coming to Our Senses, also (ch. 2, I think). Paul was a good friend of mine, in any case, and our ideas tended to overlap at a number of pts. I remember I did a very favorable rev. of one of his bks in 1982, in Orion Nature Quarterly...hard to be more specific than that, w/o plowing thru all my past work.

mb

5:59 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Morocco,

Is it civilization that will lead to our extinction or is it capitalism, crazed materialism and a total disregard for the humanity of others? When I was a freshman in college many years ago a substitute TA ditched the lecture he was supposed to give and told us about Buddhism. In the late sixties there wasn't too much on this but I managed to read a couple of books. One thing I read I've never forgotten, even if I've failed to live by it for long periods of time: we chase after the things that never made anyone happy and ignore the only things that ever did. And as far as I can tell, this has excellerated (particularly in the US) and people sell out all principle for plenty of money, popularity and influence. The story of the creation of Facebook, The Social Network, is a good example. He had one good friend and he tried to cheat him. Could all his money buy him a buddy he'd known since his dorm-room days? Threw it away for nothing.

But, on a happier note, is this the right time to offer my wishes for future happiness with your new bride, Dr. Berman? Do the two of you plan on writing your own vows? Please publish Sarah's as disciphering her sentences is always so much fun. I guess Todd is now the dead fish flowing with the current but if the two of you get married during salmon season maybe he won't notice too much. I never thought of you as a home wrecker but "faint hearts never won fair maids."

6:29 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Sue-

Yeah, Social Network was the perfect portrait of America at its 'best'. A pity Jesse Eisenberg was such a sympathetic character; the real Zuckerberg looks a lot more nerdile. Bully for him, billions of dollars, 500 million online 'friends', and nothing that really matters. Hell, he oughta marry Sarah and go make babies on ice floes, no?

Meanwhile, Sarah has not responded to my numerous messages, but then I know she's so busy w/her new book and upcoming presidential campaign. But I have no doubt I'm close to her heart. I feel a little like the central character in "A Confederacy of Dunces," I guess: the little minx, ha ha, I know she's holding out on me, but she won't be able to resist my charms, etc etc.

Meanwhile, sitting in a dr's office today rdg Que, the Mexican version of People Mag, there was an article abt Kim Kardashian, and how everybody loves her thick lips and "dangerous curves." The foto showed a gal who looked like the female equiv. of G.W. Bush, mentally speaking: a wind tunnel. This is the face of America, my friends: vapid and popular; the poster girl for Brave New World; a douche bag made up to look chic. I refrained from projectile vomiting, since this is considered rude in Mexico (at least, in public places).

mb

8:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After thinking about it, Dr. Berman, I am not surprised that alternet did not get back to you. While initially it seems a fit, you don't drink the cool-aid of the Left v. Right.

The zine leans toward extreme partisan politics, and while that might make for perspective if you are hard Right...it doesn't wash well with the reality that the government has no clothes.

Al Cardinale

7:53 AM  
Blogger Neb said...

Sarah "Twitler" Palin. How could you not like that?

Tim says, "My feeling is that most people know, on some inner level, that they've bought into a lie, an empty system. But they also know that they willingly bought into it, consciously accepted the deal..."

I respectfully disagree.

People are born into this system unconscious of the habits they form and make unconscious choices. Some then begin to See their choices and change at some pace. You know some people you'd regard as deeply unconscious - totally identified with how things are, questioning nothing. how can an unconcious person buy in? Still, it's a spectrumm - most not awake or asleep (but very tilted to the latter in this system).

4:21 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Sorry to hear Sarah's stringing you along. She's heartless. I stay current with celebrity news by reading the headlines on magazines in the checkout lane at the grocery store; for a long time I couldn't figure out who these Kardashians were until it was explained to me they were rich Californians with a surplus of trashy daughters. "The bigger fool" used to refer to business deals where you scammed someone hoping they were "the bigger fool"----now it could be changed to "if you're willing to make an even bigger fool of yourself than someone else you can be on the cover of People." Progress in the art of self promotion, no doubt about it.

Neb--

I agree the brainwashing begins at birth and we all have to wake up to the myth of our own particular culture. It's difficult in America b/c it's been so successful in suppressing the dark side of its history and glorifying its claims to being the greatest country ever to exist; most people are only dimly aware (if at all) that this is the case. Here in Texas the school board passed guidelines to literally rewrite history. It's scary this could happen but I console myself with the thought that only a few of the students will even bother to read it.

9:13 AM  
Blogger Neb said...

Sue:

It's difficult to keep my response to the history re-write effort short. I went into a loud fit at least once talking about that. I'll try this: Onward backwards.

I've met a number of Texans, been there. All smiles. Polite. And now this - the truth of where they are. What can you say.

2:24 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Neb,

You may be right, at leats in some cases. I'm assuming a certain amount of self-awareness that we take for granted; but clearly a lot of people don't have that, as it was squelched early on. It gets down to a question of how much is innate & how much is implanted, I guess.

Still, I do wonder if many of these people, at some point in their lives, feel something nagging at them, feel an emptiness inside & wonder what's causing it. Perhaps they even reach a point where they begin asking themselves whether the lifestyle they sought so avidly isn't all it's cracked up to be.

But even then, I suppose, the social programming kicks in & squelches those thoughts all over again. Not everyone wakes up from the Matrix; not everyone who becomes aware of it wants to wake up from it.

I have met people who'll reluctantly acknowledge that they've bought into an illusion, but they quickly dismiss it with a nervous joke -- because, after all, "that's just the way things are, and there's nothing you can do about it."

7:50 AM  
Anonymous Chris said...

I tried submitting this before...not sure it worked.

I ordered QoV, and Amazon took it's sweet time sending it, but it is finally on its way. You're one step closer to that Tuscan villa!

I find myself deeply saddened by the Steve Martin story.

I find myself deeply annoyed by that review of Chris Hedges' most recent book, even if there are a couple points I agree with.

Tim mentioned (someone else's mention of) Idoicracy. I recently caught the last 30 minutes or so of that movie. A little crass and silly sure, but spot-on in its overall point.

9:23 PM  
Anonymous Chris said...

Interesting follow up to that Steve Martin incident at the Y. It appears the problem may have been other than first assumed:

http://emdashes.com/2010/11/steve-martin-and-deborah-solom.php

Cf. Martin's reception at a similar interview in LA:

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/jacketcopy/2010/12/i-saw-steve-martin-talk-about-art-and-it-didnt-suck.html

10:24 PM  

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