February 06, 2011

100

Well, gang, whoda thunk it? This is the 100th post! I don't have anything particular to say on this occasion, but I wanted to mark the milestone. Nearly 5 yrs ago, when I was cruelly forced into doing this, I figured I would attract 3 or 4 contributors, that the blog wd last abt 3 or 4 mos., end of story. And here we are, with no less than 42 correspondents, and almost 5 yrs to our credit. Sometimes I think: Maybe I shd change the format, and just report bowling scores of various leagues around the country. Or perhaps post the average GPA's at all of the community colleges in the US, month by month. But then it's so much fun documenting our collapse, and depressing each other w/stories of life in the US, that I figure we shd just limp merrily along, doing what we do best. So a salute, then, to all of us, and I'm hoping u can join Sarah and myself north of the Arctic Circle for our nuptials, shortly after her election in 2012. It's lookin' good, no doubt abt it...xoxo, mb

64 Comments:

Anonymous Ray said...

Congrats!

To mark the 100th, what about a hardcopy archive somewhere, someway? Leibovitzian paper, Nag Hammadi papyrus, or Rosetta Stone stone, when the grid goes down some sort of permanent trace of our mutual conversations should survive for future versions of Morris to document their arguments about the decline of rationality (and the consternation about it) etc. etc. etc. in the long twilight changover from Our Times to Theirs.

Best to all.

2:30 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Ray-

Many thanx. Actually, one of the Leibovitzian papers was a delicatessen grocery list, I believe. That subject has been a very popular one on this blog; I believe a full 18% of our talk has been devoted to chopped liver. Sadly, we lack a hardcopy for this.
The real question is whether we shall all get to 200.

Hugs,
mb

3:01 PM  
Blogger dg said...

Huzzah!

For what it's worth, thanks for your books and your blog. You're a dram o' tonic to help me cope with my lizard-brained contemporaries.

I wish I could reciprocate, but after 30 years,
I suspect all those long tongues and flies have taken their toll on what remains of my intellect.

Much Thanks

4:26 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

dg-

Many thanx. However, u give yer contemporaries much too much credit. After all, lizards are alert, and know where they are going.

mb

5:17 PM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

Make it to 200? I dunno.....Look at the big pharma brochure I found in my mailbox:

LITRAVIN (tm) has proven to be an effective literacy preventive if taken as directed in a conscientiously applied program to suppress, control, and in some cases completely eradicate the disturbing symptoms of Spontaneous Literacy OutBreak Syndrome (aka SLOBS) which may be indicated by any of the following symptoms. While these symptoms are not evident in the population at large, those suffering from them may prove unsociable, philosophical, paradoxically inspired, while unbearably realistic in their outlook:

1. Having ready any classic in Western or Oriental literature and having it hold your attention span for more than 10 minutes to 30 minutes a day over a five day period (Mild)

2. Having read any classic in Western or Oriental literature in its original language, (Moderate)

3.Having read...etc.....and then suffering the delusion that it actually spoke to you, changed your views, or made you seriously reflect on your life, the culture you are in, and the direction they are going.(Severe)

4. Seeking and finding literary nourishment on the world wide web, by visiting and contributing to statistically insignificant blogs such as "Dark Ages America" whose founder is unabashedly in denial about SLOBS in his life, and is an enabler of this behavioral pattern. (Crisis level: Extra-strength dosage may be of no help.)

Possible Side Effects: There are none. Neither inside nor out. Enjoy the perfect bliss of the unaware.

Join the thousands who have taken LITRAVIN (tm) and say:

"Duh?,,,,,What tsunami?"
-----
Congratulations on the 100th!

Mark

6:04 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Your 100th post, Reagan's 100th celebration, and Super Bowl Sunday too...but the coincidences mean nothing, of course. What *does* mean something: I am grateful (beyond words, really) for this blog and many contributors, for the inspirations and moral support. And enjoy the guacamole!

6:11 PM  
Blogger Nebris said...

Ronnie Rayguns @ 100

http://community.livejournal.com/the_recession/744282.html

Ironic timing, MB.

7:36 PM  
Blogger JOHN A. McCURDY: Biographies, Autobiographies, Memoirs, Oral Histories, Organizational Histories said...

Dear Morris,

Though I don't always get a chance to read all of your posts word for word, I do want you to know how much I appreciate the ones I'm able to get to, and how good it feels to know you have this web presence. I wish we had the ability to communicate this way back in the 1990s when I first started collecting your books.

Best,

John

7:53 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Thank u all for yer support. I've mashed up some Litravin in my guacamole, but hafta tell u all I'd much prefer a lg platter of chopped liver. In fact, I think all of u can guess which of the following I wd choose, if there was a genie come out of a bottle to grant me one, but only one, wish:

1. I get to pee on Mr. Obama's shoes (Guccis, I presume)on national TV (while he's wearing the shoes, of course)
2. I win the Pulitzer, retroactively, for every bk I've ever written
3. Sarah and I appear on the front cover of People Mag as "Couple of the Year"
4. A helicopter lands on the roof of my house with a large platter of chopped liver, direct from the Stage Deli

A no-brainer, eh?

8:51 PM  
Blogger took_the_red_pill said...

Litravin (tm), huh? Kind of like Dylar (tm) from "White Noise"? I'm telling you, there's a screenplay in there somewhere. Of course, the only people who will likely get the joke are the DAA 42.

Apropos, "White Noise" was optioned years ago by one of the Hollywood studios, but so far the project has gone nowhere. Apparently, De Lillo's writing doesn't lend itself to lots of gratuitous car chases, explosions, etc. And after all, Hollywood is making films for the same moviegoing public that didn't get "Idiocracy" either.

11:37 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

Salud, Maestro! and congratulations on 100. This blog is my brief respite from the Land of the Stupid. Kinda like my kit kat bar. I'm proud to be a "42er". When you and Sarah P. get married, can I be a groomsman? Maybe you can partner me up with a hot and available "mama bear" bridesmaid. Then we can conquer Canada and steal all the meese and Canadian bacon.

11:47 PM  
Blogger dharmaguerilla said...

Now that the Super Bowl is over and the most deserving team won, and the guacamole and chopped liver have been consumed, how about, to honor the occasion, we embark on a thought experiment?

Imagine that Maury and all the DAA42, plus all the lurkers, are on a jet that makes an emergency landing on a remote tropical island, during a solar storm that causes us all to be stuck on the island for a year before being rescued (or evicted, depending on how it went for you).

It turns out not to be like the TV hit, Lost, but more like Lord of the Flies, but with grown-ups. (Oops, I forgot; most of us are Americans, and are essentially infantile.) The outcome is much better, because we are an aware bunch.

Anyway, we turn it into a year-long retreat, training to become facilitators of New Monasticism, as the Palin administration will be upon us when we eventually return. There are plenty of coconut palms, avocado trees, fresh lagoons, and there was a shipment of Italian and Chilean wines below that we rationed successfully. We found it right next to the cases of chopped liver.

Each of us had brought books we were reading that were on the subjects often discussed on this blog.

Forget desert-island books; I picked out a lush island that can satisfy most of our wants. There were even a bunch of cute, young athletetic types on board the flight who love to party.

Okay, when we pooled our library to study the essentials, we discovered we had the best curriculum possible.

So, what books or authors were included on the list? (Just for fun, there were also some DVDs of the most thought-provoking documentaries, dramas, and comedies, as well as`some great music CDS.)

Let the compilation begin!

12:26 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Paul-

All we really need is a copy of "Going Rogue," no? (The ultimate in spiritual food)

mb

2:21 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Dear Maury,

Thank you for your hard work in keeping this blog alive. It's my main news source! Back in the early nineties, when I read CTOS and ruminated for days about what I was reading, I never thought that I'd be talking with you and other intelligent folk on a blog [rather yucky word!].

So who's the rich hippie of the 42 who will buy us a monastery in Tuscany? Can't say that I am. We need to keep up the good talk and times and chopped liver and fine scotch as the U.S. collapses!

2:31 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Let me offer both my own congratulations & my heartfelt thanks for this blog! It's an oasis where I've met kindred souls seeking refuge from the desert of modern American culture; and one some days, it's been an outright lifeline to sanity.

I'm not a big sports fan, so the Super Bowl didn't matter all that much to me. But it's been fascinating to see just how much time has been devoted to coverage of the commercials, rather than the game itself. When I turned on the morning news for today's weather report, every news person was talking about the commercials - which ones they thought worked, which ones they liked best, and (of course) how much the networks charged for every thirty seconds of them.

Even in my less-enlightened days, I was puzzled by the number of TV shows like "America's Greatest Commercials!" Now I understand that they were simply tearing away the tissue-thin facade of "entertainment" & being utterly honest about the driving force of our times.

Over the years I seen various educators & public thinkers advocate high school, or even grade school, course in media analysis, so that children will learn to read the real messages they're getting. As if the powers that be would ever allow such a thing!

Actually, all they have to do is assure & flatter the viewers that they know the score - "Hey, we know we're not fooling you, you're so hip & smart, etc." And the viewers nod in cynical agreement & imbibe the poison anyway.

8:43 AM  
Anonymous J said...

Congratulations Mr. Berman, I just watched your 2006 interview on C-Span, nice!

Oh, one thing. You may have to come up with a pseudonym for Sarah ... (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-moret/whats-in-a-name-ask-sarah_1_b_819120.html) or you may have to pay for your wish #3!

9:21 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Thank u all, again, 4 yer appreciation. Clearly, I'm gonna hafta do post #101 in the next week or so. Meanwhile, I'm thinking of calling Sarah "My Little Lamb Chop," once we're finally engaged. Or perhaps Moose Chop, I'm not sure. But Chop definitely hasta be in there, as I'm sure you all agree.

Chop, Chop!

11:41 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: I need to add a word about imperial presidents. In the waning days of the Roman Empire, the emperors constituted a string of incompetents (Constantine excepted, of course). Really, it was one moron after another, including a few who were very young children. The very last emperor was Romulus, sometimes called in Greek "Momylos", or "little disgrace". Wikipedia adds:

"The historical record contains few details of Romulus' life. He was installed as emperor by his father Orestes, the Magister militum (master of soldiers) of the Roman army after deposing the previous emperor Julius Nepos. Romulus, little more than a child, acted as a figurehead for his father's rule. Reigning for only ten months, Romulus was then deposed by the Germanic chieftain Odoacer and sent to live in the Castellum Lucullanum in Campania; afterwards he disappears from the historical record." (This was in A.D. 476; I'm thinking we need a novel based on his post-emperor life.)

While the US hasn't yet gotten to the pt of electing child presidents, it is certainly repeating the Roman pattern of electing idiots. I recall reading Jerzy Kosinski's novel "Being There," many years ago, in which an actual moron (played brilliantly in the film version by Peter Sellers) gets nominated as the GOP VP candidate. Then--life following art--Dan Quayle became VP under Bush Sr. (also a 'feather', as Doonesbury correctly lampooned him), a man (i.e., Quayle) who didn't really know his ass from his elbow and who provoked gales of laughter every time he opened his mouth. Eventually Bush Jr. gets into the W.H., and the Roman pattern--including the phenomenon of imperial overstretch that did the empire in--is clearly manifest.

Obama is a brief interruption in that pattern. Chic, intelligent, articulate, he's clearly no moron. But his reign amounts to nothing at all, in the end; he's a ship without a rudder, a throwback to Millard Fillmore. With the Palin election in 2012, we return to the basic Roman Dolt Pattern (RDP). Just when you thought things cdn't get any dumber (Bush Jr.), a complete clown takes over the Oval Office, making decisions entirely from her 'sense' of right and wrong, reading absolutely nothing (see Katie Couric interview), and 'analyzing' major events in terms of sarcastic sound bites--that a large % of the pop. takes for wisdom.

Perhaps, in mid-reign, she will be replaced by a Chinese bureaucrat, and sent to live among the meese in a small village in Alaska, never to be heard from again. All roads do indeed lead to Rome, I guess; or at least, thru it.

12:03 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

An interview with the co-author of Academically Adrift, a new study about the decline of American education:

http://www.salon.com/life/feature/2011/02/06
/academically_adrift_interview/index.html

The comments section is largely intelligent & thoughtful, barring the occasional but inevitable troll.

Mark,

Litravin -- love it! They can market it with the slogan, "Ignorance IS bliss!"

12:43 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Tim-

More evidence for EBL's (Escalating Buffoon Levels), and fits in very well w/the discussion we were having the other day regarding teaching/education going to hell in a basket. The only problem I have w/these sorts of studies (and there are many; Susan Jacoby, e.g.), is that they rarely get connected to the other sectors of society that show evidence of decay. All of this stuff on education is not separate from the Prozac-intake rate, the incarceration rate, the gap between rich and poor, the military budget, corporate control of education and just abt everything else--etc. Thus Andrew Hacker recently wrote a bk abt higher ed going down the toilet, and concludes his subtitle with: "And What We Can Do About It." Sure, let's just focus on education itself, see that it's ailing (read: dead), and develop a Five-Point Plan. But if you recognize the interconnectedness with other sectors of society/ecconomy, then there *isn't* anything 'we can do about it', because the problem of education can only be dealt with in terms of a comprehensive overhaul of the entire society--in particular, of its economic base, and the values that go with that. Since that ain't gonna happen, I think there shd be a publishing moratorium on any books offering 'solutions' in the final chapter. Unfortunately, that ain't gonna happen either, because publishing is abt money, and 'solutions' (=illusions) sell. Showing explicitly how and why there are no solutions...this doesn't sell.

What I propose is that Harvard University Press undertake a 100-volume publication entitled "Into the Toilet." The 1st 75 vols wd deal with a different aspect of society, and be at least 500 pages long (Vol. 1: How We Hurt Our Fetuses; Vol. 2: How We Hurt Our Newborns; Vol. 3: How We Hurt Our Toddlers; Vol. 4: Killing Them In Kindergarten--you get the idea). The last 25 vols. would integrate the findings of the 1st 75, demonstrating the hopelessness and self-destructiveness of the entire situation, and how all the parts are working together synergistically to bring the nation to its end. The last page of vol. 100 would have a foto of Sarah Palin.

This wd be Harvard UP's finest hour, yes?

mb

3:20 PM  
Blogger curmudgeonwaterbury said...

Dear Morris,
I first saw you on C-span2 a few years ago and realized you had our national situation correctly analyzed. When a young man got up and yelled at you and stormed out of the room for badmouthing his beloved country, I knew you were on to something. I had to go right out and buy your book.
I have read it several times, and never fail to get something more every time I do. I have recommended it to several people. Some enjoyed it's clarity and accuracy, while some others thought I (and you) were nuts.
I was delighted to find your blog a couple of years ago, and have read it often; this is the first time I have gone to the trouble to register so that I could comment. Congratulations on still doing it.
A few months after I saw you, the local Comcast monopoly dropped C-span2 during a "service enhancement" action, saying that nobody watched that channel. At the same time, they added more shopping channels and some other junk channels. How appropriate.
You can't make this stuff up!

3:53 PM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

Dear Morris,

Congrats on the 100th post and the 5 year mark. Please keep it going.


As far as dharmaguerilla's suggestion of a book list for his/her island, I thought (for not that long) about books I go to over and over again to make sense of my world or to make it liveable. Some of these are not classics, except in my house, still....

Making sense:
1. Darwin, Charles. The Origin of Species (the foundational book of my science)
2. Harvey, David. A companion to Marx's Capital (the lazy man's way to read about the end times)
3. Zinn, Howard. A People's History of the United States (the stuff teacher wouldn't tell you but my grandpa sure did)
4. McCollester, Charles. The Point of Pittsburgh (Howard Zinn for Pittsburghers).
5. Baker, Dean. The Conservative Nanny State (socialism for the rich, explained)
6. Bageant, Joe. Deer Hunting with Jesus (opened my leftneck eyes for good)
7. Wills, Garry. Why I am a Catholic and (separately) Papal Sin (opened my Catholic eyes for good).
8. Tuchman, Barbara. The March of Folly (if she were alive, she'd obviously have new material)

The keeping life sane list:
1. Ruhlman, Michael and Poleyn, Brian. Charcuterie (how to make good cheap cured meat)
2. Kutas, Rytek. Great Sausage Recipes and Meat Curing (the sausage version of #1)
3. Fearnley-Whittinsall, Hugh. Meat (everything else)
4. Lee, Richard. Modern Reloading, second edition (keeps the meat on the table).
5. Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass (self-explanatory).

DVDs
1. Gattaca
2. Fight Club
3. On the Waterfront
4. Lawrence of Arabia.

And that about does it for round 1.

7:33 PM  
Blogger Neb said...

Prof: Congratulations and I'm glad I've been able to read along and get your depressing outlook as well as get in touch with my own inner buffoon.

But in case you do want to change gears and get more hits, you can sell your site for short of $315M (probably significantly short of *) like Arrianna and be a coporate colleague with the likes of facebook, twitter, fakeProfitsforever.com, etc.

RIP huffingtonpost.com.

7:37 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Cur-

That turkey walked in with an agenda, as it turned out. He subsequently did a review of my book in the Charlottesville VA newspaper, claiming that I was in it for the money, and that "pessimism sells." Pessimism sells? In the US? What fucking planet was he on, I thought to myself. But he did express, if in a twisted way, his desperation for something to hang on to, and got a little crazy when I told him there was nothing to hang on to. I tell young people to emigrate, instead of waiting for their lives to turn into dreck; but I can sympathize with their desire to want America to be the America of 1776. Rotsa ruck with that, as my Japanese tutor likes to say. Meanwhile, C-SPAN waited 2-3 mos. to run that program. They finally ran it after I accidentally bumped into one of the guys from the c-span office at some conference in DC, and told him that the stuff I was seeing on the show had abt as much excitement to it as the Home Shopping Network, and WTF? He laughed; shortly after, they ran my program a few times, and that was it.

Anyway, thanx for joining the blog. And BTW, the sequel to DAA will be out in August: "The Roots of American Failure." I doubt c-span will be recording it this time around.

Bis-

I was deeply moved by all that reference to meat, esp. cured meats. My favorite Seinfeld episode was the one where George was trying to combine lovemaking with eating a pastrami sandwich. His girlfriend (for some odd reason) thought this was nuts, and limited him to strawberries and chocolate; but as George later complained to Jerry, "It's not a meal." Then by chance he runs into a woman who turns him on by referring to "the erotic properties of cured meats"; they wind up doing it on the kitchen floor, sandwiches in hand. My kinda gal, I tell ya.

Neb-

Yeah, some surprise that Ariana sold Huffpost to AOL. What a douche bag that woman is. A month ago she got into a fight with another passenger on a plane because he asked her to stop talking on her cell phone (this while the plane was in the air). All of this reinforces what I've been thinking about the uselessness of categories such as Left vs. Right (and remember that Ariana did a rather violent switch). The real categories are Considerate Person vs. Douche Bag.

mb

8:16 PM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

Dear Morris,

The meat overload fulfills two purposes. One is sentimental. My maternal grandparents were literally right off the boat from the old country (1927 immigrants from Croatia,) and they just did this stuff because that's what you did with meat. I remember them scouring the grocery store ads to wait until pork shoulder went on sale, and they would by 10 of them for a marathon kielbasa making session, grinding it all by hand. Mind you, pork shoulder ran about $1.50 a pound, even then, so the sale was probably $1.19. Anyway, I try to keep that stuff alive and pass it on to the kids. Plus it tastes good.

The other reason is thrift. If you hunt enough you start running out of space in the freezer and there are only so many ways to cook deer, so it gets made into landjaegger, deer pastrami (Seinfeld would approve!), and, believe it or not, a passable bresoala.

It just takes time, which is why nobody does it.

10:34 PM  
Blogger John said...

Perhaps there is some weird correlation between your 100th post and the fact that all of the usual fruit-loops are now celebrating the 100th birthday of Ronald Reagan, the great communicator.

Even here in the land of Oz - Australia.

12:34 AM  
Blogger dharmaguerilla said...

MB,

On your comment about imperial presidents representing another iteration of "Roman Dolt Pattern," where Chauncy Gardener is the model for Dan Quayle, all I can say is,

Fascinating;

"...I love to watch."

5:02 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Will Lindsay be a bridesmaid (supposing she's out of jail or not in rehab, of course)?

John--

I watched a PBS American Experience special last night on Ronald Regan. It's a two-parter so it only got as far as his economic plan was falling apart in the early eighties so the glory years are still ahead. It was really interesting--the only people they interviewed were family members, former staffers and a couple of gushing historians. His pettiness and the long term effects of Reaganomics was never hinted at. And this was PBS.

Dharmaguerilla--

There's certainly plenty to watch these days. Today I saw a couple of articles about the collapse of democracy on major web sites, got an email from the neighborhood group about a screening of Race to Nowhere (a documentary about the collapse of public education) at a local elementary school urging everyone to attend and naturally, the evening news is always inspiring. Obama quit smoking. We're saved.

7:34 PM  
Blogger HansfromDK said...

Dear dr. Berman

Also congratulations from a new kid on the blog. I read "Twillight" some years ago and have enjoyed the debates in the "Dark ages" ever since. Good luck with your Sarah Palin projects. I am sure she will invite you to join her cabinet - probably because she has confused you with somebody else...

Best wishes

1:36 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Hans,

Welcome to the blog. We are 42 lost souls, trying to make it in a difficult world.

I have some hopes that after our Arctic honeymoon, Sarah will appoint me King Consort.

mb

8:24 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Dear Friends,

I just read the longest book review that I've ever read at Amazon. I think you will enjoy it. Zita Aistars reviews Dr. Arthur Versluis's meditative memoir, *Island Farm*, about the farm held by his family for generations. Dr. Versluis is a scholar of esotericism at Michigan State University.


Aistars review is quite eloquent and congruent with the spirit of this blog.

12:39 PM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

I think one of "The 42" must also write for The Onion:

http://www.theonion.com/articles/us-authorities-cant-really-fault-alqaeda-for-deadl,19105/

12:41 PM  
Blogger antoniozart said...

well... nobody said we wouldn't get our hair mussed......
it is just connecting with honesty and those exposing hidden truths that lights me up. and by extention one (well endowed with imagination ~ we all get our gifts!)can almost take heart that "the truth will out" and begin believing in humanity again... we could be so much freer... i can feel it dave.......

6:08 PM  
Blogger antoniozart said...

I am a social worker (who wears several hats)and my clientele are all at or near 100 yrs old... so I can appreciate what that number means. Just making contact with honesty and truth, and knowing scholars, poets, and others are out there digging in the dirt creates hope... I keep imagining a huge number of people suddenly dropping the roles... stepping toward freedom of a kind we've all but forgotten. Maybe we are too young as a culture to do it? Too narcisistic...? Too much blood to digest too quickly, too many bones to chew.... I can imagine a great disillusionment... the advent of people with new vitality and a new vision....
Wake up! there is a whole solar system out there to conquer!

6:15 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Tony,

Thanx for writing in. Toward the end of DAA I say that I'm an optimist in this sense: I believe in the human spirit. But I don't believe in the US. The spirit left this place long ago, and it's not likely it will return--here. Rome died in the 4th and 5th C's AD, and when the urban revival came, in the 11th C, it was in the north of Europe, not in Rome. I know this is all very Hegelian, but I'm convinced that there will be a revival of sorts at some future point...it just won't be on American soil.

One thing that has to happen is that the American model has to be clearly seen as bankrupt. Techno-capitalism is a destructive path, it has no future. Sadly, the Chinese seem to be following it. Europe seems to offer greater hope, but at this pt, no one can know. But I do believe we shall transcend Prozac and cell phones and the whole constellation of empty lives masquerading as groovy. America is less than 5% of the planetary population. Just because it is finished, doesn't mean the human race is, quite obviously.

Finally, we shall have to give up the spirit of "conquest"--of the solar system or anything else. After all, that's what put us in the shit in the first place.

Peace,
mb

6:54 PM  
Blogger dharmaguerilla said...

Susan W:

Yes, it is getting easier to find articles about the collapse these days. Even this week's Bob Herbert column, "A Terrible Divide," reads like he is one of those people who have secretly read Dr. Berman; he actually used the word "twilight" in his opening line.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/08/opinion/08herbert.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

Herbert decries the system that has left the American worker (and teacher) behind while proposing to fix their problems with budget cuts and service cuts. He ends up saying something that hints at what MB just wrote above:


"One thing that has to happen is that the American model has to be clearly seen as bankrupt. Techno-capitalism is a destructive path, it has no future."

10:04 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Paul-

It's actually a rather common undercurrent these days. I recently saw the DeNiro/Ed Norton film, "Stone," in which DeNiro is always listening to some crackpot religious radio stn as he drives along, and at one pt the talk show host was saying: "You know, things might look OK on the surface, in the case of some societies, but if u look closer u see that there are major cracks in the foundation; that the whole thing is rotten."

On another note: I was just reminded, once again, of the US-Mexico difference. I just finished a Tai Chi class downtown and walked over to the parking lot where my car was. Descending toward the exit, I rear-ended the car in front of me. OK, only 2 mph, but still--I hit him (must have been daydreaming; I do that a lot). In the US this wd have led to recriminations, exchange of license info/ins. co's, etc etc.--the whole 9 yards, in short. This guy didn't even get out of his car. I yelled out my window: "Perdon! Esta bien?" He just drove off; not worth the energy, in short. Something of this nature happens 2-3x/wk, and it's always a slight shock (the unabashed friendliness of people running a small cafe, for example, as opposed to the often inexplicable near-hostile energy of baristas in the US), reminding me of why I moved here.

mb

10:36 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

A few days ago I heard that George W. Bush had to cancel a flight to Geneva where he's wanted for war crimes based on statements he made in his memoirs and to an interviewer last Fall.

Oh well, no Swiss chocolate for him and he and Henry Kissinger will just have to settle for vacations in Afghanistan.

2:47 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Maury,

I agree that humans were not meant to live in techno-capitalism, but what happens in the unlikely event that it disappears? Won't there be a vacuum since most traditional cultures have disappeared (eg. Tibetan diaspora, ongoing displacement of indigenous peoples from their land to the cities)? Also, Europe seems fairly techno-capitalistic as well as East Asia. So t-c may not disappear from the face of the earth, if that's even a possibility now.

If humans really can't have meaningful lives in t-c, then in what form of culture? Maybe it's merely a matter of degree and instead of jettisoning t-c entirely we can tame it and make it liveable. I don't know. Dr. Versluis speaks of Primordial Traditions (not clear about what he's mean) and their common purpose of bringing humans to fulfilling the divine. I'm not sure if Dr. Versluis is making a valid generalization but it does seem to be so in the cases that come to mind, such as Tibetan culture before diaspora

3:47 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Dharmaguerilla,

In this morning's news, Obama proposes deep cuts to energy assistance to the poor:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/09/
obama-poor-energy-cuts-kerry-letter_n_821061.html

And here in NJ, Gov. Christie wants to cut educational aid to the poorest districts, where they desperately need it, & channel it to the wealthier districts, where they contribute heavily to reelection campaigns.

Just a couple of signs -- there are countless others -- of where this country is heading, and at breakneck speed ...

Susan,

Have you noticed just how dumbed-down PBS has become over the years? Last night we were watching a science program called "Making Stuff Smarter." The earnest, eager young host, a Tech reporter for the NY Times, joked & mugged his way through it -- something you didn't see some 30-40 years ago. But it has to be entertaining now, because the plain facts of seemingly miraculous discoveries aren't enough to hold the viewer's attention, apparently. The tone wasn't all that different from many PBS shows for kids.

Yet PBS is supposedly the bastion of thoughtful, in-depth broadcasting in America ...

8:16 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

In previous posts there's been some discussion about the lack of imagination today, and the appalling effect it has on our culture. Well, I stumbled across some fascinating lines in Edith Wharton's introduction to her book of ghost stories, offering her explanation of why then-contemporary readers were losing the ability to enjoy such stories:

"I seem to see it being gradually atrophied by those two worldwide enemies of the imagination, the wireless and the cinema. To a generation for whom everything which used to nourish the imagination because it had to be won by an effort, and then slowly assimilated, is now served up cooked, seasoned and chopped into little bits, the creative faculty (for reading should be a creative act as well as writing) is rapidly withering, together with the power of sustained attention; and the world which used to be so grande a la charte des lampes is diminishing in inverse ratio to the new means of spanning it; so that the more we add to its surface the smaller it becomes."

The mainstream response to this would be a snort of dismissive laughter -- "They've been saying the same thing for generations!" -- with older folks possibly offering a chuckling reminder of Ed McMahon's "sock-it-to-'em Socrates" commercials about Those Darn Kids Today. After all, isn't her complaint the same one currently made about TV & the Internet?

While I enjoy & have learned much from good movies, I don't think her explanation should be dismissed. It sounds to me like recognition of a stress line in Western culture, one that's continued to grow deeper & wider with each new decade, until it's ready to snap -- with horrific results. We have a flood of data, with instantaneous access to it -- but we don't have knowledge, much less wisdom.

8:35 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Tim,

Alice! A childish story take,
And with a gentle hand
Lay it where Childhood's dreams are
twined
In Memory's mystic band,
Like pilgrim's withered wreath of
flowers
Pluck'd in a far-off land.

--Lewis Carroll

One golden afternoon of memory that I had as a boy was reading Edgar Allen Poe's story *The Gold Bug*. How beautiful to be lost in another world, and I remember solving the code before I reached the end of the story. A happy memory indeed that continues to warm my heart when I recall it.

12:31 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Kel-

Regarding the vacuum from the collapse of techno-capitalism etc.: yes, gd pt. In his review of Ernst Cassirer's last work, "The Myth of the State" (1945), Eric Voegelin, who argued that all secular politics was really mythic at root (cf. Carl Schmidt, Carl Becker, et al.), wrote the following:

"The overcoming of the 'darkness of myth' by reason itself [which was advocated by Cassirer] is in itself a problematical victory because the new myth which inevitably will take the place of the old one might be highly unpleasant. 'The Myth of the State' is written as if it had never occurred to the author that tampering with a myth, unless one has a better one to put in its place, is a dangerous pastime."

So we have in the US, for several centuries, a myth of technology-capitalism-democracy-AmericanDream that looks like it's secular, but it actually is a mythico-religious structure. This is why the country is going nuts rt now, because the myth is failing, and there is no obvious replacement for it. When this happens, monsters arise: Glenn Beck, for example, or Sarah Palin--people filled w/violence and hatred, and who hint at shooting their enemies. It's going to get a whole lot worse, don't kid yerself.

In the face of this, in 1981, I tried to construct a replacement myth--The Reenchantment of the World. I argued for the break-up of nation-states, for small decentralized communities, and for the return of prescientific practice and healing (I actually believe that witchcraft was efficacious, for example). I left two things out: one, the factor of political power, because 'paradigm shifts' exist only at the level of consciousness, and are thus not enuf; and the ideal of craft, which entails a very different relationship to work and time, and is typically engaged with community. I'm slowly working on a book on the craft tradition, but as I've said before, these types of things just cannot take root in the US. We are too fucked up, too far gone, and the Chinese seem to want to go us one better (ie worse). This book will be addressed to at most 200,000 Americans; to Europeans; and to Latin Americans. Not that it will make much difference anyway (I'm not *that* deluded); but I do believe we need a replacement myth, now that the American one proved to be so enormously destructive.

mb

3:31 PM  
Blogger chadz70 said...

A douchebag president for douchebag nation:

http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/donald_trump_for_president_20110210/

Rereading DAA again for the first time since it came out. Thanks again. You keep me sane.

5:23 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Tim-

In addition to cutting energy assistance to the poor, Mr. Obama is pushing for a longer extension of Patriot Act provisions than is being asked for by House Republicans. I tell u, this guy is one morbid joke--almost as funny as the 'progressives' who think he's gonna do wonderful things for the country. What violence! What delusion! What utter buffoonery!

mb

6:11 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Maury,

That secularism is a mythico-religious structure always startles me whenever I think of it. I first encountered a similar idea when reading Herodotus and noticing that his narrative patterns are mythic in structure. What's true for him may be true for historians in general. Yes, we must choose our myths carefully!

As usual, you've given me much to ponder, for which I'm grateful.

6:55 PM  
Blogger Ashley Colby said...

Dr. Berman,

Can you talk more about your belief in witchcraft? Or point me to any materials you may have already written on the subject? I have been thinking about magical practices (in Rudolph Steiner's biodynamic farming, for example) and would like to get your take on the matter.

Ashley

7:16 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Ashley-

There's a rather huge literature here. You might start with "The Reenchantment of the World" to get my take on it, in any case. Whatever u do, don't recite the Mass backwards.

mb

7:39 PM  
Blogger HansfromDK said...

Dear Dr. Berman & friends

I would not place too much confidence in Europe, if I were you. After all capitalism is global, and we Europeans have our fair share of dolts, especially at influential posts. However I think that the monastic option - though not a global solution - may be a personal one, and having read "Twillight" it struck me, that I in a very modest way might have been a practioner of it for the last ten years. The story is, that I am a member of a model railway club, and editor of "The literary corner" in the club's small magazine (circulation is about 100 copies). The only convention guiding the "corner" is, that the text has to be about trains. I use seven lines to introduce the author and the text and then quote a poem, a cut from a novel, or a page from a comic strip (f.i. Walt Kelly's Pogo). The idea is of course to introduce the readers to works of quality and encourage them to read on. Among others I've introduced Seamus Heaney, Antonio Machado, Gerhardt Hauptmann, Emile Zola, Friedrich Dürrenmatt and Al Capp. I know positively that three or four times I have aroused interest among the readers.

Yours truly

4:56 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

This may be our Suez Canal moment in Egypt right now. Our influence to persuade (or force) an unpopular dictator out doesn't appear to be very impressive. I'm glad Egypt doesn't have the gun culture we have here in the US--can you imagine what would have happened if these demonstrations had taken place in Houston or LA or Phoenix?

Art--

I have noticed the science programs on PBS are not aimed at adults anymore and have a "gee whiz, kids, isn't this exciting stuff we're learning together!!" feel to them. About a year ago a Frontline episode was about the financial disaster of 2008 and had a persistent, but subtle, message that Paulson, Geithner and the CEOs at the big banks were heroes. I doubt the documentary Inside Job will be aired on TV.

9:22 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Also, Suze Orman has been doing a show for yrs on how to grow rich thru spirituality--the PBS version of Oprah, I guess. It's really getting hard not to vomit on a daily basis.

As for Suez, we need something more dramatic than erosion of influence. After all, Ike told Harold Macmillan to leave, or he'd destroy the pound. China isn't confrontational in that way; they'll just flood the market with cheap commercial goods, and buy up our debt, until they basically own us. The Suez moment might be when shopowners in NY and LA list prices of their goods in yuan (renminbi).

9:44 AM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

To the several commentors who have noticed the dumbing-down of science content on the teevee:

I've been watching what passes for science television for a long time. In part, it's what got me turned on to science as a kid. In the past (and I'm talking 30-40 years ago), you could count on PBS with "Nature" or "Nova", or on other channels the National Geographic specials, to bring you some thoughtful content. Something that would take an hour or more to develop. And usually on some topic you may not have thought much about before.

Now, I am guessing about 90% of science content (at least the biology content) from all sources (cable or network) can be summarized in two words:

Predator Porn.

It's actually a running joke in my house between me and the kids. What's on this time? Oh, wow, another re-run of shark week. Or is it bear attacks (hell, even Werner Herzog got in on this one!).

And this is not surprising, is it?

10:41 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Bis-

The same theme accounts for the huge popularity of shows such as "Law and Order," CSI, etc. They create an image of the world as dangerous outside. Americans can't get enuf of it.

mb

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

The average American's contact with nature, apart from the predator porn on the teevee, is confined to the walk across the lawn in the morning, and that's assuming they get a newspaper. This is where your average redneck actually knows his or her stuff. I mean, fishing and hunting do actually teach you something about nature, if you do it regularly.

Let me tell you another telling story. I took the fambly to Yellowstone about 4 years ago. As you may know, Yellowstone is one of the most-visited of the national parks, and for good reason. Beautiful scenery, lots of animals, etc. We finally ended up in northern part of the park in the Lamar Valley. Anyway, we decided to take a little day hike. Five miles, some of it along the rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and then a little jog across some prairie back the road. Nothing stressful. At no point in time were we ever more than a couple miles from a road. Long story short, we could have been the only people on earth, which was actually really nice, but given the number of people actually in the park, a little surprising. Not another person seen until we got back to the parking lot.

Statistics from the park service state that something like 90% of the people that visit are day-trippers. And of those, what I saw was this: speed like hell through the park until you see an animal, pull out on the turn-off. Jump out and take a picture. Go find the next one. These people treat the place like a big petting zoo. And god-forbid you see a bear. I am really surprised these fools don't get their arms torn off.

It's the expectation of the Disney experience 24/7. Which reminds me of proof of that idea. When we got home I was talking to a friend telling him we got to stay in Old Faithful Inn. And he told me, "Oh, yeah, we stayed there". And I asked him when was he out to Yellowstone? And he told me, "No, not that one, the one at Disney." Apparently there is a plastic copy at Disney World.

No shit. That's what he said. Without any irony AT ALL. And no shit, there is a plastic copy at Disney. See it here:

http://disneyandmore.blogspot.com/2008/10/discover-old-faithful-inn-inspiration.html

1:02 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Kelvin:

"Dr. Versluis speaks of Primordial Traditions (not clear about what he's mean) and their common purpose of bringing humans to fulfilling the divine."

He's talking about the so-called "Perennial Philosophy": Rene' Guenon, Frithjof Schuon, Huston Smith, all that.

Versluis got onto my bad side when he made a ridiculous translation and commentary on a favorite poet of mine, Novalis, in which he put the poet onto a Procrustean bed and chopped away until he made a Perennialist out of him. For a wonderful demolition of Perennialism, see the work of Stephen Katz, if you're interested.

1:43 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I never read "Reenchantment of the World", but after your description, I think it's time I did. On Amazon, I noticed a relatively recent review of the book by Avital, who I believe used to leave comments on your blog. He, more or less, called your book "new-age nonsense", and said you believed "...that there really is a transcendental world where lead can be turned into gold and a old Shaman can turn into a jaguar." I'm pretty sure that you don't believe in a supernatural world, so I'm guessing that Avital, for whatever reason, mis-represented your work. In any event, how did things go with your curandero...and will he be able to make it to my wine and cheese (and beer and pastrami) party here in Florida?

3:25 PM  
Blogger Nicholas Colloff said...

Congratulations on being a 'centenarian' from a faithful reader, if not commentator.

I will keep looking out for Sarah's announced divorce and swift re-nuptials:-)

3:31 PM  
Blogger dharmaguerilla said...

Tim,
Edith Wharton was amazingly prescient, as you say, having only the deleterious effects of the earlier technologies on imagination in effect at the time to extrapolate from.

Kelvin,
on the mythicoo-religious basis of secularism that is so startling:
If you want to expand your insight into this concept, read "Black Mass, John Gray's book on the subject of the human need for religion through history, and how it is always the crucible for governments and economic systems. By his calculations, Richard Dawkins, while obnoxiously strident, is literally not atheistic enough.
Tielhard de Chardin defined religion as "ultimate concern", implying one's worldview is one's default religion, but it's more concrete than that.

MB,
It's one thing for your message to crop up in movies like "Stone." In "Fight Club," Edward Norton's character in that one comments about corporate "ethics:" decisions about automotive recalls are made, not on the calculation of how many people will die, but whether the likely cost of a class-action suit is less than the cost of the recall. Most Hollywood screenwriters would feel comfortable having lunch with Oliver Stone.

But the suggestion of Twilight/Dark Age has become more and more acceptable among mainstream pundits. We've gone beyond when it would constitute being labeled loony, through being a shocking suggestion, to a matter of "how soon" and whether is is reversible.

HansfromDK:
You may be right about Palin accepting Maury into her cabinet by mistaking him for someone else. Over time, he has accrued a remarkable resemblance to the greatest living English-language writer in the world (an empirical fact), Salman Rushdie. She must be in awe of a man withstood a fatwa on his head over his irreverent treatment of Islamic scripture.

3:46 PM  
Blogger Cj said...

Another great article by Glenn Greenwald:

http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2011/02/11/campaigns/index.html

Chuck

5:28 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Hans-

Time I came outta the closet: I actually *am* Salman Rushdie! This is why Sarah is so enamored of me. And really, who can blame her, the poor dear.

Art-

Yeah, Avital is one strange dude, I hafta say. I finally had to drop him from the blog because it was all a game for him: he wd attack something I said in a nasty, sarcastic way; then I wd refute it; so then he wd change the subject and repeat the process all over again. It really wasn't abt content at all. For some reason I don't understand, he's dripping with venom, and writes these bitter, dishonest reviews of my work(s). Get a life, I need to tell him. But hey, what are ya gonna do? The truth is that there are a lot of damaged people out there, and when u run a blog (or rent an apt: have u ever done this?), the nut cases come out of the woodwork in droves. I suspect at the base of it all, he's very, very sad (w/o realizing it; in addition, and creepily enuf, that much rage is paradoxically indicative of love--as Freud pointed out, attachment and resistance have the same root; rage is hardly the same thing as indifference, quite obviously). I did try to tell him that I was small beer compared to Chomsky or Hedges, so why waste all that energy; but this is not a rational process, quite obviously.

Anyway, Reenchantment is a long discussion, and in fact I do believe that (e.g.) witchcraft was efficacious in its own time and in its own terms. I don't believe in a world beyond this one; but as one looks at the hermeneutics of the situation, so to speak, things can get very blurry. You'll have to read the book, as the argument is quite complex (it hangs on the notion of what I refer to as "participating consciousness"; as Paul Eluard once put it, "There is another world, but it is in this one"). Avital is hardly exceptional in the following sense, however: it is, unfortunately, not that unusual for reviewers to caricature an author's work (render the thesis in a simplistic manner, in other words) and then attack the caricature. This is known in the biz as a 'hatchet job', and is what the NYT did with DAA, for example. I've certainly beeen victimized by this syndrome more than once, and most authors can attest to being abused in this way, at one time or another. It occurs when the reviewer has some sort of weird obsession with the author, or when the argument is so threatening to the reviewer that they aren't able to discuss it rationally. Quite honestly, I think Michiko Kakutani (NYT) might have risked a nervous breakdown if she had actually been willing to let the argument--or even, just the sheer factual information--of DAA in; and I think on some level, she understood that. (I'm praying the NYT will not review "The Roots of American Failure". You shd also know that Norman Mailer and Salman Rushdie declared her incompetent, and Jonathan Franzen called her "the stupidest person in New York City.") But this is a risk all authors run: you put yourself out there, and in addition to sane and responsible criticism (definition: 1. recap the author's thesis; 2. review the evidence for the latter; 3. show how the evidence does or does not support the thesis), there is a contingent of the hurt and angry who confuse emotion with analysis (or don't really care). As an old Arabic proverb has it, "The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on." Westward ho...

Anyway, thanks for yer interest in Reenchantment. Of course, I was writing that in the mid to late
seventies (it seems incredible to be saying that; where in hell did those 35 years go??!), and if I were to rewrite it today there are lots of things I wd change, no doubt abt it. But I'd be interested to have yer take on the science-vs.-magic argument, in any case.

Later,
mb

6:05 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I don't read any reviews by M.K. in the NYT anymore. The last one I read was several years ago; it was so obvious her primary agenda trying to prove how cleaver and important she was and not giving a thoughtful review of the book so the reader could determine if it was something they wanted to read or not. Her personality shines through as a woman who never met a pretentious cocktail party she didn't like.

I saw the movie Stone when it was out and thought Robert DeNiro did a great job as the social worker. Since I've worked in this field for so long I know too well it's the blind leading the blind. There's very little humility on the part of the "caregivers" and plenty of fake wisdom. But it can no longer be fixed since it, like all of our health care, has become part of a racket.

Bis--

I had to laugh at your story about Yellowstone Park. A year ago a young man I work with went on vacation with his wife. When he returned to work I asked if he had a good time and he said -- we had a great time, we got drunk in Germany. Well, I thought this was the real Spain and asked him where he went in the country. Turns out, it was Disneyworld Germany!

9:11 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Kevin,

Thank you for the Stephen Katz reference re: Perennialism (=Primoridalism?). Will look into it. I'm suspicious of undefined terms that seem to have a wide application, depending on the author's whim (eg. New Age). I haven't read much of Versluis but noted the following interesting title: *The New Inquisitions: Heretic-Hunting and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Totalitarianism*. The amazon sample includes some very interesting footnotes relating to George W. Bush and his membership in Skull and Bones. Unfortunately, I haven't read Novalis but have heard about him from my adolescent idol, Hermann Hesse. Can you recommend any translations?

dharmaguerrilla,

Thank you for the reference to John Gray's book. I'll be sure to check it out. Whew! Who knew it'd be so tough to be a thorough-going atheist! I have my work cut out for me...can't keep up with you guys!

3:25 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Kelvin,

There are many good translations of Novalis's prose, but there's not a great English translation of his poetry; in particular, of Hymns to the Night, that I would recommend. Likely the best are the older versions by George MacDonald or Charles Passage, unless something newer has appeared with which I am unfamiliar.

10:54 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Kevin,

Thank you for the recommendations. I have a book called *Reading French in the Arts and Sciences* that has as its purpose to bring grad students to a reading knowledge of the language. Do you know of something similar for German?

2:53 PM  

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