March 16, 2011

The Novel, At Last

Dear Friends:

Destiny is finally available on Amazon (plug in "morris berman destiny" and it'll come up on the screen). It's been a long haul, starting nearly four years ago in a little cottage in Turkey, on the Aegean coast. And while it ain't Tolstoy, it is, I think, an enjoyable read, and I'm quite happy with the result.

Some background, then (normally I don't give people the gory details, but since I'm mostly talking to the DAA55 here, I guess I will). The theme--Is it possible to change one's destiny as an act of will?--is one that's been with me for decades now. I've been particularly fascinated by movies that involve the protagonist going back in time, say 20 years or so, and trying to "fix" something in the past so that the present will turn out differently. Anyway, I was visiting some Turkish friends in 2007, not far from Izmir, and staying in a cottage 20 feet from the Aegean sea. I was mindlessly writing in my journal one day, and then suddenly, without a word of warning, began to write the first novella, which is the major part of the book. I don't know where this came from; it just sort of fell out. Most of it got written over the next 9 days, and then the rest of the book was completed within the next 2-3 months.

I subsequently showed it to my agent at the time, who was bowled over. Indeed, she compared the stories to those of J.M. Coetzee, who won the Nobel for lit. in
2003. "This has a real page-turning quality," she told me; "I think I can sell it." I told her I was encouraged by all this, although I would hold off on writing my Nobel acceptance speech just for the present moment ("I stand before you today humbled by this honor you have chosen to bestow on me," etc.). Which proved to be a wise decision. Soon after this, my former agent had something of a career crisis, deciding she wanted to do other things instead of agenting, and more or less left the field. I was without an agent for about 2-3 years, during which time I sent a synopsis of the book (see below) to a number of publishers. None of them asked to see the manuscript as a result; they basically felt they could not make a commercial success of it, which I think was probably a correct assessment. In fact, my present agent read it and told me it was "too quiet" for an American audience--again, a correct evaluation, since it involves inner process, or existential psychology, and that is pretty foreign to the American psyche. So after about a year of getting nowhere, I decided to take the route I did with A Question of Values, my essay collection, and self-publish it on Amazon. My guess is that about 50 people will read it (well, maybe 35; you guys all know how prone I am to exaggeration), but this is another case of the activity being the reward. I can't toss off fiction in the same way I can nonfiction, and it took me several drafts to get it "right." At the end of the day, however, it feels like it was worth it. I'm hoping y'all will enjoy it, in any case.

As of this moment, only a picture of the book is posted on Amazon, but eventually, they are going to put the following text online as well: the synopsis of the book. As follows:

Who among us has never wondered whether our lives could be completely different? What exactly would we change, if we could? From the poetry of Robert Frost to the blockbuster cinema of Back to the Future, the notion of “what if?” holds an almost obsessive fascination over us. Are we shaped by fate, or by conscious choice?

Destiny is a series of three interrelated novellas that revolve around a single theme: Is it possible, as an act of will, for an individual to change what appears to be his or her fate? Can one deliberately modify the ingrained patterns of one’s life, and thereby alter its course? In the case of each of these tales, the central character undertakes to do this, and in each case the outcome is radically different.

The path of the protagonist of the first story, “La Vita Nuova,” is an occult one, involving meditation, parallel universes, time travel, and a training in Sufi out-of-body experiences. Jason Green, a rather timid librarian in New York City, finally gets the life he thought he wanted, but it comes with a catch, one he cannot seem to resolve.

In the second story, “The Observer,” Irene Davis is a talented artist who has spent her life keeping everyone at a distance. She wakes up on her fortieth birthday to discover that she is single, friendless, and devoid of any real meaning in her life. In the course of working with a therapist she begins to explore the possibilities for turning this around.

The final story, “The Seven Deadly Sins,” revolves around the life of a high school social science teacher, George Crystal, who unexpectedly writes a best seller and subsequently retires to a small village in England. From this vantage point, he decides to “purify” his life by working through the Seven Deadly Sins–Pride, Envy, Anger, Sloth, Greed, Gluttony, and Lust–one by one. After some initial success, the project starts to go awry, and then takes an unexpected turn when George falls in love with another American expatriate.

The fact that there are three separate, and fundamentally different, answers to the central question of the book finally lends it a philosophical or existential dimension, one that propels the reader to reflect on his or her own destiny, and what the possibilities are for having the life we really want.


Anonymous Dovidel said...

Wonderful! I just sent for one.

The only I've ever been able to change myself by an act of will is to change my environment -- which I've done many times. As I've already said, I'm stuck here on a farm in Iowa caring for my 99 year old mother. If I manage to outlive her I'll be joining you in Mexico. I'd prefer Brazil, but my wife wants to be able to visit her (dysfunctional) family in Texas. I think I'll like it in Mexico, but I'll probably always speak Portañol or Espanugues.

In any case, I'm looking forward to Reading your new book.

David Rosen

1:23 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Congratulations! You are the very first person to buy the bk. They shd have given it 2u 4 free, imo. Anyway: enjoy!


2:31 AM  
Blogger Nicholas Colloff said...

But only as amazon uk brings up naught!However, ordered copy and it will make it leisurely way across the ocean to England. Look forward to receiving it!

2:52 AM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

None of the non-fiction books I've been reading lately have either brought me peace of mind, or propelled me to action. I have a feeling that reading your novel will be good medicine for me.

Thanks for asking about my health. I've had some palpitations the last couple of days, and losing sleep because of it. Still, the first hibiscus blooms appeared yesterday, and brought me considerable cheer. And tomorrow (St. Patrick's Day) I intend to enjoy some corned beef, of course.

5:17 AM  
Blogger Nebris said...

Amazon ain't listing it yet, professor. =/

7:30 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

I'll be ordering mine as soon as I get home, since work filters prevent me from doing so right now, dammit.

Your brief synopsis makes it all the more intriguing & appealing, MB. It's exactly the sort of story I enjoy reading & thinking about afterwards; I look forward to discussing it with everyone else here in the weeks to come. The question of shaping one's own destiny is definitely of highest importance to those of us who gather here!

Love how it came to you without a word of warning, too. This is one of the most fascinating things about creativity. Yes, we need to prepare ourselves by honing our skills & our craft ... but in the end, it really is as if a spirit moves within us, knowing what it wants even if we don't. Which French poet said that God provides the first line of the poem, and the poet must provide the rest?

Time to read Rollo May's The Courage to Create once more, I think!

8:41 AM  
Blogger Bruce said...

Greetings Morris. Congratulations on the publication of your book. After reading the synopsis I have one nit to pick. One of your protagonists is referred to as a "timid librarian". As a librarian myself I have to say that I wish that this stereotype could be dispensed with. While attending grad school to get my MLS I was struck by the remarkable variety of people who were pursuing a career as a librarian. I can't remember meeting anyone who could be described as timid. During the graduation ceremonies there was an arrangement that I didn't know about. When the Library Science school was announced about 30 of them stood up, put their fingers to their lips and said "SSSHHHH!" in an effort to make fun of that old cliche. It got a big laugh. One thing I'm proud of - in a poll conducted about the politics of various professionals, librarians were ranked as the most progressive. Believe me, the image of the mousy female librarian with her hair in a bun and a sweater over her shoulders is gone.

9:04 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Bruce,

Yer abs. rt. In fact in my next novel there will be a librarian w/the personality of Donald Trump.


I knew Rollo during last 2 yrs of his life, and we usta argue abt creativity. Check out last chapter of my bk "Coming to Our Senses"--Rollo's theory of creativity falls into the category I call "Creativity II," which is the typical Western model. Anyway, see whatcha think.


Well, I got it w/o too much trouble. Just plug "morris berman destiny" into the Amazon search box, and it shd pop rt up.


Recent studies of corned beef have revealed that it is good for combatting a myriad of ailments, and promotes world peace as well. I tell u, if "Destiny" sells a million copies, I plan to buy the Stage Deli in NY and turn it into an ashram. Only two foods will be served (between meditation sessions): CB and CL (well, maybe a little pastrami as well).


10:17 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


Hoping the palpitations are nothing serious. The first few weeks after my triple bypass, I felt every twinge was a potential calamity about to happen, and each one scared the hell out of me. It does get better with time & the sense of living a relatively normal life once more returns. But you don't lose a certain raised awareness of the fragility & preciousness of life.

That was a turning point in my own destiny. It shook me out of the go-along-to-get-along rut I'd fallen into all too easily over the years, even while denying that blatant fact to myself. That's when I started keeping a dream journal, writing poetry again, and began to pursue the visual arts once more after some 3 decades of forsaking them.

More importantly, I'd only been married a year & 1/2 at the time, and the thought of losing what I'd just found made me reevaluate everything. So the idea of examining & shaping one's own destiny remains a powerful one for me.

Now I really can't wait to get home & order this novel!

10:19 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Meanwhile, what's going on w/the nuclear semi-meltdown in Japan? If I understand it correctly, once the core melts thru the container, it hits the water table and then radioactivity spreads to the rest of the world. I have an artist friend in Zurich who did sketches of animals nr. Chernobyl over the yrs, showing grotesque mutations and such. It's not pretty.

11:15 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...


Thank you for your appreciation of the Ides commemoration.


Have ordered Destiny.

A few days before the Japan disaster I was watching a DVD of P.D. James's Devices and Desires that is about a nuclear plant on the coast of England being sabotaged by terrorists in order to discredit the industry. Also, before the quake you told me that Freud and Steiner would rock my world.

This morning, before seeing notice of your new novel, I randomly opened Roberto Assagioli's *Psychosynthesis* and alighted on Exercise I about conciously changing one's destiny.

Am I going crazy?

I can assure you there will be no Latin translation of *Fatum*

11:42 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Ad astra per aspera. Also, hic, haec, hoc.

So there.


4:42 PM  
Anonymous Lorien said...

Well if you want coincidence,

Apparently the Large Hadron Collider is being hailed as the worlds "first time machine." But lest we get too excited, there is a catch. It doesn't work on *humans*, nor does it work on anything other than a Higgs singlet -- a hypothetical particle generated when the main hypothetical particle: the Higgs bosun, is generated. The singlets can theoretically travel cross-dimensions, but nothing else can (except for, maybe, gravity). This limitation of course gets rid of all the time travel paradoxes, no Higgs singlet would go back in time and murder his or her parents for example (I guess that would be murdering a bosun?).

So I guess it's not a big coincidence, but I thought it was interesting that I read about the LHC immediately after I read about your book.

Anyway, I'll be ordering your book this week, and can't wait to read it. I'm a fan of Coetzee, so that comparison was particularly compelling.


5:42 PM  
Anonymous Art said...


When I was a kid, creativity just seemed to flow naturally; I painted and played music. I even wrote an illustrated short story about an arctic hare (can't remember why, now). Somewhere along the line I became a spectator instead. Time to come back to life.


I don't think you're going crazy. I'm no mystic, but these kind of coincidences happen to me all the time. The question is: are they "meaningful"?

6:27 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Keep in mind this is the whole show. There are no encores or second acts. And once yer dead, yer dead for a very long time. Up and at 'em!


8:08 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

Well, there we have it. A dog article about the disaster in Japan. Go to yahoo...on the front page is a frickin' article called "tear-inducing" by the author about how a dog is loyal to it's fellow dog in spite of the tsunami and earthquake. Tens of thousands feared dead, nuclear reactor(s) about to meltdown, and yahoo is writing tear-inducing articles about dogs. Jesus H. Christ.

By the way, Dr. Berman, congrats on the bk..can't wait to read it.

9:00 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I guess from now on when I say this country has gone to the dogs, I can mean it literally.

How is it that the tiniest handful get it, what's going on? How is that? I mean, I'm abs. sure that the DAA55 are not crazy. How is it that only .00001% get it?

Here's a video of the US in 5-10 yrs, illustrating the complete destruction of the soul:

(Keep in mind that 99.99% of yer fellow Americans wd regard this as groovy.)

How in the world did we get to this pt?


12:40 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


I saw that on the news myself. While as a dog-lover I'm certainly pleased for the dogs, I see exactly what youre talking about -- the incessant need to find an "uplifting" story in every tragedy, one that leaves everyone feeling better & thus blots out the horror of what's really going on. See: GIs building schools in Afganistan or Iraq (that were first destroyed by American bombs). Or, for that matter, "triumph of the human spirit" films about the Holocaust. Because "feeling good about ourselves" is paramount. Why else in Ronnie Raygun considered the greatest President ever by so many Americans?

I remember how horrified many people were by Primo Levi's suicide some years back ... but it wasn't so much a sense of horror as a sense of betrayal. He'd spoiled the triumphant narrative of having survived the Holocaust. Except that it turned out to have been mostly physical survival, for all the searing brilliance of his books; his soul had been permanantly ravaged beyond healing, as you might expect.

Plenty of people still rememmber the story of the man who rescued little Jessica McClure from that well in Texas some years ago. Few recall that the poor man later killed himself, at least in part because of the way the fame & publicity warped his life.

Why are so many afraid to admit there are things that simply can't be mended or healed? That some wounds remain open & poisoned forever?


I can't begin to tell you how much more whole & real I feel when I'm doing something creative. Would love to see that childhood story about the arctic hare! (I had one about a toy alligator.)


Ordered my copy of Destiny last night!

8:02 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Hare today, gone tomorrow (sorry).


9:49 AM  
Anonymous Dave said...

Dr. Berman,

Those were clearly MOSH (mostly organic substrate humans)in that Corning ad. I knew when they ate popcorn and had no sex at the end. On the other hand I saw no wrinkles, canes, bad backs and hearing aids….so maybe I’m wrong.

Destiny is on its way here. In more ways than one. (Looking forward to the novel.) As bad as Japan is, the techno freaks and corp reps will reassure us that they can do it better next time.

Attacked by a teabagger at the post office, I realize there is absolutely no hope. None. Period.

All of you, get up. Get moving. Get out. The sore back, wet feet, rain in my face and Canada Jay that laughs at me are all precious. Some kind of organic life still awaits us. Somewhere. The trick is to die in richness (wildness?)before it does.

11:34 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


You saw it: American Techno-Buffoons at their finest. What a glorious future awaits us. Corning is now working on glass sex, so never fear; virtual fucking awaits us all. I recently heard some guy on his cell fone while shitting in a public toilet; perhaps Corning will be able to develop glass shitting as well.


11:40 AM  
Anonymous Dave said...

I think I’ve had an epiphany. The rapture and singularity are the same thing! The singularity for you biological reality buffoons is when the technology/time exponential curve finally turns straight up. wheeee!! The religious fundamentalists thought it was about Jesus, or something but as usual they missed the real truth. It is actually technology! The high speed vertical tech railroad to heaven!

I hope we can still include the naked part.

1:29 PM  
Blogger WCS Minor Circuit said...

I'm bummed I can't buy your book until Monday. It'll be an interesting change of pace to put "Destiny" into the fiction section of my library rather than with my other nonfiction. Looking forward to reading this very much.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


When u read ch. 3 of my new bk (i.e. the one being released in August), you'll pee directly into yer panties. Guaranteed. Mark yer calendar. Also shop around for a rubber pants suit (tech does have its uses).


3:49 PM  
Anonymous Rodney said...

The reason that Corning vid excites everyone is that witin 0.2 secs of watching it everyone realises that they will be able to watch porn on kitchen worktops, refridgerator doors, bus shelters etc.

Is it not horseshit tho? Like those endless promises that nuclear fusion is "only ten years away"? I can't see the Corning world really emerging. To paraphrase Kunstler, they're blowing glass smoke up America's ass.

4:04 PM  
Blogger Cj said...

Hi Dr. Berman, just ordered your novel. Look forward to reading it. I'm currently reading the first book in Javier Marias series "Your Face Tomorrow'.

The situation in Japan is a mess. Found this today:


4:06 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I think it'll happen, sooner or later, since it's every American's vision of the Good Life--The Matrix. Everyone walking around like robots, but since it's all hi-tech, they think they're groovy. Read my new bk, Douche Bag Nation.


4:19 PM  
Anonymous Michael Bell said...

Great news! Congratulations! Looking forward to read your book.

7:50 AM  
Anonymous Rodney said...


8:28 AM  
Blogger Suzie said...

Hi, there,

I'm wondering if I should get Destiny right away, given, I'm only through ch 6 of Enchantment (spring break reading). Is this the place where the "great project" is in progress?? or is that complete already or has that dream died or been deferred... what??

9:26 AM  
Anonymous Michael in the Bronx said...

At least most of the comments I read on the Corning ad's YouTube page seemed less than enthused!

I remember a comment the artist Cory Archangel made a few years ago. He was hacking into a lot of old software or old games and changing things around, and was fascinated with how Netscape 2.0 (or whatever) gives users such a feeling of expanding their creativity at the time, but when you go back and look at the pages some years later, you can see just how limited your "creativity" was through the aesthetic dictated by whatever the Netscape programmers thought looked good.

I felt the same way about the girl in that ad drawing a face on her cat, because I just had demonstrated for me, much to extensively, an iPhone app that is a performable synthesizer. I listened to a fawning explanation of all the features, which, if one knows the first thing about electronic music, simply comprise the bare minimum necessary for something to qualify as a synthesizer at all. Never mind that the electronically inclined can actually go build their own synthesizer, from scratch, relatively easily.... I can't decide which I find scarier: embracing limits imposed upon your freedom, or embracing limits imposed upon your creativity.

10:06 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Well, we seem to have a slew of new posters. This has put me into a frenzy of ecstasy. The DAA55 gets stronger every day.


Those limits seem to go hand in hand. The problem is that in places like the former USSR, everybody knew it. Here, we have what Sheldon Wolin calls "inverted totalitarianism," complete absorption into corporate control; and along w/this, the corporate version of creativity--which, as u can see from the Corning film, is a kind of creepy joke. Aldous Huxley lives!


Reenchantment on spring break? Girl, ya gotta be kidding! Or has spring break radically changed since I danced on the sands at Lauderdale? Anyway, I suggest 'Destiny' for yer holidays, airplane rdg, etc.; perhaps a copy or two in the bathrm, I dunno. Not that it ain't serious...just easier to digest. Meanwhile, we aren't pursuing any Great Projects here on this blog, beyond an intelligent exchange of ideas; altho I suspect many wd say we are contributing to the (very) slow growth of the NMI movement (see 'The Twilight of American Culture'). Enjoy, in any case.


Can u.c. it now? Entire faculties and depts. at Harvard, Princeton, and Slippery Rock Community College, devoted to Techno-Barfology? Journals, conferences, on T-Barfology? Everyone getting a pail, in anticipation of a screening of Corning Glass films? Bks w/titles like "Hurl Your Way into the 21st Century"? Man, the sky's the limit...


10:43 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

I can just hear a bunch of drunken fratboys chanting, "T-BARF! T-BARF! T-BARF!" :)


I've noticed that very thing in so many aspects of "creativity-enhancing" tech. No need for hard work or discipline, for getting the knowledge & skill in your very bones -- it can all be outsourced to tech. This is egalitarianism with a perverse vengeance! We can all be creative geniuses ... according to the narrow parameters of those who write the software, of course. And at the lowest common denominator.

It's one thing to make use of tech tools as an aid to creativity. It's another to yield creativity itself to the tech. If this isn't a recipe for an increasingly homogenized culture, under the facade of "individual choice," then I don't know what is ...


While I'm sadly not surprised by that story, it does tighten my colon (as Frank Burns once put it). How long before we see a generation that completely prefers tech friends to flesh & blood ones? (Granted, we're well on the way already.) At what point do human beings willingly cede their humanity to technology & become nothing more than biological apps for it?

11:12 AM  
Blogger ryan kloostra said...

Dr. Berman,

I am currently at a required educational conference called CUE (Computer Using Educators). Certain parts of it are very worthwhile, but the level of bafoonery among the attendees is incredible. Cell phones going of regularly. Lots of technical problems. Adults arguing out loud during sessions. The most incredible part is that these people really believe that TECHNOLOGY is the answer to all of our educational problems. Instead of learning how to teach, they are learning how to distract (and these are our EDUCATORS!!!). On a separate note, the nuclear plant that wasn't supposed to melt-down, did (basically). The radiation that wasn't supposed to get to Tokyo, did. The radiation that wasn't supposed to get to California, did. I am sure that the radiation that is "not going to be harmful," will be. But let's be honest, this not a different note, it is the same as the conference: one nation, under bafoonery, distracted and unprepared for reality.

11:42 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


In 1998 (I think it was) I was invited to a conference entitled "Education for the Future: The Technology is Now." It was in DC, sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences. Hundreds were in attendence; hundreds of techno-buffoons. I was probably the only person there who felt that there was no connection between technology and real education. I watched people faint and drool over the Net. There was no other pt of view presented beyond the one that tech and ed were one and the same thing. As the conference progressed, everyone there was moving toward techno-frenzy, and I toward techno-barf. I left feeling I had accidentally wandered into a conference of morons, not really understanding that these clowns, not I, were the future. I was also bereft of a proper vocabulary at the time: it was a collection of Techno-Buffoons, and the phenomenon needed to be studied by a Dept. of Techno-Barfology. Since 1998, of course, there have been thousands of such conferences in the US, deepening the destruction of education and creativity in the very name of those things. Nothing can put a nation into the grave faster than batallions of TB's, eyes glazed, marching into the "future."


11:58 AM  
Anonymous Dave said...

A scary convergence of fragments. Remember the “Stepford Wives?” Fun at the time. Not so much now. The genetic, robotic, information and nano (GRIN) techs are here. Seriously. Bee size drones. Soon, nanobots in your bloodstream checking on your liver.
All created initially to defend our great country.

Strolling in a high end mall with my son I’m struck by the cold, lifeless quality of the best dressed, affluent younger women. Ok, so I’m old and invisible to them but they seem “perfect,” and absent. Do they have any odor? Son says “they’re not real, Dad.” I know he doesn’t mean they are robots, but does it matter and will we know when they are? …. I flash to the mountains of Guatemala and the women carrying corn on their heads, walking to the mill in the morning light and smoke.

Will NMI’s be kept as pets, or allowed to live their short and solitary lives in discomfort, somewhere in the hills?

12:03 PM  
Blogger dg said...


Your books and Canada,

No sign of Destiny on called Myth of Progress due Oct. on

2:41 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I dunno what's going on in Canada, I fear, but it doesn't seem like it's very efficient. I'm guessing you can order Destiny from in the US, and have it shipped to Canada--no? As for Myth of Progress, I never wrote such a bk.


I've seen those women; I can't imagine them making love. Do ghosts make love? As for the future of NMI's: 3 possibilities:

1. Who gives a shit? They are irrelevant, and can simply be ignored.
2. Round them up and put them on reservations, like the Cherokee.
3. Get paranoid, decide they are the cause of all our problems, and gas them. ("Die Juden sind unsere Unglueck")

We march forward, into Complete Douchebaggery!


6:58 PM  
Anonymous Rodney said...

All I can say is, I'm glad to have started the T-Barfy party.

All I need now is billionaire sponsorship......

Prez Obama and all you socialist nutz! Get yr handz off our constitution and our rite 2 barf!

Vom iz the natchral NRG replacement for Ye Olde foss fules.

8:00 PM  
Blogger dharmaguerilla said...


Nebris said he couldn't find it on Amazon a couple of days ago. I immediately went to the site, found it with no trouble, and ordered it. Two days later, I have it.

I plan to read it someday, but right now, I have it strategically placed on my coffee table, to impress my liberal, elitist, doomsday-cynic friends, who have already blasted me for contributing to global warming by allowing Amazon to ship it at no cost to me in two days by gas-guzzling UPS.

Seriously, it is next on my list, as I, too, feel like a break from non-fiction.

I was intrigued by the description, with its three discrete stories, which makes it a novel novel, especially if they don't intersect (like the stories in Altman's "Short Cuts.")

I myself have an unfinished novel that started with a "what if" premise, so maybe it will inspire me to finish mine. Unfortunately, my idea came from a dream, and by the time I started writing, I forgot what the point was, and just hoped writing it would remind me. Maybe with the passage of time, I can completely forget about what I'm trying to remember, and have it dawn on me again.

8:55 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I think b4 all of us (DAA55) fly to DC and barf on Hillary's shoes (what a wonderful image), we need some T-shirts. "I Support Techno-Barfology," e.g.; or maybe, "Can Techno-Buffoons Be Stopped?" I read somewhere that some guy (this yrs ago) developed an engine that ran on chicken shit, but to my knowledge no research is going on re: barf as a fuel. But as I said, T-shirts first, then we'll worry abt the rest of it.


Problem w/bk lying on coffee table is that any random visitor coming to yer house can't know it was delivered by Amazon/UPS. Perhaps a little sign, to indicate this? I shd add that for the most part, "Destiny" is not abt politics.


9:12 PM  
Blogger Russ said...

I guess I should order it now, rather than waiting for it to come out at WalMart on the Corning glass e-book.

On another note, I think I've found the perfect distillation of American mentalite, thanks to Fry and Laurie:

4:33 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I can't see any reason why this shdn't be made the national anthem.


5:54 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Latest Headlines Dept.:

1. Mr. Obama is off to Latin America to pick his nose and accomplish 0.

2. Sarah Palin will be giving a major policy speech in India, sharing her penetrating insights on international relations.

3. Dan Quayle thinks it's OK for Obama to play golf.

6:20 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Dear Maury,

I'm two-thirds of the way through Destiny. Will read the last (alas) story tonight.

Gore Vidal somewhere lamented the death of the philosophical novel or novel of ideas whose recent distinguished exponent was Iris Murdoch; although I haven't read all of her novels, my favorite is The Green Knight that has a virtuoso passage told from the point of view of one of the character's pet dog.

I've thoroughly enjoyed the two stories. You've a grasp of naturalistic conversation, no mean feat! And yet you manage to clearly convey provocative ideas. Kudos and congratulations for a brilliant first in fiction!

Re: TB's: Hasn't the fan already hit the shit?

Please take a hint from Tolstoy or Michener and write a fat book--I need a longer escape into parallel universes.

2:56 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thanx for yer kudos. You get a chance, and feel like it, maybe u cd post a rev on Amazon. I love getting reviewed by folks who have actually read my work(!).

As for a fat book: my fear is that I wd come out sounding a lot more like Michener than Tolstoy, and then wd have to kill myself.


7:37 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...


I'll gladly do a rev. There's another aspect that I haven't mentioned and that's your flair for comedic situations.

1:22 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thanx. Truth is my whole life is a string of comedic situations (most of them funny only in retrospect). In any case, I'm counting on my sense of humor to make some headway in my pursuit of Sarah P. She seems like she cd use a laugh.


3:07 PM  
Anonymous Charles H. Holmes said...

I think almost everyone would like to have more control over there destiny. (Might that lead to more traffic jams?) Some people have such a hard enough time with just trying to survive, there's very little time for actually having a life.

4:47 PM  
Anonymous Rodney said...

Dr. Berman,

I think you should have no problem in attracting Miss Palin - I think you should go for the classic Arthur Miller/Marilyn Monroe intellectual-stuns-hot-babe-by-force-of-intellect+she's-not-expecting-an-approach-by-an-older-guy type maneuver.

Really, she'd go for you. And she'd really know how to lubricate yr weapon.

In the meantime, amuse yrself with this classic clip I got from Dave Cohen's blog. You'll weep with nostalgia:

6:34 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Interesting article at Salon about the new book Nerve, including an interview with the author, on why America & Americans are so nervous:

As always, the comments posted in response are fascinating. Let me quote from one that's especially pertinent to the readers of this blog:

The fundamental American myth is that you can, may, must be the master of your own destiny. OK so far, but along with it comes the belief that the only limitation to getting everything you want is by definition self-imposed. And anyone who doesn't get it their way is weak and undeserving.

And there's the rub. Some people are smarter, better looking, more talented etc. than others, and motivation and desire alone will never fully level whatever field you want to play on. Grown-ups understand this, but decades of customer-driven media culture has made the probable majority of us into 2 year olds who believe we can have it our way, all the time because the Customer Is Always Right. It's American exceptionalism on the personal level. Take this view into a real world that doesn't give a damn about your sense of entitlement and you wind up feeling well, weak and undeserving. Needless to say this is unacceptable- even privately within one's own head- so we get angry, anxious, fearful etc. instead.

And the whole thing feeds on itself because there is always someone willing to tell you who to be angry at and charge you for it. And the beatings will continue until morale improves.

9:58 AM  
Anonymous neunder said...

Check out Newsweek, 'How Dumb are We?'

10:23 AM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

The Onion's version of Tim Lukeman's comment on the comment in Salon:,19442/

As I have noted before, one of you must be moonlighting for The Onion. Good job.

And for those of you who are Joe Bageant fans, his new book is out ("Rainbow Pie"). For those of you who don't know Joe's work, he is probably the very best introduction to the American underclass (white folk version) I have ever read. See his blog and essays here:

A very funny, very thoughtful, very soulful man.

Show him some love (and some cash after you buy Dr. Berman's book).


5:10 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

I just wanna say that Joe is a great guy, and sadly, not in good shape health-wise rt now. I look forward to rdg his new bk. He did a lot to try to wake up a sleeping culture, realizing, all the while, that it was pretty much a futile task.


6:12 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Truly a futile task:

Every time someone gets famous for being horrible, that awful success sends a message to all the other no-talents waiting in the wings. Effort, persistence and innate ability are for suckers. Discipline? A desire to share one's vision? Artistic satisfaction? What's that?

11:03 AM  
Anonymous John M said...


A book is awfully long.

So I have a request.

Could you Tweet me your novel in tiny, bite-sized, easily-understood fragments?

Or better yet text them.

So I can read them on my smart phone as I drive to work.

Or sit in church.

(Which is what i'm dooing now.)


Sent via the Verizon, T-Mobile, NBC/Comcast Network

11:44 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

The Cutting Edge Intellect That Made America Great Dept.: In the news today:

1. Y'all remember Latreasa Goodman, who called 911 a few wks ago, 3x, because McDonald's was outta Chicken McNuggets. My kinda gal, 2nd only to Sarah P. Well, in San Antonio yesterday, a customer at Taco Bell ordered 7 burritos, only to discover that the price of the Beefy Crunch Burrito had gone up 50 cents. This displeased him, so he fired an air gun at an employee and (when the cops came) an assault rifle at them. Hopefully he, like Latreasa, will be a member of Sarah's cabinet; perhaps head of Dept. of Human Relations and Mental Health. Personally, I can only applaud his (and Latreasa's) indignation.

2. In Scranton PA last wk the cops arrested Karin Mackauliunas following a car crash. They found 3 bags of heroin in her jacket; she later told them (why??!) that she had more dope hidden in her vagina. Intensive excavation in that sensitive region recovered 54 (count 'em, 54!) bags of heroin, 31 empty bags used to package heroin, prescription pills, and $51.22. I don't quite understand what the $51.22 was doing down there, and I'm relieved that the cops didn't find any furniture behind her cervix; but I can't imagine her vagina not being entered in the Guinness World Book of Records.

3. And speaking of dope, in a breakthru speech, Obama told Chile it was doing just fine. Whatta guy, I tell ya.

7:24 PM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

Well, after that last news installment from MB, I can't tell whether this is real or fake:,19782/

A little help here.


8:23 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

RE: restaurant retaliation

I just watched an episode of Larry David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" on late night TV. Larry is sitting alone in a restaurant; at the table next to him, a guy is talking loudly into his cell phone. Larry starts talking loudly to himself, which disturbs the other guy enough that he eventually leaves the restaurant. I'd love to try out this NMI tactic for myself, but I'm afraid I would be beaten up (or shot).

2:30 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


My copy of Destiny arrived in yesterday's mail, and I've begun reading it. I was delighted to see it opening with a quote from Thomas Merton, still one of my favorite writers after all these years, and someone whose work I return to regularly.

I was immediately struck by the prose style: clear, straightforward, thoughtful, and a bit lyrical. It's quite accessible to the general reader without being dumbed down in any way -- the intelligence is obvious but never overbearing or calling attention to itself. It's simply a given. While I'm eager to engage with the ideas, I'm already interested in What Happens Next.

Needless to say, a review at Amazon will eventually be forthcoming!


Thanks for the link to Joe Bageant's blog. I was especially struck by this entry:

8:06 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yeah, in the US you hafta be careful, because there is a 50-50 chance that any random person is armed. There's also a 98% chance that he or she doesn't have a sense of humor, and is (in addition) very angry without knowing it.


Many thanks, amigo, I appreciate it.


10:30 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Wine lovers use the phrase "long finish" to express the pleasant, lingering after-taste of certain wines. Maury's _Destiny_ has a long finish in that I'm still thinking about it a week later.

One's past life may contain regrets but one, perhaps, will also encounter nostalgia. I've been watching youtube videos of places in the Panama Canal Zone where I grew up, video taken recently. Although much has changed, I'm surprised that there is so much that I still recognize (the old Margarita Clubhouse!) and am pierced with intense nostalgia, an interesting emotion. I find myself longing for a time machine!

Still, I remember that there were times of sadness, if not depression, during my teenage years, and how I longed to leave the place for a new life in the states. Now that my Vita Nuova has come to naught, is it wise to return to a land laden with nostalgic feelings? Will I truly see it and live it now?

A great film meditation about that emotion is Andrei Tarkovsky's Nostalghia, that he did as an exile from the Soviet Union, and shot in Italy.

10:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You definitely need a Smith & Wesson in an ankle holster, whether in a Larry David type restaurant or Tacco Bell; if your going to go down, go down blazing!
Sarah P.

12:50 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


What's yer secret?

Here I write Sarah 275 marriage proposals via text messaging, and the little minx says nada. You mention some TV show abt cell phone problems, and she immediately writes u. I just don't figure it.

Sarah: If yer reading this: Marry me after yer election in November 2012. We'll have sex on the ice floes, among the polar bears and the meese; and I plan to invite Ed Meese as well. PLEASE answer this, my love; your silence is more than I can bear.


ps: Altho I lust for yer body, it's really yer mind that impresses me the most. Good job in India, BTW!

4:33 PM  
Anonymous Art said...


If I have a secret, it's a secret to myself as well. Besides, Sarah is not my type. But I have to say, the fashion model in that icy Corning video is pretty hot.

5:48 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Maybe Corning will give u her telephone #. You cd be the 1st person in the world to have glass sex.


6:06 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

America Is a Satire of Itself Dept.:

Recent article on indicates that a GOP Donald Trump candidacy wd hurt Sarah P's chances for the presidency. (Note that this fatuous clown has joined the chorus calling on Millard Fillmore, I mean Obama, to produce a birth certificate.)

1st let me say that under no circumstances will I have sex w/Donald Trump on an ice floe. Not gonna happen.

2nd: what a lineup of bozos the GOP has produced for 2012. Can they be serious? In addition to Donald and Sarah, they are offering Hike Muckabout, Rom Mittney, and utter scumbag Newt Gingrich. So we're gonna have a collection of anti-persons facing off against a nonperson. And I thought Nixon vs. Humphrey was a bad joke! That election seems quite respectable, 43 yrs later...

11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

More good stuff from Bageant's site.

1:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what a lineup of bozos the GOP has produced for 2012. Can they be serious?

This thing is on auto pilot at this point, the controls have been set for the heart of the sun.

Consequently, it matters not who they strap into the driver's could be a chimp, an eggplant or a phytoplankton, it's purely ceremonial, and the ceremony is a celebration of the betrothment of satire to reality....they are now inescapably one, and we are now inescapably fucked, but at least we can die laughing with smiles on our petrified remains.

9:42 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I have often felt that since it really didn't matter who was in the driver's seat anymore (since anyone in charge is basically a funeral director), we shd elect a tuna fish. The fish ("Fred") would swim around in a large tub of water sitting on a desk in the oval office. It wd officially be the president of the US. When staff or cabinet members needed to consult w/it, they wd just ask it a question, then decipher (as best they cd) its silent response. Who's to say that what wd result wd be worse than what we have now?


10:26 AM  
Blogger Nebris said...

Trump in 2012: ‎"Finally, a president who's not afraid to tell the truth about being a lying asshole!"

12:12 PM  
Blogger chadz70 said...

Dr. Berman, don't forget our beloved patriot Michele Bachmann is now running for president as well:

Perhaps you should consider putting your pursuit of Sarah on hold and consider chasing Mrs. Bachmann instead?

12:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


That's a great idea, or we could just put a Gardner in the position. It's worth a Chance.

One of my favorite movies of all time. Extremely poignant satire.

Now, since you mentioned it, I'm off to fix a tuna fish with Miracle Whip sandwich. We must ensure that the recipe for Miracle Whip is stored safely away in the Monasteries during the fast approaching Dark Ages. It would be a shame to lose such a noble achievement. It marks our zenith as a Civilization.

1:58 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

My new bumper sticker:

"Elect Fred in 2012!"

2:56 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Instead of "Fred" the fish, shouldn't we get that octopus that was successfully predicting soccer games? A proven record of success....

Even better, we could have a campaign of the octopus vs. the squid (Goldman Sachs).

4:41 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I recently emailed the Corning video to an old college friend, along with your brief introduction. He responded:

"I thought the stuff in the Corning Glass video was absolutely AMAZING, and I don't see at all why technology that can vastly improve communication will necessarily bring about 'the destruction of the soul'--'complete' or otherwise. Granted, in this video they're selling the new technology as an aid to shopping--but everything I saw could be used for SO much more than that! Just for starters, the tools they showed in the people's home for the man's job could easily make commuting to an office completely unnecessary--which would go a long way to SAVING our souls (not to mention our environment)!"

My friend is one of the smartest guys I know; I guess by now I shouldn't be at all surprised by his reaction. At this point, I think I'd rather communicate with the birds and trees in my neighborhood.

6:11 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Only a tiny handful of Americans aren't plastic (the word of the future, in "The Graduate"; it indeed came to pass); it has 0 to do w/IQ. So when someone plastic sees a better version of plastic, they get excited. There's no way of getting them to see a down side to this kind of life, because The Matrix is so total, so effective. And what that future life will be is clear, because there are a whole lot more of them than there are of u or me. As Heidegger famously remarked, "Only a God can save us now" (and that was ca. 1965!).


6:50 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Am I just imagining it? Did on its splash page move "books" from the top to fifth place in the left hand column labeled "Shop All Departments," after "Unlimited Instant Videos," "Appstore for Android [ha!]," "Kindle," and "Digital Downloads?" Does ontegeny recapitulate philogeny in the devolution of the U.S.?

10:32 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

On your previous post you mentioned how well the Japanese were coping. Well, I lived for 10 years in the Fukushima area and it doesn't surprise me at all how well-mannered and gracious the people there remain in spite of such damage. When I arrived there in 1983 I read an artical appeared in a national newspaper that a bicyle had been stolen. And this was 2nd page news! Here you can get killed by just looking too long at someone.
Anyway, the politics and the hypocracy here vis a vis Libya is, even for the US, startling. The US is supporting rebels it knows nothing about and backs the dictatorships in Yemen and Barain. Almost everything Obama said during the presidential campaign regarding workers' rights and foreign adventurism he's disowned and finally there is our girl Hillary in Cairo basking in the overthrow of Mubarak when she supported him until it became fully untenable.
Finally, I see the end game of all this technology is that people in fact become machines themselves. It's quite possible to enter a crowded train car in the suburbs and find no-one engaged in conversation as they play with their toys. No wonder the majority of marriagable age women live alone in the USA-who has time to look at each other?

11:07 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Well, what can I tell u guys? It's one thing to have a nation composed of 310 million degraded buffoons. Terrifying, to be sure. But it's another thing to have those buffoons thinking that this is the best of all possible worlds, and that they represent the apex of civilization. 310 million degraded buffoons, with their heads wedged firmly up their asses, rolling around like doughnuts and proclaiming the brilliance of their vision! What words can we use to describe *that*? The Berm, for once, is (almost) speechless.

Here are some candidates:

1. Robopaths, Robopathology (Lewis Yablonsky, 1972)
2. Psychological Slum (Philip Slater, 1970)
3. Oy a chaleria! (It's) Cholera! (Medieval Yiddish curse)
4. Acute Cranial Rectitis, Cranial-Rectal Embedment (MB, 2010)
5-100. ?

Readers are encouraged to fill in the blanks. Think of yourselves as physicians, trying to diagnose a fatal disease.

12:33 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Let me second MB's recommendation of Yablonsky's Robopaths, which pinpointed everything we see happening now some 40+ years ago. I reread it recently & was struck once more by how accurately he dissects the sickness of the American soul.


I can't say I'm surprised by your friend's reaction. That smooth, shiny technological surface is remarkably mesmerizing to so many, isn't it? I note that he says it'll make working from home easier -- but never questions what working from home might mean, dissolving the boundary between work & private life. Nor what sort of work it might be -- if you're managing hedge funds or "developing" green land into malls, does it really matter whether you do it in an office or from your bedroom?

This is something MB really examines in all his writing: the extent to which Americans focus on the surface, at the expense of substance. People cheer if something becomes easier to do; but they never ask if it should even be done in the first place.

The typical response, of course, is that technology is simply a collection of tools, and that tools are morally neutral in themselves. But as Jerry Mander points out in Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, all tools have an innate agenda. For instance, the automobile presupposes a culture built on oil, highways, and the corporate-political structure that supports them.

And digital technology presupposes, creates & maintains the world we're living in now ...

9:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finally, I see the end game of all this technology is that people in fact become machines themselves. It's quite possible to enter a crowded train car in the suburbs and find no-one engaged in conversation as they play with their toys.

Case in point, the price of food is skyrocketing, even here in the the price of technological gadgetry, like i-phones and i-pads, is plummeting. Who needs to eat when you have an i-phone or i-pad? There are cases, and it isn't anomalous, that Gaming is so obsessive an activity with some, that they fail to thrive. They become one with their virtual world....with the machine, that they forget they are biological.

9:23 AM  
Blogger Pedro said...


a recent book, The Shallows, talks about how we make the tools (in the case of the book, the internet) but then the tools make us -change us into something like them.

Some tools, like books, allowed civilization to flourish. Others, like TV and internet, destroy civilization (and souls). Yes, they can be used for art and personal growth (as I'm sure the Corning tech could too), but that use is the exception: by their very nature they only serve to dilute us.

BTW: Has anyone noticed that the Fukushima media coverage has nearly died just when reports that reactor 3 IS leaking plutonium and that a strange yellow rain fell in some areas?

12:04 PM  
Anonymous Dave said...

Morris ,

If we're seriously interested in the meaning of technology, Jaron Lanier is highly recommended. He invented the graphical interface you are using at this moment.

"the biggest problem of any theory (esp. ideology) is not that it is false, but when it claims to be the sole and utterly complete path to understanding life and reality. The impression of objective necessity paralyzes the ability of humans to walk out of or to fight the paradigm and causes the self-fulfilling destiny which spoils people"

He also has a world famous collection of rare musical instruments and plays them.

Most of us will find ourselves on the table in the ER a few times before the lights go out. In those moments I promise you, you will welcome tech. Doesn't make it all good, or bad, and if the doc is looking at a glass wall display while he starts my ticker, that's okay with me!

When my wife saw the full color of her flower garden for the first time after eye surgery....and cried..I was a believer.

We don't know where we're going.

12:35 PM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

My diagnosis:

"Aggressive Ignorance"

This affliction can usually comes across as: "I don't know, I don't want to know, and fuck you for mentioning it" or some such permutation.

BTW, I have been meaning to bring this up. I know MB thinks we inhabit some kind of qualitatively different ignorance than in years past, but surely there must have been Aggressively Ignorant Greeks in Plato's Agora? I don't know what the Greek for "Douchebag" is, but I can hear Plato muttering to himself across 2500 years, "Oy, what's the use? What a bunch of douchebags! I explain the Cave and they just drool". Are we here just complaining (uselessly) about human nature, or is it something different? Remember, there are 7 billion of us now. That's 7 billion opportunities to observe just how stupid (and sometimes wonderful) humans can really be. A lot more than in any time in the past.

Just askin'


2:22 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Gd question. Personally, I don't think it's human nature. Even in the cases of a large mass of people who were ignorant, there was at least the respect for knowledge, the admiration of it as an ideal. America is in a category all its own. I suppose Richard Hofstadter started the discussion ca. 1960 with "Anti-Intellectualism in American Life," but what we find here is no ideal at all; rather, an anti-ideal. America uniquely praises not-knowing, and ridicules those who do know. This too is part of American exceptionalism. It's why one shdn't get too carried away by #s of Nobel winners (almost always in the sciences, BTW), because it can distort the overall picture. A recent article in the NYRB by Peter Brooks commented that it's remarkable that the US has the universities it does (about which, I would argue w/him), given the anti-intellectual and overwhelmingly utilitarian orientation of the country. We have, in a word, created a new category of Douche Bag, a Super Douche Bag. Any intelligent young American who has survived high school knows this; knows how deep the ridicule is, for caring about anything creative or intellectual.


About 20 yrs ago or so Jaron and I and some novelist were invited to speak at SF State. The title of the conference was "Coming to Our Senses." The novelist gave some weird lecture converting ideas into computerese; I talked about the loss of physical reality in the modern world; and Jaron displayed some state-of-the-art virtual reality helmet that one could wear. After, he and I and the novelist inhabited separate rooms, to take questions. Almost nobody came to talk w/me or the novelist; literally everyone crowded into Jaron's room to see the new toy in action. That told me a lot about the American public, and about Jaron; altho obviously, he may have grown a bit since then (I haven't kept track). But I am not impressed by his graphical interface; I think the whole Internet-pc revolution has robbed us of a life, which is what I was trying to say at the conference at SF State.

As for welcoming technology in the ER: I've been there, and I didn't welcome it. It was 11 yrs ago, I was having an operation on my rt arm, and didn't have a single friend in DC to come take me home--I just asked some guy I happened to know. During the operation, I was conscious (local anesthetic), and lay on a cot facing a wall of technology, thinking that this was the most alienating experience I ever had, and that I didn't want to die like this. (Now, in Mexico, I know that I won't.)

But there are positive uses of tech, as yer wife can attest to, and I'm not claiming there aren't. What I *am* claiming is that in the overall scheme of things, we lost much more than we gained, and we continue to do so; Corning is merely the tip of the iceberg.


4:51 PM  
Anonymous Neunder said...

Check out NYT March 18, 2011 "Why Last Chapters Disappoint" by David Greenberg. Some (not all) sentiments similar to yours.

5:06 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thank you! I actually clipped Greenberg's essay last wk and was thinking abt doing a post on it. Funny, he teaches history at Rutgers, which was my first academic job. Anyway, I'm still thinking...


6:31 PM  
Anonymous Dave said...


Lanier has a nuanced, deep concern about tech and where it might take us. Maybe you should give him another chance, if interested.

In the big scheme of things I agree with you. Tech can't save us. But on the personal level I would not be here without it and I enjoy this life, friends, family, meaningful work, art, music.

I started breaking my body 50 yrs ago and am only too familiar with cold, tech, med. But when I'm broken, bleeding and want to stop the pain I love their med! It is okay to be a piece of meat on their table if it gets me vertical again, and so far it has.

For me it is just a question of balance and I don't think I've lost more than I've gained, but the country... I'm wit u.

Next time be a real man and reject the anesthetic. Drink a fifth of cheap whiskey and bite on a stick.

6:43 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I *did* reject the anesthetic, but not for that particular operation (see "The Black Hole of Bethesda" in "A Question of Values"). And no, it wasn't a whole lotta fun. Actually, we don't really disagree that's just a question of degree, I think. For example, chloroform was discovered in the 19C, and wd have served me well in the arm operation; no need for all the subsequent, fancy developments. Some historians of tech have suggested that we wd have been better off if tech development had stopped around 1920 or so; certainly, I wd say 1960, at the outside. As u well know, we are now just inventing for the sake of inventing (and $). My doctor here (i.e., internist), who has worked in the US, says that Mexican medicine is abt 30 yrs behind the US, but so what? The pt is that American medicine 30 yrs ago was doing just fine...barring some special, esoteric condition I might come down with, 30-yr-old med is OK w/me. Especially since it always comes packaged in a very human context down here--and never so north of the border. In that 30 yrs, US med made some brilliant technical strides, and went vigorously backward in human terms. There's no doubt in my mind as to which is the real 'progress'.

It's also hard to make a clear sociological judgment from a personal pt of view. I'm genuinely glad that US medical technology helped u; the overall effect, however (stretching beyond medicine here) has been a loss, but it is so hard to see that since the loss is in things that are intangible. And those things really, really matter.

Finally, it really don' matter what we think; The Matrix rolls on, as u and i both know.


7:17 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

Perhaps biting on a stick and drinking whiskey would let us experience something that is part of the human experience, pain . Besides, when there was no other way, people dealt with it. Like the existential notion that death gives meaning to life, maybe pain gives meaning to pleasure. I'm not saying that I would openly turn down anesthesia, but maybe if I didn't have a choice, not having it wouldn't be as horrible as we think. Many cultures endure much greater physical hardships (and of course all cultures did before our modern tech) but have much more inner quiet.

I think any love affair with tech is inherently damaging because all gadgets are simply tools, and as Jared Diamond stated, necessity isn't always the mother of invention. In fact, it's often the other way around. Some ambitious douchebag creates something and all of a sudden everyone has to have one. Unfortunately, in our society, tech is a religion, a god, and we put all of our faith in this great deity. So, did ancient man think his ability to develop sharper and sharper spears would get him out of any jam? Or did he realize that utilizing these tools required skill and effort and practice, things which HE cultivated? Perhaps our desire as a culture is to have tools that do all of the work for us, and therein lies a portion of the problem. Or maybe we just hate having to deal with other people, so we hope tech will make it easier and easier to avoid doing so.

On to more important news: Lindsay Lohan may change her name and an Ohio man accidentally received a 16million dollar cable bill.

10:59 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Am very excited abt the latest Lindsay development, and in fact have alerted my publisher that instead of putting MB on the cover of my next bk, he shd just write: The Berm. (Friends are free to refer to me as Berm, however, and drop the definite article.)

As for tech: leaving pain and anesthesia aside for a moment, consider sport fishing. What is really the goal? Possibilities:

1. To catch the fish. In that case, a spear gun wd best do the job. Just lean over the side of the boat and kill the fucker. What a triumph of skill and imagination.

2. Establish a relationship with the fish. In that case, a line with a maximum of 3 lbs of tension wd best do the job. You sit in the boat, and once the fish is hooked, the idea is to feel what it is doing, since unless you move w/it, he (or she) can easily snap the line. If you can manage to real her in, you remove the hook and then toss her back into the sea.

Two very different experiences. Which one wd Corning Glass pick, do ya think?


11:43 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

Corning glass would probably enable you to have glass sex while in the boat. Maybe even glass sex with the fish. What the hell.

Good pt, Dr. Berman...two very different experiences indeed. I am often called "Lo-tech" by my 'friends'. I just think it's alot more fun to learn how to fish than to play Big Bass 3 for Xbox.

I like "The Berm". Kinda like "The Donald". Inspired by Ms. Lohan (and you), I may change my name to "Joe doesn't". Then it will qualify all things I attempt and fail at.

12:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't have a health insurance, and I am poor, so I might as well be living in Middle Ages in terms of benefiting from modern techno-medical achievements in this country. The technology cannot change the greed and immorality. It can however serve the evil more effectively. And the cost of that technology is the utter pollution of this planet. The longevity of human life has been temporarily increased, but its quality has been reduced to a zombie existence: stare at the screen, obey, shop, eat, and shit.

3:18 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


But u can do all of those 5 things while talking on the cell phone! In fact, most Americans do (and now, I hear Mexicans talking on the phone while shitting in public toilets). More reasons for being patriotic, and celebrating techno-buffoonery.

Many yrs ago, prior to the advent of most of our current communications crap, Jules Feiffer had a cartoon in the Village Voice in which Mr. John Q. Public invites a friend over to his house to show him his stereo, big TV, and a bunch of other gadgets. In the last box of the cartoon he says to his friend, "It's a full life!" That was about 45 years ago. Imagine what the Dolt Index is today.


4:24 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


12:52 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Joe doesn't:

Nice post. Esp. "Besides, when there was no other way, people dealt with it. Like the existential notion that death gives meaning to life, maybe pain gives meaning to pleasure."

Montaigne wrote an essay on that notion (among others) called "Of Experience." He meditates on the intense pleasure he experienced in the aftermath of passing kidney stones.

4:33 PM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

Herbert's column is good, but he's done now. If you want more of this on a regular basis, I suggest the following:

1. Dean Baker, economist. A daily blog analyzing what passes for economic reporting, at Check out his books as well.

2. Doug Henwood, economist. Weekly podcast ("Behind the News" at and on iTunes) and monthly newsletter ("The Left Business Observer", by subscription,

Worth every penny).

Let these dudes help you learn all about the American "economy".

Depressing stuff, but liberating.

Blue pill or red pill, you decide.


9:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Maruy and DAA55,

I am facing a serious question right now, and, at the risk of derailing the conversation, I thought I'd write to ask for anyone's advice.

I've been doing the adjunct prof thing now for about 1.5 years and I get the point: we teach the mass production line stuff (intro to this and that, encountering this and that, critical thinking, etc.), get no benefits & are hired per-contact, have no bargaining power, and some of us work in "employee at will" states (PA, MD, et al.). Already pretty f***ed up to begin with.

To make matters worse, we are supposed to distribute our own evaluation forms, the student evaluations, which can be used as reason to not "renew" our contracts for another term.

Recently, I did a bad thing: partly out of forgetfulness (I have been forgetting to hand them out, devoting the time to a final lecture or something) and partly as an act of silent protest against the bureaucratic machine, I minimally filled some of them out myself. My intention wasn't to bump my numbers higher, but rather to have my complete set handed in on time (I managed to forget to hand out two of my three courses this particular term). This was discovered; I was questioned, and I admitted doing it. Of course, my contract was not renewed this next term. So, I'm out of my primary job.

My view is that: (1) my intentions weren't malicious (2) teaching evals are an illegitimate metric to begin with (3) I shouldn't be responsible for dealing with them (4) nothing I did contradicted the nature of my work, and in fact, what I did arguably *follows from* the very nature of the material I teach: philosophy in general and critical thinking in particular demand that, when a norm is illegitimate, your duty is to oppose it, and to oppose all forms of institutional power.

As a faculty member admitted to me, improprieties are tolerated by every institution, including the one I was in, so what's different here? Short answer: nothing; we just decided we won't tolerate any more. Period. You're SOL, as they say. It's just the nature of the beureacratic machine.

One of the DAA55

10:18 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

The following is from Joe's website:
Joe Bageant, 1946-2011
After a vibrant life, Joe Bageant died yesterday following a four-month struggle with cancer. He was 64. Joe is survived by his wife, Barbara, his three children, Timothy, Patrick and Elizabeth, and thousands of friends and admirers. He is also survived by his work and ideas.

According to Joe's wishes, he will be cremated. His family will hold a private memorial service.
Our sorry world is now an even poorer place.

David Rosen

10:28 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Hi Anonymous.

I'm sorry that you're recently out of a job. That's tough, especially in these times. I haven't ever been a professor, but I worked as a library assistant at several universities where our contracts were up for renewal every year. My impression was that our jobs were more secure than those of untenured university professors.

However, I'm not clear about what you actually did. What I gather is that you did not hand out evaluations in two of your three classes (either by intention of forgetfulnes isn't clear to me) and that on discovering your lapse, you filled out the evaluations for those two classes yourself. If you were teaching at a state university, that could be considered falsification of a state document and has legal consequences. I hope that isn't the case.

I wish you a speedy securing of a job that doesn't involve you in the confusing dilemma you've described.

1:51 AM  
Anonymous Ray said...

Re: the student evaluations..

Particularly because its water under the bridge, I'll refrain from commenting on the ethics of what you did (and the subsequent rationalizations),on the underlying legitimacy/illegitimacy of the entire student evals process, and on the whole issue of untenured instructional labor.

Looking forward on the practicalities, the issue of future job applications requiring evidence of teaching ability theoretically looms. If you have had generally positive student evals in the semesters/quarters before this last round, now would be a good time to secure copies of them if access to your department's records is still possible. If the previous evals have been negative, then perhaps this latest incident is a kind of self-initiated wakeup call to seriously reconsider changing direction.

The related issue of future recommendation letters is also an open question. It sounds like you have allies or at least someone sympathetic on the regular faculty. Perhaps they would still be willing to write a future letter. I would definitely not ask the chair or anyone whose position on the circumstances of your departure is unknown for a future rec letter.

But these are obvious considerations.One less obvious - before continuing in the profession it might be useful to clear up unequivocally for yourself your own views on the ethicalness/unethicalness of what you did. My impression is you are a bit conflicted about all this, and that lack of clarity is not a solid base on which to build a career.

Lets leave it at that and good luck...oh, one more thing...any department that allows its instructors to handcarry their own student evals back to the office is asking for trouble and can no longer guarantee 100% integrity for the process.

2:31 AM  
Anonymous Jason said...

I just read that post by Bob Herbert, looks like there are more potential DAA-ers out there than just the registered 55 and the 100 lurkers on here.


9:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kelvin: thanks for the sentiment.

Ray: there was no "subsequent rationalization", b/c I went into it already with the "reasons" that I adumbrated.

The practice of student evals is illegitimate, and in fact constitutes an assault on real education, not to mention that it's a token gesture by the institutions -- a gesture of faux concern about "quality" of education.

My teaching record stands on its own, with plenty of students on my side, actually. Even the latest studies done on evals shows that they are the poorest of metrics for teaching (see "Academically Adrift" -- if you can get past the econometric fundamentalism).

The evals are, in short, bullshit -- and I always argue it to my students at the beginning of class.

I won't, as an educator, be reduced to a bunch of penciled-in bubbles by grades-and-jobs-obsessed students. I don't teach for jobs; I teach for students' freedom.

10:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am relatively new here, could anybody explain what is DAA55?

12:33 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...


What if you had emigrated to New York City? (I suppose you did in the alternate universe of *Destiny*.) You’ve lived there, and you love the place. Same story as DC?

At the age of 71, Quentin Crisp emigrated to New York City from London and lived in a rooming house on the Lower East Side. From *Resident Alien*:

“Local cockroaches are having the next-door house remodeled and have temporarily moved into our house with their children. They sleep in my bed, eat the food from my plate, and even read typescripts lying in a heap in one corner of my room.”

I guess one could still live in Manhattan if one could stomach living on the coconut matting level with cockroaches. On the other hand, due to gentrification, maybe such places no longer exist.

1:04 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

I just read Herbert's column as well, and I'm slowly making my way through the lengthy comments now. Jason's right -- clearly there are a lot more people than we might have imagined who share our perspective! Time to cue Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows" ...

Morris, I'm well into Destiny & I'm thoroughly engrossed. It's not just that I agree with the ideas you're presenting, it's that you're a damned good storyteller. I know these people & their fears, doubts, hopes; I see aspects of them within myself, and vice versa. I care about them!

You must write more fiction.

1:35 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Tim (and Jason)-

You cd be rt. We need the DAA55 to march on Washington, w/a sign that says: IT'S ALL OVER, LET'S PACK IT IN. What a red-letter day that wd be. Meanwhile, thanx for kudos on novel; means a lot to me. I've actually sold 36 copies. I gasp, I faint.

Meanwhile, some of u folks need to identify yerselves, as we've got too many Anons, eh wot? But regarding the DAA55: DAA stands for "Dark Ages America," the name of one of my bks, and also of this website/blog. Originally, it was the DAA42: because we generally figured that out of 310 million Americans, 42 of them held the pt of view represented here (US is going down the toilet, let's just fold our cards and call it a day). However, abt 3 wks ago I had the impression that more people were coming around to that enlightened pt of view, so I upgraded the # to 55. Still a small % of 310 million, but every little bit helps. Perhaps, in a few months, another small upgrade might be a possibility; we'll hafta see. Anyway, welcome to this blog. Keep in mind that we are very devoted here to Sarah Palin, because (a) she cd drive the nation into the ditch faster than any other potential president; (b) I am madly in love w/her and plan to consummate our marriage after her election in Nov. 2012 on an ice floe, surrounded by polar bears and meese; and perhaps Ed Meese as well. On the other hand, we regard Hillary as an incomparable buffoon, the lowest of the low; beneath pond scum, in short. As for the president, we equate his effectiveness w/that of Millard Fillmore's, and are committed, at some pt in time, to descending on the W.H. en masse and peeing on his shoes (Guccis, I presume). You shd also know that we have fond feelings for Latreasa Goodman, who (2 mos ago?) phoned 911 3x to report that McDonalds was outta chicken mcnuggets. We pick our heroes carefully, in short, and place great emphasis on cutting-edge intellectual abilities.


4:23 PM  
Anonymous Rodney said...


Not all us new #55'ers are Merkans, so you need to recalc yr %'s

5:37 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Bien sur, 1000 apologies; I was being far too Meri-Centric.


5:47 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

Just wanted to identify myself to the new members as a proud card-holding member of the DAA55 (we don't have cards, but VistaPrint will get you 500 of 'em for 10 bucks, what do you say? Guess we would have to eventually be the DAA500, which at the rate of cranial/rectal insertion occuring in this country, could take centuries). Just had to comment on the current address by our president, Mr. NeoFillmore. We're attacking Libya to protect the Libyan people. We're committed to freedom in this distant land.

And once again, I am in the frickin' twilight zone and I just want to wake up.

Kel, glad you liked my post, thanks for the reference to the essay...will check that out, amigo.

7:49 PM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

Here's hoping old Joe Bageant got off the wheel this time.

I'll miss him.


9:10 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Re: Libya: check out essay by Eugene Robinson posted on, today. I wd be happier if we were bombing the country for some nefarious but clearly determined purpose, than for no clearly defined purpose, in a state of confusion, and w/our heads rammed firmly up our asses (gee, what else is new).

What a joke Obama is; what a joke.


10:57 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

Dr. B,

I had a similar thought today, and said to my fiancee that It would be better for Obama if he just said "we are bombing Libya because we don't like Libyans, they are always pumping their fists and shouting when there are cameras on them, and there is oil under the sand there, in that mysterious and hideous country, and who wants to pay five bucks a gallon for gas?" Hell, most Americans would stand up and pound their chests and break into a dance like they were watching the superbowl if they heard a speech like that.

I guess all we can hope for is Sarah P to be nefarious and clearly defined. Stupid doesn't mean ambigious. Look at dubya. (not to insult your future wife, Doc. Hope you don't take offense and understand that I am taking liberties here).

11:10 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

I'll just let the Joker-in-Chief speak for himself (from "Fact Check: How Obama's Libya claims fit the facts" AP):

"The president does not have the power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation." (Obama, 2007)

"Why invade Iraq and not North Korea or Burma? Why intervene in Bosnia and not Darfur?" (Obama, "The Audacity of Hope")

3:12 AM  
Anonymous Dr L. said...

Dr Berman
Thanks for the explanation of DAA55. I am not American - I hope that does not disqualify me. I’ve been stuck in the US for ten years, being a total maladjusted alien. I’ve read three of your books, and I am very thankful for that. I hope you can keep writing. This is the first blog I’ve joined, I generally don’t do that, I don’t like internet socializing.

I think that this current Nobel-Peace, Hope-Giving president is doing a remarkably good job driving the nation into the ditch, and I would be glad to join the shoe-pissing. But, presidents are just puppets. I don’t know how accurate number 55 is, but I cannot think of anybody who is awake.

4:14 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dr. L-

Thank u for joining this blog. We are happy to have u. But I hafta say, Obama's ditch-driving wd seem 2b unintentional, or desultory; he may be a corporate/military pawn, but he also doesn't really know what he's doing. In every area of decision, he seems to be just winging it. W/Sarah in the driver's seat, on the other hand, the ditch-driving wd take a quantum leap. That lady is not one to fool around, and hopefully in Nov. 2012 Americans will give her a chance to do the job full-bore (after my honeymoon w/her out on an ice floe, amongst the meese).


Check out my essay "Locating the Enemy" in the bk, "A Question of Values," and the discussion of "negative identity." The US has been from the beginning a culture that is defined by opposition, by what it is not; specifically, a war culture. Thus, in order to function, it needs an enemy "out there," and Americans need to know that they are fighting such an enemy in order to have meaning in their lives, and to feel dedicated and virtuous. (After all, if your life is reduced to shopping w/o this, that's not much of a life.) So we hafta overthrow one democratically elected gov't after another (see Steven Kinzer's bk), or move from undeclared war to undeclared war: Korea, Vietnam, Granada, Panama, Iraq, Iraq (again), Afghanistan, Libya, etc. There will be plenty of "enemies" after Libya, you can be sure of that. If we run out, we'll decide the penguins of Antarctica constitute some kind of communist or terrorist threat, and we'll bomb the shit out of them. And yer fellow citizens, who think daily life should be directed and managed by Corning Glass, will applaud.


11:00 AM  
OpenID brutus said...

Student evals of profs is miserable. I've blogged and spoken that undermining and/or reversing classroom power/authority relationships does more to block learning than anything except buffoon instructors (which are not infrequent). Why admins falsely believe student evals are worthwhile is beyond me. Reconfiguring education in terms of business, with the student as customer, is one place to lay blame. Another is the democratization of everything, esp. software that grants novices power to produce and publish without having gained expertise or before submitting to editorial judgment. Now we can all be bloggers, novelists, filmmakers, musicians, etc. regardless of quality.

12:13 PM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

Have to report on one of those "only in America" moments. This time from my dentist's office.

I go in today for my regular visit and something's different. "Lo and behold, there are teevee screens in the tiny waiting room (maybe built from Corning glass?), but also in the examination rooms. Pretty loud. So there is no escape. I had my teeth cleaned while being forced to listen to Regis interview Susan Lucci (who is a grandmother. With two grandsons. And now the grandmother of a little girl, born last Wednesday. Why can I remember this shit and not important stuff?). And irony of ironies, one commercial I heard twice was from some other dental group. Didn't see that coming. Needless to say, I caught hygenist looking at the screen from time to time. My teeth are OK, she says. All I can think of is, "How can you tell with Regis distracting you".

As they say, only in America.

12:26 PM  
Anonymous Rodney said...

As an aformentioned non-American, and watching the car crash from the sidelines (though my land will be smashed in the collateral damage), I have to say that Obama seems to me to be an even stranger character than Dubya was.

He seems to think that his job as Prez is to solve problems by sashaying onto stage, making a couple of "hip" body wiggles, and clicking his fingers charismatically. He reminds me of The Fonz from "Happy Days", who seemed to solve problems in the same manner.

At least Dubya's chimp-like brain would occasionally remember its coaching and grok that there were certain occasions when a pretense of sombre dignity was necessary (announcing air strikes, attending funerals etc.), but President Fonzarello doesn't even seem to recognize this basic level of appropriateness.

Srsly, the guy's not some anodyne placeholder. He's a nut.

1:42 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear All,

I hope Bradley Manning got to see Obama's speech last night. He'll be so happy to know that the President is such a staunch supporter of freedom of speech.


I hope Joe got off the wheel this time, too.

6:25 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Recently I suggested that we elect a tuna fish for president, but perhaps to create continuity w/the last two heads of state, a horse's ass might be more appropriate. Not the entire horse, mind you; just its rear end.

Reactions/suggestions welcome.

9:03 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

Hi guys...not sure if anyone read this yet, got the link from truthdig. If someone posted it already, apologies, but I don't remember seeing a link on this board.
It's appalling, disturbing, and yet completely un-surprising. Somehow I didn't read about it in any of the large online news outlets or see it on the news.

Sadly, similar (and worse) things will undoubtedly continue to happen, most (if not almost all) will go unreported. A nation of sociopaths sends its army of murderous and well equipped sociopaths to occupy foreign lands, so there will inevitably be horrors. Monsters. Yet our president can claim that it is our moral duty to intervene militarily when innocent civilian lives are at stake. And he can keep a straight face while doing it. Our moral duty should be only to expedite the drain-circling and apologize to history, the world, whatever god may be, and the planet for where our culture has taken the human condition. Too bad we have no morality.

1:25 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...


I was at the dentist's last week and can vouch for what you say. I asked the assistant to please turn it off as I found looking at the wall more relaxing. She hesitated slightly (in surprise?) but complied with the request. I feel like I'm in Fahrenheit 451.

4:50 AM  
Blogger jerome langguth said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I just finished reading Destiny this morning and wanted to express my appreciation for what I think is a magnificent work. I think it is one of your very best books. I was especially taken with the artful way in which it combines strikingly imagined characters, situations, and narratives with philosophical and existential themes that are familiar from your nonfiction works. One memorable example is the way the difference between the "ascent tradition" and nomadic spirituality surfaces as a practical problem for Jason in his quest to retrieve Gina from her Limbo-state. The episode from "The Observer" about Irene's chance encounter with the Ba'al Shem Tov story was also very beautiful and moving. Finally, Destiny is by far the funniest book I have read in quite some time. George on Oprah? I couldn't stop laughing. Maybe there is "no magic", but books such as this will do just fine. I look forward to reading more of your fiction in the future.

5:35 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

From *The Complete Palinisms: Did Sarah Really Say That?* by Jacob Weisberg (

"Piper was named after Todd's airplane, the Piper Cub, which gets us to the hunting grounds. Bristol, Bristol Bay fishing grounds. Willow, a local sport-fishing stream. Trig, I pull the TRIG-ger. Track ... I remember when we told my dad that his grandson was named Track, he said, 'Like TRACKing an elephant?' "—on how her kids' names were derived from the outdoors, speaking at the annual meeting of Safari Club International, Reno, Nevada, Jan. 29, 2011


"If a caribou needs to be sacrificed for the sake of energy independence, I say, 'Mr. Caribou, maybe you need to take one for the team.' "—speaking at the annual meeting of Safari Club International, Reno, Nev., Jan. 29, 2011


7:11 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


My dentist in DC had the same setup. When I asked him, "What's w/all the TV's?" (he had no magazines in his waiting rm, and TV's blaring in every rm), he shrugged and said, "No one really reads anymore." As for Sarah, she may actually have meat in her head. Not as a metaphor. I'm talking, real meat.


Many thanks for yer kind words. If the spirit moves u, and u have a bit of time, perhaps u cd post a rev. on Amazon; I'd really appreciate it.


9:01 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Finished Destiny & posted a glowing review at Amazon, Morris. Like Jerome, I loved the Oprah scene!

But I was also struck by the emphasis on love & genuine human connection. While there was plenty of scathing but accurate description of the current cultural condition, there was also compassion. For all their shallowness & self-centeredness (with nothing at the center, ironically enough), our fellow Americans really are lost & doomed, cheated out of what their lives could be ... and sadly, doing most of that cheating themselves, with a willful but blind vengeance.

Kelvin, I really liked your review of Destiny at Amazon.

10:21 AM  
Anonymous Neunder said...

The New American Pessimism, by Charles Simic, in the NYT

Simic, a new Bermanite?

10:52 AM  
Anonymous neunder said...

A lightly annotated selection of links to articles on this theme:
'Are America's best days behind us?'

11:05 AM  
Blogger Anthony said...

Wonderful! This will be my next book... I have been looking for a volume of POETRY that you wrote? I recall this from a former posting.
I have tried to find this book, with no luck. Are there any available? Thanks. Anthony DiMichele

12:00 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Anthony,

1000 apologies on the poetry book, which has been dragging its heels, I'm sorry to say. However, the publisher and I are now in the home stretch. We've proofread the text, and are now working on front and back covers. With a little luck, it'll be out in April, but it won't be listed on Amazon, at least not for a while; you will hafta order it directly from the publisher. Anyway, here's the relevant info:

Title: Counting Blessings



Yes, I read the rev. Mille grazie, amico.

4:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not to outdo you, but when I went to my dentist last week I had to stare up at the TV while that kid who believed he saw heaven was being interviewed.

Surely in medieval times they didn't conceive of such torture.

Even the dentist was uncomfortable and forced himself to make a lame joke, to which I barely smiled.

When I return for a deeper cleaning (the dentist drew me in with a coupon for a $1 exam, which trumps torture), I'm going to kindly request that the TV be turned off - in the true spirit of a NMI.

Let's see what happens.

5:50 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Are you sure we need Palin in 2012? Except for telegraphing to the world what a sick, twisted, joke of a country we have become, I feel Obambi has done an exemplary job of running the country into a ditch. What really will there be left to destroy after he leaves office (and makes $50,000 a speech talking about personal responsibility)? He has now bombed 6 countries (glad to see that the US is not at war with Islam)and the Libyan campaign will drive the US into greater debt and probably fracture NATO (I didn't know that Libya was situated in Northern Europe).
On top of that the richest corporations in the US pay no taxes and states are preparing to slash unemployment insurance while outlawing collective bargaining. Not to see any high level Democrat marching in Wisconsin is testiment to the extent the Democratic Party has abandoned its traditional base in order to vie with Republicans for corporate cash.
But at least Palin would be a boon to late night comedians. Among Obama's crimes one singularly stands out-he's boring.
By the way, did you receive my post about teaching in the public schools?

7:02 PM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

Maybe we don't need Sarah after all:,19846/

9:44 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I think I did, and I think I posted it; but sometimes, there's a glitch and the post doesn't take. Did u post it to "The Novel", or to some previous post? Check thru, and if u can't find it, send it again and hopefully we'll have better luck this time.
Palin is a douche bag, and we need douche bag leadership. That's all I can say, really.
BTW, my teeth hurt from the last few messages.


11:01 PM  
Anonymous Dr L. said...

How about an actual douche bag for a president? I'd prefer that.

I was wondering, as a non-American, do any of you have a circle of people in real life (not internet) to talk to like this - other than a spouse, or perhaps a therapist? Serious, open conversations about the state of the country/world, or the meaning of things? I find that it is almost indecent to bring a serious topic in a conversation, except for maybe some personal issue, and that very briefly.

11:58 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dr. L:

A very gd question, and I hope others will respond to it. As for me: Yes, a very small circle, but only two in the US whom I see on a regular, face-to-face basis (w/the rest, it's phone and email; but--happily--it's real, nonetheless). It's why I left the US, really. You can't talk reality to douche bags; their lives are based on kaka. What can one possibly say to destructive buffoons? But you know this, of course.


12:50 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Dr. L,

While others lives around me are based on kaka, mine is based on Kafka. I've learned to keep my mouth shut--and lately my mere presence seems disruptive--and tend to stay in my room like Gregor Samsa.

But seriously, it's like I said before, being in Fahrenheit 451. I have a professor friend of political science who thought I was being shrill to mention the suspension of habeas corpus and the sanctioning of torture.

12:12 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Thank you, Tim. I really enjoyed reading your review of Destiny.


Lovely review of Destiny!

Hopefully, we can persuade more readers to buy this multi-faceted work.


Get ready to hit the bestseller's list! And start scouting for that villa in Tuscany.

P.S. Tim, in an earlier post you insightfully noted that sometimes people can be hurt to the extent that they can't recover. Maury considers that in QOV in his take on the fascinating film, Damage. It's also a very un-American thought (I know you'll take that as a compliment). I also see it (perhaps willfully) as having to do with the moral that I find in Destiny.

12:34 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Right: torture isn't 'shrill'; objecting to it is! Talk abt transvaluation of values...Meanwhile, 'Destiny' sold 37 copies since it was released two wks ago. I tell you, today Amazon, tomorrow the world!


1:48 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


I tell ya, the momentum for Destiny is building, just you wait & see! :)

Dr. L,

Your point really cuts to the heart of things. I'm lucky to have a wife, some family members, and a few friends who are willing & even eager to talk about The Unmentionable ... but most people simply don't want to get anywhere near it. "Don't be a downer," etc.


Thanks for reminding me about MB's excellent essay on Damage, which I've got to see fairly soon!

There's an intelligent little romantic comedy from the 1990s called Next Stop Wonderland, which has the heroine recalling some advice from her late father, a doctor & poet: "Try and contemplate at least one beautiful things each day." It's advice that I try to follow as well.

For today, a couple of beautiful things ...

A reflective post by Roger Ebert about the wonder & vastness of the Universe:

And a Czech film from 1960 I just saw, The White Dove:

How many Americans stop to contemplate something truly beautiful any day? And how would they define "beautiful" in the first place? (I'm afraid to ask.)

2:12 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

Dr. L,
Very good question. I have a significant other and perhaps one other person that I can speak like this with, but generally, that is all. In fact, even if I "gently" bring something up, I am considered a weirdo or "radical". I have relayed several anecdotes on here of being called everything from a sissy to an asshole for suggesting that maybe narcissism, 'rugged-individualism' and corporate consumerism weren't the best way to go about civilization. And that's just me being mild . Generally what's going through my head stays in my head, except when I am on here. Being surrounded by angry stupid soulless people takes a significant toll on me. Fortunately, I have an exit strategy, and I am working ever-so-hard to make it happen. My soul will never be at peace here. I wept at the beauty of the human interactions in the few foreign countries I visited, one for a few months...and as I have mentioned on here before, it made me ache to realize the burden that I have always had to bear because I live in a culture of ugliness; one devoid of kindness and grace.

Glad you asked that question though, because it's a stark reminder of how isolated we DAAers are...and I am ever thankful for my friends here.
Longfellow comes to mind:

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again

Dr. Berman, I am a forlorn and shipwrecked brother and your writing and this blog let me take heart again. Not to sound all sappy. Geez.

11:41 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


When one is actually in the US, it's hard to remember that it represents a very small % of the planet, both in terms of geography and population (the latter, abt 4.5%). The reason for this is that the "anthropology" of any social situation is very powerful, and this is esp. true of the US. Everything conspires to make one feel, Yes, this is reality. For most of us, we have to get outside the US for a while, to realize that the American way of life is severely limiting, even debilitating; that it doesn't serve up the stuff that human beings need the most. In a nation of people who are fundamentally lonely, and who have virtually no meaning in their lives, it's hard to navigate the territory on a daily basis. Whom can one talk to, really? It's largely a chorus of sadness and depression papered over with a smiley face, when u think abt it. This is why Dr. L's question is so important. In any case, I'm glad this blog can serve as a kind of haven for u and a few others. My original purpose was, I suppose, much more modest: only a forum for discussion regarding the decline of American civilization. But I'm hardly averse to it serving this additional purpose, a locus of meaning (or sanity, perhaps some wd say) in a context of terrible alienation.

Thanks for writing-


8:19 AM  
Blogger dg said...

Dr L.
Same boat as Joe doesn't know for the most. I watch the men I work with sink in debt and unhappiness. Though, they manage to have enough for 200 inch TV's. I keep my mouth shut, if I mention anything I am politely ignored.


8:45 AM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Friends,

The other day I had the opportunity to talk with my Dad's financial advisor. I attempted to engage him in conversation about corporations and social justice. About all he had to say was: "Opinions are like noses; everybody has one, but they're all different."

What I took away from this was: everyone is entitled to their own opinion...just as long as it's not an informed one. Guess the (April Fool) joke's on us!

10:38 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


I felt a deep pang of grief & recognition & certainly empathy while reading your post. There's a certain sense of bewildered horror, isn't there, when we realize that so many around us simply do not or will not see beyond their manufactured, soulless world. To say nothing of the frustration of hearing that there must be something wrong with US, because everyone else is very happy, thank you.

(Except they aren't, of course.)

It's really cultural gaslighting. We can see what's so painfully obvious & blatant; yet everyone around us insists that nothing's wrong, that we must be imagining things, that we need some therapy or pills (or both).

What's scary is that this mode of (non-)thought is spreading globally, like a virus. I wonder if there really will be any place left to escape from it. I suppose that ultimately it'll have to be found & maintained within ourselves, and the invisible network of those like ourselves.

You may remember my posting about our new neighbor in the back who's trying to take some of our property, so he can install an extra-large swimming pool. He told us we ought to be grateful, because it'll raise property values! There's the bottommost of bottom lines for most Americans, the value of values.

But as MB has noted, money in itself can never be a value. And this hunger for status, recognition, constant validation from others that you're "successful" -- what is it finally but an abject admission of one's one emptiness?

11:19 AM  
Blogger Athos said...

Just received Destiny and am looking forward to it.

I’ve been wondering if in my small little corner of North America I’m not playing out the “monastic option” as an adjunct professor at a small backwater college. Once in a while I connect with a student and it seems to make a difference. Many seem to think that reading assignments are optional. But this is symptomatic of the decades-long decline in respect for higher education. It’s a bit dated
(2005), but for those interested, check out a documentary called “Declining by Degrees: Higher Education at Risk.”

More recently, a top administrator at my school saw a story on NPR about lack of academic rigor ( and, as if shocked by the news, emailed the faculty and asked what we thought. I wondered if administration could be so clueless. It’s true—there is not much academic rigor. But there is plenty of “rigor mortis” displayed by students.

Then there is the other side of the equation: the adjunct (unlivable wages, no bennies, and no professional status). If the U.S. of “Dreck” really cared about higher education, the adjunct system would not exist…

Nothing is real.

12:30 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...


Re: transvaluation of values

Good point! I'll have to remember that as a comeback.

W/in the last year I saw on the TV "news" a prison on wheels carting off some U.S. citizens who were shouting through the bars of the vehicle, "We're being tortured!" Somehow they got sent to Guantanamo and they were represented as odd-balls by the smirking anchor. I turned to my mother and said, "What those people are shouting is the truth. The rest of this news broadcast is a lie."

3:39 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

dg/Art/Tim et al.-

A possible way to deal w/daily interactions in the US is to imagine that anyone you are talking to is a zombie. I.e., that there is a large, zombie-making machine out there, thru which everyone gets processed. (This does in fact exist metaphorically, but it has real consequences.) Then conversations w/u, or responses they give u, which are actually insane or at least self-destructive, are not that surprising. If they're zombies, u weren't expecting anything terribly different anyway. And then there's the shocker, that occurs abt 2x/yr: someone unexpectedly comes up w/a living, human statement, and u understand that you accidentally tripped across a nonzombie. Perhaps, one day, we shall have a NonZombie Manifesto: NZ's of the World, Unite!


5:26 PM  
Blogger diana said...


Thanks for sharing. I thought it was just something about me -some energy, vibration whatever- that unsettles and angers people. I too have learned to keep my thoughts to myself but have noticed that people seem to be disturbed just by my presence.

I have family members who know that this society is beyond saving. Yet they hang on to all the values that caused the decline in the first place. The crass materialism, status insecurity and little or no respect for intellectual pursuits. They are the kind of people who think that if you are smart and have opinions, then you should have a fancy job, a big house and a nice car. I am very much aware of this because I am raising a child and have to be serious about who gets to influence her and to impress their values on her. I hate to admit it but I try to limit the time my child spends even with family members. After all I am trying to raise an NMI. This is my project. So far, it's been hard work and a lot of sacrifice but very rewarding.

5:53 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I had the experience from abt age
7, that I wd walk into a rm of people (children or adults), and w/o my saying a word they wd become angry and agitated. This depressed me for many yrs, until one day I realized that if I cd throw people into a tizzy just by my presence, I must be doing *something* right. The fact that this happened only in the US was another clue that this was a gd, rather than a bad, thing. So if yer daughter is getting everyone all worked up, my guess is she's on the right track. (No need to change her name to "Thorn" or "Wake-Up-Call," tho they have a nice ring to them.)


6:42 PM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

One way to think about how to interact with fellow Americans is to act like an anthropologist. You are visiting the natives in darkest Africa. Take notes, but don't take it personally. Helps me get through the day.

Plus, try to identify what used to be called (in another context) "fellow travelers" and cultivate them.

Most of all, just don't get dragged into the insanity of American life if you can help it. Not easy, but not impossible. Well, it's impossible if you do it by yourself. One other person (human contact, and all) makes all the difference in the world. You can try the online version (here, for example: valuable but limited), but the point is to cultivate human contact. Talking, laughing, screwing, eating, touching, yelling.... Human contact. The stuff that makes us human beings....

NO substitute at all. So go find it and report back. That's the assignment which is probably harder than Tyler Durden's assignment to his NMI's of starting a fight, but in the end, worth so much more.

10:17 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Far from me to tell you how to raise your daughter but I still feel she, especially in her formative years, should be exposed to all aspects of American life. I think it will be healthy for her to come into contact with people from all economic stratas, races, etc. She can find kernals of beauty in the most unlikely places and if not then at least she can feel comfortable later on in all social situations. I know there is much to criticize about the US but at least it gives us the opportunity to make friends with a variety of people who, in turn, can enrich our lives.
2012 should be quite an election. Apparently Obama intends to go near 100% corporate, not really too interested in small private donations which so marked (at least in the early stages) his 2008 campaign. Needless to say, 2012 should be dubbed "Democracy Incorporated" (with, of course, a nod to Wolin).
As for Libya, Obama finally got his war and can now run as a war president knowing that there is one constant in presidential elections: no president has ever lost reelection in time of war(not whether the Washington Redskins wins their game the weekend before election day).
It also seems that Libya is the template for all future US agression. The congress and the American people are bypassed, the US threatens/bribes members of the UN Security Council for some ambiguous resolution which the US soonafter violates in persuit of regime change.
Finally, I recently saw the best of Leno's Jaywalking. What can you say? How someone cannot know that the Panama Canal is in Panama after being asked "In what country is the Panama Canal?" is simply breathtaking. Hey, Newsweek recently did a poll and found out that only 33% of the American people know that the US economic system is called capitalism. In other words, 67% don't know the name of the system that works to rob them everyday.

10:40 PM  
Anonymous Dr L. said...

Thanks everybody, for sharing your experiences.

A Greek friend from Athens told me, during the bombing of Serbia, “We are getting bombed here in Greece too, every day, with American garbage.” He was very serious. Yes Tim, it is spreading like a virus. But, although I see the obsessions with gadgets, and materialism, and junk, and the excessive staring at the screen, and the douche-bags in other countries too, I have not seen anywhere such a pervasive and almost complete lack of interest in other human beings, like I see here. As Singer observed upon arriving to the US, “I could feel that some mental catastrophe was taking place here, some mutation for which there was no name in my vocabulary.”

Dr Berman, I find your calculation of experiencing a non-zombie 2x/year very accurate!

1:47 AM  
Anonymous Ray said...

On insanity becoming slowly normalized, does anyone else find it morbidly funny how the B-school jargon-laden inner workings of a marketing campaign sometimes becomes the actual, cluelessly hilarious content of the ad or announcement?

As in "welcome to the city's hottest promotional event for our latest ethnic/casual dining concept. A service associate will be seating you shortly.."
You are being welcomed to the "promotional concept," not the restaurant. Think about it.

2:45 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dr. L-

Great quote from Singer. Freud returned from America after his Clark U. lectures and declared the place "a gigantic mistake." Meanwhile, everybody pls check out the poem by Gary Corseri (tribute to Joe Bageant) in counterpunch:


9:33 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Sorry--computer cut off the url: after the word 'poems' comes:

9:34 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Food for Thought Dept.:

"So urgent on the vulgar is the necessity of believing, that the fall of any system of mythology will most probably be succeeded by the introduction of some other mode of superstition."

--Edward Gibbon, "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire"

6:03 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

And a reflection on Techno-Buffoonery, by therapist Gary Greenberg, in the April 4 issue of The Nation:

"[A teenager] with her cellphone, pedestrians on city streets staring at tiny screens broadcasting images or words from another place, kids and grownups friending and tweeting--are they not prosthetic gods, the whole world in their handhelds? Are they not also monsters?"

6:05 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Here is the link to Jaywalking. Yes, they walk among us and they vote.

7:13 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

Tim, thanks for your kind and empathic response to my post. I always enjoy reading yours. I have been meaning to ask you what the lastest is with the neighbor in the back who is trying to take the land. Such a horrible experience, I imagine, and yet so descriptive of American life. Like a goddamn swimming pool matters enough to act ugly and hurtful and aggressive to another human being . That guy, your neighbor, will be dead someday, and what the hell difference will the amount of junk he has amassed make, other than the harm he has done to others. I quote my father again, the only measurement that matters is the size of your heart. Not your yard, or pool, or bank account, or ego. Unfortunately, I might as well be speaking Martian to nearly everyone I know.

11:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well the fundamentalist christian's have ran backwards, the fandamentalist new Ager's have left the the planet, the academic secularist's are still cling to there mechanistic view. The corpororate military elite are still ruling in conjunction with televised hypocratic zombies.But there are are dissenting voices, John Ralston Saul, Gore Vidal, musiscians - Laurie Anderson , Pattie smith among numerouos grass roots movements, so maybe we will make it around the corner of 2012. Cheer's.

8:31 PM  

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