April 02, 2011

No Exit

“Under the Republicans, man exploits man. With the Democrats, just the opposite is true.”
—American bumper sticker

So let’s hunker down, now, and have a serious discussion as to exactly where the United States is heading these days.

It wasn’t that popular, the idea of American decline, when I published The Twilight of American Culture eleven years ago. Now, I seem to find discussions of it everywhere. In his last column for the New York Times, for example ("Losing Our Way," March 26), Bob Herbert wrote:

“So here we are pouring shiploads of cash into yet another war, this time in Libya, while simultaneously demolishing school budgets, closing libraries, laying off teachers and police officers, and generally letting the bottom fall out of the quality of life here at home….Limitless greed, unrestrained corporate power and a ferocious addiction to foreign oil have led us into an era of perpetual war and economic decline. Young people today are staring at a future in which they will be less well off than their elders, a reversal of fortune that should send a shudder through everyone….When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely….Income and wealth inequality in the U.S. have reached stages that would make the third world blush….The richest 10% of Americans received an unconscionable 100% of the average income growth in the years 2000 to 2007….In 2009, the richest 5% claimed 63.5% of the nation’s wealth. The overwhelming majority, the bottom 80%, collectively held just 12.8%.”

Herbert goes on to cite the March 25 NYT article by David Kocieniewski, on how General Electric reported profits of $14.2 billion in 2010, and not only paid no taxes on this, but actually claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion. And it turns out (here’s a shocker) that its CEO, Jeffrey Inmelt, was appointed head of the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness by Mr. Obama(!), to make sure that the fox will continue to guard the hen house.

Meanwhile, on the street level, the American public is so dumb that it is literally breathtaking. I had collected some of the stats in the Twilight book and also in Dark Ages America; since then, chronicling the collapse of the American mind has become something of a national pastime, way beyond the mild banter of Jay Leno’s street interviews. For example, Newsweek recently gave 1,000 Americans the U.S. Citizenship Test (“How Dumb Are We?,” Newsweek, March 20), and it turned out that 29% couldn’t name the vice president; 73% couldn’t say why we fought the Cold War (official version, that is); 44% were unable to define the Bill of Rights; and 6% were not able to circle Independence Day on a calendar. Another study, conducted two years ago by the European Journal of Communication, turned up the fact that 42% of Americans were not able to identify the Taliban (by comparison, only 25% of the Brits couldn’t do it). Newsweek’s summary of all this is not exactly any great intellectual breakthrough, either: “The country’s future is imperiled by our ignorance.” No shit, Sherlock.

About a week after the Newsweek article, Ray Williams did a piece for Psychology Today that listed a large number of poll results of this sort, including the fact that 77% of Oklahoma public school students don’t know who George Washington was (not kidding, folks), or who wrote the Declaration of Independence. But the most telling bit of evidence, for me, were the elementary errors of English made by the author of the article himself. His title—Are Americans getting “dumber?”—fails to put the question mark where it belongs (outside the quote mark); and he writes that “Morris Berman…decries the need to preserve what was best in American culture.” But this indicates that Mr. Williams doesn’t know what “decries” actually means, namely, “publicly denounces.” In fact, I “decried” nothing of the sort; instead, I encouraged Americans to do the work of cultural preservation. (If I was decrying anything, it was our cultural collapse.) So here we have an essay whose purpose it is to show how intellectually challenged we are, which itself contains two major English-language errors. Mr. Williams, it turns out, is co-founder of something called Success IQ University.

As I argued in Twilight, severe income inequality and widespread stupidity were crucial factors in the decline of Rome, and the same applies to the decline of our own empire. And other factors, of course, can be added to this list. But the interesting thing about social analyses of this sort, i.e. diagnoses of our civilizational collapse—and this is something I have pointed out again and again, in articles and lectures and interviews—is the obsessive habit of American optimism that befuddles our ability to draw the obvious conclusion. One author after another will weigh in with massive data on our political, social, economic, and cultural disintegration, and then at the eleventh hour pull a rabbit out of a hat and assure us that with the application of enough effort and right attitudes, we can turn this situation around. Rutgers historian David Greenberg, in a recent essay in the New York Times Book Review (“No Exit,” March 20), says of the genre of American social criticism, “Practically every example of that genre, no matter how shrewd or rich its survey of the question at hand, finishes with an obligatory prescription that is utopian, banal, unhelpful or out of tune with the rest of the book.”

It’s not hard to find examples of this, and Greenberg scores Walter Lippmann, Allan Bloom, Al Gore, Upton Sinclair, Eric Schlosser, Robert Putnam, and Daniel Boorstin as obvious examples. “Even those social critics who acknowledge the difficulty of [implementing] their solutions,” he writes, “cannot help offering up the equally quixotic hope that people will somehow rise up spontaneously against the diagnosed ills.” The authors use words like “should” and “must,” as though voluntarism and some inner decision (in the U.S., it’s always a personal solution, i.e. a nonsolution) are what we need to alter centuries-old structures of politics/economics/society/culture. Schlosser, for example (Fast Food Nation), calls on Congress to “fight against dangerous concentrations of economic power” (rotsa ruck with that, amigo). Boorstin (The Image) says that “each of us must disenchant himself…must prepare himself to receive messages coming in from the outside.” (This was in 1961; fifty years later, we might conclude that Americans didn’t quite manage to follow his suggestions.) Robert Putnam (Bowling Alone) documents the collapse of social life in America in exhaustive detail and then says that we all must “resolve to become reconnected with our friends and neighbors.” (This could well be the best example of brain damage among Harvard sociologists ever recorded.)

As Professor Greenberg tells us, H.L. Mencken knew a lot better than these pundits. The “imbecility” of the masses, Mencken wrote (in his attack on Lippmann), cannot be cured “by spreading enlightenment.” Just ain’t gonna happen, he said, and added that it was part of the national temperament to insist that every problem had to have a solution, when the truth is that very often—it doesn’t.

As a final example of this national blindness, consider Chris Hedges’ essay, “The Collapse of Globalization,” which was posted on truthdig.com on March 27. Now as most of you know, I adore Chris; I love everything he writes, and regard him as one of the most clear-sighted and courageous journalists left in this country. But the essay has the same problem limned by Greenberg, that of piling up huge amounts of evidence showing in no uncertain terms that the nation is going down the tubes, and then insisting that this can be reversed by an act of will. Since most of you are familiar with the evidence for national collapse (or if not, can access the essay on truthdig), let me focus on the unwarranted optimism:

“We must embrace [writes Hedges], and embrace rapidly, a radical new ethic of simplicity and rigorous protection of our ecosystem…. We must rebuild radical socialist movements that demand that the resources of the state and the nation provide for the welfare of all citizens and the heavy hand of state power be employed to prohibit the plunder by the corporate power elite. We must view the corporate capitalists who have seized control of our money, our food, our energy, our education, our press, our health care system and our governance as mortal enemies to be vanquished.”

Uh…who, exactly, is “we”? The sixty million white underclass folks who regularly vote against their own interests? (On this see Joe Bageant’s brilliant memoir, Rainbow Pie.) The 44% of the American public who don’t know what the Bill of Rights is? The 77% of the Oklahoma public school students who can’t identify George Washington? The overwhelming majority of the population that is being economically squeezed half to death, and can only think in terms of how to individually get out from between a rock and a hard place? And in such a context, what does “must” mean, really? I mean, none of this is going to happen, as all of us know. As for Chris, he is a very bright fellow; he has to know that this call to colors is hand-wringing, wishful thinking—nothing more. As he himself points out, all of our “liberal” institutions (press, universities, organized labor, Democratic Party) refuse to challenge the neoliberal orthodoxy of the sacredness of the market, and this permits the corporations to continue their assault on us. Their propaganda, he says, constitutes a “steady barrage of illusions,” which is impervious to truth; and “those who dissent—from Ralph Nader to Noam Chomsky—are banished as heretics.”

Chris, of course, is among those heretics, and his voice—which I in fact cherish—makes no difference at all, in terms of the way power is arranged and money distributed. Thus it bothers me when he writes that we have to “awake from our collective self-delusion,” because “we” are going to do no such thing; or when he (correctly) points out that “dying civilizations often prefer hope, even absurd hope, to truth.” Because he is apparently unwilling to bite the bullet here, and to say, with Professor Greenberg: No Exit. In doing so, he shows that he himself prefers absurd hope to truth. For the truth is now manifest, and Chris simply cannot be unaware of it: we shall not embrace a radical new ethic of simplicity (which was something of a fad in the seventies); we shall not rebuild radical socialist movements (which historically were pretty feeble to begin with); and we shall certainly not vanquish corporate capitalism. What could be more obvious? Americans have neither the will nor the interest nor the intellectual/emotional resources to accomplish any of these things; and if anything radical does occur within the next decade or so, we can be sure that it will come from the political right. Indeed, as Chris himself has pointed out on a number of occasions, this latter trend is already underway. To live in truth at this point means to understand that all of the healthy options for the United States were foreclosed long ago. Utopian impulses are fine, but only when there is some possibility of their being realized.

Which means, of course, that I have to stick to my guns here and not start pulling a rabbit out of the hat at the eleventh hour either. Rest assured: I’m not going to. There is no rabbit, and the hat is falling apart at the seams. All I can suggest—and this to the tiniest fraction of the population—is that if you are going to remain in the U.S., to tough it out and live among the ruins, as it were, one thing you can do is stay awake. Read Hedges and Nader and Chomsky. Read Walter Hixson and Sacvan Bercovitch and William Appleman Williams. Stay in touch with truthdig, alternet, commondreams, and the rest of the websites that offer serious political analysis instead of mainstream b.s. Form study groups—and not just virtual ones. Because the choice is not whether or not the country is going to die: it is, don’t be deluded on that score. All I’m suggesting is that ignorance is not bliss, and that it’s better to die with your eyes open and your boots on, than to be part of the huge mass of lemmings slowly drifting toward the abyss.

© Morris Berman, 2011

104 Comments:

Blogger joelo554 said...

Dear MB,

Accepting your premise, how about some practical matters - are we who are aware to live in despair while things fall apart around us or is there something we can do? Should we move to Mexico? Form neighbourhood groups to fight off gangs in a Mad Max future? Do the Transition Towns have a hope in hell? Or should we just kill ourselves - an option which thank God (!) is available to us and should be on the table.

12:48 AM  
Blogger ryan kloostra said...

Funny how the most ardent realists fall into the trap of illusion eventually. Game over. On an even more disturbing note, after hearing an interview with Trump about how he was going to "get the world in line," I think he could easily give Sarah a run for her money in 2012 for "most likely to destroy the US in record amount of time." El fin!

4:12 AM  
Anonymous Dr L. said...

I agree. To keep the delusional attitude means to die as K. in The Trial – like a dog.
Even those discussions about technology and its future seem to me overly optimistic. How long can we really go on like this, being overcrowded & idiotic, with all the pollution, not to mention the unused weapons? The movie Road seems much more likely scenario than that Corning ad.

5:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"we shall not embrace a radical new ethic of simplicity"

Actually, I agree with Kunstler that we will be, whether we like it or not.

6:05 AM  
Anonymous Ray said...

"weigh in with massive data on.... disintegration, and then...pull a rabbit out of a hat and assure us ... we can turn this situation around."

This is the obverse of the belief in some inexhaustible store of common wisdom and decency buried deep in TAP - our civilization's version of the myth of the sleeping Arthur or Barbarossa waiting for the hour of need to wake up and set things right.

This ritualistic invocation at the end of otherwise perceptive critiques reminds me of the formulaic first-chapter paeans to Marxism-Leninism that disguised otherwise actually valuable social social and criticism published throughout the Soviet era.

In that case there was internal compulsion to include these fig-leaves - it helped the book get past lazy censors.

In our situation, there might be more personal grounds - skittish editors insisting on cover, reluctance of life-long leftists to give up cherished illusions from their younger days, etc. Like you, most of these folks are intelligent enough to realize how old this tradition of a ritualistic call to arms at the conclusion of a book is getting. To resolve to break the cycle could be to some an admission that perhaps writing the book was not worth the effort and the psychic pain.

I still can't figure out why the Soviets had them at the preface, and we have them at the conclusion.

9:20 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Anon-

But "whether we like it or not" is not the same thing as "embrace," right?

Joelo-

At this pt, there are no positive outcomes for the US; only a fool can't see that. Nor will there be any organized resistance, except from the political right. This means that the individual has only one of two choices: actual emigration, leaving the country; or 'inner' emigration, the NMI solution I outline in the Twilight book. If you manage to come up with a workable third alternative, pls send me a telegram, collect.

mb

9:22 AM  
Blogger Charles D said...

I heard a talk by Chris Hedges on Alternative Radio in which he made the point that we cannot begin to discuss a strategy for addressing our national ills until we first own up to the hard, terrible truth of our current condition. Thank you for again making this abundantly clear.

I no longer take anyone seriously who imagines there is a way out of this problem either through the electoral process or some magical mass social movement, and that is almost everyone. I think we can each do things personally that will either make us feel better or perhaps insulate us somewhat from the pain that awaits all of us in the bottom 80%. We can chain ourselves to the White House fence or grow veggies in our backyards, but let's not delude ourselves into believing we are part of some vital movement that will demolish corporate imperialism.

9:27 AM  
Anonymous Tom said...

I don't believe anyone expressed the bottom line better than Joe Bageant:

"Throwing money at frauds and fools doesn't work. Moving to Mexico or Canada takes money in a time when money and jobs are scarce everywhere. As for staying and fighting, really fighting, there is not one person reading this who is going to go strangle the sleazy fucks having martinis on Wall Street with their pet Senator. Nobody reading this is going to instill genuine physical fear, which is the only thing such lizards might respond to. We are left to work within the system, as per the hologram's directive. Their system. Ha!"

RIP Joe. The world feels colder without you..........

10:23 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Ray-

Actually, we have them at both pts. The title of a bk, and certainly the PR for it, usually run along the lines of: "Why America Is Fucked...and How We Can De-Fuck It." Plus, the author will usually say, in the intro or preface, "Finally, I am going to show you how we can get out of this mess etc." The bks that operate on a purely individual basis have titles like, "How You Can Profit from the Current Disaster," and so on.

Tom-

Actually (and unlike Canada), moving to Mexico is a lot less costly than u might think. Personally, I don't have very much $ in the bank. But I hate to spread the word around, because we already have too many gringos down here, trying to turn the place into America (which they were only too happy to leave!), and screw the place up something fierce, as a result. (You can take the jackass out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the jackass.)

mb

10:37 AM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

Amen, Brother Berman. While the country may be permanently in the shitter, the key is then to save yourself and the ones you love. And by save, I mean saving your soul. May I suggest the advice Walt Whitman gave:

"This is what you shall do:
Love the earth and sun and the animals,
Despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks,
Stand up for the stupid and crazy,
Devote your income and labors to others,
Hate tyrants, argue not concerning God,
Have patience and indulgence toward the people,
Take off your hat to nothing known or unknown,
Or to any man or number of men,
Go freely with powerful uneducated persons,
And with the young and with the mothers of families,
Read these leaves in the open air,
Every season of every year of your life,
Reexamine all you have been told,
At school at church or in any book,
Dismiss whatever insults your own soul,
And your very flesh shall be a great poem,
And have the richest fluency not only in its words,
But in the silent lines of its lips and face,
And between the lashes of your eyes,
And in every motion and joint of your body."

10:39 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

There is a 3rd option, Dr. Berman. It is to get a frontal lobotamy. Then perhaps (and only perhaps) you may begin to have a decent conversation with an American denizen (or at least be able to understand every other word).
So once again I watch video of US fighter planes setting their scopes on a (now) Libyan structure and watch it be obliterated. It's perpetual war for perpetual empire, the home front be damned.
So sad, isn't it? You and I spent our formative years in the 1950's, a time of robust economic growth (if you agreed to conform)and a heady optimism about the future. As a result, I sometimes engage in a bit of self-delusion thinking that eventually things will right itself.Thanks then for that well needed jolt of reality.
By the way, I've seen teachers pronounce the ch in cholera as in church and tell their students that the dr in bedroom is an example of the consonant blend, dr. How the hell did these people graduate college? The answer of course is that they had professors like Ray Williams.

10:43 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dan-

As Mark Twain once famously said, "I'd rather have a bottle in front of me, than a frontal lobotomy."

Bis-

Ever see the Ed Norton film, "Leaves of Grass"? A real gem, and now may be a gd time to check it out.

Everybody-

How are you guys all doing on bathroom mirror post-it notes? For the month of April, I suggest: THE DOLT INDEX HAS NEVER BEEN HIGHER.
Just to keep your mind clear, and your priorities straight.

mb

11:18 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: I am currently accepting nominations for May's post-it. My personal preference is, THE MORONS ARE OUT OF CONTROL, but I'm open to any and all suggestions.

11:20 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

This is an especially pertinent discussion, but I want to reread everything posted so far & think about it a bit before adding anything to it.

Meanwhile, a morsel for consideration, from this week's Religion & Ethics Newsweekly on PBS:

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/
episodes/april-1-2011/religion-and-social-media/8470/

It's a story about the use of social media in worship, i.e., online congregations & the like.

The first thing that struck me was the obliteration of the very concept of "sacred space," something MB has written about in a larger context many times before.

But here we have actual, physical sacred space, sanctuary for the mind & soul, reduced to the digital. It's not simply a virtual discussion group or online resources for those with questions -- it's holy services via the Internet.

I wonder if worshippers check their email & Twiiter accounts while engaged in such services?

I'm an agnostic at best these days, albeit with a continuing fascination & regard for genuine spiritual experience & exploration. But if this doesn't demonstrate the utter emptiness of a culture, I don't know what does.

5:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Morris,

'But "whether we like it or not" is not the same thing as "embrace," right?'

I'm not wanting to wilfully (and perversely) disagree with you here, because you are 100% right in your overall prescription.

But what I mean is that, yes Americans will embrace simplicity, because after they have struggled against it, they will indeed have to work with it, and love it, as they will have no other choice.

Ultimately, though I respect your thought immensely, I think Kunstler and (especially) John Michael Greer are on the right lines - Americans are reformable once the technostructure they worship has been proven to fail.

It's a kind of semantic argument, but as a Hindu woman who I used to know said about the husband who she was arranged to marry 30 years before (and was still with):

"You'll learn to love a pig if your live with it long enough...."

6:12 PM  
Anonymous Ray said...

Morris,

The book title I'm really looking forward to seeing is "How You Can Personally Profit from the Coming Fascist Political Shitstorm."

This being the US, I am completely serious.

R.

6:27 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Anon-

I suspect that's a very long time in coming, because technology has been our hidden religion for centuries now (something I deal with in my forthcoming bk). The coming failure of our technostructure would have to be nearly total; which means it's probably several decades away, at least. I don't think folks raised in our technoworld will come to embrace a new reality (Americans have flirted w/simplicity before, and it didn't really amount to very much). More likely, a new generation will grow up in a new world, so their reality will be a different one. It's sort of like Kuhn on scientific revolutions: not so much a change of mind as the older folks simply die out. Can u imagine Lloyd Blankfein embracing socialism, simply because he hasta live w/it?

Relevant somehow is the New Yorker cover cartoon of June 8/15, 2009, by Dan Clowes, showing an alien having landed in a destroyed New York, sitting on a pile of broken and discarded iPods, cell phones, iPads, laptops, and screens of various sorts, and reading a book--a real book. The title of the cartoon is "Future Generations." Wish I cd be around to see that...

mb

6:54 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Ray-

That's Pulitzer material, no doubt abt it.

mb

7:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Morris,

Yeah, I agree with the idea of the new generation in a new world. I think it was Max Planck who said that science only progresses one funeral at a time. Maybe the US will progress in the same way.

I don't think Americans will voluntarily abandon stuff, but what Kunstler and Greer seem to be suggesting is that the younger generations will be born without all the "stuff" (they simply won't get to own it), and will look upon the older generations still raptured by it with a certain merciless disgust.

I'm not positing any kind of "enlightenment" on behalf of the US populace, just that a material lack will create an unstoppable generational resentment.

7:41 PM  
Anonymous Craig Daniels said...

Thanks for your ever-so relevant books and blog, Dr. Berman. As to "personal" solutions being "non-solutions", I'm guessing that you'd consider the limited lifeboat capacity of efforts witnessed at http://www.ic.org/ to be "personal". While intentional communities might amount to secular monasteries for the "monastic individual" option you suggested in Twilight, while they'd have to be pretty crafty to survive the coming dark ages, let's give these brave efforts more credit --for the courage to actually model solutions, for walking their various talks about community, social values and social motivation. (Really: is there anything better to do?)

Craig

8:08 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Craig-

Actually, I quite agree w/u, and said as much in the Twilight bk.

Anon-

Well, this wd be one implication of Clowes' cartoon, I guess. Imagine, that the few sane people around wd actually get to have the last word, and that future generations (hopefully b4 end of this century) will look back on present behavior w/revulsion, even consider it a mass psychosis (which I believe it is; "they actually chose toys over friendship, community, and love!"). O to live to 2099...

mb

10:07 PM  
Anonymous Sharkbabe said...

Hi Morris

post-it suggestion: BE CAREFUL, IT'S STUPID OUT THERE

11:41 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

very much enjoyed this post, and I'm glad you discussed the Hedges article, Dr. Berman. I read it the other day, and although I always read his columns, and find him very accurate in his discussion of our (countless) ailments as a nation, I always want to cut to a guy spitting out his drink when I get to the end of his articles and he talks about how we need to rise up and vanquish corporate control. On an individual level, Americans cannot even find it in themselves to address and interact with their fellow human beings with civility, let alone kindness. The individual psychology of our citizens is so fucked up that what Hedges is suggesting is an impossibility. The sum of millions of angry, stupid, sociopathic people is not a noble and fed-up public that merely needs to be shown the way.

It is absurd hope to even think that people will show tenderness and graciousness towards others. Nothing else really matters and nothing else really measures a civilization like human decency, and in that area, we are bankrupt, with no desire to change. It is best that this is the course we are on, circling the drain, because our culture-less and community-less country is a painful place and the antithesis of what human beings are meant for. You are right, Maestro. Best to die with boots firmly laced and eyes wide open (or get the hell out of Dodge, which I'm certainly working on.)

12:31 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Shark-

That's a gd one...I recall seeing a bumper sticker during the Bush Jr. yrs that said, YOU CAN'T FIX STUPID. A post-it might add: AND WE WON'T.

Joe-

I guess Chris feels that it's a moral imperative, to act even tho it's useless. I personally don't feel such an imperative, because after a certain pt, it's just a waste of time...Like if you abs. know that the fix is in, and there's nothing u can do to change it. Then things such as chaining oneself to the W.H. fence just become symbolic gestures, with 99% of the American public not even aware that they occurred. Again, this is just a personal take, but I think it's important to understand when to fold your cards. I wasted a lot of time myself by not understanding the "anthropology" of certain situations, thinking I cd make a difference. All that happened was that nothing changed--nothing at all--and I finally had to throw in the towel. These things are systemic, and they aren't going to budge unless the "tide" is moving in a different direction already. When you consider that the New Deal basically shored up an Old System, and that the sixties were easily absorbed into the corporate-commercial ethos, you realize that radical change is not a very likely prospect in this country--unless it's actually moving with the grain. That grain is now a downward spiral. Hence, another war (after Libya) is probably likely; or an increasing gap between rich and poor; or Arizona-type hate legislation; or expanded Tea Party activity; etc. Those things will not be hard to effect, whereas reversing the spiral has become impossible. It is also the case, fairly well documented, that in the waning years of an empire or civ, it does precisely those things that hasten its demise. It's as though stupidity starts to accelerate itself, getting increasingly frenzied as time goes on. I think we are seeing that today.

mb

3:09 AM  
Blogger jerome langguth said...

"It's as though stupidity starts to accelerate itself, getting increasingly frenzied as time goes on. I think we are seeing that today."

This seems to me exactly right. Thanks much for the post and discussion. I did listen to an interview with Chris Hedges recently in which he was repeatedly asked for a statement of some kind of hope, or to predict when the darkness would lift. His response was something like "I am not a believer in the inevitability of human progress."

Inspired by the lines I quoted from your post, and an old Hank Snow tune once covered by Dylan, my suggestion for an inspirational post-it slogan is "Ninety Morons an Hour (Down a Dead End Street)".

5:39 AM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear MB,

I don't think Chris Hedges believes that we're going to turn things around; he's just saying what *needs* to happen in order for this to be so. And, at the bottom of it all, I think, is the need to "awake from our collective self-delusion". This is the Metanoia (change of mind/heart) that Mike and Tim were discussing in an earlier post. Will there be a spontaneous evolution of awareness to rouse the great sleeping masses? Not bloody likely.

But...rather than bathroom mirror post-it notes to keep our minds clear, may I suggest "post-it poems" instead? Here's one, in honor of Chris:

"Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all"
-Emily Dickinson

8:37 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Teri-

Sorry, I can't post anything that long. Do you think u might be able to edit it down to abt half that length? Thanx.

Art-

I have a feeling that upsetting post-its are going to be more motivating than uplifting ones at this pt, but that's just me. Personally, I find the line between "should/must" and "what needs to happen" awfully blurry. After all, how many times can one say, This is what needs to happen, when there's no chance in hell that it will? I may be wrong, but given Chris' level of social activism, I suspect that in his mind, it (the activism) is not merely rhetorical or symbolic; and that, I think, wd be a mistake in perception (or expectation) on his part. But then, different social critics have different ways of going about things, and I can't really read his mind. There's just a very old problem among the Left of overestimating the impact of one's activities. The Nation, for example, has a circulation of around100,000; which means it has virtually no impact at all. Yet from its editorials one can see that it takes itself Very Seriously. Anyway, I'm certainly not impugning Chris' motives or activities--not at all--I just have the feeling that at this stage, we'd be better off spending our time documenting the collapse and leaving a record of what went wrong, for future generations or even other civilizations. Emily, after all, was writing at a time when hope may have made sense.

Jerome-

Thanks for quote from Chris; I am indeed happy to learn he is not a believer in the inevitability of progress. That, of course, was Marx's mistake; and while there obviously is progress in history, history is not *about* progress. If anything, it seems to me that it's about irony, and that we can expect empires to come and go. Now is our time to go. Morons charging down a dead-end street might be one way of capturing the moment.

mb

10:11 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Apparently Rutgers students have selected Snooki of Jersey Shore "fame" as their featured speaker this year, for $32K:

http://www.cnn.com/2011/SHOWBIZ/
celebrity.news.gossip/04/01/
snooki.speak.at.rutgers.ppl/#

Comments from a message board:

Snooki's a great deal! Twice as smart as Sarah Palin at less than half price - it's win/win! You get all the fun of having a celebrity moron at the podium without all that needless cost and obligatory Obama-bashing.

Really, you just have to take a step back and embrace nihilism - let it flow through you like the Dark Side of the Force.

It makes every newspaper a rollercoaster of laughs - rooting for the worst case scenario or sticking your head in the sand and blocking out all news are, eventually, the only viable options for retaining one's sanity.


Any further comment from me would be superfluous.

10:56 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Diana,

It's mysterious how one's mere presence can telegraph one's alienation--perhaps it's something to do with body posture, embodiment. Maury's CTOS (Coming To Our Senses: Body and Spirit in the Hidden History of the West) may be a relevant text here.

I applaud you as an enlightened parent trying to do the best for her child. Trying to raise a child in an intentional way (with an eye for real values) now in the U.S may be the ultimate test for an NMI-er!

2:10 PM  
Blogger Robo said...

Even doomers like us need some kind of feeble excuse to drag ourselves out of bed each morning to set one foot in front of the other for one more day.

As a Vermont-born Presbyterian with an M.Div, Chris Hedges probably feels morally obligated to inject a final benediction of optimism into the end of each of his writings, no matter how bleak their messages might otherwise be.

As for everybody else, they aren't reading Hedges or Chomsky or Berman, and they never will.

One fine day, a few of our most favored descendants may rise up from the depths of civil and environmental collapse, lift their hands to the sky and sing "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!"

After all, it's Aoril 4th. Another anniversary. The descent has been underway for some time now, and the pace has been accelerating in the past few months.

Did I get my quotation marks in the right places?

2:38 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Robo-

Quote marks gd; am a little puzzled by Aoril, however. Does it come b4 cinco de mayo(nesa)?

mb

3:46 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

From Harold Pinter's Nobel acceptance speech, 2005:

The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and never be forgiven.

Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn't know it.

It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It's a winner. Listen to all American presidents on television say the words, 'the American people', as in the sentence, 'I say to the American people it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American people and I ask the American people to trust their president in the action he is about to take on behalf of the American people.'

It's a scintillating strategem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words 'the American people' provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don't need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it's very comfortable...

4:29 PM  
Blogger Robo said...

April 4. Martin Luther King. 1968

Sorry, the Blogger comment typeface is so small, and my eyes aren't what they used to be. Maybe it's tears blurring things up.

5:31 PM  
Blogger Sarasvati said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Love this blog and enjoy reading all the comments: very informative, intelligent and a welcome relief. I’ve regularly visited your site for the past few months and recently read DAA, which answered a previous question as to whether you thought what’s happening is organic or planned.
As I see it, what’s happening “out there” is the cumulative effect of that which resides in each of us. So there’s no way to fix our problems short of a mass awakening…which isn’t going to happen because most people don’t even know they’re asleep. Americans for the most part are narcotized, brainwashed, ignorant slaves who believe they’re free - mostly, I might add, through no fault of their own. The system insures that things stay this way. I was jolted (at least semi-) awake 15 years ago and am in constant wonder as to how it ever happened.
As someone who is dealing with a degenerative CNS disease, the possibility of surviving the death spiral is practically non-existent. Therefore I find myself living in the moment and happily contemplating Momento Mori (remember, you must die). Anyway, the root of all our fears is misidentification with the body: mistaking an object for the subject.
I have your novel, but can’t easily read books (except on a Kindle – to my dismay) right now because of a broken wrist. Which of your other books would you suggest I cue up next for when my recovery is complete?

Sarasvati

6:09 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

S-

Welcome to the blog, and thank u for writing in. Sorry to hear abt the disease, obviously. If yer interested in mind/body split, try "Coming to Our Senses," wh/I published in 1989. It's available in pb on Amazon, despite what it says there; if any problems, write direct to distributor in Harrison NY: Book Clearing House, bch@aol.com. Also, be advised that the sequel to DAA, WAF (Why America Failed) should be out in Aug or Sept.

Robo-

Yes, I knew u meant April; I was just being a pain in the ass.

mb

6:25 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

What about secession as a third way? While all actions may, after the fact, be politically pointless, one still has to choose some path. Emmigration (but to where?) and NMI are certainly alternatives but my wife and I are leaning to combined secession (New England)/NMI with a permaculture bent. When things really start to fall apart that could be a plausible outcome.

Regardless, it's true that the species has to move beyond the myth of progress if it is to survive.

I agree with earlier comments that there are "non-political" (at least from a self-identification p.o.v.) commentators that should also be in the mix, e.g. Greer, Kunstler.

6:56 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Kel-

A path I heartily endorse...in abt 30 yrs. Rt now, the US won't allow it. In 30 yrs, it may not be able to prevent it. Meanwhile, check out Thos Naylor, "Secession".

mb

7:09 PM  
Anonymous Brutus said...

Each of the times I've read RotW I've truly enjoyed the "happy chapter" at the end, though not because I imagine it lays the groundwork for recapturing something valuable we've lost. It's just a good dose of uplift. I now recognize similar prescriptions for cures of what ails us when they appear in the final pages/paragraphs of any book/article as a formal requirement to offer solutions after condemnation. Just the other day, I overheard a fellow say, "I never complain unless I can suggest a fix." So what if the fix is really just a drug branded hope?

Similarly, received wisdom is that a few powerful, evil people are doing awful things and can be stopped by shedding light on them, rousing TAP out of its slumber, and that people are basically good but ignorant, knowledge being the cure. The truth is that while TAP may be well intentioned (a very big "maybe"), they are actively ignorant (can't handle the truth) and want everyone else to be ignorant as well. Knowledge is discomfiting. Sure, education gets lip service, but we've abandoned the supposed cure because we sense it's useless. As Prof. Berman said, our direction is like the tide, which is systemic and under no one's control.

7:45 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Brut-

Well, I suspect ROW wd be a very different bk if I wrote it today, tho not entirely different. I didn't put in a happy ending deliberately, I hafta say; I think I just had too much of a belief that changing paradigms cd lead to a changed world. I didn't pay enuf attn to the realities of power, and sort of knew that...which is why it took me two more books to work out the politics of consciousness, so to speak. But lately I've been circling back to the themes of ROW, now in an altered context of the craft tradition and its rel. to technology. I know I was onto something way back in the seventies...the nature of magic, and of traditional societies, and what we've lost since the 16C. Still true, I think.

mb

9:19 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

I'm noticing more of us are mentioning Kunstler...I like some of his commentaries, but I have to admit, I was troubled recently when I heard him state that he feels the current college-aged generation would rise up, and be heroic, and ultimately lead America "back" to a culture that is far better and less of what he described in "Geography of Nowhere", etc., or his so-called "world made by hand". Upon seeing videos of college students on YouTube, reading several books and studies re: the out-of-control narcissism that they generally display, being a recently graduated grad-student myself, turning on the TV, seeing a bar fight every time I want to stop in the local pub, etc., etc., etc., I must ask myself precisely what it is that Mr. Kunstler is talking about. I'm not placing all the blame on college students. They are, after all, merely a product of our empty culture. I am just reminded once again of the 'absurd hope' that is on display, even amongst some of our staunchest social critics and finest academics.

I don't know exactly what any generation right now could lead America "back" to, since we never really seemed to get it in the first place. If it's strictly affluence that the Absurdly Hopefuls are referring to (which is appallling, considering how pointless wealth is when one has no soul), that ain't gonna happen either. We've pretty much screwed ourselves out of that.

Nothing against J H Kunstler. I listen to his podcasts sometimes and enjoy much of what he has to say. I just do not understand where, how, or why these folks think things can ever be "turned around". We are pointed in the same direction we've always been pointed in. We are just getting there faster now.

11:30 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Joe-

Cranial Rectitis is a terrible thing; it can affect the best minds in the country today. Meanwhile, a recent study conducted at the University of Michigan for the period 1979-2009 revealed a 48% decrease in empathy among college students during this time, and a 34% decrease in the ability to see things from another person’s perspective. Yes, young people are at the cutting edge of a whole new way of life, that's for sure. They are giving us so much to look forward to.

mb

12:12 AM  
Anonymous Malcontent said...

There needs to be a constant alarm siren ringing 24-7: "WARNING! WARNING! YOUR COUNTRY IS FUBARED."

I'm too tired of enumerating the failings of our society to repeat the process here. In the end, I think we're doomed as a species, but I've given myself the option of living out the end times in a place that doesn't make me sick.

I read "A Question of Values" and you wrote, in reference to the USA, something like "The place is, in a word, toxic".

You seem to have found a life worthy of living in Mexico, with its "large, beating heart". For me, I found that heart in Brazil and will be there in short order.

As far as hopeful uplift and that happy horseshit goes, consider that a bunch of assholes running around in tricorne hats have significant political sway...alright, not going to go down this list-the-bs road again. To borrow a phrase from our Facebook-addicted, glassy-eyed youngsters, "I'm over it."

Best of luck to you, Mr. Berman. Keep us posted on the novel progress.

10:36 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Joe -
Listen to this Kunstlercast for a more nuanced view of college-age kids/millenials: http://kunstlercast.com/shows/KunstlerCast_149_Debauchery_Student_Ghettos.html

I haven't read Strauss & Howe's "The Fourth Turning" but its cyclical view of generations seems to resonate with quite a few commentators. Anyone have an opinion on the validity of its thesis?

11:23 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Kevin-

I read the 1st Strauss and Howe, and had the impression that (typically) they had an idea, and then made it into The Answer. There were lots of critiques regarding the limits to the cohort thesis; then someone published a bk on position in the family (eldest sib, youngest, etc.) as The Answer (Frank Sulloway?), and so all the sociologists got excited abt *that* for a while, and Strauss and Howe seemed to be left in the dust. What the status of the cohort arg is at this pt, I have no idea. It did come off as the hula hoop of the month, tho.

Mal-

Obrigada, and gd luck on yer move to Brazil. Give my regards to Cesaria Evora as well. As for novel, I've sold all of 40 copies. Move over, Danielle Steel, here comes MB!

mb

12:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In addition to the authors you have mentioned, I'd also recommend that your readers look at the writings of Ivan Illich if they need any more help with keeping their eyes open. I just learned about you and your work today because of a footnote in Illich's essay, "Needs".
Looking forward to reading much more of your work.
Thank you.

1:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Kevin

Spengler's yer man, really.

No final chapter happy ending from him!

3:10 PM  
Anonymous Kaerukun said...

Hi Professor,

Two old Japanese proverbs:

馬鹿は死ななきゃ治らない。 (Baka wa shinanakya naoranai) Only death cures stupidity.

馬鹿につける薬なし。(Baka ni tsukeru kusuri nashi) There's no medicine to treat stupidity.

As Fareed Zakaria recently wrote, the emergence of the US as a superpower was largely an accident. Europe was devastated by two internecine wars that not only left the US unscathed but also lead to the emigration to the US of some of Europe's greatest intellects. The subsequent Cold War lead to government funding of research in universities throughout the country, attracting the brightest throughout the world.

As the saying goes, "That was then, this is now."

I think it's reasonable to stay that the next decade or two in America will be tumultuous from several phenomena: the emerging non-white majority in the US, and the rise of Asia: they make and export things.

The only question is - how bad will the situation in the US become?

I too am planning to move abroad after I retire, partly because of my interests and partly because concerns

3:49 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

K-

Arigato. Anata wa Nihon-zin desu, I take it. How u managed to get Hiragana characters on my screen is beyond me. Anyway, try a little Schiller: Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens; Even the Gods fight with stupidity in vain.

Leaving: gd move. Because one factor you left out is Idiocy Implosion (II), which I'm sure is on the way, During II, the stupidity of a country's citizens hits critical mass, leading them to elect a total buffoon (e.g., Sarah Palin) as president. This encourages further idiocy, leading to IF--Idiot Frenzy--in which buildings, roads, and bridges collapse, and morons overrun the landscape, in an orgy of barbarism (anyone even looking mildly intelligent is hacked to pieces with a machete). Entire cities implode; the nation declares war on Patagonia; the dollar drops to 4 cents in value; and most of the citizenry thinks their cell phones have healing properties and begin to use them as suppositories (this, however, cd be interpreted as a sign of intelligence). This era will go down in history as a mental tsunami; the events of March 2011 in Japan will look extremely mild in comparison. From your little apt. in Kyoto, you will look across the Pacific, and thank yer lucky stars you hit the rd when u did.

mb

4:56 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Meanwhile, the Wash Post says the Gov't might hafta shut down this Friday! Yea! One can only hope. My fear is that this is just ritual, i.e. annual posturing. Or that there will be a shutdown, but it'll be temporary. Time for an old h.s. football cheer:

Shut 'em down!
Shut 'em down!
Waaaay Down!

5:47 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps to K: Do your friends actually call you Little Frog?

7:40 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

General Notice: Someone recently sent in a message, which I attempted to access, and it disappeared (I hate this). If u know who u.r., please resend. Sorry!--mb

7:42 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

MB,

FYI only, no need to post this:

A woman says "obrigada".
A man says "obrigado".

David Rosen

8:43 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

DR-

Obrigado. u.c. how rusty my Portuguese is...

mb

10:50 PM  
Anonymous yingyangfarms said...

Hola, Morris -

Been reading your work for only a few months now. Just wanted to thank you - you are a treasure!

Only recently have I realized how dependent we are upon others for a great majority of our well-being, and how little control we have over this!

Folks are now calling our culture the YOYO culture, as in YOU'RE ON YOUR OWN, the whole "personal responsibility" meme largely a sick joke foisted upon victims.

How much have you addressed social responsibility and social cohesiveness in your work? I was recently taking a course on Political Philosophy and was impressed to see that Aristotle considered these things foundational to a healthy society, something I haven't really seen much of in my life!

Again, thanks for all your work; and please, keep it up!

11:01 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Ying-

Thanks for joining us. I guess I deal w/the theme of social cohesion by discussing how we don't have any, in DAA and also in QOV. I think in DAA I propose that "In God We Trust" shd be replaced by WIFM--"What's in It For Me". Plus, I discuss the pathology of extreme individualism present in US history.

Keep writing in,
mb

11:29 PM  
Blogger yingyangfarms said...

Hi, Morris -

Thanks for responding. Yeah, you keep writing, I'll keep checking in.

I'm going to reread DAA. I guess I'm a little shocked by the dearth of anyone really addressing this. Yeah, America is an Empire of idiots, but it wouldn't be so bad if folks weren't so pathologically self-interested - I mean, even even idiots can be good to one another.

I mention this as a friend recently pointed out to me that The Wealth of Nations can only be understood (concerning the 'invisible hand,') if it's read with it's companion volume, Theory of Moral Sentiments; ie, the theory only works if people have empathy and sympathy for one another, or it does devolve into Darwinian crap. Yeah, I just learned too that Darwin got the gist of his theory from watching his wife's father's business dealings, he being a Wedgewood and all...

Hey, where are you located? I was lucky enough to be a summer exchange student back in the day over in Tlaxcala - great people! Sheese, the fiestas! My 'grandmother' would stay out dancing at the fairs later than we could!

Best -

12:23 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Howabout

Washington, D.Z. (District of Zombies, pronounce "dizzy")?

Bumper sticker: Zombies on board.

"most of the citizenry thinks their cell phones have healing properties and begin to use them as suppositories (this, however, cd be interpreted as a sign of intelligence"

Maury,

"Larry David, move ova!"

Loved the Pinter quote.

2:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why not make Charlie Sheen president - he'd surely pick up a huge number of votes, with his tiger blood and his violent torpedo of truth.

The national motto could then be "Winning!".

6:23 AM  
Anonymous Kaerukun said...

Hi Professor,

Actually I took the name from a Murakami Haruki short story: カえるくん東京を救う (Kaerukun Tokyo wo Sukuu) translated by Prof Jay Rubin as "Superfrog Saves Tokyo."

I can't decide who's more ignorant: Palin or Bachmann, who thought that Lexington & Concord are in New Hampshire.

7:27 AM  
Blogger Athos said...

Thx, Dr. Berman for sharing this. I don’t believe anyone’s rabbits coming out of a hat. I recently read Anne Huffington’s Third World America which talked about the “third world conditions” we know and then at the end, hocus-pocus. It was possible there was escape from the miasma.

“Dying civilizations often prefer hope, often absurd hope to truth.” Sure, like the Titanic where a minister, just before the ship goes down, is shouting “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.” Talk about denial. Weeks before my mother passed away from Alzheimers, I recall a bumper sticker: “Hospice: every day is a gift.” For whom? The survivors? I wanted the suffering over. Like recovery is possible in hospice. America in hospice!

“If anything radical does occur within the next decade or so, we can be sure it will come from the political right.” Yeah, 1930s Germany comes to mind. Maybe not so “soft” a fascism.

“Staying awake.” I suppose there’s some defiant dignity in that. But it’s painful. This is reminiscent of the film version of Nevil Schute’s novel, On the Beach (1962). Following world-wide nuclear destruction, a handful of survivors in Australia await radioactive fallout to kill them. The Aussies have a wonderful national song called “Waltzing Matilda”, and the tune is adapted to a haunting background score for the film. It’s a great drinking song and at least one line is admiringly defiant, “you’ll never take me alive….” So, when our streets are deserted and the tumbleweeds abound and the soup kitchens close, we’ll strike up a lusty chorus while twilight descends.

9:06 AM  
Anonymous Kaerukun said...

HL Mencken predicted the current US political scene back in 1920:

"When a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental — men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack or be lost... All the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."

Baltimore Sun (26 July 1920)

10:04 AM  
Anonymous John Galvin said...

I can think of one exception to the “Last Chapter” temptation. Ernst Becker in his masterpiece “The Denial of Death” ends with a chapter, “What is the heroic individual”? In this last chapter Becker gives us an illuminating analysis of the “Last Chapter” problem. For a start, Becker refuses to “get carried away into abstractions that are so popular today, abstractions in which the life force suddenly and miraculously seems to emerge from nature without any limits.” Knowledge, love, free expression, finding one’s authentic self, getting rid of the self, being born again in Christ, getting in the flow, merging with the digital hive, joining the Tea Party, magical transcendence appears in so many forms. Becker threw light on the conundrum facing functioning prophets such as Hedges, Nader, Chomsky, Zinn and Berman. “One cannot be a functioning prophet with a message that he half takes back.” But, here is the conundrum, if the prophet needs a following, (if he or she needs a few paying customers to make a living), and recognizes that social change, as Eric Hoffer (The True Believer) concluded, needs a mass movement of sorts, then the prophet must break out of character and offer hope of some kind even if it is a gathering of monks dedicated to keeping a candle burning during the dark ages. Without some small illusion, an understanding friend or a gathering of like spirited souls, the darkness will overwhelm us. We won't be able to keep our eyes open and boots on.

2:49 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

John-

It seems to me you have mischaracterized/misunderstood my work, and been unfair to a few others as well. I never saw myself as a prophet, and neither did Howard Zinn; nor does Noam Chomsky. The latter two do/did believe in an eventual socialist future; it's not some gimmick for them to attract crowds or income. As for me, I made it pretty clear in my work that America's problems are structural, and that structural problems require structural solutions--not individual ones. Individual ones, such as that of the NMI, arise when no social ones are possible; and thus they are not really solutions. My first recommendation to Americans is that they emigrate, if they can; if not, the NMI option is not much more than a practical way of dealing w/life in the US. I don't see anything prophetic about either of these choices. My following, if so it can be called, is minuscule; and what I've earned in royalties per hour over the last 33 years is 2.5 cents (quite seriously). In short, I think Becker wd have seen me as one of his own, not as someone offering miraculous abstractions--as you apparently (and mistakenly) do.

mb

3:25 PM  
Anonymous Visitor from Sweden said...

John: "Without some small illusion, an understanding friend or a gathering of like spirited souls, the darkness will overwhelm us."

Sane and healthy pessimism refuse to cheer along then the projected 100+ floor skyscraper is meant to be built with wood and brick alone. It simply cannot be done - at least not beyond 10-12 floors, I think. We are currently building the 9:th or 10:th floor, and for the majority, the "psychology of previous investments" simply doesnt allow the truth. "Willful ignorance" I think its called. Choose the right materials to build with however - and "the sky´s the limit".

Winston Churchill once said: "Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing...after they have exhausted all other possibilities."

I think above is true for our entire global civilization - more or less. All human progress is a result of an indirect process. We exhaust all other possibilities - then finally as a last resort: we move up one step on the civilization-ladder. Often dragged along and up, kicking and screaming - often two steps up and one down again. Thats basically "Homo Saphiens" for you, in a nutshell.

I also find it helpful to compare clobal civil progress with the change from midwinter and late winter. The midwinter is the darkest time, but not the coldest, while the late winter is the coldest time, but not the darkest.

Is it a coincidence that we refer to historic times as "darker" - and modern times as "colder"? I think not.

7:22 PM  
Anonymous Dr L. said...

I don’t know if this quite goes with the current theme: Chekhov identified the confusion of two concepts: the solution of a problem and the correct formulation of a problem, and pointed out that only the second is required of the writer.

Even in a regular conversation you respond differently when somebody presents you with a problem and you get stirred by it and have to think about it, and when somebody gives you some kind of solution with the question, which puts you in a much more passive position.

But obviously there is no expectation that we, ‘the American people’ who actually read, can figure out anything on our own. However, there is the expectation that we would buy delusions even after being presented with horrific facts. Yikes!

Yes, we (the American people) must view, we (the American people) must rebuild, we (the American people) must embrace. A little like the president’s speech that Pinter talks about. Thanks for Pinter lecture; it’s totally worth reading the whole thing.

7:26 PM  
Blogger Neb said...

I have an idea I believe contributes to the Final Hour Fix Complex. I'll call it Denial and Masking by Heroism.

On cspan booktv I saw Malcolm Gladwell interviewing Wendy Kopp at the NY Public Library. I knew MG from his hairdo but I didn't know WK from anywhere. WK is founder & CEO of Teach for America and author of "A Chance To Make History". Malcolm stated from the start he regards Wendy as a "hero" of his. TfA has been in business since 1990. WK spoke of things like the need for cultural change in schools, best methods and teachers, engaging students & parents & setting higher expectations from both, autonomy on compensation, charter schools are worse or better than public schools depending on culture of learning, and yada yada yada. For all that was discussed I was more curious about what I didn't know about WK & TfA and what was not being said or asked at this on stage interview. And why is she anyones hero?

Teach for America I learned takes college grads and puts them in poor under-served schools. WK says TfA has helped make big improvements in our school system and that it is poised to do more in the coming years.

I have found critiques of TfA that provided additional clarity. #1 being that TfA teachers are not certified teachers. There was one study from Arizona State indicating that statistically TfA didn't do better and at times produced worse outcomes.

Continued…

8:41 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Neb-

Pls compress very last post u sent in by 50%, and I'll run it. Thanx.

mb

10:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am currently accepting nominations for May's post-it. My personal preference is, THE MORONS ARE OUT OF CONTROL, but I'm open to any and all suggestions.

How about Help, Jeffrey PattyMelt's Patty Is Melting, And He Can't Stand Up.

10:19 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Anon-

A tad esoteric?

mb

10:32 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Neb,

But even though the student teachers didn't really make a difference, everyone felt better about things, right? And that's what really matters, Feeling Better About Ourselves. As we've mentioned before, what's the single point most often made in praise of Reagan? "He made us feel better about ourselves!"

Like everyone else here, I don't want to simply wallow in despair until it closes over my head. I do sometimes feel a miasma of melancholy & deep sadness engulfing me when "the world is too much with us" -- hence my lack of posting for the past few days. At times I just have to retreat. My wife feels the same way & calls it going into our bubble built for two. Sometimes you just need that!

Athos,

How interesting that you should mention On the Beach. I was just thinking about watching it this past weekend, for precisely the reasons you mention, though in the end I opted for the DVD of "Songs of America," the 1970 CBS special by Simon & Garfunkel. Funny, it had some of the same effect on me, as "America" played over footage of the country as seen from endless highways -- in fact, one of the first things that appeared is a monstrous Monsanto sign over a smoke-belching factory.

Both films are reminders that people knew what was wrong some 40-50 years ago & attempted to talk about it, call attention to it -- but how many listened? S&G's program was abandoned by its sponsor AT&T (with Alberto Culver stepping in at the last minute) & it was clobbered in the ratings by a Peggy Fleming skating special.

Things haven't changed, they've just gotten more so, haven't they?

8:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A tad esoteric?

Most certainly, but isn't that in keeping with the Monastic Tradition and the essential underlying theme of your work? A select few, ourselves, get it....meaning everything we discuss here and that you write about. The others will never get it, so anything I say, is really intended for the select few here who will understand the nuance.

Plus, I like Patty Melts, if they're done right, but I deplore PattyMelt, and any chance I can take to excoriate him, and his ilk, with satirical darts, I take.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Anon-

Yeah, I know, but I kinda like the sorta post-it that's unambiguously in yer face when u get up in the morning and go to the bathroom and look at the mirror and there it is: DOLTS RULE, or something like that. U.R. SURROUNDED BY CLOWNS, etc. Even the DAA55 need a splash of ice water now and then, because when lvg in the US, it's easy to start thinking that the environment is like any other; the norm. I'M LIVING AMONGST BUFFOONS (red ink, block capitals) can be a gd wake-up call.

mb

10:26 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Don't know who really noted it first (for me it was Greer in "The Long Descent" but I'm not sure he was the original source) but a major cognitive error in the species (at least at this point) is that we categorize what are really "predicaments" as "problems," the difference being that the former don't allow a tidy "solution." A corollary to this categorization fallacy is that, if you incorrectly identify a predicament as a problem, then you also have to supply the solution, hence the "uplifting final chapter/call to action syndrome."

11:11 AM  
Anonymous Keith said...

Dr. Berman,

Chris Hedges' problem is he still writes for money. His editors/publishers demand some kind of hope at the end. Hell, check out the message boards at CommonDreams, Alternet and Salon - everyone wants the writers of apocalyptic screeds to tell us how to make it better. SOLUTIONS they demand.

Just once I'd want to write an article (like I did for the Canadians at rabble.ca) and basically lay it out in terms similar to yours and, at the end, say:

The situation is insoluble. Save yourselves.

Americans hate the truth and we're hope junkies. The disillusionment will be very severe (and bloody) when reality finally intrudes on "Dancing with the Stars" and "The NFL on FOX."

Keith

12:46 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Keith-

There are some situations in which hope makes sense. This (America in 2011) is just not one of 'em!


Neb-

Sorry, it's just too much text. Sending it in "installments" doesn't really change anything.

mb

3:55 PM  
Anonymous Sam said...

"Depression is a pathology; despair - now that's a worldview."

Yours may well be the final 'page' on the internet I follow. The remainder I can do without. I don't need hourly reminders of how far up the hull the water has reached on our frigate of despair to know we are sinking. As cliché as it may well be, I would rather spend my days and evenings reading, listening to opera and talking with my family. Enough. I am not suicidal, but I can tell a hawk from a handsaw. The 'tell' is the tell - think too long on it and you become just exactly as mad, or not, as Hamlet.

I don't mean to be cryptic or sly, but the only communication worth having these days is with those who know. Many thanks for your continuing letters from the outpost to Rome.

Cheers!

7:16 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Sam,

I tell u honestly, I'm a pretty upbeat kinda guy. I enjoy getting up in the morning, the more so since I awake not in the US. I don't need any post-its on my bathrm mirror, because my neighbors aren't dolts. But you raise an interesting question regarding optimism, how to spend one's days, etc. I remember in the spring of 2006, Norton, my publisher, had launched me on a cross-country bkstore tour to promote DAA. It began at the Community Bkstore, on 7th Ave. in Bklyn (they've torn out that coffee house space in the back since then, which is a damn shame). Abt 40 people showed up, at the height of the Bush Jr. era insanity, all of them depressed. I gave my talk abt the US going down the toilet. There were a lot of questions. Finally, someone said, "How do you managed not to be depressed yourself? You actually seem happy!" I said, "I *am* happy! You see, I'm not going around the country peddling bullshit, or telling Americans it's going to be all right, like all of the other social critics. I tell the truth, and the truth makes me high."

I suspect most Americans are depressed because they don't know shit from shinola, and also because they don't wanna know. This is no way to conduct one's life. The fact is, if your life is real, things can't be all that bad. It's just hard to have a real life in the US, which is why I encourage anyone who can, to leave.

mb

7:53 PM  
Anonymous Edward said...

Your last comment reminded me why I read your blog. I like Hedges too but I don't forsee any sudden awakening on the part of the American people towards an enlightened socialism. I teach at at a college and have a first-hand knowledge of the decline in learning. However, it is not just the students who are the problem, it is also the faculty. They are as oblivious as the students when it comes to our national predicament. Isn't it incredible how the recent Gulf Oil Disaster just disappeared from the national radar screen? But nobody seems to pay it any mind! Most of my colleagues believe what they hear in the media. Meanwhile if they would bother to peek through the few cracks of light that appear via the internet they would see that all is not well along the coast where residents and clean-up workers alike are being sickened by exposure to chemical dispersants and where fish and other marine life continue to wash up on those "pristine" beaches. We just had the biggest oil spill in history (dwarfing that of Exxon-Valdez)and nobody is even discussing it! I guess Fukishima will be the next thing to disappear from the news. I just read a report that the EPA is considering raising its radiation safety levels! What an Orwellian world we have entered! I knew something was amiss a decade earlier. After the 911 attacks the university (prompted apparently by patriotic members of the faculty) mandated the singing of the National Anthem at every matriculation and commencement. I can think of no better illustration of the problem than this. Hence I hold out little hope for the future. The so-called "educated class" is just as blind as the masses.

11:26 PM  
Anonymous JP Merzetti said...

Personally, I like the idea of inner emigration. Other than leaving or playing fiddle while Washington burns and LA spits DVD's
(and Detroit just kinda fades into motown twilight) perhaps some measure of long-remembered individual and personal conviction in whatever is left of a reasonably intelligent population will give meaning to whatever future efforts are left us.

Personally, the main reason why I find your views so refreshing, is that I have long suspected that the demise began with mythologies circa the creative invention of Moby Dick.
Whatever seeds of folly were sown in subsequent generations only serve to prove the point.
I heartily disagree that this is necessarily "man's downfall" because human nature is not necessarily American by definition.

1:46 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Ed-

That's the pt: real intelligence is not about IQ. Robert McNamara had one of the highest IQ's on record, and he was (in addition to being a war criminal) a dummy of the first order. He bombs the crap out of North Vietnam, and when that doesn't work, he says to LBJ: Well, let's bomb them some more! Dick Cheney is likewise very IQ-smart, but every time he opens his mouth, one suspects the guy is psychotic. "Smart" Americans were hurt and offended by the Iranian capture of hostages in 1980; virtually none of them figured out that it might have something to do with our destruction of a democratically elected government in 1953, which led to the installation of a torture regime that we wholeheartedly supported. The list of the colossal stupidity of our 'elite' class is itself colossal.

mb

2:53 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

RE: high IQ & no sense at all, Melville put it quite succinctly, "All my means are sane, my motive and my object mad."

For me the inner monastery is filled with art of every kind, a keen attention to & fascination with Nature, an attempt to maintain some sort of cosmic perspective at times (thank you, Neil DeGrasse Tyson) -- and most important of all, the life & love I share with my wife.

But that also means remaining aware, because of the constant inundation of the unreal & mediocre from every direction. It's both blatant & insidious, isn't it?

Even as a teenager, I often felt something like an alien observer of these curious, contradictory, often bizarre Earth people; and that feeling has returned quite strongly in the past few years. It's a stance that helps, it really does!

Neb,

Did you see the article about Michelle Rhee & that whole "schools should be run like a business" model in Salon?

http://www.salon.com/life/education/index.html?
story=/politics/war_room/2011/04/06
/michelle_rhee_lyons

9:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The rich and powerful aren't particularly intelligent or competent, but what they do seem to have on the personal level is that they are always extremely energetic, and that's what makes them so formidably difficult to beat - most ordinary people just aren't able to put the effort in.

A good book that describes this infernal energy is Alistair Mant's "The Rise And Fall Of The British Manager". Mant studied these kind of people (entrepreneurs etc.) and came away with the conclusion that this energy is largely driven by the insecurity that comes from a loveless or unstable childhood.

You can see this limitless energy manifested for example in the way that the big banks are relentless in their lobbying against banking reform. Even when the law is on statute they're still doing all they can to undermine it.

And that's the real problem with the huckster mentality - it's one that never gives up, even when it's been exposed and shamed. And the reason for that is that it's driven by personal emotional urges that are virulently persistent.

11:09 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Anon--

I don't see most Americans as being morons so much as being successfully brainwashed maybe much as the Germans were in the early thirties. Believing we're "exceptional" is like them believing they were "superior" and entitled to rid the earth of groups they labeled vermin. I'm uneasy with labeling (or putting post-its on the bathroom mirror stating The Morons are out of control) b/c eventually, we get down to an us-versus-them mentality I can't agree with. An awful lot of people don't think and don't want to think, I understand that, but dehumanizing them is a bad idea.

Keith--

I've read quite a bit of Chris Hedges and never seen a glimmer of optimism including his last post on Truthdig. My guess (and I don't speak for him or know him personally) is he can clearly see what needs to happen (and won't) but needs to stand up no matter how hopeless the situation is. Like most people who really look around, he wants desperately for the world to be a better place for the next generation but he can do nothing more than sound the alarm. Whaddaya do? Joe Bagaent in one of his last articles wrote:

If there can be a solution at this late stage, and most thinking people seriously doubt there can be a “solution” in the way we have always thought of solutions, it begins with powering down everything we consider to be the economy and our survival. That and population reduction, which nobody wants to discuss in actionable terms. Worse yet, there is no state sanctioned, organized entry level for people who want to power down from the horrific machinery of money. There are too many financial, military and corporate and governmental forces that don’t want to see us power down (because it would spell their death), but rather power up even more. That’s called “a recovery.”

4:23 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Susan-

The problem is that they *are* morons, and it *is* us vs. them; and they won by a mile! These are just the facts of life. Reading a post-it every day is like taking a mental vitamin; I can't recommend it enuf.

Anon-

Well, Mant was not the 1st to say it, but I think his thesis is obvious enuf, and certainly bears repeating. "Virulently persistent" is a pretty good description of the behavior, it seems to me. And so we have yet another post-it: THE MORONS ARE VIRULENTLY PERSISTENT. (Perhaps a tad too academic, I dunno.)

mb

4:46 PM  
Blogger Neb said...

Tim

If we are full speed into the heart of the sun, this article says let's throw off anything that could potentially slow us down in the future. These kids will be going to med school one day. Just think...

4:51 PM  
Blogger diana said...

Mant studied these kind of people (entrepreneurs etc.) and came away with the conclusion that this energy is largely driven by the insecurity that comes from a loveless or unstable childhood.

Anonymous,

I have been observing some of the parents at my child's school who pick up their children without ending their cell phone conversations.

It's not just entrepreneurs, the early years of the average American child if filled with insecurity and neglect. Breastfeeding stops at 6 weeks. For those lucky enough to have the pleasure. Then comes the plastic nipple, violent cartoons, bogus dvd's to create little Einsteins just before abandonment to day care at 6 weeks, or even younger.

Any possibility of healthy emotional attachment ended for these kids after only a few weeks of life. So they grow into adults who value education, friends, jobs everything, as just a means of getting ahead to make money so they can buy more plastic toys and other stuff.

6:07 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

RE: "the world is too much with us" (Tim), limitless energy (Anon):

Maybe it's just my personal health issues, but I just can't seem to keep up with the frenzied pace of living anymore. Not that I *want* to, yet I don't want to be left behind to fend for myself either.

Susan, a post-it "poem" for you:
"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." (Oscar Wilde)

6:18 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Diana-

Then those kids will become parents who pick up their (unloved, driven) children while on cell phones. I call this the Buffoon Self-Reproducing Cycle. It needs to be studied by sociologists whose parents picked them up while on cell phones, and so who need to become academic stars, etc. But eventually the BSRC could become (correctly) the major explanation for American behavior, both on the indiv level and in terms of US foreign policy. My god: I'm going to become an academic star!

mb

6:26 PM  
Anonymous Dr L. said...

Susan,
How do you describe a person so alienated and detached from reality that he/she does not show any reaction when the most amoral, outrageous, and destructive things happen right in front of him/her? A person who repeatedly votes for people who destroy the environment and kill people, steal, torture, and ultimately work against his/her own interests? A person who is proud of that kind of country? A person who doesn’t talk to other people about anything serious? A person who refuses to think. Think deeper than the world of shopping, eating, TV/gadgets/stupid entertainment, and of course - personal advancement. I understand the uneasiness about dehumanizing labels though. But what is it that makes us human?

As for kids today, as a parent, what I chiefly observe in the world of elementary school is a gibberish talk made of video game/TV characters garbage, anger, and obsession with stuff. I feel like I am in some terrible science-fiction movie.

6:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, Mant's observations were limited to the Britain of the 1970's. He was an Australian social scientist who was contracted by the major British employers of the day (ICI, British Leyland, British Steel) to analyse why they had so many problems with their workforces and associated trade unions.

Mant's submission to them was basically that their workforces were fine; it was themselves (the management) that were nuts.

Obviously it goes without saying that the Britain of the 1970's was an incomparably saner society than the USA of today, so I suppose what has changed for the worse is that the hucksters have succeeded in accelerating society to their operating speed (i.e. needy, loveless, gotta-keep-moving-to-keep-from-getting-caught speed).

What Mant was telling us is something that has long been excised from American consciousness: that the rich are weird and unpleasant people who are not to be admired (but maybe pitied).

I think the British still have a just-below-the-surface hatred of the wealthy, which is centuries old (see Christopher Hill etc. + recent London riots), and this is something that Americans need to adopt/rediscover.

6:59 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Anon-

Check out biographies of Frederick Winslow Taylor, to get an idea of how screwed up the Father of Being Driven really was. And this wack job was admired by Justice Brandeis, among others.

mb

8:20 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Dr. Berman, et al,

Funny you should mention Fredrick Taylor. A book that really made an impression on me when I first read it back in the 70's was Harry Braverman’s "Labor and Monopoly Capita: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century." Braverman describes how under the management techniques developed by Taylor, the thinking part of work has been taken over by a few managers and engineers, and most workers are left with pre-planned motions or routines which require little or no planning, imagination, thought, or craftsmanship.

Of course, Adam Smith observed over two hundred years ago that, "the man (sic) whose whole life is spent performing a few simple operations….generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become." Braverman shows how largely mindless work has been extended from manufacturing to clerical work and on throughout the work force. I've seen it take over medical laboratory work, and computer technology now makes it possible to dumb down just about any job.

You have certainly not failed to notice and comment on the doltishness of TAP, and I've been meaning to ask for your assessment of how much of it you think is the fruit of Taylor’s Industrial Engineering. After all, it's hard for a person who spends his or her life doing stupid and boring work to avoid becoming stupid and boring.

David Rosen

9:34 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

DR-

Thanks for the input; I think I read Braverman decades ago, but I can't remember. Be sure to have a look at the recent Taylor biographies, and Jill Lepore's essay, "Not So Fast," New Yorker, 12 Oct 09. Meanwhile, here's what Woodrow Wilson had to say abt it all in 1912: “The truth is [that] we are all caught in a great economic system which is heartless.” He shd have also said 'mindless', but the pt is well made.

mb

9:43 PM  
Blogger Athos said...

Tim Lukeman:

Re: On the Beach. I left out the part about the "pills" they hand out when the inevitable comes. Near the end a religious gathering is held in the streets with a banner that reads: "There's still time brother."

Terminal physical (or cultural) illness. Go to a clinic like Edward G. Robinson did in Soylent Green. Euphoric drug with scenes of nature playing on huge screens.

Health care will not only not advance but continue to devolve and I expect to die at home in pain with a nurse practicioner on the phone telling me to take aspirin.

9:19 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Art--

Thank you for the Oscar Wilde quote--I really liked it and I hope you're improving in health every day. You've mentioned you lived in Florida so I hope you can go outside and enjoy seeing the ocean.

Dr. L--

I understand your point about what qualities make us human and how they've eroded. When do we go from being dupes (encouraged to not think, just follow orders, believe nationalistic propaganda, etc.) to willing participants? Even watching the news at night, very little information is actually presented and often critical information is barely acknowledged or ignored completely. And our educational system just keeps getting worse and worse. Are the people on the receiving end of this to blame for their ignorance?

I admit I don't know the answer to these questions and there are times when I'm amazed by the lack of ethics of ordinary people. When torture was exposed in Iraq what I primarily heard here in Texas was either justification for the soldiers actions or indifference. The young man who exposed it was unable to return to his hometown b/c of the hostility directed at him and his wife. Awful--and that's what happens in delusional systems, every action is rationalized and reason evaporates.

9:22 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Susan,

I remember reading that when one of the torturers returned to his hometown (Jeremy Sivits? Cumberland MD? I can't quite recall), there was a big sign welcoming him as a hero. The fact is, these folks are your neighbors; we just can't get around that. Or the silence that greeted Abu Ghraib, or the news that the W.H. was talking w/the Justice Dept. abt possibly cancelling the 2004 election, etc. etc. These are your neighbors.

This is also how a civilization dies. My problem w/Chomsky et al. is that there finally are limits to blaming the government. No gov't can retain legitimacy w/o a large degree of public approval, and the American public does want this way of life and the associated costs (e.g., meaningless foreign wars). Tho it's kinda circular, I guess: the nation reproduces the citizens, and the citizens reproduce the nation. Meaning, finally, that there is no way out short of collapse, implosion.

All of this is sad, but we certainly aren't the first empire to go thru the process. Who will learn from our mistakes? My job, as an historian, is to document the mistakes; there's not a lot more I can do, as far as I can see. At least there should be a record. "Why America Failed," which will be out in Sept., is an attempt to analyze and provide that documentation. But the US won't read it, won't learn from it, and it's too late in any case. The crux of the matter is, that if you narrow down your raison d'etre to one thing--money--and cover it up with ideals that you don't really take seriously, you cause great harm to yourself and the world, and finally hollow yourself out; which is what we are seeing today.

mb

12:14 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Life Follows Art Dept.:

Some of u may remember my doing an end-of-the-US scenario, with citizens starting to use cell phones as suppositories. A few days later, this shows up on the online news:

Tattoo artist Earl Lee Vogt, who was sent to prison for a drugs offence on Tuesday, smuggled a mobile phone, MP3 player, headphones, marijuana and $140 in cash into jail by hiding them in his rectum, thesmokinggun.com reports.

The items were found during a search on Wednesday when a prison officer detected the smell of pot. Vogt, 29, has been charged with smuggling a controlled substance into prison and unauthorized possession of a wireless communication device.

Q.E.D.

6:29 PM  
Blogger Gregory Jerome said...

Hi Mr. Berman,

I'm writing because today, 10 years after reading your book, Twilight of American Culture, I asked myself, "I wonder what Morris Berman thinks of this cultural nosedive now?" As it's exponentially worse.

Twilight was written before: the Bush administration's parade of treasons, Fox Network's assault on human potential and decency, the popularity of sadistic, asinine, and degrading reality TV shows and more appalling developments.

So I found your blog and it turns out you were addressing the same thought. I'm glad to see your writing and correspondence is this available. I look forward to going through your posts.

This YouTube video of a reporter asking people elementary questions reveals the shocking state of public intellect. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJuNgBkloFE

-Greg

1:48 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Greg-

Thank u for writing in. In 2000, I predicted things wd go downhill; I just didn't realize that our descent into the toilet wd be as precipitous as it has been. I suspect the next ten years may be even more shocking. As for catch-up after that, I suggest you have a look at "A Question of Values," which is a collection of essays mostly written during 2007-10; "Dark Ages America," the sequel to the Twilight book; and "Why America Failed," which should be out this September.

Thanks again,
mb

9:24 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

A sickness of the soul -- that's what it comes down to, I think.

Over the weekend I watched La Dolce VIta again for the first time in decades, and was struck by just how accurately it depicts what we've been discussing here all along. The only difference is that by now, the sophisticated gloss has been worn away, leaving only the decaying bodies & souls going through the futile motions, desperately trying to generate some distraction & sensation, but ultimately failing in the end.

The more reported story this weekend? Well, they did mention the avoided (or postponed) governement shutdown -- but that was mostly in competitive terms, i.e., which side scored more points. But everyone was sure up in arms about someone being booted from American Idol! Cause célèbre! Quel dommage! All for someone who is apparently one more clone from the Screamin' Diva School of song.

This morning I'm still haunted by that final image of the innocent young girl on the beach, smiling sadly at Marcello & at us ...

11:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I've transplanted from NYC to Kansas. And I'm starting up a homesteading/self-sufficiency/self-reliance school. My friends are still putting money in their 401Ks and dreaming of a big suburban house like their parents have. They still buy into this system and all its dogma and irrational ideology.
May I suggest that unzoned schools out here can be had for almost nothing and usually come with several acres of arable land, a gym, a shop, an auditorium, and many classrooms. Find some friends and buy one (with the right eco devo plan, you may not spend a dime) and start up your own homesteading/rural culture/folk art/ cultural preservation school and leave this system behind. Real men and real women DO find real utopias. Rural Kansas is the cheapest and best option I've found thus far...

Dan Weingarten

2:10 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dan-

u.r. a true NMI; I salute you. And best of luck w/the project--it sounds great.

mb

3:54 PM  
Blogger amiri abu jamal said...

As a "leftneck", I have grappled with the stupidity of my fellow amerikans for 15 years, since I pronounced myself a Marxist. I finally had to resort to medication so as not to say what I really think (almost lost my job, was fired for 3 months in '09), and now I've come to see that we are at least better off than in Marx's day when he was the only educated guy for a hundred miles around. My point is, the masses have been undereducated for a long while but it's getting better slowly and imperceptibly. I think. But it might be the happy drugs talking...

6:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From one Anon to another - Thanks for your inspiring story of buying and starting up a school. As a parent observing the 'collapse' of everything I thought would always be there, I'm often challenged to stay positive when I consider what the future holds for my kids. Right now they are in a Waldorf school, (the best educational option out there IMHO) but I'm not sure how much longer this will be feasible.

3:59 PM  

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