May 14, 2011

Rainbow Pie

Given how much we had in common, it’s perhaps a bit odd that Joe Bageant (1946-2011) and I never met (although I think we did correspond at one point). He even wound up living in Mexico a good part of the time. But the real connection between us is the congruence of perception regarding the United States. Joe came from unlikely roots to have formulated the political viewpoint that he did: working-class, right-wing, anti-intellectual, flag-waving, small-town Virginia. A “leftneck,” someone dubbed him; it’s not a bad description.

There aren’t too many leftnecks in the United States; of that, we can be sure. This
was the source of Joe’s frustration: extreme isolation. Because he realized that the U.S. was the greatest snow job of all time. He likened the place to a hologram, in which everyone in the country was trapped inside, with no knowledge that the world (U.S. included) was not what U.S. government propaganda, or just everyday cultural propaganda, said it was. He watched his kinfolk and neighbors vote repeatedly against their own interests, and there was little he could do about it. The similarity between his last book, Rainbow Pie, and my forthcoming Why America Failed, is in fact quite startling. True, I’m analytical where Joe is homey, and my historical perspective is that of 400 years rather than just the twentieth century; but Joe’s way of addressing the issues is gritty, and right on the money. One can only hope that his book gets the posthumous attention it deserves.

Joe’s focus was his own class: the white underclass of America, 60 million strong. “Generally unable to read at a functional level,” he writes,

“they are easily manipulated by corporate-political interests to vote against advances in health and education, and even more easily mustered in support of any proposed military conflict….Low skilled, and with little understanding of the world beyond either what is presented to them by kitschy and simplistic television, movie, and other media entertainments…the future of the white underclass not only looks grim, but permanent.”

On the positive side, however, these folks lived in what can be called the last genuine community in the U.S.:

“One neighbor cut hair; another mended shoes. From birth to the grave, you needed neighbors and they needed you. I was very lucky to have seen that culture…[and I learned] how our [present] degraded concepts of community and work have contributed to the development of physical and cultural loneliness in America. Not to mention the destruction of a sense of the common good, the economy, and the the natural world.”

“Damn few of us,” he concludes, “grasp how the loss of traditional aesthetic and foundational values…are connected with so much American tragedy.”

One of Joe’s descriptions of that vanished world reminds me of a very moving poem by Gary Snyder, “Axe Handles”. Joe writes of his father:

“All his life he had made his own world with his hands, and fixed it the same way. I’d watched him and [Uncle] Nelson make hickory axe-handles, hoe handles, and oaken mallets, and watched them smooth out the hickory and oak wood by scraping the handles with large shards of broken glass, a practice that went back to pre-sandpaper colonial times. They were quiet and thoughtful as they worked—with their long, patient strokes, handle in lap, pulling the glass along the contours—in what I don’t think it would be exaggerating to call a metaphysical, reflective space…. Pap had learned it from his father, and Nelson had learned it from Pap, and by watching, I learned it from them.”

All of this, he continues, got replaced by the world of chasing money, and by jobs that have no inherent meaning. We no longer have any sense of who we are as a people, he asserts; the “American exhortation to ‘follow opportunity’ is birth-to-grave and relentless.” Meanwhile, with millions unemployed (nearly 20%, in fact), we now have a government “that sends police to break up the tent camps and car camps of homeless unemployed citizens who once belonged to the middle class.” And yet—no one complains! America, Joe tells us,

“doesn’t like whiners. A whiner or a cynic is about the worst thing you can be here in the land of gunpoint optimism. Foreigners often remark on the upbeat American personality. I assure them that our American corpocracy has its ways of pistol-whipping or sedating its human assets into the appropriate level of cheerfulness.”

Yet some refuse to take it, and like Timothy McVeigh, come up with a pathological reaction to a pathological situation—in his case, the Murrah Center bombing in Oklahoma City. For McVeigh understood that whatever democracy we once had

“has been subverted by corporations and bought politicians…[he] believed that America had become a corporate-backed police state consisting of only two classes—the elites and the rest of us—regardless of the party in power. If he was paranoid, he certainly was not alone…. [For] no matter how you connect the dots, or which dots you choose to connect, it comes out the same: our parents’ lives were displaced; our own have been anxious and uncertain; and our children’s are sure to be less certain than ours.”

Nevertheless, the fear that some elites have, that the poor and the working class might eventually figure out where their true political interests reside, is an unfounded one:

“We dumb working folk were clubbed into submission long ago, and now require only…a 24/7 mind-numbing spectacle of titties, tabloid TV, and terrorist dramas. Throw in a couple of new flavors of XXL edible thongs, and you’ve got a nation of drowsing hippos who will never notice that our country has been looted, or even that we have become homeless ourselves….And besides, there’s always bourbon.”

One would think that the widening gap between rich and poor would inflame these folks, right? No such luck, because both classes refuse to acknowledge it. The reigning dogma is that there are no classes or masses, just 310 million individuals, “Marlboro Man types in charge of their own destinies.” Meanwhile, at least 67% of Americans are counting on Social Security for their entire retirement income, and by 2008, the top 1% of Americans earned as much as the bottom 45%. According to the CIA’s World Factbook, in 2009 the U.S. ranked 46th in infant mortality rates (behind Cuba, among other countries), and more than 40 million citizens suffer food scarcity or hunger. “The combination of our poorly educated workforce,” Joe observes,

“and ruthless demagogic oligarchy are not a nationwide problem: they are a national tragedy. It’s one that’s getting worse and is not likely ever to be fixed. The Empire is collapsing inward upon its working base. The oligarchs have skipped town with the national treasury; many have multiple homes in other countries. The inherent natural resources upon which America was initially built by laboring men and women have been squandered….When empires die, they die broke.”

That’s the domestic situation. As for Americans’ awareness of what their government is doing overseas—forget it. We are, he writes, the “Republic of Amnesia.” Couple this historical amnesia with our abysmal public educational system and our daily “engorgement on cheap spectacle, and you get a citizenry whose level of world and social comprehension is somewhere between a garden toad’s and a bonobo chimp’s.”

Meanwhile, we live out a “homogenized national story line.” Corporations own the media, and they employ writers to do our dreaming for us. And the dream they produce is strictly about wealth, and why we as Americans are particularly entitled to it, with no reference to its historical costs—such as the money spent on meaningless wars. In fact, “historical memory has been shaped to serve the ends of empire.” As for the American Dream, this is simply “one of maximum material wealth and ownership of goods and commodities, and the ‘freedom’ to pursue those things until you drop dead.” But the questions won’t go away: “If we are so rich, why do I feel so insecure? If we are so united in our goodness and purpose, why am I so lonely?” Why indeed.

Joe knew what he was talking about, and knew it intimately; which meant he understood that there was no reversing the situation, no saving America at the eleventh hour. He made his own exit, from cancer, on March 26th of this year.

A great American. R.I.P.

©Morris Berman, 2011

185 Comments:

Anonymous Kelvin said...

Thank you for that eloquent in memoriam, Maury. I've only learned of Joe Bageant from this blog but your post has made me want to go read *Rainbow Pie*.

My mother is in Panama dealing with dire family business. I'm house sitting and looking after her garden and dog and feel tied down to the homestead. At first I felt resentful, not being able to take off on a day trip, or see friends in a city to the north. But I'm getting used to this isolation, even welcome it. I'm calmly watching impulses to go buy liquor, books, dvds, etc. arise and then dissipate. I'm being made aware of an inner vacuum and the abhorrence of it, the desire to fill it. And the way the town's set up, there aren't many places to go to that aren't emporiums or private property. So I'm forced back into the vacuum and find out that it doesn't want to be filled with anything made by humans--music, poetry, books, art, philosophy, politics. The vacuum abhors all that. I don't know what to do with it. One saving event was that I discovered a park and, although a freeway traverses it and houses are occasionally visible on either side of it, still, the sensorium of trees, plants, flowers, birds--glimpsed a brilliant red cardinal and its rust-colored mate--is somewhat apotropaic. The emptiness isn't evil. It has something to teach me.

7:31 AM  
Anonymous Tom said...

I cherry-pick what I deem to be the truth about the world and how it works from a couple of handfuls of thoughtful writers but Joe came as close as anybody I have ever read to being 'spot on' across the board. Thanks Joe for sharing........

8:31 AM  
Blogger James said...

People seek to escape their obligations only to find that no one owes them any obligation. We're alone in techno-world, worn-out human resources without a soul to cover our backs, support us in sickness, be a friend. Our obligation now is to watch the television and do as it says. We are now human resources and our obligation now is with something as meaningless as a flag, a credit score, a company. If the President says go into debt to help the economy, we oblige, because we know they're “looking out for you” as one T.V. personality reminds us. In reality politicians are looking out for those that fill their pockets with unearned rewards generated by unaware slaves. In pursuit of money we forget our obligations to each other.

To have someone willing to die and sacrifice for you and to be willing to die and sacrifice for someone else is the highest attainment for the individual. We should discard all of the cheap tricks of society and once again support each other with vigor in the daily struggle. I'm really sorry about the loss of Joe Bageant, but glad he left a substantial impression upon so many people.

10:22 AM  
Blogger ivojanier said...

Hello Prof. Berman (and Thank you!) and DAA55 (and hopefully counting),

I haven't been posting anything for quite a while, altough I have been dutifully following every one of Prof. Berman's articles, and subsequent comments. This is certainly like "online group therapy" for me, and I wish I had a talent for writing as some of you do. I just wanted to mention an entertaining piece by Truthdig's Mr. Fish, titled "Coming of Rage in Neverland" (http://www.truthdig.com/arts_culture/item/coming_of_rage_20110512/).

Here is a precious excerpt near the end:

"...Worse than that, even, was what I imagined bin Laden’s qualifying the United States as an imperial power would do to the West’s likelihood that it would re-evaluate its hegemonic tendencies and hubristic sense of global privilege. Knowing what Hitler had done to the complete eradication of the square mustache, I could only guess what bin Laden was doing to U.S. introspection."

BTW, thank you for introducing me to Joe Bageant.

Ivo

9:59 PM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

Dear Morris (and the rest of yinz),

Many thanks for the Joe Bageant reflection.

I ran across Joe, in part, because of the title of his first book was so damned funny: "Deer hunting with Jesus". I deer hunt (but not with Jesus) and picked up his book. Needless to say, it hit me where I live.

Joe Bageant is special to me because he allowed me to name myself (not an easy thing): "leftneck". I get the feeling many of us who write into this blog feel alienated because we are profoundly out of sync with the dominant culture. OK, fair enough. But Joe put his finger on, and named, a particular kind of out-of-sync. And when I read it, I had one of those epiphanies one only gets maybe once or twice in a life time. The kind where you can feel somebody talking directly to you. That's pretty rare, and he was pretty rare.

I've taken a ration of shit on this blog for self-confessing to casting bullets in the garage, but old Joe would've pulled up a chair and asked me what alloy I was using and what grain was the bullet weight? Air cooled or water cooled? And he got the bit about hunting for food. Even to the point of "poaching".

Anyway, he was unique in giving a voice to the many, many, MANY poor white folks who just take it in the nuts everyday without being able to articulate what the hell is wrong. They know it's there, but why? He was their bard.

He had another name for folks who gave a shit about poor folk who weren't necessarily left-necks. Even if you don't have a 12 gauge at home, for Christ's sake, pitch in a become what he called a " Trench Liberal". Leave the fancy beer and wine at home and speak up for you poor brothers and sisters who know something is wrong but don't know how to organize themselves or how to speak up for fear of getting kicked down for the umpteeth time.

I will deeply miss Joe Bageant and I count on folks like you to make up the slack!

I'm really grateful there are human beings like him.....and I really hope he gets off the wheel this time. I'll happily give up whatever karma I've got going for me to get him there.

Bisley

10:50 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Bis-

There aren't very many folks like Joe, and for precisely the reasons he says in his bks. What drove him bonkers was watching the people around him shooting themselves in the foot, and getting all worked up not about the people who were fucking them over, but at precisely the folks who wanted to give them a crack at health care, education, unemployment insurance and the like (the goddamn commies, in short). He also went batty thinking about the fact that there was absolutely no way to turn that around: they would just continue shooting themselves in the foot while the class they de facto supported (rt-wing groups, Pentagon, corporations, Sarah Palin, etc.) made sure they stayed down in the dirt. Not a great position to be in, if u feel deeply abt these things.

I recall reading somewhere that in the months leading up to his death, MLK had figured a few things out that was making the FBI nervous: in particular, that domestic and foreign policy were related. That Vietnam was not an accident, for example, and was part of a System of American power and dominance. He began talking about these things to poor black folks sitting in the pews of his church, and making public speeches as well. Uh-oh.

Anyway, there it was, this impossible nut to crack, sitting right in front of Joe: If he cd get the poor white underclass to start making the appropriate connections, the situation might turn explosive; they might see thru the System--even recognize that there *was* a System--which could lead to a sticky situation for the powers that be. But Joe knew that in order to do that, you've actually got to read, think, and undertake a certain type of intellectual analysis (like he did, like MLK did)--and his brethren hated people who read, thought, and were intellectuals. And that meant that the Palin crowd won, and would continue to win. Therefore, nothing less than an act of god could alter the situation, and Joe was no fool. No Rainbow Pie for him.

End of story.

mb

12:56 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Maury,

Thank you or remembering someone who deserved to be better known. I don't recall seeing any mention of his death on the news or in the papers, though someone somewhere must have mentioned it.

I was bitterly amused by the counterpoint of today's CBS Sunday Morning, which featured a pretty glowing profile of Henry Kissinger. Oh, there was some brief mention made of Vietnam & Watergate (none at all of Chile & Allende), but it was mainly a promotion for his new book on China & a glorification of his career as whole.

At one point he commented about bin Laden's death, saying it shows America's determination to track down & punish anyone who damages the country. Forgot to mention Wall Street, corporations & politicians, and, well, himself, didn't he?

I'm seldom reduced to cursing out loud at the TV, but to hear this fucking war criminal being praised, while someone like Joe Bageant is sent down the nearest memory hole, just infuriated me.

But it didn't surprise me.

12:57 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Tim-

Hey, that's America. If Americans regarded (or even knew abt) Joe as a great and honest thinker, and Henry as a liar and a war criminal, we'd have a different country, and Joe wdn't have had to write the book (that very few will read). If Americans regarded Jimmy Carter as a hero and Ronald Reagan as a demented clown, we'd have a different country. Etc.

mb

1:06 PM  
Anonymous JM said...

Speaking of war criminals:

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article28093.htm

I can't think of anything more typically American than the hostile reaction of the audience to this brave and principled protester. She's lucky she wasn't beaten.

7:13 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

JM-

I'd like to read this, but unfortunately, url's always get truncated on this site. Try chopping it into bits and sending it again.

Thanx,
mb

8:51 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

Dr. Berman, thank you for the homage to Joe Bageant. I'm reading Rainbow Pie now, and I hadn't heard of him before your blogs. I've also ordered Deer Hunting With Jesus. He really articulated the frustration that comes with awareness...the "waking up" that I experienced (and I imagine many of my friends here have experienced as well). It's saddening and frustrating because we realize that no one even wants to think or understand.

10:50 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Hey everyone, just go to tinyurl and use it to post links. That way Pr. Berman doesn't have to request it be shortened, as he seems to need to do in every comments section. Just thought that might help.

12:35 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Colin-

The problem with posting to a previous post is that very few will read it. In the future, it's probably best to stick with the current post. In any case, yes, I've read a good bit of David Harvey, tho not the 2010 article you cited. Thanks for the ref.

mb

6:24 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Joe Bageant's life is an adumbration of the themes of Thomas Hardy's novel, *The Return of the Native*, about a native son of a rural village in England who returns to the village after a sojourn in a city where he is educated. He comes back to the village as a teacher. (There has always been a dialectical tension between town and country).

Real education is dangerous because it gives us the tools to figure out reality, especially the reality of oppression. The term "liberal arts" means the arts (skills) of thinking that make for free peoples who are not shackled to authority but can think for themselves.

But, of course, education seems to serve very different purposes nowadays--education to corporate conformity and consumerism. Hence, it is imperative that we become autodidacts, read Maury, Marx, Adam Smith, talk with friends, etc. (Thank you, Colin, for the url to what seems to be a video course in Marx's *Capital*).

10:34 AM  
Anonymous LG Nye said...

Just a quick correction from a longtime lurker:

The Oklahoma City bombing by McVeigh was not in Tulsa.

12:01 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear LG:

Thank you! How cd I have missed that? It was in Oklahoma City, of course.

mb

2:54 PM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

Hokey as it can be, I'm sitting here watching "The Matrix" for the umpteenth time, and boy, it sure looks like a fancified version of "Deer Hunting With Jesus".

And another Sign of the Times (one Joe would like):

Disney has trademarked the phrase "Seal Team Six". You know, the guys who killed Bin Ladin. So what will it be? A musical cartoon? A new ride at Disneyland? I know! Something stuffed into a Happy Meal.

Can't wait!

Bisley

9:41 PM  
OpenID brutus said...

I truly appreciate your acknowledgment of Joe Bageant and quoting from Rainbow Pie. I agree that he was a great American, though not in the traditional sense most would recognize. The contrast of your analytical style with Bageant's more home-spun writing is also worth reinforcing. My tendency is also to be more analytical, and books like Wandering God truly fire my mind. But Bageant put fire in my belly, writing with guts and withering descriptive accuracy that's hard to match for its authenticity. It's curious that for all the autobiographical detail in his essays and memoirs, I never quite got how isolated and frustrated he felt until you observed it.

4:07 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

It's a shame the two of you never met. You were certainly kindred spirits and you both, in your own way, opened my eyes to what I see around me everyday. It seems the story line has been boiled down to two things: validation and entertainment. We want to be told we're "heroes", have the God-given right to consume the earth, interfere in other nation's business, and the only point of view worth considering is our own. No one else's narrative matters. When I tell myself you and Joe were wrong, all I have to do is turn on the TV and see the BS served up. Just about everyone I work with (and I like them all very much) knows way too much about the personal details of the finalists for American Idol.

4:25 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Thank you all for your comments and reactions. I dug thru my email messages of a couple of yrs ago, and did manage to find a brief correspondence I had with Joe; mostly telling him how much I appreciated what he was trying to do.

I feel him as a kindred spirit because of his authenticity. But Joe had to contend with something I didn't, namely having a genuine community life that was however at odds with what he knew the US to be, and not being able to express that w/in his community. Hell on wheels, that. The only community I experienced was my mother's side of the family when I was a kid, and that dissipated very quickly once her father died, when I was 21 yrs old. I was, in short, a loner from an early pt--as was Joe, but he was not a loner in a physical sense, only in an intellectual/political one. I suffered for it, but it can't really compare to the anguish Joe felt all his life. Whereas his emotional position was something along the lines of, "Jesus, just *look* at what's in front of yer noses!", mine is more ironic: Hey, don' let *me* get in yer way! (Not that I don't care, but I'm acutely aware of how little can be done at this pt, and how easy it is for anyone who bothers to read my stuff to dismiss it as "eccentric".)

I do regret that Joe and I didn't team up in some way, tour the country like Laurel and Hardy or whatever. And I'm very, very sad he died so young.

mb

4:42 PM  
Blogger Neb said...

Thank you for bringing awareness to me on Joe Bageant. I've read his name on this site before but wow, he's great.

I wonder if the book goes into the current pistol whipping called oil shale frakking: drilling sans regulation manifesting tap water on fire, increased illness, cancer, etc...

11:29 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

In case anyone missed it, do check out the url JM sent us: a courageous activist law student at Stanford confronting the b.s. of Condoleezza Rice (aka war criminal), and of course getting shouted down by the audience, instead of getting applauded (in case this gets truncated, what follows clearinghouse is .info/article 28093.htm):

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article28093.htm

4:22 AM  
Blogger ivojanier said...

Dears Prof. Berman and DAA55,

I found this great talk by Univ. of Texas Prof. Robert Jensen, titled: "What Does It Mean to Be a Human Being? The Mistaken Identities of Nation/Race/Gender". Here is the URL, in blip.tv:

http://blip.tv/zgraphix/robert-jensen-on-what-does-it-mean-to-be-a-human-being-the-mistaken-identities-of-nation-race-gender-5171081

He speaks about being an American vs. being a Human Being, or being a White Male vs. being a Human Being.

I'm sorry about the long URL, I don't know how to make it shorter!

5:58 AM  
Anonymous Michael in the Bronx said...

I expect protestors to be shouted down, of course, and have even been on the other side of the fence, where I wished a disruptive or uninformed protestor would quit grandstanding, but I kind of can't believe how *quickly* this woman was shouted down. The hostility against her was strong and instantaneous.

7:21 AM  
Blogger James said...

The flowering of myths, beliefs and religions to defeat death are as salient as the Pyramids of Giza in societies worldwide. Here in Kentucky, a new Noah's Ark theme park in the vicinity of our popular Creationist Museum may soon be a reality. Could it be that humans have become too aware? That the Id, the neural repository of our fears and lusts would rather not have intellectuals pulling back the curtain and exposing the terrifying truth that carefully arranged myths and beliefs obscure? As explored in Robert Louis Stevenson's “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, the Id is the foundation of an irrational and impulsive being.

Why temper your steel in the intellectual furnace when simple beliefs, endless entertainment and shopping distractions can entirely eliminate the need for contemplation? Most Americans have difficulty accepting alternative myths and religions because it creates ripples in the calmness they have created. Try dropping an intellectual boulder into their shallow pool and Mr. Hyde will prowl with teeth bared until the surface is once again a placid and unobstructed mirror of belief.

The intellectual world seems to be rather sequestered. Was just wondering if others had entertained similar thoughts.

11:11 AM  
Blogger chadz70 said...

On an unrelated note, here's an interview with Chris Hedges that was posted to Truthdig yesterday. Good as always. Towards the end he speaks of what's happening to the country and where we're headed which fits into the overriding themes of this blog:

http://www.truthdig.com/avbooth/item/chris_hedges_we_speak_in_the_language_of_terrorism_20110516/

12:33 PM  
Blogger Athos said...

Going to see where I can find Rainbow Pie.

"And besides, there’s always bourbon.”

Paging Orwell's Victory Gin?

http://www.scholarsandrogues.com/?s=Is+Texting+Like+Victory+Gin&x=29&y=10

“Historical memory has been shaped to serve the ends of empire." Orwell again.

1:09 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Hi Everybody,

Google the following news item -- you'll love it:

Loud cell-phone talker removed from quiet car by police

It should happen everywhere, all the time.

David Rosen

4:30 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

James-

Check out "Idiot America," by Charles Pierce.

If u think there's an upper limit to American doltage, think again.

DR-

Nice article; the picture is terrific. Classic American douche bag. Why we don't have the death penalty for this sort of behavior is quite beyond me.

mb

4:59 PM  
Blogger chadz70 said...

My bad. Let's try that Hedges interview again with tinyurl: http://tinyurl.com/6yt5san

5:47 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Don Gorske of Font du Lac just ate his 25,000th Big Mac.

Reported on cnn.com.

I just thought everyone shd know this.

So did cnn.com.

11:23 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Hi Maury,

I twice posted comments re: Code Pink and the Stanford protestor but they either got lost or filtered out. If the latter, please explain why.

Thank you.

12:38 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

James,

Hermann Hesse had an image for the sequestered intellectual world in his last novel, *The Glass Bead Game*, that has for its setting the province of Castalia that has its schools for the various university departments of thought (math, science, philology, etc.) The game is a synthesis of all human knowledge and culture and is played in a solemn, ceremonial fashion.

The novel's ending is unexpected and a critique of the rarefied world of Castalia.

Again, there are Heidegger's thoughts on humans as handlers of tools, craftpersons, who work toward ends that they mentally conceive and seek to manifest in a planned sequence of steps. Work in this fashion is contemplative, meditative, deliberate, and grounding. Sorry for the vagueness because this is Heidegger at second hand. His behavior as a Nazi has repelled me so I have not yet got around to reading his own words.

The U.S. is craft averse. Why make it yourself when you can quickly buy it? Of course, there are hobbies. But there is something too individualistic about hobbies; the taint of the eccentric uncle. Hobbies don't serve a broad community; they serve a clan of like-minded eccentrics.

12:57 AM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Friends,

My brother recently visited, and with his usual smugness, told me: "Florida is a special place!" I replied, "You mean, like the Special Olympics?"

Ivo, thanks for the Robert Jensen link, "What Does It Mean to Be a Human Being?" "You can be an American, or a human being, but you can't be both." A friend recently accused me of expressing "...the death of civilization resulting from wild exaggerations about the moral degeneration of the human race." Actually, I was just talking about Americans.

RE: Big Mac
As I've always maintained, let's not throw out the beef with the bath water. Eliminate the bun and the sauce (filled with HFCS and soy) and you've got a fairly decent meal. The guy who ate his umpteenth burger is thin, with a cholesterol of 156. We live in a nutritional Dark Age: seven whole grains on a mission of self-destruction. (Please don't make me bring this up again!)

1:17 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Kel-

I never received either of them. Try again?

Art-

But 25,000 of them? Give me a break!

mb

4:17 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

The lead story on many news shows the past couple of days has been about Arnold's secret lovechild & all the ramifications for the rest of us ... oh, wait, there are no ramifications for the rest of us!

But it's sure more interesting than delving into the Senate voting to keep tax breaks for oil companies, for instance. How dull!

By the way, did anyone else think it strange that the first thing Arnold's children did was run to Twitter to comment on how they felt? I realize this has become the norm -- you don't exist unless you constantly call attention to yourself in the digital hive. No inner person, just continual surface interaction.

James, thanks for your post. Yes, I do get the feeling that many people make an actual effort to push away anything too troubling, too thought-provoking, too unsettling. While we all do that at times -- we have to, simply for self-preservation -- more & more seem to have made that their automatic default for living.

Even before I became a vegetarian (personal reasons, no proselytizing from me), you couldn't have paid me to eat one of McD's greasy gray gristle burgers!

By the way, my wife & I noticed that Fast Food was one of the categories on Jeopardy the other night. Man, that show is filled with commercials barely disguised as clues these days!

8:22 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Tim-

I never read Eric Schlosser's bk, but doesn't he say somewhere that Big Macs can contain fecal material and rodent parts?

YUM!

mb

8:59 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Maury,

He did indeed! And while it was my increasinly sympathetic feeling for animals in general that led to my going vegetarian, it was a viewing of the film Fast Food Nation that gave me the final nudge -- both for the reason you state, and for the awful cycle of worker exploition & environmental degradion involved.

I read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle when I was 12 or so, sick at home with a fever, and it always stayed with me. At the time, my stomach took the primary hit; when I got older, I understood what he was saying about unretrained capitalism.

If I did still eat meat, it would be from some reliably clean & organic source where the animals are at least allowed to live decent lives beforehand. Of course, it would be even better if other animals, such as human beings, could all live decent lives as well, wouldn't it? Clean water, nutritious & tasty food, basic education, affordable healthcare ... what a happy, magical place that must be!

10:06 AM  
Blogger tide said...

That was a great post of the student protesting Condi Rice. It reminded me of the Hedges commencement speech during the Bush era when he he was booed off the stage.

Higher education heh?

Speaking of people I like who get booed check out the Santana story at the Major League Baseball's civil rights game.

http://tinyurl.com/5uykthw

I guess someone in the front office didn't check his papers, er, I mean his resume!

By the way, a quick note on smaller links for those who want to post shorter links.

Go to tinyurl.com

Very self-explanatory.

El Juero

10:17 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Maury,

Code Pink, an organization of women against war--men are welcome too-- produced the video of the woman disrupting Condoleeza Rice's lecture to Stanford law students. Toward the end of the video, after the woman is escorted from the hall, a man gets up and shouts, "Arrest that woman!" The audience is quiet at first because they believe he's referring to the woman, but he continues, "She has no right to lecture on international law! She's a war criminal!" So it's apparent that he too is protesting Rice's presence. That's where the video ends.

I went to codepink.org and under the "media" tab found more protest videos. Michael commented on the audience's trigger rage in the Stanford/Rice video. In another video, Code Pink Action disrupts a talk by John Woo who was instrumental in forging the "enhanced interrogation" policy. An audience member assaults the protestor with a cane!

The group's strategy of disrupting forums where whom they deem war criminals are speaking is to post to a forum two or more protestors and a videographer to film the ensuing disruption. The protestors "detonate" their scripts seriatim thereby maximizing the extent of the disruption. Very clever!

Onward and downward!

10:29 AM  
Blogger James said...

Dr. Berman and Kelvin,

Thanks for the reading suggestions. Frightening times for the Id, interesting times for the intellect. I'm not sure two complex adaptive systems bridged by a mentally unstable primate will be able to make it, especially since the two systems are incompatible in many ways. I'm pretty sure that if technology ever escapes human involvement, it will evolve into a vicious and predatory entity, much like organic life and we will be either irrelevant or an ant to be crushed.

The magical properties of our technology are used against us to maximize the efficiency of our participation in the process. We're being shoe-horned into a system to which we are not adapted. This all happened before in cellular evolution, but this time I believe the outcome will be much different.

10:40 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

El J-

Yeah, I remember that; a college somewhere in Illinois, I think. The college pres, to his credit, went to the podium and explained to the graduating seniors that a college is a place where different, even unwelcome, pts of view are entertained. Clearly a breakthru concept for them (tells u something abt what American students learn in college). Today's youth, America's "future". Morons, utter morons.

mb

11:54 AM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I was just having a little fun with you, for old times sake. It's about over-consumption, not dietary preferences, of course. Americans are consuming the world (beef from what used to be rainforest in the Amazon!) and don't see anything at all wrong with that.

BTW, I don't eat at fast food restaurants. But, deli meats are often contaminated with listeria; that's no picnic either.

1:24 PM  
Anonymous Paul said...

It's kind of a self regulating system though when you think of how we do ourselves in. Maybe it doesn't deserve saving after all. Just let it all collapse and steer as clear of the wreckage as possible...

In from the battlefield: I was recently in a company meeting on 401k's where I work where the idiot in charge had the gaul to tell us that we were now all little "businesses" that needed to take more responsibility for our own retirement because it wasn't anyone else's 'business' to do so. Again, after all the hard work and commitment to see that things get done right for their bottom line and then to have to go take our chances with the casino on Wall Street. You know, "have a nice life, now drop dead!"... I tell you, I felt like strangling that guy. It's an insulting and degrading situation...to say the least.

The thing is you can't say anything in a dictatorship (which is what we have become). If I'm a business then I elect to take all the tax write off's that businesses enjoy... how about that, asshole?

I mean where is the outrage? As far as the next gen. it just seems they are so completely caught up with gadgets and clueless about the world. Everybody just sits on their hands. At least growing up in the 60's we had ideals to aspire to beyond working like a friggin' slave.

2:36 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Art-

I actually bathe in chopped liver. Please, don' take that away from me!

mb

2:51 PM  
Blogger Mike Cifone said...

Maury,

On this point abt dissenting views in college classrooms, watch what I think is a brilliant oration on the life of the mind, and the heart of education, by Cornel West. I'm struggling to approach his work and words; I think he's sincere but I am wary of his public persona (rather, that he has one). In any case, listening to him lecture I can't help but feel inspired; I can't help but think that philosophy can have life to it -- that it has living potential. West makes the other academics in the room cower, and shake; his presence alone, I think, unmasks the horrible funeral-director quality of the whole university thing.

I get the same feeling reading and listening to Joe B. You get a sense that, from the conflict brought about by his dedication to critical thought, you get true life, a soul on the way to eudaimonia or "well-being" in the fullest existential sense which Aristotle no doubt meant to suggest in his ethical writings (see Jonathan Lear's magnificent study on Aristotle: *The Desire to Understand*). Conflict is constitutive of a good life (Empedocles says that all is but the conflict between Love & Strife).

In any case, though you, Maury, are from a different cultural and social background, you share with Joe and Cornel one thing: a deep commitment, a vocation, to unapologetic love of wisdom (if I may). But it stems, I think, from conflict, from a sense of the tragic & comic. To wake us up to this struggle, to the tradedy and comedy of it all, is the duty of those who love Wisdom. It was Joe's duty; and it is yours; it is Brother West's.

http://www.youtube.com
watch?v=-Fdb3XsnR2g
(lecture at Pepperdine U)

and even

http://forum-network.org/lecture
/what-makes-life-significant
(lecture at Harvard on Wm. James)

3:37 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Mike-

Well, thanx. My life these days seems to revolve around saying what's real, to the extent that I can. That's what I admired about Joe B.

Meanwhile, check out "Crazy Like Us," by Ethan Watters. It falls into that category, I think.

mb

5:55 PM  
Blogger Cj said...

Great article today by Glenn Greenwald 'The illegal war in Libya'

http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2011/05/19/libya/index.html

Obama's presidency is a wretched and cruel joke.

Chuck

7:58 PM  
Anonymous Keith said...

Dr. Berman,

I look forward to your essays as much as I did Joe's. I corresponded with Joe as well. He was trying to get me to move to Mexico. I wish I had. This country is driving me to madness. In any case, thank you for the tribute to one of the greatest American social critics and storytellers no one's heard of. I think he had at least one more book in him if he had lived - about his spiritual search. Joe was turning inward the last year of his life. He had given up his rage and trying to save America through his writing and speaking. He knew it was too late. So he went on a spiritual journal to find that elusive peace within himself. In his view, as individuals, it was the only way he felt we could save ourselves. In the end, the US got him back - he landed up in a VA hospital an hour's drive from the VA hospital I work for before he died. I've been taking his death very hard. Dr. B, you're one of the last left. Please take care of yourself. BTW, Rainbow Pie should be required reading in US high schools and universities but alas, it won't be. Looking forward to your new book.

9:05 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Chuck-

True; and the guy himself is a kind of postmodern phantom. There really is nothing to him, at all. Like Bush, a kind of hologram. And he'll get re-elected, too, because the potential GOP candidates are little more than buffoons, a kind of bizarre comedy act.

Keith-

Thanks for writing in, and telling us all a bit more abt Joe. But yer rt: he'll never get assigned in classes, and like Hedges, Matt Taibbi, myself, and a handful of others, he'll just disappear into The Matrix and be gone. The American public won't even know we ever existed; and if they were to find out, they'd be repulsed.

mb

9:46 PM  
Blogger Cj said...

Dr. Berman, are you familiar with this article by John Pilger from 2008?

http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/05/31/9327

After Bobby Kennedy (There Was Barack Obama)

A quote from the article:

'Should Obama beat John McCain to the White House in November, it will be liberalism's last fling. In the United States and Britain, liberalism as a war-making, divisive ideology is once again being used to destroy liberalism as a reality. A great many people understand this, as the hatred of Blair and new Labour attest, but many are disoriented and eager for "leadership" and basic social democracy. In the US, where unrelenting propaganda about American democratic uniqueness disguises a corporate system based on extremes of wealth and privilege, liberalism as expressed through the Democratic Party has played a crucial, compliant role.'

'

9:55 PM  
Blogger Mike Cifone said...

Maury:

For the record, tho I'm just an academic pissant in the scheme of things, I do assign you to my classes wherever I can; you and Hedges and Joe B. too.

Thus far, I've used Reenchantment in a Philosophy of Science course; Twilight in an Intro to Phil course; and now QoV in my current Ethics course (after taking my students through the history of Western European ethical thought, up through the 20th cent., starting with the Greeks, I hit 'em with QoV (tattered flag of American values) and then ask "Does ethics have a chance in a world of consumers?" -- which is the title of our final text, written by an author you turned me on to: Zygmunt Bauman. Really fantastic work here.)

QoV is really valuable; each essay is really a galaxy of humane letters, concise enough to make a sharp critical point, but rich & dense enough for careful & quite fruitful anatomizing.

Thought you might want to know (I'm not Alasdair McIntyre, but what the hell?).

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

Dr. B,

the fact that the American public won't ever know you existed, at this point, is a good thing. You don't have to "tweet" how you are feeling about things or when you are eating a big mac (or chopped liver)..you know, the important stuff. If the American public knew you existed you wouldn't exist. At this advanced stage of decline, guys like you and Hedges and a couple of others are documenting the collapse for future peoples who are (hopefully) members of civilizations that possess actual culture with individuals who possess actual souls. Thus these future civilizations will have a prediliction to your works..understanding the roots of American collapse from a man with a heart as big as his brain (and both functioning properly, I might add).

I know I am not speaking for just me when I say that your work is critical . not just for us DAA 55, but for the future, so that perhaps this tragic comedy of errors will not be repeated. I have a feeling that's one of the reasons you keep doing it, no? Instead of just hanging out in the beautiful country you are in and enjoying actual human interaction (which I will be doing someday, I hope!)

12:03 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Well, thanx u guys...I appreciate it. It's finally a question of just doing what yer supposed to do, regardless of whether it attracts any attention or not. Besides, too much attention can screw up yer life.

Cj: Yes, a terrific essay; I did run across it shortly after it came out.

3:50 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Mike,

I'd love to be taking some of those classes! And like you, I'm grateful to Maury for introducing me to Zygmunt Bauman's work. Like Maury's own work, it helps me stay sane.

In fact I'm deeply grateful to everyone here, as the question we're all asking, the question at the heart of everything, seems to be, "How shall we live?"

Remember what a pressing, much-discussed question that was some 40-50 years ago? The whole dilemma of what constitutes an authentic life, and how we go about living in a real, soul-nourishing way ... which would sound like sentimental gobbledygook to the majority of Americans today, I'm sure.

Yesterday I overheard a young woman talking with a young man behind me, discussing the newest HD TV, sound system, etc., that she was, like, gonna buy, you know? And I realize that sounds condescending of me, and I don't want it to be that way, I really don't. She's an intelligent person, knows her job well, has plenty of technical skill, will undoubtedly move up into management one day; and she's looking for love & companionship & eventually a family, like so many others.

But where's anything more? Where's the inner life? Can people really be happy without one? Do they actually prefer not to have one? Or don't they have any idea of what they're lacking in the first place?

8:45 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Just one more observation ...

The other night we watched one of David Attenborough's BBC shows about Nature, and he mentioned that his life's work was fired by a reading of Alfred Wallace's book about birds of paradise when he was nine years old. My wife said aloud, "Nine years old!" And I mentioned that people like Shelley & Byron were learning to read & write both Latin & Greek when five years old, and that such a thing wasn't uncommon for those whose families could afford it. As I mentioned above, I read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle when I was 11 or 12, because it was handy & I wanted something to read while sick in bed. I even attempted Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams then, too. They were books; books were for reading; I wanted to read.

My parents hadn't gone to college, but they always had books in the house, and they encouraged reading. They never told me a book was too hard for me -- either I'd struggle with it & make some sense of it, or not. The only thing they vetted when I was a pre-teen was sexually explicit material, as they didn't feel I was ready for that just yet. (And they were quite right about that!)

As for what's encouraged now, well ...

8:47 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Dear Tim,

Thank you for sharing those lovely childhood memories about books and reading. My father, who hailed from the hills of North Carolina--I have a poignant photograph of him and his siblings dressed in homemade clothes--and whose education left off in grade school, was an inveterate reader. A book that he read to me when I was 7 or 8 was *Alice in Wonderland* that warped me for life. (Coincidentally at that time my sisters were part of a ballet production of Alice and I was so excited about that because I knew the story so well.) I remember being fascinated when looking over my dad's shoulder at the text of the Mouse's tale ("Mine is a long and a sad tale!" said the Mouse..."). The text of the tale is in the shape of a tail! From then on I acquired a taste for verbal and visual puns.

In my late teens, I helped my mother get her GED. English was not her first language so an assigned Shakespeare sonnet needed some explication.

Anyway, my parents believed in the value of books and education. In those days we really had to read challenging material in school. This was in the Panama Canal Zone where I graduated from Balboa High School. My youngest sister graduated from a school here in the states and complained about the poor curriculum and the laziness (or sheer indifference) of the students.

2:24 PM  
Blogger James said...

Flags will be flying at half-staff over Kentucky's Creation Museum this weekend as wrestler Randy “Macho Man” Savage is mourned following his final and untimely head-on encounter with reality. On the darker side, Kentucky's Ark Encounter theme park was granted over 40 million dollars of tax incentives by state legislators this week.

“Prepare to believe”, the Creation Museum's unbelievable motto is completely legal, but in a related story, “Ten Commandments battle is costly for Kentucky counties”, it is revealed that two Kentucky counties have accrued attorney and court costs amounting to $456,881 while fighting a losing battle with the ACLU. The counties involved would like to install commandment monuments on courthouse grounds. In addition, in almost half of Kentucky counties, school paddling will be available for unrepentant Ids unable to understand the divinity of their social context.

8:19 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

James-

It's really quite wonderful. Just when u think the American head can't go any deeper into the American rump, they ram it in another 6"!

Onward & Downward, my friends; O&D.

mb

9:51 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

James,

You should check out Christopher Hitchens's rewrite of the ten commnandments. Hitchens knows his bible well and points out that the commandments appear in several places in the bible and always altered in some way. So instead of being written in stone, they were in a constant state of revision due to the indecision of Godhead.

By the way, Hitchens's 7th (?) commandment is something like, "Thou shalt turn off thy fucking cell phone!"

10:58 AM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Greetings Everybody,

Check out Juan Cole's blog, Informed Comment, at:
juancole.com

See the posting, "Connecting the Dots: Doomsday & Education Cuts", and you'll see why Dr. Berman needs to change the name of his blog to "Total Black-Hole Age America" or it may begin to seem too conservative.

David Rosen

11:47 AM  
Blogger Will (Astra Navigo) said...

Morrie:

Joe Bageant was a giant among mice.

It will be too-soon-late that people realize that.

Thanks for this - I'm glad to have found your spot in the Blogosphere....

-Will

1:54 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Will-

Welcome to the blog. As for mice and men: yer rt; except that when the mice figure it out, they'll just hate him for it. We're not exactly an enlightened civilization(!).

mb

5:50 PM  
Blogger James said...

Kelvin,

I think we may have twenty commandments, the first ten written by evolution for the Id and the second ten written by the Superego prefrontal cortex in exact opposition to the first ten. Two parts of the brain endlessly fighting each other, and neither can win because on balance it's not beneficial for either to be completely dominant. Unthinking people with religiously enhanced Superegos are easily deceived by thinking people with unrestrained Ids. Why didn't I think of a Noah's Ark theme park?

As our overshoot condition begins to resolve itself I expect all of these contending behaviors to be amplified, both within the individual and society. The Ids will be on a last chance power drive and religious crusade will become the new normal for those with captured Superegos. Intellectual trouble makers will be sent to an Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, or be forced to work at the Creation Museum.

7:43 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

James, Kelvin, et al,

One problem with a literal reading of the Bible is that you get stuck back in the time when it was written. The Bible we have today was written, compiled, and revised over many centuries, so it carries within it a history of its own development. How clever of Christopher Hitchens to notice that.

Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century British children probably grew up believing that "Always Respect Your Betters" was one of the commandments.

My favorite candidate for the Eleventh Commandment comes from Eugene V. Debs who said to an audience of working people, "Don't Follow Leaders!" He added, "If I could lead you into the Kingdom of Heaven, it wouldn't do you any good because somebody else would lead you right out again."

James,

Your ideas about religious commandments for the different levels of the psyche is an interesting one. I have long suspected that many people who are interested in Jungian psychology are people who are struggling with religious problems – and are aware of it. They are looking for questions and answers within themselves, and not out there somewhere. This makes more sense to me.

David Rosen

10:58 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Anybody have any reaction to this?:

http://www.examiner.com/human-rights-in-national/the-big-fix-2011-s-most-important-human-environmental-rights-film-review

11:37 PM  
Blogger John said...

Your write about Joe in a very moving way thank you. Joe was a true visionary, he could see how working people were being duped by the Right Wing establishment I listened to Joe when he was in Australia, there are very few people I totally agree with but Joe was one such person we will miss him greatly thanks.

3:15 AM  
Blogger xraymike79 said...

Morris Berman said...
Anybody have any reaction to this?:

http://www.examiner.com/human-rights-in-national/the-big-fix-2011-s-most-important-human-environmental-rights-film-review

Mr. Berman, looks like a great documentary on how the corpocracy whitewashed the Gulf catastrophe with a top-flight Madison Avenue public-relations job.

Of course all those plebs, stuck in the 'American Hologram', will once again shoot themselves in the foot by regurgitating the mantra that it's a leftist conspiracy flick.

7:51 AM  
Blogger Nature Creek Farm said...

Humans do stuff. They have reasons for doing stuff. In that order. I was just listening to a book (Terminal, by Vachss) where the protagonist's dialog with a friend about all of the ills of the world both foreign and domestic are hashed out in staccato style to illustrate their impact on humanity. Whether the top 1% or the bottom 99 are locked in conspiracy of ignorance against their own interests or whether "shit happens", the saddest part is not that they are ignorant of the issues, but that even when they know about them, they don't do anything about it. THAT is the human condition which the happy sailors (bitchin') don't want to face up to, and which enhances the status quo at every turn. Humans are cattle who can build their own fences (work toward their own cooperative interests of security and moderating behavior), but they only do so at random. Ever since religion was invented, however, they have ignored the land and grass under their feet in favor of the magic of imagined sky gods. This fundamental change has been to take more from the world than we give back: the opposite of every other living thing. THIS is the disconnect from reality which "education" nurtures in it's conformity to authority. In the U.S., conformity is maintained by belief systems keyed always toward exploitation (trickle down), rather than service (intentionally caring for that which supports you). We shouldn't be serving any gods (money, authority, system, belief): they should be serving US, as we should be serving those things which make us possible (community, land, each other).

8:40 AM  
Blogger James said...

I hope the film makes it out of Cannes, but who is listening? Who knows Matt Simmons? The sheep have moved on and Gulf shrimp have been relabeled Pacific shrimp. Perhaps some of that oil will be resurrected with the next great hurricane and get into the news for a day or two. Was it Confucious who said something to the effect, “When the emperor is evil make yourself scarce.”

Here is an interesting link regarding the nail that sticks up. You get nailed. In addition, I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be too hard to introduce an aggressive malignancy.

http://presscore.ca/nbg/index.php?
entry=entry100920-212410

9:10 AM  
Anonymous Art said...

RE: "The Big Fix"

"Rather than low impact energy fixes, such as merely changing lightbulbs and driving a Prius to affect social and environmental change as the citizenry have been naively led to do, changing the corrupt and lethal energy system at its evil roots is also required according to the film. 'The Big Fix' to Big Energy's control of the economy, environment and humanity, begins with unified resistance."

Sounds like a must-see film, but how many Americans will? And how many will read Derrick Jensen's latest book, "Deep Green Resistance"? I don't think Obama is in any danger of drowning in a Gulfgate. The director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, was interviewed by Jon Stewart recently. Stewart didn't bother to ask about the Gulf, and Jackson didn't offer. I'm not looking forward to the Summer of the (Corporate) Shark.

9:33 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

James and Kelvin--

Another book that uses the Ten Commandments as a framework for social commentary is Chris Hedges' Losing Moses on the Freeway. It's part autobiographical and contains his speech to Rockford College. In Decalogue II (Idols) he had this to say about our devotion to materialism:

"We are burdened by household gods, not made of clay, but all promising to fulfill us. Our computer, our television, our job, our wealth, our social status, along with the brands we wear and the cars we drive, promise us contentment and inform our identity. These household gods seem to offer well-being, health and success. But all these gods create cults and all these cults circle back to us, to a dangerous self-worship fed by forces that seek to ensnare us in idolatry."

We're worshiping ourselves at the Creation Museum--our dominion over "all creatures who fly through the air, walk on land or swim in the seas" (loosely quoted) and our God-given right to eat, poison, destroy, experiment on, clone, torture and foul their habitats as it suits us. And this goes for plants too. We (as a species) have painted ourselves into a very bad corner and are using what passes for religion to justify our actions.

10:26 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Susan-

Joe Bageant called us "a nation of drowsing hippos." At the same time, I think we are living in a frenzy of self-degradation, while thinking this is what a "full life" is all about. The final achievement of capitalism has been to create a hall of mirrors, Joe's "hologram," into which no real info can enter. So u have a chorus of everyone singing the same song, as the nation collectively slides into its grave. All with a happy face on it, of course.

Art-

Yeah, one pines for the days of SOC (Summer of Chandra)...

mb

10:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Americans seem to be so optimistic". The USAn public is instilled with mindlessness, the inability to discern thought from fact. The propaganda of happy talk, psychobabble optimism as a way to disguise the sociopathic, psychopathic policies of the USG for the purpose of empire escapes most USAn's because of mindlessness which is institutionalized by the government, business, pretend christians which legitimizes it with peer pressure, which is why USAn's seem so optimistic to others.

10:42 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Anon-

Check out Barbara Ehrenreich, "Bright-Sided," which cd also have been called "Dolts at Play." Meanwhile, the film I mentioned above ("Big Fix") got a standing ovation in Cannes, and no review in the American newspapers.

O&D, baby, O&D-

mb

10:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joe suffered from the curse of understanding his situation. Which is at least a step in the direction of freedom. And his popularity shows clearly that he was not alone in that regard. At the current point in our cultural nadir, all you can really do is tell the truth. Somewhere, probably still a bit down the road, lies the possibility we may yet put this nightmare behind us.

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wanted to express a thought I had regarding the alienation essay. Joe was alienated. Yet, he had his gift of being able to express himself, his anger, his wisdom, his joy, his alienation, in a very accessible manner. People like Timothy McVeigh or even someone like myself, have little to no out lets. This, to me presents a fairly real danger if more alienated souls become increasingly desperate.
Are you aware of another leftneck poet type in NYC named Phil Rockstroh?
Debe

2:00 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Bis-

Compress yer last by abt 33%, and I'll be glad to run it.

Kairmid-

No use posting to an old post; no one will read it. I suggest posting to this one, thanx.

mb

3:20 PM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

A few commentors here have pointed out that the doltish behavior of Americans is to be expected given the fact that it is the default position for human beings. Which is true. The life of the mind isn’t too common, and probably never has been, even from the beginning. And Socrates learned what happens if you try to encourage people to think and they don’t want to go along with you.

The difference in the US is the sheer magnitude of the doltishness, which is one of Dr. Berman’s (and Joe Bageant’s) main points. You have to step back and admire in a perverse sort of way the way in which American culture aggressively attacks any kind of thinking. And by attack I mean attack, nowadays with threats of violence. Magical thinking can be dangerous!

To wit, I teach evolution so keeping an eye on creationism is an occupational hazard. I have watched what used to be a fringe position become mainstream thinking. I mean, a belief in young earth creationism is required to become a Republican president. Here we have a pristine example of an organized attack on reality: the claim that the fact of evolution by natural selection is false and worse, an attempt to corrupt the youth (Socrates anybody?). Once I visited the Institute for Creation Research (sic) museum (sic) in Santee, CA outside San Diego. At the very end of the “exhibit” was a panel that drove home the main point: the study of evolution leads directly to: promiscuity, pornography, genocide, slavery, abortion, euthanasia, chauvinism, infanticide, homosexuality, child abuse, bestiality, and drug culture (verbatim). I am not making this up. And, true to American form, it’s a money-maker. Answers in Genesis of N. Kentucky is adding the “Ark Park” theme park to its workings and just got a ca. 40 million dollar tax break for it. Onward and downward, indeed.

The best we can hope for is to save ourselves by at least reminding each other that we’re not the crazy ones, and, importantly, acting like bodhisattvas for others. You never know who you will end up saving. Just stay away from the hemlock.

3:35 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Yes, it is truly disgusting that Condi Rice gets treated like a rock star where-ever she appears. She played piano with the Philadelphia Orchestra soon after leaving office and the audience went wild. William Blum wrote extensively about her appearance in San Francisco where a woman confronted her. As the woman was being escorted out, Condi said that the people of Iraq don't have to live under Sadam Hussain anymore which caused the audience to erupt in applause. Blum writes that such a line is standard fare for imperialists leaving out, in this case, the fact that Iraq has been essentially destroyed. Blum writes that the Iraqis have lost their homes, schools, electricity, clean water, neighborhoods, jobs, women's rights, their welfare state, and even their history as the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon were destroyed to make way for a US military camp. About 1/2 of the people have either been killed, wounded in prison, or in exile. So, of course, Joe is right. Americans live in a constant state of amnesia about what nefarities the US perpetrates on the peoples of the world. A seasoned reader of world events could have deduced what the US does by Obama conveniently omitting any mention of Saudi Arabia, Barain, and Yemen, whose governments continue to shoot unarmed protesters but which the US supports. But try to find a seasoned reader in the US or even among the press. But there is some small justice afterall. On the same day that Obama gave his speech, all the major (corporate) media outlets led with Dominique's arrest. Why not? Sex sells.

3:52 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

I'm thinking of applying for a major grant for building a Head-Up-Ass park, perhaps in Long Island or outside Twin Cities. Dioramas would show the history of our involvement in Middle Eastern affairs, Osama's list of grievances against the US (documented by Michael Scheuer in "Imperial Hubris"), the torture regimes sponsored by Reagan in Central America, the CIA torture manuals and the training camp at Fort Benning, GA; the bullshit spewed out by the NY Times on a daily basis; marginalization of the national conscience (Hedges, Chomsky, et al.); stats of raw stupidity of Americans, with footage of Jay Leno and other interviews--etc. What a money-maker that wd be, eh?

5:05 PM  
Anonymous karmanot said...

It is still somewhat difficult to talk about Joe without that clutch of grief in the throat. He was an extraordinary human being, passionate, wild, intemperate, disciplined, brilliant and the best of friends one could possibly hope in matters of politics, culture and the heart. He was, in a way, the Twain of our generation. One aspect I would point out was his 'spirituality' and humane 'mysticism' that underlay his trenchant dissection of American class struggles. There was an element of lyricism in his work that you so wonderfully pointed out in 'axe-handles'.In one of his last Mexican posts, he describes a late night walk down a village lane, describing the feel of cobbles and the embrace of the night air. Thank you for your excellent memorial on Joe.

7:51 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Karma-

You're welcome.

There was some American poet who described the absence of a great man--Lincoln?--in terms of a fallen cedar, that leaves a blank space against the sky when it is cut down. I think of Joe in these terms, and the comparative trash that surrounds him. For every Joe, there are a million Ann Coulters, a million Obamas, a million Tom DeLays, Lloyd Blankfeins, Larry Summerses, Thomas Friedmans, self-promoters, people on the take and on the make--the detritus of a collapsing empire. His death makes you aware of what the norm in this country is.

mb

9:32 PM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

I don't know about cedars, but here's Whitman a year after Lincoln's death:

"WHEN lilacs last in the door-yard bloom’d,
And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,
I mourn’d—and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.

O ever-returning spring! trinity sure to me you bring;
Lilac blooming perennial, and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love."


Seems to fit Joe Bageant, too.

11:01 PM  
Anonymous Seonaid said...

Thank you, Dr. Berman, for the remembrance of Joe Bageant. I had read every one of his essays since he began blogging, and feel his loss acutely.
Like Joe, I am a 'rescued' descendent of 'borderers', those unreconstructed Scots-Irish who, he declared, had ruined America (See essay 'Drink, Pray, Fuck, Fight' - which was his choice for his first book title, but Harper Collins couldn't handle it.) Joe's writings have helped me to sort out the dissonances in my life created by this background.
To share a back porch swing and a beer with Joe was one of my unfulfilled fantasies, and I feel as though I have lost an old friend.

11:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not sure why but only recently heard of Joe Pageant. I have been in mourning for America for some time. I live in conservative orange county. I try to spread the word when I can and do what I can. Some of us are here and we are listening. Grateful to read Joe's work. It's nice to know that others share what I feel. It let's me know that I am it going crazy.

2:02 AM  
Blogger James said...

Churches, cars and strip malls, perfect reflections of American minds. Manifestations of the Id, Ego, and Superego. I don't know if I need to apologize for using Freud's model so often, but I do find it useful.

The redneck. “I was bad, but then I went to church and was born again. But sometimes I still want to be bad. Look at my new muscle car, my tattoos and my dance moves, awesome aren't they. I'm a winner now.”

The pseudo intellectual. Ivory towers, art and museums. “I was uneducated so I went to the university and got my degree. Look at my bronzes and paintings, delightful aren't they. Sometimes I just wish I could cheat on one more test. I'm a winner now.”

The intellectual. “More sangria please.”

9:26 AM  
Blogger mila59 said...

Whoo hoo, I am new to you through Joe Bageant. So happy to have found you. Bisley is awesome, too.

9:28 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Mila,

Welcome to the blog. You shd know that most people who accidentally trip onto it, such as yerself, find themselves in so great a frenzy as a result that they have to beat their heads against a stone wall just to calm down. Since we here at the DAA55 (there are abt 55 people who read this thing) are categorically opposed to concussions or any associated brain damage, we are selling thick cotton head bands to protect those who take this ingenious (albeit quirky) path to self-tranquilization. Only $9.95 plus s&h.

And u say I never do anything for u...

mb

9:37 AM  
Blogger mila59 said...

Hee hee. Don't worry, I think I already did all my head beating in the last two years or so. But thanks for the offer! I was wondering what DAA55 meant. I thought it was some sort of age reference...I have a great affection for Joe Bageant and am thrilled to find your blog. Hope to be able to keep up with you in these busy times. What is your favorite of your books (if it's okay to ask that), i.e., where should I start?

10:38 AM  
Blogger Zarco said...

Great Dr. Gaff almighty. I lose Joe and I find this. I'm a lucky guy. I won't be commenting very much, but I will enjoy reading yours. Thank you all.

4:16 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Zarco-

Don't lurk; contribute! Also, perhaps change your handle to Zarcotraficante, which has a certain cachet down here in Mexico.

Mila-

"Wandering God," but that ain't the place to start. "Twilight" is a fast, polemical read, more accessible. If u prefer fiction, u might try "Destiny". However, my two all-time favorites are:
1. Thinner Thighs in 30 Days (made me a bundle, that one did)
2. A Connoisseur's Guide to Chopped Liver (by now a collector's item).

I shd add that I have consistently argued on this blog that the US has no future. I now want to officially reverse that position. I believe there is hope for the US if the following 3 things can be implemented w/in 3 mos:
a) The national anthem be replaced by "Whiter Shade of Pale." Along w/this, replacing George on the $1 bill with Procol Harum; altho that wd just be an added touch, not required.
b) Ted Koppel gets a reasonable haircut. That mop on his head is a national disgrace.
c) The NY Times apologizes to the American public for feeding it kaka disguised as news for the last several decades, and then officially closes up shop. As an added touch (again, not required), the NYT bldg in Manhattan is sold to Wal-Mart (a more appropriate symbolism I cannot imagine).

So u.c.? I'm not really a pessimist after all!

mb

4:59 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Evidently Diet Soap will be doing a "memorial" podcast on Bageant - KMO will be the guest, as they both did interviews with him over the past couple of years. http://kmo.livejournal.com/499663.html

Interestingly, in this discussion no one has mentioned Bageant's use of psychedelics to unlock his consciousness. Opinions?

8:33 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Kev-

Joe put the word out that he was using psychedelics, but it was actually chopped liver.

mb

9:46 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Ah, the DAA blog, providing comfort & sanity to ... well, more than just dozens, I suspect.

Yesterday I happened to watch a couple of minutes of Oprah, which was all I could stomach. Tom Hanks introduced her to an immense crowd by saying, "Oprah, we've always known it wasn't about you, it was about YOU [indicating the crowd]!" And Oprah agreed with a somewhat obligatory wave of her arm to the crowd, "Yes, it's all about YOU!"

Apparently the rest of the program (I dipped in every so often) was devoted to tearful audience members telling their stories of how Oprah & her show had transformed/redeemed/saved their lives, and how much she's contributed to the betterment of the world.

Well, Oprah does know The Secret, so ...

James,

Yes, that notion of being a winner is one of the worst poisons in our society. It's not merely a matter of Screw you, I got mine these days; it's more like Screw you, I want yours as well. Winning is its own justification. Whatever you do to win is valid, as long as you do win. And that sort of winning is best defined by how many others you trample underfoot.

When I couldn't take any more of Oprah (a winner for sure), even for sociological purposes, I sat by the back window & watched the six baby woodchucks from under our shed eagerly exploring the vast world of the backyard, wary but full of curiosity. Beats the TV for pleasure & enjoyment any time!

10:40 AM  
Blogger mila59 said...

Zarco -- great way to express it. I felt the same way stumbling here yesterday. Missing Joe dreadfully.
Morris: Thanks for the book tips. Clearly chopped liver is very important around here. I'm rather partial to it myself.

11:04 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

From Bageant's *Deer Hunting with Jesus*, p.11:

"If you believe the national story line, all these nameless competing working folks constitute some great American middle class. But the fact is, we are a working-class country. If we define "working class" simply as not having a college degree, then fully three-quarters of all Americans are working class."

11:52 AM  
Blogger James said...

Tim-

Yea, get two or more humans together and an evaluation process begins, a sorting into heirarchy; appearance, speech, shoes, clothes, car, house, education and other criteria are graded. People will find their own level by social gravity in this case.

If my neighbor visited to show me his Hemi truck and monster tires, I would counter with my little collection of Japanese bronzes. He would say, "What the hell, where's your truck?" We wouldn't see much of each other after that.

I think some new binocs would be nice, nothing more relaxing than being in nature, observing nature, although watching people in a Desmond Morris sort of way can be satisfying too.

4:51 PM  
Blogger HansfromDK said...

Dear Dr. Berman & DAA55ers

Don Gorske of Fond du Lac has not only eaten 25.000 Big Macs, but according to Wikipedia he also wrote a book about the first 22.477 he consumed, and he has appeared in three TV shows. This man´s persistency and patriotism will surely grant him a great future, but should we not claim him for ourselves before anybody else? How about offering him the job as vice president of catering in Dr. Berman´s new Head-up-Ass park? The HUA for short.

Gorske illustrates very well how market forces and the free choice of the consumers do not in fact warrant diversity, as it is sometimes claimed.

Best wishes to all of you

6:33 PM  
Anonymous Rafi Simonton said...

Your tribute to Joe Bageant is a rare bit of good news to those of us among the all too often invisible working class. A welcome reminder that there are still a few within the educated elites willing to consider us human. And may even respond to the words of the old labor song: which side are you on?

I was one of Joe's regulars. I will treasure the personal e-mails from him as well as my memories of speaking to him via Skype. We of the peasant classes have lost a powerful voice.

Like Joe I, too, am the product of a family deeply rooted. A 5th generation native of the Pacific Northwest; the descendant of loggers. Who understood that the econopaths consider us workers totally disposable.

The economic system has been rigged in favor of the 1%. The uberwealthy bought the political system. No surprise that the law has become structured in their favor.

The robber barons have returned. This so-called post-modern era is rapidly becoming an eerie echo of the last turn of the century. Seems to me, a left-collar worker, that the Wobblies need to resurrect as well. Gimme them ol' time anarcho-syndicalists.

How is it that I can use fancy words like "post-modern" or "anarcho-syndicalist?" I'm the inverse of those you and Joe describe. I went to public schools where we were given the best teachers and equipment.

Of course the economic elites figured out that was a problem. Educated working people do pesky things like vote for their own best interests. Worse, they form labor unions. Like the previous two generations did. Seems so long ago now.

We've been split into interest groups. Convinced to turn on each other. Reduced to passive consumers when we were once active citizens. Dazzled by distractions, the bread and circuses of a dying economic empire.

But we found the truth before. At a time of very limited access for alternatives to the party line of empire. Maybe the sheer enormity of contemporary failure will finally reawaken the exhausted majority. If so: caveat emperor.

7:50 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Hans-

I finally got in touch w/Gorske; he's agreed to do the projectile vomiting diorama in HUA. Also Latreasa Goodman will re-enact her three 911 calls, complaining that McD's ran out of chicken mcnuggets. I tell ya, this is what makes America great, I don' care what anybody says.

Meanwhile, no takers for Procol Harum, apparently (sniff).

mb

"We skipped the light fandango
turned cartwheels 'cross the floor
I was feeling kinda seasick
but the crowd called out for more..."

8:19 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Rafi-

Stick around, amigo; we need yer input.

mb

8:21 PM  
Blogger mila59 said...

Oh, shoot, I forgot to say yay to Procul Harum. All hands on deck! It's (Salty Dog) one of my absolute all-time favorites for ever and ever.

9:18 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

"One of sixteen vestal virgins
Who were leaving for the coast.
And although my eyes were open,
They might just as well have been closed."

10:37 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Hans,

Coincidentally, HUA is the name of a great avenging angel in Dr. John Dee's system of Enochian angelic magic, I believe.

11:26 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Daily Bageant Quote from *Deer Hunting with Jesus [copyright 2007]*, p. 113:

"To break free from our utter dependence upon thoughtless sprawl, we would have to end, just for starters, the reckless issuance of mortgages and the entire credit card business and invest in mass transit [this before 2008].

Our White House leadership knows it, even as they, lost in pirate schemes for power, plunge toward the precipice, mad old men who've commandeered the nation as their getaway car, hoping to make an Evel Knievel jump over the canyon, hoping to get away clean with the whole shebang, the oil, the weapons contracts, everything...while from the backseat the silver spooners and the chickenhawk boys are yelling, "Fuck the oil slick, George, stomp it!"

The overfed and overspent throng, distracted by the national hologram, hasn't a clue."

Onward and downward!

11:41 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Well, now you've done it, Maury -- time for me to finally replace & update those old vinyl Procol Harum albums!

Rafi,

Caveat Emperor! Now there's a bumper sticker I can definitely support.

12:41 PM  
Blogger ivojanier said...

Dears DAA55 and Prof. Berman,

I just finished reading one of Joe Bageant's beautiful articles from 2007 and I felt the urge to share it with the DAA followers; it is titled:
"To the Princes of Gringolia.
Wanting everything is not the problem. Always getting what we want is."
Here is the URL: http://www.joebageant.com/joe/2007/10/americans-like-.html

It was a powerful reminder of the real family and community life I enjoyed while growing up in Cuba, even within a standard of living considered as "poverty" by most Americans. Little did I know that all the "anti-imperialist propaganda", which I never believed, spewed out by the Castro regime would turn out to be based on reality... actually, it was reality.
Best,
Ivo

2:17 PM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

One of the nice things about Joe's and Morris' writing are the statistics. The kind that leave your mouth hanging open.

Well, here's another one for you. The National Bureau of Economic Research recently completed a study looking at the ability of people to come up with $2000 in cash within 30 days. This is something that might happen, say, if you had even an average medical emergency and didn't have decent insurance. 22.2 percent predicted they would be "probably unable" and 27.9 percent said they'd certainly be unable to foot the unplanned bill. "Taken together with those who would pawn their possessions, sell their home, or take out a payday loan, 25.7% of respondents who were asked about coping methods (equal to 18.6% of all respondents) would come up with the funds for an emergency by resorting to what might be seen as extreme measures,” the authors write. “Along with the 27.9% of respondents who report that they could certainly not cope with an emergency, this suggests that approximately 46.5% of all respondents are living very close to the financial edge."

Is this a great country or what?

Read it and weep:
http://papers.nber.org/papers/w17072

8:34 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Bis-

Thank u. Barbara Ehrenreich has done a fair amt of writing abt this ("Nickled and Dimed", e.g.), as well as the Economic Policy Institute in DC. Generally, what is defined as the "poverty line" is out of date and unrealistic. 40 million Americans suffer from food insecurity, and I wdn't be surprised if nearly half the country found life economically precarious, esp. after 2008. Anyway, that's what the report u cite suggests.

mb

10:00 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Just saw that other war criminal, Benjamin Netanyahoo, speak at the world's biggest whorehouse aka the US Capitol where he received 29 standing ovations vs. 25 for the US war criminal aka Obama. In his speech he said that Israel will defend democracy ( at the same time a protester was hustled to the ground and had to be hospitalized) and advance peace as Israel continues to expand settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. But the line that made me rush to call my accountant and see if there is any way I can avoid paying taxes next April is his contention that Israel is not engaging in foreign occupation of the territories given historical Jewish links to "Judea and Samaria". It was truly grotesque seeing our representatives essentially giving the Israeli Prime Minister a vote of approval especially since Congress is about to cut the home heating assistance for poor people in the US by 3 billion dollars but continue to give Israel the same amount so they can continue to carry out their monstrous and murderous policies.
By the way, Glen Greenwald has a great piece in Salon.com about your favorite NYT's "journalist" David Brooks who pines for the days when both domestic and foreign policy was conducted by elites who grew up together and went to the same schools as is so often the case in Great Britain. In other words, Brooks reveals a complete and total distain for democratic input in the major issues facing the US today.But I don't see what Brooks has to worry about. Obama woke up one day and decided to bomb Libya without a blip of protest from either Congress or the American people. Well, I would like to write more but I am getting a terror alert from my president on my cell phone.

10:34 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dan-

Yeah, that whole thing stank to high heaven. It's hard to believe what we see now w/our own eyes. Be sure to read Gideon Levy's takedown of Netanyahu (today) at haaretz.com.

As for Brooks: what a buffoon. Gary Greenberg did a review of the joker's latest book at thenation.com, May 18: "The Dumbest Story Ever Told." A moron has a regular column in the NYT.

What jackasses we live amongst, in late-empire days.

mb

11:37 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

What separates Prof. Berman from others who don't give a shit? It can't be intelligence, because we have many intelligent people who don't give a damn about anyone but themselves. Many sociopaths are in possession of fine intellects. We see people of low intelligence who care.

I am vexed by this question. The only possible answer comes from the Sanskrit saying, 'tat tvam asi' or 'this thou art.' In other words, an individual who cares feels himself connected to all other organisms, and to do harm to one means to hurt all.

Another point to consider is, have things changed? I mean do we see new problems arising or just old ones in a different guise? A look back through recorded history tells us it is the latter. Certainly with technological advances, global warming and the like the problems appear new and different. But look closely at the essences behind our 'problems.'

In every age we see intelligent men saying the very same things and stupid people doing likewise. The problem is not the Republicans or some other political party elsewhere. It lies in existence itself. As Schopenhauer tells us, 'this world is the battleground of tormented, agonized beings who devour each other for survival.'

I agree with Prof. Berman on all counts and admire him for trying to help. But I don't believe we can talk about an 'American situation' because things have always been this way and, sadly, are likely to continue. The focus must be on existence itself.

I don't know Prof. Berman but have read several of his books and can highly recommend, 'Coming To Our Senses.'

Maybe Voltaire was right when he advised us to, 'take care of our gardens.'

7:21 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Dan,

Is there anyone more obsequiously ass-kissing, smarmy, and utterly vapid as David Brooks? Yet he's the go-to guy for so many TV circle jerks, er, political discussion shows. "I'm not an intellectual, but I play one on TV & in my NY Times column."

Another indicator of our decline:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/25/jose-guerena-arizona-_n_867020.html

A former Marine is killed by a police SWAT team who then tried to cover it up. The police refused paramedics access to the house for an hour, leaving the victim to bleed to death.

Now, what was that about increased police & military presence in America in order to make us all "more secure," hmm? Make sure you've got your papers ready at all times, citizens! If you're not guilty of anything, then you've got nothing to fear, right?

As others have said, the barbarians aren't outside the gates, they're the ones guarding the gates. We already see a younger generation accepting a loss of privacy & civil liberties as the norm & as a good thing.

And in another note, a young friend of mine, an excellent teacher, is giving serious thought to quitting & finding another job, partly because of the dog-eat-dog "mean girl" philosophy of the school administrator & her mediocre cronies, partly because of the incessant attacks on teachers & teaching, i.e., "glorified babysitters," "overpaid leeches," etc.

Yeah, I know, I'm being more sarcastic (or "sourcastic" as I once said at 8 or 9 years of age) than usual. It's really not like me at all. But sometimes The Dumbening really gets to me.

8:06 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Michael-

Well, it's a long debate, I suppose (or cd be), but personally I regard the argument that things have always been the same as too facile. (Cf. the old argument in the history of science, that "the Greeks had it all.") There have, in fact, been serious discontinuities in human history; so great that human beings of a different era almost appear as different species. One of the biggest was the shift from mobile to sedentary society, for example (the focus of my book "Wandering God"). Another, beyond doubt, was the Industrial Revolution. Even if one argues that, say, the Agrarian Revolution occurred in very small stages, one has to confront the fact that there is a quantity-to-quality effect going on: differences of degree finally do add up to differences of kind. It's just too easy to read the Pali Canon or Schopenhauer or whatever, and declare, "oh, it's always been the same." Extended research into history/anthropology reveals that it hasn't.

As for America, yes, it certainly bears structural similarities to the late Roman Empire--the argument I made in "Twilight of American Culture"--but not everything in Rome was defined by hustling and extreme individualism; by a long shot. In "Why America Failed," I argue that we were hustlers and narcissists from Day One on this continent. Yet there is no doubting the fact that the America of the Colonies, qualitatively experienced, is not the America of today. After all, hustling has a positive side to it; pushed to the limit, however, it finally becomes thuggery, which is what we are witnessing today. And technology, since 1960, has played a key role in turning the place into a kind of psychological lunar surface, empty and alienated in the way it never was in, say, 1911. There really are definite limits to the argument that plus ca change...

mb

9:01 AM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Dr. Berman,

Speaking of change, I guess we're now living in the time that future historians will be arguing about. One major question will be, "When did fascism finally arrive in America?" Of course, 9/11 will be seen as the major enabling event, just as the burning of the Reichstag was for Germany in the 1930's.

The answer, though, depends on who you are. Black people would set the date very early – when was America ever a 'free country' for most of them? In the Bedford- Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn fascism had arrived by the 1960’s – I used to call the police there 'blue shirts'. For Joe Bageant's people it came a little later. Rich Whites in their gated 'communities' will remain in denial. For many Germans fascism wasn't a problem – the problem was the war and the fact that they lost it.

'We' (I always feel funny referring to the US as 'we'.) aren’t likely to be defeated in a war the way Germany was, so I guess the moral equivalent will be the internal collapse and disintegration of the country. Man, will that be ugly! (You are definitely right that the best thing to do is find your escape route – and when you get there, do your best to 'go native'.)

In his final years, Isaiah Berlin looked at the state of the world and said, "I'm glad I'm old."

David Rosen

10:50 AM  
Blogger HansfromDK said...

Dr. Berman

Congratulations about the Gorske contract, and getting Latreasa Goodman to act in HUA is a scoop! Could there also be an AMTRAK quiet car diorama with Lakeysha Beard yapping constantly in her cell phone (during the opening hours)?

Kelvin

I am very much a novice concerning jewish mysticism, and HUA was just a logical abbreviation. But old religious texts and systems can surely be fascinating and thought-provoking.

Michael

I side with Dr. Berman here. The structures and dynamics of capitalism are not the same as during feudal or more ancient times. People may react differently - Salvador Allende in Chile for example tried to turn the rudder - and what did the United States of America do? Well...

11:05 AM  
Blogger James said...

Human technological development is mirrored in the molecular development of the cell. DNA, RNA and proteins have analogs in the technological system. It's not at all likely the two systems are compatible in the long run. Does anyone care to know why humans are boxed up in little cells doing repetitive tasks after being “trained” for many years in reading, writing and arithmetic? The “missing link” challenge to evolution is fatuous and shallow in comparison to the systems comparisons between technological and organic life.

Is there any utility in revealing a truth which has no more intrinsic reward other than filling up magic space in the mind, to be rejected by 99.99% of the population? Why rile the natives? I have a hard time getting back into that cubicle when it is much preferable to remain outside,knowing, even though the trifles of civilization are then out of reach. Irreplaceable energy and mineral gradients are being reduced at an alarming pace by the processes of technology and the entropic pollution permeates every cubic centimeter of water, air and soil. Undoubtedly our cells repair excessive DNA damage on a daily basis, until the repairer is impaired, and we unravel from within.


Procol Harum's, “ and although my eyes were open wide, they might have just as well been closed”,must be part of the intellectual's creed, and part of a great song too. I would have given Salvador Dali a shot at designing our currency, it could melt through our fingers like the timepieces in “Persistence of Time”.

11:08 AM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

Here is something to warm Dr. Berman's heart: A feature length Sarah Palin movie to premier soon in Iowa:

"Scott Conroy, who broke the scoop on Real Clear Politics, gained exclusive access to a rough cut screener. He describes the film as a "sweeping epic ... Rife with religious metaphor and unmistakable allusions to Palin as a Joan of Arc-like figure."

Awesome. Does she use a sword or a shotgun? Can't wait to find out.

Read about it here: http://salon.com/a/sQTcfAA

11:16 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Tim,

Thanks for that link to the Guerena story. Derrick Jensen on his web site recommends the following book as essential reading:

*Stolen Lives - Killed by Law Enforcement*
by October 22 Coalition

"This book is a straightforward retelling of the stories of hundreds or thousands of people who have been killed by police in the United States. Many of those killed were nonresisting and unarmed. Many of them were children. The stories pile one after another, until the reader is moved to tears, and hopefully to action. I spent many days looking over these stories, learning about these lives lost--stolen--and it affected how I feel about the looming American police state."

11:58 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Daily Bageant quote from Deer Hunting (2007), pp. 132-133:

"With Michael Savage and Ann Coulter openly calling for putting liberals in concentration camps, with the CIA now licensed to secretly detain American citizens indefinitely, and with the current administration effectively legalizing torture, the proper question to ask an NRA member these days may be, 'What kind of assault rifle do you think I can get for three hundred bucks, and how many rounds of ammo does it take to stop a two-hundred-pound born-again Homeland Security zombie [or police SWAT team, or Navy SEAL zombie] from putting me in a camp?' Which would you prefer, 40 million gun-owning Americans on your side or theirs?"

12:30 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Now here's an indicator that speaks (or babbles) for itself:

http://www.salon.com/life/justin_bieber/
index.html?story=/ent/tv/feature/2011/05/26/
justin_bieber_family_guy_necklace

Yep, teen heartthrob Justin Beiber wears a $25K Family Guy necklace. Kinda just says it all about our culture & its "values," doesn't it?

Let me second Maury's comment that things aren't always the same -- different times & cultures (or portions thereof) clearly have different values; and there's a clear difference between mature, intelligent, nourishing values, and plain old crap. Both may be present at the same time, but one will be emphasized & celebrated, while the other is denigrated & dismissed.

And it's pretty clear which one is ascendant right now ...

2:13 PM  
Blogger geewhizpat said...

You, this blog and your wonderfully thoughtful commenters was a great find for me today...I have tracked Joe Bageant for years and read your article today....that's how I got here...I feel the isolation he, you and Kelvin speak of...now at least I am among kindred spirits...even as the Empire implodes...thank you!

2:37 PM  
Blogger mila59 said...

Kelvin, I've read both Deer Hunting with Jesus and Rainbow Pie. The quote you wrote above, about the guns, was one of the things that I disagreed with Joe about...I'm all for hunting (although I don't do it myself); my father and husband and sons hunt. But no gun (however well recommended) is going to keep back the law from your door when/if they come for you. You would just be committing suicide in a dramatic fashion. I disagreed with the Clash about it, too ("When they kick in your front door, how you gonna come...").

4:26 PM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

Dear MB,

I recently walked into a used bookstore here in southwestern Michigan (not in a college town BTW), and found a fine small oak bookshelf laden with hard bound Modern Library editions dating from the Fifties and Sixties, all of them with their dust-covers intact, and looking very "newish." I stood there for a moment, dumb-founded, not unlike Lord Carnavor when he broke a hole in the wall of King Tut's tomb, and held a torch in the darkness, then overcome by the splendor of the artifacts the light revealed.

A moment of hushed reverence: I felt like I wanted to lay a wreathe upon the Tomb of the Unknown (Last Known?) Intellectual. (Dark thought: it's a mass grave.)

When I was an undergraduate, more than forty years ago, my buddies and I used to talk about "how great it would be" to own a complete Modern Library. By the time we were seniors, of course, we thought ourselves beyond such "middle-brow" aspirations.

I am now ashamed of such snobbery on my part, because the collection stands like the British Museum Library in today's rush to post-literacy; and while the market for "fifty of the world's greatest paintings" or "one hundred great moments in music" may have catered to naive expectations and pretensions, the fact that folks actually bought them and enjoyed them meant that there was some recognition of artistic value and pleasure.

I don't know when I would have started listening to symphonies, if my parents hadn't bought a collection like that. I think J. Bageant would have understood.

--Mark N.

5:53 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Hi mila59,

I seem to have been blown away by my own rhetoric! But you are certainly correct that it would be suicidal to resist the police with arms. However, Mr. Guerena-- referring to Tim's link to the story--did not know that it was the police who were forcibly entering his home with his wife and one of his young boys present. He had an assault rifle but he did not fire back, contrary to the first police reports, because it was discovered after his death that he had not released the safety on his rifle. Cruelly, the police allowed him to bleed to death after pumping him with bullets. For Mr. Guerena, it was unintentionally suicidal to be targeted by keystone cops.

6:52 PM  
Blogger Mike Cifone said...

On the "identity and difference" question, which, I suppose, is to be formulated like this: "is everything simply the same in essence, configured differently in different times; or are there discontinuities that essentially break the sameness?"

Couple of points: what could be the evidence for or against the question? Maury points to the historical/anthro record -- but this really has to be interpreted. How? and does one sneak in an unanalyzed (Kant would say: 'a priori') idea of what constitutes identity/(essential) difference along the way?

The method here, which Maury in a sense has attempted to develop more completely (in WG & CTOS), goes back at least to Giambattista Vico ("Scienza nuovo"; cf. Isaiah Berlin's fascinating studies on both Vico, and Vico's reaction to Englightenment notions of universality, etc.). Vico (d. 1744), like Berman, argues that context is all important, and determines the meaning of the evidence we have from prior civs. Step inside the context, and a poem of Homer's, as Finley tried to show (*Four Stages of Greek Thought*), is set ablaze with a different sweep of life.

But how do you do this? The trouble, as Maury demonstrated, is that most scholarship here is all "mentalite" and no "corporalite"; following the model of Newtonian science, there's no body, only mind: the only objective "material" in existence are texts; but text is inherently subjective (product of a mind), so there is no answer to the question abt samness/difference, objectively speaking.

If you think about it (see Heidegger's little book *Identity & Difference*), I think there can only be one answer: while "Being" does not change, the form it takes does, and this thing we are doing now -- asking about identity/difference -- constitutes that very changing form. But (cf. Gadamer) we should never fall into the illusion that "then is just like now" as much as we should not fall in the trap "now is just not like then". Either seem to be wrong things to say.

It's both/and here.

12:28 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

It is well true that 'things' and situations change, but the key is that humans don't. There was this political system then that. The climate was dry then wet. But within those various periods we find human behaviour to be the same. How else can we account for writers from the dawn of recorded history, in every era, saying things applicable today?

'Common people are like children. They must be led and when necessary lied to. Our rulers will have to distribute a great quantity of falsehoods and deceit for the benefit of the ruled.'

Plato

Or from the Italian poet Leopardi,

'The good and the high-minded are usually loathed because they tend to be sincere and call things by their proper names. This is a fault which the human race does not pardon, because it does not hate the evildoer, or evil itself, as much as it hates the person who calls it that.'

The above quote tells us why Chomsky is so rarely, if ever, on American television.

I've had the opportunity as a combat cameraman to travel in over 100 countries, and whilst one does see cosmetic differences the essences of Man remain the same everywhere.

Should humans have the rudiments of life the society will be somewhat peaceful, but let these fall away and we shall quickly see the raging beast that lies dormant in all men.

I say this because, for example, in Canada (I am from there but live in Europe) I often heard it said of some 'war-zone,' 'oh the people there are war-like.' Really? As if a Serbian is more 'into war' than a Canadian? No, situations change, but not humans.

Anyways cool blog and great posts. I can some here instead of sobbing gently cradling my dog on the couch.

7:02 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Daily Bageant quote from Deer Hunting, p. 147:

"Most liberal antigun advocates do not get off the city bus after working the second shift. Nor do they duck and dodge from street light to street light at 1 a.m. while dragging their laundry to the Doozy Duds, where they sit, usually alone, for an hour or so, fluorescently lit up behind the big plate-glass window like so much fresh meat on display, garnished with a promising purse or wallet, before they make the corner-to-corner run for home with their now-fragrant laundered waitress or fast-food uniforms. Barack Obama never did it. Hillary Clinton never did it. Most white middle-class America doesn't do it either. The on-the-ground value of the Second Amendment completely escapes them."

9:50 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Michael-

If u did some research into hunter-gatherers, u might change your mind. Being all over the contemporary world is not proof of sameness; after all, it's all the contemporary world. And quoting Plato won't cut it--it's a mere 2500 years ago. A fortiori, Leopardi. The fact is that a great deal of what constitutes the human being changes, so much so that the changes are more striking than the continuities. The scholarship on this comes to a different conclusion than one might come to--impressionistically--if you just travel a bit and read Schopenhauer. Believe me, the anthro literature is quite vast.

mb

10:44 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Hi Mike,

I'm having difficulty understanding your last post:

"Is everything simply the same in essence, configured differently in different times; or are there discontinuities that essentially break the sameness?"

To answer that depends on what you are referring to by the word "everything." I assume both objective and subjective things?

Also, what do you mean by essence? Do essences exist? To answer your main question, you'd need to define "essence."

If, like Kepler, you can objectively observe 8 seconds of arc in the orbit of Mars, and subjectively interpret that slight quantitative difference to imply an elliptical rather than a circular orbit for the planet, then you have achieved a discontinuity with the Ptolemaic/Aristotelian theory of circular orbits for the planets. The question is was this done objectively or subjectively speaking? Science involves a substrate of objective observation and (subjective?) theory that adheres in some way to that substrate.

What is "Being?" Heidegger, whom I have not read, asked the question that apparently no metaphysician asked in the 2500 years since Plato, and it was this, "What do we mean by Being?"

I defer to your experience as a professor of philosophy and would appreciate your comments on what I've written.

12:56 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Michael,

I have to agree with Dr. Berman on the 'human sameness' issue. A good place to start in the anthropological literature is Colin Turnbull's book, "The Mountain People". See what happened to a people, the Ik in Uganda, over just two generations when their culture was destroyed; what they were, and what they became. Dr. Hugh Drummond, a psychiatrist who used to write for 'Mother Jones' magazine, had the following to say when commenting on Turnbull's book: "What we like to call humanity is only a contrivance of social forces. We are a slice of biology with a vast capacity for accommodation and a deep determination to survive. The big question is not whether we survive or not, but in what form."

David Rosen

12:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If we took our "civilized" contemporary person and put it into hunter-gatherers' time/life as a baby, would the person grow up to be like the rest of hunter-gatherers? And the other way around? If it is impossible (?) to determine such things, can we really talk about whether we are, in essence, different or not?

2:22 PM  
Blogger Mike Cifone said...

Maury and friends,

While we think about thinking about the (distant) past, let's think about the present.

Do we really understand it? Most of us haven't a clue, and I'm not talking metaphysics either. Isn't this what the likes of you, Hedges, Cornel West, and Joe Bageant really reveal? How utterly unaware we all are to what's right in front of our f***in eyes?

You guys take that glass through which we all see darkly, bust it up, and with the rounded shards make for us lenses to focus the flood of light from the other side, so that we may overcome our blindness, and see through the world clearly.

Reading Bauman's ethics book, I came across this ... thought it appropriate:

"Half a century ago Anders worried that, quite possibly, his contemporaries were busy building a world from which they would find no exit, and a world no longer within their power to comprehend, imagine, and emotionally absorb. It is now possible that what half a century ago could be treated as an inordinately, and probably excessively dark premonition, has since acquired the rank of a statement of fact and commands ever wider, if not universal, support" (2008, p. 115).

(Note: the ref is to Günther Anders, noted Jewish philospher and critic of technology; died 1992. See his *Die Antiquiertheit des Menschen* (*The Outdatedness of Humankind*), to which Bauman refers).

3:53 PM  
Blogger James said...

A quixotic view of human nature misses the beast interdigitated with our more generous dispositions. We've come from nature, a theater of warfare in which empathy and pity usually do not confound decisive behavior, including killing and eating.

Is real trust only something that can develop over time amongst a relatively small group of people? A tribe? A gang? A clan? Now that we have been reduced to an ant-like existence, where strangers pass by without looking up and families members are removed from one another, is it surprising that no one can be trusted? Would we co-exist peacefully without the illusion of the national super tribe or the threat of incarceration? The traditional group, where healthy relationships once developed, no longer exists.

But beneficent behavior shown within the group is often not shown to outsiders. The pre-industrial Maori would commonly kill the women and children of competing tribes, tie them to a stake, cut them open, and roast them for dinner.

Maori wife: “What's for dinner honey?”

Maori husband: “Uh, children.”

Maori wife (aghast): “You mean the neighbors?”

Maori husband: “No, the other tribe.”

Maori wife (relieved): “I love roast meat.”

7:33 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Just wanted to give those of u who might be in Mexico City on June 2, for some odd reason, a heads-up: I'm doing a presentation (lanzamiento) of the Spanish edn of "A Question of Values" at the bkstore Conejoblanco, Amsterdam 67, in Condesa, at 8 pm. Be there or be square. (You don't really wanna miss it; I'm going to dress up as a white rabbit.)

mb

11:37 PM  
Anonymous Dr L. said...

How about Tolstoy’s description of a man:

“One of the most widespread superstitions is that every man has his own special, definite qualities; that a man is kind, cruel, wise, stupid, energetic, apathetic, etc. Men are not like that . . . Men are like rivers; the water is the same in each, and alike in all; but every river is narrow here, is more rapid there, here slower, there broader, now clear, now cold, now dull, now warm. It is the same with men. Every man carries in himself the germs of every human quality and sometimes one manifests itself, sometimes another, and the man often becomes unlike himself—while still remaining the same man.”

What kind of rivers are people who surround us? Perhaps we would have to speak of a toxic pollution in them that kills life. And altogether, they are a sad sight…

6:28 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

I think anyone who held out any hope for the US from Monday, May 23 has got to now make sure their passport is up to date because by May 27 it should be clear that the US is simply not a place for a decent sensitive soul to reside in.
Let's start with Tues. when the US Congress fawned over themselves at Bibi's speech which reminded Uri Avery of when Stalin spoke to the Supreme Soviet in which not giving enough deference could mean death (in the US case, political death).
Wed. had the US Supreme Court turning down an appeal from prisoners at Gitmo to prevent them from being transferred to countries where they could face torture. Also it was found that cogressional lawmakers had made "significant positive abnormal returns" on their stock transactions from 1985-2001. Good to see public service paying off.
But the real sign of impending death came on Friday when the House passed a bill authorizing endless "Worldwide War". It gives the President the ability to wage endless war against any nation suspected of supporting terrorists without congressional approval. I mean, can you imagine such a power in the hands of Palin? She'll be bombing Canada for sending her less than top grade salmon.
So it's hopeless to stay here unless you wish to live in a country at perpetual war. I certainly feel sorry for anyone born in 2002, the year the US invaded Afganistan. That person will probably not know one year in his or her entire life when the US was at peace since as Norman Solomon wote this week, "a search for enemies is apt to be inexhaustible."

10:47 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Along those lines I want to encourage everyone to read Jane Mayer's essay, "The Secret Sharer," in the May 23 New Yorker. If anyone reading this blog can read that article and not conclude that America is truly lost, my hat's off to ya.

mb

5:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip on the New Yorker article. Certainly disturbing on a number of levels.

Another related story is the front page of the NYT's tonight on the surveillance efforts against an Austin anarchist.

Gee, I wonder if they're using this much effort on investigating the obvious nationwide bank fraud of 2008?

Every time I think we're going around a new dark corner I have to remind myself that we've gone around the bend a number of times in recent years. It became almost routine to read articles about spying and surveillance against Al-Qaida etc following 9-11. Are we now in a new period for the domestic side of it?

El Juero

11:56 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

El J-

It seems likely. Studies of heretical movements in the Middle Ages have shown that if these movements managed to hold the enemy (Church, State) at bay for a while, they suffered for lack of a target; and so they started finding enemies w/in, and eating themselves alive. The US may be entering, as part of its final phase, a period of implosion, self-conflagration.

The sheer madness of it all!
mb

12:14 AM  
Blogger Mike Cifone said...

Maury, cld you elaborate & clarify that one a bit more: what's the heretical movmt here? Certainly I can see that anarchists constitute one relative to the US/NSA, but then it seems you switch subjects.

Thanks.

12:59 AM  
Blogger Sarasvati said...

I was introduced to Joe Bageant through this blog and recently read both “Deer Hunting with Jesus” (how I do love that title!) and “Rainbow Pie.” The man is a genius and his death a great loss.

Because of my life-long interest in metaphysics, I’m very curious as to everyone’s thoughts about what Joe meant by the national “hologram,” something he referred to a number of times. Did Joe know something special or is this more of a “meat and potatoes” reference?

BTW, has anyone here read Mark Twain’s short novel “The Mysterious Stranger”? This from Chapter 11:
“….Strange, indeed, that you should not have suspected that your universe and its contents were only dreams, visions, fiction! Strange, because they are so frankly and hysterically insane--like all dreams….”
I have to wonder what Twain knew: http://www.classicreader.com/book/1370/11/
Joe made it clear that the PTB make sure the population is dumbed down, and then despise them for their ignorance. What can you say about those who are so immersed in the fiction that they are unable to recognize it for what it is? I guess it’s a question of how much free will do we really have if our choices are restricted and what is the mechanism by which someone like Joe breaks free.

1:33 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Mike-

I just meant that when you have a large group of people who are paranoid about being attacked or destroyed from the outside, eventually that paranoia gets turned inward. They start scanning for 'traitors' within, in other words, because there has to be an opposition mechanism for them to have meaning in their lives. So they enter a phase of self-destruction, eating themselves alive. Mary Douglas discusses this in "Purity and Danger," I believe.

Sarasvati-

Joe's 'hologram' is what I have called the glass sphere coated on the inside with a mirror. Lots of info bounces around inside either one of these structures, but it is all info of the same kind; anything really different can't get in. If it happens, it's quite accidental, and is denied or shut out pretty quickly. An example might be Obama and McCain debating energy sources quite vigorously, but neither of them (nor any one else) pointing out that the consumption of 25% of the world's energy by less than 5% of the world's population is obscene, and a major impetus to war in the Middle East. Jimmy Carter did point that out, and suggested we start scaling back that consumption; the American public did not take kindly to that notion, preferring the self-destructive "American Dream" instead, in which (as Reagan told us) there are no limits to anything and we can have it all.

As to how one breaks out of the trance, or "Matrix": god, that's a very worthwhile thing to discuss, but we'll hafta put that off for a later time. In fact, since most of the DAA55 (I'm thinking of upping the # to 65, in fact, because of a recent rash of newcomers) fall into the category of misfits or dissidents, it might be interesting to hear from them how they managed to wake up from the trance.

mb

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

RE:Heresy. As has been brought up here, "heresy" in a country that mainly worships it's own unidentified beliefs there's a lot of room to be heretical. Check me off in both the dissident and misfit columns.

RE: Gettin' outta the matrix. I think this might be a great subject for a future post/discussion. Complex as it touches on personal finances, brings up questions about connections to family and culture etc.. My short take on it though is to emigrate to whatever degree it is possible. W/o any break in the "mirrored glass ceiling" it's hard to see what's going on or what other possibilities exist. If you've got a week or two of vacation take it somewhere outside of the States at least. Make local connections when possible. It's a process that will take risk, trial and error. See how other cultures live and learn outside of formal sectors. While the U.S. struggles with its finances, education, and connecting to others etc.. education centers, communities and fairly independent economies exist in most typical "3rd world" marketplaces (and elsewhere). Harder to see for us I think given our formal "lenses". Giant subject really but I think it's very tied into the NMI ideas.

El Juero

tideout@gmail.com

11:27 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Well, for me the break came early, as I was pretty much raised in a European environment, even in the US: very different values. By age 7, I felt like a stranger in a strange land, and that feeling never left me--until I went somewhere else. Even England did the trick: I realized not every population in the world was engaged in boring discussions of money and personal success. But others of u may have had a different source for your epiphany, and maybe we shd discuss that here...

mb

12:22 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

I think one constant in the last ten thousand years of civilization is systemic violence. Perhaps the dialectics of that violence account for the rise and fall of empires and civilizations.

Derrick Jensen's *Endgame* begins with a list of "axioms" some of which seem to me demonstrated and evidenced in Morris Berman's *Wandering God*. When humans stopped wandering, became populous because of agriculture that enabled them to live in cities and be rooted to one spot, warfare became inevitable as the means to acquire resources forcibly from other humans. So too did internal warfare become inevitable because the problems of living in one spot and engaging in warfare seemed to require for their solution a hierarchical arrangement of social and political life.

In that light, the most fateful change ever to occur in human history was the abandonment of hunter-gatherer life for life in cities. And Dr. Berman's book is the most trenchant, carefully argued account of that change that I have yet come across. For that it should have won some prestigious literary prize. Still, I don't think I've grasped all of the book's nuances and may even have missed its thesis. It certainly deserves several readings if only to absorb the footnotes.

1:48 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Kel-

Note that aggression or conflict is a human constant, as far as we can make out from the archaeological record. But war dates from the Late Paleolithic, i.e. is only abt 12 or 15,000 yrs old.

mb

2:08 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

An excellent and far-ranging interview with Joe Bageant (from 2007) is here (archives of George Kenney's "Electric Politics"):

http://www.electricpolitics.com/podcast/2007/07/reivers_redress.html

4:29 PM  
Blogger diana said...

I always saw the world differently because I grew up under British colonialism in one of the last places on earth worth killing for- the Island is essentially a volcano. Yet, kill the British did. When the slaughter was over, they cleared the island by transporting most of the survivors to Belize. Growing up with this history provides an early education on the barbarity of our so called civilization. You don't have to have your finances collapse for the veil to be lifted.

I had lived in America for only a short time before I started to have all kinds of physical issues. I would be totally depleted after trips to malls, large stores or after spending time with most of the people I met here. later things got worse. I could not keep a job for long although I was working at civilized places like Universities and other nonprofits. I was working on a Ph.D and decided to quit. This was in 1997 and by then I had come to the realization that I was having trouble functioning in american institutions and culture.

I Got through this first difficult period by reading up on non western spirituality. I would also read anything by anyone who thought this culture was destructive and toxic. Bought a copy of DAA when it first came out and have been reading Dr. Berman ever since.

But the epiphany is the easy part. Staking out a healthy and meaningful life on the margins, amidst the wreckage, is much more difficult. A project is helpful. For me that is raising a child while preparing to leave.

5:31 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Ironically, it was the US Army that helped me step outside the hologram, even as a child. My father was stationed all over the world, and our family was often there with him: German, Turkey, the Philippines, with stops in various stateside locations between them So I saw from an early age that not everyone spoke English, or lived the same way; and I didn't see all that much TV while abroad, for that matter, making much use of the local Army base library instead.

Starting high school in 1967, of course I got the full imprint of the 1960s -- and for the most part, the best of it. That also had me reading & exploring other ways of life & thought.

Early adult life was more difficult, with personal problems to overcome & the need for a regular job. But I never stopped reading & learning as much as I could ... which continues to this day.

Which isn't to say that I didn't slip into the Matrix more than I care to admit! But the past 10 years or so have wrought a major, ongoing change in me; and of course this blog (among other things) has helped keep me sane during some dark times.

5:35 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Thank u all for stories of yer waking up from The Matrix. Let's keep 'em coming. Meanwhile, check out excellent review by Robt Reich of "Reckless Endangerment," by Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner, in the May 29th NYTBR. Authors cd have also called the bk "Thugs on Parade."

6:17 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

RE: human nature, aggression, killing and eating, etc.

The more anthropology I read, the more illusions I lose; from one of the "Paleo" food blogs (Gnolls.org): "Fatty meats are, quite literally, what made us human. The DHA, complete protein, and sheer calorie density of fatty meat allowed little 65-pound savanna apes with tiny 350cc brains, just smart enough to make rocks sharper by banging them together, to grow into modern humans-- with huge 1400cc brains that use a full 20% of the calories we ingest! And we didn't get fatty meat just by scavenging, because the lions, tigers, wolves, giant hyenas ansd saber-toothed cats got it first. We got it by being the most effective predators on Earth."

RE: breaking out of the Matrix--
Reading "Wandering God" was something of an epiphany for me, a decade ago. And, in light of what I quoted above, breaking free will likely always be a work-in-progress.

6:33 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Art-

This is partly why I have an almost religious commitment to corned beef, and why I regard the Stage Deli as the only temple worth praying at.

A friend of mine, a clinical physiologist, claims that 30 or so yrs ago, Alzheimer's was virtually unknown. It rose parallel to the campaign vs. cholesterol, which he claims is a hoax perpetrated by Big Pharma (cholesterol meds bring in billions). He tells me that rather than avoid butter and fatty meats, we shd be eating them because they are brain food; that the brain needs cholesterol in order to flourish and function. What he stays away from is carbs and sugar, which hunter-gatherers didn't eat either. If he's rt, this turns the whole 'wisdom' of the AMA and current nutrition on its head. In addition, there have been recent studies showing that the distinction between types of fats is b.s. (i.e., animal fat is just fine 4u); and that 50% of those who die of a heart attack have low cholesterol. So one's cholesterol #s, on this account, have little to do with heart disease. My friend says, "You wanna not die of heart attack or atherosclerosis? Remove stress from your life." I figure I added 20 yrs to it by moving to Mexico...

Of course, he cd be totally wrong, and I cd collapse from a coronary on the streets of this town in 6 mos. Stay tuned; if I die, I'll post it on this blog.

mb

ps: How's *your* heart doing, BTW?

7:14 PM  
Blogger Sarasvati said...

It all started for me with an existential crisis…the sudden realization that life had no meaning. At least not the one I was living. I was 50, a late bloomer. Then I was lucky enough to find a great spiritual teacher - someone who said not to believe anything you’re told, but to ask who you heard it from, question what it’s backed up by, does it make sense, and is it your experience. Think for yourself – think outside the box. My interests and thinking were always quite different from most of my family and the other people I knew, and I finally came to appreciate that it was actually an advantage. While I’m no longer that teacher’s student, I’m so very grateful for all I learned. BTW, I think most of today’s spirituality is just another multi-billion dollar layer of containment…in other words, same song, different verse, closer to the truth and yet still far away. The red-herrings to be found in Maya’s Palace of Delusion are endless.

Anyone who wanders from the acceptable straight and narrow path is going to be assaulted. If you want to make people mad, just try messing with their belief system. The PTB have to do very little because we keep each other in line for them. Too bad, because the only power we have is in numbers – so many of us, so few of them.

BTW, as much as possible eat unprocessed, organic, plant-based (preferably raw) food and grass fed meat. Commercial meats are loaded with antibiotics and hormones, many of the animals are sick and they’re fed an unnatural diet. Our food industry’s apparent goal is to make and keep us as sick as possible so that we have to turn to the medical establishment (AMA wisdom is an oxymoron), which heals nothing and ensures we’re a cash cow for them and the pharmaceutical industry. What a racket!

Adios!

9:44 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

How's my heart doing? Well, that's pretty much a mystery; reducing stress in suburban Florida, as I'm sure you can imagine, is no easy task.

But, it's not just about stress. While it may turn out to be true that animal fat doesn't contribute to disease, current research into Paleolithic diets is pointing to the idea of "Neolithic agents of disease". Right now, the chief culprits seem to be: grains (especially wheat), excess fructose (including fruit juice!) and industrial seed oils (the ever-present soy, corn and canola). If true, why this should be the case is yet another mystery. And I'm too stressed to give it much thought anyway.

10:10 PM  
Blogger James said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:11 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Art-

I'm planning on my own expt in stress reduction. I'm abt to go off to France. 1st a wk in Paris, then a wk staying w/friends in Provence. Word has it that there are a # of lovely old Roman walls in the Midi. I'm going to find one and beat my head against it until I pass out. Will blog results as soon as I'm conscious again.

A bientot,
Maurice

11:32 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

My 'awakening' was sort of a slow process, although reading Dr. Berman's "Twilight" really helped move me along. I guess it started when I began feeling like I was surrounded by absurdity at best and bestial aggression and stupidity at worse. I read books about narcissism and violence in our culture and always felt like I didn't fit in. Throughout this time, however, I was young, and when I would attempt to discuss my disdain for our society, I would be met with (surprise) hostility, indifference, or pity (ha!). So I tried to fake it and agree with everyone that this is "the best place on Earth". I really tried to convince myself that we were merely being screwed over by coporate elites (which of course we are, but...) and if the wool could only be pulled away, there would be a great awakening of everyone and a movement towards enlightenment. We were, after all, the great experiment of freedom, right?

I think I was sort of predisposed for unhappiness with our soulless culture b/c I was raised by the children of immigrants. All four grandparents were born in the same country in Europe.

My facade crumbled when I returned to college, and I became more dismayed with our culture. The coup de grace for my attempt at justifying why I should be proud to be an American came when I travelled abroad.

Great reading all of your posts, by the way. Good stuff, as always.

2:44 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Mike-

Compress by 50% and I'll be happy to run it. Thanx.

mb

4:48 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

I recall two specific instances from childhood, when I couldn't have been more than 7 or 8.

Once, while looking at the landscape outside the car window as we were driving somewhere, I suddenly had the overpowering feeling that it was all fake, like a painted backdrop, and that if I reach out I could grasp it in my hand & tear it down like a sheet of paper, revealing what was really behind it. This wasn't something I could articulate or logically comprehend then, but it stuck with me, making me question the commonly accepted appearances of the world.

The other was a realization that money wasn't real, that it only worked because everyone said it did, and believed it did. Again, I was too young to think about all the implications of that realization, but it did make me see that much of what we accept as reality was actually an agreed-upon fiction -- though of course I didn't learn how to phrase it quite like that until I was older!

I'm still amazed to hear grown men talking about "laws" of economics as if they're laws of Nature, built into the fabric of the Universe, rather than being a function of psychology if anything.

Even during those periods of succumbing to the Matrix & just going along to get along, moments like those were touchstones for me. Needless to say, when I encountered the concept of Maya as a teen, it resonated!

7:46 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear EditNetwork:

For future ref: the problem with posting on a previous post is that very few people are going to read it. Best to stay w/the current one. Plus, if you have a url, it's a gd idea to break it into pieces, because when posted it typically gets truncated.

That said, I enjoyed the essay, tho I think it's all been said b4. Not that it doesn't need repeating. But the one thing missing is that the author failed to mention that the US is basically a collection of nincompoops. Once that is factored in, much becomes clear.

Thank you-

mb

2:35 PM  
OpenID brutus said...

What lies beyond or behind the hologram or matrix? I'm sure I don't know, and I rather suspect no one else does, either. For me, the fundamental questions arose in adolescence when I began struggling with the recursive nature of mind/identity/consciousness. That's what brought me to Prof. Berman's consciousness trilogy. The problems and questions, I've since decided, are often false.

No one thinks to ask a cat or a fish or a bug what is true beyond their obvious experiences in life: eating, reproducing, dying -- often in rather horrific ways all too commonplace in nature. We humans are part of that horrifying nature, too, perhaps even being more awful than most due to our power to subjugate and destroy all of nature (and eventually ourselves). We also have the enhanced capacity to reflect upon it and imagine something else that lies beyond, perhaps outside Plato's cave. But just as we have only this one life to live, there is nothing else for which to hope. So make the best of the here and now, our absurd but indisputable reality whether objectively true or a mere projection, and act according to conscience if you have one. Most of nature doesn't.

9:16 PM  
Anonymous SqueakyRat said...

I stumbled across Joe Bageant's work a few months ago, and I'm very sorry to hear he's gone. His voice and perspective were unique yet thoroughly American. To my mind he was like Woody Guthrie, Thorstein Veblen, and Herman Melville rolled into one.

12:56 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

I learned that expatriates do not usually receive Medicare benefits. Does anyone here know if that's true? If so, how disappointing! Currently, I have no medical insurance and will soon be on Medicare. The news has put a damper on my yen to get the hell outta Dodge; but I'm still considering it!

1:59 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Kel-

Yes, basically true, but then Medicare is so confused u can't rely on them anyway, whether in the US or abroad. Start investigating the possibilities of private ins. coverage in the country u plan to move to.

mb

5:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kel,
Dr. B is quite right. The last thing I think I'll ever miss in the US is the medical care.

Costa Rica has good care and the "ebais" clinics are low cost or essentially free. Good dental services there as well if you have basic funds.

Nicaragua has Vivian Pellas, a world class hospital outside of Managua. Did have great insurance coverage per year. Great Cuban docs as well around the country.

Mexico has seemed hit or miss to me. I've been seen by a good doc or two here in the past. Good dental work but there are very scary providers as well. Good prices on generic meds if you can tolerate the rumored variability in mfg..

Good luck with your research!

Good luck!

El Juero
tideout@gmail.com

6:13 PM  
Anonymous JM said...

I think what sets me apart from most is the willingness to question my most deeply held beliefs. I was raised in a very religious family. I was 16 or 17 when I realized that people of other faiths held their beliefs as deeply as I did and therefore faith was not a path to truth. Along with faith came political conservatism and a rather jingoistic patriotism. I was inculcated with American individualism, so much so that I eventually became a “free market” libertarian in my 20’s. But I believe it was the oil crises of the 70’s that first made me uneasy about resource depletion and environmental degradation. Another watershed came when I read David Quammen’s deeply disturbing article Planet of Weeds about the current mass extinction crisis. When I brought it up to my girlfriend at the time she responded, “Why do you care about that?” Her response proved to be typical. When I pressed my more thoughtful acquaintances on the environmental and resource issues that I had come to realize were the most important issues of our time the responses were always the same, the market will provide the technology to solve all our problems and other species don’t matter. Deeply suspicious of what sounded like religious dogma I began to question the prevailing economic/social orthodoxy and undertook a 10 year quest to understand how American society really worked. Ultimately I realized that technology will not save us because it cannot create natural resources from nothing and “free enterprise/markets” will not provide because they do not and cannot exist. Market ideology masks the true nature of American capitalism, which is a system to concentrate wealth and power without regard for humanity and the future.

Finally, I’ve had the good fortune to spend 2 to 3 years of my life traveling the world. Desperately poor people have offered to share what little they have with me. In an African slum once a family invited me into their shack and offered me food and tea. I’ve learned that community and sharing is not only what is necessary for their survival but gives life meaning. Here that reciprocity has been uprooted and replaced by greed and materialism, common interest replaced by self interest , community with individualism.

12:46 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Maury,

Thank you for the advice re: medical insurance. Yes, the Republicans/Democrats are determined to end that "entitlement."

BTW, your friend's ideas on cholesterol and meat are similar to those of Lierre Keith who sometimes appears with Derrick Jensen in weekend workshops. Her book is *The Vegetarian Myth*. She also cites the work of Weston A. Price, a reservation doctor from the 20s and 30s, who noted that older generations of American indigenous peoples were healthier than later generations.

She discusses her views on Ken Rose's *What Now* radio program on which you've appeared twice.

The date of her show on *What Now* is 10-05-09.

It's the sort of issue that might appear on the menu of *My Dinner with Andre*.

7:11 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

It's fascinating (in a morbid way) to see how everything's designed to do as little for the majority of citzens as possible, while doing as much as possible to swell the coffers of The Powers That Be. It's really intelligent design ... if the designer is soulless, insatiably greedy, and utterly callous. What writer, no matter how inventive, could possibly imagine something so cleverly malign?

8:23 AM  
Blogger Mike Cifone said...

Dear Maury and Friends,

Just wanted to tell my story of breakout -- sorry for the first attempt; got carried away!

Anyway, sound & noise seemed early on to push me back from the culture. Since crowds tend to be noisy and (I thought) violent and plain scary, I avoided things like fireworks, parades and sporting events. My aversion to loud noises isolated me from allot of what everyone else seemed to love. Now -- and perhaps this is related? -- I also can recall from an early age being attracted to classical music; in particular, to Bach and Baroque. It was an attraction that really became a kind of deep love. It provided to me a solace that nothing in my immediate culture could provide. When I woke up from my Baroque infatuation to the depths of the early and late Romantics, this was yet another kind of awakening ... into something like pure love. When I first heard the "Sanctus" from Beethoven's "Missa Solemnis", one night with headphones on, I cried ... like I stepped into a huge heart from which I would never have to emerge, one that would contain me forever (later I read that Beethoven wrote on the score: "from the heart to the heart"). What do you say, when you're 10 yrs old, to your friends, about this? Well, they knew what to say to me: FAG!

From there, throughout my teenage years, I was increasingly more absorbed by music, then theology and philosophy, and then, in college, physics & philosophy. Against my grain, I worked on math, made some headway in these technical subjects, then went to grad school for philosophy of physics.

I had a total crisis then: the utter sterility of the analytic schools of philosophy, the banal scholasticism of philosophy & physics, the epicycles of arguments, the tedium of the discourse ... all of it was like death, despite that my teachers thought I was one of the best students they had.

Then I read in quick succession, Twilight, and the three Consciousness trilogy pieces by Prof. Berman, and I really had a profound metanoia, an inner reversal. All of what I had dimly understood -- through music, theology, philosophy, and the true scientific spirit -- all of this came together. I took my PhD (almost left, tho), and now I live on the academic periphery.

My life is now dedicated to learning and thinking outside systems, schools, disciplines, etc. Though I live a life of financial uncertainly, and routinely annoy those around me, I would have my life no other way.

From the heart,
Mike.

1:20 PM  
Blogger Mike Cifone said...

Diana,

What you said really struck a chord in me. I have had similar experiences, it seems; you mention how you felt "totally depleted" -- perhaps we should say "used" -- when coming away from the shopping malls. I routinely mention this to those with whom I shop, and I have been avoiding all such trips. The experience is pure hell, and I am realizing that, tho I didn't have the language for it when I was younger, I can recall similar feelings of being kind of lost, dazed, numbed, wiped out, in long lines waiting to "check out" (metaphor for how most people seem to actually lead their lives; and a sad reflection of most holiday parties, I've noticed -- anyone else?). It's almost as if the place is structured to "blank" your consciousness -- like a minimal shock therapy -- where a momentarily enhanced desire is triggered (a desire already put into place by massive doses of advertising) so that you'll surrender a maximal amount of cash.

You also mention how you were/are on the academic periphery. I am too. Institutions usually get to know that I don't play the entertainment thing, and I'm noticing that my contracts aren't getting "renewed". Rgt now I'm on Unemployment (but enjoying teaching my course on ethics), and I feel like I should ditch this place (esp. after reading that piece in the New Yorker on the Drake case), but just don't know where to really go. (Well ... if I actually did the research, I'm sure it cld be done. But I have friends and family on the East Coast, thus my vacillation.)

Anyway, thanks for your posting.

MCC

1:35 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Lierre Keith, whose ideas are similar to Maury's friend's with respect to cholesterol and meat, cited Gary Taubes on the issue. The following is a quote from Taubes's website that surprised me:

"It’s almost assuredly the case that the same foods that make us fat are the same foods that cause heart disease and diabetes and cancer, etc. — the diseases that associate with obesity. These are the foods that were absent from human diets during the 2.5 million years of evolution leading up to the agricultural era, and so we’re still poorly adapted to dealing with these foods — easily digestible starches, refined carbs and sugars. When we remove these foods from our diets, we get healthier. Insulin levels come down and with them a host of metabolic disturbances normalize."

2:57 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Thanks all for your contributions. I'm a tad out of it, having just completed 7 interviews in Spanish for radio and newspaper coverage of "A Question of Values," which just appeared in Span trans. I'm doing a book presentation tomorrow in a bkstore here in Mex City called Conejoblanco, and I just may show up in a White Rabbit suit.

2 of the interviews were a waste of time, but 5 were very impressive. Unlike the majority of interviews in the US, these folks do their homework. They had read my stuff and had specific questions they wanted to ask. It's not abt promoting their careers. In the US, the typical interview is 5 mins long, they guy has read only a PR sheet provided by the publisher, and it's about promoting their careers, not abt the content of my work.

One interviewer asked me for a comparison of values between Mex and the US, and I told her: well, for example, this interview.

4:07 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

From the American-and-proud-of-it dept:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/
washpost/airplaneannoyance
leadstobrouhahainthe
skiesoverdc

Just had to share that with the DAA. It's getting downright difficult to maintain integrity in everyday interactions with my countrymen. Perhaps I am just more aware of it now, but it just seems so daunting to me to have to attempt to interact with people for even simple reasons, such as calling to ask a question about my cable bill or ordering a pizza. It seems that everyone... everyone is angry, boneheaded, overtly incompetent, and daring me to give them reasons to tell me to go to hell (or worse).

I really think I need to start doing the post-it reminders that Dr. B suggests, lest I forget where I am or who I am dealing with. It causes me to ache. Does anyone else ever feel worn out after daily interactions? I feel like my guard has to always be up...to think that communities in other cultures actually function and people can be relaxed. It blows my mind. Sometimes I get so melancholy because I feel like this isn't how it's supposed to be . So I need reminded of what we as a culture are and what we have always been about. Still, it's painful.

12:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: the mind-altering effects of the shopping mall environment, see "Coercion" by Douglas Rushkoff. (http://www.amazon.com/Coercion-Why-Listen-What-They/dp/157322829X/) It's a good introduction to the techniques of manipulation used in modern shopping environments. The advertising and muzak are just the beginning. And once you get started reading his works, don't miss "Life Inc: How Corporatism Conquered the World, and How We Can Take It Back" (http://www.amazon.com/Life-Inc-Corporatism-Conquered-World/dp/0812978501/) Expecting to "take it back" may be a bit over-optimistim, but he still makes many good points.

12:10 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Joe,

For a moment I thought my wife had posted, because your complaint is often hers (and mine). I know what you're talking about -- that "weary in your bones" melancholy & creeping despair as the miasma of what living in this crumbling culture really sinks in & grabs hold of your soul. And it's often a matter of little, almost inconsequential things, death by a thousand nasty & stupid cuts, isn't it?

We actively try to avoid interacting with all but the other reasonably civilized people we know, who number in the ... well, not too many.

By the way, did anyone see that PBS is going to start putting corporate sponsor program breaks in the middle of their shows now? But they're not commercials, no, don't call them that!

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/31/
business/media/31adco.html

Granted, PBS is but a pale shadow of what it once was anyway, as demonstrated by their recent Frontline smear of Bradley Manning, for instance ...

Just another indicator of The Dumbening.

3:28 PM  
Blogger diana said...

Mike,

I have been working at a State job for close to 6 years. While the pay is not so good, the benefits are great and I am mostly left alone. But with the current fiscal problems facing state governments and mounting attacks on state employees, who knows how much longer this is going to last. The margin is shrinking. There are so few places left for people like us to hang out and make a decent living.

I live quite modestly and try to enjoy the few pleasures we have left. walks in the parks, trips to the beach, cooking, gardening, reading etc.

10:57 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

As a counterpoint to all the negative examples of a crumbling culture & country, let's have a reminder of what matters:

http://www.salon.com/life/since_you_asked/
2011/06/02/turning_point/index.html

The letter writer wonders if studying art & culture abroad was a waste, now that he/she is back in the USA. Not only is Cary Tennis' reply wonderful, so are most of the comments posted in response.

One excerpt:

Are you succumbing to the American "career means making money, being powerful or hip" hypnosis?

The minute you arrive back here you plunge into self-doubt because you think you have to fit into the American zeitgeist? Just because you were born here doesn't mean you can't suffer from culture-shock.


Another:

Your years abroad were not wasted, not in the least. Just the opposite. They've enriched your life and made you a better, fuller person.

Another:

All intellectual work and discipline is good. The more educated, well-traveled, cultured people we have in America, the better. This will be true regardless of career path, job setbacks, economic down-turns, down-sizing, up-sizing, etc. [...]

"We" let this shit go on partly because "we" have become so purblind and stupid. Americans know nothing about our own history, let alone the geographies or histories of the countries whose oil we want, or the people we slaughter in those countries. [...]

In short, comparatively, America is stupid. Really, really stupid. So, LW, whatever your career path, you can still contribute to the culture, and to the country, by speaking, acting, living and hopefully voting as an educated, worldly person who has seen something besides your hometown, college, gym, local bar, and the mall. You can be one less provincial, ignorant, materialistic American. That's potentially priceless.


NMI, anyone?

9:26 AM  
Blogger HansfromDK said...

About getting out of the matrix: When I was about ten years old, I became interested in history. I chose this subject at the university and became a MA. But the history is not useful within the matrix, on the contrary - and I know this is a terribly banal statement - knowledge about the past helps you to see the present.

It was impossible to get a job as a historian, so I took a bachelor´s degree in informatics and worked in private enterprises some years. They were not bad. I had a lot of freedom and good collegues - but eventually all enterprises turned "lean and mean", i.e. instead of being creative and innovative, they concentrated on mass production and marketing. (Have any of you noticed any new inventions made lately? And have you noticed all the idiotic attempts to persuade you that some moronic remake of old technology is in fact new and revolutionary?) So out I went, and I am also now living modestly on the margin.

Best to all of you - and I am really sorry I couldn't come to Dr. Berman's book presentation. I am sure that white suites him well.

12:44 PM  
Anonymous gregg said...

I haven't posted in a while but this question I couldn't resist. I grew up a force fed son of a fundamentalist preacher...no questions allowed.Of course first chance I got I did everything they said was a sin...a lot of what I did was really stupid and had lasting consequences.
I learned to love marijuana for what it could do to my awareness...then I tried lsd and that was that. (I know I know..it was all false)
I realized I had no idea of what was happening(kind of wish I didnt now). I saw reality was not some static thing to be taken for granted. I was ignorant. So I began reading about the origins of life, of humans, of the universe (thanks Isaac Asimov)and have kept going since then-33 years ago.
I have tried and not always succeeded to be a decent person but I am, at this point, pretty much isolated. Things I said would happen 25 years ago have happened..I so wish was wrong. BTW I have been reading voraciously ever since. But I'm beyond afraid..I pretty sure this collection of cons and marks is fucked beyond fucked, but I wouldn't change where I've been.

7:50 PM  
Blogger James said...

I think someone needs to establish IA, intellectuals anonymous, “My name is..........and I am an intellectual.” We could all cure ourselves of the need to think, be deprogrammed, enjoy the brief but commodious energy flowing from the greatest evolutionary folly in the history of life and then look forward to even more good times in the afterlife.

It seems clear to me that we had all of the mechanical bodily adaptations necessary for technological lift-off but unfortunately, the Id, that vestigial but still potent little toe within our brains and all of those dopamine circuits will insure our doom. We've been given just enough organic evolutionary rope to hang ourselves. The technological world will definitely try to tame the beast, and they have to some extent, even beyond providing bread, circuses and everlasting life. However, even with technological whipping, we will never become the compliant cogs the technological system needs. Or will we?

9:38 AM  
Blogger sv koho said...

What a nice elegy for Joe. You state his views very well and very kindly and he will be missed in my family. I had some email correspondence with Joe and invited him to our home here in WY and had hopes he would be sleeping here one night on a book tour but it was not to be. I think that Joe felt that what we once had here in the US was a version of paradise lost and no one likes to hear that a problem cannot be solved but I think he saw it as more than a problem. It was more a predicament. Some predicaments are not fixable. Many cancers and of course life itself are predicaments. You cannot solve the predicament that you will die in the end, just like Joe. The collapse of empire in our case will not be solved by political change when the political system is a military corporate megalith bent on pulling what wealth and power that is left into its increasingly greedy maw. The only solution to this predicament is to not participate in the cultural economic fraud that it represents and to distance oneself as far as possible from the dragon. Do not feed it and perhaps it will starve before it makes it to your door. RIP Joe. Who will tell the story now with Joe gone?

12:45 PM  
Anonymous patrick skey said...

watch the reality "elimination" shows and you can clearly see the future of America. Final solutions are in the works...i post the "bonus march" videos to friends to show them what the fate of the underclass might be....the outdoor tent prison with be the norm....the underclass with be eliminated....it's just an intuition but it seems so patently obvious that it almost seems redundant to write about it...i like your synopsis of the rainbow pie..i grew up like Joe Bageant in a firefighter's family in Atlantic City New Jersey....we discuss your work in xela at the vrisha book store.....

8:05 PM  
Blogger ironcloudz said...

you mean there's a difference?


Joe put the word out that he was using psychedelics, but it was actually chopped liver.

2:28 PM  

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