September 28, 2011

Jonathan Swift Revisited

Readers of this blog may remember a post I did a while ago entitled “Fork in the Road,” briefly referring to the deleterious effects of screens on the brain. The bulk of the article, however, dealt with the effects of anti-depressant drugs, as discussed by Marcia Angell in two essays in the New York Review of Books that pulled no punches on the subject. One thing that particularly impressed me was the impact of the “better living through chemistry” model of mental health on our children. During 1987-2007, the stats of mental disability among children multiplied by a factor of 35, such that mental illness is now the leading cause of disability among this segment of the population. Cruising the Net, one finds numerous studies regarding the effects of Prozac on infants derived from mothers taking the drug during pregnancy, or while breastfeeding: autism, heart defects, poor feeding, insomnia. Not the greatest way to come into the world, it would seem.

Even beyond this is the fact that a certain percentage of American preschoolers—and I was not able to determine what that figure currently is—are on anti-depressant drugs. I find the idea of a three-year-old on Zoloft absolutely chilling, in a Brave New World kind of way. This has got to be a terrible mistake; it’s got to be a way of destroying an infant’s self, so that dependency and psychological disorientation become the “normal” way of being in the world, for these poor kids. Research has suggested this in the case of adults: that the use of anti-psychotic drugs is associated with atrophy of the prefrontal cortex, and that after only a few weeks of drug use the brain begins to function in a different way. How much more powerful and long-lasting must these effects be in the case of toddlers?

The real motivation for getting very young children hooked on these meds is, of course, money: the use of such drugs from a very early age pretty much guarantees Big Pharma an endless supply of customers. It is not, à la Jonathan Swift (“A Modest Proposal”), that there is some kind of plot out there to destroy our children, wreck their intellectual and emotional functioning from age two or even earlier. But if that is the result, does it matter? If the percentage of the under-four age group on anti-depressants continues to grow, then it might be said that deliberately or not, we are eating our children alive. The jury is still out on all this, but the indications are certainly not encouraging.

When it comes to screens, however, so dramatically represented in American society by things such as Facebook and Twitter, there doesn’t seem to be much doubt: these are killers. As Sherry Turkle shows in her most recent book, Alone Together, the much-touted idea of “virtual community” proved to be a fraud. What we really have is increased alienation and depression. All of these social media and accompanying devices peddle a phony intimacy, because if you are at home alone with a screen, that’s where you actually are. Let’s take a look at some of the evidence.

In 1998 a research team at Carnegie Mellon University published an empirical study entitled “Internet Paradox,” demonstrating that within the first year or two online, people were experiencing less social engagement and poorer psychological well-being. The researchers also found that a greater use of the Internet was associated with less family communication, a reduction in local social circles, and an increase in loneliness, as well as higher rates of depression. The authors of the study concluded by suggesting that by using the Net, people were “substituting poorer quality social relationships for better relationships, that is, substituting weak ties for strong ones,” with consequent negative effects. One thinks of Mark Zuckerberg, poor rich asshole, destroying the one real friendship he had (with Facebook cofounder Eduardo Saverin), so that he could acquire a million meaningless ones.

A more recent study, conducted at the University of Michigan for the period 1979-2009, revealed a 48% decrease in empathy among college students during this time, and a 34% decrease in the ability to see things from another person’s perspective. Most of these declines, it turns out, occurred over the past decade, and the general interpretation is that this is related to the isolation involved in the use of personal technology and popular social networking sites that have become so much a part of student life. The study suggested that this was not surprising “in a world filled with rampant technology revolving around personal needs and self-expression.” But it is also the nature of the technology that is at issue, because the Internet and other electronic media are based on speed and distraction, on rapidly shifting attention. It turns out that the higher emotions, such as empathy and compassion, emerge from neural processes that are inherently slow. Various studies have shown that the more distracted we become, the less able we are to experience such emotions, or see things from the perspective of others. In a word, these technologies may be undermining our moral sense. At the very least, it becomes hard to argue that they are promoting community.

It also seems to be the case that the use of screens is creating a different type of human being, partly as a result of the neural rewiring of the brain that these devices engender. Much of the evidence for this argument has been collected and expanded upon by Nicholas Carr in The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. Marshall McLuhan had argued that the brain takes on the characteristics of the technology it uses, and we now see this in the cultural shift from print media to screens. For the Internet’s emphasis (and of course, that of Facebook and Twitter) is on searching and skimming, not on genuine reading or contemplation. As a result, given what we now know about the relative plasticity of the brain, the ability to reflect or to grasp the nuance of a situation is pushed to the margins. The Net, he says, is literally rerouting the pathways in our brains, making our thought processes increasingly shallow. It breaks up the content of a text into searchable chunks, and surrounds it with other content. This is why a page online is very different from a page of print. The concentration and attention factor are high for the latter, low for the former. Then there are the various links, which encourage us not to devote our attention to any single thing but rather to jump from item to item. Our attachment to any single item is thus provisional and fragmented. The Net and its related technologies thus constitute an “ecosystem of interruption technologies.”

Print, on the other hand, has (or should I say had?) a quality of calm attentiveness. “The quiet was part of the meaning,” as the poet Wallace Stevens once put it. When a printed text is transferred to an electronic device, says Carr, it turns into something like a website; the calm attentiveness disappears. Instead, the Net & Co. deliver repetitive, intense, and addictive stimuli, promoting very superficial understanding. Basically, you don’t really read on a screen; it’s a different kind of activity: browsing, scanning, keyword spotting, and so on. And the better you get at this, the less able you are to think deeply or creatively. We are, Carr concludes (quoting the playwright Richard Foreman), turning into “pancake people”—spread wide and thin. Facebook and Twitter are turning out such folks by the IHOP-load.

The lack of interest in printed material, and the corresponding upswing in interest in screens is, of course, especially pronounced among the young. In 2009 the average American teenager was sending or receiving 2,272 text messages a month(!). Meanwhile, the amount of time the average American between twenty-five and thirty-four years of age devoted to reading print in 2008 was forty-nine minutes a week. As Maryanne Wolf of Tufts University cogently puts it, “the digital world may be the greatest threat yet to the endangered reading brain as it has developed over the past five thousand years.” Collectively, adds author Christine Rosen, this is the endpoint of the tragedy we are now witnessing:

“Literacy, the most empowering achievement of our civilization, is to be replaced by a vague and ill-defined screen savvy. The paper book, the tool that built modernity, is to be phased out in favor of fractured, unfixed information. All in the name of progress.”

There is little room in this world, Carr points out, for “the pensive stillness of deep reading or the fuzzy indirection of contemplation.” In such a world, he goes on to say, “Ambiguity is not an opening for insight but a bug to be fixed.” The cultural impact follows upon the individual one, then: what we are witnessing is the replacement of a complex inner diversity with a new kind of self, one devoid of any sense of cultural inheritance. Screens are generating the emptiest people in the history of the world, and as in The Matrix, there is no way for these folks to get outside themselves and perceive this. This is the “frenzy” of technological society famously referred to by Martin Heidegger. In the pathological climate of “techno-social Darwinism,” as Rosen calls it, there is no time for stillness. All of these brave new people lack the ability to be alone with their thoughts, or to appreciate the importance of silence. I have found that even the brightest people don’t get it, have no idea what George Steiner meant when he called modernity “the systematic suppression of silence.” Silence, after all, is the source of all self-knowledge, and of much creativity as well. But it is hardly valued by societies that confuse creativity with productivity, and incessant noise with aliveness. As a result, we don’t notice that fundamental aspects of being human are disappearing. During his time at Yale, William Deresiewicz asked his students what place solitude had in their lives. In response, they seemed to be puzzled that anyone would want to be alone. “Young people today,” he concluded, “seem to have no desire for solitude, have never heard of it, [and] can’t imagine why it would be worth having. In fact, their use of technology…seems to involve a constant effort to stave off the possibility of solitude.” The world of creativity, of imagination, of depth of the self, is closing down.

The similarity of all this to toddlers on anti-depressants is thrown into stark relief when you realize that the corporate goal is to hook children as early as possible. Last month, Rullingnet Corp. (based in Canada) launched Vinci, a 7” touch-screen tablet for the under-four age group. It is the first tablet designed for babies as young as one week old—the product of a technological mindset that one can only call “creepy,” in my opinion, although the company’s tag line is, ironically enough, “Inspire the genius.” “We are just leveraging their curiosity,” says the inventor of the device. (Notice how a word from corporate finance gets imported into the world of child-rearing. It was leveraging that brought on the crash of 2008.) In fact, a recent study conducted by Parenting magazine and BlogHer found that 29% of Generation-X moms say their children were onto laptops by age two, and the figure rises to 34% for moms of Generation-Y. In the first month of its release, Rullingnet sold 600 Vincis.

In chapter 3 of Why America Failed I argue that technology has always functioned as America’s hidden religion, and that if you deprive Americans of their gadgets, they become depressed or enraged. What can one say when many users of Apple’s iPhone refer to it as “the Jesus phone”? This is not an accident. Technology in America has been associated with unlimited progress and therefore with utopia, with redemption, and when we are now giving touch-screens to one-week-old babies we are imprinting them in the same way that, say, a baptism might. But the reality of Facebook, Twitter, Vinci and the like is a story of false redemption. As the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman writes, what is omitted from public discussion today is the fact that almost every technological “advance” in recent years has deepened the “continuing decomposition and crumbling of social bonds and communal cohesion.” It goes way beyond the dumbing down of the culture, in other words (horrific as that is); it also involves increasing human disconnectedness, social atomization, rudeness, incivility. One effect of spending most of your time in a virtual world is that of “absent presence”: you treat the world as a mere backdrop, and devalue those around you. These are the hallmarks of a superficial, narcissistic society, one which possesses no inherent meaning, and whose Twittered citizens don’t as well. With techno-imprinting going on now at age one week, I think we can expect that things can only get worse. For there is no getting around it: eating our children alive means we are eating our society alive as well.

©Morris Berman, 2011


Blogger Ashley Colby said...

Dr. Berman,

After the fact, I feel like I should have printed this out to read it...

I do not have much to add, but I will tell you from experience that Prozac's main effect is one of falseness. It makes it harder to think negative thoughts but leaves the body on edge, and under a superficial spell of jumpiness and giddiness. The brain knows, however, that the feeling is cheap and ultimately fake. I don't think the "spacebookers" need any help indulging in superficiality and cheap self-gratification. If so they can just ask their psychiatrist for a prescription and will never be denied (the medical profession is complicit of course).

Thanks for another insight into the spiritual technobuffoonery, it has personally helped me a great deal. I have already managed to shed cable TV and the cell phone is on its way out soon. Looking forward to seeing you in Seattle, onward and downward, over and out.

7:39 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thanks again for writing in. Be sure to come up and say hi in Seattle, so I can connect a name w/a face. Glad to hear abt the shedding of technocrap; you definitely don't wanna be a BOP (Buffoon On a Phone). Only thing worse is a Twit (or a Zuck), tho they typically go together in the same person.


8:10 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Some blogs ago, I posted a Latin translation of a passage of Morris Berman's Wandering God. The original English goes:

"On the individual level, there are two things that strike me as integral to HG [Hunter-Gatherer] civilization that we moderns can adopt, though the process of making these things a part of our lives would be a slow and difficult one. The first is the cultivation of silent spaces; the second, the radical acceptance of death. Both of these contribute greatly to the ability to experience paradox." Wandering God by Morris Berman, page 231

Recently, an old friend, Timothy Moore, professor of Classics at UT-Austin, author of The Theater of Plautus: Playing to the Audience, vetted my Latin and came up with:

"Inter homines singulos puto res duas esse ad cultum Venandi-Carpendique necessarias, quas huius nos aetatis possimus asciscere, quamquam longum difficileque esset has res facere ut sint partes vitarum nostrarum. Primum colenda sunt spatia silentia, dein morti nullo modo adversandum est. His duobus artibus possunt homines multo melius admirabilia experiri." --Deus Errans Maurici Bermani, pagina ducentesima tricesima prima vel CCXXXI

Tim adds--so fellow Latinists won't attack him if they get wind of this blog, I presume--"There remain a few infelicities, which some long pondering could probably polish out." This gives one some insight into acquiring a merely adequate Ciceronian style in this blinkered age of distractions!

BTW, Maury, you could entitle your autobiography, Wandering Goad.

11:17 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Jesus Kel,

This is one post I'm not going to transfer over to my publicist to send to Twitter or Facebook. I take it Maurici Bermani is a genitive?

As for my autobiography: nice title, tho I suspect my enemies wd prefer Wandering Prick.


11:29 PM  
Anonymous Rowdy said...

A more recent study, conducted at the University of Michigan for the period 1979-2009, revealed a 48% decrease in empathy among college students during this time, and a 34% decrease in the ability to see things from another person’s perspective.

Of course, the idea that you can measure empathy in percentage terms is also insane.

5:15 AM  
Anonymous David M said...

Dr. Berman
Reminds me of a quote by Joyce Carol Oates "People who watch TV are only skimming the surface of life". This apparently applies to all screen devices.
Also in the world of us quirky audiophiles: when music is digitized it loses some of its warmth, its edges are sharper, it takes on a metallic and shrill aspect and leaves the listener worn down after a lenghty listening session. This seems to be due to the sampling rate. You get small chuncks of music added together not a continuous stream. Some of us feel this (along with the dumbing down: making music only for the emotional side of the brain and not the intellectual side in this age) why music is not as important in people lives as it use to be. This seems to go along with your statement about printed text.

8:39 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Maybe not; check out the source:

Erik Hayden, “Today’s College Students Lacking in Empathy,”, 31 May 2010

9:47 AM  
Blogger ryan kloostra said...

It obviously wasn't the only factor, certainly not even a major factor, but I'd be lying if I said Amusing Ourselves to Death didn't have some responsibility in my marriage to my wife. It was one of our first points of intellectual connection--not too many beautiful 19-year-old (at the time) girls give a rip about that stuff.

We are both teachers and we often lament the role of out-of-control consumption (food, screen, materialism) on our students' lives. 1984 or Brave New World?

Anyway--Onward and Downward...see you in LA! Hey, maybe you should just have coffee with the three people that show up at the signing. All that would change is that instead of books on the table there would be coffee.:) The coffee would be easier to put away at the end of the night, too. I kid.

10:19 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Hey, 3 wd be OK, if one of them didn't fall asleep. Be sure to come up and say hi. Glad to hear Neil helped u w/yer love life. I wonder what Michele Bachmann was rdg at age 19...


10:50 AM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

Morris Berman, recently Zucker-Punched, neither down nor out, but bouncing off the ropes, comes back with a blockbuster post to send his oppponents reeling.

Beautiful stuff! Can't wait for WAF to be sent by Amazon next month.

I have a second cousin, aged 10 on Ritalin, and a great nephew in his teens on Prozac for four years.

Folks used to be concerned about the best education money can buy. Now it is the best medication that education (or educationism) can supply.

12:16 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I tell ya, rope-a-dope is the only way to deal w/these folks. "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee."


12:27 PM  
Anonymous Mr. D said...

Here's a cinematic postcard from from the heartland, in case anyone's wondering what happened to book sales. Whoop whoop.

12:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Schopenhauer tells us that, 'a man who thinks he will educate mankind on the highest matters, (as Prof. Berman admirably tries to do) will be lucky to escape with his skin.'

I notice that Jay Leno, his show described by the great American Bill Hicks as, 'a cultural train wreck,' constantly decries America as fat, broke and hopeless. But it's a joke, see? Ha ha!

I am sure that few will read DAA. Bacon tells us why, 'infimarum virtutum, apud vulgus, laus est, mediarum admiratio, supremarum sensus nullus.'

'The lowest virtues meet with applause from the people, the intermediate admiration, and the highest no appreciation.'

This reminds me of the ancient Greek speaker who, during an address to the 'people,' received a rapacious applause. At this point he turned to his assistant and said, 'have I said something stupid?'

12:57 PM  
Blogger Pollysweet said...

Dr. Berman,

Thanks for being a candle in the darkness. I'd like to add something from way back in the late 60s and early 70s.

Hyperactivity in children was a new, hot topic then, when my children were small. My oldest was a handful, that's for sure. I read everything I could get my hands on about the subject. One part of my brain was saying, "Maybe that's the answer. Maybe that would calm him down."

But the other part of my brain said, "Nah, perhaps he just needs more attention from me."

I chose the latter course, and endeavored even more than I already had to provide all four of my little ones with activities to engage their creativity and curiosity, including as many books as they cared to own.

How relaxing is a hot bubble bath when one is reading a Kindle or playing games on an I pod?

Have you ever been to Pittsburgh?

3:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow Mr. D., great movie. I guess if your society's super superego is a little too repressive, just go out in the woods and create your own little free-id reference group paradise. Back to jungle everybody, just don't drink the Kool Aid. Dr. Berman and the Christian Temperance Society should set up booths at their next gathering.

4:27 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Polly:

Pittsburgh: scary place. No, just kidding; I was there at least once, I think abt 10 yrs ago. Congrats on treating yer kids rt. I've heard that most parents now pick their kids up from schl while they (parents) are talking on their cell phones. That'll make 'em feel loved. As for Kindling in the tub: there is by now a lg lit on the destructive effects of multitasking; I cite all this in the notes to ch. 3 of "Why America Failed" (ironically available on Kindle several wks b4 actual release of bk). We live in a brain-damaged country, what can I say.


4:28 PM  
Blogger Cj said...

Another great posting Dr. Berman. Thank you.

Any chance you'll be near San Diego during your LA book signing?

I look forward to your new book.


5:34 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Funny u shd mention it...I'll be in S.D. Nov. 9-10, visiting a friend (no rdgs or bk signings, in other words). 1st time I'm there, actually. If u cd spare 1-2 hrs orienting me to the place, I'd be glad to buy u lunch. Maybe write me direct, we can talk abt it:

Thanks, amigo-


6:22 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

The idea of external stimuli (like computers) reshaping neural structure is interesting. Can other non-technological, external stimuli, like human relationships, reshape neural structure as well? I think Freud would have answered affirmatively. In fact, the neural wiring got structured by primal relationships with parents and siblings.

Freud wrote a strangely prescient monograph called "Project for Scientific Psychology" which he referred to as his "psychology for neurologists." In it he constructs a model, a sort of Turing machine, to explain the workings of the mind. Freud never completed or published this monograph although its importance is recognized.

I'm aware a study of the Project from the 70s but, other than that, I get the impression that Freud's Project has been neglected.

Perhaps our state of scientific knowledge about the human brain is still too incomplete to speak of neural wiring and its effect on observed behavior other than metaphorically. Perhaps the mind is intrinsically mysterious. Could the 18th-century Philosophes who extolled reason have conceived of, much less fathomed, human behavior that systematically eliminated six million lives? And Steven Pinker says we're evolving into less violent creatures!? Perhaps it takes fewer people nowadays to be massively violent since their destructive power is leveraged by technology like drone missiles. Yes, in that case, it takes fewer people to be violent and, ergo, the human race is evolving less violent behavior. Now I can sleep more easily at night provided that I'm not sleighted for human target practice.

7:08 PM  
Anonymous Paul Emmons said...

Morris writes:

>.. 48% decrease in empathy among college students during this time, and a 34% decrease in the ability to see things from another person’s perspective.

Wow! Cf. the lament of Robert Gates reported in today's newspaper. With all his experience in government, under both Republican and Democratic administrations, and despite being a team player known for caution in speaking his mind, he warns that the U.S. government has never been less able to address problems than it is now. He attributes this dysfunction to We the People's electing rigid ideologues, who consider compromise a dirty word and who refuse to consider that anyone on the other side of the aisle might have a good idea once in awhile.

In other words, they lack empathy and the ability to see things from another person's perspective.

Where else in the world should someone nearing retirement consider moving? I might be even more at home culturally in Britain or Europe than here. But they, too, face great threats. Not the least could be an underestimated creeping Islamicization.

Alas, I've studied no Spanish since age 10. Any advice from those here, being especially aware of what probably looms, would be valuable.

7:57 PM  
Blogger diana said...

I spend a lot of time at my daughter's school since parents are required to volunteer 4 hrs per month there. Have to say, most of these out of control children could benefit from nothing more than regular sleep schedules, a few healthy meals and some quality time with their parents or some caring adult.

But this brings me to an article I read in the NY Times some time ago about German women having to choose between motherhood and career. Turns out that until quite recently, daycare was taboo in Germany. Not so in the US, where we are all to happy to dump 6 week old babies to for profit day care mega facilities. Most women do have to work either because they are the only source of income or because they have to help pay for the mc mansions and the gadgets. But quite a few need drugs to cope with motherhood and work. So sadly our children pay the price.

I recently speny some time with one of these overworked mothers who offered my 8 yr old some type of 0 calorie soda. Could not believe my daughter told her she did not want any because it was sweetened with junk. May have to get that kid her own copy of WAF. don't you think?

8:09 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Susan w.

I've been hoping you were going to weigh in on the health problem. Thanks.

It's always been a marvel to me the way people who don't have any special knowledge about health care are so often just left at sea when they develop a serious illness. So little information, advice, and counseling is routinely given to the average patient, compared to what is needed. Over the years, I've found that this lack of psychological or emotional support from so many health care providers, especially doctors, often results in a feeling of helplessness that can be as bad for the patient as the illness itself. I guess this is just one more way in which our health care (non)system falls short.

David Rosen

8:28 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Gd idea. I've been thinking abt doing a one-vol. kid's edn of the America trilogy. It wd be very basic:

"Mommy, how come Joey's dad next door drives a huge car and won't talk to us?"

"Well, Tiffany, most Americans are angry and stupid, so they don't know how to relate to anyone else. This is why we have such an awful foreign policy."

"What's foreign policy?"

"Good question! You see, dear, like Joey's dad, our government believes that the country is special, and that it should control the world."

"Wow, that *is* stupid. How did we come to believe such things?"

"Well, dear, that's a long story. Now you cuddle up with Muffy, I'll bring you your warm milk, and we'll talk about what we did to the Indians."

"I like Indians! So much better outfits than our silly neighbors in suits."

"I couldn't agree more, precious..."



8:30 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Don't let any excuse keep u here, if you can manage to get out. Just do what it takes. You can't imagine the relief you will feel once yer on the other side of the river Jordan. You slow down, relax; you are not surrounded by aggressive, angry, competitive people; you begin to have the sensation that yer getting yer life back--wh/is true. The only thing you'll regret is that u didn't do it sooner.

And that, my friend, is the straight poop.


8:41 PM  
Anonymous Paul Emmons said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Morris! I've long tried to keep life simple, contemplative, insulated from materialistic blandishments (commercial radio and TV for starters). Living in a madhouse is nothing new. The worry is our society's fragility and vulnerability: a sudden outbreak of chaos that quickly turns into a bloodbath. It could make the French Revolution look like-- oops, better not say tea party.

A good immediate step would be conversational courses in a few foreign languages, if I'm not too old to learn new tricks.

10:11 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


You can't do more than one Romance language at a time, or you'll go nuts. But you can actually get Spanish or Italian up to a functional level in 3-4 months. Most impt: go visit those countries, for at least a month at a crack. There is no substitute for immersion, both in terms of culture and language. Slowly, the answer will come 2u: I promise.


10:37 PM  
Anonymous brandon said...

love u, Mauricio

2:14 AM  
Blogger SK said...

Paradoxically, I opened your blog page referred by a friend's facebook posting, focused on and read all the text of your thoughtful article, open-face sandwiched as it was by ads for your books and one by that flashed your thoughtful article on the screen of my MacBook Pro.

4:32 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Be sure to read the part of my new book, "Why America Failed," that rails against Kindle for making it impossible to really read, on the Kindle edition of the book. A nice, surreal experience.

Not much authors have control over these days, amigo, tho I did make sure that "Destiny," "Question of Values," and "Counting Blessings" were *not* available electronically.


4:47 AM  
Anonymous David M said...

Dr Berman & Everyone
As usual fabulous and insightful/inciteful posts

Don't put it off. My wife And I were planning to leave just pryor to the 2008 debacle. Now that our mortgage is under water and our retirement savings have been ravaged we have to wait. I hope to be out within five years. But that depends on when the inevitable american collapse occurs. We might be out of luck.

7:02 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Dr. Berman,

Thanks very much for this. I am looking forward to immersing myself in the book. As for Kindle, Amazon is now pushing a new version called the Kindle Fire. The first thing I thought of was Fahrenheit 451. From their website:

“Kindle Fire brings everything we’ve been working on at Amazon for 15 years together into a single, fully-integrated experience for customers – instant access to Amazon’s massive selection of digital content... free storage in the Amazon Cloud, and an ultra-fast mobile browser – Amazon Silk – available exclusively on Kindle Fire.”

Pretty much sums it up, I guess. Amazon admits that their project from the beginning was to bring about the end of the culture of reading and replace it with the “fully integrated experience” of a digital conflagration, while at the same time vaporizing our libraries and (real) bookstores until all that’s left is the cloud.

10:06 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Paul--My daughter just left for England two days ago and I gave her a copy of this poem by Herman Hesse and I hope it will encourage you too to have the life you want, anywhere you want:

As every flower fades and as all youth
Departs, so life at every stage,
So every virtue, so our grasp of truth
Blooms in its day and may not last forever.
Since life may summon us at every age
Be ready, heart, for parting, new endeavor,
Be ready bravely and without remorse
To find new light that old ties cannot give.
In all beginnings dwells a magic force
For guarding us and helping us to live.

Serenely let us move to distant places
And let no sentiments of home detain us.
The Cosmic Spirit seeks not to restrain us
But lifts us stage by stage to wider spaces.
If we accept a home of our own making,
Familiar habit makes for indolence.
We must prepare for parting and leave-taking,
Or else remain the slaves of permanence.

Even the hour of our death may send
Us speeding on to fresh and newer spaces,
And life may summon us to newer races.
So be it, heart: bid farewell without end.

10:15 AM  
Blogger Nicholas Colloff said...

Evidence of decline comes in from even unsuspected sources. Here is an article on the US Judicial system from today's Economist not a denizen of collapsonomics:

Apparently the empire can afford to 'bring justice' to Afghanistan and Iraq but not to its own backyard! Not that the article explores the underlying realities of the choices being made - the unravelling of a states' fundamental purpose.

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Ray said...

Dear Morris and David M,

As David M requested, useful and appropriate reading to fill the time until his departure from these shores and/or(as he says)the inevitable collapse...

Roger Griffin
1)The Nature of Fascism
2)"Revolution from the Right: Fascism," a chapter in David Parker (ed.) Revolutions and the Revolutionary Tradition in the West 1560–1991
3)(editor) International Fascism: Theories, Causes and the New Consensus

Stanley Payne
A History of Fascism 1914-1945

Renzo de Felice
1)Fascism: An Informal Introduction to Its Theory and Practice
2)Interpretations of Fascism

Robert Paxton
An Intelligent Person's Guide to Fascism

Roger Eatwell
Fascism: A History

The bibliography in Griffin's work (1) will point to others. These authorities don't always agree in their definitions and analyses, but all contribute something to the debate. I personally find Griffin's work to be the most convincing, coherent, and analytically rigorous, esp. (1)

If I recall, David requested this info to save himself the effort of doing a bibliographical search. Happy to oblige, although not for that reason. He's not really off the hook - now I've laid on him a burden of having to pass on the info to others. Please don't let me down. Enjoy.

Morris: Thanks very much for this forum.

11:53 AM  
Blogger ryan kloostra said...

jeez, i didn't make it through that video that was posted.

chilling to the bone, that that is the only community these people have. now, is that community better than no community whatsoever?

i'm going to go throw up.

12:15 PM  
Blogger Kelvin said...

Hi Paul,

Bob Adams's web site,Retirement Wave is devoted to expatriation, particularly to Panama. It's a very thoughtful web site and very free of adverts and spam, and, true to his word, Bob uses the email address you provide as password to the site, if you so choose, to keep you updated and to communicate with him.

Be sure to check out his Youtube videos. One video that I find tranquillizing is of the beach front of Playa Venao, a popular surfing site. Bob just leaves the camera trained on a section of white beach, breaking waves, and emerald green jungle. It cleanses the mind!

One caution: I suspect Bob of being a libertarian, pro-development, and business. Unfortunately, President Martinelli of Panama recently appeared on Fox News and was asked why the Panama economic boom? He replied that they make it easy for people to do business. Another thing, Bob may be a follower of Ayn Rand, ouch! But he's really a very nice man is my impression.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Myself, I've always been a fan of Jeffrey Herf, "Reactionary Modernism," wh/we might add to the list.


Godspeed to yer daughter. I've always loved that line, "In all beginnings dwells a magic force..."


This has a flavor of ecpyrosis. Kel, I'm sure, can elaborate for us on that subject.



4:06 PM  

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