December 10, 2011

Interview With Suzi Weissman

This was a short interview held yesterday (Dec. 9) with KPFK-FM in Los Angeles, Pacifica Radio. The program is called "Beneath the Surface," and the part that features yours truly begins about 43 minutes into the show. Link as follows:

Go to Friday, December 9, 2011, 5:00 p.m., and click on 'play'.


Anonymous David M said...

Dr. Berman
Sadly to say I am enjoying WAF. The truth hurts and everyday I try to control my own hustling but in this culture its near impossible not to fall back into that me first/best atitude. But I'm working on it.
Although I'm currently into chapter 3 of WAF I wanted to get my 2cents in on ch 4 before the topic changed on the site. W.E.B. Du Bois exposes true northern attitudes in the "The Souls of Black Folk" when he talks about how blacks were awarded tracks of land for farming after the war. They were quit successful but the commodities markets were controlled by northern whites who would not deal with them. Without the ability to sell their crops they were bound to fail and would not be able to maintain them. Thus some of the land went back to the southern whites. Of course Black Folk were branded shiftless and lazy for not being successful and were forced to become cheap labor class. The attitude seemed to be we will free you from southern bondage but you must submit to norther bondage (slave wages).

9:48 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Discussion on this blog over the last few posts has been very good, it seems to me. I'm not surprised the ch. on the Civil War attracted so much attention; it strikes me as being the most controversial, the most challenging to absorb. I knew, when I wrote it, that I wd be misinterpreted and wd take a lot of heat as 'pro-slavery' or racist or some such thing. As Gene Genovese wrote, u can't suggest that the South had anything positive about it w/o incurring this kind of reaction. Of course, I never expected to be misunderstood by someone like Douglas Dowd, but them's the breaks. For Prof. Dowd, as for probably many others, emotions overrode intellectual analysis.

Ultimately, it won't really matter, because almost no reviews of WAF have appeared, and I imagine that after it sells a few thousand copies it'll sink like a stone. I do know what I'm up against. E.g., for every reader who gets what I'm talking about in ch. 3 re: technology as America's hidden religion, a million Americans will run out and get the latest lawn-mower attachment to their cell phone and think that's the good life. As I've said on a couple of occasions, if my analysis of the US were wrong, I wdn't have had to write the bk. Since it's basically correct, the bk will be ignored and rendered irrelevant, because the show must go on.

The hustling concept is the best way of grasping the nature of that show; of getting a handle on what the hell we've been doing in this country for the last 400 yrs, how it has impacted everything, foreign policy included, and why we are now in the shitter and are going to stay there. The working title of the bk, "Capitalism and Its Discontents," says it all: the discontents never had a chance, whether it took the form of spiritual objection (from the Puritan divines to Jimmy Carter), or the Confederacy. I think that once u understand that, u understand (a) the real story of the US; (b) why u (i.e., one) have what u have inside yer head, and why yr running around doing what yr doing; (c) the fact that all of this, on a personal level or nationwide level, has been and remains largely unconscious. This is discussed at greater length in some of the QOV essays; it's also why I chose to end WAF w/the quote from Ahab, in Moby-Dick. Even (as far as I can make out) the OWS protests are not onto this; the anger is abt 99% getting left out of the American Dream. The anger never seems to cross over into analysis: that it's the Dream itself that is fucked up; that it is finally the hustling life that most stop, if human life is to have any meaning at all.

You know, I remember when I was in high schl, and the class was assigned "Walden" to read. One student (I even remember his name, 50 yrs later) wrote an essay on it in which he said, "Thoreau paints a beautiful picture; the problem is where to hang it." What he meant by this was that the vision of Walden wasn't practical, and this, he saw, as an indictment of Thoreau. Why did this stick w/me, after all these yrs? Because the sentence cd be taken as an indictment of the US, not of Thoreau. In a healthy society, there wd be no problem in finding a place to 'hang' that picture.


10:15 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Hustling goes lunar dept.:

The following appeared in today's (Dec. 10) L.A. Times:

Shooting for the
moon — to mine it

An entrepreneur has
a new take on lunar
landers and how to
profit from them.

--Eryn Brown

Most people don’t take it
literally when they’re told to
shoot for the moon — but
thinking small isn’t Naveen
Jain’s way. The 52-year-old
Internet entrepreneur is a
co-founder of Moon Express
Inc., one of several companies
in the Google Lunar X
Prize competition, in which
privately funded teams will
try to put robots on the
moon by 2016.

Jain’s plans don’t end at
reaching the moon’s surface.
MoonEx, as his company
is also known, plans to
make billions mining the
moon for precious resources.
It also hopes to let
customers send messages
and materials to the moon.
Jain spoke with The LA
Times about the project.

Why go to the moon?

Our interest in the moon
came because we think it’s a
great business, not because
it’s a great hobby. My whole
thinking really is, how do we
use science and entrepreneurship
to solve the big

The MoonEx project
came about because we
started thinking: There are
a tremendous amount of
resources that are available
on the moon, and the moon
has never been explored
from the perspective of an
entrepreneur. Every six
inches of moon has been
mapped. But no one has
combined the data together
and realized [that] these
resources are right here.

What kinds of resources?

Rare earth elements.
Today, 80% of these come
from China, which now has
a policy not to export them.
That means we’re held
hostage. We know we can
get these elements on the

What makes MoonEx different
from moon landers
of old?

Starting out, I knew
nothing about the moon. Or
space. But that is what
allows us to do things that
other people have not done.
The space business has
always thought, you want to
build the biggest possible
lander. My thinking was,
why not build the smallest
possible craft? And instead
of building a rover, we’re
building a hover aircraft. It’s
going to be about 5 feet by 5
feet, and it will be self-guided.

What will this cost you?

The idea is to develop a
system and take a lander to
the moon for under $70
million. NASA had to spend
billions of dollars to figure
out how to do it. Now we’re
able to use existing technologies.

By passing the torch to
companies like yours, is
NASA giving up?

NASA isn’t giving up on
the moon or outer space.
They’re simply passing this
on to the private sector and
saying, “Look, the science
for this has been developed.”
Now it’s up to the
private sector to go out and
create businesses.
Now there is a chance for
the government to go out
and push the envelope in
space even further. They
can go out and develop the
technology to go to Mars,
develop the technology to go
to asteroids. I think the
government is doing the
right thing.

Who owns the moon?

People do say, “What
right do you have to go up
there and do this?” But it’s
no different than looking at
international waters, which
nobody owns. You can go
out there and fish, and the
fish you bring in is yours.
You can drill there, and the
oil you bring in is yours. You
still don’t own the water.
(Continued below)

3:21 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

How is it going to be different
on the moon?

What are the biggest technical
challenges you face?
There is no technical
challenge. It’s rocket science,
but well-understood
rocket science. All we’re
doing, really, is trying to put
together technology in the
most optimal way to bring
the cost down.

But you do have to figure
out how the lander will
lower itself to the surface.
Yes, we have to develop a
last-mile solution — a
last-10-feet solution. The
problem is how to slow
down, fire the propulsion,
land in the right place and
be able to move around.

In addition to bringing
resources back to Earth,
you’re sending messages
and other items to the
moon, right?

We are asking people,
“What does the moon mean
to you — and would you pay
to send something there?”
It’s the best time capsule
you could ever find, because
nothing gets destroyed
there — even the astronauts’
footprints are still
there. So would you pay $20
to send a picture of your
family? Would you send the
DNA of your pet? Would you
send your grandfather’s

We’re building a platform
that will allow people to do
all kinds of things on the
moonand control those
activities over the Web.
What people will do with
that, you and I could only
guess. We all knew people
were going to do things on
their iPhones. Who would
have thought the No. 1thing
people were going to do is
throw birds at pigs?

What is your relationship
with NASA?

We have an agreement
with NASA that allows us to
use NASA technology and
allows us to hire NASA to do
work for us. Also, NASA has
matched the Google Lunar
prize for $30 million. We’re
one of those three companies
in the running. Our hover test facility is at NASA Ames
[Research Center] in Mountain

When do you think it might
take off?

Right now, we’re shooting
for late 2013, two years
from now.

Will scientists use the
MoonEx rover for research?

Absolutely! There will be
scientific missions, there
will be consumer missions,
there will be business missions.

One could imagine a day
when there are various
craft roving the moon,
busily working away. How
long in the future is that?

My gut is it will be the
next five years.

Do you expect MoonEx to
be profitable?

We wouldn’t be doing it if
we didn’t think it could be a
profitable business.

3:21 PM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

Oh why oh why do MB's last two posts conjure up the lyrics of Gil Scott-Heron's "Whitey on the Moon"?

Or anybody else (not just Whitey), for that matter?

11:04 PM  
Anonymous Bisley said...


Can you recommend "The class struggle in the ancient Greek world" by GEM de Ste. Croix?

11:10 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Never read it.


12:57 AM  
Anonymous Zosima said...

Funny you should bring up the idea of mining the moon for resources, but it is actually pertinent to your analysis of technology in American history. The existence of unexploited natural resources was crucial to the development of America and capitalism and will be so for the future continuance of both projects. Hence we have a large “drill baby drill” cohort of Americans (perhaps the majority) who knows that their whole wasteful lifestyle is doomed without cheap resources. They have always been good at deluding themselves that the consequences of their waste and pollution will continue to be inconsequential, hence the denial of anthropogenic global warming. So a technological fix, or miracle of undiscovered resources must occur or else the American way of life is doomed, and one such savior is in the idea of mining the moon and asteroids.
This possible future was explored in excellent fashion in the film “Moon” staring Sam Rockwell and directed by Duncan Jones. Like your books, it was largely ignored because the future it shows it not a happy one, but one that is completely consistent with our current exploitative trend.

If you want to see something more frightening than any science fiction, then check out some the delusions of our current business techno-elite. They posit a coming age of abundance but it also looks like the age of hustling will continue and even worsen. As they try to figure out how to make money by making the things that are basic to life like water more costly while needless computer crap becomes cheaper, you can see the mindset within which they are trapped. Start at 18min and only about 25min or so of this is needed to get the idea. SAP is a business software co. This from a recent convention.

1:34 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Alternative tradition dept.: This from an essay by Jules Lobel on Common Dreams:

"There are many groups which are trying to create alternative models in microcosm: food co-ops, farmer markets, cooperative renewable energy projects. Indeed many of these groups have united in an umbrella formation known as the solidarity economy. But none of these groups have captivated the public as has OWS, and very few combine direct action with community building.

"Other movements in the past have attempted to create such democratic, egalitarian institutions. As William Greider has pointed out, the Populist movement of the late nineteenth century created a series of ingenious agricultural and credit cooperatives, which were eventually destroyed by the money classes and bankers. He asks, "what is it we can build that is parallel to that cooperative movement?" But we must also seek to learn why that cooperative movement was unable to survive, and what can be done differently. So too, SNCC and its supporters created community-controlled day care centers, and at least in one prominent case, an agricultural cooperative, but these efforts were also destroyed and we need to understand why the civil rights movement was unable to sustain these radical, democratic structures.

"Yet an important accomplishment of the Occupy Movement is to rekindle the hope that these alternative communities of solidarity can grow. There are reasons to be hopeful. The bankruptcy of an economic order which threatens our very existence has led to the growth of co-operative, environmentally friendly, alternative institutions. Moreover, there currently exist organizations such as the National Lawyers Guild, Center for Constitutional Rights, or City Life/Urbana Vida, a Boston anti-foreclosure group, that have for decades sustained a radical vision and practice, as well as an anti-elitist, democratic internal structure, which OWS and other groups can learn from in building the creative cooperative structures they envision. Lessons can also be gleaned from movements around the world which have created such autonomous communities, whether it be the Zapatistas in Mexico, the Brazilian landless movement, or the Mondragon cooperatives in Spain."

1:53 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

As Spinoza tells us, 'to be popular, one must do what men like, and avoid what they dislike.' There is a way out for you professor. The next title must be, 'America, The Shining Light.'

An excerpt, 'despite sabre rattling from the Canadians and the ever-present danger from central America, we remain steadfast, a strong and resourceful nation. Does God smile on us? You betcha! It takes a big man to own up to the truth, and that's what I'm doing here.'

Think of the headlines:

'Berman pulls a 180! Author of 'Coming To Our Senses' finally follows his own advice.'

3:55 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Check back on some of the previous discussions: I have advocated vigorously nuking everybody!


7:28 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

Please let us know when you go back on the show to talk about Occupy. The movement is GOING TO BE co-opted and I am interested.

9:42 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Co-opted I wish. It is being and will continue to be brutally crushed. Did our fearless President or for that matter any government official say anything about the pepper spraying of the UCLA students? Of jcourse not. They are all whores for Wall Street and arms merchants. I think Dr. Berman is pulling his punches in his interviews vis a vis OWS. He knows its game over whether they represent an alternative or simply want a larger piece of the pie.
Dr.Berman, you have been sorely misinterpreted by Doug Dowd. I read Chapter 4 a second time and you are quite explicit about your feelings toward slavery;what an evil it was and how it had to be abolished.This can be found on pgs.118,118, and 137 to be exact. Yet there is Mr. Dowd claiming you admired those southern whites who beat, raped and worked their slaves to death adding that your thoughts were "obscured...about those who enslaved and their victims." What a cruel injustice to you and your brilliant book(s). It's surely depressing that such learned man as he should respond more or less tribally which I regard as the lowest form of human consciousness.

4:53 PM  
Blogger EJK said...

First time, long time. . .

Thank you, Professor Berman, for your incomparable and indispensable work. Have not yet picked up WAF, but have read (and given as gifts) the first two parts of the trilogy several times.

Something you said during your Seattle bookstore address really rang a bell with me. I'm a born-and-bred NYer -- 'though the NYC which bred me is as gone as Nedick's and Gimbel's. I've spent lots of time this autumn with the fine, good people of Occupy -- those trying hard to do their best and to do good. Still, a friend of mine the other day said: "Pal, it's great that you hate the 1% as much as you do. The problem is you also hate 98% of the remaining 99." :-) 'Though I would lower that to maybe 95%, he had a point. Aside from the PR lameness of trying to rally an enraged and despairing country to your side by trying to include them on the side seen as "losers" by the country, what part of the 99% are even capable at this point of recognizing their loss of humanity? You said in your Seattle talk, speaking of Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky and their various "solutions" to our descent: "Who are these people talking to?" And that's the point. Do they ride the NYC subways? Walk the streets? Listen to the gibbering at the office? At the local diner? On the bus?

No, they don't. So they, and others, have no idea how wilfully depraved, materialistic, tribal, and selfish the PUBLIC personalities are of most of the 99%. Most of these people not only do not want to be "saved" -- they'll slit your throat if you even address them as needing salvation.

Like others here, I hope you begin to forefront your ideas about Occupy, because three months into it I'm having some major doubts as to where it came from and where it is going.

As you know, all through the spring and summer of '11 there was a growing and vibrant movement to challenge the Wall Street Pimp in the upcoming Demo primaries. There were many petitions, radio ads, full-page ads in the NYT and WSJ. Then out of nowhere comes Occupy -- and the Challenge Obama movement immediately disappears. Also, in the midst of Occupy comes the final nail in our police state coffin, again out of nowhere: McCain-Levin. (Which the WH hustler will now certainly sign.)

What also has bothered me about OWS is the refusal to engage at all with the admittedly insane and hijacked political system -- refusing to match the Tea Party in that sense. And the automatic embrace of only the "Ghandian" aspects of protest and revolt -- ignoring the historical truth that what finally kicked the Brits out of India was the violence of WWII. The same with Batista, apartheid South Africa, the French in Vietnam (and the genocidal US follow-up), Marie Antionette, etc etc etc. After all, the 1% we're talking about here is the most vicious, ruthless, and violent prone money-class in the history of Man.

I just hope that OWS does not go the way of the Wisconsin & Ohio "revolts," or the way of WikiLeaks, once the new iPhone 5.0 comes out in the Spring.

Thank you again for your great work.

5:40 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thank u for your support. Actually, McCain-Levin is not quite the final nail in the creation of a police state, I fear: I keep wondering how far off it is, that an Orwellian category of 'intellectual terrorism' or 'subversive criticism' is proposed, by which Hedges and I and Noami Klein and Chomsky et al. are rounded up and put in a detention camp in Nebraska; or simply dumped in Guantanamo. Believe me, I hope this is
severe paranoia on my part.

As for the vast majority of the 99%, I've said it over and over again: their aims, and the aims of the top 1%, are pretty much the same. Ging Newtrich, spkg at Harvard recently, said "It's 100%! We're all Americans!" I think he's basically correct, because this is why socialism, or the alt. trad'n I talk abt in WAF, never had a chance in the US: Americans believe that w/enuf work, they can 'make it' (statistics on this subject be damned); and becoming Bill Gates is everyone's goal here--that's the 'gd life'. Not too many Americans wd see wealth as an empty goal, or agree w/John Ruskin that "There is no wealth but life." Nor is it an accident that (according to a recent article) Horatio Alger bks were the #1 item taken out of the Muncie, IN ('Middletown') library ca. 1891-1902 (google 'muncie library alger').


Well, I don't think OWS is going to be able to change the direction of the nation, no. But if they do melt into a kind of permanent teach-in, wh/I suspect may be the best possible practical outcome, then they could become a kind of NMI encampment, where one could learn abt the alternative tradition--if that is indeed the teaching (this remains to be seen). Taking 'la longue duree' (see my post of this title, below), this then becomes the seeds of a new way of life as capitalism slowly breaks to pieces; which is happening in our lifetime, right b4 our very eyes.

As for Dowd: thank u. You can imagine my sadness, that he got it so wrong (ch. 4), and branded the book as being some kind of weird pro-slavery text or whatever. I expected the media at large to fall into this trap, because B&W thinking is their metier; but not Dowd, not Counter Punch (wh/is apparently not going to run my reply to the Dowd review). In the end, however, it might not matter that much: the bk seems to have come and gone and disappeared into the woodwork--the ultimate censorship, that requires none. Virtually no reviews, a few radio interviews, not even stocked at B&N stores around the country--poof! What book?


6:14 PM  

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