July 24, 2012

Sociopaths Rule

Sociopaths Rule: A Review of Heist: Who Stole the American Dream?, by Frances Causey and Donald Goldmacher (2011)

At the outset let me say that reviewing this film was, for me, a bit of an odd assignment. I love this film. I think it’s punchy and provocative, and that it speaks with an authentic voice. I think it’s important to get it into every Multiplex in the land, because the issues it raises are basic, controversial, and need to get discussed in every home, luncheonette, drug store, firehouse, and community college in the nation. A fundamental examination of the nature of our economy and its consequences is long overdue, and widespread distribution of Heist could go a long way toward making this happen. The odd part of it, for me, was (since I’m not really a “progressive” or a socialist) that I found myself in serious disagreement with much of it. But the power of the film is its enormous potential to generate substantive dialogue, and this is the real source of my admiration of it.

Let me start with the good stuff, as it were. Beyond generating dialogue, Heist provides an alternative narrative to what’s been going on in this country since 1981. “Reaganomics,” or what we now call “neo-liberalism,” is the philosophy that economic growth is the answer to all our problems, because as the rich make more money, some of that will supposedly “trickle down” to the rest of us. This has been the dominant narrative in this country for the last thirty years, and what Heist clearly demonstrates is that it’s nothing more than pure kaka. What actually happened under this narrative was that wealth got transferred upward; that the rich got richer and the poor got poorer; that virtually nothing “trickled down”; that unions were busted, public services gutted, American manufacturing crippled, the media collapsed into six major corporations and turned into corporate propaganda mouthpieces, and so on—the America we have today, in other words, in which 1 out of every 5 of us is without work and without prospect of same for at least a decade, and in which 2 out of every 3 of us lives from paycheck to paycheck, hoping that some major accident won’t occur in our lives and put us underwater for good.

Heist is thus an exercise in counter-brainwashing: Reagan and his ilk, the Powell Memorandum and the so-called think tanks (read: propaganda machines) of the political right (American Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, Cato Institute, etc.) all sold us a bill of goods, stole the American Dream out from under us, and we need to recognize that we’ve been economically and intellectually fleeced. Unless we can debunk the dominant narrative, and realize what really went down since 1981, we will not be able to take back the American Dream—which Causey and Goldmacher define as everyone getting a fair share of the economic pie.

The film also demonstrates that there really isn’t much of a difference between Democrats and Republicans on this score; all appearances to the contrary, Wall Street really is the government, and both parties understand this. Thus Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers worked in the Clinton administration; Clinton destroyed the welfare system; the gap between rich and poor widened during his presidency; and legislation making possible the whole system of CDO’s , credit-default swaps and the like—the further deregulation of the banking industry—occurred on his watch as well. As Gore Vidal wryly put it, the American political system consists of one political party with two right wings.

Finally, without being explicit, the film does suggest that there is something mentally unbalanced, if not downright sociopathic, about the American ruling class. The top 1% could care less about society at large, is the impression we get from this documentary; the only thing on their minds is profit. Recent years have seen the publication of a fair number of articles claiming that psychological studies of such people show that they have very little capacity for empathy, along with very high dopamine levels in the brain, which also depresses empathy and keeps them hyped up, always “on the go.” These people cannot grasp, as former American Airlines CEO Robert Crandall says at one point in the movie, that taxes are the price of civilization; that every society must have civil institutions; and that the ideology of every man for himself is the antithesis of civilization—the ideology of lunatics, if I may embellish on his remarks.

So why am I having problems with this? It all seems reasonable enough, especially if you believe that if we don’t undertake a serious redistribution of wealth, we are finished as a society. Let me say a few words about Heist, then, by way of critique.

1. Greed, and the free-market ideology, were hardly born in 1981. In this sense, the film lacks a genuine (which is to say, long-range) historical perspective. Greed showed up on the American continent in the late sixteenth century, when what would later become the United States started to be colonized by a particularly aggressive and entrepreneurial segment of the English middle class. Louis Hartz makes this point in his classic work, The American Liberal Tradition (1955), when he says that America is a “fragment society,” i.e. one that took a particular strand from the mother country—in this case the mentality of hustling, of go-getting, of unlimited economic expansion—and made it into the whole of the new country. One might argue that Reagan represented a “quantum leap” in this ideology, but he hardly invented it; from Day One, it is what America has been about. Credit-default swaps are merely the inevitable culmination of a process that has been going on for more than four hundred years.

2. How deliberate is the so-called conspiracy against the poor and the middle class on the part of the rich and big business? Two points here:

a) These folks really do believe what they are saying. I’m absolutely convinced of that. In other words, regardless of any evidence to the contrary, they were and are convinced (conveniently for them, of course) that if they could become rich with no holds barred, everyone would be better off. This is not just a pose; they really did, and do, believe this. The goal was not to screw the working class, in other words; it was to create a template for even greater levels of business profit and expansion. “What’s good for General Motors is good for the USA” rings true for them; they probably sew it on their pillows as a motto. Like the Tea Party, the rich believe that it is truly evil to limit the amount of wealth any one individual can accumulate, and that the government must not be allowed to get in the way of that. “It’s what made America great, etc.” This may not make the final result of what they are doing any different than if there were a genuine conspiracy afoot, but I do think we need to realize that these convictions are held as deeply by this class as are the semi-socialist convictions of the political left.

b) Ironically enough, the “oppressed” 99% that the Occupy Wall Street movement claimed to represent may not be that far from the ideology of the upper 1%. There has been much discussion, on the part of sociologists, as to why socialism never managed to take root in the United States, and the general consensus boils down to a remark once made by John Steinbeck: “In the U.S., the poor regard themselves as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” In ideological terms, the only difference between rich and poor in this country is that the latter don’t have any money. The interest of the poor or the middle class has not been to have the sort of civilization Robert Crandall talks about, or (also interviewed in the movie) Bernie Sanders does, which would include concern for the environment, the welfare of society, the fairness of our institutions, and so on—not at all. Their goal has been, since the late sixteenth century, to get into that upper 1%. When Sinclair Lewis published Babbitt in 1922, a biting satire of the hustling way of life, the reaction to the book on the part of Americans was not to smirk at George Babbitt, but to speculate on how they might become George Babbitt. There really are limits to the argument that a small cabal of the wealthy and powerful “did this” to us—the rape theory of American history, one might call it. It’s more likely that the process was one of consensual sex. It is hardly an accident that Mr. Reagan won the election in 1980 by one of the biggest landslides in American history, or that every year, when polls are taken of the “who’s-your-favorite-president” variety, Mr. Reagan comes out on top or close to it. Consider also the unrelenting popularity—for decades now—of a book such as Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand. If Alan Greenspan was her protégé, so are we all; we all swim in the stagnant pool of her ideological pathology.

3. Like Occupy Wall Street, the film insists that we must “take back” the American Dream. Like OWS, it never seems to grasp the fact that rather than recovering or restoring the A.D., we need to abolish it. The A.D. is part of the American frontier mentality, coupled with the mythology of extreme individualism, and is in fact based on the idea of infinity: there can and should be no end to economic and technological expansion. Unfortunately for that hopelessly neurotic vision, we are fast running out of resources; the planet cannot support the A.D. extended to every American, let alone every person on the planet. In fact, it was once calculated that for everyone on the planet to have a “modest” middle-class American life, we would need the resources of six Earths. This is why socialism, or spreading the A.D. around more fairly, is not an adequate response to capitalism, because it too is based on the notions of “growth” and “progress,” and those notions are fast becoming obsolete. The real shift required is not to (let’s say) a Scandanavian-style economy, but to a steady-state one: no growth, and not profit-oriented. And if the left hates this, as I’m sure they do: well hard cheese, folks, because in thirty to forty years we are going to be forced into this, when petroleum runs out and the dream of unlimited energy turns into the nightmare of scarcity. To socialists and capitalists alike, to Paul Krugman and Robert Reich and every other so-called liberal, I can only say this: permanent growth means permanent crisis. It’s time to start equating this type of growth with cancer.

4. Which means to me that significant historical change will come to America as “capitalism hits the fan,” to quote Richard Wolff, and it will obviously involve more than just the United States. Heist puts a lot of stock in Occupy Wall Street and grass-roots organizing, which gives it (in my view) a rather dated flavor. OWS was a colossal flop; it didn’t amount to much of anything, when the dust settled; it just came and went, like yet one more American fad, and the question we have to ask is Why? Again, I refer you to the comment of John Steinbeck, and the discussion in 2(b), above; but beyond that, let me make two crucial points here:

First, when Robert Crandall argues that the ideology of every man for himself is the antithesis of civilization, we need to recognize—again—that extreme individualism is literally the core of American civilization, and thus that we never really constituted much of a civilization. We do not operate out of a moral center, in the U.S.; “more” is hardly a reasonable philosophy of life, and that is pretty much what we’ve been about. Don’t kid yourself: Miles Davis and Melville and J.D. Salinger and Thomas Cole arose in spite of the American way of life, not because of it, and Georges Clemenceau was on the mark when he commented that America was “the only nation that went from barbarism to decadence without the intervening phase of civilization.” I mean, let’s call a spade a spade here: Heist’s idea of change, as with OWS’ idea, is purely economic in nature; it’s not really about a truly different kind of culture. Nor can we expect such a shift, after four hundred years of doing just one thing. Over and over again, I heard OWS tell us that we needed to cut the pie up in a fairer way. Not once did I hear them say that the problem was the pie itself; that it was, in the final analysis, rotten.

Second, the movie tells us that Americans have the drive and initiative to change things, to “take back” our country (whatever that means), and to challenge the power elite. I’m not sure Frances and Don are living on the same planet I am, if I can level with you here. Even a casual observation of Americans, and of American behavior, will tell you that we have no such drive and initiative—we seem exhausted, spiritually spent—and truth be told, we are not very bright, as a people. I remember marching against the invasion of Iraq in DC in 2003, and noticing how many of the signs were misspelled. Friends tell me of conversations they had with the OWS folks, and how out of it these people were—with beliefs such as “all we need to do is switch to solar energy, and our problems will be solved” (one example among many). A good friend of mine, a prominent journalist, gave a talk at OWS in DC on U.S. foreign policy last October, and all of fifty people showed up (only two of whom were under sixty, by the way); the majority weren’t interested and had no time for serious intellectual analysis. The number of books that have appeared over the past decade, providing massive statistical evidence of the sheer ignorance and stupidity of the American public, has been quite impressive (Just How Stupid Are We?, Idiot America, etc. etc.); and if you look around at young people today—our supposed future—they can’t read. Their lives are comprised of cell phones and Twitter and Facebook. I am frequently in Mexico City, and I can’t tell you how often I’ve had conversations with taxi drivers about history, literature, and philosophy—all initiated by them. Try having similar discussions with a taxi driver in New York, see how far you get. Or just go out into the street of any American city, and ask the first person you run into how many justices there are on the Supreme Court, or what nation we seceded from in 1776, or where Europe is, or if they can define “retrograde” or “trachea.” If that doesn’t wake you up, my friends, nothing will. Bottom line: we are a collection of dummies, and dummies cannot “take back the country” any more than they can discuss the implications of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. If Americans don’t actually have fried rice inside their heads, they are doing an excellent job of imitating people who do; and with that level of cranial impairment, there will be no reversal of the disastrous downhill slide in which we are now engaged.

So let me conclude with my original point. As the above discussion would indicate, Heist is a film that gets you going. It contains much to admire, and (in my opinion) much to criticize; but that’s a good thing, as I’m sure Frances and Don would agree. Somehow, the movie needs to get wider exposure than a six-day run in some dilapidated repertory cinema in Berkeley, California. Frances and Don are courageous folks, and they have done this culture a great service. Whether the culture can appreciate that remains to be seen.

©Morris Berman, 2012

202 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Prof. Berman --

Thanks. I'll watch for this film.

Richard Hofstadter pointed out many years ago: "Anti-intellectualism... is founded in the democratic institutions and the egalitarian sentiments of this country." And we have turned our backs on these purported foundations of democracy in favor of grubbing for another dollar.

We positively wallow in our ignorance and stupidity. We like it. Woe to the fool who inadvertently demonstrates learning or culture, or who admits to reading a book.

The son of a friend is an attorney in a large firm. His co-counsellors think he is a snobbish intellectual because he reads The New Yorker. These are Harvard- and Yale-trained lawyers, for fuck's sake.

Babbling, sorry...

-- Sam

10:48 AM  
Anonymous Smith said...

If the oil runs out, some of our problems might actually become even WORSE.

I'll discuss one I'm thinking of to keep this relatively short: our tendency not to consider the viewpoints of other countries or be able to accept cultures other than our own.

Well, that's how bad we are when we have the ability to fly airplanes to other countries.

How much worse will our national ignorance be if we lose airplanes and don't have the ability to travel to other countries at all?

And then there's the problem of other countries' national ignorance. If other countries lose access to international travel, they could all end up like US, ignorant of the outside world and endlessly regurgitating their worst (as well as their best) cultural practices with no international Declaration of Human Rights to keep them in check (the U.S. gobbles up the world, Muslims treat women badly and give them no place to hide, the Japanese emphasize conformity to a fucked up pressure cooker society, India still has a few left over "caste" tendencies, etc.).

11:20 AM  
Blogger komori said...

An excellent review. I have found that the points you raise in your critique can be applied to nearly every alternative or "left" account of American society. They are spot on about the deleterious effects of concentrating wealth and power (i.e. neoliberalism), but vanishingly short on providing a truly different vision of social relations. In the years to come I hope it will become more obvious that the real distinction that matters is not between "left" and "right", or "liberals" and "conservatives", but between a pro-growth camp that believes endless expansion and "progress" is the solution to all our ills, and a steady-state camp that accepts the end of growth and seeks to move beyond this paradigm.

And here is a news story that perhaps summarizes the delusional nature of the American dream:

"21 people treated for burns after firewalk at Tony Robbins appearance"

http://tinyurl.com/d83nh9o

12:26 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

As a friend of mine once said, the only thing that trickles down from the rich is when they're pissing on your head.

I've tried having the conversation about what happens when the oil runs out, or the population of the world expands beyond the ability to feed it, etc. The answers are always the same: Oh, they'll come up with some other type of energy (solar or nuclear). Oh, that simply won't/can't happen. Oh, there's always enough if you're willing to work hard. Oh, I won't be here, so who cares? Oh, why are you so negative?

If ignorance is bliss, then knowledge is sin & sorrow & suffering ... and who wants that? Keep a good thought! We're Number One! I got mine!

When reality catches up to even the most deluded in ways they can't deny, how many scapegoats will they go through before facing up to the facts? (If they ever do.) That's a truly scary thing to consider ...

12:38 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Sam-

I think you can probably view a 20-min. excerpt of the film online, if I'm not mistaken. As for friend's son: tell him there isn't enuf urine in the entire world to hose down the douche bags in the US. Also, that he might want to start wearing some of our attractive Wafer T-shirts to work; CRE would be a good one to start with.

mb

1:40 PM  
Anonymous Mr. X. said...

M,

Thanks for the review.

The difference between people who think the system is working fine and those who think the system needs to be fixed is skin deep. Both sides share a deep faith in the particular arrangements of laws, policies and cultural beliefs that are American Capitalism. The only difference is that one group believes it's working the way it should, and one believes it's not.

I think the first group has it right. The current state IS EXACTLY what we should expect to happen under our particular system.

I was married once to a social worker who used to pull kids from troubled homes, only to be frustrated that the kids continued (big shock) to be troubled and to ALSO long to go back to their dysfunctional homes. She met a beekeeper, and they got talking about their professions.

"What do you do when a bee is diseased?", she asked.

"It's never just one bee", was the reply. "It's a hive".

Sensing a potential moment of cross-discipline fusion, she asked, "So, how do you fix the hive?"

The beekeeper was stunned. "Fix it? We don't fix it. We burn it."

Our economic system is working as designed, and the social disease it is generating is a reflection of how well it's working. This hive can not be saved. The good news is that it will set itself on fire.

1:58 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Mr. X-

It's already on fire, whether we are talking about Jamie Dimon or Aurora, CO--it's all the same process of self-destruction.

mb

2:15 PM  
Anonymous Rowdy said...

On the Aurora killer:

A woman who introduced the talk said Holmes's goals were to make scientific discoveries, that he enjoyed football and strategy games, and "his dream is to own a slurpee machine".

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/9419299/Batman-Colorado-shooting-James-Holmes-fixated-by-altered-states-of-mind.html

2:19 PM  
Anonymous Savantesimal said...

First a reminder -- the quote attributed to Georges Clemenceau is actually not traceable.

Quote Investigator: America Is the Only Country That Went from Barbarism to Decadence Without Civilization In Between

But wherever it came from, it certainly is right! The sales of guns have surged since the latest shooting rampage, all over the country but especially in Colorado. I love the unintentional double-entendre by the gun-shop employee.

The Denver Post: Gun sales up since tragedy

Background checks for people wanting to buy guns in Colorado jumped more than 41 percent after Friday morning's shooting at an Aurora movie theater, and firearms instructors say they're also seeing increased interest in the training required for a concealed-carry permit.

"It's been insane," Jake Meyers, an employee at Rocky Mountain Guns and Ammo in Parker, said Monday.

When he arrived at work Friday morning — just hours after a gunman killed 12 and injured 58 others at the Century Aurora 16 theater — there already were 15 to 20 people waiting outside the store, Meyers said.

...

[But it gets better/worse:]

The Street: stocks of gun manufacturers are up, as traders know this surge is a regular reaction to gun tragedies

Think the horrific shootings in Aurora, Colo., and subsequent discussion of tougher gun laws might worry shareholders of publicly traded gun manufacturers? Think again.

Shares of both Smith & Wesson Holding Corp.(SWHC) and Sturm, Ruger & Co.(RGR) have outperformed the broader market during the past two trading days since James Holmes allegedly walked into a crowded movie theater during a midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises and opened fire, killing 12 people and wounding 58 others.

...

3:47 PM  
Anonymous Politically Incorrect said...

For your viewing pleasure...

Stupidity, The Movie

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDsnCrSfzCQ&feature=related

CRE = I'll take one large T-shirt please... how do I pay?

4:42 PM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

Dear MB et al:

Is the following too wordy, too literate, or irrelevant for a WAFer T-shirt?

"Can't Fall Asleep?" (front side)

"Captain Starbuck Walks at Midnight, Too" (back side)

--
This chapter title from "Moby Dick" came to mind after reading your review.

5:53 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Sav-

Only 1 post/day, thanx.--mb

5:55 PM  
Anonymous abc said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I see once again that you and David Brooks don't agree. Because his column today absolutely refutes your basic premise. Here's one line that sums it up:

"The crucial point is that the dynamics are internal, not external. These killers are primarily the product of psychological derangements, not sociological ones."

If David had an original thought his head might explode. Same old assertions---he was a deranged loner, he needed mental health care, guns don't kill people (even though they seem to come in very handy for people to kill other people), we need to report "suspicious" behavior so they can get "help", and--my personal favorite--these murderous rampages happen everywhere in the world so don't think America is more violent than other countries.

No acknowledgement at all that we're a country that glorifies militarism (every soldier is a "hero")and ignores war crimes committed by said heroes. I was watching the news last night and they briefly showed the inside of his apt. There on the wall was a military poster and he was also wearing military garb that night. But in America, where no influence is admitted to have any impact on an individual, it's easier to dismiss horrible crimes as "isolated incidents."

6:20 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

abc-

Ironic: Brooks himself is a sociological phenomenon (when a society crumbles, the crap floats to the top). But then, so am I.

mb

7:24 PM  
Anonymous Mr. D said...

Enjoyed this review a lot, and look forward to seeing the whole film. I have to admit, it's difficult for me to allow that we can't and won't set things right, but I'm coming around. I believe that in private, but I depend on you to actually say it in public. I'm going to go practice in front of a mirror.

7:39 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Mr. D-

That's a gd idea. Meanwhile, post this on yr mirror in block capitals, and be sure to look at it every day:

CHANGE REQUIRES INTELLIGENCE AND WE DON'T HAVE IT!

or if u prefer (just a tad more direct):

311 MILLION PEOPLE WITH SHIT FOR BRAINS

mb

8:23 PM  
Anonymous Ray said...

"...is a sociological phenomenon(when a society crumbles, the crap floats to the top). But then so am I."

Interesting mixed metaphor in parentheses, Morris, but please don't equate yourself with David. Apropos mixed metaphors,I like to think of you not as a sociological phenomenon but rather as toilet paper. And I mean that in the best way possible. In the long run we are all dead, but in the meantime, toilet paper is the decent thing to use in the face of all the crap that DOES rise to the top.

Or perhaps a bidet....vive la difference.

8:31 PM  
Blogger J. P. CAZADOR said...

Here's a link to the Heist documentary that I found:


http://vimeo.com/41169114

8:36 PM  
Blogger Elan: Reviews and Reflections on Culture, Politics and Spirituality said...

About an hour ago I just read an AFP news article reporting that gun sales have increased 41% in Colorado since the movie theatre shooting massacre last week, and that requests for permits to carry legally concealed weapons, presumably for purposes of 'self-defense,' are also well up from normal rates. I think these facts are quite telling, in light of the American culture question raised by Dr. Berman's latest post here. Several interpretations are possible, but one obvious one is that many Americans clearly believe they need to take matters of their own basic security into their own hands. This sounds like a society that is literally unravelling, and not merely unhealthy - however, it may be, as Dr. Berman suggests, that there never was a real society there in the first place to speak of. Other articles about the culture of Colorado that I've read recently suggest as much.

And let me just add that things are definitely taking a turn for the worse here in Canada politically, economically, culturally - it's been that way for a long time, but it's gotten far worse under our current government, Stephen Harper's Conservatives. Michael Moore and others like him might have had a more or less valid point eight or ten years ago when they valorized Canada as an authentic alternative to the United States. But the fact is the comparison no longer holds. There are many reasons why Canada is in decline, but one unavoidable one is that the nation, at both federal and provincial levels, is desperately in need of voting reform. Our current system votes in false majorities and essentially ignores the people vote.

Some here are waiting - as they have for decades - for the so-called Left to unite at the federal level. This would mean a formal merger or at least formal collaboration between the Liberal party and the New Democratic Party. But we are still waiting. Such a union might be able to keep the Conservatives out of power. However, would such a union be capable of actually transforming Canadian culture and society? There is reason to doubt ... not least because of the obsession with economic growth, which is true here in Canada as it is in the United States.

Sorry - I'll try to be more brief in future.

9:37 PM  
Blogger ijcd said...

Hello Prof. Berman and DAA'ers (or WAF'ers),

I haven't read this last post yet, but from the title, it seems to be a topic I have been focus point of mine for quite some time, even before I began following Chris Hedges' work (which was before I discovered Prof. Berman's books and blog). Well, I think I have been a bit obsessed about it, for I can truly sense the danger we all face, and the source of so much suffering caused by these subhuman creatures on a national and global scale.

I may have something to say after I actually read this latest blog, but I just wanted to give you this link... I could not help myself, just read the title and enjoy while testing your own cynicism capacitor. Here is the title:
"How Millennials Are Redefining Their Careers As Hustlers", in Forbes
LINK at
http://www.forbes.com/sites/larissafaw/2012/07/19/how-millennials-are-redefining-their-careers-as-hustlers/

By the way, a well known and loved Cuban dissident died recently (probably assassinated by Castro's secret police), and it is very sad. However, I can't help but think that we have the same issues here in the US, and they are about to get much worse, more so than Cuba and Russia ever were.

O & D!

El Cubano

11:40 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Elan-

Thanks for writing in. Just to clarify my position on guns: I think the US gov't shd issue every man, woman, child, and neonate an AK-47, and that everyone shd start shooting everyone else. I mean, when you think abt it, why not? Also, that the Pentagon shd vigorously nuke Toronto (sorry) and Paris. There is simply too much restraint in the US when it comes to weaponry, and hopefully a Romney presidency will be able to correct this.

Ray-

Not really a mixed metaphor: society contains a lot of crap, like David Brooks, and when it collapses the crap comes to the top of the heap. However, I may be stretching it here, since I did use the word 'floats'. Well, what the hell.

Meanwhile, I think toilet paper may be a sociological phenomenon as well. I try wiping a few rear ends, but w/o much success, of course. But what I meant was that I am a sociological phenomenon not in the same way Brooks is (shudder), but as an antidote or antibody; which wd apply to Chomsky, Hedges, Klein, and abt 20 more of us who are chronicling the demise of the empire. In other words, when the body politic gets this ill, it generates both apologists who say, "Don't worry, things are basically OK"--like Brooks; as well as those who function as antibodies and in some sense are trying to heal the situation. (I guess I'm more like Cassandra, but my overall pt is that there is no possibility of healing unless you come to terms with the depths of the sickness; which of course we won't do. But then, sometimes self-destruction leads to eventual, long-term healing.) But it's a nice image, in any case: MB as professional asswiper. As they say, a dirty job, but someone's got to do it.

mb

1:36 AM  
Anonymous Ray said...

Dear Morris,

When society crumbles, one expects a cookie metaphor. Sure, I suppose when a corrupt cookie, or pie (as mentioned in your film review) is digested, then the crap metaphor can duly float to the top of the allusive heap. Since the crap was already implicit in the cookie/pie, then yes, perhaps the metaphor was only partially mixed.

MY metaphor, of toilet paper, might transcend futility perhaps even more than you've ably limned in your response. Wiping society's ass is really not the point anymore. However, the minds and sensibilities of the DAA 67 DO need wiping every day, to get rid of the daily accumulation of sociocultural fecal matter that "passes" for living here. If occasionally you encounter a stubborn nugget of impacted,semi-digestible material like M. Bergot's prose, then just be glad you are four-ply, fine weave, scented, and made from the best recycled fiber

That's why it was called "The Readers Digest"

Burp,

Ray

3:28 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Ray-

By now I'm on the verge of severe indigestion.

mb

8:44 AM  
Anonymous David M said...

Dr. B & DAAers
Wow! One post and more comments are generated than gun sales after a shooting rampage. Right on(I use to be a hippie) with the review and and as usual great comments

On another note:I'm wondering how soon we are going see a yuletide shopper(whose in the Christmas spirit) pull an AK-47, shoot as many fellow shoppers as possible to secure that violent video game that the kids must have and how many guns are going to be under the tree this year. You know its July and the season of peace and giving is almost here.
O&D

8:48 AM  
Anonymous TonyU said...

Justice Scalia was recently asked by CNN’s Piers Morgan about who is the best president of US. He replied: Reagan, because he was a good communicator who simplified complex issues for the masses. Reagan appointed Scalia to the Supreme Court in 1986. Reagan also appointed Alan Greenspan as the chairman of the FED. Greenspan and his ilk (Rubin, Summers, Reich, and others) were the architect of the current economic heist. These are “respected” economists from “respected” universities. I used to think that US presidents, supreme court justices, and Ivy league economists are smart people; I now know better: they are the dumbest Americans ever.

The thing is that for many centuries, these people (US presidents, members of the US courts, and US economists and professors) have been giving orders and shaping ideas that helped to exploit and murder a lot of people around the world. The chicken is now coming home to roost as they are now doing to Americans what they did to other people around the world. The Karma is catching up with Americans, and some us are enjoying every minute of it. Inevitably, the barbarians and thugs must eat each other as they ate other people for many centuries!

9:33 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Tony-

As I've said a # of times on this blog, in the US even the smart are dumb.

DM-

Glad u agree w/me on gun situation. It really is time for America to take the gloves off, and get down to business. This is why I adore Sick Rantorum: he gave his 3-yr-old daughter an NRA membership. Next yr: an AK-47 of her very own! My kinda guy. I'm thinking now of a very small T-shirt line for 2-yr-olds: THIS TODDLER'S PACKING HEAT

9:40 AM  
Blogger Cj said...

Hi Professor, another great post with a few comments that made me laugh. You definitely hit the nail on the head.

A while back I read Jerry Mander's book 'In the Abscence of the Sacred-the Failure of Technology and the Future of the Indian Nations' that I can't recommend highly enough.

I'm currently reading his new book 'The Capitalism Papers: Fatal Flaws of an Obsolete System' that wold probably resonate with the crowd (a small crowd mind you) that gathers here.

I doubt the situation in the states will get any better despite the pointed and, IMHO, accurate critiques you and Mander offer. The populace, as you very well illustrate, is not altogether very bright and is as brainwashed as any bolshevik in regards to capitalism.

Hope all is well Professor.

Chuck

10:49 AM  
Anonymous From Imbecileville said...

MB: While I agree with your analysis of the U.S. and its benighted citizenry, I am somewhat baffled by your review.

Given that (a) the movie's argument is largely about how the A.D. has been "stolen" from the 99% by the 1% over the last 30 years and (b) almost every single American believes the good life to be synonymous with the A.D., I am not sure exactly what kind of "substantive dialogue" can be generated, even assuming every person in the country sees the movie and becomes aware of its message.

After all, so long as the boundaries of thought and temper extend only so far as to the redistribution, rather than to the reevaluation, of wealth, it seems obvious that you are not going to get any kind of debate beyond what is already to be found in the NYT Opinion pages.

In other words, with this movie, as you point out, you only get as far as Krugman and Reich. To get to Berman, Chomsky, Wolff, Lears, et al you need a leap not just in distance but in evolution of being. The latter is simply not possible with the American species, which like the dinosaur has no alternative than its extinction.

It seems to me it would be far more accurate to say that this movie is part of a deluded reformist trend that has gripped the left today in all things, big and small. We constantly hear about re-regulating the banks and financial institutions, helping homeowners keep their underwater homes by extending the payment of their loans, repealing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, mandating recycling to save the planet, bringing more transparency to political contributions in the wake of Citizens United, tackling obesity by banning super-sized sugary drinks, improving education by repealing No Child Left Behind, and so on ad nauseam.

It strikes literally no one in this country that these proposals are no more than tuning exercises for the proverbial fiddler in the middle of a burning city.

In any other place in the world, the fiddler will wake up from his reveries to hear the cries of everyone around him. But here, he rests content that the crowds are cheering him on, and his mind wanders to the really important stuff like how many trinkets he's going to sell after the show.

11:22 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Imb-

You cd be rt! Altho Don is a good friend and dedicated to bringing impt issues b4 the American public. He does agree w/me on the limits of the film, BTW, and wishes he had the $ to do the 'extended version' of it, wh/wd include some of the things I'm talking abt. Whether the present film wd generate that larger dialogue, I have no idea; the real problem now is lack of distribution, wh/always plagues indy films.

Chuck-

Great hearing from u, as usual. I actually knew Jerry back in the day, in San Fran, and invited him to speak at a conference I organized w/Peter Berg in 1979. Also a very dedicated guy.

Meanwhile, Wafers take note: Counter Punch just ran my 'Nuremberg' essay. I had wondered what had happened to it, but of course, unbeknownst to me, Alex Cockburn was very ill. Here's the link, in any case:

http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/07/25/slouching-towards-nuremberg/

mb

12:31 PM  
Anonymous EM said...

Regarding OWS and the fact that it was a flop...

Well, I heard from people who were there that there actually WAS a vision of a non-capitalist society in the air at Zuccotti Park. The attempts at direct action and consensus, inclusion, communitarinism, anarchist sentiments - the germ of the idea really was there, however imperfect.

But of course it flopped, and you explained why at the beginning of the post. The 6 propaganda outlets saw to it. If it doesn't exist in the media matrix - well then, it doesn't exist. Or at least, it soon won't. If the media matrix doesn't like you, they can re-define and ignore you out of existence. And that's that.

The problem IMO isn't that there aren't any alternative ideas out there - they do exist. And there are even people willing to try to promote those ideas.

Problem is, nobody can break through the corproate-media matrix that defines our world to reach most people. There's just no way out of or around it - you can't get through it to them. They beleive that the matrix is reality, and you can't hack the matrix.

A minority of people may catch on, but it makes no difference - all we can do is just talk to each other in the corners. Anything else is just...impossible.

12:43 PM  
OpenID brutus said...

I have to agree with From Imbecileville, the mixed review you provide recommends more of what there is now already plenty of: public exposure. Just have a look at the list on this website:

http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/watch-online/

I recall about the time Michael Moore’s film Sicko came out, lots of folks desperately wanted to organize something to address our problems. What we eventually got instead was half-baked legislation that functions as a mandate to deliver customers to insurance companies. So your recommendation that everyone ought to see the Heist film is a bit like recommending that everyone vote. Nothing really changes because the real mechanisms of change are mostly immune and/or irrelevant to public opinion. Of course, if one tries living with eyes wide open, looking at one atrocity after another decays into numbness accompanied by an abiding fatalism, nihilism, and misanthropy. Is it then any wonder that people run off the rails and go on killing sprees?

1:25 PM  
Blogger took_the_red_pill said...

In the "More Signs of the End Times" department:

Remember the Michele Bachmann gaffe about the threat of the "Soviet Union", a country that hasn't existed for more than two decades? (This was during the Presidential primary season, which arguably put her ignorance on even wider display though the international press coverage).

Well, the RMoney...err, Romney campaign is sounding a lot like Bachmann lately (more links at the TalkingPointsMemo story):

Romney campaign warns of "Soviet" threat

Since April, the Romney campaign has used the term "Soviet" or "Soviet Union" on three separate occasions, including once by Romney himself. Someone ought to clue these morons in on the fact that those words have been obsolete since 1991.

I'm really beginning to think that Romney's neocon cronies are making repeated Freudian slips. They would no doubt love to start another Cold War if they could, so bought off are they by the military-industrial complex.

In fact, the Nation had an article about just that recently.

Romney's Neocons

4:54 PM  
Anonymous abc said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Within an incredibly short time (mid-century) there won't be an American, Canadian or Chinese dream for anyone to steal. Read Bill McKibben's Global Warming's Terrifying New Numbers in Rolling Stone and weep. The people who control the levers of power are gaming the system to squeeze out one more buck while no one can bring themselves to speak the truth, much less do anything about it. You're right -- Robert Reich, Paul Krugman (all self identified as progressives) just don't get it. We don't need to reopen the widget factories; we need a new vision and practical skills to begin a new era.

Whether you're serving dinner on the Titanic or winning big at poker and drinking champagne, well, you're still on the Titanic and all the money in the world won't buy you a life boat without a big hole.

6:04 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

abc-

Be sure to check out an early episode of "30 Rock" called "Greenzo"--hysterically funny, and very relevant to what yr saying.

pill-

When the USSR fell and Germany was reunited, polls in the US revealed that 50% of Americans had no idea that it ever got split in two. A similar fraction thought Germany was our ally in WW2, and Russia our enemy. Anyway, Romney can talk about the 'Soviet threat' all he wants; most Americans will just nod in agreement.

brut-

As I told Imb, u cd be rt. I hope not, but again, the real problem is distribution, I think.

em-

I actually think it's much larger than a media problem. I think Americans are completely clueless, and I don't believe that is entirely the fault of the media, myself.

mb

6:42 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

EM,
Let's not forget that almost all the OWS demonstrations around the country were brutally suppressed by the police (who look more military than the traditional cop on the beat). While Obama was in Australia (thus giving him political cover) there was a conference call of about 18 mayors who agreed to crack down on the demonstrators. It truly was brutal. Phila, for example used police horses at 2-3 AM to break up the camp and we all remember the pepper spraying especially in New York and at UCLA. I for one applaud the efforts of OWS even if the message was incoherent and diffused. I think it did provide at least some consciousness raising which could germinate into something more powerful in the hopefully not too distant future.

8:28 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

See, this is why I cd never vote for Mr. Obama:

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2012/07/25/obama-takes-on-gun-violence-in-new-orleans-speech/?hpt=hp_t2

He says that AK-47's belong in the hands of soldiers, no one else. What? They belong in the hands of every man, woman, child, and infant, all of whom should be using them on a regular basis. I tell u, I find this kind of restraint appalling. I'm sure Wafers can identify. Boom, boom!

mb

11:25 PM  
Anonymous shep said...

Someone, I can't spell, said something like, "We do not have to win, you will destroy yourselves."

I have thought he was correct for a long, long time. (The 50's)

What has actually happened was: this country has managed, rather well I think (give ourselves a hand) to spread "Democracy" to all the other "more" odious regimes, through the most successful bribery scheme this toilet world has ever known. Again, well done fellow citizens, for spreading hucksterism throughout the world, thus assuring our total destruction.

4:13 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

Hello Professor Berman

I just drifted over here after reading your essay in 'Counterpunch'. I found the essay something of a curate's egg, and I have the same impression about this post. While you are absolutely correct in pointing to the deep historical roots of (the U.S form of) capitalism, and while you make excellent points about the sincerity with which both the rich and poor hang onto the American Dream, you seem to stray into the kind of thinking that Alvin Gouldner labeled 'Metaphysical Pathos' - everything is so bad and people are so stupid that there's nothing much we can do about it other than wring our hands from the sidelines.

But if you'll look, there are signs that the American people are not as dumb as you make them out to be. Sure, there were people who came along to OWS who were pretty clueless. But there were others who had ideas about organization and about meeting the challenges of global warming, an out-of-control financial system and so on. These were sat on or distorted by the media, but they did exist, and although your friend may not have had a large audience for his talk, there were other meetings in which weighty matters were discussed which seem to have had more success.

Nor is this just the small minority of the minority who occupied. Opinion polls regularly show that a majority of Americans are well to the left of both the main parties on a number of issues; despite the constant pressure of hegemonic opinion-makers, they persist in believing that society could be fairer.

Even on gun ownership, there's light in the tunnel. According to Gallup, less than half of US households have a gun in them. In urban areas, the figure is 29%. High gun ownership in rural areas is not particularly alarming per se: I live in France, and many, if not most, farmers will have a gun on their permises: France, with 31 guns per 100 persons, stands twelfth in the world. Homicide rates by shooting are far lower than in the US. Owning a gun in the countryside is not stupid, but part and parcel of the lifestyle. Owning a gun in the city is more difficult to explain, and here you may be right to pin it to some aspect of the American Dream - which was what another contributor to Counterpunch did only the other day.

So while I'd agree with much of your analysis, I think your conclusions are overly pessimistic. Reason, enlightenment, and strong social movements can overcome deep culture: Murder rates in both Europe and the US used to be much higher than they are today, and there was little social security for anyone until about two hundred years ago. So things can change, and indeed they have done so. Optimism may need to be very cautious indeed, but there's no real cause for the out and out pessimism which you show here.

5:24 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Tim-

Thanks for your comments. The problem with those opinion polls is that the results depend on how the questions are phrased. For example, many Americans who say Yes to 'universal health care' say No to 'socialized medicine'. And the bottom line is that Steinbeck was right: Almost everyone wants what the rich have; that is the American Dream, and it has been an enormously successful illusion. I don't think having a few people at OWS say something different--if that was indeed the case--amounts to very much, in the end.

As for gun ownership, 29% in urban areas does strike me as remarkably high (and unnecessary). But frankly, I have often wondered if the NRA has been rt all along: it's not guns, it's people; because the American people are exceptionally aggressive. I put this down to a way of life that is based on "There is no free lunch" and "Sink or swim," a way of life that is extremely competitive and high-pressured. It can't be an accident that 25% of prisoners worldwide are in American prisons, or that our homicide rate is thru the roof, or that in terms of dollar sales, the American population (less than 5% of the planet) consumes 67% of the world's antidepressants. Hence--to return to the NRA for a moment--it may well be that if gun ownership were outlawed, Americans wd turn to knives and baseball bats, and the stats wd remain the same.

Were murder rates higher in the past, if one excludes unstable political conditions? (E.g., Colombia has the world's highest rate rt now, but not if you exclude politically motivated murder.) I'm not sure that's true, but there is also the question as to where that aggression went, if it is. The same thing might be said of social security, or medicine, for that matter: progress in one area might mean corresponding loss in another--in particular in areas that involve intangibles, and the subjective experience of life. Marc Bloch was wont to say that there is no way of demonstrating that a medieval French peasant was unhappier than a modern Parisian; in many ways, we are much worse off today than in days of yore, so to speak. (A sense of meaning in the world is one of those intangibles, for example; moderns lack it in spades, and this accounts for things such as high suicide rates. Or to put it another way, life in a pressure cooker is no life at all.) Modernity carries its own propaganda machine with it, and I'm very skeptical of these types of claims, myself. The 20thC was the century of genocide par excellence, for example--industrially engineered murder on a wide scale, and 70 million people dying in Europe between 1914 and 1945. But this wd require a much longer discussion, quite obviously, including a review of the work of Heidegger, Lewis Mumford, and a host of other skeptical thinkers. In general, I find that 'modernists' hang on to the modernist position because the fear is, What else is there? Which is, of course, an excellent question. And I think the modernist answer, 'More of the same', is by now pretty hollow.
I think Gene Genovese was rt when he described our current way of life as one of 'depraved affluence' (and even then, affluence for a tiny minority).

(continued below)

7:16 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

I'm personally optimistic about the long term, however, altho that's just a guess/hope on my part. But the short and intermediate-range are going to be pretty difficult, esp. as we hit a major resource crunch; that seems clear enough. Huge alterations in socioeconomic arrangements are never a whole lot of fun, as Johan Huizinga showed for the medieval-modern shift (The Waning of the Middle Ages), and the waning of the modern ages is probably going to be worse. In such a context, how deep reason, enlightenment, and strong social movements can reach in terms of overcoming deep culture is very questionable. So yes, I think that as far as the foreseeable future goes, there is very real cause for out and out pessimism, sad to say. Gouldner's opinion is, after all, just an opinion, a label to try to avoid bad news. In a word, I suspect that he, and you, are whistling in the dark.

mb

7:17 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: As for the stupidity of Americans, you shd know that the data are definitely on my side, and the degeneration that has taken place since the end of WW2 is quite dramatic. I was frankly quite shocked when I began researching this in the late 90s; since I wrote this up in the Twilight book (2000), there have been numerous studies of the subject, one more depressing than the next. There is no 'progress' here; just the reverse. The real question is not whether we are dumber, but why.

7:24 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

A good bell weather of current selfishness is the refusal of parents to get their kids immunized for basic stuff like whooping cough. This destroys herd immunity. As a result, we're now seeing outbreaks of things previously thought eradicated, like measles and whooping cough. These parents will justify their actions thanks to the "university" of Google.

Google has handed over, free of charge, a first-rate hyperdrive system to the whole confirmation bias phenomenon. Look up, "vaccines cause autism," on Google and you'll find countless people who have no idea what they're talking about making correlation=causation errors left and right.

8:27 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

Tim brings up something I've been thinking about for a while. He is right that many of the people in the OWS movement are plenty smart, but this is because of the bubble most of us live in. During lunch in the museum I work at, there are hundreds of people reading books, conversing about all manner of subjects and if this was your only day-to-day experience with Americans, you would think all is well. But once you get outside these little bubbles, all is not well. Whether to the “inner-cities” where doing too well at school gets you beat up or to the suburbs where people go from house to car to office to car to house without ever stepping outside.

I lived in Michelle Bachmann's district for a while and trust me, 75% of the people out there deserve exactly what they get from her. The library I volunteered at was mostly a DVD rental place where all signs had to be dumbed-down to a 6th grade reading level or less.

Don't get me wrong, a farmer who knows his land and how to fix a tractor and can build a deck from scratch with no plans is a valuable individual, but even that person is quickly vanishing into a romantic mist of factory farms and $300,000 combines.

MB is right about the stupidity statistics, one I recently read was that 1 out of 4 WWII draftees couldn’t read at a 4th grade level, and today with all the schooling and computers and free information everyone raves about, 27% of current military recruits cannot read the basic training manual which is written at a 7th grade level.

10:12 AM  
Anonymous TonyU said...

Tim and Dr Berman

You guys have good discussions going on. I actually believe (strongly) that there are REAL reasons to show extreme pessimism about the future of the US. From experience, people who believe that America have more guns, more nuclear bombs, and more military power tend to believe that America’s future is bright. One of my best friends thinks so; he thinks that America will never fail because she has more guns and stronger military than any other nation. According to him, America can invade and destroy China (in a minute) if the Chinese insist on getting their funds back from America. This is the same friend who was extremely pissed with me when I told him that working tirelessly simply to join the millionaire club is part of the problem in America today. He does not see how his mindset resembles the mindset that drove Bernard Madoff and other goons in the Wall Street and banking industry. He does not realize that the quickest way to be a millionaire in America today is to do what Mitt Romney did: destroy jobs at home, use cheap labor abroad, and hide your money from taxation. In other words, to be a "successful" businessman or a "successful" industrialist in today’s America you must destroy the American society (per Sir James Goldsmith). Anybody who does not think that future is bleak for the American society in this kind of mindset is delusional.

You are not only delusional. You are also as insane as Colorado shooter James Holmes if you think that you must have your cake after you devour it. If you are optimistic about the future of America after outsourcing jobs, destroying the middle class, starving governments of tax revenues, bankrupting the middle class through high cost of education and healthcare and through mortgage peonage, then you are no different than James Holmes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAJHp89BInE&feature=related

10:23 AM  
Blogger Manol said...

Hi Professor Berman,
It's so refreshing and healthy to read your posts. I'd like to read them more often, hopefully a weekly post on any relevant topic.
Some months ago I had the opportunity to hear an American here in my country, Chile, using "socialism" as an insult. Of course, he didn't know that around half our population are proud socialists because of historical reasons.
I imagine the main difference between America and Latin America mentality is Americans say "I came from a life in Europe that sucks to a new successful life in America" (the A.D,), while Latin Americans say "My life in Europe sucks, so I go to Latin America and then come back to Europe a wealthy man... Oh, wait, I was cheated, I was brought to Latin America to work my ass off, and this sucks just like in Europe, so let's stay here and make the best of this damn situation."
(The fatalist mentality that you being in Mexico so often should be familiar with, I guess).
:)
Have a nice day!

11:36 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Tim, Tony, jwo-

Some time ago I read that a large % of the American public (wish I cd remember what %, and what the source was) are unable to follow the instructions on a vending machine so as to be able to extract a Coke, or whatever. All of this stuff is hard to believe, and as I said, when I first began doing the research in the late 90s, I did finally hafta conclude that I was living in a bubble: where were the 20% that thought the sun revolved around the earth, or the 9% that say they don't know which revolves around which? Where, in 1989, were the 50% who had no idea that Germany had been divided into East and West after WW2? But enuf o' that...(continued below)

11:38 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

The real problem I have with the 'things will get better' argument is that the bottom line for historical change is that it requires power to displace power, and as Ralph Nader said a couple of yrs ago, the Left (whatever the hell that is anymore) has no clout. OWS not only didn't have any power, it even rejected the whole idea. Yes, I know all abt Gandhi, sure, but that was just about getting a colonial power off their backs; it was not abt creating a whole different socioeconpolitical system. We have no 'progressive' shock troops that are going to do that; they'll just get their teeth kicked in. Indeed, OWS was no threat at all, and police treatment was pretty repressive. The only 'revolution' we can expect in America will come from the Right, and in a sense that's been happening since 1981, in slo-mo. The results,as outlined in my 'Nuremberg' essay, strike me as being pretty clear.

Thus, the only conclusion I can come to in terms of positive social change is long-range: this system hasta collapse from w/in, and frankly, I think that process is well underway. That's why I have said on this blog that 'bad is good': if u take a long-term perspective, and even look beyond capitalism say, 50 yrs down the rd, we may have some sort of chance on the other side of the River Jordan, so to speak. But this means the country hasta go more or less dysfunctional; the evidence for which is enormous, and which I (among others) have provided in my/our writings. When a library calls the police in to go to the home of a 5-yr-old girl because she has an overdue library book, it's horrible on one level and encouraging on another: namely, any state that does that must be disintegrating. The same applies to owing the Chinese $2 trillion, or whatever it is by now. "The way out is thru," I keep saying; we are going to hafta go thru this shit to get to the other side of it all.

Someone recently asked me on this blog, If yr not a progressive or a socialist, what r.u.? "Disgusted" is the answer, I suppose; but more seriously, I'm skeptical of the whole notion of progress. Sure, there is progress in history, but contra Marx and Hegel, history does not *consist* of progress. What characterizes it most faithfully, as Toynbee demonstrated, is cyclical rise and fall of civilizations and empires. It is far more a story of irony, imo, than progress. That's a narrative I can believe in, and it's hardly all that bad, altho we must remember that every civilization is a package deal--there's good and bad in each of them. At the end of the cycle, it is usually unable to deliver the goods anymore, which is why it goes into decline, and one reason why the interim phase (e.g., today) is depressing and chaotic. In his book "Utopistics," Immanuel Wallerstein says we are definitely transiting to a new socioeconpolitical formation; but whether it will be better than modernity is not clear. I for one will miss a lot of things abt the Modern Age, tho I won't be around for the 'farther shore'; but then I believe we lost a lot with the Waning of the Middle Ages. As for the 'farther shore', one can only hope. Change, after all, doesn't necessarily mean better; it just means different. In any case, I think that at this pt the 'fix' is in, and that putting any hope in reason, enlightenment, and social movements that have no real power is, once again, whistling in the dark.

Good discussion, in any case!

mb

11:42 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Manol-

Welcome to the blog. I wish I had the time to do a weekly post, but in fact I do have a life. I also wish I cd get back to Chile for a bit; I have a few friends there, and it would be nice to connect with them once again. For some odd reason, the Chilean gov't has not invited me to come and lecture on the foolishness of Chile trying to emulate the US; strange!

The Mexican mentality...yes, definitely not hustling, wh/is why I like it down here. Maybe the ideal would be some sort of 'tension' between the two mentalities. I think abt this from time to time. I have a house; something is always going wrong; my mecanico, Rafa, is terrific, and can always be counted on to fix things well. The locals tell me his father was an even better mechanic. Rafa inherited the job, he's v. gd at it, and he has no ambitions to 'better' himself (beyond rdg some of my stuff; jaja). What's wrong w/that? The US attitude is, "You can outdo yr father, become a lawyer or a corporation man, etc." I understand that, and there is something liberating abt the expansionist mentality (which we estadounidenses took too far). But why is it better to outdo yr father? To be a lawyer instead of a mechanic? I'd prefer a talented mechanic to a shitty lawyer any day. So I go back and forth w/all this, think abt it from time to time. I guess it's back to the issue of the type of civilization u want. Expansion/hustling has its pleasures, and its very dark side; same is true for homeostasis--abt which we are going to learn more in the future, that's for sure.

mb

1:20 PM  
Blogger Boris the Spider said...

I am disappointed in your hearty recommendation that every American be issued an AK-47. That's a Commie gun -- invented by Russians!

Why not a good ol' American gun like the M-16 or the AR-15 variant? If we're going to blow each other to bits, shouldn't we do it the way Uncle Sam intended: Made in America?

1:31 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Boris-

Didn't we have this discussion already, and I conceded that an Uzi might be better? But I'm not sure guns in themselves are ideological...

Anyway, I'm still annoyed at the US gov't, ignoring my recommendation to nuke Paris and Toronto. Those countries have been critical of us! WTF are we waiting for? (Think of Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove.)

mb

1:49 PM  
Anonymous Jessica said...

These are really, really good, suggestive solutions for our problems in USA:

1) America can invade and destroy China (in a minute) if the Chinese insist on getting their funds back from America

2) I'm not sure guns in themselves are ideological
I'm still annoyed at the US gov't, ignoring my recommendation to nuke Paris and Toronto

Think about it. America should simply nuke the rest of the world – no more competition – we simply own the world afterwards. The entire planet would be Americanized and American-owned! Good thoughts!

3:04 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

J-

In the immortal words of that great humanitarian, Madeleine Albright, "What's the good of having the world's greatest military if you don't use it?" My kinda gal (along with her interview on "60 Minutes," where she said that the murder of 500,000 Iraqi children via UN sanctions was "worth it").

As I've written elsewhere, the US is basically afraid of the Other, which it sees as threatening, so it adopts 2 postures toward it (it being Native Americans, Mexicans, Japanese, the USSR, the Vietnamese, Iraq...):

1. You become like us, or
2. We blow u to kingdom come.

This is my kinda foreign policy, I hafta say. Meanwhile, what is the Pentagon doing, while Toronto and Paris make fun of us (cheese-eating surrender monkeys)? They pick their nose. I know Wafers share my disgust.

mb

6:05 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Prof. Berman, listened to you on youtube. Very interesting.

A couple of minor points. Marshall Mcluhan did not originate the phrase on violence and identity you mention. Mcluhan is paraphrasing Ray Bradbury when Mcluhan says, “violence is essentially the form of the quest for identity”.

You can see this yourself in this clip, go to 09.30.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-931331993788973594

On Sweden, you say is homogenous population, but in fact about 20% of the population has a foreign background due to refugees from a lot of diffrent countries. Recently a lot from Iraq. The third most populous city Malmo, it has 40 % with a foreign background.

Regards, Michael Glemdal, Ph.D. Political Science, Sweden

6:41 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Anon-

Good question, but I cdn't publish it because I don't post anything from Anons. Pick a handle, try again.

Michael-

Always nice to hear from Sweden. 1st, thanx for info on McLuhan. 2nd, regarding Swedish population: 80% white is still pretty homogeneous. Also, I'm wondering how recent this influx of immigrants is. If we're talking about Iraqis, then this is a new situation, I wd think.

mb

7:39 PM  
Anonymous David M said...

Dr. B & DAAers
Thought you might like to know, there is a historical movie out about Abraham Lincoln and vampires. Apparently between splitting rails and freeing slaves he was driving stakes through the hearts of vampires. I wonder if he used an AK-47 stakeshooter crossbow. I guess mericans would not go see a movie that is historially accurate and it would not make any money. Can't wait for George Washington meets Frankenstien to come out. Is this whats called fried rice for brains.
O&D

9:41 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Anon from Ecuador-

I don't publish Anons, so if u wanna pick a handle and send yr message in again, I'll be glad to post it.

DM-

Most people don't know that Honest Abe was called Buffy by his close friends. As for George, I believe a movie will be released very soon in which he is the proprietor of a deli in the DC metro area. The title is "Reuben," which, it turns out, is what George's friends called *him*. Of course, not many Americans know that the Father of Our Country was Jewish.

Attention All Wafers: I feel I should call you Eucharistes, esp. since transubstantiation occurs daily on this blog, thanx 2u. But just fyi, I wanted to say that Tikkun online decided to run this post. Text pretty much the same; here's the link:

http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/sociopaths-rule

Over and out...mb, high priest of American culture, steamed vegetable division

12:07 AM  
Anonymous satyaSarika said...

I don't share your long term optimism for one reason-- the obvious eco-catastrophes that are appearing now or on the near horizon.

This physical reality we call Earth will trump all cultural conditions.

Since techno-world is destroying the actual life of the planet as well as the human spirit, what's to hope?

I have no hope for our future as humans. :'(

3:31 AM  
Anonymous Smith said...

The problem is that the "dark side" of homeostasis is a lack of interest in INTELLECTUAL self-betterment, or even "craftsman" self-betterment, as well as monetary self-betterment.

If someone wants to remain static all his life, he's unlikely to take up reading books that might expand his mind (such as Epictetus the Stoic or Thomas Pynchon the modern literary great, for example) or even reading books at all (I personally know a train conductor who's as nice as Morris' mechanic, but he'd never read Berman's stuff or anything else, really). A static person is also unlikely to travel to other countries and learn what might be good about their cultures and bad about his own (like you've done yourself, hence your leaving America to begin with).

Francesco Mazzei, a chef in Italy, managed to improve the food he serves by borrowing ingredients from multiple Italian regions as well as some Moorish styles of cooking.

7:09 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Smith-

As far as crafts go...I'm thinking of things like Chartres cathedral. The Middle Ages were very rich in this way. Same is true for Japan during its 'sakoku' phase, 200+ yrs of being closed to outsiders: what fabulous artisanry. As I said, civilizations are a package deal.

Sat-

Hope may lie in all of us being reincarnated as tuna fish. Now that wd make for a very interesting world. (Where do my critics get off, saying I'm a pure pessimist?!)

mb

7:37 AM  
Anonymous TonyU said...

For sure, something is happening; these people will eat each other by the time this thing is over (the banks must know that these elderly people got a lot of funds):

JPMorgan Chase allegedly called one elderly couple, roughly 75 per week between 2009 and 2012, claiming they were at risk of losing their home to foreclosure, according to a lawsuit filed by the couple. They claim they aren't late on their mortgage payments.

The lawsuit alleges that the couple met with their local District Attorney and, with the DA's advice, sent a cease and desist letter to the bank. Though the bank acknowledged that they received the letter, the harassment continued, according to the lawsuit.

This is the second time in a month that JPMorgan has been accused of mistreating its elderly customers. In Louisiana, a man with Alzheimer's sued the bank after his legal guardian claimed that a JPMorgan employee stole more than $100,000 dollars from the elderly man.

Of couse, JPMorgan Chase isn't the first bank to take heat over wrongfully harassing its customers. Bank of America allegedly called one family more than 400 times demanding they pay a debt that had already been settled.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/20/john-anna-canaday-jpmorgan-chase_n_1689481.html

12:38 PM  
Blogger Noah Linden said...

MB,

Although I think you're right about history being a cyclical process, I would also point out that not every change is merely a shade of grey. There are, most certainly, periods where civilization changes only for the better, or only for the worse, and not just the "interim" periods you describe.

As far as comparing other periods to Modernity, yes, there are many things in Modernity that are better, but the lack of any kind of ethical core in Modernity automatically makes it inferior to any age where most people had some kind of ethical core. For without an ethical core, the kind of disintegration underway in the world is inevitable. So too, without an ethical core, loving relationships become impossible in the truest sense.

Modernity is not just the flip side of Antiquity. The decline of the human intellect, craftsmanship, ethics and interpersonal relationships resulting from Modernity are the worst possible curses, since they signal a loss of what makes people human.

12:43 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Mr. Berman -
Very good review. The film in question reminds me of the excellent documentary "The Corporation" which examines the behavior of corporations and likens it to pathology.
I would have to say that as I look around at my country I would agree with you that USAns are probably not capable of bringing about any real reform of this demented and cruel system. This November we will engage in the charade of a national election in which we will vote for two hopelessly corrupt candidates. The polls indicate that Romney (despite the tax returns scandal and his incredible arrogance in England and elsewhere) is still close to Obama in the polls. My sense is that he could actually beat out Obama (especially with all the vote suppression and other tactics paid for by Citizens United, etc) and become the next Prez. He could also be joined by dozens of new Tea Party idiots who take their place in Congress and help Ole Mitt take down what is left of our shattered infrastructure. The Amerika that you have been predicting will happen even faster. I can't help but feel that Mitt will be our version of one of the late Roman emperors - arrogant, ruthless, corrupt and without any empathy for the people. He reeks of entitlement.
One last thing. I was watching a movie called "Watchmen" recently. It is a movie based on comics superheroes. Ordinarily, that would have little to do with the discussions that are found here. However, one line from the movie really stood out for me. One of the characters asks The Comedian a question as they stand in a crummy urban landscape. "What happened to the American Dream"? The Comedian answers, "It came true!"

3:37 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Noah-

I think u may be putting words in my mouth. Where did I say that every change was a shade of gray? I certainly don't believe that. In fact, I've often said the opposite, that there are 'nodes' that punctuate the long-term changes: the sacking of Rome in A.D. 410, for example.

mb

5:09 PM  
Anonymous Nate, in Steerage said...

Re: AK-47 + Americans

A worldly friend of mine once told about some time that he had spent in Yemen (I'm not sure if it was in the 70s or 80s.) He said that nearly every grown man was armed, often with an AK-47 slung over their shoulder; something about the gun as a symbol of responsibility.

Regardless, he said that when two men would fight, they would take off their guns and fight with their fists. He saw this time and time again and couldn't believe it.

Not that Yemen is the happiest place on earth, but that just shows you what a difference culture can make.

7:44 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Where Americans' Heads Are At Dept.:

A Pew Research Center poll released 2 March 2012 revealed that Americans don't have any interest in taking money from the wealthy, i.e. of redistributing wealth; they just want to be able to get rich themselves: "there is no sense that the American people are on the verge of class conflict; they just want a better chance of achieving success themselves." (See 2b in the text of this post.)

As for Occupy Wall Street, I was just rdg a letter to the editor in issue No. 14 of a journal called n+1. Someone named Patrick Tolle, who was involved in OWS, and who says he was arrested on the Bklyn Bridge last Oct., says he is disturbed by the strong current of nationalism that cd be seen in the OWS demonstrations. He writes:

"There are American flags, appeals to patriotism, loud pronouncements on why we should love 'our' country--all in spite of the fact that it is US capitalism that is wrecking the world.

While the instincts driving many of Occupy's supporters may be laudable, the fact is that it is not a progressive movement when the permeating idea is that capitalism can and should be reformed to be more amenable to the middle and working classes. It is still much further from true progressivism when appeals to some patriotic ideal are thrown around without much thought to the immense destruction throughout the world that nationalism has only ever provoked."

9:41 PM  
Blogger J. P. CAZADOR said...

@ Nate in Steerage:

The U.S. media would have you believe that only America and maybe a few European countries allow citizens to have firearms, but in reality there are a lot that do. I have visited Honduras, Nicaragua & El Salvador and in those countries private ownership of revolvers & pistols is allowed, and in the rural areas I saw many homes with AK-47s kept in the closet.
I live in the Dominican Republic, and here revolvers, semi-auto pistols and shotguns are allowed for private ownership, rifles are not. There is a licensing process, but it's neither costly or difficult.
What these countries don't have is the "gun culture" attitude that America does, where there is an extreme, morbid and fanatical fascination with firearms that americans take to an extreme.
I personally have no problem with firearm ownership for self defense, but I do think americans, as a collective whole, are not responsable enough to have them.
Ironically, the american gun lovers say that the purpose of gun ownership is so the citizens can protect the US constitution from government encroachment, but hell, it's been encroached into extinction, with NDAA 2012 as the coup de grace. Where were all the gun owners coming to it's defense? More B.S. from blowhards with paper asses and sh*t for brains.

10:48 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Just to change the subject for a minute...I don't know if any of u guys saw the movie "Game Change," abt Sarah Palin and the McCain campaign of 2008. Highly recommended. It's kind of terrifying; she comes off as a moron and a douche bag and possibly, a mental case. Looking back, I really feel bad that she and McCain didn't win the election and that she didn't subsequently ascend to the presidency; we lost a great opportunity there. But the most terrifying thing in the movie is the CRE of the American people, screaming for Obama (a completely nonentity, a zero), or for Sarah (a moron and a douche bag and possibly a mental case)--because you can see that they are screaming for themselves. Anyway, it's a very masterful film, an excellent X-ray not only of American politics, but of the American people. USA ALL THE WAY etc.

mb

12:00 AM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

MB,

Here's a link to an interesting article that I picked up from David Brin's blog Contrary Brin.

http://www.gizmag.com/first-3d-printed-firearm/23473/

Any patriotic knucklehead who might be worried about the un-American-ness of the Kalashnikov or the Uzi can now soothe their conscience with the knowledge that at least theirs was manufactured in the USA.

This is something that could prove to be a real game changer. Not because you can make guns at home...sheeit Pahdnuh, guns are already legal...but because you can make accessories that make them much more quiet. I'm sure Hassan I Sabbah is spinning gleefully in his grave.

The final exam question for Wafers is to compare & contrast this technological development with the use of a plastic saxophone by Charlie Parker (once) and Ornette Coleman (many times).

Speaking of music, and looping back to your Eucharistes comment above, here's a tune we can all hum along to that has the word 'wafer' in the Eucharistic sense.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YcGRNmkB00

Radio Free Costa Rica signing off...

9:50 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

Dr Berman:

"Someone named Patrick Tolle...

While the instincts driving many of Occupy's supporters may be laudable, the fact is that it is not a progressive movement when the permeating idea is that capitalism can and should be reformed to be more amenable to the middle and working classes..."

I do not know this Patrick Tolle, but, I attended the 10-11-2011 gathering for three days from the beginning at Zucotti Park. (The original Occupy WS D.C. site was at another park one block up from Zucotti Park with very few demonstrators. As you know the Occupy movement had begun at Wall Street and had set-up (Pershing Park I think) in Washington and other sites thereafter.

I heard NO nationalistic or patriotic comments. Not a single one! Spoke with hundreds of individuals.

Capitalism was the demon and the problem from the very start. I wore my "wobblies" T-shirt, was glad handed by many people because of it, and as you may know their poster from the early days shows the pyramid of Capitalism which clearly denounces capitalism with great force.

By the way, Paul Craig Roberts and, hate to say it, Ms. Prins, will only say that the problem is de-regulation of Capitalism. They refused to renounce capitalism and will not even mention the word "Free Trade." (Had a brief e-mail exchange with Ms Prins per your advice and I cannot get either of them to admit to any fault of capitalism except to say it needs to be regulated. Both refuse to discuss "Free Markets".

1:11 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Noah,

I especially like what you wrote about American culture lacking an ethical core. The surest sign of this is that Americans don't worry or argue about the morality of WHAT has been done, only about WHO has done it.

An example:

On Friday's (July 27) CBS Evening News, there was a brief follow-up story about a 10-year old Syrian boy critically wounded in the uprising there. The news solemnly repeated the boy's name & sadly related that he had since died of his wounds. A truly heartwrenching news item.

However -- I immediately wondered how many times the news has reported similar stories about Middle Eastern children who died the exact same way, but due to an American drone or helicopter patrol or what have you. Very, very seldom, if at all.

So we get plenty of stories about torture, murder, corruption, civilian deaths, etc., when caused by foreign dictators & military thugs (many of whom we support & help keep in power). These things are clearly defined as morally BAD. But if the exact same things are caused by Americans, then they're either not mentioned at all, or explained away as a sad consequence of war & probably the fault of the designated enemy in the first place because they provoked us & have no scruples or decency anyway.

It's not what's done, but who does it; upholding American interests is a free pass for anything. This is our ethical core, such as it is.

3:11 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Shep-

Well, u were there and I wasn't, but I followed OWS closely on favorable websites, like truthdig, and their idea of capitalism being the 'demon', as far as I cd make out, was that it made for poor distribution of wealth, and what we needed to do was spread the American Dream around a bit more fairly. I never saw or heard or read anything in which they said, 'the American Dream is the problem and needs to be abolished'. I suspect Patrick Tolle may be correct, in other words.

mb

4:14 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Professor Berman,

Your comment about how Americans are a collection of dummies is spot on. If anything, the lack of public soul-searching over the ongoing spate of violent mass killings reinforces this point.

It should be shocking, for any sane people, that its members are continually blowing each other to bits with violent weapons. But instead, whether it's in Aurora, Columbine, or (today) Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, after these killings, at the very least, there will be some weak effort to regulate certain kinds of guns, such as semi-automatic weapons. Now even Obama isn't attempting such a thing.

But aside from searching into the motives of the mass killer, there's no real questioning of the role of violence in American culture. Thanks to an individualist ideology, Americans ignore the background of violence and focus on the foreground of a single isolated killer.

What's more, if Americans would only reflect on these massacres, they would realize that the whole notion of gun violence is deeply embedded in American culture. With teenagers spending many hours playing violent shoot-em-ups and many people watching violent movies, it's but a short slide to playing the same game outside the fantasy world. Art has a way of turning into reality, in some perverse way. If Americans choose not to think about this, it's to their own peril.

Do you agree with me that the origin of these mass killings is American popular (and especially gun) culture? Or would you locate their roots deeper, perhaps in the American ideology itself?

Thanks for the insightful post as usual.

Mike

4:56 PM  
Anonymous Jessica said...

Dr B, you said this: 'the American Dream is the problem and needs to be abolished'

How do you begin to accomplish the job of abolishing the AD without first destroying the American capitalism, the American culture, and the American militarism?
How do you destroy the American capitalism, culture, and militarism without destroying the entire society? How??? This is easier said than done!

5:32 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

J-

Is there that much to be done? It seems to me that it's happening before our very eyes, on a daily basis. What's our collective debt to China and Japan now, abt $3 trillion? The national debt at $14 trillion? We have this supposedly fabulous military that stalemated in Korea, lost in Vietnam, cannot now win two wars in two minor countries, and that actually hasn't had a serious victory since WW2. We are 37th in quality of health care, incarcerate 25% of the world's prisoners, consume 67% of the world's antidepressants, and have an educational system that turns out people who (a) can't even read and (b) are aggressively proud of their ignorance. Our infrastructure is shot to pieces, our cities are dying, libraries and newspapers are closing, 18% of the population is unemployed, something like 1/3 of the country lives in poverty and 2/3 live from paycheck to paycheck. We periodically blow each other up at Columbine, Aurora, and Va. Tech, and then say it's because of a lone psychotic killer. More than 1/3 of the nation cannot read at anything better than a 5th-grade level. My dear, the list goes on and on; to paraphrase John Paul Jones, I have not yet begun to tabulate. The dial is clearly turned to Auto-Destruct: American capitalism, culture, militarism, and society are all on a downward spiral with no prospect of reversal. So please, don't worry: short of going to the polls this Nov. and voting for Rom Mittney, you don't have to lift a finger to make this happen (tho I do recommend that you keep a notebook).

Mike-

I tend to agree w/the NRA, that people, which is to say Americans, kill people, not guns; and that if we had blanket gun control laws, Americans wd switch to knives and baseball bats and the homicide rate wd still be thru the roof. We live in a culture of extreme individualism and competition; we don't understand the meaning of nurture and community, most of which disappeared before 1800 and all of which vanished after 1965 (see Robt Putnam, "Bowling Alone"). It's a cruel society, in short, that tells its citizens they are unloved and uncared for and worthless unless they are rich. Living in DC during 1998-2006, I was reminded on a daily basis of how little my neighbors cared about me or each other, and that if I died in my apt. my corpse wdn't have been found until my mortgage payment was overdue. Try googling "Baum Halloween Party" and see how Americans treat the less fortunate in our society, for example. There was also an American-Canadian study a few yrs ago--I cite it in DAA--that revealed that nearly 25% of Americans say it is OK to use violence in pursuit of yr goals (the figure was 12% for Canadians; I'm guessing it wd be around 1% for most European countries and Japan). You get the idea.

mb

7:32 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

MB,

I agree with most of what you said in your last post about American society. Indeed, I saw the photos from the Halloween party you mention, as I live in Buffalo. It's sickening how these people could show so little sympathy towards the worst-off members of society whose homes were being foreclosed. In these times it seems that everything, whether it's lawyers helping to foreclose on people's homes or arms companies flooding the world with American-made weapons, has become a business. Sadly, the capitalist mentality you describe is flourishing in today's world.

But I disagree with the claim that "people kill people," as opposed to guns killing people.

The view that the NRA implicitly adopts is technological instrumentalism, i.e. the idea that technologies are neutral means that allow humans to carry out their pre-existing ends. But many scholars have shown that there are huge flaws with instrumentalism (such as Neil Postman, Douglas Rushkoff, and Peter-Paul Verbeek, among others). As Verbeek points out, technologies mediate the way in which we relate to the world. By mediating the context in which humans act, easily available guns radically transform the way in which social disputes can be resolved. With a gun, what was once a mere verbal dispute or humiliation can quickly become the scene of grizzly revenge. In other words, technologies are not merely neutral means of fulfilling already existing human objectives, but instead dramatically influence those objectives.

Anyway, this is a minor difference between us given that I think your critique of American culture is sound.

-Mike

9:40 PM  
Anonymous Savantesimal said...

And now it turns out the Aurora shooter was under psychiatric care. Should we be surprised?

Reuters: Colorado shooting suspect was under psychiatrist's care

A former University of Colorado graduate student accused of killing 12 people and wounding 58 others in a shooting rampage at a Denver-area movie theater last week had been under the care of a psychiatrist who was part of a campus threat-assessment team.

The disclosure came in court documents filed on Friday by lawyers for James Holmes, 24, who is accused of opening fire last Friday on a packed showing of the latest Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises," in the Denver suburb of Aurora.

...

Meanwhile, the meme is spreading.

Associated Press: Man calling himself 'a joker' threatened shooting

PALMER PARK, Md. (AP) — Calling himself "a joker," a Maryland man with an arsenal of guns threatened to shoot up a business he was being fired from, and was wearing a T-shirt that said "Guns don't kill people. I do" when police confronted him, authorities said Friday.

The 28-year-old man, identified in a search warrant as Neil E. Prescott, told a supervisor at software and mailroom supplier Pitney Bowes that he wanted to see his boss' "brain splatter all over the sidewalk," according to police and an application for a search warrant.

"I'm a joker and I'm gonna load my guns and blow everybody up," Prescott said, according to the document.

...

10:00 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Mike-

I don't believe technology is neutral; not at all. See, for example, ch. 3 of WAF. My pt was only that the aggressive nature of American culture is such that if guns were unavailable, Americans wd inevitably use other weapons to polish each other off; and I do believe that. This doesn't mean that guns or electric doggie bags, for that matter, are neutral; it just means that the aggressive nature of American society overrides any particular weapon.

mb

ps: You might find the following article interesting, in this regard:

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/07/25-2

11:48 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

I've been reading Wallace Shawn's slim collection Essays & was especially struck by one on morality, in which he examines how much happier so many people are when they dispense with conscience & fully embrace utter selfishness, He also examines the utter glee & sexual excitement many feel as the prospect of killing others, particularly others who can't defend themselves. Old news, of course -- but his other point is that because we already "know" these things, we really don't stop to think about them, to actually wrestle with them. Certainly most Americans don't -- and when their faces are pressed forcibly into such questions, as with the Aurora shootings, they quickly find a way to ignore & dismiss those questions, and any notion of self-examination.

As far back as the Reagan years, I realized that the survivalists & militias weren't afraid of America being invaded or collapsing entirely -- they were hoping & hungering ferociously for that day. That's the secret shriveled soul of the culture of violence, a longing for an end to civilized restraint, when you're free to express yourself with deadly force & face no legal or moral consequences. Pure Id, as in the monster from the classic film Forbidden Planet, set free to wreck & rape & destroy. To those with such undisguised hungers, civilization is an obstacle, a threat, something foreign & alien -- the final Other to be eliminated.

And as Shawn points out, for such people there's a certain all-consuming bliss & comfort to be found in this Id-driven solipsism.

Telling anecdote of the day: a story in the NY Times warns of a shortage of doctors as more people are covered under changing healthcare laws. One doctor in California says they simply don't have enough doctors -- except for plastic surgeons & dermatologists. So everyone will at least look good as they die, I guess.

12:10 PM  
Blogger friBill said...

check out Martha Stout's book 'The Sociopath Next Door.' sobering and illuminating

12:23 PM  
Anonymous TonyU said...

Mike and Dr B:
Michael Moore made the same points in the following interview following the recent shooting in Colorado (ie, guns do not kill people; Americans kill Americans):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQb_i4Ik5k4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3HivK3V98Y
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNcTVIYmKxU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hoiwqmv3jKo
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67gN4_eE43c

Tim Lukeman
Shortage of doctors is part of the scam to keep doctors racking in $millions per year. If the med schools in USA admit every applicant seeking to get a medical education, America would have more doctors than the entire world combined. This is the same with nurses and teachers. They control the supply of these things because of greed and control by those in illegal/satanic collusion with politicians and lawmakers throughout USA (local, state, federal). If you doubt me, here is a practical experiment: Go to all the universities and community colleges in your local community and apply to get into the nursing program. They will tell you there is no space and that you have to wait five years before getting in. They will send you to private schools in the region. Now go to any private school in the same local community and apply for the same program. They will take you immediately, but you have to pay more than $30k per year for tuition and fees. The whole thing is a scam by medical doctors, politicians, and owners of the schools. In most cases, the medical doctors in the local community own the private schools, so they disable the public schools in the community. How many Americans can afford $30k per year for 2-4 years for a nursing degree?

1:06 PM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

Mike & MB,
You're both right on the basics, but remember the 'hustle factor'.
Americans have been told in films, TV, books (for the few that still read), etc. that they have a God-given right to firearms.
If there was strict gun control, that would just drive up the price of black-market weapons.
Americans would still save, rob, steal, have a garage sale, even take a second job (although that is less of an option for the 18% who don't have a first job) in order to get the higher tech option to knives and sticks.
After all (and before anything else), they're hustlers.

Tim,
Your So everyone will at least look good as they die, I guess. reminded me of a routine my late friend Ron Shock used to do. Here's a clip that you may enjoy...the reference to good-looking corpses starts at about 6:40 in case the stuff before that doesn't tickle your funny bone.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFyye9SlrFg&list=FLbXK5JLR1fZL-WIzoKtGYFQ&index=18&feature=plpp_video

1:14 PM  
Anonymous Yabiscca said...

Gun control may not be as easy as some people think. Consider how Justice Scalia dances all over the place:

“So yes, there are some limitations that can be imposed," Scalia said. "What they are will depend on what the society understood were reasonable limitations at the time.”

“They had some limitations on the nature of arms that could be borne” [at the time the US Constitution was written]

Scalia pointed out Sunday that that the Second Amendment "obviously" doesn't apply to weapons that can't be hand-carried, and modern-day weapons like "hand-held rocket launchers that can bring down airplanes" weren't factored in at the time of the writing of the Constitution.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/29/antonin-scalia-guns_n_1715969.html

Notice Scalia needs to factor in today’s reality: Terrorists (foreign and domestic) can bring down high-rise buildings and kill Americans. It happened in New York City by Arabs and in Austin, Texas by Joseph Andrew Stack.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/18/AR2010021802341.html

Therefore, it will be reasonable for Americans to buy and carry hand-held bazookas and rocket launchers that can bring down airplanes used by terrorist in killing Americans. Placing a limitation on bazookas and rocket launchers would be unconstitutional due to today’s reality. Right?

2:27 PM  
Blogger Noah Linden said...

MB,

Yeah, perhaps I did put words in your mouth. Sorry about that. Maybe I didn't understand what you were saying.

I think that the comment from that guy about OWS being more than a bunch of American Dream-obsessed people is spot on. OWS was not a flop, although I can see why you think it would be. OWS was about individual conscience, not about thinking it would have a grand effect upon American society.

I understand what you're saying about OWS not calling for abolishing the American Dream. But aren't the demands of OWS in and of themselves the abolishment of the American Dream? The American Dream is fundamentally about getting rich and powerful at the expense of other people; OWS demanded reforms that would have made this dream impossible for most Americans.

I would also point out that many among OWS were homeless or very poor. They weren't seeking to get rich; they just wanted a place to live and medical care. I don't see how this meshes with the American Dream.

4:43 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

MB,

Interesting article. Moore is certainly right that we believe in killing as a way of accomplishing our goals. It's shocking how Americans can live in a society where the fact of 24 people being killed a day in gun crime is 'normal.' It's a kind of pathology that Americans are apparently unable to resolve these social issues, let alone reflect on them. Today a gun massacre may be on the news, perhaps even for a few days, but you can be sure that by the time the Olympics comes on TV, the question of gun violence will be a total side-show. There seems to be no capacity for Americans to seriously reflect on and improve themselves.

BTW, I'm reading Greg Grandin's book Empire's Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism. I highly recommend it as a history of US foreign policy towards Latin America. His discussion of Jimmy Carter there is very interesting. As he points out, despite Carter's rhetoric of promoting human rights everywhere, in actual practice his policies facilitated the rearming of the Cold War that Reagan would facilitate in full (such as creating a Rapid Deployment Force and increasing the military budget at the expense of spending on social services). I thought this might be interesting to you particularly, since you defend Carter in Why America Failed.

6:23 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Mike-

I do say in DAA that Carter got seduced into bad foreign policy toward the end of his tenure, esp. under the influence of Zbigniew Brzezinski. I think he felt his influence was slipping, and that if he reverted to a classic Cold War stance, that might save him at the polls. (Wrong call, obviously.) What I think it does show is that it is virtually impossible for America to function w/o an enemy, real or imagined, and that Americans were not happy w/Carter saying, as he did during the 1st 2.5 yrs of his admin, that we needed to stop blaming the USSR for everything and start looking at our own behavior. Frankly, it's amazing he got elected at all, and amazing he stuck to his ideals for as long as he did. Ultimately, to live in America means to live in a Manichaean framework; very few can escape it.

Noah-

Actually, a lot of OWS folks, speakers, and so on argued precisely that the movement wd have a huge impact on American society, "sweep over the nation" (Michael Moore) and turn everything around; that it was a people's movement, and that The People could not be resisted any longer. (Michael also said that Obama would sweep the nation, and he did--swept civil liberties right out the front door and became a war criminal to boot. I'm so tired of all this 'sweeping', and just wish the country would wake up to the fact that we're done for. To quote Lincoln, 'we must disenthrall ourselves'. All this enthrallment, and it comes to nothing, or worse.)

2nd, exactly what reforms was OWS demanding? I don't think they ever stated them; it sounded more like objection to 1% of the nation being rich, and 99% not getting an even break. Early on I posted two essays on this blog raising the question of where could all this great energy go with no political platform and no intellectual analysis of the issues--things that oddly enuf did not seem to bother the OWS folks.There was no call for a different type of economy that I cd see; it was just a call for a fairer distribution of wealth--the American Dream for all, some variant of FDR. Keep in mind that FDR's goal was to save capitalism, and the A.D.--which he did. (Curbing the rich, in other words, is hardly abolishing the A.D.) Anyway, I fear I don't share your postive spin on the phenomenon, as you can see; but I do hafta say, once again, that my sources on OWS were indirect--mostly favorable website reportage. I never made it over to Z Park myself. So who knows? But I do think that abolition of the A.D. means, before anything, the abolition of the notion of the endless frontier, and of supposedly infinite resources. If these things were raised at OWS rallies, I'm guessing it was a very minor chord. These people were, after all, Americans.

mb

10:22 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Another perfect example of utter insularity among the good peoples of America occurred when I lived and worked there several years ago as a journalist.

A PR person from the East Coast wanted to pitch me an incredibly weak story idea and called me at 5:30am my time. I lived and worked in the Los Angeles area at the time. It was 8:30am her time and that was good enough for her! I was groggy and told her it's 5:30am. Her response?

"Oh! Well! it's 8:30am HERE! Now! Let me tell you why this would be a great story for your paper!"

Needless to say, the story idea was garbage. As a rule of thumb, people who can't figure out time zones can't figure out decent story ideas for print or any other media format.

10:40 PM  
Blogger Noah Linden said...

MB,

I'm sure more than a few of the OWS people did not think there was anything wrong with the concept of a limitless frontier and infinite resources.

But it seems to me that such OWS people were a minority. Speakers like Chris Hedges railed against the concept that natural resources were infinite. He spoke about, literally, the death of the natural world that sustains human life, and got tons of applause.

I will say, however, that I agree with you that the signs carried by OWS people were mostly about calls for a redistribution of wealth and universal health care. Some of them were also about the need to stop waging war. There was too little intellectual analysis of why America has become a failed state, but such analysis did happen (speakers like Chris Hedges), and OWS people who spoke about that were roundly applauded.

Will OWS change America? No. I'm not an idiot. But neither do I think most of the people behind OWS have no vision of a truly different economy and a truly different world, as you seem to be saying.

I will concede that I think you're right that alot of the OWS people thought the movement would spread and change America. I suppose, since Chris Hedges (one of my favorite authors) acknowledged that a huge period of totalitarian darkness awaits America, in spite of OWS or any other movement, I assumed OWS people shared his view (since Hedges was a prominent speaker at OWS rallies). I know more than a few American "liberals" that think OWS is going to come back with a vengeance and change America.

I guess in the end, we agree on what's most important in this scenario: OWS will not prevent the decline in America, nor even halt it by any degree.

11:42 PM  
Anonymous Jessica said...

Somebody here talked about a mechanist that took after his father’s business in Mexico.
Check out this family business in Adamsville, Rhode Island. The company has been in business for 224 years and managed by 7 generations. The youngest person who inherited the store wants to shut it down after his father died of cancer last June of 2012:

Owner Jonah Waite inherited the shop after his father died of cancer last month. He said Saturday it was a hard decision to close the store and leave behind all the history, but the shop's finances aren't sustainable and a supermarket down the street has siphoned away business.

Waite, 21, who will be a senior at the University of Hartford in Connecticut in the fall, also is consumed with pursuing a career in sports journalism.

"Obviously, I understand the historical aspect of it, and I would really love to keep it the way it is, but it doesn't seem to me that that's the most feasible option," Waite said. "With the economy ... the place has lost its attraction, lost its luster."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/28/grays-store-general-store-rhode-island_n_1714636.html?utm_hp_ref=business

12:17 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Noah-

Well, I tell u, citing Chris won't wash, 1st because he was a speaker rather than a member of the crowd, and 2nd because he's not yr typical left-wing author, in the category of Moore or Chomsky, let's say. (In fact, I suspect I've managed to 'infect' him somewhat, since the themes of running out of resources and a coming dark age are ones I've been hammering at for a long time now; but I cd be assuming too much. Chris also wrote a blurb for WAF, and pretty much agrees w/me as to why America failed, if I'm not mistaken.) Again, I wasn't there, but I have the feeling that the crowd wanted speakers who were optimistic, who told them that we cd and wd recover the American dream; and that by and large, most speakers pushed the fairer-share-of-the-pie line. So I don't think you can make Chris representative; he, and I, are odd ducks as American critics.

In any case, I do believe OWS was overwhelmingly committed to the American Dream, and not critical of it. But as you suggest, it may not matter: they could believe anything at all; their impact on American politics was literally 0. The really interesting question is why that is so.

mb

2:37 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

And here's one possible answer to that question (shd have been titled CRE Rules):

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/is_america_crazy_20120729/?ln

7:47 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

OWS:

I certainly do not support an "American Dream" that is the pursuit of money happiness.

Kevin Zeese, one of the organizers of 10-11-2011 to occupy Washington, D.C. that I attended put it this way: http://october2011.org/

"Health Care For All"

"End the Wars Bring The Troops Home"

"Put Workers Before Profits"

"End Corporate Welfare"

"Protect The Planet"

"Get Money Out Of Politics"

"Human Needs Not Corporate Greed"

"Tax The Rich And The Corporations"

(These items, in no way, support the ruthless greed filled American Dream we laugh and talk about on this blog. They are an attack on CORPORATIONS as the problem. Amen! So, the OWS movement WAS critical, in the beginning, of the false American Dream as put forth by the bastard Corporate sociopaths.)

These were the things I saw and these are things that a large majority of people know is right but they are so beaten down they cannot function. I think we make too much of the jelly brain idea instead of what is causing this madness.

The movement has been co-opted from a million angles, by elites of every stripe AND by the security apparatus. Who knows who is a mole, or a provocatuer, or a plant or, a spy.

8:34 AM  
Blogger Craig said...

Congratulations to Dr. Berman and his people here for having become critically aware of our fatal religion of growth. While growth is on the lips of every politician, and an anti-intellectual cultural heritage is a prime factor in the USA's decline, let's stay alert for emergent off-the-wall factors --such as:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The standardized weighted mean difference in IQ score between exposed and reference populations was -0.45 (95% CI -0.56 to -0.35) using a random-effects model. Thus, children in high fluoride areas had significantly lower IQ scores than those who lived in low fluoride areas. (http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1104912)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Craig

11:14 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Shep-

That list is practically incoherent; it's not a political platform at all. It's all over the place, and it's not clear how any of these things cd be accomplished. However, there are a couple of things on the list that implicitly point to getting beyond the growth model of the economy, I'll give you that. Where they fit into the overall OWS scheme of things (wh/they didn't really have) is, however, unclear.

mb

11:29 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

Dr. B

The list seems pretty simple to me. Every topic exposes capitalist frauds.

What is ur definition of a party platform? Seems pretty specific to me and all are anti-"Dream".

My main point is the elites have co-opted the movement like they successfully do in any area of our lives. They have the guns and the money.

None of the things on the list will ever be accomplished therefore I do not understand ur response.

Maybe. "Reason is a narrow system swollen into an Ideology"? I believe everyone has a specific ideology. Do you?

1:11 PM  
Blogger Noah Linden said...

MB,

It's very interesting; I see citing Hedges as something valid precisely because he was a speaker, and because the crowd favorably responded to him. You can learn much about a political movement by listening to its leaders (in OWS's case, since it had no formal leaders, it's speakers would be analogous to the leaders of other political movements), and observing what these leaders actually do. In Obama's case, he has done exactly the opposite of what he pledged to do, almost without exception; in Hedges case, it's obvious he is a man of integrity who means what he says, whose actions correspond to his words.

I remember you writing in your books that countries get the governments they deserve (if freely elected and not imposed on a country by an imperial power). Maybe OWS got the leaders they deserved, like Hedges?

However, I'm willing to grant you that what you have said about OWS applies to American liberals in general. They have long worshipped capitalism, and now even believe in the American government's drive to militarily dominate the entire world. They speak in the language of liberalism while doing things and supporting politicians that tear down authentic liberal values (like Obama). American liberalism is about feeling good about yourself while doing the same selfish, destructive things that all imperialists do.

Noah

1:33 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Speaking of our anti-intellectual cultural heritage, see the latest from Chris Hedges:

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/
the_perversion_of_scholarship_20120730/

This week's CBS Sunday Morning revisited a Mike Wallace story from 1995 about a postal worker & his librarian wife who had amassed quite a collection of modern art in their apartment. They never sold any of it; and when they decided to find a permanent home for it, they turned down huge offers from various museums & collectors, and simply gave it to the National Gallery of Art. They received a small stipend, but that was it, which is how they wanted it.

What was interesting & sad about the story was the way it kept returning to the idea that this modest, art-loving couple didn't make a ton of money from their collection, as they easily could have -- that they deliberately chose not to go that route. Mike Wallace was aghast, as if the natural order of things had somehow been ignored or done away with!

Here's the original story:

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7380067n

The idea that art has an intrinsic value beyond dollars is one of those notions that's been jettisoned from education, as Hedges notes.

3:05 PM  
Anonymous TonyU said...

Please watch the following video. It is part 4 of the videos I provided earlier on Michael Moore’s interview by Piers Morgan of CNN. Here is the video and watch from 6:38 to 8:25

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hoiwqmv3jKo

Notice what Moore says:
American has collective mental illness that makes Americans to think the following thoughts:
1) Violence will solve our problems
2) Violence will make us safe
3) If we build more weapons, we will be ok.

Ponder on the message above. This collective mental illness is expressed in the mindset of every American, and this is the root of every evil/problem consuming America today.

3:12 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

MB,

OWS "could believe anything at all; their impact on American politics was literally 0. The really interesting question is why that is so."

The main reason I would give for OWS's failure to impact American is that people in OWS completely refuse to make their movement into anything political. Instead, it's a totally cultural movement, and it's about OWS members making a stand. Politics, by contrast, requires that one have a position on obtaining and using power. If people in OWS refuse to do this, they have only themselves to blame. It's as if people in OWS merely want to win a cultural or ideological victory, while leaving the political playing field open for their opponents to dominate.

As a secondary reason why OWS failed, I would mention the fact that the Manicheanism you describe so well is deeply ingrained in the American psyche and American culture. This Manicheanism is reproduced by the political messages being constantly being aired by television networks, talk shows, newspapers, etc, which shape Americans' perceptions of reality. In this decidedly shallow and status-quo-friendly media environment, even a modestly radical social movement such as OWS is up against some huge odds. In this connection, it's telling to remember how OWS was portrayed at the time that the movement began and was prominent - as a bunch of ragtag hippies not worth taking seriously.

3:40 PM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

"Health Care For All" (DK)
"End the Wars Bring The Troops Home" (DK & RP)
"Put Workers Before Profits" (?)
"End Corporate Welfare" (?)
"Protect The Planet" (?)
"Get Money Out Of Politics" (DK & RP)
"Human Needs Not Corporate Greed" (?)
"Tax The Rich And The Corporations" (DK)

It's all over the place, and it's not clear how any of these things cd be accomplished.

In the above parentheses, a "?" means that the bumper sticker may be too fuzzy/squishy/nebulous to implement without some serious discussion. (Although you could get a start on "Put Workers Before Profits" by raising the minimum wage by a couple dollars.)

DK = Dennis Kucinich
RP = Ron Paul

If one or the other is in parens, then if that person were elected President, I have no doubt that they would be able to have a legislative package on the subject ready to present to Congress by Inauguration Day.

Of the two that have both initials, the End the Wars one could be done by either of them by executive order. As those wacky founding fathers of quantum theory used to say...try a gedankenexperiment...can you imagine either of these two not doing that if they were in the Oval Office ? Really ?

Anyway, at least half of that OWS list of concepts could be reality with the right (unlikely) election result.

I concede the lack of skills and interest in reading, 'riting, 'rithmetic amongst the US population. But just as a pet can sense changes in the moods of the human(s) that feed(s) it, even average, dumb people in the US have begun, over the past few decades especially, to connect the dots between their elected representatives, their corporate masters, and their masters (or at least their co-dependent thugs) in the finance arena. I suspect that regardless of whether Obama or Mittney wins, the next 4 years will see the birth of a new type of deranged loner. The Aurora model will prove to have been a larval stage preceding the product of the final metamorphosis, which will soon come with a political agenda and without the desire to get caught. And...thanks to 3-D printers and the CSI family of shows, they may operate much more quietly than the larvae did, and may leave little forensic evidence behind.

4:17 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Noah-

Problem is, they wd have applauded any speaker on the left. They certainly applauded Michael Moore, and his understanding of history is pretty shallow. And by their own insistence, these were not 'leaders', since they had none, and wanted it that way. So, I don't really think citing Hedges proves very much, when all is said and done.

Shep-

I guess we'll hafta agree to disagree; I don't think I can spell things out any more clearly than I did. Well, I do agree w/u that the list is simple; but I don't think it is specific, exposes any frauds, or rejects the American Dream (mostly). Dunno what else to say.

I don't think the elites coopted the 'movement', because I don't think there was any movement to coopt (cf. the 60s, when Madison Avenue *did* coopt the movement). It takes power to displace power, and OWS had no interest in that, or even understanding of that. They had no real organization at all.

As far as ideology goes: this from an old bk of mine, "Coming to Our Senses": "An idea is something you have; an ideology is something that has you."

But maybe we shd give up on this, since as I said, the crucial pt is that OWS failed, and the crucial question is why. The other stuff seems like it's beating a dead horse, and not all that interesting.

mb

8:02 PM  
Blogger Noah Linden said...

MB,

If you were to make a list of things that OWS should have demanded, what would it be?

My criticism of OWS's demands isn't that they don't demand the dismantling of the American dream, but because they provide no philosophical justification for doing so. For instance: the demand that we stop the destruction of the natural world. Well, why should we? This is a question that requires philosophical assertions. This meshes with what you have called a lack of Meaning in American culture.

I will give this my best shot. The reason that we should halt the destruction of the natural world is that the natural world is sacred. I don't mean this is a fundamentalist sense, but in an existential sense. The natural world is sacred, and therefore, destroying it is a great crime. Future generations are also sacred, and destroying the natural world will destroy the human species, pretty much. The world's traditions are sacred, and the chaos and violence resulting from global warming will lead to the destruction of all cultures.

Is this something you could agree with?

9:11 PM  
Anonymous Savantesimal said...

When I went to Truthdig to read the article recommended by MB, I also noticed the Chris Hedges article that Tim Lukeman has posted about. What was especially interesting to me was the quote from The Power Elite by C. Wright Mills, about knowledge.

“Knowledge,” as C. Wright Mills wrote in “The Power Elite,” “is no longer widely felt as an ideal; it is seen as an instrument. In a society of power and wealth, knowledge is valued as an instrument of power and wealth, and also, of course, as an ornament in conversation.”

Since I have a copy of The Power Elite, a lucky find at a local Goodwill store, I went to look it up. Oddly, enough, I had not gotten around to reading the book myself. I just saw it and knew it was an important book, and would only cost a dollar since Goodwill sells all books for a flat single price. Even while skimming for this quote, which I found pretty quickly due to the good index, it was amazing to read something that seems to have been written about contemporary America. This was published in 1956, meaning it was researched in the decade or so before then -- right after WW II, and it's got the same litany of corruption and indifference and groupthink among the ruling classes that we are talking about now. There's really too much to cite any examples. I think I'd have to type in the whole book.

10:26 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Noah-

In the future, only one post a day, OK? Thank u.

Again, we're probably beating a dead horse here; the real question is why they failed. We cd learn a lot by exploring that, I think.

In terms of philosophical assertions, I think back to the SDS Port Huron Statement of 1962. This was a time when many young people were coherent and intelligent, and knew how to focus their minds and develop an argument. They knew what evidence was, and they knew that emotion was no substitute for serious analytical thought, no matter how deeply one felt abt things. They read difficult bks; and they weren't wallowing in techno-dreck. Most of the manifesto was written by Tom Hayden, and it argued that the history of race relations continued to hurt America badly, along with the Cold War and the nuclear threat, which left Americans alienated and democracy unreal, a charade.

OWS was a collection of slogans about a lot of different things. I cd be wrong, but to my knowledge they didn't come up w/anything equivalent to the Port Huron Statement; indeed, 50 yrs later, they lacked the intellectual muscle power to do that sort of thing. If OWS had had a genuine political structure, and if the organizing group had asked me to play Tom Hayden 50 years later, I wd have written that the No. 1 challenge facing America, if not the West in general, was to dismantle capitalism before it dismantled us. This was our singular purpose, and all our particular plans and bullet points followed from this one overriding goal. It would mean a redistribution of wealth in the short term, to relieve the suffering of the American people; but the shift to a steady-state, no-growth, no-profit, homeostatic economy in the long term. From this, a series of policy recommendations follow. I feel funny about listing these sorts of things, since they can only happen by force, by having no choice--which I do believe will eventually occur. But there is no way a country such as ours would (or could) adopt any of these things voluntarily, so I'm just blowing smoke here. I wd list things such as the conversion of corporations into R&D centers for alternative energy systems, mass transit systems, and 100% employment projects, along with natural environment restoration projects. The division of higher education into professional job training, and cultivation of the humanities and the social sciences; with those on the job track required to study the humanities as well. A moratorium on endless technological innovation, and the prohibition of the use of cell phones, blackberries, and all that crap in public. No more Facebook, no more disgusting 'social media'--none of that stuff. Abolition of the television set, the e-book, and iPad; people will learn to read real physical bks once again, with an accompanying shift back to the psychology of depth. Major revamping of the educational system from kindergarten to 12th grade in a very serious way: children will study math, science, literature, languages, human behavior, etc. Teachers will receive huge salaries; corporate executives, very small ones. Decentralization of the media--no more having 6 conglomerates controlling news and information. Similar revamping of the publishing industry, where quality, not profit, wd predominate. With the end of capitalism comes the end of empire, and of our tedious need to find someone to make war on, because we can no longer afford to indulge in such bullshit. And so on. (I have other things on my list of a more personal nature, such as the widespread distribution of deli meats in every city larger than 100,000, and the immediate fixing of Ted Koppel's haircut, which is a national disgrace; but let me leave these aside for now.)

(continued below)

10:40 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Well, I cd keep going, but u get the idea. The crux of the capitalist economy is endless growth, which is now destroying us; it also means one constantly lives for the future. A steady-state economy would also have a steady-state psychology: things are valuable not for their cash value, but for their intrinsic value, and your job is to live in the present as much as you can. My pt is that shutting down capitalism is the 'spine' of the project, as it were; the 'branches' that extend out from that trunk follow quite naturally, if you give it some thought. Thus there is a 'skeletal' structure that makes the whole thing coherent, and even includes the nature of healthy human psychology.

None of this will happen by choice, of course, but it does provide a real (utopian) blueprint, with both coherence and specificity. A lot of it-esp. eco-sustainability--will hit us when oil runs out and we are forced into austerity against our will, and proceed to make a virtue out of necessity. I don't know how old you are, but you, and possibly I, may live to see millions of cars rusting away,abandoned by the side of roads that are no longer used. Americans will read Gandhi ("There is enuf in this world for everybody's need, but not for everybody's greed") and John Ruskin ("There is no wealth but life"), and look back at the 550-year-'arc' of capitalism and shake their heads: How in the hell could people have allowed that to happen?, they will think. (Clearly, another good question.)

As for the issue of the sacredness of the natural world: you'll find my answer to that in a book I wrote in 1981, still in print, I'm happy to say: The Reenchantment of the World.

Hey, you asked!

mb

10:49 PM  
Anonymous shep said...

Thank you young man for a brilliant safari!! Bravo a million times. This is what we all agree on but are frustrated because we cannot manipulate the scenes. I am an observer with horrific grief about the state of the world. I agree that all you say is true but am unable to find the right words to say it. You, sir, are, by far, the sharpest tool in the box.

My frustrations with Prins and PCR are that they refuse to accept that we need. " to dismantle capitalism before it dismantles us."

Where the hell were you when the Occupy movement began? Why were you not there to articulate our feelings. You wd have been elected head Crazy Horse. Of course, u wd have then been disappeared, even in Mexico.

The collapse of the Capitalist Pyramid can't happen soon enough for me.

8:03 AM  
Anonymous Ray said...

Morris,


In your "casual" replies to posters who exhibit er...inconsistent...levels of appropriateness and clarity, you often write extended, lucid, hard-hitting paragraphs that belong in a para-book you will probably not write.

Although you circle around a set of ideas familiar by now to most regular Wafers, you never come across as a broken record the way James Howard Kunstler on a bad day sometimes can. Every time you bring the standard armamentarium of ideas out for another spin, some new insight always emerges from the latest encounter with your interlocutor.

Dmitry Orlov has his own brand of bitterly funny, rhetorically brilliant and Weimar-resque cleverness, but then again, you're not an East European survivor of authoritarianism - the big-heartedness that comes from you have grown up in the brief, best decades of the American experiment leaves the reader of your prose better protected from nihilism than in Orlov's case. And Orlov doesn't lend himself as well to honest and risky debate with interlocutors as you do - he's sometimes a little too busy being clever and cutting to take the trouble to write long honest replies.

Although you cover much of the same ground, somehow you also don't impart the sense of a uselessly flailing, embittered prophet the way Chris Hedges does. I suspect this old-testament quality comes from Hedges' divinity background. Also, I suspect he has an even more cruelly disappointed love for America than your natally more skeptical position, although you ARE both patriots in your own desperately sad ways.

Ray

8:06 AM  
Anonymous abc said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Your answer to Noah was one of the best critiques I've ever read about OWS. I have to agree the movement itself was incoherent and scattered no matter how justified; but it broke the ice and maybe what will come next will be a real force to be reckoned with and be about building a new world, not just propping up the old.

I'm a master gardener and have been thinking about starting a blog or teaching some local classes about simply reclaiming the earth--one square foot at a time. A simple concept and not too overwhelming to anyone who has no experience growing plants. I'm not a "survivalist" but do believe in the intrinsic value in knowing how to take care of yourself and share practical skills with other people. Strange times we live in--everything looks so predictable and stable and like it will go on and on with all its comforts and conviences.

10:39 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Ray, Shep-

B4 I say anything, there's this:

http://www.truthdig.com/cartoon/item/the_kiss_20120729/

I tell u, if this ain't the end of empire, nothing is.

Anyway...Thank you both for your support, I really appreciate it. Also thanx to Noah, who dragged the latest response outta me. Reference to me as a 'young man'--I turn 68 in 3 days--clearly, you deserve a free O&D! T-shirt. As for where I was in Sept. 2011--right here, but of course OWS was not interested (or aware of my work; why shd they be?), and the truly visible political pundits, who have little more than cheese omelettes in their heads, were praising them to the skies for NOT having a political platform or any type of serious organization. "The energy is good, let's not mess with it," etc. I personally wanted the (non)movement to succeed, so I wasn't overly critical; but I did post two items (check the archives): "The Wall Street Protests" and "Energy vs. Analysis," calling the thing into question, and spelling out the problems that eventually did prove to be Achilles' heels. A couple of months later I predicted OWS wd just melt into innocuous teach-ins, which is what happened. Americans are so stupid; I really can't say it enough.

Anyway, I'm glad Noah dragged that extended 'program' outta me, altho sitting around and imagining a utopia that won't come to pass has perhaps limited attraction for most of us here. As I said, the things that will happen, will come about because we won't have any choice, and may even hafta be enforced by 'iron', Taliban-style governments, since the American people have been fed a hustling, destructive philosophy for 400+ yrs now and, once again, are not sharp enough to think this thru or even recognize it. (I talk about this, indirectly, in the post called "The Parable of the Frogs," which was reprinted in A Question of Values.)

Why did OWS fail? There are a # of reasons beyond lack of much gray matter upstairs, but the one I point to in WAF is that we have always been, since Day 1, a guitar with one string; which is to say, lopsided, ideologically impoverished. Against the tide of hustling, and the American Dream, no opposition has ever been successful--dramatically demonstrated by the Civil War. Americans have the program in their DNA by now, and thus 99% of them look on any protest movements with utter disdain (this was true as well at the height of the Vietnam protests; only a tiny fraction of the American population were in the streets, and the huge majority were more upset by the protesters than by soldiers dropping jellied gasoline on infants.) Even the protesters are caught up in the dominant culture, so the most 'advanced' thinking is some form of the New Deal--a bandaid on cancer, really. And there are other reasons as well, which it might be useful for us to discuss.

So, anyway, thanks again for your support.

(Signed)
A Young Man

10:59 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: Shep: just so u know: Nomi Prins wrote me the other day, "We need to expand our humanity, not the economy."

11:01 AM  
Blogger Boris the Spider said...

I came across this today on salon.com, although it's from the L.A. Review of Books:

http://www.salon.com/2012/07/30/plutocratic_vistas_salpart/

He ends with some paragraphs speaking well of your work, beginning with this one:

"The American empire has already found its Edward Gibbon, at least in rough draft. The medieval intellectual historian turned social critic Morris Berman has produced a trilogy of works — The Twilight of American Culture (2000); Dark Ages America (2006); Why America Failed (2011) — that diagnose and forecast the country’s decline in real time with an imaginative freedom and an unyielding pessimism that no conventional academic historian would permit him- or herself. He has naturally been ignored when not (as, for example, by that bellwether of middlebrow, Michiko Kakutani, in The New York Times) ridiculed."

12:49 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Boris-

Yeah, George just sent me his essay from the LA Review, dated July 28. The last 3 paragraphs read as follows:

"The American empire has already found its Edward Gibbon, at least in rough draft. The medieval intellectual historian turned social critic Morris Berman has produced a trilogy of works — The Twilight of American Culture (2000); Dark Ages America (2006); Why America Failed (2011) — that diagnose and forecast the country’s decline in real time with an imaginative freedom and an unyielding pessimism that no conventional academic historian would permit him- or herself. He has naturally been ignored when not (as, for example, by that bellwether of middlebrow, Michiko Kakutani, in The New York Times) ridiculed.

"Unfortunately for his trilogy’s commercial and critical prospects, Berman has no last-minute proposals to save us from the long descent he foresees into soft authoritarianism and cultural debasement. Possessive individualism has thoroughly routed civic republicanism; hucksterism has vanquished virtue; a mindless commitment to economic growth has rendered the ideals of simplicity, balance, and voluntary renunciation all but unintelligible as guides to public policy rather than merely to individual salvation. It is too late for a happy ending.

"It is indeed late, as anyone who reads Berman without extraordinary mental inertness will find herself forced to acknowledge. And yet, omnia mutantur. The Dark Ages, if they arrive, will — may — eventually be followed by another Enlightenment, which our present efforts may assist, even though we go under. We may as well give Money a good fight. What else can ya do?"

abc-

Yr gardening project seems spot-on; true NMI stuff, imo.

mb

1:08 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ATTENTION ALL WAFERS!

I need yr help. I just wrote a short (12,000-word) little book in the 'spiritual guidance' genre (don' worry, it's abt as far from Oprah as you can get; you know me), and am having trouble getting it published. (Apparently my rep as an author who can't make any $ is known throughout the US publishing world.) My agent handles WAF-type stuff, not spiritual guidance; and the editors at the most likely publishing houses, such as Tarcher or Shambhala, don't even bother to reply. My Mexican publisher, on the other hand, thought it was the hottest thing since chocolate tortillas and will be bringing it out in Span trans next yr, along with a series of illustrations to accompany the text. Which is great, but I'm frustrated that I can't find some American publisher with similar cojones to step up and take it on. It would hafta be a small bk, w/not too much text on any one page; but then "Tuesdays with Morrie" did well, so format shd not be a crucial issue here.

Anyway, I've pulled out all the stops and thus far have struck out. If anybody rdg this has connections to anyone in publishing, who might conceivably be interested in this project--pls, let me know. Beyond that, there's not much I can do.

Thanks.

mb

1:35 PM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

Shep,

I was skeptical of PCR at first, given his past gang affiliation with the Voodoo-8088 crowd.

But consider this from near the end of his recent column Escape from Economics:

My suggestion is that you read Hudson along with Taibbi’s Griftopia, Nomi Prins’ It Takes A Pillage, Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner’s Reckless Endangerment, and Daly and Cobb’s For the Common Good. Then if you ever do study economics, you will be armored against being ensnared in the matrix that produces economists as shills for finance capitalism, environmental destruction, and the offshoring of the economy.

Long strange trip from where he was to where he appears to be. I'm guessing a whole different person, but I didn't know him back in the Voodoo Economics days. Maybe he hasn't gotten to as anti-capitalist, pro-environment a place as you or I have, but consider that he's had to swim against the ideological tide created by his former colleagues. Non-trivial degree of difficulty on that action.

Morris, Noah, et al,

Consider the possibility that the Occupy crowds in various cities already knew that if they tried to be a political force, then they would have been co-opted by the MSM, Move On, HuffPost, or some new Democratic Party acronym spawned just for the purpose. The disaffection with politics is not just a coastal or urban phenomenon. Seriously, you can parachute into any fly-over State you choose, stow your chute gear, walk into the local coffee shop (sorry, pecan pie but no deli meats yet) and get more than a majority of customers to agree that:
1) 90%+ of all politicians are liars and/or crooks,
2) 90%+ of corporations don't care about either their customers or their employees, just the bottom line,
3) over half of all of #1 & #2 is influenced by fewer than half a dozen banks.

I think of the Occupy locations as large flash mobs that didn't dissipate quickly. Lots of people had conversations and exchanged addresses, phone numbers, etc on paper. These personal connections are not easily subject to digital analysis. I don't think of them as being co-opted, unless a new definition of co-opting is prevalent which does not entail the idea of a seduction away from one's original purpose/values. It's pretty clear that they were just physically suppressed through dispersion of the attendants...who can reassemble at the drop of a dime.

I also think of the Occupy events as large numbers of NMI's coming together in a local venue. Many of the youngsters were rookies at this, but come on...you had people older than my 61 years there who probably had an old Ban the Bomb sign in their basement. If nothing else, they wrote the 99& v. 1% meme into the national DNA. That meme is a prerequisite to dismantling capitalism. Without it, Americans can still fantasize about Making It Big...with it, more and more of them will start to connect more and more of the dots. The USA is a super-saturated solution waiting for a catalytic event. Like I suspect most of us here, I'm expecting the result to be tyrannic and/or tragic...but the roulette wheel has at least one green slot, so why give up yet?

1:38 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Ty-

Thanks for post, but pls try to keep it abt half as long in future.

Best,
mb

2:22 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Then there's this (thanks, Ty):


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acLW1vFO-2Q&list=FLbXK5JLR1fZL-WIzoKtGYFQ&index=26&feature=plpp_video

7:47 PM  
Blogger Noah Linden said...

MB,

Good list there. I would add:
•Population control; a one child per family policy until the population in America is about 30 million, at which point it will be sustainable.
•Strict oversight of corporate entities by government to rigidly ensure health and safety standards.
•Outlawing of genetic engineering, alcohol and cigarettes
•Intense and widespread reforestation programs to help rebuild America's environment
•Abolition of pornography and rock music, since these things are sleazy and destructive (did you know that mice that listen to rock music devour each other?).
•Huge funding for the arts, with mandatory participation in artistic activities all throughout elementary, middle, and high school, as well as college
•Philosophy courses will be required in all levels of schooling as well

12:35 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

N-

Maybe a couple of problems, I dunno...getting the US population down to 30 million would mean killing off large #s; but this might go well w/my idea of giving everyone an AK-47. In fact, I think it might be gd to place semi-automatic weapons in the cradles of babies, instead of teddy bears. That way, it might take us only 3-4 yrs to reduce to pop. from 311 million to 30 million. Of course, where to stick 281 million corpses is a whole other issue...

Then there's alcohol...I really do like a good martini once in a while, and enjoy puffing on a Cuban cigar while imbibing it. Remember Prohibition? We don' wanna get too puritanical here. A small amt of sleaze adds spice to life, don't u think?

Abolition of rock music...god, I wd suffer. Cd I seriously live w/o Procol Harum, or Green Day, or "Something in the way she moves/Attracts me like no other lover..."

"I know/It's only rock 'n' roll/But I like it..."

mb

2:08 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

To Roosevelt

The voice that would reach you, Hunter, must speak
in Biblical tones, or in the poetry of Walt Whitman.
You are primitive and modern, simple and complex;
you are one part George Washington and one part Nimrod.
You are the United States,
future invader of our naive America
with its Indian blood, an America
that still prays to Christ and still speaks Spanish.

You are strong, proud model of your race;
you are cultured and able; you oppose Tolstoy.
You are an Alexander-Nebuchadnezzar,
breaking horses and murdering tigers.
(You are a Professor of Energy,
as current lunatics say).

You think that life is a fire,
that progress is an irruption,
that the future is wherever
your bullet strikes.
No.

The United States is grand and powerful.
Whenever it trembles, a profound shudder
runs down the enormous backbone of the Andes.
If it shouts, the sound is like the roar of a lion.
And Hugo said to Grant: "The stars are yours."
(The dawning sun of the Argentine barely shines;
the star of Chile is rising..) A wealthy country,
joining the cult of Mammon to the cult of Hercules;
while Liberty, lighting the path
to easy conquest, raises her torch in New York.

But our own America, which has had poets
since the ancient times of Nezahualcóyolt;
which preserved the footprint of great Bacchus,
and learned the Panic alphabet once,
and consulted the stars; which also knew Atlantic
(whose name comes ringing down to us in Plato)
and has lived, since the earliest moments of its life,
in light, in fire, in fragrance, and in love--
the America of Moctezuma and Atahualpa,
the aromatic America of Columbus,
Catholic America, Spanish America,
the America where noble Cuauthémoc said:
"I am not in a bed of roses"--our America,
trembling with hurricanes, trembling with Love:
O men with Saxon eyes and barbarous souls,
our America lives. And dreams. And loves.
And it is the daughter of the Sun. Be careful.
Long live Spanish America!
A thousand cubs of the Spanish lion are roaming free.
Roosevelt, you must become, by God's own will,
the deadly Rifleman and the dreadful Hunter
before you can clutch us in your iron claws.

And though you have everything, you are lacking one thing:
God!
--Ruben Dario, 1904 (Nicaragua)

2:41 AM  
Anonymous satyaSarika said...

Dear mb,

You mention the mayhem that will come when we run out of oil ...

An even worse scenario is entirely likely. See https://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/07/24-2

The human techno-scourge is bringing PachaMama to the sixth great extinction.

4:02 AM  
Anonymous Rowdy said...

Speaking of rock music, here's the best condemnation of the hustler mentality ever recorded:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54H3EUAzpVg

5:15 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Gore Vidal (1925-2012). A great loss for this country.

11:42 AM  
Anonymous David M said...

Dr. B. & DAAers

One of most influential books I read in my youth was Gore Vidol's historical novel "Burr". He presented Aaron Burr in a diferent light. Not so much as just the "killer of Alexander Hamilton", which is all you get in history class in school, but a person who was an integral part of that historical period. I gained more than just an alternative view of Burr, but also it made me realize that there were other ways of looking at history and that much is left out that does not fit the sacred sanctioned version. This I believe was a major part of my realization that something was amiss and inspired me to persue other alternative historical works such as Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" Edward Said's "Orientalism" and W.E.B. Du Bois's The Souls of Black Folk". Vidal might be the person who made me who I am today. He will be missed.
O&D

1:30 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Anon-

I'm not publishing anything from Anons anymore; too many of them. Pls pick a handle and re-send.

mb

1:57 PM  
Anonymous Bruckner said...

Here are some more movies about how the 1% Function...

2:09 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Occupy 101-

Here are the rules for posting on this blog:

1. No Anonymous postings
2. Only one post a day
3. Half-page post at most

And most relevant in your case:
4. No personal, ad hominem attacks on myself or any one else on the blog; no sarcasm, put-downs, etc. (Courtesy 101)

I understand how hard it is for you to avoid doing this; after all, you are an American. One reason I left the US was that I slowly came to the conclusion that Americans were a whole other species, characterized by rudeness, competitiveness, and aggression; why wd I want to interact w/such people? The Americans on this blog are into de-toxing from all that cultural conditioning, and thus don't engage in your type of rhetoric. Hence, if you have an argument to make, here's how to do it:

1. Present what it is, in a calm way
2. Present your evidence for it
3. Leave out the aggressive editorializing etc. that I referred to above; it makes you, not me or the people you are putting down, look bad.

As I said, I know it won't be easy for u, but give it a shot. I'll be glad to post any courteous objection/critique that you have to anything I've said.

mb

2:30 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Thought I'd share a recent column by the invaluable Glenn Greenwald, detailing how swiftly & easily what was once taboo (officially sanctioned torture, spying on citizens, etc.) is normalized in contemporary political culture:

http://www.salon.com/2012/07/31/extremism_normalized/

At the very bottom he supplies a picture of the official logo of the Navy's drone executive in all its hideous but accurate glory. Erich Fromm's The Heart of Man & his description of those with a certain (all too familiar) mentality & worldview as necrophiles immediately comes to mind.

MB, your book on spiritual guidance sounds especially vital & necessary right now.

3:10 PM  
Anonymous Ken Smith said...

Maury,

Great rules. "No personal, ad hominem attacks on myself or any one else on the blog; no sarcasm, put-downs, etc. (Courtesy 101)"

I'm convinced there is a festering mean streak in Americans. This becomes easier to see the longer one lives outside the USA and I've been an expat for a dozen years now. I don't know the cause of this meanness, but I know that it exists.

My son is fluent in several languages (English, French, German, Russian and Romanian). I've asked him if comments and discussion boards in other languages are as nasty as are Americans. No, he says, Americans win that prize and only Romanians come close.

I live near Guadalajara, Mexico and I follow some local Tweeters and boards. While I am far from fluent, my Spanish reading comprehension is fairly good. Even the toughest of the tough guys (nacos) are not as rude as anonymous American laptop warriors.

3:14 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Tim-

Yeah, I think so too; except that publishers are just not replying to my queries, for the most part. It can't be ideology, since they haven't read it. I'm guessing the work doesn't smell of money, so they are not interested. Of course, in the US, money *is* ideology, so...

mb

3:17 PM  
Anonymous JPF said...

You could self-publish the spiritual guide like your poems, A Question of Values, and Destiny.

And kudos for keeping the comments civil!

Happy Birthday too!

5:06 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

JPF-

Actually, the poetry was published by a small upscale publisher in Boston, the Cervena Barva Press. Most of the sales have come thru Amazon, however, rather than thru the CBP website. But it was not a self-published bk.

The problem with going the self-publishing route for the spiritual guide is that it will get very poor distribution. This was not true for A Question of Values, I admit. I mean, it had no publicity or distribution, but (mirabile dictu) it's doing quite well; but Destiny just limps along, and I fear the spiritual guide will follow that pattern. In a word, I think I'm screwed.

Ken, JPF-

I'm always taken aback when someone enters the blog w/no awareness of context and thinks that the way to come on is in an insulting or put-down manner. I shdn't be, I suppose: Americans are taught (conditioned) by the culture to be rude and aggressive. But these sorts of messages bring home to me, again and again, how incredibly damaged Americans are; it's like douchebaggery is sewn into their DNA or something. Why wd anyone think that an angry tone, and strutting like a peacock, wd be persuasive? "Naco" is hard to translate, but it really is perfect in these cases, and I'm guessing 95% of Americans are nacos. I tell u, the avg emotional age in the US is about 12, at best. CRE all the way!

mb

7:08 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary said...

Happy birthday, Dr. B, and thank you.

7:22 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Sanc-

It's Aug. 3, actually, but thanks for yr good wishes. It's quite amazing, how a half century can go by in the blink of an eye. Guess I'm not 18 any more.

Howard Austen, Gore Vidal's companion of many yrs, on his deathbed in 2003: "Didn't it go by awfully fast?"

I have to remember that every day is a gift, a golden coin, and that I can't be wasting it on poop.

mb

8:01 PM  
Blogger Mister Roboto said...

If Americans don’t actually have fried rice inside their heads, they are doing an excellent job of imitating people who do; and with that level of cranial impairment, there will be no reversal of the disastrous downhill slide in which we are now engaged.

It was "steamed pureed vegetables" instead of "fried rice" at Counterpunch.org, and I liked that version a lot better. I have an IQ of something approaching 130, and believe me, if you have any sort of brain in your head, the USA is the loneliest country in the world in which you could possibly live. I imagine I could feel at least some affection for my homeland if there was something holding the whole thing together, but there isn't and never has been. It's just too depressing.

10:10 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Roboman-

The editor at Tikkun, where the review 1st appeared, is (I believe) Chinese, and perhaps was a little concerned with the possible racial overtones of 'fried rice'. I wd have been happy to have said 'matzoh balls', but finally decided on 'a puree of steamed vegetables', because it sounded so bland and unappetizing. Anyway, as far as being isolated in America if u have half a brain, that's certainly true; but you'll also be isolated if you have half a heart as well. Americans are not merely dumb; they are also callous, and u run into this again and again, virtually on a daily basis, if u live in the US. (Check out the Twilight bk for some examples.) Hustling holds the whole thing together; which makes for a rather rootless, centrifugal culture of very unhappy people.

mb

11:02 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

I tell ya, it just gets better and better:

http://www.theindychannel.com/news/31273876/detail.html

USA! USA!

mb

12:43 AM  
OpenID brutus said...

I don't have an insider view of OWS, but I have a different take even though I admit confusion and conflicting hopes for what OWS might have become. In its earliest stages, OWS was merely public shaming of Wall Street greedmeisters. I liked that part, which made a strong statement, but then folks in other cities copycatted it and suddenly there was a populist movement.

There was also, for better or worse, a very self-aware refusal to adopt the hierarchical structures of political and corporate entities, since they are examples of the very sorts of corruption OWS sought to avoid. By demurring to step directly into the political arena or adopt mechanisms and leadership to get things done, OWS may well have sealed its own fate. Its only power was in shaming, which was accomplished pretty well, since the powers that be finally tired of having the mirror held up to their faces.

Prof. Berman appears to be calling for a beneficent dictator to overcome the tragedies of democracy or even representational government. In the absence of the wise but tyrannical ruler needed to force the masses to face up to reality, we'll slide headlong into reality anyway, though perhaps considerably less gracefully.

1:45 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

But he was "a good family man", Dr. Berman. I can't wait until the police charge the 3 year old with murder. Anyway, Gore Vidal will be sorely missed. I assume that you know Truthdig has a recording of Vidal reading "President Jonah" in which you are prominently featured and discussed. By the way, I just returned from 31/2 months in SE Asia and the first sight I witnessed while walking to my gate at Detriot airport was an elderly woman rolling 2 suitcases (one in each arm) while her teenage grand-daughter (I assumed) was walking beside her talking on a cell phone. In other words, I knew I was back in the USA. Happy birthday!

2:37 AM  
Blogger jerome langguth said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I sincerely hope that you are successful in finding a US publisher for your new book. As others have commented, now is the time. Perhaps you could point out that you (as George) have appeared on Oprah. That should establish your spiritual credentials, and the fact that your Oprah moment was fictional probably won't register given CRE.

Jerome

7:08 AM  
Blogger Mister Roboto said...

Another thing I've noticed is that USAmericans seem to have an infinite capacity for making themselves believe that "2+2=5 and we've always been at war with Eurasia" (perhaps a personal and social extension of our culture of hustling for the sake of hustling) whenever it salves their egos or serves some agenda of theirs to do so. The mass cognitive dissonance this situation inevitably produces very often makes it a huge waste of time to even try talking to other people about anything.

8:36 AM  
Blogger jml said...

What you have said about the American people is completely true - the problem is not the system as much as it is the American people. I applaud you for saying this. The evidence is all around us. I remember as a young person growing up in Houston, Texas in the 70's and 80's (an orgy of wealth and gross behavior) thinking that becoming middle or upper middle class seemed to act as a license for awful behavior - arrogance, drunkenness, lewd displays of sexuality - this is what Americans wasted the proseperity of the 20thc on - it's hard to feel sorry them/us.
On another note regarding the stupidity of young people - much of this is due to technology. I took a biology class at a community college this summer. Because textbooks have become so expensive most students don't buy the book. Rather than read, they just google. Answers appear instantaneously. I don't wnat to be around when the oil runs out and this generation has to figure out how to run the place.

8:52 AM  
Anonymous David M said...

Dr. B & DAAers
Over at Truthdig Bill Boyarsky just can't understand why so many folks on the left so hate poor Barack. The fact that he has sold out the poor and the working class, that he is a war criminal, that he is in bed with the wallstreeters and banksters and that he is not even willing to sign a weapons' treaty designed to protect children women and fellow minorities around the world just doesn't occur to Bill. Seems to me that as a journalist(an honest one) he should be pointing these things out to us. I guess it goes to your point Dr. B that Americans are locked in a Manichaean mindset and can't see colors only black and white. Defend the fort at all cost no matter that its foundations are rotten. Heaven forbid we critique our own positions for their failures. BTW he must be reading the posts and comments here.
O&D
PS on the rock and roll front I've always been a fan of Quicksilver Messenger Service(the sons of mercury)

9:10 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

Re: Anonymous posting on the internet

(http://www.salon.com/2012/08/01/online_comments_are_toxic_salpart/)

9:13 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

jml-

I read some article a while back saying that American med students were studying for their exams not from Gray's Anatomy or any other textbooks, but from Wikipedia. Next time you need a brain operation, I suggest finding a doctor in Mexico or Canada.

Dan-

That's a great vignette. In the US, satire becomes reality. As for the Gore reading, thanks, I had no idea. But my experience w/Truthdig has been disappointing: they won't run my stuff. They declined to review WAF, and more recently, I submitted "Slouching Towards Nuremberg" to them via Chris Hedges, who sent it in to Peter Scheer and recommended they publish it. Response: complete silence. (By comparison, Tikkun and Counter Punch ran it w/o a hitch.) Perhaps Truthdig needs to have 'happy ending' stories; I dunno. Obviously, I have none to offer.

brutus-

Yr kidding, rt? 1st, the ruling class, heavily sociopathic, was not 'shamed' by OWS, nor were they quaking in their boots, as some believed. Rather, they looked out at the crowd from their glass towers with bemusement, thinking such people were ridiculous and naive (not entirely off the mark, as far as naive went). Be clear abt this: the ruling class is beyond shame, and OWS did not manage to impinge on their hustling consciousness one iota. They went in to work every day, accumulated more cash for the top 1%, regarded OWS and the 99% as poor shmucks, and slept well every night. As Lloyd Blankfein said, and clearly believes, and I quote verbatim: "We are doing God's work." Not a whole lotta shame there, as far as I can see.

2nd: you do know that yr putting words in my mouth, yes? Show me where I call for a benevolent dictator. You seem to be confusing hierarchy or basic political organization w/authoritarianism. I grant u that the USSR did not handle that issue very well (to say the least), but that is hardly the only model of hierarchy or political organization around. OWS failed for a whole host of reasons, as far as I can make out; but refusing to work toward acquiring any type of real political clout surely has to be one of the larger ones.

mb

9:29 AM  
Blogger jml said...

the biology class i was taking was filled with people wanting to be nurses - and yes - wikipedia was a main source. i shudder at the thought of being at the mercy of a nurses schooled by wikipedia and googel
the strange thing is that while so many could not afford a book, most had the newest i-phone and/or i-pad. and many were very well-dressed - meaning brand new clothes, brand new nike athletic shoes, handbags, etc. - i often felt rather shabbily attired, yet i had a textbook!
with a little research textbooks are not even that expensive - i rented a brand new one for $50.00 through a company called chegg.
but research takes time and thought

9:49 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

jml-

Good feedback, but try to limit yr postings to one a day, por favor. As for all the clowns with iPhones: the only way I can walk thru the US anymore is as an anthropologist. You look around, and these people are utter buffoons--caricatures of themselves.

O&D, amigo-

mb

10:16 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

blogmaster:

Dumbo Ques. How many lines = 1/2 page?

Maestro:

Prins. Looks like ur rubbing of on her. It is all ur fault.

So glad ur are on the CounterPunch site as a regular.

Your Port Huron Stament for the OWS Movement is extremely valuable. It needs to be spread around as much as possible even tho we all know where we are headed. I am going to e-mail it to anyone I can think of.

For those interested:

The original October2011.org still functions with a lot of current heroic stories.

Hayden's statement re: The occupy movement

I began drafting the Port Huron Statement (32 pages - on this computer) from a segregated jail cell in Albany, Ga., after a freedom ride.
Recently, I saw the same spirit I had witnessed in the South 50 years ago — the spirit that inspired the Port Huron Statement — in the actions of undocumented undergraduates risking deportation to stand up for the Dream Act. I saw it in the Wisconsin movement to recall Gov. Scott Walker, and in
Occupy Wall Street's insistence that 1% of the population shouldn't control such a vast portion of
the country's wealth. (In fact, that felt like a direct echo of the Port Huron Statement, which complained in 1962 that 1% of Americans owned 80% of all corporate stock, and that their percentage of all wealth had remained constant since the 1920s, in spite of the New Deal reforms.)
These new movements have grown up because courageous people saw wrong and decided to push for what was right. And if they should begin to grow cynical or discouraged by how difficult it is to make change, they might consider how things looked to us in 1962. As we put it in the final words of the Port Huron Statement:
"If we appear to seek the unattainable, as it has been said, then let it be known that we do so to avoid the unimaginable."


abc:

Wd love to join ur blog idea. Pls start up soon. I'm hungry.

11:42 AM  
Blogger Noah Linden said...

Cigarettes kill several million people a year worldwide. Sorry, but they have to go.

Alcohol is involved in the majority of suicides. It's also often involved in a huge percentage of domestic violence incidences and rapes, and kills a couple million people a year worldwide, mostly through liver ailments. Alcohol also has to go.

As far as hard rock music, study after study has confirmed that listening to it actually damages the brain. Children that listen to it for a few hours before IQ tests score about 30 points lower. The last thing we need in today's world is to decrease peoples' intelligence even further. I wish it were not so, but the data does not lie.

It isn't Puritanism, but rather a desire for people to suffer less, that leads me to this conclusion. I know this statement would make me extremely unpopular everywhere, but I could care less.

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sadly your historical perspective are not much better. Greed was there much earlier with slavery, genocide of native peoples started earlier than the 16th century

12:11 PM  
Anonymous TonyU said...

Dr B, thanks for the link to the following news event:
"They're a great family. I mean, they all loved each other,"
"It's a bad tragedy. He was carrying the gun for his personal safety."
http://www.theindychannel.com/news/31273876/detail.html

Remember the words of Michael Moore: If we build more weapons, if we stockpile more guns, we will be ok and safe.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hoiwqmv3jKo

I have a confession to make. When I first moved to Aurora/Denver area more than 12 years ago, there were these skin heads and Aryan brotherhood gangs running around killing foreigners and minority people. I said to myself: I am a man and a human being and I have the right to defend myself and my wife and children. This time my oldest child was about 12 and my youngest was about 8. I went to gun shows with one of my America friends/co-workers and bought three huge guns – American-made. Two weeks later, I went to gun shop and bought brand new versions of the same guns I bought from gun shows. I bought lots of bullets too. I was ready for war with anybody or any group who wants to harm me or any member of my family. I knew/know very well the history of British people in my country of origin – how they came with their guns, telling everybody what to do and pillaging and killing entire communities for many centuries – simply because they got more guns plus superiority complex; therefore, I would not have any idiot do to me in America what the British did to my grand fathers. So I fortified my home, ready for war, kamikaze style, dead or alive, bring it on. This was about 12 years ago. The good news? Nobody came to kill me or my family members. My wife and children did not know I had the guns for more than 10 years. The bad news? I am now stock with lots of guns and ammos. If go back, I would not buy the guns – wasted resources; dangerous idea to keep guns in a house with children (though, I never keep the guns loaded).

12:17 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Anon-

In future I won't post u, because I don't want to post Anons. You might wanna pick a handle. But I wanted to respond to this because you are terribly confused. I'm not talking about war and aggression; I'm talking about a hustling economy, w/accompanying attitudes and behavior, and this dates from late 16C on the American continent, and not much earlier than 1500 worldwide. Earlier social formations could certainly include slavery and genocide (although genocide really doesn't get going until the early 20C); but that doesn't mean they were open-ended, expansive economies--not at all. They were homeostatic, i.e. not growth oriented. I mean, aggression existed in the Stone Age; but the Stone Age economy was one of barter, not greed/hustling/profit/expansion. Your mistake is an honest one, of course, but (sad to say) your historical perspective lacks any real understanding. The human race has evolved (or devolved) thru a number of economic stages, and there are serious differences between them. They can hardly all be lumped into a category of 'greed', going back to the year dot. You might want to read "Why America Failed" to get some clarity on this.

Noah-

Well, those things aren't going to go, so this is all idle talk. 2nd, there is a real danger in being so austere--it usually backfires. You might want to consider that the problem is not use, but abuse. Your approach is basically all-or-nothing; the word 'some', however, might be a good one to contemplate. Not too many people are going to want to live in your world, I'm guessing, and w/gd reason. Check out the work of Isaiah Berlin, a good antidote to utopian puritanism.

Shep-

I dunno; you might eyeball it. As for SDS, Port Huron, etc.: yes, great intelligence (unlike OWS) and great ideals, but ultimately, much of the 60s were coopted, as you know. The SDS didn't defeat us in Vietnam (Gen. Westmoreland to the contrary); the Vietcong did! After the dust settled on the 60s, the US just went back to business as usual. Not only did things not change; they got demonstrably worse! It really is impt to see the US for what it is, amigo, and not nurture any hope. Hope is fine in a context that will support it; we do not have that context. Game over; the fix is in. Try to breathe that into your cells, on a deep level. *Then* think abt what yr options are.

mb

1:00 PM  
Blogger David Clausen said...

Hello Morris, and posters to the blog; it’s refreshing to find another oasis of discontent in the desert of vacuity which constitutes modern life.

My experience with the Canadian medical system—though perhaps it is preferable to the US of A’s—would encourage me to consult Wikipedia and try brain surgery on myself, should I need it.

New Society Publishers—whose quirky list includes a book on feeding yourself with road kill (Unlearn, Rewild)—may be savvy enough to value your spiritual self-help manuscript. They represent Dmitry Orlov and John M. Greer, too, so their website will get some traffic.

5:07 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Noah-

When I said 1 post per day, I actually meant it! OK?

Agelbert-

We have a text limit on this blog. Wd love to post yr contribution, but you need to compress it by abt 50%. Thank you.

David-

Yeah, perhaps yr rt; I've been thinking abt a do-it-yrself lobotomy for a long time now. Anyway, thanx for ref to New Society; I'll check them out, tho I'm not a big fan of baked muskrat.

mb

5:57 PM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

Wafers:
My late friend Ron Shock had a comedy routine about a death the police & coroner ruled a suicide...even though the weapon in question was a bolt-action .22 rifle. It's not part of his Youtube collection, so you'll have to trust me, 'twas hilarious.

But what level of suspension of disbelief do the cops in this case expect us to achieve ? Sheesh...
http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2012/aug/01/handcuffed_marijuana_arrestee_sh

David,
Misadventures in the Canadian brain surgery department might be attributed to the docs being under the mistaken impression that their patient is from the 'lower 48', causing them to operate in the rectal area, where most Yanks have what remains of their brains.

MB,
Just in case you have to get in bed with a roadkill publisher...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbPiUFBONSo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=doqTSev-_lQ

and just cuz yr in Mexico

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQUbeFlXiAc

7:03 PM  
Anonymous Smith said...

Speaking of your comment about the U.S. citizens being basically a new breed of human species, rude and aggressive and competitive...

When you realize that, it puts a whole new light on some of the things we observe every day, and changes some of the inferences we make. Adults who used to seem paranoid and delusional to us, or children who used to seem whiny to us...suddenly, they actually have a point!

We DO educate our children to conform to a rude, aggressive world, and punish them if they don't agree.

We DO punish our employees for being too nice or expressing "civilized" ideas.

The best analogy I can think of is George Orwell's short essay, "Such, Such Such Were the Joys."

I recommend it heavily.

It's an autobiography of his hellish schoolboy days in a British boarding school. The part I found the most compelling is the part where he describes the fact that the rules of the school contradicted each other to such an extreme, it was literally not possible to be "good."

Kind of like the United States country in general, right? ^_^

8:32 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

This American Life: Douche Bags Out of Control Dept.:

http://www.cnn.com/video/?hpt=hp_c2#/video/bestoftv/2012/08/01/tsr-moos-pkg-711-clerk-gone-wild.cnn

9:22 PM  
Anonymous Zero said...

We all know about the CRE epidemic afflicting 99% of Americans, but a more severe strain of this malady has now been identified. It is called CVE (Cranial Vaginal Embedment), and it seems to already affect large numbers of US military personel. Amazingly enough, CVE infections spread freely from computers to humans and vice-versa. More details here:

http://rt.com/usa/news/missile-defense-porn-employees-744/

Zero (the artist formerly known as Julian)

7:43 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

More Douche Bags, etc. (every day the Embedment gets deeper):

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/07/26/florida-man-kills-door-to-door-salesman-i%E2%80%99ll-kill-anybody-that-steps-on-my-property/

http://article.wn.com/view/WNAT612DC8B6A04DE06896C601EB6FA7C8A9/

http://now.msn.com/lifeguard-gets-dollar2600-hospital-bill-after-saving-drowning-boy

8:38 AM  
Anonymous abc said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Happy Birthday! Live long and prosper.

9:56 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

abc-

Many thanks.

Anon-

Sorry, I don't post messages from Anons. You might wanna pick a handle.

mb

12:42 PM  
Blogger Noah Linden said...

Well, I think that if someone feels that he/she cannot live in a world without alcohol and cigarettes, it's time for that person to find other things to fulfill him/her. And there's alot in this world that can fulfill us: art, non-destructive music, literature, athletics, philosophy, etc.

Not drinking or smoking does not make one a Puritan. As you pointed out, Puritans believed in their own superiority, as something that was pre-ordained by God. No, at least in my case, and in many other peoples' cases, not smoking or drinking is all about not polluting one's own body and mind.

Especially in the case of alcohol, there's no such thing as moderation, because it shuts down the parts of the brain that govern rational thought and self-restraint.

I've seen what alcohol and cigarettes do to people. My grandfather died of emphysema, and was also an alcoholic.

Please do not think I am judging anyone here. I'm only approaching all of this from a medical perspective, with firsthand knowledge of the dangers of alcohol and smoking.

1:32 PM  
Anonymous JWO said...

Let me add my congratulations on your birthday too, keep to the chopped liver and you'll have another 50 years to write WAF Volume 21: the CRE Chronicles.

1:36 PM  
Anonymous TonyU said...

@Dr B: Happy birthday!
I do not even remember my birthday. My wife (an American) and my kids (all Americans) have to remind me of my birthday, yearly, because I was not raised in a culture where birthdays are celebrated. I’m not fooled tho! Celebrating birthdays in America is like celebrating Christmas: it is not about the person or religion, but about supporting capitalist markets. The celebrations are promoted because buying gifts makes businesses profitable. The personal or religious significance of the celebration is irrelevant.

@Smith
"the rules... contradicted each other to such an extreme, it was literally not possible to be "good." Kind of like the United States country in general"

Read George Orwell's Animal Farm:
Rule #1: All animals are equal.

Rule #1: (later modified to feed the ego of some people): Some animals are more equal than other animals.

If someone had said (30, 50, 100, 120 years ago) that the American Constitution is anti-democracy and anti-governance, he would have been lynched. We know today that some people have more rights than others in USA. In fact, thugs who stole $millions from public funds enjoy more constitutional protection, more healthcare, and more respect than Americans who work 40 hours per week for a living. Read Sanford Levinson's "Constitutional Faith" or his "Our Undemocratic Constitution"

1:38 PM  
OpenID brutus said...

Prof. Berman sez: Yr kidding, rt? 1st, the ruling class, heavily sociopathic, was not 'shamed' by OWS, nor were they quaking in their boots, as some believed.

No, I’m not kidding, though I did say my take on OWS was different. To me, it matters very little that sociopaths repudiate and repel the shame heaped upon them or even that most Americans want to join them. It’s still theirs. That’s what makes them sociopaths and what makes our culture insane. It is interesting to note that in his speech "(The Great Unmentionable) Monotheism and its Discontents," given at Harvard University on April 20, 1992, Gore Vidal said something prescient and related:

“Plainly, the ownership of the country is frightened that the current hatred of politicians, in general, may soon be translated into hatred of that corporate few who control the many through Opinion, as manufactured by the Times, among others.”

That speaks to the original intent behind OWS to which I drew attention, which origin was lost when the endeavor failed to transition into a full-blown political movement. So what happens when the masses are no longer content with manufactured opinion, failed hopes, and the utter uselessness of political dissent, protest, and organizing? Will they revoke their consent to be governed and turn on the controllers like in so many revolutions and civil wars? That may be the real thing to be afraid of, though true sociopaths no doubt believe they can just sail off into the horizon on yachts purchased with ill-gotten gains.

also: 2nd: you do know that yr putting words in my mouth, yes? Show me where I call for a benevolent dictator.

I was merely extrapolating along the lines of making the trains run on time. You’ve been quite clear that you expect none of the reforms in your own Port Huron Statement (what else to call it?) to occur and are only blowing so much wind. I apologize if my original hedge wasn’t clear enough.

However, in spite of my own fatalism regarding the fate of the empire, and for that matter my abiding misanthropy, the American populace may well be as much victims as villains in this story, so I can’t sustain my condemnation like you do. We all inherited our lot, with antecedents tracing back millennia, depending on the frame one adopts, and almost all of us were ruined people well before we reached adulthood and could reasonably accept full responsibility for ourselves.

3:00 PM  
Blogger Cj said...

Hi Professor, here's a link to a terrific article in the Baffler eviscerating the hollow antics of John Stewart and Stephen Colbert:

The Jokes on You

In case I screwed up the link here it is for copying and pasting:
http://www.thebaffler.com/past/the_jokes_on_you/print

Chuck

4:28 PM  
Anonymous Zero said...

MB,

Happy Birthday!

May the force be with you!

Julian

5:24 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Well, thank you all for yr birthday wishes; this is very kind. I confess, I feel abt 35, rather than 68. I guess that's gd.

Brutus-

I guess you and I are on different planets, what can I say. Vidal was clearly wrong: the oppressed will not focus their anger on the upper 1%; rather, they will take it out on each other, which is happening rt now. The fact remains that these people were not shamed by OWS, or frightened by them either. No word play or sophistry can get around that reality.

2nd, your 'extrapolation' is irresponsible. The fact remains, I never called for a benevolent dictator, as you claimed.

Finally, if you don't want to condemn the American people, that's your business; neither do Chomsky, Moore, and the whole left-wing lot. But without realizing who and what these people are, and that they are quite active in reproducing this existing system, you can delude yourself into believing that positive change is possible. Causality is a chicken-and-egg thing here, granted, but that means one hasta pay attention to both sides of the equation.

Noah-

Your previous messages on the subject did not sound 'medical' or personal or advisory to me. It seemed to me you were saying this regime of purity has to be enforced; that others have to toe your line. If that's not a puritan position, I don't know what is. Again, Isaiah Berlin might be of help (just a suggestion; I'm not forcing you to read it). BTW, lots of people smoke and drink in moderation; for most, it's probably just an occasional enjoyment, recreation, not necessarily an addiction. (Again, consider the word 'some'; a useful word to cultivate, I think.) Finally, as I said b4, u won't be able to impose any of this on society (Gott sei Dank), so all of this is rather academic.

mb

6:12 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

Noah, condolences on your grandfather's passing. Emphysema has destroyed a lot of good people.

I must raise 2 points of disagreement on this business of outlawing smoking & drinking.

1. Children prob shouldn't be allowed near any unhealthy addictive substance, but adults ought to be given latitude because (as MB already pointed out) not everyone has an addictive personality. Yes, various Native American tribes were destroyed with the help of liquor, & many Appalachian whites seem to show similar mileage with it, but not every population responds to the demon weed or the demon rum in precisely the same way. I know several perfectly healthy Germans, for ex, who can drink anyone under the table. For years I've enjoyed an occasional cigar (about 2 per month) and never felt any ill effects from this activity. IMO the best way to suss out one's response to a substance is to experiment, not bow to a one-size-fits-all rule. But that's only my own view. Like-minded adults ought to be free to get together and decide what works best for them. (I wonder if anyone here has an opinion of AA, et al.)

2. Granted, regular smoking and becoming an alcoholic are slow suicides. But does that mean that suicide should be/remain outlawed? This notion of forbidding self-destruction (on pain of - death?) smacks of the "culture of life" of Terri Schiavo religious protesters. Isn't that where all this ends up?

To sum up my argument: one size does not fit all, and there is more holy-rolling than factuality driving prohibitionism.

7:23 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

MB, my congratulations on your birthday as well, and may there be many more to come!

As for the state of the American people & American culture, this might be of interest:

http://www.salon.com/2012/08/03/hog_wild_salpart/

Remember, fellow WAFers, these are the voters who really matter to the politicians, when you come right down to it.

8:03 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Tim-

Wonderful article. I just fired it off in an email to Mr. Obama, suggesting he change the name of the country to 'Morons on Parade'. Am now awaiting his reply w/great excitement.

mb

8:48 PM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

Hola Professor,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-QlwwGBf94&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVgRSHJkdMg&feature=related

WRT Brutus' quote from Vidal's speech of 20 years ago...I think you're both right from your own perspectives.

Joe Bageant did us all a service by delineating the reasons that his people, the Scots-Irish, consistently vote and act against their own interests.

So, you're spot on in your assessment that the 1% aren't worried about Joe's People (which, as Joe might have said, is a whole passel of people) revoking their consent to being governed in the way to which they have become accustomed.

But, there are other ethnicities out there amongst the 99%, and some of them have a long tradition of an adversarial relationship to the 1%.

Think of the Traverse clan or the Italian and other European anarchists in Pynchon's Against the Day. These folks are not going to turn inward and try to figure out what *they* did to make everything go horribly wrong. And if even 5% of the 99% turn toward financiers and corporate boards with aggression, the new targets will have plenty of reason to be concerned.

But, for the moment, viva la fiesta !

9:12 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Ty-

Keep in mind that Pynchon was writing fiction. There is a reason that socialism never took root in the US, and that's because literally everyone bought into the American Dream. As a cultural artifact, it's quite brilliant; there really aren't any dissenters that I can see (or perhaps, .0001%). The other thing is that even if we did have 5% aggressively opposed to Wall St. Fat Cats, so what? As Ralph Nader put it a couple of yrs ago, the Left (whatever the hell that is these days) has no clout. They have no organization, no leadership, and are completely decentralized (a major reason why OWS was a missed opp'ty). The nationwide readership of "The Nation" is something like 150,000. What was the title of that old Japanese film? "The Bad Sleep Well." Indeed they do, Gore Vidal notwithstanding.

BTW, I'm not suggesting that anyone in the US is going to reflect on what they personally did to make things go wrong. Americans don't really think in terms of larger society or community; they think abt themselves. They may blame themselves for their individual economic situations, of course (losing a job or whatever); and many may, for all I know, intuitively feel that Wall St. did the economy in (GOP voters, of course, blame Obama for the economy, when the crash preceded his election). But these people of all ethnicities you speak of basically want a larger cut of the pie. They have no adversarial relationship w/Lloyd Blankfein; instead, they want to *be* Lloyd Blankfein. And when push comes to shove, there is no starch in any purported adversity they may have. Opposition to the dominant culture never had any teeth to it--the antebellum South excepted; which is a whole other discussion, of course. Even if we stick with the category of quasi-socialist opposition--labor strikes or riots during the Gilded Age, for example, or during the thirties--the Fat Cats had the army on their side, and did not believe for a minute that it would defect to the strikers.

What Americans mostly do, as I said b4, is direct their anger toward each other, esp. minority groups, not toward Goldman Sachs: 'those no-good Mexicans [legal or illegal] are taking our jobs, let's crack down on them'. Hence the laws in Arizona, the pathology of a wall along the Rio Grande, and so on. A few go to schools or movie theaters with semi-automatic weapons--in Virginia or Colorado, not in lower Manhattan.

mb

11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with a previous comment about Vidal getting it wrong. Americans aren't smart enough to focus their anger in the right direction. Right now the last unions in America are under attack, specifically the teachers. The middle class without union has been manipulated into destroying the teaching profession. Even the Democrats have piled on the teachers who are supposedly responsible for America's financial problems and low test scores of the students on international tests. Instead of focusing their anger on the top 1%, the masses are angry at the teachers, firemen, and policemen who take home those "lavish" pensions and actually have health insurance. It's a disgusting freak show. It's amazing how the elites have made the dying middle class "eat" the last part of the middle class with decent wages etc. Of course, the majority of Americans are silent or they are watching the Kardashians. The new news is that Detroit public schools will now allow 60 kids in one classroom, and NYC is privatizing its public schools and selling them off to the highest bidder. I wouldn't have seen this coming 4 years ago. And the evidence continues to pile up....Public education and the teaching profession is being privatized, de-unionized, and the only ones speaking out are the teachers. We are on our own!..It is a sad day, but it fits in with our general trajectory, doesn't it?
John in Chicagoland

11:36 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

John-

To which I wd add that the NRA and the political Rt in this country want everyone to be armed: the more guns, the better. They are hardly worried that a citizenry armed to the teeth is going to hunt down the 1% and kill them: "take that, you selfish bastards, for ruining the economy, and for making my life a living hell." As Buddy Holly once said, That'll be the day.

mb

11:46 PM  
Anonymous satyaSarika said...

Folks are being pushed financially so hard that they may yet turn to the guillotine for the financiers. Maybe I'm sheltered but everyone I talk to hates the banks and the bankers. Perhaps it's a new beginning for class consciousness.

4:14 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Sat-

Sounds to me like a safety valve--people jus' blowin' off steam. About as politically confrontational as:

Chuck-

Thanks for that great article on the pseudo-politics of Stewart and Colbert in The Baffler. Here's my favorite paragraph:

"...it might be instructive to contemplate the rise of right-wing radio, an industry borne of commuter rage, which now dominates not just the Republican Party, but our national discourse. Stewart would have us believe that selfish jerks never get hired as analysts. But as his sidekick Colbert clearly demonstrates, that’s exactly who gets hired at the networks—folks who can excite our primal states of negative feeling: wrath, envy, fear. In Stewart’s daffy formulation, pundits and politicians are the ones who prey on an otherwise noble citizenry. But it’s us citizens who watch those pundits and elect those politicians. We’ve chosen to degrade our discourse. Stewart and Colbert make their nut by catering to those citizens who choose to laugh at the results rather than work to change them."

mb

4:34 AM  
Blogger jml said...

the relationship between ows and wall street or the 99% and the 1% is very similar to the codedependent relationship between the alcoholic and their spouse. ows/spouse tries to get alcoholic to change - makes threats, demands, etc. that the alcoholic usually ignores. when the codependent is not making threats, demands they are making excuses and enabling the behaviour of the alcoholic/addict because they get something out of the relationship. in this system/relationship each party is dysfunctional.
leaving and/or disengaging is the healthiest option

6:58 AM  
Anonymous Ray said...

Morris said "...Opposition to the dominant culture never had any teeth to it--the antebellum South excepted; which is a whole other discussion, of course..."

Someone may already have said so here, but if grasping for realistic alternatives to the dominant model comes up with nothing better than the antebellum South, then the full horror of this sad experiment stands revealed.

Gravestone epitaph..."we could have been Dixie" ???

8:29 AM  
Blogger Cj said...

Hi Professor, I think The Baffler maybe another venue for your writings. The articles I've read there tend to be very well written and contrarian.

I can't tell you how much I admire your writing style and your piercing analysis. It's a regret that I never took the time to develop such a skill.

You don't need to add this to the comments. I just thought you may want to think of submitting your work to The Baffler.

10:15 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Ray-

Well, the South sans slavery, of course; but that was not an option, historically speaking. 'Sad experiment' is indeed the problem; this was what I was trying to show in WAF (the 4th ch. of which is about the South as a terrible paradox). Check out a great novel by Richard Powers called "Gain," which describes two brothers in Boston in the late 18C who have a little candle and soap business. As the decades wear on, economic expansion finally takes us to the late 20C, where the business has became a major branch of Big Pharma, whose products are now polluting the waters of the Midwest and causing cancer among the nearby residents. The Organization of American Historians actually picked it as their 'novel of the year' some years ago. The historian Eugene Genovese summed up the problem when he wrote that the historical alternatives to capitalism have been socialism, wh/turned into a totalitarian failure, or the antebellum South, which was based on slavery. With the 'triumph' of capitalism over both, he said, all that's left to us is a life of 'affluent depravity'. (Of course, the Scandanavian model of a mixed economy does manage to blunt the edge of undiluted cowboy capitalism to some extent.) This is the final result of the American experiment, and the model it wishes to export to the rest of the world under the dubious banner of 'democracy'--about which, in fact, it cares very little, as the historical record unequivocally demonstrates.

As for the depravity part, this from a letter to the New Yorker, July 30: the writer reports that according to the National Center for Children in Poverty (at Columbia U.), 44% of American children live in low-income families, with 21% well below the poverty level. In Oakland CA, for example, nearly 1/3 live in poverty, "facing profound insecurities abt the most basic necessities, such as food, safety, and shelter." The reaction of the middle and upper classes to all of this--if they even have one--is something along the lines of "Gee, what a shame"; or even, perhaps, "Get a job!" We might also regard someone such as Kim Kardashian, a bad joke if there ever was one, as symbolic of 'affluent depravity'. (I'm still puzzled as to why the Mint doesn't put her face--actually, rear end would be better--on the $1 bill, and replace "In God We Trust" with "You Can Kiss My Ass.")

The fact is that we are not going to turn any of this around; to believe that is to be "whistling 'Dixie'."

jml-

Which is why leaving (emigrating) or disengaging (what I call the 'monastic option' in the Twilight book) are the only options, at least at present. A third option is to leave en masse--i.e., to secede--and there are a number of secession movements that currently exist across the US. Of course, if they try 'pulling a South' rt now, they'll get squashed. Thirty yrs from now, however, when the US is so fragmented and weak and destabilized that it cannot resist anyone for any reason, the situation/outcome may be very different. I talked abt this as early as 1981 in "The Reenchantment of the World," the possibility that former empires will not only lose their satellite states, but also start to disintegrate internally. To take just one major example, the Scottish Government intends to hold a referendum of the Scottish electorate on the issue of independence from the United Kingdom in the autumn of 2014. I suspect this sort of thing is in the wind.

mb

10:31 AM  
Anonymous abc said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Brutus--

While it's pretty obvious what's going on in America (teachers demonized for absolutely no reason, universities churning out kids with meaningless degrees and high debt, intractable corruption and incompetence in every major sector --medical, educational, you name it, and irreversible damage to the enviornment) I have to say, I understand what Brutus is saying. No, the American people were not raped but I don't think it was completely consensual either (to use a metaphor of yours). It was more like seduction. What I've come to realize in my 64 years is that the majority of people are quite happy with bread and circuses and ask very little else of life. I won't judge them for that as the overwhelming majority are quite content to do this in peace and with a reasonable amt of goodwill, including Americans. But they can be easily led, influenced and convinced to participate in truly crazy, destructive things. Look at what happened in Germany in the 30s and what's happening in Israel now. Most are not, as individuals, evil people, I'm sure of that. But when the darkness in the human heart is coupled with ignorance, a compliant, unquestioning, disempowered populace and then exploited with relentless propaganda that appeals to our worst instincts, you get a country that thinks it's okay to torture people, build death camps to get rid of Jews, Gypsies and others, and another that decimates and occupies its neighbors.

10:35 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

abc-

Well, as I said, it's a chicken-and-egg issue, and both factor into the equation. My pt is that the 'rape' theory is real as far as it goes, and that tends to be the focus of a lot of left-wing political analysis: what 'they' did to 'us'. (The legacy of Lenin, I suppose, who defined politics as being about 'Who does what to whom'.) The truth is that in a whole # of ways, 'they' and 'us' are not that far apart--esp. in ideological terms--and once you realize that, you see that substantive political change is virtually impossible in the US (the pt of the New Deal, e.g., was to save capitalism, not to abolish it). This is why Gramsci, with his idea of 'hegemony' (symbolic power) is a better analyst than Marx or Lenin in this regard. What's inside the heads of Americans is pretty similar, socioeconomic status (or race, religion, ethnic background, etc.) notwithstanding, and all of us actively reproduce the larger culture. As far as I can make out, OWS didn't really depart from this--although it *could* have, it seems to me. And without that active participation/reproduction, which we really do need to recognize and factor into our political analysis (something that tends to get omitted by the Left), the top 1% couldn't get to do what they want to do. Everybody's a hustler or a wd-be hustler; it's the American way. Which is why, if you don't like it, you need to go elsewhere.

mb

11:22 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Then there's this:

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/07/31-0

11:51 AM  
Anonymous JPF said...

To add to the dismal poverty figures (and the 'get a job' aside), John Ralston Saul, writing in Voltaire's Bastards in 1992 said: " … to look upon American society today, the only possible conclusion … would be that never has such a magnificent elite failed so miserably and done so with such little grace, insisting as it does on blaming the lowest end of the social scale for much of what is wrong."

12:03 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

JPF-

And again, the poor reproduce the dominant ideology: they often blame themselves. Remember Herman Cain, douche bag extraordinaire? He said, "If you are poor, look in the mirror. That's the reason for your situation." In fact, Oprah would agree, as would most of the nation. There is all this info out there, easily available, on most wealth being inherited, and on how nearly all Americans die in the class into which they were born; but no, in the land of extreme individualism, it's gotta be a personal failure.

mb

12:15 PM  
Blogger Noah Linden said...

MB,

I believe about 24 hours have passed since my last comment.

I recently got into a heated debate with a self-proclaimed American liberal whom I have known for quite awhile.

While he claims to be anti-war, in favor of a far more equal distribution of wealth, in favor of environmental regulations, he also believes that soldiers are not to be held accountable for their actions - like murder and torture. He also believes voting for a war criminal like Obama is a GOOD thing, because Romney is supposedly even worse - and that therefore, voting for a truly alternative candidate like Ralph Nader is therefore unconscionable, since it will supposedly take away votes from the Democrats and Obama.

I'm just bringing this up as yet another example of how even the most liberal Americans unconsciously gravitate toward totalitarian political positions on the most important issues. Military personnel being above the law and immune to prosecution? Check. Voting for fascist war criminals? Check. Opposition to any meaningful reform, when all is said and done? Check.

I do not understand how these people can be so self-righteous and really believe they are liberals. They may as well wear Swastikas and goose-step, for what they actually do to the world. I understand that these people are living in a fantasy, but exactly how does one to clearly and obviously do something while believing oneself to be doing the exact opposite? I suspect it isn't stupidity, as you believe, but rather an indescribably intense and subconscious malice and need for self-glorification that drives this kind of behavior.

O&D

12:31 PM  
Anonymous TonyU said...

Dr B:

Thanks for the article at http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/07/31-0.

The article is a good read. The ONLY thing is that the article provides many examples to illustrate the effective and efficient summary given by Michael Moore: If we build more war machines and guns, we will be ok and safe. Drones are war machines, not peace machines. Only a paranoid/war-mongering/gun-loving mindset would allow such a thinking to be normal.

Soon or later, the US government (under Romney) may have to wipe out an entire city or state within USA so as to make the country safe and ok.

1:50 PM  
Anonymous Hey, Nonny Moose! said...

Note to Ray:

Why not just come right out and fully attack Professor Berman's "infamous" chapter four on the American South, instead of nervously nibbling at the edges in various posts, as has been your wont, to date? You know you want to.

Then, after Professor Berman stomps you into a mud-hole, intellectually speaking, we can finally be done with it, and leave discussion of the subject matter to those who are not in thrall to a Manichean view of the South during that period--that is, to those who can see it rationally and objectively.

2:41 PM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

MB,
Pynchon, fiction...got it. Uh, .0001% means only abt 350 Americans. Re-check.

The 5% I guesstimated might strike against some targets were not imagined to be forming a political party or any other activity that Ralph Nader might admire and speak in favor of. Nor were they imagined to carry picket signs or create pointless civil disturbances that only serve to get them arrested and portrayed as clueless anti-social knuckleheads.

Probably my own 5% figure is too high in terms of people ready to perform serious, physical aggression, but I suspect there are near that number who no longer buy into the AD and who would discreetly cheer on the more active warrior subset.

Remember about OccupyXYZ: they were not coopted, but dispersed (well after human networks were established by exchange of contact info) and they chose the non-leader, non-organized format because they wanted maximum media exposure. If they had accepteed your and Nader's analysis, the camera shots we saw of assembled people would have been replaced by interviews with 'leaders' who reiterated 'concrete demands'. Some demands would have been coopted by assigning the problem to a Blue Ribbon Bipartiisan Committee. Other demands would have been dismissed as too radical or too difficult to do during a recession. And it all would have been over in 7-10 days. No cops, no tear gas, no news value.

For quite a while people been sayin' things like "If they had just been more interested in negotiating" and "If he had just worked within the system". People been sayin' that mess since Masada and Golgotha...and it took a while, but the membership numbers seem to validate the original tactical decisions. Occupy (like Soylent Green) is people. It/they may reassemble.

Yr right about the absence of lone nutjobs in lower Manhattan. The people I am waiting for are the ones too smart to try to 'go postal' in something as heavily secured as GoldmanSachs. I'm waiting for the crawl on the CNN screen to mention 3-4 Zodiacs busted for parking on a private beach in the Hamptons...my peeps are smart enuf to do a dry run to reconnoiter what sort of security might be waiting for them on the 2nd visit.

2:54 PM  
Anonymous shep said...

abc and Maestro:

"Most are not, as individuals, evil people, I'm sure of that...".

I believe this with every fiber in my body. It is the manufacturing of consent that does folk in. And, there is nothing that anyone is able to do about it.

You can read and talk and do and cry and pray until you're blue in the face but it won't make one whit of difference except that you at least know u tried to fight evil with all u had.

Sadly, it all doesn't matter, but we have no choice but to pick a side. Black or white.

3:12 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

"There's No Downside to Drones" -

http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/
theres_no_downside_to_drones_moral_philosopher_says
_20120803/

A newly hired philosophy professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., has become the latest defender of President Obama’s program of targeted killings through the use of unmanned drones.

...drone “pilots” are models of “intellectual bravery” and “moral courage,” he says...


This "philosopher" defines himself as "a dove" by the way.

I've noticed a growing number of admiring articles about drone "pilots" filled with sympathy for the moral anguish they apparently suffer as they rain down death on people half a world away, then return home to their own families in the suburbs later the same day.

Wonder if this "philosopher" has read his Stanley Milgram lately? Or if he has, does he comprehend a word of it?

4:12 PM  
Anonymous Flick Ford said...

Hi Morris,

I agree, OWS in the main wants a piece of the pie, and the pie is rotten, I did however see challenges to capitalism within OWS when I went downtown last fall. There are many blind spots in discussing man’s future not the least of which is overpopulation – a serious taboo. But speaking of pie, post-collapse thoughts of a warm slice will be upon us all in short order.

Though not the essence or measure of a culture’s greatness, the loss of the wisdom that simple subsistence wise land use farmers had has been devastating – and more than just economically. By subsistence I don’t mean for bare survival, before agri-business canning was local – only the labels were swapped depending on how much produce was bought from the cannery from which brand. The farmers and the cannery established the produce price, not by the brand, thus local farmers made out much better, and naturally the farmers took much better care of the land. It wasn’t a perfect system just much better than what we have today.

Aside from enjoying the social graces outside the US if one can afford to expatriate while world economies and social cohesion collapses, a universal necessity: access to localized farming communities and the personal development of some kind of communal skill to be able to participate and rebuild a new cohesive society. Hopefully a more mature and just culture will follow on a global scale for capitalist systems dominate everywhere. I know - good luck with that here… if it happens at all it will have to happen literally from the ground up.

Peace,
Flick

4:39 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Jesus u guys are keeping me busy.

Tim-

When an empire collapses, morality gets reversed: brutality is kindness, etc.

Ty-

On the other and, if OWS had accepted my and Nader's analysis, they may have had a chance of doing something real and meaningful in the world, politically speaking. They muffed that chance, co-opted themselves, so to speak--cut themselves off at the knees--and the results speak for themselves.

Moose-

You may be being a tad unfair to Ray here, muchacho. Or at least I took his remarks to mean, If the historical alternatives have been the hustling North and the slave South, then the American expt has been a sad one. With wh/I agree. Of course, to go off on a tangent for a minute, one might argue that the US is a democracy in its purest and most successful form, in the sense of the people getting precisely what they want. (Cf. Janis Joplin on Mercedes Benz, etc.) Leaving the South aside (until recent years, of course), Americans really do want a hustling, consumer society--even if it fucks them over royally (think of American flags flying over tent cities and soup kitchens these days)--and that's what the corporations and the gov't deliver. So who am I to complain, or suggest: 'Life 4u is about the next piece of software? Really?' A democracy of shallow morons is still a democracy, after all.

You know how some things tend to stick in yr mind 50 years later? I remember a high schl social studies teacher asking our class, "If everyone in a democracy chooses to be enslaved, is it still a democracy?" Well, sure...of the kind Sheldon Wolin describes ("Democracy Incorporated"). I.e., a very peculiar type of democracy, in which an iPad is 'freedom'. This takes us into the thorny issue of 'false consciousness' and 'manufactured consent', abt wh/I'm very skeptical. If a guy insists that freedom for him really *is* an iPad and a Mercedes Benz, I'm supposed to stand around saying, "But think it thru; that's not what you *really* want; I know better than you what you really want." Well, gd luck w/that.

Noah-

Depends on how u define 'stupidity'. Robt McNamara had an IQ probably above 130, and was one of the dumbest clucks who ever existed. Same for Dick Cheney. And both were/are war criminals to boot. You see, we have to get beyond idea of IQ and think in terms of ontological intelligence as well. Americans just don't have it; they have no idea what makes human beings, themselves included, tick. When I say we've got a country of 311 stupid people, I'm not sure it's that much of an exaggeration, in this sense. In a word, " an indescribably intense and subconscious malice and need for self-glorification" is ontological stupidity; nor is it mutually exclusive from intellectual stupidity, quite obviously.

mb

4:50 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

Speaking of philosophers, it was Hegel or Fichte who said The-People-as-they-are-in-themselves or noumenal populace really want x, even if the phenonmenal or real-world people want not-x. Jus' folks really want what Hegel wants, they just don't understand this yet - ha! Self-delusion out the yin-yang. I suspect that the theory of false consciousness has its roots there.

One thing about Dr. B - he doesn't do that bullshit.

5:12 PM  
Anonymous abc said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Thank you for your response; I understand what you're saying. I was talking to a friend's husband recently and the subject of drone strikes in Yemen came up and he staunchly defended the US position of killing US citizens suspected of terrorism. When I pointed out to him that Anwar Al-wali (?sp) hadn't even been charged with a crime much less convicted of one, he said it made no difference. What I think is going on, even with people who are well educated, is not manufactured consent but a weird refusal to analyze and think. B/c some version of this had to be present in Nazi Germany too and alive and well in Israel today. He's a smart man (math degree from MIT) and a kind, decent one too. I was floored by his response and he was not willing to discuss it either. He simply believed the "evidence" presented on the news. There's a willingness to simply believe what we're told--or is there a different explanation for this I don't grasp?

7:48 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

Here's a tragic story from Rolling Stone about a soldier in Afghanistan who lost his 'faith' in Murika and walked away, only to be picked up by the Taliban (duh) and is now a prisoner not only of them, but our repulsive domestic politics, making it a question of whether he should even be rescued. His last email to his parents included, "The horror that is America is disgusting." His whole story is a rather fascinating little slice of America, really haunting.

The author of the article also wrote The Operators, a rather gripping book about the playuh's that run our ridiculous war in Afghanistan. I recommend it.

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/americas-last-prisoner-of-war-20120607

8:10 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

Whoops, meant to include this link too in case anybody missed this Mark Ames rant on Stewart and Colbert a couple o' years back. Sorry MB for the double post (if you indeed post this too:)

http://exiledonline.com/the-rally-to-restore-vanity-generation-x-celebrates-its-homeric-struggle-against-lameness/

8:18 PM  
Anonymous Ray said...

Dear Nonny,

If you're going to track me effectively through posts on this blog, you need to pay better attention. Check out my previous discussion with morris about whether the real trouble is the south or a hybridized combination of the worst features of north and south.

I understand why morris put in the southern chapter. Although I have some specific secondary disagreements with the argument, I don't think it's a defense of the indefensible. I get the heuristic value of investigating whether admirable pre-industrial/ pre-hustling values were at all obtainable in the american reality without the accompanying racism,violence-and-courtesy bipolarity,and inward-looking anti-intellectualism. In the end, affirming or denigrating the South, while sometimes entertaining, is ultimately a distraction from the main thought experiment. The region, as well as the wider cultural complex associated with it, are ultimately not that central to the main national discussion.

I would respectfully urge you to refrain from cryptic challenges like "you know you want to" or language like "nervously nibbling around the edges" or "Professor Berman stomps you into a mudhole." They all sound awfully like projection and frankly, like the kind of outbursts from an honor-obsessed, deeply insecure culture that we all prefer to think the south is not.

Avoiding this kind of language might be a way to start the "rational" and "objective" discussion about the south you say you want.

Let Morris speak for himself. I personally don't think he has any intention of stomping me into a mudhole no matter what I say about the south. At least I have reason to hope not.

Look away, Nonny, look away. This is Morris' blog. We're guests.

8:33 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Ray-

Let me just add this, that my Southern chapter was not 'imported' into WAF in some extraneous or adventitious way. After all, if you are going to talk about the history of objections to the dominant culture, you can hardly leave the Civil War out of it; which is why C. Vann Woodward argued that the region *was* central to the main national discussion, even tho Americans didn't want to have it (the discussion), and in fact were afraid of it. The fact is that I started this research as a 'Northern boy', so to speak, buying into the usual 'it's about freedom and slavery' line that dominates the liberal academy. But extended rdg, over months--not only Woodward, but Genovese (a spectacular historian) and some of the others cited in that chapter--forced me to conclude that the liberal academic version was not really sustainable. In fact, as I indicate in ch. 4, even those in the mainstream mold, such as Eric Foner and James McPherson, ultimately contradict themselves and conclude that yes, it was about a clash of civilizations after all, not first and foremost about slavery. In addition, ch. 4 logically followed from ch. 3, on the worship of technology/progress in American life, because the hustling life was precisely the civilization that the South was opposed to. The perversity of the situation, historically speaking, is of course that its opposition rested on a slave economy. This is the horrible paradox of the story, and why it requires nuance to grasp the real meaning of the South in American history--the more so since Sherman's march to the sea, and the 'scorched earth' policy adopted by the North, is what we went on to visit upon anyone who opposed us: Japan, Vietnam, Iraq, and so on. (Carthago delenda est--let's salt the earth w/depleted uranium and agent orange and atomic fallout, etc.) Anyway, I knew a good portion of those who read WAF would label me 'pro-slavery' or some such nonsense, or (as in the case of a # of colleagues, whom you'd think wd know better regarding the complexity of historical reality) shun me, because Americans are heavily brainwashed about the the US--it's our 'civic religion', as Robt Bellah once said; and are not at all skilled in nuance, but just live in a world of knee-jerk slogans that they repeat to soothe themselves in the middle of the night. What was I supposed to do, not write ch. 4? My life is about pursuing the truth, not abt being popular.

mb

11:00 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

abc-

Well, you might send this link (already posted above) to your friend, but like most Americans, I suspect he's beyond reason:

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/07/31-0

Anwar al-Awlaki was killed on the basis of suspected terrorism; no link to Al-Qaeda was ever established, that I know of. But even if it had been, so what? The Constitution explicitly states that no matter how heinous your crime, you have the rt to your day in court. It doesn't say that if the president doesn't like you, he has the rt to rub you out. And yet, even if you were to tell this to your friend, you can be sure he wdn't hear it, or want to.

As for why this is so: check out the essay in QOV entitled "Locating the Enemy." What I discuss there is the brittle nature of the American identity, a form of Hegel's 'negative identity', in which one gets an ego thru opposition. This is why things are B&W in the US, why Americans--including academics--can't read the 4th ch. of WAF w/o going into a rage, and why it becomes OK to violate the Constitution to the pt that America comes to stand for the opposite of what is enshrined in that document. 'Negative identity' means that the US, and Americans in general, are sitting on a huge black hole, and are thus in a state of terror w/o realizing it. Even OWS, which was no threat at all, really, evoked incredible police rage, because even the mere suggestion that something might not be right w/the country taps into that deep unconscious pool (ocean?) of fear. As a result of which, enemies get demonized, and there is nothing we won't do out of self-righteous frenzy. I hope I don't live to see it, but as the country continues to go down the long slide to irrelevance, the emergence of real barbarism is more likely than not (see below, the post entitled "Slouching Towards Nuremberg"). And folks like your friend are the ones that are going to let it happen, fer sure.

Let me take a risk here and indulge in a comparison that is admittedly overblown and conceited, but which I can't help thinking about from time to time. Next month I'm giving a lecture at Clark University, 103 yrs after Freud did. After the Anschluss, the Nazi takeover of Austria--around which time he was lucky to escape Vienna--they burned his books in public bonfires. Well, amigo, last fall I donated copies of WAF to Zuccotti Park; and under the orders of the Jewish mayor, the police tossed the OWS library into dumpsters. Would they have held a bonfire, if Bloomberg had told them to? I honestly don't know. But although one could say of Freud's situation vs. mine, 'History shows up first as tragedy, then as farce', I can't help feeling this is no farce, no matter how overblown and conceited the comparison is. "Civilization and Its Discontents," which was on that funeral pyre in Vienna, explained *why* the Nazis were burning that book; and on a (much more) modest scale, WAF explains why the NYPD were dumping my work, like unconscious robots 'just following orders'. Sure, I'm no Freud (in the manner of Lloyd Bentsen's remark to Dan Quayle), and the NYPD are not the SS; I grant u that. But this thing did happen, and how far away from all that are we, as the American Empire continues to disintegrate?

mb

11:26 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

BTW, we have to move on to the next post, since we rapidly reached 200 comments, after which the system starts to hide them. What shall I call it?

11:56 PM  

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