January 14, 2013

The Wages of Guilt

From Ian Buruma, The Wages of Guilt, pp. 259-60:

Karl Jaspers, in The Question of German Guilt, argued that people should be collectively held responsible for the way they are governed. So if their country, for example, is ruled by a criminal regime, the people are responsible for that state of affairs. Also writing after the war, the Japanese filmmaker Itami Mansaku ridiculed the notion that those who were “deceived” about what was happening were necessarily innocent. The deceived, he wrote, have to share the blame with the deceivers; “the entire people was to blame for its lack of criticism, its slavishness, its incapacity to think” (quote from Buruma). Thus he came to the same conclusion that Jaspers did, that “people must be held responsible for the society they live in.” This is an important idea, says Buruma; without it, “the institutions necessary to maintain open, liberal societies cannot survive.”

Just think of all those people, for example, who condone the current American regime on the grounds that “the Republicans would be worse,” or who voted for Obama knowing full well that every week his predator drones were murdering women and children in Pakistan and Afghanistan. When people start to get routinely locked up for dissenting opinions; when whole swaths of the population sink into starvation; when eco-catastrophe is finally upon us, full force: Who will be responsible? The American government, or the “innocent” citizens who kept it in power? Will ignorance, or even stupidity, be enough of an excuse?

201 Comments:

Blogger Luciddreams said...

What are we, the citizenry supposed to do about it if we share the blame? Not that I disagree with what you're inferring. I just don't know what can be done about it.

I tried dropping out of the Matrix to cultivate permaculture...nobody cared. So now I'm back in school so that I can get a job I don't want simply so I can get paid well. I need the money to supply my family with the things we need. Unless your wealthy you have to play along. What do we do? Start a resistance? Like OWS? We saw how much change that one created. It was rather like a child screaming "not fair!" at the top of his lungs.

The only thing that is going to change anything is armed resistance, and all that is going to do is get a lot of resistance fighters murdered by the state. IMO the mega corporations are to blame. If you have so much money in your account that you can live on interest alone and you're not doing anything about the worlds problems, than you are to blame. I think that's where the blame starts if it is to start anywhere.

Blaming the people who are financially living from day to day is just wrong. It's not as if we have many choices now is it?

7:28 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Lucid-

Good pt. But at the very least, we can all (1) stay informed abt what is going on, and (2) tell other folks; the ones who will listen, at least. One can certainly choose to do these things (or not). I still think Jaspers was rt: it's people who legitimize their govts.

mb

7:46 PM  
Blogger more local food said...

While I agree it's people who legitimize their governments and I agree Americans don't think, I do believe those who do think and do hold your belief that we are responsible can do more than "stay informed" and "tell other folks". Don't we need to get more strategic than that and work to hasten disintegration of capitalism as we know it, as soon as possible? I am interested in your thoughts and those of others on how to raise the ideas you have to a national/international discourse and come up with a plan of action. I don't think we have time to waste on passing this information on one person at a time.

8:46 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

More-

Actually, there's tons of time to waste, because our socialculturaleconomic disintegration is gonna take however long it takes. Historically, this is how these things play out. If u look around, you'll see that capitalism is doing a great job of doing itself in. This is 1/2 of the 'dual process' phenomenon I've talked about. The other 1/2 is the alternative expts in money systems, energy, sustainability, and so on (see Joel Magnuson's forthcoming bk, that I keep mentioning).

Getting my thoughts into the national discourse is not going to happen, as most Americans don't really wanna think. This is the irresponsibility that Jaspers was talking about. I'm not on the radar screen, and I never will be. WAF sold 6000 copies in a nation of 315 million. Not that I'm angry; this is just the reality. Had it been a best-seller, I wd have wondered WTF was going on.

We can, of course, talk of mass movements, but the latest--OWS--simply had no teeth. They foolishly eschewed power and political organization; they produced nothing like the Port Huron Statement of the SDS (1962). Truly "revolutionary" activity in the US can only come from the Right, because that is moving w/the grain. The Tea Party is nothing compared to what's probably coming down the pike in that regard. (Emigrate now, amigo!)

Anyway, these are gd topics to think abt. Meanwhile, be sure to see a film called "Margin Call."

mb

9:11 PM  
Blogger more local food said...


the threats now are different than things such as feudalism...nuclear capabilities, population growth, climate change...all have the potential to wipe out the planet. i don't think we have 10 or 20 years.

i was part of the generation - you are, too, i see - who experienced successes with movements/campaigns such as ending the war in vietnam and establishing gains in civil rights, women's rights, gay rights, environmental justice and making certain things such as a nuclear power plants nor a hazardous waste incinerators cannot be cited in this country. i believe we need a - probably more than one - strategic target and campaign to gather around.

9:42 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

More-

We have a few blog rules (not too many). One of them is: post only once a day. Thanks.

mb

ps: There may be lots of things we can do (tho I doubt it; well, force Ted Koppel to get a new haircut, sure), but one thing I'm abs sure we can't do is save this country. When yr time is up, it's up; and our time is up. I'm as sure of that as I am that Dick Cheney is psychotic and needs to be put on an IV Haldol drip.

9:52 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ATTENTION ALL WAFERS!

My heart is breaking:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/01/dining/stage-delis-closing-ends-a-restaurant-war.html?_r=0

This was my true church, my true religion. All that is left to me now is the Void. Or else the Carnegie, just around the corner.

mb

11:30 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Anon-

Pls note that I don't post messages from Anons. You need a handle; I suggest Rufus T. Firefly. Re-send, and I'll run it. Thank you.

Meanwhile: Heart of the Beast Dept.:

http://www.amazon.com/Kill-Anything-That-Moves-American/dp/0805086919/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1358234960&sr=8-1&keywords=turse%2C+nick

mb

4:01 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Heart of the Beast 2:

http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/14/opinion/oconnell-brennan/index.html?hpt=hp_t4

Of course Brennan upholds our values! (our real values, that is)

4:16 AM  
Blogger Sir Tagio said...

Lucid,

I think you withdraw your support in every way that you can limited only by how much risk or pain you are willing to take. E.g., you might still pay income taxes because you don't want to go to jail.

No one needs to buy into the BS. In the last election, people who talked to me about who they were voting for would get a comment from me that I wasn't voting for either major party candidate. I told them that it was my policy not to vote for serial murderers or candidates who thought that they had a "right" to murder anyone for any reason without due process because I was not suicidal. This unsettled a few people.

As MB says, be informed and knowledgeable. In addition, don't buy into any of the hysteria the govt and media manufacture to obtain your involvement, and speak your mind. Don't funnel your passion INTO the system. Don't be an echo chamber for those who do. It just sustains it. As Tolstoy pointed out decades ago, it is the reformers and the passion for reform that sustains the legitimacy of the system. Copy of that letter here: http://www.lewrockwell.com/snyder/snyder14.html

If you are interested in exploring this in more detail, Arthur Silber over at the powerofnarrative blog has a number of essays on noncooperation. One of them is Why Do You Support.

9:09 AM  
Anonymous The Dude said...

"Will ignorance, or even stupidity, be enough of an excuse?"

Absolutely not. My frustration comes from living in and working in a liberal, upper middle class enclave and observing many of the people I know go from outraged (even if they were not prepared to actually DO anything) during the Bush years to happy and compliant (though still angry at the right wing) under Obama. I participated in two large antiwar marches during the Bush years, but under Obama there has been nothing despite the latter's essentially spitting on his Nobel Peace Prize.

News of the murderously pointless Afghanistan surge was met by most of the people I know with a dismissive shrug. And now, many of them can't wait to vote for Hillary in 2016, despite the latter's support of the Iraq War in the Senate and being the administration's biggest advocate for the Afghan surge (to say nothing of her unwavering support for Obama's Drone Wars).

Ignorance and stupidity on the part of the Fox News watching proles is to be expected. The very same coming from supposedly "educated" liberal professionals is unforgivable.

9:20 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Heart of the Beast 3:

http://markashwill.com/2013/01/14/kill-anything-that-moves-the-real-american-war-in-vietnam/.

9:28 AM  
Anonymous Zero said...

MB,

I am sorry to hear about the closing of the Stage Deli.

Here in Chicago too, many of my favorite places have closed. It is like a different town now, with almost a third of prime retail spaces vacant. The only one of my favorite places still in business is Julius Meinl, a genuine Austrian café that actually knows how to make coffee and tea.

One can't help but be sad about this.

Julian

9:29 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

Lucid:

You are right to say that any kind of armed resistance will get the resistance killed. This is why I always laugh at the NRA nuts that say they need assault weapons to protect themselves against the state, as if an AK-47 will help against predator drones.

Tagio:

I had the same experience. When I say I voted for Jill Stein, I am looked at like some kind of traitor. Oh well, some of these people are starting to come around. I see all the new people on MB's blog (even twig) and am heartened ... in A Canticle for Leibowitz kind of way.

9:44 AM  
Anonymous Tim F said...

Morris - I realise your focus is on the disintegration of the US and the irreversibility of that. What is your sense on the rest of the globe? If change is to come in the way that many enviromentalists and anti-capitalists would like, where do you sense this coming from? Or, you see this more as a global period of disintegration, lead by America?

Certainly there are no signs that the emerging economies such as India and China will look to embrace alternative, sustainable models.

I personally agree about this idea you have of 2 countering trends - one on the way down, the other slowly emerging with localised sustainble models. Lets just hope it starts to develop a bit quicker.

9:56 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

See above, Heart of Beast 3: How many Americans, do u think, are gonna care abt this? And to think it was Westmoreland who said that "Asians don't value human life"!

Julian: check out Alan Ehrenhalt, "The Lost City."

9:57 AM  
Anonymous Jerome Langguth said...

Dear Dr. Berman and Friends,

The Jaspers quote reminds me of Hannah Arendt, who was his pupil and friend. Arendt makes an important distinction in The Life of the Mind between the incapacity to think and ignorance. Whereas ignorance is "merely" a matter of lacking crucial knowledge, thoughtlessness is for Arendt an incapacity for contemplation and reflection. The thoughtless may be highly educated but wholly without conscience due to a failure to, as Arendt puts it, "stop and think" in a way that allows them to see from the point of view of others. Ignorance in the US is of course nothing to be proud of, but more disturbing still is the thoughtlessness of the knowledgeable.

10:31 AM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

Tech Dept. Update

If you can't emigrate (yet),
and you have flat feet or a bad back,
or you're wary of agents provocateurs,
or you just don't like the politics of crowds,
and you, like Phil Ochs, ain't a marchin' anymore...

With one final consumerist act, you can become a Nuevo Matador Individualista.

If the seduced & consenting citizenry is accountable, aren't the seducers and manufacturers of consent at least a little bit more accountable ?

Hunter Thompson left almost 8 years ago...just imagining what his endgame might have been like with one of these engenders a bit of hope...and the realization that few, if any, targets on golf courses in the US are now out of range for an intrepid NMI of a darker order.

If you do buy one of these tools, then for obvious reasons, you will want to report it stolen before actually using it.


http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/gadgetbox/futuristic-rifle-turns-novice-sharpshooter-1B7916613

11:29 AM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and fellow Wafers,

Dr. Berman-

Only a small percentage of the American people actually know or care what's going on. Gore Vidal once said that it's not the United States of America, it's the "United States of Amnesia." Cheney's Haldol drip is firmly affixed to millions of American amnesiacs. You said at some point, that since Americans don't take their cues from reality, reality will have to get deeper and worse. This, our hubris, our twisted values, and our inability to confront the horrors of American history are killing what's left of the nation. And now we can't even get a decent corned beef sandwich in the Big Apple. A guy can only take so much. An essay on the demise of the Stage Deli is in order.

Jeff

11:42 AM  
Anonymous Savantesimal said...

It's not just the stupidity but nature of that stupidity that is just beyond belief sometimes. The depth of the lunacy that produces this behavior is really difficult to comprehend. Somewhere in the media/drug fugue they seem to have reached the basic understanding that something is wrong with their society, but they can't seem to reason well enough to examine it in any logical way.

Man who helped Sandy Hook kids is harassed by conspiracy theorists

A man who found six children in his driveway in Newtown, Conn., after their teacher had been shot and killed in last month's school massacre has become the target of conspiracy theorists who believe the shootings were staged.

“I don’t know what to do,” Gene Rosen told Salon.com. “I’m getting hang-up calls, I’m getting some calls, I’m getting emails with, not direct threats, but accusations that I’m lying, that I’m a crisis actor, ‘How much am I being paid?'”

...

3:05 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Jeff-

I'm actually in a catatonic state rt now. The Stage was my shrine, the physical embodiment of all my beliefs. Now it's gone, and they'll probably install a Pay-Less or some equivalent trash. I may just hafta pack it in. I know I can't go on like this. I've lost my way.

mb

3:24 PM  
Anonymous bart said...

mb: "How many Americans, do u think, are gonna care abt this? "

I'd say roughly the same number who cared about the story the Toledo Blade broke in '03 about war crimes of the 45-man Tiger Force in Vietnam. The story won the reporters a Pulitzer Prize, while being completely ignored by the corporate media who were too busy cheering on the current war crimes taking place in Iraq.

http://hnn.us/articles/1802.html

As far as collective guilt, the saying goes "You don't get the government you want, you get the government you deserve." The current gang of thugs in Washington, DC arrived there courtesy of the American voters, not a putsch.

Tom Holland quotes the Sibyl in his book Rubicon: "Not foreign invaders, Italy, but your own sons will rape you, a brutal, interminable gang-rape, punishing you, famous country, for all your many depravities, leaving you prostrated, stretched out among the burning ashes. Self-slaughterer! No longer the mother of upstanding men, but rather the nurse of savage, ravening beasts!"

3:36 PM  
Anonymous JadedSamurai said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I'm what you call a "lurker", someone who reads your blog posts and the comments to them, but who doesn't comment (until now, that is). I suspect there are many, many more people like me. Keep this in mind at those moments when you ask yourself why you should continue writing at all :)

Anyway, I'm writing because I recall a passage in one of your books that I want to post on my own blog, but I can't find it anymore. It was about a woman you met on a flight. She felt more or less the same about the US as you do, but she told you she made the decision to ignore these feelings.



Thank you for your continuous effort to spread some truth in this endless sea of bullshit.

a Belgian WAFer.

6:16 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Jaded-

Welcome to the blog. I think you've conflated two separate stories, tho I'm not sure. The one abt the woman on the flight was in DAA. If I remember correctly, she was Swiss, working for an American corporation. My comment was that she deplored American destructiveness and adored American corporations and their propaganda; and that she was not making the connection between the two.

The other one is about a woman I met in Utah some yrs ago, who did a degree in anthropology, saw thru the American myth, and decided to go back to unconsciousness: i.e., to live the myth rather than situate herself outside it. I never realized it was possible to do that. However, I can't recall if I published this vignette, so I can't tell u where to look.

Wish I cd be more helpful.

As for the b.s., I have no doubt it will drown me and everyone else. That is part of the collapse, in fact: we are drowning in a tsunami of pure crap. I'm quite sure that in 20 yrs, I won't be so much as a ftnote in anyone's bk; altho by then there won't be any bks, and certainly no readers. As we say in Flemish--oh wait, I don't know any Flemish.

Thanks for writing in.

mb

7:18 PM  
Anonymous Rufus “Z” Firefly, Jr. said...

Nobody has mentioned Aaron Swartz, the young cyberactivist whom the government drove to suicide over the weekend. Please watch the 2 clips below – they are very moving.

http://www.democracynow.org/2013/1/14/an_incredible_soul_lawrence_lessig_remembers

http://www.democracynow.org/2013/1/14/freedom_to_connect_aaron_swartz_1986

Jaded:
The other day I read about two Belgian twins being euthanized because they were losing their vision. The article also mentioned that over 1100 people had been euthanized in Belgium during 2011. Wow! I hope history will not be very kind on this culture of death that the entire West has become.

MB:
I see that nobody seems willing to own the noble handle of Rufus Firefly. As such, after much prayer and fasting, it has been revealed to me in a dream last night while I was speeding down one these crumbling freeways, that I should step up to the plate and claim that handle for myself. May I be referred to as Rufus “Z” Firefly, Jr, from now on?

Ruffy
(the artist formerly known as “Zero” or “Julian”)

9:31 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Julian-

The problem is (check the Marx Bros. film) that Groucho's name was Rufus T. Firefly. So of course we can call u Ruffy, if you want, but u need to make this essential correction. Plus, no Jr.

Fredonia!

mb

10:14 PM  
Anonymous Captain Spaulding said...

I chose Captain Spaulding from "Animal Crackers," both because I thought Firefly was claimed and because I didn't want to spell out "Hugo Z. Hackenbush" every time I posted.

I'm not always convinced that the anecdotal stories posted here are indications of our impeding collapse, but after teaching tonight at the community college I'm starting to sympathize. Onward and downward!

10:20 PM  
Anonymous Bingo Star said...

MB,

After further prayer and fasting, it has just been revealed to me in yet another divine dream that I may also utilize the handle “Bingo Star”.

The angel also recommended that we keep the NSA thugs fully employed, by periodically changing our handles in order to increase their confusion. He explained that keeping the thugs busy prevents department downsizing, which could potentially lead to a budget surplus that might then have to be used towards hiring teachers. But that would slow down the collapse of the empire, and apparently God just can't have that.

Bingo Star
(Julian)

10:50 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Captain-

Keep in mind that if u accumulate enuf anecdotes, you've got what is known as data.

I occasionally taught classes at community colleges by invitation, and it was literally scary. Not only did the students not know anything; they also had no interest in knowing anything. "This is our future," I said to myself. Now, it's our present.

A few months ago I was at a party in Vermont, and was talking to a college professor--I can't recall from which institution, it cd even have been UVM--who said to me: "When freshmen arrive at the school, they literally know nothing. I don't mean they know a little bit; I mean, abs. nothing." "So what were they doing for the 1st 18 yrs of their lives?" I asked him. "Playing video games," he said.

It's not just community colleges, and the stats of stupidity that have been piling up in bks ever since I began discussing this in Twilight and DAA are overwhelming: Americans have shit for brains. They are complete dummies. I was in protest marches against the Iraq War when I lived in DC, and marvelled at the misspellings on the signs (basic words). Dummies don't create positive social change; how cd they? This is the one factor left out by so-called progressives in their political analyses, because

a) it's politically incorrect to say that Americans are morons;
b) once you put that factor in, you realize that there really is no hope, and that the country is finished. Wh/leads to the nervous breakdowns and massive depressions that progressives are desperately trying to avoid.

So in case anyone is not clear as to where I stand on this issue, allow me to reiterate:

I: Americans have shit inside their heads. Collectively speaking, we are a joke.
II: The country has no future whatsoever, except a very bad one.

Please let me know if any further elaboration is necessary.

mb

11:03 PM  
Anonymous Captain Spaulding said...

[Violating the one-post a day rule, I know, but this is more of a personal response to you than something I feel needs sharing.]

Agreed that the depressing data is piling up. I started as a community college student 25 years ago, and while I certainly wouldn't claim that we were budding Rhodes Scholars, at least we sat quietly and took notes while the teacher lectured and even asked an intelligible question once in a while. (Doing the reading assignments for many of my classmates was another matter).

Tonight, kids just got up in the middle of my lecture to chat in groups, they walked out of the classroom anytime they wanted, acted petulant if I asked them about the subject matter, and basically couldn't recite back the main argument of my lecture - the agricultural basis for the development of human civilization - 5 MINUTES after I spelled it out in capital letters.

I was planning on coming home and picking up Wallerstein's "Modern World System I" which I've had on my shelves for years and never read. But when I got home, I figured "what's the point?" and spent a half-hour trolling through TMZ and reading about Lindsey Lohan's legal problems and Kim Kardashian's rear end. I'll try to tomorrow to convince myself that my decade-long sojourn through grad school actually had a purpose.

In sum, no debate from me about the state of the American mind - if my class was any indication, it's worse than you think (and I'm certainly not claiming to be anybody's Mr. Chips either). Ciao bello....

11:14 PM  
Blogger Manol said...

Hi Dr. Berman,
Here writing from Chile again. I loved the America my parents grew with, the one victorious after two World Wars that supported freedom and democracy. But after 20 years into the Cold War, America started to support dictatorships around the world, and the lives of my parents was broken by the General Pinochet's Capitalist dictatorship I grew up in. So long for the "Free Capitalist Western World", for us, it was censorship, torture, fear and murder. Let me remind you as well that America also protects terrorists like Michael Townley.

2:06 AM  
Blogger Zosima said...

"When freshmen arrive at the school, they literally know nothing. I don't mean they know a little bit; I mean, abs. nothing." "So what were they doing for the 1st 18 yrs of their lives?" I asked him. "Playing video games," he said.

Young people might not know much now, but Professor of Torture Quentin Tarantino is taking steps to correct this problem by teaching them some history. Our youth are now learning vital historical facts about WWII and American slavery to go along with the nonstop gruesome sadism they usually get in his movies. Like the fact that Hitler was killed in a Paris movie house by Jews who went around Europe capturing German soldiers at will, and executed them with baseball bats. And that blacks slaves single-handedly wiped out plantation owners and their entire guard with ease and then rode off into the sunset Clint Eastwood style. So, thanks to Hollywood, history professors will now have students well armed with the facts. Oh, and NRA will make sure they are well armed with guns, so you better give them good grades, in any case.

2:48 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Z-

I was very excited to learn that a bunch of Jews knocked Hitler off in Paris.

Manol-

Check out Naomi Klein, "The Shock Doctrine."

Captain-

Community colleges are basically dumping grounds for keeping young people off the (nonexistent) labor mkt. They not only have shit for brains, they don't care. And u certainly have no authority--admin won't back u up in terms of any discipline. So it's basically a joke. I suggest a change of topic, since they don't give a fuck abt agriculture or civilization: the destruction of American youth, as exemplified by what's happening in the class. Sample lectures and discussion topics:
1. Why were students of 40 yrs ago completely different from u guys?
2. What happened in the interim.
3. Why u have shit in your heads.
4. Who did this 2u, such that u don't even care about who did it 2u?
5. An examination of what is actually in your heads (Kim's ass, etc.).
6. The emptiness of the American future, as a result of your behavior nationwide.
7. How they are to be praised, really, for pulling the nation (=a genocidal war machine run by a plutocracy) into the ditch.

Wafers are asked to help the Captain out by suggesting additional class topics.

mb

4:44 AM  
Anonymous Troutbum said...

Dr. Berman,

Long time lurker, first time poster. I think I first read about WAF in a review at CounterPunch ? and I immediately ordered a copy. I was stunned when I realized the breadth of your arguments completely captured my feelings about the US and its culture. I also acquired TAC and DAA and found this blog. Thank you, Dr Berman for having the courage of intellect to explore a most forbidden topic and especially for writing about it.
I believe US citizens are responsible, after all, we were given the vote which could be used as a powerful self correcting tool but alas we have sold it to the highest bidder. I'm thinking of author George Saunders who wrote an essay called the "BrainDead Megaphone", in which he describes "that the Megaphone has two dials",... one for intelligence and one for volume. ..." But to the extent that the Intelligence is set on Stupid and the Volume is Set on Drown Out All Others, this is verging on propaganda". How did this happen? He answers because we turned the news/reporting from a community service into a profit center.
I believe that most Americans ( 95%+) are too busy hustling to survive in an ever increasing brutal social system to even begin to gather the tools that would allow them to understand their circumstances or their Nations'. But yet, the tools remain freely available, the history, the reports, the books, the critical thoughts of others... by choosing not use them...we are hardly different than the Germans who were just following orders.

6:58 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Trout,

Welcome to the blog. Many thanks for your support, and for reading WAF. You join the few thousand out of a nation of 315 million (good Germans, all) who are interested in our real history and actual situation. A nation of sheep, Wm Lederer called us. Or as I once saw on a bumper sticker in DC a few yrs ago: "You can't fix stupid". And we won't, we won't. But here on the Wafer Channel we can at least point, and sometimes laugh.

O&D!
mb

8:20 AM  
Anonymous Paul7 said...

Rufus stated: "Nobody has mentioned Aaron Swartz, the young cyberactivist whom the government drove to suicide over the weekend"

Here are good articles to digest:

http://lessig.tumblr.com/post/40347463044/prosecutor-as-bully

http://boingboing.net/2013/01/12/rip-aaron-swartz.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/12/aaron-swartz-heroism-suicide1

Here is a passage from one of the articles:

"we live in a world where the architects of the financial crisis regularly dine at the White House — and where even those brought to “justice” never even have to admit any wrongdoing, let alone be labeled “felons.”"

8:20 AM  
Anonymous Marcos said...

Thanks to Paul7 for the article from Glenn Greenwald.

Glenn Greenwald writes: "Whatever else is true, Swartz was destroyed by a "justice" system that fully protects the most egregious criminals as long as they are members of or useful to the nation's most powerful factions, but punishes with incomparable mercilessness and harshness those who lack power and, most of all, those who challenge power.

Swartz knew all of this. But he forged ahead anyway. He could have easily opted for a life of great personal wealth, status, prestige and comfort. He chose instead to fight - selflessly, with conviction and purpose, and at great risk to himself - for noble causes to which he was passionately devoted. That, to me, isn't an example of heroism; it's the embodiment of it, its purest expression. It's the attribute our country has been most lacking."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/12/aaron-swartz-heroism-suicide1

It is ironic that the topic of the current thread by Dr Berman is collective guilt. Greedy and treasonous thugs get away free of charge after crashing the economy and stealing billions of dollars. But a young man gets driven to his death after challenging some people in government. We are all guilty of his death unless we rise up and use the cause of his death as a catalyst for change.

9:56 AM  
Anonymous Dani G said...

It may get ugly:

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57564214/oregon-sheriff-i-wont-enforce-new-gun-laws-i-deem-unconstitutional/

11:36 AM  
Anonymous The Dude said...

@Dani G - "It may get ugly"

Yep--it sure seems like the gun issue is now becoming the spark which may finally ignite the dry kindling of fear, ignorance, stupidity and misdirected anger that's been steadily building up since the 2008 financial crash and the election of Obama. It will be particularly interesting to see the results of the upcoming George Zimmerman trial. If that guy gets off after executing Trayvon Martin for the crime of being a young black male in America, I expect it's likely there will be a huge explosion of rage in the black community with a corresponding and equally virulent backlash among the racist right wing nut jobs.

Even if Zimmerman is convicted, I fear the spark that sets off a conflagration is coming sooner rather than later.

1:47 PM  
Anonymous Johnny LaRue said...

The Sheep Look Up is a science fiction novel by British author John Brunner, first published in 1972. The novel's setting is decidedly dystopian; the book deals with the deterioration of the environment in the United States. It was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1972.

The title of the novel is a quotation from the poem Lycidas by John Milton:

The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed,
But swollen with wind and the rank mist they draw,
Rot inwardly, and foul contagion spread ...

Good little read if you haven`t read it already.

2:15 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Rufus--the death of Aaron Swartz was a tragedy and I doubt if the prosecutors who were instrumental in his case are particularly upset with this outcome. What better way to send a message to would be activists, people who would engage in civil disobedience or challenge them in any way? The message?-- Don't even think about crossing us. We will ruin you in every way we possibly can and it will all be "perfectly legal." The prosecutors know they're beyond reach and the administration will back them up and this kid, talented & bright, had no chance against them.

Dr. Berman, I think we get the government we deserve only to a certain extent and the fact that our vote is pretty much a joke has to be taken into consideration too. It really doesn't help when campaign promises are lies. Jimmy Carter was defeated in some part b/c of lies of omission; the hostages could have been returned earlier that fall but a backroom deal kept them in Iran and the public was never aware of this. I doubt to this day many people even know of this.

According to the history I've read Hitler never got a majority vote in open elections and became Chancellor by making a deal with another minority party. Of course, once he got where he wanted that was it and people who were against him were helpless to change his policies.

2:38 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Susan-

Intelligent people know that their vote is a joke, and that elections don't make any real difference because the power lies elsewhere. Even 'progressives' haven't figured this out--hence their zeal to re-elect Obama--which means the # of intelligent people in this country is minuscule. They do, as a result, have only themselves to blame. As for the hostage crisis: yes, a backrm deal, but again, the American focus was on the hostages, and the reaction was one of righteous indignation: "How could they do this to us?" Nevermind what we did to *them*, starting w/overthrowing Mossadegh in 1953 and helping the Shah install a torture regime. Americans think only in terms of the personal, in terms of what they feel; never in terms of history, sociology, the larger picture. For this also, they are responsible. As for Germany, the electorate turned out for Hitler in a major way on 5 March 1933; they were then the largest party, the most popular, altho yr rt, they didn't attain an abs. majority. But 288 seats out of 647 in the Reichstag represented a sharp increase over the previous election. W/o that, there wd have been no deal for the NSDAP to make.

mb

3:16 PM  
Anonymous Captain Spaulding said...

Hitler was already chancellor when the 5 March 1933 elections took place (a week after the Reichstag fire). The last election before Hitler's accession to power - in Nov 1932 - saw the Nazi Party lose votes compared the previous summer (down from 37% in July 1932 to 33% of the total votes cast). The Nazis were thus not in a particularly advantageous bargaining position when Hitler was first offered a cabinet post in early January 1933 (something that many Nazis recognized).

Thus, the deal that was struck had much more to do with the other right-wing parties' inability to form a successful coalition government among themselves than with a surge of popularity for the Nazi Party. When Hitler came to power on 30 January, it was because right-wing power brokers (esp. von Papen) saw the Nazis as the only way to forestall a coalition government with the SPD. The Nazis' March 1933 electoral surge - to 44% of the vote - more accurately allowed Hitler to ram through the Enabling Act later that month, which gave him both legislative and executive powers.

3:49 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Capt.-

All that's true, but w/o the 44% vote, he wdn't have been able to ram thru anything, or make a deal. The notion of grass-roots support also has a strong evidentiary basis from a whole string of bks detailing the history of antisemitism in Germany, and esp. from Goldhagen's by-now classic work, "Hitler's Willing Executioners." People really do have to legitimate a govt for it to maintain power over time. And in the US, Americans do do that. When polls show very little resentment towards the "1%", and instead a desire to *join* the 1%, you know the deep popular source of the 1%'s power and influence. As someone once said--Thos Friedman?--shopping is the on-the-street equivalent of globalization. The crowds at Wal-Mart on Black Friday say it all, really. So do those 'students' at community colleges who are annoyed that anyone wd want them to learn something. Again: this is not rape, it's consensual sex.

mb

mb

4:09 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: or to put it in fancier terms, it's not that false consciousness doesn't exist; it's just that there are very definite limits to that argument ('manufacture of consent'). When Janis Joplin made fun of Americans praying for a Mercedes-Benz, she knew what she was doing.

4:12 PM  
Blogger PedroC. said...

Here in Monterrey we had an extremely corrupt governor (Natividad González) who embezzled millions for himself, his family and friends. Then he appointed a young dumb successor (Rodrigo Medina) to cover his tracks. Since he has no intelligence whatsoever, time and again proof has surfaced about all those dealings in the local print media, only to be completely ignored by the general public.

My late father told me that, had this happened in his father's time, the town would've get together and hang the s-o-b.

People get the government they deserve. End of story. No 'if's' or 'but's'. First, because politicians come from the people. Second, because people elect them. And last, because people are more powerful than the government (although they seldom use their power).

The Swartz suicide is sad, but it falls in line with what Dr.B was saying a few posts back about OWS. This kid tried to do something good but his naiveness and lack of planning did him in. You don't go against monsters thinking that a positive attitude and cheerful spirit will help in lieu of an actual battle plan. There were better ways to achieve what he wanted and he had the necessary technical skills to do it. Instead, he tackled the monster in an adolescent way and got himself trampled.

-PedroC.

PS: Went to the Nevado de Toluca (which, sadly, wasn't nevado at all) and had the breath-taking view ruined by a few TBs blasting music through their Jesus-phones. They are invading Mexico now! :( I don't think they can cope with silence anymore.

4:15 PM  
Blogger janus said...

Johnny LaRue,

Thanks for recommending "The Sheep Look Up." I just ordered it so that I can gear up for the fight here in Colorado against fracking. They want to start drilling in El Paso County near Colorado Springs, which amazes me. I didn't think the military, Republican thugs would want to soil their own nest in this beautiful area, but hey, anything for a buck, you know?

Dr. Berman and Wafers, here's a link to the documentary "Gasland," the best introduction to this nightmare.

http://thoughtmaybe.com/gasland/

And here's one of many articles done by the "Guardian" about drilling in people's neighborhoods well within city limits. The comments are outstanding too.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/dec/31/fracking-in-towns-texas-oil

Fracking--another fine export in the great American tradition of greed and destruction (with Cheney's fingerprints all over it)!

4:25 PM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

Re John Brunner

I agree with Johnny LaRue's recommendation of The Sheep Look Up.

It is the third book of a loose trilogy that Brunner wrote.
Before it was The Jagged Orbit, and first was Stand on Zanzibar.

Re class topics for Captain Spaulding

Essay Prompt
------------
Your third medical opinion just confirmed what the first two told you...your condition is terminal; there is no cure; and you have between six weeks and six months to live.
On the bright side, you will have most of your current mental faculties, strength, and coordination until very soon before the relatively pain-free end...and a relative has decided to give you $50,000.

Tell us the Top Ten things on your Bucket List and why they are important to you.

Here is a random list of ideas to get you started:
aa) Hire a pornstar to make a movie with you so you can put it on your Graceless Exit webpage and link to it from your Facebook page.
bb) Hire Noam Chomsky [jfgi] to explain modern life to you.
cc) Find 1,000 people in the Third World to make a $50 micro-loan to.
dd) Find 100 people in the Developing World to make a $500 micro-loan to.
ee) Find 10 strangers here in the Devolving World to make a $5,000 micro-loan to.
ff) Hire Alex Jones to explain modern life to you.
gg) Hire a hit man to whack your 10th grade geometry teacher.
hh) Ask Derrick Jensen for a list of 3 dams or bridges whose absence would be beneficial...and then...
ii) Donate the $50,000 to a political party in the USA.
jj)Hire a pornstar to explain modern life to Noam Chomsky and/or Alex Jones.

4:44 PM  
Anonymous shit_head said...

hello, please excuse my ignorance ... but what is a wafer? -- hey i bought and read many mb's books, not trolling here :-)

4:53 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

The saying used to be, "They sold their birthright for a mess of pottage."

This can be updated to, "We sold our birthright for a mess of iPhones."

An American, no matter how materially comfortable, tends to act as though he is on the edge of destitution. Every activity must aim at making money, and then more money after that, without end. Every standard must be subordinated to that goal. If not money, then a Mercedes-Benz or equivalent. For example, to take a vacation is "lazy" or "snoozing" - "missing opportunities." To not build one's whole life around money is to be a a "loser."

It's really about inner impoverishment. They are on the edge of, not physical starvation, but psychological starvation. That drives them, no matter what their income level, to think, act, and feel like destitute people who will starve if they don't make another dime (or million) today. The capitalist mentality is that of a mean and aggressive hobo. No wonder capitalists call their many enemies "bums" (projection).

I havta say, there is a strong streak of this in Marx, too, or in Stakhanovitism at least.

5:57 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Shithead-

Love yr handle; even better than Rufus T. Firefly. Wafer: legitimate question! Specifically, a person who has read WAF (Why America Failed). More generally, anyone who regularly posts on this blog. BTW, if yr a self-declared shithead, then yr probably not really a shithead. Perhaps: a Wafer!

Ty-

Gross! You lost me after dd. I'm also puzzled as to where 'Pee on Obama's shoes' is; surely that shd be aa, no?

Pedro-

This from p.56 of WAF: "As George Walden writes in his aptly titled study 'God Won't Save America: Psychosis of a Nation,' 'The peculiarities of nations, good and bad, tend to reflect the temperaments and qualities of their peoples. As Plato remarked, where else would they have come from?'"

At this pt in the ms., my editor wrote in the margin: "This is the turning pt of the bk." u.c., there's just no way out, altho there is a stubborn refusal to see it: WE--a collection of self-destructive buffoons, who revel in their buffoonery--are doing ourselves in. Meanwhile, Noam and Amy and Michael keep assuring us that if we cd just get rid of (at the ballot box?) those nasty self-seeking corporate thugs, and educate TAP (The American People--a mystical entity--who are of course highly altruistic and hate corporations), their inherent goodness and intelligence will shine thru, and we'll move on to a socialist/populist/name-yr-fave way of life, and freedom will ring again. Your momma!

mb

5:57 PM  
Anonymous xiale said...

"What seems to have disappeared in just a generation or so is the willingness we used to have to defer judgment until we had enough experience and breadth of knowledge to make a judgment. The students, more socially ambitious than intellectually curious, feel put upon and won't abide what they believe to be the absurd and arbitrary demands of their instructors. The instructors have devised a way to pander to this classroom anarchy by incorporating it into their peculiar hermeneutic theories of literature -- or else they have abandoned faith in the very idea of objective worth. They don't have the nerve to stand there at the front of the classroom and announce what is painfully obvious: 'You're young, you're dumb, and you're wrong.'"
-- David R. Slavitt, University of Pennsylvania, "Circling the Squires", essay in "Dumbing Down: Essays on the Strip Mining of American Culture"

Apt description of students in America today. How much of this has to do with the rise of Neoliberal Capitalism in the last thirty years? Essentially, what we've seen is the comodification of education, along with everything else. Herbert schiller hit the nail on the head when he spoke of Culture INC.

7:02 PM  
Blogger Phlogiston Água de Beber said...

mb-

I was on the Capitol Mall the 4th of July that Brian Wilson had the opportunity to say to the crowd, "Hello all you undesirables." He had it on the authority of that fine upstanding guardian of the public morals and decency, James Watt, that the Beach Boys would certainly draw a crowd of undesirables. Pretty much everybody I could see responded with great enthusiasm.

Of course, we were and are undesirables. The country was stolen fair and square by undesirables from all over Europe. It seems to be a trait that transmits very well, even over many degenerations. I think where both liberals and conservatives crash into the weeds is their stubborn belief that we undesirables are a small minority when we are at least 99%. Where they apparently differ is in regard to what they imagine the mostly fictitious desirables are like.

7:03 PM  
Blogger LJansen said...

The sheep have guns!

http://space4peace.blogspot.com/2013/01/kids-shooting-kids.html

& forget about arming the teachers. They'll hire the kids to protect t hem.

7:07 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

X-

I don't teach anymore, but if I did, my opening lecture in every course wd begin as follows:

"Most people think that whatever is in their heads is the result of their own thinking. But this isn't true. It is rather the result of the culture in which they live. Now altho many of you might deny it publicly, you really believe that learning is a waste of time. If I could hand you all a diploma rt now, you'd be out the door in 4 seconds. You know this and I know this. So my question is: if the idea that learning is a waste of time is not really your idea, Who put it there? In other words, can you start to see yourselves as victims of this culture; and if you can, do you have any interest in fighting back? What would such resistance consist of? What role would the following admissions have, in this process:

1. "Jesus, I know nothing at all. I'm a dummy."

2. "They took my spirit away, my lust for life, and they got me to think this was cool."

mb

7:41 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and fellow Wafers,

Zosima-

"Bad news sells best. Because good news is no news."
~Charlie Tatum

Intrigued by your support and description of Billy Wilder's film, "Ace in the Hole" (see previous thread), I picked up a copy. It's absolutely brilliant; a scathing indictment of American culture. No wonder it was virtually ignored when it hit the screen in 1951. Thanks so much for the suggestion and I agree that all Wafers should check it out immediately. Kirk Douglas is my new hero! His portrayal of the hustling, arrogant, ambitious, shameless, and opportunistic heel Charles Tatum was way ahead of its time. Jan Sterling, as Lorraine, the profiteering femme fatale was an absolute revelation. I simply adored the film. Thanks again.

Jeff

8:30 PM  
Blogger Zosima said...

So my question is: if the idea that learning is a waste of time is not really your idea, Who put it there?

Yeah, who he is ain’t exactly clear. But he’s got a lot of men with guns over there. And he’s telling you you got to beware of your ideas about learning. Here’s what he says:

“So, you want to learn to slow-down, build community, share, think, create, restore and repair the ecosystem, explore new and less destructive ways of doing things, learn from different cultures instead of attacking them, and create a steady state economy. All those things are very lovely, but they all have one thing in common--they’re not going to increase my wealth and power, are they? And whatever does not increase my wealth and power, IS A WASTE OF TIME!
Making drones, H-bombs, credit default swaps, shitty movies and games full of torture so your kids will be pre-trained to work at Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo, writing columns or creating talk shows and spreading hate and fear other cultures, all these things and many more, will increase my wealth and power. And since I control the education system (and everything else), these are the only kinds of things you will allowed to “learn” to do. Class dismissed. NOW, SHUT UP AND GET BACK TO WORK!"

The last thing he wants everyone to do, is to stop, and look at what’s going down.

11:23 PM  
Anonymous Bingo Star said...

Re. community college: in my own teaching I discovered that curriculum development needs to remain 120% focused on Kim Kardashian’s ass and not deviate from that topic under any circumstances.

On the war news front, the battle ship shown in the picture was designed in its entirety by community college graduates (as everything else will be from now on):

http://rt.com/usa/news/combat-ship-navy-freedom-163/

Susan: the point you are making about Aaron Swartz is indeed accurate, and was also mentioned in the interview below. The way in which the government treated this young man clearly was intended to put the fear in other young people who may be thinking of dissent. I grew up in Communist Romania, and this is how Ceausescu (Stalinist dictator) used to operate, with the exception that the US police state is far more brutal and much more willing and ready to kill than Ceausescu’s security forces ever were. Here is the video interview with two of Swartz’s friends:

“Aaron Swartz - a Fighter Against the Privatization of Knowledge”
http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=9505

Bingo

3:55 AM  
Anonymous satyaSarika said...

@Pedro

I think the blanket statement that "people deserve the government they have ... end of story" is just a tad heavy handed. It's clear to me that it depends on a lot of things.

Did the Russians deserve Stalin? The Iraqis Saddam ? Your own Chileans Pinochet? (please forgive if I've mistaken your nationality)

Too many ifs, ands, and buts for me to agree. As for Americans, there's probably at least 1/500 of us that don't deserve our gov. :-)

4:10 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Zosima:

Here's what frightens me: that man with the guns telling you not to learn for learning's sake doesn't seem to have to be that forceful. It's as if even Faustian drama, a fraught choice of ambition over morality, is too good--I bet few remember when they sold their souls at all. Maybe it all just starts too young?

I've worked as a classical musician for quite some time, and it never ceases to amaze me how often I encounter the following attitudes, even from friends or family:

1. I didn't study anything real, so I'm lazy for not doing real work and a fool for practicing and paying for lessons. If I happen to get a good review in a newspaper, suddenly I'm "successful" for the week, and then the story changes to how all my hard work and dedication have paid off. Then the next week I'm lazy again for spending so much time with music.

2. Naturally, I am horribly elitist. If I try and imply in any way that music is something one can be open to, something you can learn from, etc., it's seen as a massive critique of everyone who's not me. If I say (when asked, mind you) that whichever amateur singer has just won Australia's Got Talent (that guy had pyrotechnics, so who was I to judge?) is not particularly good or special, people get mad at me. Mentioning that my undergrad and graduate degrees in this stuff might entitle me to at least an independent opinion calms no one; if *I* don't also pretend my education is worthless, I'm an elitist snob. And morally suspect, and a crank.

4:37 AM  
Blogger Dan Henry said...

A bit OT here: I came across this and was just slapped in the face with another example of our species' addiction to "progress"...terrifying, disgusting, unbelievable.

http://sociologicalspeculation.blogspot.com/2013/01/the-sleepless-world-one-more-piece-of.html

9:54 AM  
Anonymous Rossana said...

Yes, I agree that we legitimize our governments. But we are more than citizens, of course; we are human beings learning to live our lives, no matter how pressing the past and present may be. And it's only human to look about and silently wonder and shake our heads. Or even to look away. Or to act as often as possible. Our biology copes as best as it can. We're lucky then that Nature doesn't assign blame though she will deal with us one way or another. There's some justice in that.

11:22 AM  
Blogger janus said...

Dr. Berman,

I've read your blog for a long time and have bought most of your books. My husband and I want to emigrate but can't until a few years from now. Since the drilling procedure known as fracking is being introduced to the area, we may not have much to gain from our house's sale anyway.

I know we all have hundreds of anecdotes about American decay and stupidity, but this tiny example just grabbed me by the throat.

From a want-ad written by the local paper's staff advertising for a reporter: "Verbs describing Gazette reports are (semicolon) accurate, balanced, unbiased, transparent, resourceful, enterprising, aggressive and complete."

I know it's nothing, but it's really everything.



1:28 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

janus-

It's everything.

mb

5:42 PM  
Anonymous Manketo13 said...

Everything happens today because of some past events or causes. When I think about the mindset and behavior of Lance Armstrong, what comes to mind is the behavior and modus operandi of the governments of US and UK. They think and act the same when it comes to how they deal with other people from around the world. They got away with lies and pillaging for a long time, but the entire world has woken up to their wicked ways and the doors to their tricks are now wide open. Downfall is the only path for these people!

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/01/17/forgive-lance-armstrong-redemption/1843073/

7:49 PM  
Blogger Reader said...

The growing number of blog participants and increased posts is making it hard for busy folk to keep up on a daily basis! But, please, keep it coming, I love it . . .

On the subject of education and teaching, I still teach; and I strictly hold my students to the course syllabus, which I define and present to them as an unbreachable contract. If I didn't they would be out of control. And, yep, I lose a bunch of them in the first couple of weeks, which is why I give out add-cards, over the enrollment cap. From the sound of a couple of you here, I am fortunate to have the support of my institution. For example, students caught plagiarizing a paper are given an “F” grade and sent to the Dean, to be warned of disciplinary action. If caught a second time, in any class, they are banned from the institution. Habitually late (three times), they’re out; habitually engaging in non related classroom activity (including texting, phone calls, etc.) they’re out; disruptive in any way, they’re out. By the end of the 2nd week of the semester I usually have a solid group of hard working students who want to learn. At this writing, I will begin the spring semester this forthcoming Wednesday, the beginning of my first two weeks of purging the mega dolts.

In my earlier career, I was not so unforgiving and I worked with the (handful) of students who just didn't know how to learn, or behave in the classroom. Today, these students don’t want to learn and good riddance.

10:08 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Reader-

Yr quite lucky, really; this is not a typical experience anymore in US higher ed, as many educators know (e.g., me) and have written about (sometimes anonymously, to protect themselves). Generally, the admin won't back you because they are interested in cash flow, not in education; and if u offend students, no matter how idiotic they are, you threaten cash flow. The truth is that a lot of colleges have turned into kindergartens, both intellectually and emotionally.

On another subject, I too am curious abt the increasing blog activity. Have we hit critical mass? A tipping point? Will we be featured on CNN? Will my line of CRE and O&D T-shirts land me that villa in Tuscany I've had my eye on? Stay tuned...

mb

10:55 PM  
Anonymous Bingo Star said...

MB,

Definitely the blog has reached critical mass. The next step now is to debate Piers Morgan and try to outdo Alex Jones.

Regarding education, the global race to the bottom began in the ‘90s when the WTO classified education as a “product” to be bought and sold just like a used car, or a pair of shoes, or… toilet paper. While most nations didn’t really take that idea seriously and implemented WTO’s demands only half-heartedly or not at all, the US, being the capitalist mothership that it is, went overboard with it. At this point, I think the US higher education is so badly damaged by corporatization, it is beyond repair. It’s a goner.

As a matter of fact, what is now happening is that American universities are milking their brand before news gets out that their degrees are worthless. This is why so-called “top” schools such as NYU are busily opening campuses across the world, and accepting just anybody who can pay their absurd fees. They do this because their US market is imploding.

But the world is not stupid to buy into this scam. For example, in the clip below you can see how skeptically New York University was recently received in China (this even by an American professor). To give you an idea, NYU Shanghai has no standards for admission other than an “interview”. Contrast that with Chinese universities which have very demanding entrance exams. And there are other western universities pulling the same scam, trying to attract the not-so-bright children of local oligarchs who failed to be accepted at national universities. Here is the clip -- it's well worth watching:

http://english.cntv.cn/program/crossover/20121026/101535.shtml

Can we now just refer to American universities as “prostitutes”?

Bingo

8:40 AM  
Anonymous Smith said...

If I may play the devil's advocate, the "you're young, your dumb, and you're wrong" argument is partially how this country got INTO this mess.

For several hundred years our "elders" angrily denounced any attempt to question the way things are (look how they reacted when young people protested the obviously unjust Vietnam War, for example).

Parents worked their asses off at corporate jobs, then wanted "the best" for their kids so they made kids go into business instead of something authentic like jazz singing, for example. Or, parents go to fundamentalist churches that teach them that all other ways of life are Satanic, and then shouted down the complaints of atheistic young people with digs at their intelligence (never recognizing that fundamentalism itself was what was unintelligent and wrong).

And those are just a couple of examples.

The point being, maybe young people aren't listening to their professors now, because for three hundred years elderly people (at least, elderly Americans specifically) really WERE steering them wrong, and using the argument you cited above as their justification. "What would you know? You're just a dumb kid! How DARE you QUESTION me!"

I'm just saying, I think we should be careful not to internalize the destructive cultural attitudes that caused the problems we're denouncing.

8:56 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Smith-

Gd pt, altho there is a very obvious difference between the VN generation youth and the youth of today. "We" could at least find VN on a map, for example. 87% of the 18-24 age group today can't locate Iraq or Iran. Nevertheless, yr rt in many ways, and perhaps the correct response of today's youth wd be to say: "But *you're* dumb as well! We may be infinitely dumber than previous generations, but *the whole country* is dumb! We all live in the Idiotic States of America, and every town is Moronville! And in case you hadn't noticed, we're also douche bags, and we're going down the toilet." Etc.

mb

9:57 AM  
Anonymous Gilgamseh said...

It's a difficult argument. I don't live in a democracy, representative or otherwise. The State ignores my preference, opinions, and views on political matters. The State does, however, employ coercive measures, some lethal, to ensure that I obey its laws and edicts, which are largely unjust. My responsibility for the State's actions is attenuated to the point of de minimis. But, I am not absolved of the moral responsibility to at least try to remediate the awful, brutal, horrible things the USA does every hour of every day.

11:05 AM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and fellow Wafers,

This article caught my attention in Thursday's NY Times. The author's criticism of Obama's practice of drone assassination and calls for greater transparency are all well and good, but she seems to shy away from taking a strong moral position against these obvious war crimes. I guess we can't expect too much from someone who spent time as a legal adviser for the CIA. Well, at least it's something... and front and center in the NY Times no less.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/17/opinion/who-says-you-can-kill-americans-mr-president.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130117

Bingo Star-

Getting Dr. Berman on Piers Morgan would be great! The frown on Morgan's face once he was told that America had landed itself in a no-exit situation would be priceless. The Bill Maher show would be even better. I think Maher would be more open to WAF arguments, so to speak. We Wafers should canvass Maher's office with letters and requests to have him on, pending MB's approval of course.

May the blog continue to GROW.

Jeff

12:47 PM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...

MB,

Nice pice. Not in alignment with your piece on John Gray (which was great). Most people feel and are powerless and are caught up in the system either complicity or unknowingly. The guilt item assumes implicitly that democracy or other forms of citizen/resident power exist--that people have say. We do have say and well if you exercise it typically you will end up in jail, vilified or dead. Take the case of the young man swartz who plainly was driven to suicide by the actions of a repressive state in the guise of a U.S. Attorney in Boston. To put on the Germans or Japanese (and yes many did behave like true monsters) the burden of guilt to stop what they were powerless to stop it a bit rich and likely the indulgence of somebody who believes in the wonders of protest and the power of truth. I don;t know but likely better ideas can be found in some axis of Ortega Y Gasset, John Gray, Spengler and a few others (Hannah A or the new book Hitler Land ). A great view of powerlessness and getting caught in the midst of the state and evil (or the Arihman mechanistic evil of Steiner) can be found in the works of Vassily Grossman. This chronicler of Russia's heroic war is ten times more compelling that Solzhnestien and shows just how pervasive the politics of separation, political correctness, statism were in destroying peoples spirit and lives. I would say that you can learn a lot about the U.S. now by trying out Grossman.

I certainly agree with you on the extent stupidity in the U.S. It has always been so, just see Mencken's essay "On being an American". but I think the extent of stupidity has grown dramatically. Some sort of dysgenics at work along many fronts.

Si los pendejos volaran no se podria ver el sol!

Un fuerte saludo.

3:31 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Jeff-

We're currently getting abt 1400 hits a day--! Jesus, who are these people? That's 40,000/mo. If 40,000 people had bought WAF, I'd be throwing a block party. But I worry abt potential popularity, nonetheless: if large #s of Americans start to agree w/me, then what I'm saying hasta be wrong. What a dilemma.

mb

3:47 PM  
Anonymous JWO said...

1,400 a day, well done Dr. B!

As a dedicated WAF-er I'll stop by 4 or 5 times a day (during the week) to keep up with the comments.

4:54 PM  
Anonymous JadedSamurai said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Thank you for clearing that up, seems I was indeed conflating two stories.

I mentioned the story in a post on my blog (which I just started): http://amourpr0pre.wordpress.com/

(post is titled "The Truth")

My latest post might also interest WAFers :)

5:22 PM  
Blogger Phlogiston Água de Beber said...

mb-

Worry you should! If you show enough popularity, you'll not only be wrong, you might well become a person of interest to the Eye In The Sky and then perhaps be exposed to Hellfire, in which case I Wouldn't Want To Be Like You. Yes, I am a devotee of The Alan Parsons Project. :)

It might be my fault. Awhile back I dropped a comment about your AK-47 solution on another blog. I imagine many that read it (that's assuming anyone ever reads my comments) probably thought you must be in league with the NRA, which I guess in a way you are, and came to check it out. The NRA just happens to be unwittingly working to bring it all down.

More-or-less full disclosure, I was once a member until they sent me a written notice that I wasn't their kind of people. I still wonder how they knew I watched Beavis 'N' Butthead. I have always made it a policy to not hang around where I wasn't wanted. Evidently keeping their Org untainted was more important to them than the dues. I do wonder what they had against the show. Didn't it epitomize American culture and values? Hmm, maybe that was the problem.

Anyway, I am sorry if my thoughtless action brings you to a bad end. Mea Culpa. On the brighter side, if you should happen to get Hellfired, perhaps one of your neighbors might get to enjoy your chopped liver. Or maybe they'd just get to wear it. Ewww, sorry.

6:15 PM  
Anonymous Jascksuma said...

Talk about dolts and why America will inevitably implode and disappear!

Step-by-step reading:
First, read this:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/18/opinion/brooks-the-next-four-years.html?hp&_r=1&

Second, think about what you have just read above. Ask these and other questions: What are the claims from Brooks? What are the supports for his claims? Try answering these questions before going to the next steps!

Third, read this:
http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/01/david-brooks-now-totally-pathological.html

Fourth, read this:
http://wonkette.com/472004/david-brooks-collects-enough-pennies-to-buy-his-4-million-dream-house

Fifth, answer these: Is Brooks smarter than door nails? If not, how could he afford a house that worths $4 million while hard-working Americans are almost homeless? What are his contributions to humanity, to America, for his 4 million dollar house?

7:08 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Don't worry, MB. If critical mass is reached & some media attention is actually paid, can co-option & commodification be far behind? "Success" on contemporary American terms will in fact prove your thesis all over again!

Besides, less than a month later, it'll be utterly superseded by the next diet book or exercise program or some new reality star's rear end anyway.

7:21 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Tim-

Well, Kim's ass is a vast subject, after all. Read my recent biography of her, "Continental Divide."

Jas-

Brooks is the ultimate horse's ass. He got his column/job at the NYT by flattering his upper-class, professional readers, telling them that they were some sort of political avant-garde. He, and they, are douche bags. What a joke that newspaper is. "All the news that's fit to print" my ass. OK, I'll stop now, as I'm verging on hydrophobia.

Phlog-

No worries. Go back to that blog, and tell them that I'm especially keen on infants having AK-47's right in their cradles, so they can start out their lives w/the rt attitude. Also mention that I've been campaigning the Pentagon to nuke Toronto and Paris. Canada and France have been critical of us long enuf, and it's time we Hiroshima'd them outta existence. If there's one thing I can't abide, it's criticism of the US, however faint it may be. Nuke the bastards! (You may quote me.)

Meanwhile, how's this for a T-shirt: WAFERS TRANSUBSTANTIATE.
Wonderfully esoteric, I thought.
Or maybe: 40,000 WAFERS CAN'T BE WRONG

You get the idea. Stardom is not far away, kiddies...

mb

8:26 PM  
Anonymous turnover said...

"All the news that's fit to print"

I think it's been shortened to "All the news that fits."

8:45 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

MB, I hope you don't end up like the character Howard Beale from "Network." Shouting "turn off your TV!" on TV so endearingly that ever-increasing millions tune in to watch you, followed by the inevitable co-option effected by a Ned Beatty type.

Are the 1400 new hits or any hits? Some WAF fans could be hitting the site, oh, 50 or 60 times a day, minimum. I wouldn't know anybody like that, though.

9:03 PM  
Blogger John D. Wheeler said...

I am amused by the questions about what to do. They remind me of a bunch of drunk teenagers in the middle of the road standing over the dead body of someone they just ran over. We are all already guilty.

What do we do? Take the punishment.

And make no mistake about it, if you are living in the United States or have a United States passport, the punishment is coming.

So my suggestions are to either leave the US and renounce your citizenship, or learn to live without money. You won't escape the punishment doing the latter, but it might not seem that bad, as in "if you eat a frog for breakfast, the rest of your day will go better."

I really don't expect anyone to do either, especially since I rejected the first option and haven't figured out the second yet, but do realize that we are collectively responsible for the nightmare that is enveloping us.

9:32 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Turn-

My version is "All the news that fits our views." A bit blunter might be "By douche bags for douche bags."

Sanc-

I too am worried abt paradox. But not overly: honestly, if this blog were to catch on, if people were to buy my bks, I'd have to rethink everything I ever believed. Frankly, I suspect I'm fairly safe.
Altho I'm quite sure that if I had remained in the US, I wd now be a bag lady, my worldly possessions in a shopping cart, and howling at the moon. As for the identity of the 1400, I haven't a clue. (Of course, it cd be a computer error, and the # is really 14.)

mb

10:03 PM  
Anonymous Paul Emmons said...

An episode of NPR's "Fresh Air" yesterday pointed up yet another way in which capitalism is, as Morris wrote, "doing a great job of doing itself in": the poisonous environment for raising the next generation. The interviewee has a current article in The New Republic pointing up the risks of waiting until the late 30s to start a family. Some of these should already be well-enough known to give pause to anyone considering it; but the hazards of the fertility drugs often accompanying the attempt have been, of course, a well-kept secret. I, for one, had also not been aware that aging fathers are more apt to contribute troublesome mutations to the gene pool.

Late marriage and parenthood are now the American trend. Couples typically attribute it proudly to their own prudence and emotional maturity-- admittedly with good reason to some extent. More and more in the underclass lack the means to support a family responsibly before age 30 (if ever). But biology is inexorable: perhaps this custom helps explain the rash of allergies, ADHD, "cognitive disorders" and other deficiencies in today's children.

It certainly doesn't help that employers and the government do little, compared to most developed nations, to accommodate family needs. This shows in our mediocre life expectancy at birth, down there with Cuba's. Oh, capitalists tell us, in various ways, to be fruitful and multiply. And they need us to do so. I suspect that they also subsidize religious leaders who preach the same. But their concern stops there.

Yeah, we're doom-and-gloomers here. But it goes along with thinking. America resembles Huxley's Brave New World enough that going with the flow = just playing with the toys we're given and accepting the official propaganda that nothing much is wrong. Any independent thought is bound to notice less propitious data.

Luciddreams asks above, "What can we do?" One nicely passive-aggressive suggestion is just keep it in our pants and buy no guilt trips about it. To reproduce or not is one freedom we still have. Think as we have been taught, in market terms. Where raising children successfully is impractical (economically and otherwise), the demand is insufficient to justify the effort. World population being four times what it was a hundred years ago and still growing, there's no global shortage of volunteers.

12:11 AM  
Anonymous Paul Baumer said...

I am another lurker who decided to join the discussion. If you become any more popular TMZ will link you romantically w/Kim K. I am sorry about the failure of Gov. Rick Goodhair Perry in the primaries. He is a particularly nasty bully who would have hastened the destruction of the nation. In one of your much earlier posts you mentioned a dystopian novel about America's future where the US was losing a war w/Venezuela. Thanks.

12:27 AM  
Blogger Zosima said...

Michael said...
I've worked as a classical musician for quite some time..I encounter the following attitudes, even from friends or family: I didn't study anything real, so I'm lazy for not doing real work and a fool for practicing...

Michael, your friends and family sound like barbarians, if I were you, I would avoid them and hang out with your fellow musicians. We live in a society that denigrates the beautiful and the intelligent, so unfortunately, most of the people around us are going to be affected. I’m sure that in this environment it can’t be easy for the producers of beauty and intelligence to find friends or allies. Dr. Berman, had to leave his country to escape. Maybe this will help. Lately, I’ve been listening to Mendelssohn’s Overture “The Hebrides.” About 6:40 in, I think it’s an oboe that takes up the main theme for about a minute. I’m not an expert, I don’t know what it means, but I do know that when I’m at work I have to be careful no one sees the tears welling up at the beauty of that moment. So, I would say that musicians like you who can create moments like that, are “doing real work.” Also, your blogs on singing are fantastic, everybody should check them out.

Dr B said:
We're currently getting abt 1400 hits a day--! Jesus, who are these people?

Well, it could be the articles you’ve put out recently. Or it could be my cat keeps sleeping on my keyboard, and by the time I notice, she’s inadvertently clicked on your blog 1400 times. I’m trying to figure out a way to prevent this. Sorry.

12:31 AM  
Anonymous Jeremy Grimm said...

First let me state most emphatically, I strongly disagree with the assertions of this post, which I will represent as: “people must be held responsible for the society they live in.” I most strongly disagree with Karl Jaspers and his question of German Guilt. I believe that the whole question of “Guilt” is of concern only to those who might need to somehow justify Hiroshima or the bombing of Dresden. Jaspers answer is a two edged knife that cuts deep into American “guilt”. Do you feel personally responsible for Hiroshima or Dresden? In the case of Hiroshima, most Americans could with perfect justification claim that they had no idea that the bombing Hiroshima had little or nothing with ending the war with Japan or saving the lives of the million American soldiers who would have died invading Japan that Paul Fussell discusses in his essay about the bomb. I believe that the question of German Guilt and by inference Japanese Guilt is more closely tied to little more than justifying American – AKA Allied crimes in the “Good War”. The question of guilt is far more complex when viewed in the context of Stanley Milgram’s work or the study reported in Browning’s “Ordinary Men”. As for guilt, Kevin Phillips alludes to and details some of the American involvement in providing capital and support to Hitler’s construction of the Third Reich in his book “American Dynasty”, see p. 38 and Chapter 6. The question of guilt obscures the more practical questions about how to help build a society where such horrors as the “Final Solution” truly are aberrant, rather than one of many examples of Mankind’s horrific nature.

-- My comments that follow this will come on another day. I don't want to play games with the characters limits on a thousand words. That's too much like fitting into the database fields provided for collecting our 'input' on various questions for automated surveys at work.

12:48 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Z-

It's probably yr cat.

Paul B.-

Thanks for joining us. I don't remember the novel (old age), but I'll never forget Gov. Perry, or Kim's rear end--the 8th and 9th wonders of the world, respectively (well, perhaps Kim's tushie shd come 1st).

Paul E.-

Keep in mind that a lot of these 'disorders' are invented by Big Pharma for the DSM, after which they unveil the new remedy--sold by them, of course. ADHD might be just kids being kids; or perhaps a reasonable reaction to the typical American classrm.

mb

5:10 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Jeremy-

Well, I was 1 yr old at the time of Hiroshima, and as for Vietnam, I did protest and refuse to pay the phone tax for the war (the IRS just took it out of my bank acct, w/the bank only too happy to collaborate). But 1 person is obviously not the issue. Americans polled during the VN war were mostly upset at the protesters, not at the dropping of jellied gasoline on babies. Only the tiniest fraction of the American public were in the streets. And today...do even more than 2% know what a predator drone is, or what it does? Wd they care if they did? The following is off CNN:

"Obama gets a better rating on foreign policy, and scores his highest approval on terrorism. But only 4% of the public says that foreign policy is the top issue facing the country. Six in ten approve of how Obama is handling environmental policy, which next to terrorism is his best grade in the poll, but only 2% say that the environment is the country's most important issue, number seven out of the seven issues tested."

mb

5:23 AM  
Blogger Zosima said...

How about this? The countries that start wars are guilty. That means Germany and Japan in WWII, and the US in Vietnam and Iraq. Then the discussion becomes who paid or should have paid the price for those crimes? A lot of people ended up paying a price for those crimes, didn't they? How do we sort it all out?

5:48 AM  
Anonymous ennobled little day said...

Dr. Berman-

About the 1400 hits/day...

1400/315,000,000 * 100% = 0.0004%

Put in words (and assuming that all 1400 are American and that no one visits this site more than once a day), that's 4 for every 10,000 Americans!!

What I'm trying to say is that the idea that you're becoming popular is simply not true. Next to no one cares about you, Dr. B!! (And the same goes for me and everyone else in this site, of course.)

8:53 AM  
Anonymous Turing said...

Dr. Berman, I'm coming out of lurkdom so you can count my clicks among the daily 1400. I hasten to add that I'm not Zosima's cat.

9:43 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Turing-

Not the ghost of Alan, are ye? Welcome to the blog. Us Wafers expect great things from u.

Day-

Thanks for data; a great relief. I assume the NSA/FBI/CIA must be collecting information on me in prep for my Guantanamo holiday, but as for the American public: nada. A gd thing.

Z-

I guess everybody shd nuke everybody. This may be the only solution. The Pentagon cd start by bombing itself, for example. Imagine what Jay Leno wd do w/that!

BTW, there's a great cartoon in the Jan. 14 New Yorker: a bunch of Founding Fathers or delegates to a Constitutional Convention or whatever, standing around while one of them (Tom Jeff?) is holding a quill pen above a folio page, and one of them says to the others: "Are you sure everyone will know we're being ironic?" I LOVE IT!!!

11:12 AM  
Anonymous Winter In America said...

Perhaps even the notion of what democracy REALLY is should be given some thought. Most folks know, even on a superficial level, what the ideal is -- for me, not being an idealist but a realist, I can only view it as I've known it -- not for what I've been taught it is or for what it should be.

You know the saying "What it is, is what it is!"

So what has democracy been down through the years, realistically speaking -- wherever it has existed regardless of the glowing virtues extolled by its adherents? For example, the name of Amy Goodman's program Democracy Now! cries out for the ideal, when in fact democracy is what we've had NOW all along. The concept is so pervasive, so psychologically ingrained, it is held in high esteem across the political spectrum -- most everyone respects and reveres it.

If what Capo Regime says above is true: "Most people feel and are powerless and are caught up in the system either complicity or unknowingly", the powerlessness and acquiescence CR speaks of are manifestations of democracy.

Contrary to Gilgamesh who doesn't "live in a democracy, representative or otherwise" (methinks Gilgamesh is being facetious), but his/her's description clearly delineates what democracy IS. Go back and read Gilgamesh's comment if you haven't already.

More to the point, which will take a little of your time, if you'd like to follow this line of thinking and challenge the assumptions about democracy view the video clip linked below -- queue in at the 35:45 minute interval -- if you have the time cut in around the 27 min mark. The segment on democracy lasts for roughly 10 min.
http://www.myspace.com/video/trudell-video-archives/john-trudell-the-basics-part-2-then-this/49898610.

For some additional salient comments on the same subject, from the same speaker, go here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctUecTdPEO0. To fully grasp the critique watch the entire video -- for the democracy comments of the speech queue in at 22:00. Below is an excerpt from that speech:

"Democracy, what does it mean? It means the right of the entitled to have their majority rule... Democracy does exactly what it is suppose to do, it creates an illusion, an illusion that you have a voice, that you have a say..." - John Trudell, from a speech given at the US Social Forum in Detroit, 6/24/2010 (see 2nd video url above).

11:18 AM  
Blogger James said...

Humans escaped the ecosystem using a rapidly evolving and unique tool set tens of thousands of years ago. There’s been a steady evolution of information and tools since then, facilitating unchecked enslavement, consumption and extermination of the natural world. The techno-fungus has metastasized and sporulated to occupy every environment that can provide nutrition. Culture and associated complexity is a derivative of this energy flow and that makes us one highfalutin techno-mycelium with an unwarranted grandiose self-image. As a result, most of us cannot recognize, even remotely, that this natural experiment in techno-evolution will soon end.

Even quasi-sustainable Edo Japan was given no choice in accepting the capitalist growth paradigm of technological evolution and competition. It gave them the rape of Nanking, WWII, Fat Man, Little Boy, Sony, Toyota and Fukushima. In other words, there is no sustainability in a world where the various growing mycelia will penetrate others territories and empty the cupboard besides killing or enslaving the homegrown technological organisms. Regarding technological growth its damned if you do and damned if you don’t, I suppose. As an example, the sustainable natives of the Amazon probably aren’t doing to well against the chainsaws and logging roads just about now. Someone wants to eat their lunch.

As far as education is concerned, forget it. You don’t educate the limbic system, you just throw it treats and tell it to bark like a dog.

11:19 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Winter-

I certainly have no arg. w/that quote from Trudell; it's rt on the money (literally).

James-

The Japanese are torn apart, even internally (psychologically), by exactly the dilemma you describe. In general, modernity turned into one big techno-fungus sandwich. Go out into the street, look at the Techno-Buffoons on their cell phones, thinking they're hip, and--absurdly enuf--in control!

I want to thank both of u; now we're getting down to it, n'est-ce pas?

mb

1:41 PM  
Anonymous Bingo Star said...

Better start working on getting that second passport right away:

http://rt.com/politics/russia-blacklist-magnitsky-us-259/

Bingo

6:17 PM  
Blogger Mercury4 said...

Zozima - Some of us lurkers aren't American. Just participating in the unfolding freak show that has become the US and by extension most of the rest of the world, which only wants to be like you. Imagine!? We are so fucked...

8:24 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Merc-

Much of the world has a fantasy version of what the US is like, similar to the fantasy version that Americans themselves have. It's only when they get here that reality sets in. But u gotta give us credit: when it comes to PR, we really *are* No. 1!

Meanwhile, here's a dose of reality:

“Our margin for avoiding unpleasantness has largely evaporated. We should all be prepared for social disruption, for shortages, for being forced to accept unpalatable changes and lack of choice in areas where, even today, we can choose how and when to change. Sustainable society will come, because the alternative is no society at all.”

--From Azby Brown, "Just Enough"

mb

8:30 PM  
Anonymous Rufusteena Firefly said...

To me, looks as if there still could be some life left in the old nag...

http:.//readersupportednews.org/opinion2/441-occupy/15619-can-the-occupy-movement-and-organized-labor-strengthen-ties-in-2013

..just sayin'.

2:37 AM  
Anonymous Turing said...

Dr. Berman, thank you for your welcome. And no, I'm not Alan's ghost, up to some mischief at your expense! Just a regular geek in the middle of re-reading DAA. My copy of WAF is on the way.

7:14 AM  
Anonymous bart said...

Those looking for an antidote to our propaganda relations should look into some of the documentaries that are chronicling the demise of the country. I just saw this one the other day.

http://vimeo.com/42302316

There's a scene where a visitor from Switzerland is asked how he's liking his visit to our wonderful America. He replies that he's having a terrific time. He's fascinated by the squalor and decay because where he comes from he's unable to see things like this.

8:04 AM  
Blogger Sarasvati said...

Winter, thank you so much for the links to John Trudell. I had never heard of him before and have been listening to his video clips…so much of what he says is in sync with my own conclusions.
The first thing that grabbed me was his comment in reference to Obama that “nothing changed but the skin color of the predatory reptilian that’s running the show.” Although I doubt that Obama is really running the show – he, like all presidents, is a figurehead – it’s obvious that these people have no conscience. Also his comments on the difference between thinking and belief: It always drives me nuts when politicians proclaim that they believe something, like their belief makes it fact. No, no, no! A belief is conviction without evidence and has nothing to do with facts. Propaganda? Our whole world is defined and described for us making original thought near impossible. I’ve just gotten to the point where, after “Democracy” the title is “Question Everything,” which is my guiding rule.
I could go on and on, but I’ll just end this by saying that agreement among the soundly asleep is no basis for formulating truth, so thank you Dr. B for this blog. O&D!

11:16 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Sar-

My pleasure. Remember that line from George Carlin: "They call it the American Dream because you've gotta be asleep to believe it."

mb

11:22 AM  
Anonymous Bingo said...

There we go again:

“Albuquerque Shooting: Teenager Kills 5 People, Including 3 Children"

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/20/albuquerque-shooting-2013-new-mexico-teenager_n_2516424.html

We better hit the road while we’re still alive!

Bingo

1:31 PM  
Anonymous Jeremy Grimm said...

I’ll try again. I think it’s a bad idea to use the concept of ‘Guilt’, applied to an entire nation or people, to start your post. Guilt brings with it punishment, justice, culpability, debt owed – other baggage of little utility in addressing your lament in the second paragraph where you note predator drones (coming to the US soon – if not here already); the ‘meaning’ of our votes in national politics (no real meaning); and finally the impending doom of global climate change – all interesting topics for separate discussion making the blog discursive. Wouldn’t you rather identify ways to re-motivate the demoralized, illuminate ignorance and lay active claim to the government that so long has claimed us as its basis? In the end, who will care about attributing the responsibility for our collective destruction? Who will be left to care? [I admit the value of ‘Guilt’ as point for embark into the literature studying the relationships between the individual and the state but why settle for a sense guilt or responsibility when a far stronger motive should drive our actions?]
The Power Elite believe that they no longer need to share with the rest of the world what little they once did. They can and have the will to easily crush open rebellion and dissent, peaceful or otherwise. Consider the FBI’s dealings with OWS. [Here’s a mystery: to my nose, the Power Elite exudes a strong smell of fear.] We could build monasteries of wisdom from our time to carry us forward past the impending collapse of society as we know it today, but how high must we build our walls?
So, how does a populace acquire its “lack of criticism, its slavishness, its incapacity to think”? To me that raises the question: how is it that small children have great curiosity and our high school graduates are ignorant and disinterested in all things? Does this just happen? One vote for president means relatively little, but one vote in a school board election is not such a small thing. Voting is only an initial act of a citizen. Participate and take interest in what’s done. Consider the disproportionate influence wielded by those few who do actively work in local government.
Howard Zinn, among others argued that the only way to counter the power of our Power Elite is through forming our own centers of power. We can and must do this for sake of our survival and for the survival of our children and children’s children. Start building local communities not monasteries and join with other communities to counter the growing excesses of the state. The lesson of history is that individuals acting alone make sacrifice as impotent victims.

2:15 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

And now Condoleeza Rice has joined CBS News:

http://www.salon.com/2013/01/20/condi_joins_cbs_news/

I'm sure she'll have a great deal to contribute to their relentless & unceasing search for the truth.

And no one will blink an eye.

Frankly, Kim Kardashian would have been a better choice.

To slightly paraphrase a bad 1980s pop song, America is guilty of dumb in the first degree. As if we needed any further proof.

5:01 PM  
Blogger Zosima said...

There’s a large deciduous tree in my view where flocks of birds stop and get the last sun of the day before flying off to roost in evergreen trees for the night. When I read all the stuff about hope and change for American and the world, I look at those birds and ask; which one is the Bill Gates bird, the one who eats 600,000 times more worms than his fellows? In America and sadly, most of the world, most people think it’s completely normal and natural for someone to have that much more wealth than the average person. This is the kind of thinking that is central to all our problems, and it looms over us and has thwarted the creation of oppositional community. As long as this kind of thinking dominates, meaningful change is very unlikely, and without meaningful change, soon, and on a massive scale, it looks like humanity has very little time left.

9:39 PM  
Anonymous steven andresen said...

Lucidreams said: "...The only thing that is going to change anything is armed resistance, and all that is going to do is get a lot of resistance fighters murdered by the state...."

I agree and I don't agree.

I think the people in control of the government are very much afraid that someone somewhere might lift their lips up off their boots. This is why they are spending the trillion dollars a year on the military and the spooks so that they have some kind of Praetorian Guard to protect them.

So, I agree that if people would try to resist in any violent way, then a lot of the resisters would suffer.

But, I don't agree that the only resistance possible is violent.

If the people in charge were under the delusion that we lived in something like the Allegory of the cave, and that, therefore moral values were impossible, I would conclude that they would act accordingly, and do whatever they thought they could get away with to gain more power, wealth, and security from their competition.

However, if we could show that we did not live in any such reality, then, I suspect, they would have no justification to give themselves for their avarice and ruthlessness.

At least then, they would not be able to give themselves rationalizations for the thievery and murders.

I think they do believe we live in such a reality and I believe the only solution is such a counter argument.




11:25 PM  
Blogger Mercury4 said...

Thanks MB - But surely not Hawai'i too? Please God, say it aint so...

7:03 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

Grimm:

I think you need to read some of the old posts on the blog and DAA/WAF because you are missing the essential point. As MB has said many times the “wool pulled over the eyes” arguments of people like OWS and Michael Moore is an illusion, the vast, vast majority of the American populace really and truly believe that all is well just as long as they have cable TV and 10 guns in the bedroom. How are you going to “form... our own centers of power” if those you are trying to “illuminate” have absolutely no interest at all in seeing the light, strap them to a chair? In an older post, Dr. B wrote: “But if the problem is 310 million people sitting around dreaming of the day they’ll have a Mercedes Benz, then you can kiss the optimistic vision goodbye: TAP are getting the government they actually want. The “wool” covering their eyes proved to be—their eyes!” (see http://morrisberman.blogspot.com/2011/03/playing-taps.html) When you understand this, you will understand that many of these protests are simply preaching to the choir! I see this all the time here in Minneapolis/St. Paul. People just can’t seem to figure out that politically (and often socially), we live in a bubble and when they blather on about this or that, nobody outside the city cares. In fact, just 25 miles North-West of here is Michelle Bachman’s district! Trust me, I’ve lived out there (and still have family who does) and 99.9% of those people would tear down your monastery given the chance. The NMI (as has also been said here before) is an internal survival technique.

10:59 AM  
Anonymous Savantesimal said...

This one is just too good to miss.

The Onion: Gorilla Sales Skyrocket After Latest Gorilla Attack

SAN DIEGO—Following the events of last week, in which a crazed western lowland gorilla ruthlessly murdered 21 people in a local shopping plaza after escaping from the San Diego Zoo, sources across the country confirmed Thursday that national gorilla sales have since skyrocketed.

“After seeing yet another deranged gorilla just burst into a public place and start killing people, I decided I need to make sure something like that never happens to me,” said 34-year-old Atlanta resident Nick Keller, shortly after purchasing a 350-pound mountain gorilla from his local gorilla store. “It just gives me peace of mind knowing that if I’m ever in that situation, I won’t have to just watch helplessly as my torso is ripped in half and my face is chewed off. I’ll be able to use my gorilla to defend myself.”

“Law enforcement and animal control can only get there so quickly,” Keller added. “And you never know when you’ll need to use a gorilla to save your life.”

...

12:50 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Let me second JWO's post. I've been watching the inauguration & the speeches are the same as always: sounding very good on the surface, but essentially empty, saying what the public wants to believe.

Let me recommend Nick Turse's new book Kill Anything That Moves, covering the brutal history of America in Vietnam in horrific detail. Americans still don't want to know about that, much less that the same imperial horrors are being committed in the Middle East right now.

In fact, while there's plenty of 1960s cultural material available for the nostalgic Baby Boomer, what's missing is anything that goes beyond the admittedly delightful hippie cliches. And it's not because evil corporations are withholding it -- if it would make money, if people would buy it, they'd sell it. It's because too many Baby Boomers simply don't want to know what they once knew. They want noble soldiers, not draft resistors, not exposes of cold-blooded murder & rape & torture. The country doesn't want to know about that in the past, and certainly not in the present.

So the public nods solemnly, wiping away a tear, as the same speeches are made today, filled with patriotic cottage cheese. Much talk of freedom, of life, of pursuing happiness; no mention of drones, of sweetheart deals with the ultra-rich, of people homeless & starving & dying without healthcare. Oh yes, and how we need more math & science teachers. No mention of the liberal arts & humanities.

Just look online today to see how many liberal pundits are proclaiming that it's finally going to happen, Obama's securely in office once more, now he'll really come through & deliver the goods, it's going to be morning in America again ... uh, wasn't that another president's line?

For those (like me) who are staying in America due to age, finances, whatever, the NMI option is the only way. As William Blake said, "I must create my own system or be enslav'd by another man's." Your head is the one place they can't colonize, but only if you're awake & aware & resisting.

1:03 PM  
Anonymous Bingo said...

Definitely the “wool are the eyes”. And not only is this dog blind, it is also psychopathic. It lacks any conscience or morality, and justifies its actions only through the level of its profiteering. And I’m not talking about some kind of metaphorical dog here. I’m talking about a nation of 310 million blind, psychopathic, selfish, individualist mutts.

There’s no hope of changing the current situation from within. Forget non-violent movements like OWS, as they are liable to do little other than provide comic relief. And forget violent uprisings too.

Of course, there is lots of hope for the rest of the world, but there is none for the US. The world has already moved on, and the US is now on its own, grabbing for straws, while its influence fades away, its economy continues to collapse, its armies continue to lose wars, and people’s (the mutts’) insanity further escalates to unheard of levels. So, better get used to more mass shootings coming to a neighborhood near you, better get used to having your kids forcefully medicated with psychiatric drugs, and better get used to panhandlers camping out across the street from your McMansion.

Of course, once the dollar collapses, it’s game over. Just like Nazi Germany could not even repatriate its submarines and war ships at the end of the war, I can see how this country won’t even be able to afford the fuel to bring home its “fleets” once the dollar crashes. And the dollar will crash soon.

So, unless you’re masochistic, why would you want to deal with that? I say, better hit the road, Jack!

Bingo

2:23 PM  
Anonymous Rufusteena Firefly said...

To commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, an article by Glenn Greenawald concerning a part of King's philosophy that has been stripped from his legacy for all intents and purposes:

http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/282-98/15646-focus-mlks-vehement-condemnations-of-us-militarism

How has the nation changed? For the worse.

4:45 PM  
Anonymous Troutbum said...

Today, Glenn Greenwald points out how America has " completely erased" how Dr. King spoke out against the Vietnam War. Says Glenn, " King called the US government "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today", as well as the leading exponent of "the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long" (is there any surprise this has been whitewashed from his legacy?). He emphasized that his condemnations extended far beyond the conflict in Southeast Asia: "the war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit."

Sad to say nothing has changed since those words were spoken.
See Glenn here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/21/king-obama-drones-militarism-sanctions-iran

5:00 PM  
Anonymous neunder said...

JAPAN'S SUICIDAL SALARYMEN ARE DYING FOR WORK
http://www.vice.com/read/the-japanese-are-dying-for-work

Just for your interest; saw this and thought I'd share.

5:01 PM  
Anonymous Marcos said...

People here who are thinking about moving to foreign nation, you will learn a lot of things from these two women, about life in a foreign nation. Forget about your politics and dogmatic beliefs for a moment and learn from how some people navigated foreign lands!

Dr Auma Obama:

Part 1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMyHAw35QsU

Part 2
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfloGsvOWJk


Dr Maya Soetoro-Ng:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xw_B1IJ2vZ4

8:29 PM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

Dear MB, Tim et al.

I think it was Emerson, slap happy as he was with "self reliance," who said: "I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself," this gem being one of the sring of letters insistently present in the American unconscious.

Obama preached about unlimited possibilities in one breath of his speech, and tough choices that needed to be made, in another.

Last year I received a newsletter in which an Americanist acting chair of the Department of English at my undergrad alma mater, complaining about budget cuts in one paragraph, and then extolling the infinite riches of reading literature in another.

In a letter I pointed out the disconnect and added that it might be worthwhile reading de Toqueville about American character and thought. I never got a reply back from him.




8:38 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Winter-

I apprec. yr comments on lameness of OWS, but we simply cannot be beating that dead horse anymore. Sorry.

Mark-

It was Walt Whitman. As for Obama:

"We, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it[...]"

Obama said this at a speech where the only people that were allowed close to him were rich. He then drove away in a heavily armored limo only walking on red carpets, and tonight he will attend multiple balls for the super wealthy. Another reason they won't let me in is that they know my bladder is full.

mb

10:14 PM  
Blogger LJansen said...

MB sez: "Another reason they won't let me in is that they know my bladder is full."

Another good reason to keep hydrated!

10:55 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

An ex-lurker for one comment:

neunder & MB:

On the vice.com website (the article about Japanese killing themselves because of exhausting work) is a story of a murderer/cannibal who escapes prosecution.

It appears the whole world is collapsing at once?

11:14 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

It's reached the point where all newspapers & TV news shows should simply add a regular feature called Today's Shootings:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/22/lone-star-college-shooting_n_2527806.html

2:24 PM  
Anonymous Smith said...

Something else I should mention:

Morris Berman, remember your comment above that you wonder why boring kids have no zest for life, why they don't realize that they're victims (which would enable them to fight back)?

You must be the only person in the entire WORLD that would consider a "victim mindset" to be a good thing.

Don't worry, that's a compliment. The reason why is because American culture teaches us to be held accountable for not only our actions, but our PROBLEMS as well, even if our problems consist of being surrounded by assholes.

It's not just the politics or education system, that's on a macro-level. On a micro-level, virtually every piece of "popular wisdom" in this country, from parental advice to psychological self-help manuals, etc., is dedicated to teaching people that if they protest about others hurting them, THAT MEANS they MUST be "shifting blame."

For example, there's a writer by the name of Lundy Bancroft, who has dedicated his life to helping abused women leave their husbands. He describes (in addition to the wife-beaters) the "stealth" kind of abusers who constantly twists their wives' protests until they sound absurd, or would bully women into not offering their opinions, and then "twist it around" so it was THEY who couldn't tolerate HIS opinions. And guess how the abused wife's friends react? You guessed it, that she was "claiming to be a helpless victim"! Only Lundy Bancroft sympathized with these particular women, because he's a lot like you, only his focus is more restricted.

I realize you don't usually cover domestic violence since it's a minor issue compared to bombing Iraqi children, but I'm just citing it as an example of why, to answer your question, the kids don't realize they're victims and fight back.

And this also extends to why Americans don't rise up against their corporate oppressors. It's because from the time they're toddlers, the lesson is pounded into their skull, "If others are treating you badly, it's your fault."

American society cuts an entire mental "domain" OFF. You are never allowed to very clearly stand up and say, "You hurt me!", not just in politics but in every tiny social domain of human life as well.

Does that answer your question, sir? Am I making sense?

3:39 PM  
Anonymous Bingo said...

I hate to always be the bearer of bad news around here, but here we go again:

"At least three shot at Texas college"

http://rt.com/usa/news/shot-texas-college-officials-529/

Better add an AK-47 to your NMI lifestyle.

Bingo

4:53 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Smith-

Yeah, but I suspect that's only a small part of it. In any case, I regard the victim mindset (depending on context etc.) as a sad thing.

Shep-

Welcome back! I was so excited 2 c.u. back on the blog that I lost control of all my bodily functions.

LJ-

Indeed. I'm hoping you'll join me and other Wafers when we storm the W.H. after knocking back a 6-pack of Bud Lite.

mb

5:31 PM  
Anonymous ennobled little day said...

You said something a while back about how, with enough anecdotes, you end up having data. It's been bugging me, so I have to rip into you a bit Dr. B (and fellow WAFers).

In Mexico (and probably something similar in other parts of the world), if something bad happens to somebody, and they pray to some saint, and they're somehow "miraculously saved," they will give offerings to that saint as thanks for the miracle performed. Many will point to those offerings as evidence that praying to saints leads to miracles.

If you then have the bad taste to ask what happened to all those who prayed and still got screwed, or did not pray and still got the miracle, people will say you're full of shit.

I think we in this blog are above this, or should be.

All I'm saying is that simply posting a bunch of crazy events does not, IN AND OF ITSELF, in any way prove the country's going to hell. Strongly suggestive, YES! And I do believe that the country is headed in the wrong direction. But as far as I'm concerned there's never been a shortage of violent, stupid idiots EVER in human history. (Although I do concede that America SEEMS to be particularly good at producing these idiots.) There are other, better reasons to conclude that the country is not well.

We have to be a bit more intelligent about how we collect and analyze data.

6:39 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Day-

3 things to consider:

1. There is lots of statistical evidence on crime and homicide and sheer madness in the US; it's not all anecdotal. It's just that the anecdotes are more interesting. I'm not holding Wafers to any Ph.D. dissertation stds here, and I think we're just observing, not 'proving'.

2. When u compare the anecdotes and stats today, to even 10 yrs ago (let alone 30), you see obvious changes; that things are, in fact, much worse, both in terms of quantity and quality. It's clearly more horrific. For example, the extent of the Newtown killings--26 people is a lot! Why did Adam Lanza have to kill 20 children? Why did he have to shoot them multiple times? And why, in the wake of this event, did people run out and buy more guns and ask specifically for the weapon Lanza used? It's not hard to see a deep sickness in the American soul, and to recognize that it's getting worse over time.

3. This can't be quantified at all, but the mood of the country has changed over the past decade or so. There's a kind of death instinct, or pathology, that hangs in the air. Don DeLillo predicted this nearly 30 yrs ago in his novel "White Noise," a brilliant and eerily prescient bk. One feels it also in the on-the-street behavior of cops, in the general atmosphere of militarization, in the fear that hovers in the air. Sometimes, fiction is a more reliable mirror of life than stats.

mb

7:16 PM  
Anonymous Paul7 said...

Dr Berman: "It's not hard to see a deep sickness in the American soul, and to recognize that it's getting worse over time."

"ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The New Mexico teenager accused of fatally shooting his parents and three younger siblings told authorities he was annoyed with his mother and had been having homicidal and suicidal thoughts. Griego told the detective that his brother did not believe him that their mother was dead so he showed his mother's bloody face to his brother and then shot him. He's accused of then shooting his two young sisters in their room. He retrieved an AR-15 rifle from his parents' closet and waited in a downstairs bathroom for his father to come home. The statement said he shot his father multiple times after he passed the bathroom doorway."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/21/nehemiah-griego-teen-shoots-parents-3-children_n_2519359.html

"ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The New Mexico teenager accused of gunning down five family members over the weekend ambushed his father as he returned home from an overnight shift at a rescue mission, then reloaded his rifles and planned to go to a Wal-Mart and randomly shoot people, authorities said."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/22/nehemiah-griego-teen-killing-family-homicidal-suicidal-_n_2525439.html

"A convicted murderer, who spent time in a hospital for mental illness after he killed his mother, legally obtained a permit and purchased an arsenal of guns because of a loophole in the Minnesota legislation.

Christian Oberender, now 32, killed his mother in the family's home with five shots from a shotgun in 1995, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He was 14-years-old at the time and was eventually committed to a hospital for being mentally ill and dangerous. Despite this, Oberender was able to obtain a gun permit last May and has since amassed an arsenal of 13 guns, including semi-automatic rifles, an AK-47, a Tommy gun, assorted shotguns and a .50-caliber Desert Eagle."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/21/christian-oberender-convicted-killer-gun-permit-arsenal-weapons_n_2517064.html

8:10 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Sanc-

Sorry, amigo, but I think we've done est to death at this pt. Let's focus on the Latvian Orthodox Church instead.

Paul-

DeLillo ascribed American insanity to a 'toxic cloud' hanging in the air, not to individual psychotics. Contra the usual NYT (et al.) analyses, sociology explains this better than abnormal psych, esp. when the 'abnormal' is becoming increasingly common. The toxic cloud is really a whole way of life, wh/I think I described fairly accurately in WAF; but this understanding is cold comfort when the slaughter of innocents is involved. How do u convene a meeting of 315 million people to discuss a condition that is so 'global', esp. when Americans think these events are (like Vietnam etc.) 'aberrations'? Plus, it's a very old American pattern, to always insist that the enemy is 'out there'. Jimmy Carter tried to get us to introspect, but the American public wasn't having it. I recall, during his presidential campaign of 2008, Obama did make one near-fatal mistake, saying that in harsh economic times, people turned to guns and religion. Hillary and McCain immediately jumped down his throat, and he understood that you don't acquire power by telling the truth. We are in a no-exit situation, in short. Individuals can become NMI's, but a whole nation can't.

mb

9:32 PM  
Anonymous ennobled little day said...

Dr. B-

About your 3 points...

1. Yeah, you're right. We all have lives to live... As long as we keep in mind what we're doing (anecdotes vs. actual data/stats), I guess we're fine...

2. I haven't looked closely at the stats, but I agree... things do seems off, and they seem to be getting worse with time. I just wish I had a better sense of what's happening and where it's all headed. Oh, well...

3. I'll have to read that novel. ...Hitler Studies in a Midwestern college?? haha...

I apologize for the rant!

9:52 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Day-

No apology necessary: you were just being honest--and doing it w/o Attitude, which is frankly quite exceptional.

It does raise the question of what this blog is for, anyway; or for that matter, why I bothered to write 11 books (#11 is about to appear). (One thing I say to folks who ask me about writing bks practically no one reads is, Well, what else should I be doing w/my time?) True, we've suddenly been getting 1400 hits a day, wh/I find bewildering; but what difference does that make? For most of the 7 years that this thing has been running, I probably got 5 hits a day. I regard this thing as a "reality seminar," nothing more. We just come here to figure out what the hell happened to the US and what the possible responses to that are. It's why I don't have a lot of patience w/folks who arrive w/an unreal agenda: e.g.: Yer a jerk; I'm smart; you shd be doing this instead of that; pls be my guru; and so on--the trolls and other lost souls who are really hurting and are looking for a target for all that pain (again, it's never inside; oh no!). It's my guess that this describes at least 98% of the American public, and it's also why like clockwork, one of them comes to school with an AK-47 or whatever and murders little children. As I said to Paul, our situation is so 'global' that there is abs. nothing that can be done to reverse the terrible trajectory that we are on. But for what it's worth, my goal, from Day 1, was to create a place where we can think out loud about these things, and so collectively (all 110 of us, or whatever) get a sense of where we are in this world; and equally important, *who* we are in this world.

This is, BTW, the subject of this new bk I referred to (#11): "Spinning Straw Into Gold". It's the only thing I've ever done in the 'spiritual guidance' genre, and I'm not likely to do a sequel. But it's just abt as far from the Oprah-Chopra type of spirituality (wh/, as Bill Maher correctly pts out, is abt making money) as one can get. The 'formula' (there isn't one, really) is not, Your mind determines your life, so think positive thoughts and you'll be successful--that's utter dogshit, in my opinion. Rather, it's only this: try to stay in touch with what's real, even if it hurts. Then at least your life will be your own. As Gandhi famously said, Your life is your message.

mb

10:32 PM  
Anonymous Captain Spaulding said...

It really is interesting to sense how truly mean-spirited of a country we've become. Sometimes I think that I'm just seeing it more now that I'm older - critiques of the crassness of American culture certainly predated my existence - but other times it just really feels palpable, in your bones.

Dr. Berman initiated this thread about "guilt," but, in truth, I think a more productive term to describe things like Aurora and Newtown is "despair." If you decide to engage in mass-murder/suicide, you're effectively denying any intrinsic worth to yourself or others (while, paradoxically, desperately asserting some form of agency). And I think this "despair" emanates from a society where all human values have been eroded except for the economic: are you efficient? are your productive?

Erich Fromm, I recall, was writing about this 70 years in "The Sane Society" and it is also shocking how prescient that book is. If you're not an engineer, MBA, or a scientist: you're effectively seen as worthless. And for people who can't fit in (from maladjusted kids to humanities graduates), well, tough luck. Revolution and labor movements are no longer feasible, no one's really interested in politics except as a horse-race contest, and most other people are apathetic and angry. In other words, our forms of sociability have dried up and we've become alienated and atomized from each other.

I certainly deal with the corrosive effects of despair in my own life and find it hard to "change my thought patterns" to be more optimistic. And I'm a pretty well-educated (in humanities so, therefore, worthless) middle-aged guy; I can only imagine how profoundly alienating it must be for kids who aren't on the Ivy League track and who are facing a world of diminished opportunities. I look at my nieces and nephews sometimes and weep. I mean, seriously, what do kids today have to look forward to?

Thus, I think Dr. Berman is correct when he says that the rot of the American soul is more advanced now. But I really think despair plays a large part of this - not so much a "victim mindset" as a sense that there's no real way for people to fashion meaningful lives for themselves in a world dominated by junk culture, wage slavery, and escalating debt.

Certainly my community college students don't care for the higher learning and, yes, Dr. Berman, they have shit in their brains, but also I can't quite blame them: they know intuitively that they're at the low wage rung of the ladder and have little illusions about their lives. It's difficult to get people to appreciate the beauty of human history and culture in a world that's persistently and increasingly ugly.

11:13 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Capt-

Then discuss that ugliness w/them in class, to the extent that u can even get them to listen. Talk to them abt Fromm; talk to them abt the commodification of everything, and what that has done to us. Give them this assignment: In one page, tell me what you hate. Write abt what makes u unhappy.

mb

11:46 PM  
Anonymous Captain Spaulding said...

A great idea but a little difficult to integrate into an ancient world history course! (Maybe in my discussion of the late Roman Empire... I'm sure many collapsing empires had psychological ramifications.)

Mainly, I was just trying to develop further the conversation on the sickness of the collective American soul and how (I think anyway) a real profound sense of despair seems to be one major aspect of it. You mentioned that 98% of us don't really see that the problem in our own inner desolation: my point is that the outer ugliness reinforces the inner disquiet.

1:24 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Capt-

True, but it wd get their attn. Pliny the Elder probably won't. As for outer ugliness: sure, but the 98% pick the wrong outside targets.

mb

1:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Berman and Captain Spaulding I would like to also suggest having your students read Viktor Frankle's "Man's Search for Meaning." An excellent book I was introduced to in a freshman philosophy class in a community college back in the 1980's. The search for happiness and the search for meaning are two completely different things. We have too much of this search for happiness in this country. We need to be searching for meaning.

Julie

3:24 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Julie-

Well, when Jefferson wrote abt "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," everybody in 18thC-America understood that 'happiness' meant 'property'. But even given its later (present) meaning, it's a self-defeating project, because happiness is a by-product; it can't really be pursued. The only thing is, that might be true of meaning as well; it might be something that just comes to you, if you are open to it, and are willing to learn the meaning of life--or even just your own life. *Searching* for meaning is what creates cults and gurus, after all. Frankel's bk is a classic, of course, but I think it shd be read together with Eric Hoffer, "The True Believer."

Thanks for writing in-

mb

6:30 AM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

Dear MB:

Thanks for the correction. Yes, that quote comes from Whitman. & about Whitman: One legacy of "free verse" has been scores of writers thinking that if they would abandon rhythm and rhyme in poetry, they would automatically share in the genius of Walt, which is a fallacy of "democratic" thinking. It is a sort of "get quick rich" scheme for poets. Don Marquis' character Archy in his brilliant comic strip "Archy and Mehitabel," is a "vers libre" poet reborn as a cockroach.

(Marquis could use that French phrase in a New York newspaper in the early 20th C. and expect most of his readers to know its meaning.)

9:40 AM  
Anonymous nincompoop (Nicodemus) said...

Anybody out there in WAF'er land that can recommend a good read on how the original aristocratic founding fathers came to acquire all that land. Land grants? Ruthlessness? Hustling???? I am hopeful someone has documented work in this area?

I'm intellectually challenged as compared to most of u but am interested in this topic. Plus, I enjoy anything about actual history.

10:39 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Nic-

You might have to read the individual biographies, I dunno. But they all did very well, no doubt abt it.

mb

12:32 PM  
Blogger LJansen said...

Really appreciated the recent exchanges between Capt. Spaulding & MB. Also in general I find the citations to philosophers and authors helpful since my education was not much concerned with these things. Altho I did discover Marx in my 40s and found the perspective helpful.

Anyway, I'll meet you and the WAFers at the WH, MB. Caution: I'm a wino I'll be swigging Boone's Farm. I know it isn't as productive as beer, but vive la difference!

12:44 PM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

Dear MB et al,

Dellilo: I read him for the first time, as I did de Toqueville and Sinclair Lewis, when I was in Mali, West Africa, and given that distance from the homeland, his art brought into focus for me the idiom of post WWII America, both the surface sensibility and what that surface hides. I was far from home and his "White Noise" was a rear view mirror which clearly relfected what I had left behind.

I haven't read anything of his since "Underworld" beause I don't think he could equal or surpass that achievement. Ezra Pound once said that artists are the "antennae of their race." and tht is quite true of Dellilo.

12:52 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Mark-

Yeah, that's a great quote. BTW, if u can, try to limit yrself to 1 post/day; I'm trying to encourage the lurkers to come out more.

LJ-

Several cups of coffee wd also do the trick.

mb

12:58 PM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

You don't have to read the article, but click the link for a simple visual take on how far we have progressed.

Thanks to Winter and Sarasvati for bringing John Trudell to my attention...“nothing changed but the skin color of the predatory reptilian that’s running the show.”
I wonder if Trudell would go for an interview on Alex Jones' show.

http://www.blackagendareport.com/content/descent-dr-king-barack-obama

1:15 PM  
Anonymous Paul said...

I'm sure someone is working on this.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jan/22/elderly-hurry-up-die-japanese

What was that song by Louis Armstrong? "what a wonderful world"

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

little day--I understand your point that blog entries could become little more than a stream of horror stories about the latest, incredible atrocities. The most compelling evidence I see is America's willingness to mine its children's bodies and minds for profit; there's no such thing as automatic health care for kids, pharmaceuticals have free reign to prescribe whatever makes money for them, CPS workers have such huge case loads (and very few safe places to put abused kids)they are practically toothless, schools are now beyond laughable--they're dangerous. There are hundreds of antecdotes within this data and sadly, all of my examples are easily verified. A country that exploits its children has fallen into the abyss. Capt. Spaulding's students could easily be the end result of a lifeless culture of child neglect/exploitation. If you haven't read Fromm's To Have or To Be, I recommend it.

I see my neighbors and coworkers and am always struck with the fact they're overwhelmingly good people--generous, friendly, helpful. Perhaps this is the paradox of being human and a member of an inhuman society. I am hopeful that people will find a way to re-form families and communities. I know this is a long shot and I'm not indulging in positive thinking, just hoping at some point, we can reclaim the things that make us human.

4:49 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and fellow Wafers,

nincompoop (Nicodemus)-

Give Charles Beard's work, "An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States" a try. Beard caused a minor scandal when this work was published in 1913. He argued that the Founders were essentially motivated by economic concerns and preserving their own wealth. Not that it made one bit of difference, it was still some pretty strong medicine when it was published 100 years ago.

Dr. Berman-

I am very much looking forward to book #11. Perhaps this is the one that will land you on the Bill Maher show. I really believe he is turning into a Wafer. Although many Wafers have expressed their concern about the implications of you achieving widespread fame and untold wealth, I say it's worth the gamble. An appearance on such a show would get you one step closer to that Italian villa... and a Wafer block party. I hope the 1,400 hits a day have nothing to do with this:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324478304578171623040640006.html

Jeff

5:05 PM  
Anonymous Charlie said...

infanttyrone stated "I wonder if Trudell would go for an interview on Alex Jones' show"

Interesting!
So Alex Jones is a credible and reliable source of information??

5:36 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Susan-

All those wonderful people voted for a man who caters to the rich and powerful, keeps the poor struggling and unemployed, and murders children in the Middle East on a weekly basis. And if u told that to those wonderful people, they wd deny it, or else not give a damn. It's precisely those wonderful people who have put the country into the abyss; don't kid yrself. We didn't get this country by accident.

Jeff-

Bk #11 is not abt the US, so I doubt Bill wd be interested. It's a real departure for me--'spiritual guidance'--tho not of the Oprah variety. At least Bill and I have that in common, we think O is a bad joke. But I'm still quite sure he won't be phoning me up. Besides, if he did have me on, what wd I say? That I wanna urinate on the president's Guccis?

mb

5:53 PM  
Anonymous The Dude said...

Speaking of Americans who have shit for brains, there was an amusing article out today about a class action lawsuit being filed against Lance Armstrong by people who bought his autobiography. I guess they feel cheated that he failed to mention his steroid use or something.

One of the lead plaintiffs is a guy named Rob Stutzman, who was the former Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. What I really love is the money quote from Stutzman as to why he is filing the suit:

"Defendants knew or should have known these books were works of fiction," the suit states. Stutzman "doesn't buy a lot of books or read a lot," but he and Wheeler were inspired by Armstrong's story and recommended it to friends. Now they want $5 million.

So typical of an American idiot, blaming Armstrong without ever once considering that maybe the real problem here is that he, "doesn't buy a lot of books or read a lot," and that if he did he might not be so easily taken in by charlatans like Lance Armstrong.

Yet this moron was a leading adviser to governor of our largest state. That right there says a whole lot about the sad state of America these days.

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2013/01/lance-armstrong-autobiography-suit/61339/#disqus_thread

5:57 PM  
Anonymous ennobled little day said...

I know this is a bit off topic, but given Dr. B's and other WAFer's interest in Japan, I thought you might find this interesting...

The following is from a popular Japanese video game:

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

I played the American version of this game. The song was not translated into English. I guess they figured Americans wouldn't appreciate it as much...

I know it's Jpop, but it kinda corroborates the assertion of some WAFers that Japan has some hope to pull itself out of the crap it is in.

8:04 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Day-

WOW! What a knockout! She is of course singing this message to the older generation in Japan, but it could be addressed to Mainstream USA as well. Thank you!

mb

8:51 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Martin-

Yes, too long. Pls compress by 50% and re-send, thanks.

mb

9:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr Berman,
I agree with you about the search for happiness. But I always thought meaning was found through searching within not from externalities. That's what I remember taking away from Frankel's book. But Eric Hoffer's "The True Believer" is excellent. I may have to read that one again. I've recently lost a couple of friends to the Obama cult.

Julie

1:51 AM  
Anonymous Bingo said...

In reference to data vs. anecdotes, some domains of study just aren’t very amenable to statistical analysis. Case in point, psychology: current psychological studies are extremely laden with statistics, a clear departure from the past. Yet, no relevant psychological study has been published in decades. However, if we go back 100 years and read Freud’s case “studies” which involved no statistics whatsoever, we see true genius-level psychological research.

Perhaps statistical analysis might be useful in describing America’s decline, but that only in hindsight, 200 years from now. I doubt such techniques could be utilized while this phenomenon is still in progress. As such, we really need to emphasize anecdotal data. And, based on that anecdotal data we have to allow our own “gut feeling” to guide many of our decisions and judgments.

@ Charlie: “So Alex Jones is a credible and reliable source of information??”
He’s definitely more credible than CNN, MSNBC, PBS, FOX, or The New York Times (the toilet paper of record). He’s also an excellent source of anecdotal data.

Bingo

2:00 AM  
Anonymous Saspasis said...

The picture of Eric Griego, the shooter who killed his mother, father, brother, and two sisters, is here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/23/nehemiah-griego-new-mexico-family-murder_n_2533035.html

What a waster!
What an insane, culture, country!

2:40 AM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

Charlie,

I didn't characterize Alex Jones as either credible or reliable.

I was mostly having a bit of fun based on Trudell's use of the word "reptilian", which is something that seems to be a hot meme for some of Jones' audience.

I don't listen to Jones on anything approaching a regular basis, so I don't know if he's into the whole reptile-alien world domination thing...although that shtick isn't too far off from the idea of Directed Panspermia proposed by Francis Crick and Leslie Orgel about 40 years ago.

Maybe alien reptiles *are* the Directors of Panspermia?
Myriad actresses in Hollywood and elsewhere attest to the converse, so...

I agree that, with the country swirling its way down the tubes, finding reliable media sources of information can be the source of an all-the-time effort...hey, just remember which worthless tabloid broke the Gennifer Flowers story back when Clinton was first running for Prez.

2:57 AM  
Blogger Zosima said...

Since I don’t really have a cat, Jeff could be right about Homeland Security being the source of all the new activity. I knew it was only a matter of time before they opened up a Morris Berman Bureau. The daily blog posts are now being processed through several supercomputers and then discussed by 1400 agents before being sent on to the Joint Chiefs and the Cabinet and finally ending up at the top of the Presidential Daily Briefing. I bet they think your new book on spirituality represents a threat to our gross national spiritual insecurity, and might somehow destabilize Oprahstan.

4:47 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Julian-

Well, the stats are there, tho, on ignorance, e.g., or violence, and I think we need them. I reproduce some of this in Twilight and DAA, but a lot more has piled up since 2006.

Julie-

Sure, but gurus (e.g.) will tell u to search w/in.

mb

5:51 AM  
Anonymous Charlie said...

Infanttyrone or whatever other names you assume:

Of course, the media outlets in America are full of alien reptiles that fabricate and report alien news. Further, those alien reptiles are responsible for all the wars and conflicts in the world going back to the Stone Age. They started crusades, the inquisition, and the auto-da-fe! Their nature is corrupting, so they corrupted all the non-alien humans who manage your affairs in the Senate and House.

Yes, those non-alien humans in charge of everything from the top to the bottom are not violent or ignorant. On the contrary, the non-alien humans know how to manage the affairs of the nation without appearing threatening, ignorant, and violent. This is why they can allocate trillions of dollars per year on military guns, more than the Pentagon requests per year. They are so smart and intelligent so they borrow huge funds from China to start unending wars as a way of justifying the millions of dollars they siphon and share with their fellow humans.

From the principles of deductive and inductive logic, we can now reach the conclusion that the alien reptiles (not the non-alien humans) are the main source of the problems bedeviling America. This deduction is sound because we say so and believe so. We can even conclude from the data presented above that Alex Jones is credible because those alien reptiles are violent, ignorant, and wicked by their nature and nurture.

6:52 AM  
Anonymous The Mule said...

I come to this site and others like it (Kunstler, Orlov, etc.) because for years I thought it was just I who felt that things weren't quite "right". Most people around me would tell me to stop "being a drag" at parties, when I would talk about things like Peak Oil, or how our lousey foreign policy was creating enemies all over the place, or how our domestic politics have been a race to the bottom. When I was young it was more a vague feeling, by the time I was 30 intuitively I knew something was wrong, but couldn't exactly put my finger on it, by the time George W. Bush entered office I knew we were going down like the Titanic. So there is some solace here to know that my gut feelings and observations over the last 20 - 30 years agree with SOMEBODY out there.

As the kids say: "Peace Out".

1:38 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Mule,

Welcome to the blog. Your experience at parties is mine as well; a major reason for my leaving the US. There really is no one to talk to, which is why I keep harping on the theme that it is ordinary citizens, in their everyday activities and beliefs, that are destroying the nation. The 'powers-that-be' wouldn't be in power w/o the tacit (or overt) support of these 'innocent' folks. (No govt can exist w/o widespread legitimation.)

The question is how to respond, the more so since a mass, organized response is probably not going to be very effective (as OWS demonstrated). It's kind of funny, I suppose: one can be angry at what's going on, and at the same time know enuf about the rise and fall of civilizations to understand that these processes do have a cyclic inevitability to them, and that as far as American civ goes, our time is up. Both are valuable; but the next step is to speculate on what a post-capitalist formation might look like. This might then open the question of where we shd put our energies; altho talking and writing abt the decline are still, to my mind, valuable activities. After all, they de-legitimize the status quo.

mb

1:52 PM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

Bingo said He’s definitely more credible than CNN, MSNBC, PBS, FOX, or The New York Times.
Studies have shown that on a daily basis those media outlets are right about as often as a stopped clock (or twice as often as that if you don't predate digital timepieces).
What hasn't yet been rigorously tested is whether AJ is consistently right more often than all of them put together.
London bookies give favorable odds that he is, with a range from 8-5 to 5-2 depending on the individual betting shop's definition of "consistently".

Interestingly enough, both AJ and Thom Hartmann have serious ties to comedy...
Here is AJ opening for Doug Stanhope about 9 years ago.
If you listen carefully, you can hear his version of the "America's need for an external enemy" meme that is often discussed here.
(Note: Playing this clip w/o headphones is NSFW in most establishments.)

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

Hartmann's funnies can also be seen on YT.
Just search "hartmann firesign".

@Charlie
AJ just broke a story that said the problem that was erroneously reported as "alien reptiles" should have been either "A-line reptiles" or "A-frame reptiles".
This would place them either in Swiss chalets or somewhere in NYC's garment district.
Close to either the Bankers of Zurich or some arch-villain in The Big Apple.
If the ambiguity is too much for you, go to the nearest terrarium and consult Schrödinger's Iguana.

3:06 PM  
Anonymous Pascal said...

Following a brief manhunt, authorities in Oklahoma arrested a 17-year-old boy accused of beating his mother to death with the butt of a shotgun.

Henry 'Hank' Laird was reportedly "laughing and smiling" when he surrendered to police Wednesday afternoon in south Tulsa, according to KRMG.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/24/henry-hank-laird_n_2541551.html

6:38 PM  
Anonymous concerned in ca said...

Dr B. I wonder if you or anyone could speak to the effect of dealing with people with children in lieu of the depressing times we're in and how to speak to hope for future generations. I think it's really difficult to have discussions with people who are looking toward the future for their kids but swallow the bitter pill of what this culture has to offer outside of the rat race we're in and either just can't deal with the risk of tossing it all or shifting to a geographic solution. I mean, looking at gradual collapse and re-emergence elsewhere (thinking optimistically here). I'm not looking to sugar coat things but a friend I've talked to has that same 'gut feeling' - he knows things aren't right - keeps plugging along trying to provide for his family. But bridging the subject is really tough for him - considering the hope he has for his kids and being immigrants have also somehwat bought into the 'dream' which I think is what drives him and his wife. I'd say they're closeted WAFER's though not sure about his wife - both creative and talented people that are in and out of professional fields to support their artistic passions... I've tried discussing DAA, NMI, and WAF but these people have been hit hard by the economy and are really just trying to stay afloat any way they can. With kids being a factor it can't be easy. The truth may set you free but...?

8:05 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and fellow Wafers,

Wafers and Dr. Berman-

John Cassidy of "The New Yorker" attempts to explain the murkiness of Mr. Smooth:

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/johncassidy/2013/01/but-what-kind-of-liberal-is-obama.html#commentAnchor_nyr_2000000002103374

Zosima-

Oh no! I was really hoping it was your cat. Now I'm getting worried.

Dr. Berman-

A departure worth taking at this late date, as we humans could stand to use a heap of "spiritual guidance" for sure. As the crack-up proceeds on its merry way, I'm sure book #11 will have plenty to say. If in fact you do get that call from Bill Maher, and you do get kicked off the show for suggesting the virtue of the WUM, Canter's Deli is not too far from Bill's studio; it won't be a total loss.

Jeff

9:50 PM  
Anonymous ennobled little day said...

You're welcome Dr. B.! I'm glad you liked it.

10:15 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Jeff-

I dunno what the WUM is, but I certainly know Canter's Deli. But I suspect a call from Bill is very far in the future.

Concerned-

A tough one; they aren't going to wanna hear anything along these lines. Best thing they can do is get out, but they won't wanna hear that either. I'm stumped, really.

mb

10:39 PM  
Anonymous Susana said...

Naked burglar terrorizes couple but they fight back

http://www.abc-7.com/story/20649108/naked-assailant-terrorizes-nfm-family

http://www.fox4now.com/news/local/187981261.html

11:09 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Dr. Berman-

From one of your previous posts...WUM is the Wafer Urine Movement.

Jeff

11:09 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Jeff-

Oh...I thought it was Wafers United In Urine (WUIU).

Sus-

Far too many imbeciles in this country, really.

mb

11:53 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Re: raising kids - It seems to me that lots of parents, though displeased with the current course of the U.S., cannot bring themselves to actually pull the kids out of the pre-Harvard or pre-"opportunity" treadmill, whatever that might be, for a quieter life somewhere else. "Best opportunity" still seems to translate most often as economic opportunity in the U.S., rather than the opportunity to have a fulfilling life.

2:59 AM  
Anonymous Bingo said...

@ concerned in ca:
As MB says, getting out is the only sensible solution. If they are immigrants, going back to their country may not be a bad idea. Many (possibly millions) first-generation immigrants have already left. I too left America, and the primary reason is that I do not want to raise my child here. This culture is absolutely poisonous to children and adolescents, and there is little that parents can do to prevent that. And, by the way, this culture is more toxic to children of immigrants than to children whose families have been in the US for several generations. I am a psychologist, and I saw many, many such tragedies in my work. Email me at licurici1001@hush.com if you have specific questions.

@ Charlie:
I’m afraid you have your talk show hosts mixed up. Last fall (when he interviewed David Icke) Alex Jones clearly stated that he does not believe in the “reptilian” theory. So, you must be confusing AJ with George Noory of “Coast to Coast”. Generally speaking, Alex Jones has credible guests, such as Gerald Celente, Max Keiser, Paul Craig Roberts, and a few months ago he interviewed Chris Hedges.

If you listen to Alex Jones even briefly, you will discover that he does not blame our current problems on “reptilians, but rather on “banksters”, transnational corporations, Big Pharma, corrupt media, military industrial complex, corrupt Congress, fascist government, failing education system, prison complex, corrupt medical system, etc. He also vehemently condemns Obama (and Bush) for drone assassinations, Gitmo, NDAA, torture, for turning America into a police state, and for all the abuses you won’t hear on the MSM. So, despite his libertarian views, Alex Jones is on the right side of history on most issues. He exposes himself to great risks by doing so, and for that he really deserves respect. He does not deserve ridicule.

Bingo

3:22 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Concerned,

I find myself wrestling with that question myself. My wife & I have no children, and frankly I'm grateful for it at this point. My youngest brother, however, has three -- so how do I tell him that things are going to get steadily worse? What parent wants to hear that? I understand it completely, as I wouldn't want to hear it if I had children myself.

I do think a certain percentage of people know that the fix is in on some visceral level, even if they can't admit it. I also think that explains their desperate consumption & pursuit of the American "dream" -- denial in its purest, more toxic form -- endless distraction to avoid having to face the very grim truth.

But of course, it's when any living creature feels itself to be trapped & doomed that it's the most dangerous, both to itself & to others. That's when it strikes out at anything nearby, even someone trying to help. Especially someone trying to help, because admitting a need for help is admitting the truth.

So what's the answer?

If nothing else, living an NMI existence & being an everyday, ongoing model of the alternative. It'll help keep you sane, and it might even influence a few others to face their fears in time. Don't count on that, though; just live well for your own sake.

10:27 AM  
Anonymous Paul7 said...

Michael stated: “It seems to me that lots of parents, though displeased with the current course of the U.S., cannot bring themselves to actually pull the kids out of the pre-Harvard or pre-"opportunity" treadmill, whatever that might be, for a quieter life somewhere else. "Best opportunity" still seems to translate most often as economic opportunity in the U.S., rather than the opportunity to have a fulfilling life.”

Parents in the US have lost their moral, fiduciary bearing, not because they are bad people, but because all the institutions in the US lost their usefulness to these parents and their children. Schools were turned into corporate tools; politics and policy-making have been turned into arena for greed; and churches and religious institutions became the grounds for sexual desires and money-making schemes. Children were left alone at homes to raise themselves as parents are squeezed for hours and hours of work and responsibilities at work. The entire system is bound to collapse, and this is why I love the themes covered by Dr Berman. The society has no other place to go, but downward and complete collapse!

12:59 PM  
Anonymous Michael Sosebee said...

Hello Professor Berman. The other day we had a long on-line dialogue about WAF. The blogger was Guy McPerhson, Professor Emeritus, who walked away from a tenured academic position at U of A as a protest. He delivered this message at a lecture in Louisville KY Nov 2012. I'd like all feedback.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=Rg1C9IL2iaQ

2:46 PM  
Anonymous in.fern.all said...

Mr. Berman,

I just finished reading "Wandering God" and found it quite meaty, on a par for me with Hannah Arendt's "Origins of Totalitarianism" in helping to unravel the mysteries of modernity. My copy is used and heavily highlighted with many comments in the margins, which adds another dimension to the reading experience. I have a couple of questions, one prompted by the previous reader. First, in the section on nomadic pastoralists you mention several times the symbiotic relationship between the sedentary agrarians and nomadic herders (I keep hearing that number from "Oklahoma", "Territory folks should work together...") and say what the nomads got from the farmers (grain, manufactured goods) but not what the farmers got from the nomads. Also, am I correct in understanding that Zoroaster's vehemence arose in response to the violence of marauding nomads, and if so, what prompted the nomads to stop productive, mutually beneficial activity and opt for pillage in the first place?

Regarding our paleolithic cognitive heritage, you say in chapter 2 in the subchapter on the role of population pressure, "Human beings may not be all that social, and may find the longterm cooperative commitments inherent in farming or DR economies opressive". You then go on to state that "The 'domestication' of people into interdependent groups...is closely tied to warfare and competition." You speak of the inherent instability of groups and the "fission-fusion" strategy of managing intra-group stress. It makes me wonder whether techno-buffoonery is perhaps an effort, however warped and misguided from our standpoint, to reassert fission-fusion. Could it also be that Margaret Thatcher was right in that there is no society, only individuals and families? Could it be that the profusion of material wealth and gadgets is reconnecting us to our primal selves?

3:25 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

From the archives...
http://tinyurl.com/33b4axp

Must repost that link. Can't get over it. Just imagine extricating this from an ancient Roman kitchen - u simply wouldn't. Maybe u wld find phallic symbols, porn, tributes to warriors etc. But prob not an artifact with this one's peculiarly modern quality of casual psychopathology. We swim in violence and some people still can't perceive it.

W/ such artifacts, what will future civilizations think of our culture?

(not an endorsement of this product, to say the least) (note: some of the 1-star [negative] reviewers object to the product's violent nature but only on grounds of gender parity - they want a female version, perhaps w/ a knife thru the vagina)

If u're depressed abt recent shootings, maybe a movie would lift yr spirits. I recommended this astute study of human nature opening Feb. 1:
http://tinyurl.com/aqhjtjj

There will not be a "kinder, gentler America."

4:05 PM  
Anonymous BellesLettres said...

Please send Garry Wills a copy of "Why America Failed" ASAP:

http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2013/jan/21/dumb-america/

4:44 PM  
Blogger Dan Henry said...

Bingo said,
"And, by the way, this culture is more toxic to children of immigrants than to children whose families have been in the US for several generations"

As the child of an immigrant and a first gen American I have to agree...and I can see a massive gulf between my parents even. I shudder to think what being a true born generic American would be like, but at the same time I do believe Cypher had it dead to rights, "ignorance is bliss".

5:58 PM  
Anonymous nic said...

I do not like the fact that CPunch put P C Roberts as the lead above your essay, even tho he is good on many points, in as much as he is a "Negative Freedom" person and u, sir, are far above the Reagan guy.

However,since I am partly dolt (hopefully small %), I do not think I fully understood the essay.

Namely, It seems there are three freedoms. Positive, Negative and Ay Rand Freedom, i.e., the freedom to do whatever the heck you want to do, that DOES, infringe on EVERYBODY. Also, is that not the Anglo-Saxon way???????

Hope this is clear and not argumentative or dumb.

7:00 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Nic-

Well, Isaiah Berlin never referred to Ayn Rand, probably because he never heard of her; and I didn't because, as you pt out, that's not freedom, it's vampirism. Besides, as the most recent biography makes clear, she was a colossal douche bag. That being said, every day I suffer a little bit more, that Mittney is now an irrelevant ghost, and not in the W.H.

Belle du jour-

It's a gd essay, but Gary ain't gonna read my stuff, I'm quite sure of it.

Fern-

You know, I'd love to answer yr questions, but the truth is that I was writing WG 15 yrs ago and there are large chunks I just can't remember, since I've written so much unrelated stuff since then. Plus, as I approach 70, I'm undergoing a type of severe brain rot, as most of my critics will tell u. So 1000 apologies, I shd be able to do better, but I can't. However, I do think that the answer to that very last sentence of yrs is: Not bloody likely! I'm glad u got a lot out of the bk, however.

mb

7:24 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Greeting Dr. Berman and fellow Wafers,

Tim Lukeman-

Great thoughts and a perspective that cuts deep. Your larger point about the dangerous situation of the trapped and the doomed striking out violently is well taken. This, I believe, is central to the overall patten of violence we are witnessing all over the nation. Stupidity and ignorance certainly play a role here as well, yet it is deeper than that. Thanks again.

Jeff

9:48 PM  
Blogger NearFar said...

Fellow Wafers--

Here's a "sticky note" quotation to put on your bathroom mirror (in case your dolt-o-meter needs recharging):

"Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure you are not, in fact, just surrounding yourself with assholes" (quote is from William Gibson, the sci-fi/speculative writer).


Julie & MB---

On a slightly more serious note, your brief exchange re: "pursuit of happiness" brings to mind George Oppen's poem "Leviathan"...(altho I thought of this poem when I first read WAF wherein you quote Jackson Lears: “the acids of modernity are often as corrosive under socialist as under capitalist regimes.”)

Best,

Christian

LEVIATHAN

Truth also is the pursuit of it:
Like happiness, and it will not stand.

Even the verse begins to eat away
In the acid. Pursuit, pursuit;

A wind moves a little,
Moving in a circle, very cold.

How shall we say?
In ordinary discourse—

We must talk now. I am no longer sure of the words,

The clockwork of the world. What is inexplicable

Is the 'preponderance of objects,' The sky lights
Daily with that predominance

And we have become the present.

We must talk now. Fear
Is fear. But we abandon one another.

10:46 PM  
Anonymous k_pgh said...

Re: poetry

To my ear, this parable from a poem by Linh Dinh complements the opening post:

Seven people concocted the same, perfect plan
To assassinate a cynically corrupt, genocidal yet
Moronic dictator. On the fatal day, they arrived at
Their sniping spot. Startled, they shot each other.

– From Parabolic Parables (Some Kind of Cheese Orgy, page 39)

(Attempting to delurk again after a humbling false start the other day.)

1:06 AM  
Anonymous Cookie Lipschitz said...

As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said of the Germans after the Holocaust “Few are guilty, but all are responsible”. The Allies strung up a few, kept those that were of utility to the growing Military Industrial Complex, and then paid for the rebuilding of the German state. We are just as responsible for the war crimes perpetrated by Obama.

However, I've also come to realize that we are also so absolutely complacent, cowed, and stupid in US as to be complicit in our own oppression. For several years now I've been trying to organize the New Mexico Union of the Unemployed, so as to present a solid voting block and thus a potential threat to our (largely Democratic Party) elected Federal officials to force them to create a direct jobs program, akin to the old WPA, to put people back to work...and can get absolutely no traction on the idea, with the least amount of interest coming from unemployed people themselves. It's absolutely bizarre how we've even forgotten how to be angry at those who have their feet on our necks. That's the last straw for me...I now consider this country to be irrevocably fucked.

2:21 AM  
Blogger Dan Henry said...

A kindred soul:

http://innagoddadadamdavegan.blogspot.com/2012/07/when-i-started-hating-america-people-no.html?m=0

2:42 AM  
Anonymous Jerome Langguth said...

In.fern.all,

I share your view about the importance of Dr. Berman's Wandering God, which I return to frequently. Your mention of Arendt is interesting too, as I am currently working my way through her The Life of the Mind (another neglected philosophical masterwork). On the topic of hunter-gatherer politics and social organization, I recommend anthropologist Christopher Boehm's recent book Moral Origins: The Evolution of Virtue, Altruism, and Shame. The questions that you raise are addressed there in some detail, though Boehm's main interest is in the evolution of morality in human societies.

5:36 AM  
Anonymous ennobled little day said...

Susan-

Thanks for the recommendation. I've added it to my Amazon wish list.

As to our schools, I'm currently a student teacher and (hopefully) will begin teaching this coming school year. As far as I can tell (and I've only been doing this for a few weeks so far) most students SEEM fine. I do have a class, though, of children who come from troubled backgrounds. I occasionally stop and think about what I may learn about these kids in the coming weeks. I often wonder how their lives may be connected to what's going on in the nation as a whole (and to what extent I can even make those connections).

8:47 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Cookie-

A very reasonable conclusion, and see post after yrs, by Dan. I don't know who came up w/the phrase 'conspiracy of silence' in regard to the Holocaust, but in the US we have to add, 'conspiracy of ignorance'.

mb

9:02 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Every word of this piece is true so I'm not quite sure why it's considered satire instead of just plain accurate reporting:

http://www.salon.com/2013/01/26/my_fake_college_syllabus/

Jeff T,

I don't pretend that I'm immune to that free-floating anxiety & fear myself. You can't avoid it, The most you can do is be aware of it, and do your best not to let it overwhelm you.

Due to age, finances, family obligations, I'm probably remaining here in the USA, so I've got to come to terms with it & build as much of an NMI life as possible. No complaints, my choice.

As the barbarians are here, are us, we don't have to be exiled to the hinterlands to be living among them. Something the later Roman poets & writers understood very well, I think.

10:08 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

And then there's this:

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/01/21

10:25 AM  
Blogger Sarasvati said...

Regarding anecdotal evidence, in his book “The Sense of Being Stared At,” Rupert Sheldrake says:
“Courts of law take anecdotal evidence seriously, and people are often convicted or acquitted thanks to it. Some fields of research – for example, medicine – rely heavily on anecdotes, but when the stories are published they literally cease to be anecdotes; they are promoted to the rank of case histories….Science is founded on the empirical method; that is to say on experience and observation….”
However, we all know that eye witness accounts of the same event are subjective and can vary widely, to say nothing of the maxim that there are lies, damned lies and then there’s statistics.
Infantryone mentioned David Icke: On the off-chance that anyone is interested in the idea of actual reptilians running the world, Icke’s the go-to man. A few questions I ask regarding the truth of anything are: What did I hear? What is the source? How reliable has that source been? What is it backed up by? Is it my experience? I’ve never seen a literal reptile in a suit, but when I look at some of the top people in government, business, religion, etc., I certainly recognize that they (“human” reptiles) exist at least figuratively (“Snakes in Suits”). Otherwise I cannot fathom what allows these people to behave the way they do…obviously, to them, we are merely bug splat.
Concerned: Most Americans suffer from CRE and don’t want to face the reality of our downward trajectory, so I’m very careful not to blatantly express my views, especially if they have children or even grandchildren…as it is most people run from me screaming.
Dr. B, I anxiously await your book “Spinning Straw into Gold.” Up to now my favorite book in the spiritual genre has been Jed McKenna’s hilarious take-down of the industry, “Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing.” I’ve never laughed so hard, and it’s priceless even though Jed (whoever he may be) has his own claims to enlightenment and how to get “there.”

11:28 AM  
Anonymous in.fern.all said...

Jerome,

Thank you, they sound interesting. I'm always on the lookout for quality reading material.
After reading the comments in the above commondreams link I would say that the posters could probably get more insight on their questions about the "root causes" of which they speak by reading "Wandering God". It's definitely worth rereading.

11:53 AM  
Anonymous Susana said...

Dr Berman, thanks for the following article:

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/01/21

Suggestion:

An article as good as this can be used as the starting point of our next discussion (before we get to the magic number of 200 posts). Simply sprinkle some quotes from it and link to it.

1:13 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Sar-

Be sure to also read Barb Ehrenreich's bk, "Bright-Sided," along w/Janice Peck's bio of Oprah. In some ways America might be described as millions of douche bags worshipping a few other douche bags. To quote Tina Fey in an early episode of "30 Rock," "I will not tolerate douchebaggery." Like we have a choice.

Meanwhile, time to switch over to the next post.

mb

3:09 PM  
Blogger steven andresen said...

You began, thus,

"...Karl Jaspers, in The Question of German Guilt, argued that people should be collectively held responsible for the way they are governed. So if their country, for example, is ruled by a criminal regime, the people are responsible for that state of affairs...."

I wanted to ask a few questions about this. I have been impressed by several writers who try very hard to "wake people up," as many call their task. For example, I think Glenn Greenwald does a good job of pointing out how the "rule of law" has been undermined in this country. He talks about several issues that support his thesis.

One might wonder, given the strength of his argument, why people are not up in arms about what has been going on.

One might think after reading Greenwald and Jaspers that people have turned their backs on whatever their country has been turning into, thinking probably, that just so long as the trains run on time, they are OK with it all.

But, I think there is more to what has gone on, and so, I want to speak up for the "sheeple."

Not only has the country turned into what many have called a fascist state, but it has done so by creating a zone of confusion so that no critical mass of activist critics could come together and push back against the fascist developments. We all know that you don't boil the live frogs by turning up the heat all at once. You, instead, bring the water to a boil slowly so the frogs don't notice they are being cooked. In the same way, you implement your long term plan to cook the American people by not doing anything so quickly that they realize what's being done to them.

So, one of the methods they might use comes out of the idea that no one listens to a boy who has repeatedly and annoyingly repeated the same story over and over about the sky falling, or a wolf coming to eat everyone. Then, when the sky does fall or the wolf shows up, no one is in a position to resist. We have been told in this way that Israel and America are going to invade or attack Iran. We've had this story shouted out at us as a warning for at least ten years. It hasn't happened yet. However, progress may have been made to make everyone less able to protest if and when such an attack and invasion is made.

We have been told that with just one more unjustified law, or action, we will be living in a fascist state. This has been going on for decades and decades. Maybe now we truly are living in one, but, most people have turned a deaf ear to the annoying warning. They may care about such a development, but they are fatigued by the constant warning sirens.

Yes, we have the government we deserve, because, we're told, we live in a democracy of, by, and for the people. But I wonder about this too. I am not sure that our elections give up the ability to decide whether we go to war, arrest the corrupt, protect the weak, and so on. It is only an election to decide between the choices that the powerful have chosen for us...between the generals that want to attack Stalingrad in the winter and those who want to wait until spring.

8:48 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Steve-

Pls send message to most recent post. Nobody really bothers to read the old ones. Thanks.

mb

8:54 PM  

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