February 27, 2013

From Hustlers to Thugs: Two Ends of the Historical Spectrum

Purely by coincidence, I recently happened to read the New York Times Book Review review of Harvard historian Bernard Bailyn’s latest work, and Jill Lepore’s New Yorker essay on the American military, within the same hour. Whether there is, historically speaking, a causal connection between the events described by Bailyn, and the situation depicted by Lepore, would be hard to prove in any strict sense. All I can say is, it seems right to me.

Let’s begin with Professor Bailyn. The book is called The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America, and deals with the settlement of this continent during 1600-1675. The review, by Charles Mann, appeared in the 6 January 2013 issue of the NYTBR, and describes a very different Bernard Bailyn than the one I’ve been used to. The Bailyn of The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (1967) argued, contra Charles Beard, that the colonial rhetoric of liberty and freedom was real, not a cover for economic motives. The American Revolution was, in his view, an idealistic revolution, one of “transforming radicalism.” A similar “triumphalist” portrait of the Revolution is central to the work of his student Gordon Wood, who has had a huge impact on the popular (including textbook) conception of the foundation of the Republic. Yet this rosy interpretation can be seriously questioned with the aid of historians such as Joyce Appleby or Richard Hofstadter (who once referred to the American Republic as “a democracy of cupidity.”) As I quote Appleby in Chapter 1 of Why America Failed:

“If the Revolution was fought in a frenzy over corruption, out of fear of tyranny, and with hopes for redemption through civic virtue, where and when are scholars to find the sources for the aggressive individualism, the optimistic materialism, and the pragmatic interest-group politics that became so salient so early in the life of the new nation?”

As I argue in that book, all of these things were salient on the American continent from the late sixteenth century on. The core of the American experience from that early point, according to historian Walter McDougall (Freedom Just Around the Corner), was hustling: competing, getting ahead, expanding your individual economic position in an opportunistic environment. One doesn’t have to wait until the Jefferson presidency for this to become obvious.

Much to my surprise, Bailyn’s latest work seems to be an indirect confirmation of my, and McDougall’s, thesis—something I would never have imagined possible. As Charles Mann says, The Barbarous Years is not yet another mainstream tome celebrating the greatness of the Founding Fathers; far from it. Rather, Bailyn’s book gives us “a group portrait in tones of greed, desperation and brutality.” In the case of Jamestown (founded 1607), for example, the “colony was a commercial enterprise, started by the Virginia Company with the sort of careful financial evaluation that in the more recent past was the hallmark of the dot-com boom.” (I’m assuming heavy irony here, on Mann’s part.) Mann continues:

“Ship after ship of ill-equipped migrants…went out, each vessel intended to fulfill some new harebrained scheme: wine-making, silk-making, glassmaking.” As for tobacco growing, “Thousands of migrants were willing to risk death for the chance to cash in on England’s squadrons of new nicotine junkies.” And then came the Dutch settlements, such as New Amsterdam (later New York), created by the Dutch West India Company: “Unaware of and unconcerned about prior treaties or contracts, individuals spilled willy-nilly into the land, constantly setting up new ventures in ever more remote areas.”

Hustling, in a word. Surely, this is a very different America from the one Bailyn started out with, nearly half a century ago. Could it be that at age ninety, Professor Bailyn had something of a conversion experience, took off his rose-colored glasses, and chose to give us a much darker—and more accurate—picture of colonial America? At the very least, it suggests a greater continuity with later developments.

Which brings me to the essay by Jill Lepore. Let us fast foward four centuries to the American military establishment, as described by Lepore in “The Force” (New Yorker, 28 January 2013). Here’s what she tells us:

•“The United States spends more on defense than all the other nations of the world combined. Between 1998 and 2011, military spending doubled, reaching more than seven hundred billion dollars a year.”

•“Around the world, ‘power projection’ is, in fact, a central mission of American forces.”

•“In the nineteen-fifties…military spending made up close to three-quarters of the federal budget.”

•“On September 8, 2011, when Buck McKeon convened the first of his House Armed Services Committee hearings on the future of the military, no one much disputed the idea that the manifest destiny of the United States is to patrol the world.” (Howard McKeon is chair of the HASC, the largest committee in Congress.) Nevertheless (she goes on), John Garamendi (a Democrat from California), read aloud from “Chance for Peace,” Eisenhower’s first major address as president, which he delivered to the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 1953:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This is a world in arms. This world in arms is not spending money alone; it is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children….This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”(Italics mine)

•Lockheed Martin, whose contracts with the Pentagon amount to $30 billion annually, was the single largest contributor to Buck McKeon’s last election campaign. In all, LM contribute d to the campaigns of 386 of the 435 members of the 112th Congress, including51 of the 62 members of the HASC.

•The U.S. sells more guns than any other country. “At home and abroad, in uniform and out, in war and in peace, Americans are armed to the teeth….Much of the money that the federal government spends on ‘defense’ involves neither securing the nation’s borders nor protecting its citizens. Instead, the U.S. military enforces American foreign policy.”

•On 13 October 2011, at the fifth of Buck McKeon’s hearings on the future of the military, the HASC heard testimony from Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. “But the moment Panetta began to speak a protester interrupted. He identified himself as an Iraq War veteran.‘You are murdering people!’ he shouted. ‘I saw what we did to people. I saw.’ He was escorted out of the room.”

I’m not sure there is a lot more to say, beyond res ipsa loquitur—the thing speaks for itself. I mean, could such a development have been an accident? It is hard to avoid the conclusion that in the fullness of time, the hustlers of the 17th century evolved into the thugs and murderers of the 20th and 21st. And when you think about it, how could it have been otherwise? If you start out with a “group portrait in tones of greed,” where else could you wind up?

©Morris Berman, 2013

197 Comments:

Anonymous Dovidel said...

WAFers & Reader,

Feminism is a particularly difficult subject talk about. You can’t think straight about it without including social class in the equation. I say that because since the dawn of civilization the overwhelming majority of human beings have lived in class societies in which, as Mao said, “…everyone lives as a member of a particular class, and every kind of thinking, without exception, is stamped with the brand of a class.”

It seems to me that, within any particular society, the two greatest determinants of human behavior and thought have always been social class and gender. Please note that I use ‘gender’ as a social term, and ‘sex’ as a biological one.

In his book, “Gender” (it’s as much an annotated bibliography as a book), Ivan Illich points out that in every society in the world, men and women have always had very distinct gender roles. Also, I would share his observation that only some of the changes in the position of woman in American society can be considered ‘progress’.

It might be easier to see progress in the lives of Hillary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi than in the lives of countless working-class women who schlepp home from mindless subsistence jobs to their kids and housework.

Please don’t get me wrong. There is plenty that women need to be liberated *from*, but only in a much better society than ours will most women have anything decent to be liberated *to*. This goes for all of us.

I’ve said enough for one posting, but I would like to join Dr. Berman and Jeff in inviting Reader back. I have a lot more questions than answers, but maybe we can have an interesting discussion – and hopefully we’ll all learn something new.

David Rosen

12:00 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

DR-

As far as we know, hunter-gatherer societies had a lot more social and gender equality than what replaced them. Check out my bk "Wandering God" for greater detail. The real underclass in those societies was toddlers (infanticide). But yr rt, as long as you say "since the dawn of *civilization*"--which is, comparatively speaking, not that old. Socioeconomic hierarchy and war (as opposed to simple aggression) don't go back that far in human history. (I say socioeconomic hierarchy, because hierarchy in terms of display or prestige, such as the wearing of jewelry, seems to be Paleolithic in origin. Long discussion, obviously.)

mb

12:11 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Greetings MB-

Your new role as matchmaker for Wafers and Waferettes has me thinking. Very soon we will need a T-shirt line for the Kinderwafers.

Possible slogans:

Wafer+ Waferette= Wittle Wafer

Make wee-Wafers, not war

My parents went to bermanicmonastery and all I got was this esoteric T-shirt

Spit happens, and the Wafers knew it first

Please note that our slogans could be printed on T-shirts as well as onesies.

Jeff

12:26 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Dr. Berman,

'Since the dawn of civilization' was put there quite deliberately. It may not be that old, but it's what we've got!

David Rosen

12:34 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Jeff-

I'm also thinking some neon signs might be a gd thing as well.

mb

12:35 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

DR-

Well, you said "in any particular society." Not so! BTW, post only once a day--thanks.

mb

1:24 PM  
Anonymous Shane W said...

(Just reposting, sometimes, you all move too fast for me. lol)

MB-
Re: fear & fascism, that's why I don't put much stock in the "progress" that civil rights, feminism, & gay rights has made. As we've said, they're still buying in to the among system lock, stock, & barrel, but, also, using nazi Germany as an example, it can all disappear quickly. Before hitler, Germany was probably one of the best places to be Jewish, and Jews were highly integrated into German society, certainly life was better than under the pogroms and anti-semitism of Russia and the Slavic countries. Weimar Germany was also way more progressive on sexuality & gay issues (magnus hirschfeld). All that was quickly swept away when hitler came to power, and I don't think for a minute that American "progress" couldn't be just as quickly set aside.
call me an optimist, but I just think the system is way too frail at this point to survive to global techno capitalist totalitarian dystopia. I'm just thinking about the "sunshine" period that follows the end of any empire, when everything comes to light, like imperial Japan & nazi Germany at the end of WW II, and the USSR and the Communist bloc from 1989-1991. People find out just how weak & dysfunctional the system was, and are incredulous that it held out as long as it did. The emperor really did have no clothes, wizard of oz type thing.
I just have this feeling of people in the future, after the US has collapsed, looking back, being incredulous that an empire of incompetent morons could have held on for so long. & I DO believe that the elite in charge are as moronic as the average American. They'll be saying, "it was worse than even Morris Berman realized."
Julian-
You mentioned Poland, I thought Poland was about as staunch an ally of the US as it comes, I thought Poland was about as far up uncle Sam's ass as they come? They've supported the US with troops on all our recent adventures.

2:07 PM  
Blogger Boris the Spider said...

The Supreme Court has dismissed a case in which Chris Hedges was one of the plaintiffs. He and the other plaintiffs had no legal standing because they couldn't show that the government's super-secret spooks were spying on them. The proper word to describe this, as Glenn Greenwald suggest, is Kafkaesque.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/feb/26/supreme-court-eavesdropping-law-doj-argument

Bill Moyers interviewed Richard Wolff, and while it was nice to see a rare critique of capitalism on tv, it floored me at the end when Wolff explained how he was optimistic that the American people would see through all the crap and make things right.

http://billmoyers.com/episode/full-show-taming-capitalism-run-wild/

5:04 PM  
Anonymous CD said...

Its funny how I tried to explain this(US military thuganomics) to my parents both of whom are victims(directly or indirectly) of US war crimes. My father's eardrums were blown out from a US bomb raid during the Korean War; he was less than a year old at the time unable to understand my grandmother's plea to cover his ears when the bombs would explode. After narrowly escaping death, my grandmother and her child along with other mothers survived in man-made ditch afraid to come out in the open as they obviously cannot outrun US weapons of mass destruction.
I often ask them to recall their experiences. The blame is usually on the North Koreans who apparently liked to hide among the civilians. U.S. culpability in the matter is avoided completely. "Look at how poor North Korea is," they say. Maybe some thugs are better than others. Especially if they can "help" you rise up from the ashes they themselves created.

5:20 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Boris-

Rick Wolff is actually a friend, and a very smart guy. But he's a gd example of what I've been talking about: I'm literally the only critic of the US who has actually given up on the US, on a gut level; who understands that it really is hopeless. No one else can seem to do this, even tho the country is smashing to pieces, Titanic-wise, on an iceberg of its own making, in a very obvious way, and on a daily basis. Not unrelated to this is the fact that I'm the only one who insists that the American people are colossal dummies, and that therefore there can be no reversal of the downward trajectory we are on. The day Moyers interviews me, pigs will fly across the sky, and Christ will make an appearance at Belmont Racetrack and put a sawbuck down on Man o' War.

mb

6:21 PM  
Blogger John Zorn said...

Talking of thuggery - the Guardian reports that the UK govt is quietly stripping some people of their UK citizenship, informing Uncle Sam, who then murders them in drone attacks in Pakistan.

These victims are sometimes British born of Pakistani descent - but they are full British citz.

Others not killed find they cannot re-enter the UK, and can't make an appeal as they can't enter the country.

6:25 PM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...

Very interesting. Its probably not coincidental that the U.S. is the country where most of the evangelical churches, mormonism, scientology, credit cards, chiropractic and advertising were born. Nothing is outside the cunning ken of the american mind.

This too was too good to pass up--very true

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-02-27/founded-geniuses-and-run-idiots

7:41 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Hackenbush said...

pink- I'm with Dr. B, I thought this *was* a dating blog... Oh well, I guess it is mainly focused on deli meats.

I do in fact have a blog, just my own little hustling outpost for my comics and illustration, and you are more than welcome to write guest posts about your dating experiences if you want --- If MB is a minor author, I'm a sub-sub-sub-minor cartoonist and most of my blog hits really are just 'bots anyway (and who says 'bots don't like tales of True Romance?) Heck, I invite ALL waferettes to post their dating stories/advice/whatever to my blog (and esp. their pictures!) Ms. swordfish, jml, even the prickly-skinned Reader if she can bring herself to see past the way I shattered her illusions about WAFerdom --- all are welcome to attend!*

No, but seriously pink I hope you will post something if you feel like it.
http://www.timrockscomics.blogspot.com

And since I am a typical American (even reading this blog is just void-filling [no double meaning intended] behavior on my part) I might as well pimp the blog to other WAFers while I'm at it... WAFers might enjoy (click the "Online Comics" tab) reading "Marxist Hulk Comics" for one (be forewarned, I don't have a finely-honed understanding of Marx - but then, it is just a "Hulk" comic anyway, so whaddaya expect?) Also, under the category of Dystopias, be sure to check out "Becky Bluebird and Friends" which is about some adorable woodland creatures pushed off their land and forced to work for an evil capitalist! I also have a tedious, over-written comic featuring Alex Jones in a MAD magazine style satire (or attempt at such.) And there's one about some newscasters I saw who took much glee in a fan getting tased.

Be sure to leave comments! And "follow" the blog so as to mislead those lumbering buffoons called Americans that it's the "in" place to be and they should send me their (last remaining) piles of cash.

And and, as a faithful legionary of the WAFer elect, I volunteer my humble pen for any of this projected WAFer merch (just be sure to cut me in on the back end... "Hack" is not far from the mark you see...)

Hope this isn't too spammy MB.. or too *something*... Oh well.
I am, as ever,
Dr. Hackenbush

*I probably should leave Reader's name out of my attempts at humor. It just seemed to fit the flow of the sentence. Hope my comments don't keep her away, for Dovidels' and everyone else's sake.

8:25 PM  
Anonymous Joe Hohos said...

Dr. Berman,

Even though the hustling culture has been with us since the beginning of America, and longer, we all have to admit it has reached epidemic proportions. Do you think the Boston Tea Party could occur today without the participants being locked up for good, or maybe the first drone strike on American soil? Back then, they were viewed as heroes; today, thugs, or worse, anti-capitalists.

8:41 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Joe-

Not sure how they were viewed in context, really. Perhaps heroes in retrospect/mythology, I dunno. In any case, I look forward to the day when every American has his/her own drone, and is using it on a daily basis.

Hack-

Ohfergodsakes, now *I* feel like a pimp! Please, let's stick to the state of the American empire, and not your tenuous love life. Any more o' this and I might follow Reader's example and quit the blog myself!

Capo-

If ignorance were bliss, Americans wd be ecstatic.

mb

10:47 PM  
Anonymous The Dude said...

Is there any sadder example of the decline and co-option of American journalists as a profession than Bob Woodward? With his Watergate stories he helped bring down an utterly corrupt president (though the kinds of bad acts Nixon had to resign over have become the unquestioned norm under Bush and Obama), but then he sensed which way the wind was blowing, climbed into bed with the power elites and has spent the past 30 years as one of the empire's leading propaganda mouthpieces. How the man sleeps at night is utterly beyond me.

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2013/02/new-conservative-hero-bob-woodward-has-obama-threat-level-problem/62608/

"Bob Woodward, the square-jawed star of the Watergate scandal, recently sat down with Politico to gripe about how an Obama aide "yelled at [him] for about a half hour" and later said he'd "regret" asking the administration tough questions."

And here is the money quote from the story:

"Woodward heads to Fox News tomorrow to talk about the whole situation with Sean Hannity. Maybe they'll eat some donuts and have a soda."

11:26 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dude-

He ain't losing any sleep. This country turns everyone to dreck.

mb

11:49 PM  
Anonymous Samuel said...

Thanks Berman. I like these two quotes:

1) “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This is a world in arms. This world in arms is not spending money alone; it is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children….This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.” ~~ President Eisenhower (1953)

2) The U.S. sells more guns than any other country. “At home and abroad, in uniform and out, in war and in peace, Americans are armed to the teeth….Much of the money that the federal government spends on ‘defense’ involves neither securing the nation’s borders nor protecting its citizens. Instead, the U.S. military enforces American foreign policy.”

When some children do not have enough to eat in America, and the politicians are busy cutting foodstamps and medicare, but the same politicians are budgeting more funds to Pentagon, I know that something is crazy in this country. It is even more crazier when the same politicians talk about gun control and Obama sheds crocodile tears about gun killing.

11:49 PM  
Anonymous Troutbum said...

Dr. MB,

With regards to your military discussion, I've just started reading Nick Turse's new book, "Kill Anything that Moves - The Real American War in Vietnam". He's arguing that the death toll was 3.8 Million violent war deaths, civilian and combatant. The source of this number was the Harvard Medical School, no less. And there reason to believe this number may be underestimated. The Vietnamese government estimates 7.3 million causalities with 2 million civilian dead and perhaps another 5.3 million wounded, more astoundingly, the population of South Vietnam was around 19 million at the time. Quoting Nick, " the indiscriminate killing of South Vietnamese noncombatants... was neither accidental or unforeseeable"...." My Lai was an operation, not a aberration". This well documented book has 83 pages of footnotes and can be found here: http://amzn.com/0805086919 . Bailyn's book needs a sequel - It's 400 Barbarous Years!

7:19 AM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...

Reflected a bit more on the essay. Can these be not so much ends of a spectrum but as a cycle? As a once economist mentioning cycles would only get you in trouble and I suppose the same is true among historians. Yet both the post and events bring back ideas from Toynbee's Study of History (one year at grandparents in Coyoacan as a teen read the entire set and have not been the same since). Namely the idea of challenge and response. The challenges and requisite responses of early america were one thing versus the challenges and possible responses faced today. Of course per Toynbee once there has been a "proletarianization" of the dominant elite the ability to respond is lost and all bets are off---

9:41 AM  
Blogger pinkpearl said...

@MB, seeing as you are friends with Rick Wolff, Chris Hedges and others - smart people who don't think America has failed or that it is too late to save it - do you ever wonder if you are just ... wrong? And if so, how do you think your way back to your original position?

I'm not asking to be snarky. I'm just trying to work it out. I think Chris has said something along the lines of "it doesn't matter anyway, because of climate change", which is pretty much my own view. But that's not the same as *America* failing.

Anyway, I'd be interested in your thoughts.

10:06 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Pink-

It's a gd question, and of course I don't have a crystal ball, and can't know the future in any certain way. I can just talk abt what's likely. And that is, that the historical record is that civilizations rise and fall. *Whether* any particular civ will eventually fall is thus not a terribly interesting question. The interesting questions are When, and Why. I deal w/the latter in WAF. As to when, it shd be of some interest that a U.S. intelligence report released in 2008, “Global Trends 2025,” predicts a steady decline in American dominance over the coming decades, with U.S. leadership eroding “at an accelerating pace” in “political, economic and arguably, cultural arenas.” Of course, Mr. Obama doesn't talk abt this report, but it is one that was prepared by the US Gov't itself; and I'm quite sure there are others like it, plus contingency plans on the part of the military in terms of how to control rioting etc. when things get especially hairy. In fact, I recently wrote Chris that I suspected the Pentagon was running training exercises in Nevada or wherever, to prepare for such untoward events, and he agreed w/me.

But of course, this is all in process, as it were. I think America is failing right *now*. After all, Rome didn't collapse at 2pm, Aug. 4, A.D. 476. It wasn't built in a day, and it didn't die in a day. I personally don't think one can look at the US today--even leaving aside the $14+ trillion national debt (such that it's the Chinese that are keeping us afloat)--and call the place a success. So I guess your real question is whether this can be reversed, whether America can still be saved at this late date.
And the historical record is that there isn't a single civilization on record that was able, in its decliining phase, to turn itself around. Not one. (Check out Jos Tainter's work, for example, for a comprehensive overview.) Of course, you might say: "Well, what abt the French Revolution?" But there are problems w/that argument. 1st, France was a nation, not a real civilization, and certainly not an empire. Things could, as a result, be more or less 'contained', whereas the American Empire doesn't have that luxury. 2nd, w/the restoration of the Bourbons after Napoleon, the Revolution began to look like a strong node, or punctuation point, in a long-term evolution; an awful lot remained the same, in short. The best analogy w/the US, in other words, really is Rome: slow disintegration and eventual fading into the woodwork. Or perhaps the Middle Ages, a huge socioeconomic formation that finally was eclipsed, and gave way to capitalism. (And I hafta add, that the revolutionary model, even if it did work, is passe today, because of the security-and-surveillance state. Overthrowing the US Gov't is not really an option.) As an historian, my best guess is that the US is itself embedded in the capitalist system, and as that comes apart, so will we--like Spain, like Greece. The light at the end of the tunnel here, which I've talked abt, is a post-capitalist, post-carbon, eco-sustainable decentralized formation, and we can see the alternatives slowly emerging now at the margins (with the secession of various parts of the country thrown in, in 30-40 yrs' time). Personally (again, following the Roman model), and for a whole variety of reasons, I don't think that 'renaissance' will take place on American soil; but there are no guarantees. Another alternative, recently discussed on this blog, is that we just enter a frozen, permanent techno-security state, along the lines of The Matrix, with people adjusting to it via hi-powered versions of Prozac. As I said above (earlier discussion), the real struggle may prove to be not the 'overthrow' of capitalism, but a confrontation w/Brave New World. (continued below)

11:28 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

In a word, there is very little to suggest a revival of America, which wd be, historically speaking, on the order of a miracle. Chris and Rick may believe in such things, but I honestly cannot convince myself that anything resembling that is in the pipeline. Beyond everything already said, where wd it come from? What wd be the sources of such a renewal? Certainly not the American people; that wd be a joke. So my feeling is that optimists at this pt are clutching at straws, hoping against hope; and after all, America is the land of optimism, whether justified or not. To think the US will 'pull it out' when, historically speaking, no other empire has, is to believe in American 'exceptionalism'--a flimsy (if seductive) religion, at best. Being a serious critic of America, it seems to me, means being a critic of that belief; but few Americans are able to do that, as far as I can see.

This finally leaves the question of whether, even if America *could* be saved, we would want to bother. It really is a trashy culture; when you get rt down to it, it's all American Idol and Kim Kardashian. With a few exceptions, it's never been more than a vapid, spiritually empty, hustling culture, organized around money and profit. Where is the American Tolstoy, the American Beethoven? Are those proposing to save America, to reverse the course we are on, proposing to change the very nature of our culture as well? It's more than 400 years old...good luck.

mb

11:28 AM  
Anonymous Savantesimal said...

Here's one for the conspiracy theorists. A "confession" was posted to one of the more popular conspiracy discussion sites, Above Top Secret, where someone claimed to have been paid to sign up to such sites (though not that particular one) and argue in support of certain political issues and/or try to disrupt discussions that were not going the way his employer wanted them to go. Since it's original posting, the "confession" has been removed from the first site and is now available only on some other sites that copied it. They have been getting supposed legal claims requesting it be taken down. But these sites are resisting and requesting proof of right to make the claim, so it's still available, for now. Better read it while you can. (It's really too long to put the whole thing into this blog.)

I Was a Paid Internet Shill

I am writing here to come out of the closet as a paid shill. For a little over six months, I was paid to spread disinformation and argue political points on the Internet. This site, ATS, was NOT one that I was assigned to post on, although other people in the same organization were paid to be here, and I assume they still walk among you. But more on this later.

I quit this job in the latter part of 2011, because I became disgusted with it, and with myself. I realized I couldn’t look myself in the mirror anymore. If this confession triggers some kind of retribution against me, so be it. Part of being a real man in this world is having real values that you stand up for, no matter what the consequences.

...

This is my confession. I haven’t made up my mind yet about whether I want to talk more about this, so if I don’t respond to this thread, don’t be angry. But I think you should know: Shills exist. They are real. They walk among you, and they pay special attention to your popular gold-bordered WATS posters. You should be aware of this. What you choose to do with this awareness is up to you.

Yours,

ExShill

1:00 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Sav-

Well, we've seen trolls attack this blog, esp. on topic of Civil War, WAF ch. 4, etc.; except, for all I know, they cd have been just typical dumb Americans, rather than trolls or shills. But this poor shmuck's confession does attest to the breakdown of serious discourse in the US, that's for sure. It's similar to the heavy FBI infiltration of OWS, really, wh/was never even a threat. In the end, all of this is the death knell of democracy.

mb

1:32 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

I'm sure the point will come (if it hasn't already) when not enough Americans are making even token protests, so it'll be completely outsourced to some private company to ensure that there's just enough "dissent" to keep the public fear simmering at the proper temperature, justifying even more draconian (and lucrative) measures.

1:45 PM  
Anonymous Dean said...

Dang, sign me up. That would be a great solution to my problem of not having a portable income to permanently wander aimlessly around the world.

Yeah, I know I've expressed some strong "anti-system" views on various internet forums over the years; but a WAFer like me could be useful. What about our (my) resignation, my/our ambivalence, my (our) abiding pessimism? What about my persistent dedication, even cheerleading for collapse? Isn't that worth something?

So, here I am. Just limped back from S.E. Asia without two coins to rub together. Haven't had a real job in 12 years, no hope finding one now. Not married, no kids, not close to my family. Surely there is a place for me. I don't need much. Just a little walking around the world money.

Tomorrow at noon, I'll walk to the park across from where I am staying. If there is a masking tape "x" on the third bench to the left, I'll know to await further instructions. If not, I'm going to have to ask Dr. Berman about letting me in on his deli meat schill.

2:26 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dean-

I know the park yr referring to. Sit down on the bench, and shortly thereafter a large man w/a moustache will come up 2u and ask you the time. Look directly at him and say, "The donkey is dead." After that, you'll never hafta worry about pocket money again.

mb

2:31 PM  
Anonymous The Dude said...

The banality of evil meets the clueless liberal:

"Andrew Breitbart was my friend"

http://boingboing.net/2013/02/28/andrew-breitbart-was-my-friend.html

"Andrew and I were friends. Last year when he passed away, I am ashamed to admit, I was afraid to write anything or to share how sad it was to lose such a good guy who cared so passionately about his friends. I was afraid because his life's work was monstrous."

I hate to use Nazi Germany analogies because they are so overused (and so often misused), but by all accounts Albert Speer was a nice guy too when he wasn't enslaving millions in order to run the German war machine.

I so much want to say to this guy that if Breitbart was as awesome a person as he says he was, maybe had he been shunned by those he liked and respected he would have stopped doing what he was doing (though I seriously doubt it).

3:40 PM  
Anonymous abc said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

And here's where it leads--a cartoon from Truthdig:

http://www.truthdig.com/cartoon/item/modern_marriage_20130227/

5:46 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Hello Wafers,

MB-

Reflecting on the "From Hustlers to Thugs: Two Ends of the Historical Spectrum" post, I also find it remarkable that the eminent Harvard historian Bernard Bailyn appears to be doing somewhat of an about face from his earlier work. His latest work seems to be discrediting his earlier triumphalist and more romantic perception of the American colonial past. What gives? Is Bailyn finally coming to terms with the bankruptcy of American exceptionalism; a belief that he helped perpetuate? Perhaps he, in his early nineties now, peers out at America and sees what he describes in his new book, a God awful brutal mess. He has to realize this, no? He has to realize that it's not 1957 or 1962 in America any longer. The place is now a carcass of what it once was, a hollow shell, a lunkheaded machine propped up by the Chinese and Kim Kardashian's rear end. We can only hope and speculate that he has seen the light. Suffice it to say, I find Jill Lepore's work much more relevant and meaningful. She is quite erudite and never shies away from puncturing sacred cows.

Jeff

6:12 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Hackenbush said...

MB- No need to quit the blog, I'm quitting my tenuous love life. Yr welcome.

Jeff T- Wrt being propped up by the Chinese- dang, economics is complicated and I still need to read Veblen, Keynes, and many others, but there is another angle to look at this. When you zoom out and examine the big picture, basically we give them "money" (i.e. symbolic units of measurement, created ultimately by the Fed thru computer keystrokes) and they give us real goods (crapola maybe, but still.) And then, after we give them "money", they turn around and funnel that into buying "treasury bonds" from us (which is more computer keystrokes.) It's a fun game. Whee! as our host might say. What makes our fiat currency valuable at all to anyone? I tend to think, it's all the men with guns we station everywhere. If that's true, then really there's no *econonomic* constraint on putting men with guns everywhere --- we have printing presses!/computer keystrokes. The only constraint is real world, mainly resource, constraints, e.g. Oil. However - as resources are drained, who's going to get first dibs on whatever's left? Why, the men (and women... sob) with the most guns of course. Unless some unexpected destabilizing event throws everything into turmoil, fragments everything or puts a new superpower in charge. Maybe also it could be a "multi-polar" world if as resources are depleted the US doesn't manage to maintain and extend its world system (In addition to resource constraints, there are political constraints, eg cultural formations.) The US seems to want to destabilize Syria & Iran and get a lock on that key part of the "chess board", which might give it the advantage it needs to keep Russia and China down. Anyway, just sayin', I'm not sure the "debt" issue is quite what it's cracked up to be. Might be more something to manipulate domestic opinion and make cuts to social programs palatable. Plus re-engineer the US so that the bottom 90% uses less of Massah's dwindling resources. But if someone sees a flaw in the logic pls inform me, I'm a novice.

8:32 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Google is making grandparents obsolete:

http://www.salon.com/2013/02/28/study_google_is_making_grandparents_obsolete/

What are the social & cultural implications? Sure, the Internet is great for finding specific information quickly, if you know what you're looking for. But can it really replace life experience? It certainly weakens family bonds, it increases contempt for & dismissal of the elderly, and it offers homogenized "wisdom" (i.e., Wikipedia) of the one-size-fits-all variety, easily digested, absorbed, and believed without question. Just another step closer to becoming an "individual" exactly like everyone else.

If this isn't cultural death, what is?

9:08 PM  
Blogger John D. Wheeler said...

Hmm, if America started out as small time Hustlers and ended up as big time Thugs, then maybe it's time for "Ways America Really Succeeded"... with a very appropos acronym.

9:36 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

Something to gladden the heart of even the saltiest WAFer (altho it seems finally to be an ad for a synagogue, looking at the source):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9U4ECB1UvQ

Watch it and feel the crustiness fall away, for a tiny moment. Ah!

I wld prefer of course to see a pair of white cloth shoes gradually turning a dark & ineradicable yellow....

10:17 PM  
Anonymous Joe Hohos said...

Dr. B.

Quick t-shirt idea. America - Empire in republic's clothing.

10:45 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Joe-

Or perhaps: Thugs in Smiley Faces.

Sanc-

A great ad (or whatever it is). My reaction: when (kosher) pigs fly.

John-

For a map of that evolution in the form of a novel, check out "Gain," by Richard Powers. It won an award from the Organization of American Historians. Meanwhile, John Berger says the US does 2 things very well: transfer money, and drop bombs.

Tim-

This shd help accelerate the process of collapse, in any case (silver lining).

Hack-

Whew!

Jeff-

Personally, I'm not gonna be happy until Kim's rump is on the $1 bill. George, move over.

mb

11:33 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

All Wafers and Waferettes are aware of my deep admiration for the American people. But I feel I need to give u all the basis of that admiration, and that is that my fellow-countrymen know where to put their energy, focus their attention. Here is a gd example of this:

http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/28/showbiz/celebrity-news-gossip/anne-hathaway-hate/index.html?hpt=hp_c4

6:32 AM  
Anonymous Troutbum said...

Dr. MB,

You know this but now there's published evidence. A paper just published, "The Weirdest People in the World?" has challenged social science at it's most fundamental assumptions and in doing so, finds N. Americans... weird. In their paper they pointed out cross-cultural studies that suggest that the “weird” Western mind is the most self-aggrandizing and egotistical on the planet: we are more likely to promote ourselves as individuals versus advancing as a group. WEIRD minds are also more analytic, possessing the tendency to telescope in on an object of interest rather than understanding that object in the context of what is around it.....The very way we think about ourselves and others—and even the way we perceive reality—makes us distinct from other humans on the planet, not to mention from the vast majority of our ancestors. Among Westerners, the data showed that Americans were often the most unusual, leading the researchers to conclude that “American participants are exceptional even within the unusual population of Westerners—outliers among outliers.”

see article on the research here: http://www.psmag.com/magazines/pacific-standard-cover-story/joe-henrich-weird-ultimatum-game-shaking-up-psychology-economics-53135/

The paper is here: http://www2.psych.ubc.ca/~henrich/pdfs/Weird_People_BBS_final02.pdf

6:58 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

Sanc-

Thank you for the video. II got me really pumped up and excited. I'm going to enjoy every beautiful second. My entire family will be with me (been a long time) in mid April.

Plus! Love the humor on this blog. It's all we got but all we need.

7:28 AM  
Blogger jerome langguth said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I have been thinking about the question you posed regarding an American Beethoven or Tolstoy. The sad truth about America today is that even if such luminaries appeared they would have zero impact on the culture at large. We did at least have jazz and the blues, but now, perhaps thanks to No Child Left A Mind and the gutting of art and music programs, the vast majority of my students have not heard the music of Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, or Duke Ellington. And speaking of Beethoven, when his name came up in one of my classes last term I had to explain that, no, I did not mean the St. Bernard.

7:54 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Trout-

Huge thanks for ref to this article (Watters). I actually read his book, "Crazy Like Us," some time ago, and wrote him abt it. This is very impt stuff, it seems to me, and in fact I've been thinking recently how weird Anglo-Saxon people are in general. In my experience, for example, when an American person says to me, "I'll call you," it means precisely "I won't call you." This is the norm, and the only exception to it that I've found is if the person wants something from me, esp. something that they think will promote their career (read their ms., recommend them to my agent, connect them with publishers, and so on). Then, they do indeed call. (Life = hustling, in the American mind.)

Why wd this be the case? Octavio Paz once wrote that what south of the border is regarded as communion (relationship between people), north of the border is regarded as contagion. Americans are allergic to other human beings, including other Americans, it wd seem. I also think something else is operative, tho I'm not really positive: namely, that if you tell someone you'll call them, and then do that, you are perceived as weak. If you don't call them, you display your supposed autonomy: "See? I don't need you." (What a triumph!) It's pretty sick, as this work by Joe Henrich and others wd seem to suggest. (I look forward to reading the original 2009 article.) And then, there's the implication for how American imperialism--clearly a mental as well as military state--interacts w/the rest of the world, imposing a set of 'emotions' (i.e., lack thereof) or perceptions on others that are, on a comparative world scale, fucked up. I suppose I need to change my post-it-on-the-bathrm-mirror suggestion: Not, I LIVE AMONG DOLTS, but I LIVE AMONG SICK, TWISTED DOLTS.

BTW, if you want to read a very interesting take on the Machiguenga, check out Mario Vargas Llosa, "The Storyteller."

mb

8:11 AM  
Anonymous ellen said...

Dr Hackenbush,

No need to quit your tenuous love life, just tone down the advertising of it a bit. If you do manage to snag a female companion she will appreciate your restraint.

What you write about the real value of money, debt etc is a basic truth--it is only ever a medium of exchange and has no intrinsic value of itself. I'd go further than using oil as a base line commodity--oil is unnecessary to maintaining life--the real basic commodities will be available food and water and those will be under the control of the people with most guns.
Something else to consider is that nature abhors a vacuum and power vacuums obey the same rule--when the US is no longer the world's superpower you can bet that there will be a cut-throat scramble to fill that role, though no sane country or organisation would want it. As someone else (can't remember who) said on another thread, the one thing that humans excel at and will never surrender is the attempt to control each other.
That in itself explains (but does not justify) the almost inevitable process of moving from a hustler to a thug.

Lovely uplifting vid, Sanctuary! and quite subtly done. Did you notice the faded camp number tatooed on the granny's arm? A reminder of what disconnection really entails when carried to an extreme.

8:26 AM  
Blogger John Zorn said...

Thanks for flagging up John Berger. I wasn't aware he was known in the US. But there's a lot I'm not aware of.

Berger is a marvellous critic. Like all of such critics, we don't hear enough of them. But hey, we dont hear enough about anything/anyone of importance amid the bread and circuses of mainstream media. I'm forced to admit too, that many of the public dont want to read of anything which breaks the illusion.

I'd be interested to hear how Wafers keep their spirits up in face of so many ominous signs and events.

I sometimes find it difficult. Perhaps it's this long winter which normally I spend in India - all in all, it's as cheap (if you live dirt cheap) as a European winter. I try a bit of being out in nature, selected readings and music and riding my motorcycle. I'm also planning to move to the poorest country in the EU, yet which still had the power and social coherence to boot out its government successfully. And my very modest income will stretch much further there.

Sounds feeble, but what do others do?

9:14 AM  
Blogger jml said...

This interview is interesting:

http://www.lewrockwell.com/lewrockwell-show/tag/james-douglass/

James Douglass wrote called JFK and the Unspeakable. Douglass is a Catholic Worker and peace activist, highly influenced by Thomas Merton. His thesis is that JFK was actually looking for a way out of the Cold War, that he and Khrushchev were talking about the two countries going to space together, or at least cooperating. He was looking for a way to cooperate with the enemy because he realized that the alternative was endless, continuous war. This is what got him killed. I don't know whether or not all of this is true but Douglass is a very thoughtful man who has some interesting things to say about America's tendency towards violence. It seems that war is just too lucrative to give up.

9:17 AM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...

The weirdness in the U.S. is and has been palpable. What put it in stark relief was (its not about party politics) was former senator and U.S. attorney general John Ashcroft. He ordered a painting with breasts at Justice Department covered with a curtain. He then outdid himself and wrote and performed a song "let the eagle soar". Check it out on you tube. If that does not confirm MB's thesis I do not know what. To be bi-partisian if the whole Hillary Clinton rise to prominence does not puzzle you I do not know what. Yes she is a woman and if thats a big deal fine. But never accomplished anything, failed the D.C. bar exam (and hid that fact) and if you have not noticed her peculiar diciton (unmm, well you know, I , ) invariable consists of illogically strong together cliches and conditional clauses that don;t add up to anything you are asleep. In a civilized place people like this would work at the equivalent of a walmart on a good day.

9:29 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

Trout:

I will also add my thanks for the paper and article.

Has anyone read the comments for the article? From the very start they provide a hustling "rebuttal" $100 wasn't enough money to make the game worthwhile "If someone played the ultimatum game and had to split $1 million, and only gave me $50,000, I would certainly accept the "pittance" offered. If it were $100, and they only offered me $5, I might reject."

And then they go on to yell that they put up a distorted Muller-Lyer illustration and how using imaging software line B was %5 longer ...

Jeez ... quibbling over the $ and the stupid lines which aren't even part of the core of the article ... what is that Ben Franklin said? "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt."

9:33 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

... you are perceived as weak.

This strikes me as being a key to the American psyche. Not so much actually being weak or strong, but being perceived as such. Appearance is all, substance is nothing.

I first started noticing this emphasis when Reagan was elected, and we started hearing "USA! USA!" & "We're Number One! We're Number One!" all the time. When I was younger, it was taken for granted that we were the best, strongest, most noble in the world. Mention was made of it in public speech, of course, but there wasn't so much desperate boosterism. Why constasntly harp on something everyone knew was the truth, after all? At least I recall it that way; maybe I just wasn't as aware at the time. But I think that most people honestly believed it then.

But since Vietnam & Watergate, it seems to me that there's been a steadily increasing drumbeat for American exceptionalism, getting more hysterical & intense as the actual condition of the country grows worse. That's what elected Reagan more than anything else: his promise of the appearance, the golden illusion.

So the weaker we become in every way, the more everyone insists that we're stronger than ever, that we can overcome anything, we can do it all. And I think it's because the vast majority no longer believe in the appearance at some visceral level, and they need to put an enormous amount of energy into maintaining the lie for themselves. So much energy, in fact, that they don't have any left for actual living. Instead, struggling to manage fear at tolerable levels by pursuing constant distraction is the best they can muster as a culture. Which is a culture of denial, disintegrating more each day.

Just my impressions, anyway. Thoughts?

10:18 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

File in the NMI folder:

http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/7277

10:38 AM  
Anonymous Gastiscus said...

Troutbum and Berman:

We need this in the Whitehouse, the US Congress, the Pentagon, and every home in America - the ONLY source of the world's problem would be solved in a second:

http://www.wptv.com/dpp/news/state/jeff-bush-brandon-sinkhole-video-jeremy-bush-brother-of-sinkhole-victim-describes-sinkhole-scene

11:07 AM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

MB asked, "Where is the American Tolstoy? The American Beethoven?"

Well, there was John Steinbeck and Leonard Bernstein. And Elvis. I'm being sarcastic here.

The Am T or B isn't to be found at Alt.U, Harvard, or Goldman-Sachs. In the *best case* scenario, he (or she) is working part-time on swing-shift at Walmart. This person never had any friends (or "friends"). He was always treated w/ absolute contempt by everyone he ever knew, including esp. his estranged nuclear "family." The reason is that he is a Loser. His flaw is his wrong mind, for which he feels guilt. He feels compelled to "write his scribble" during his unpredictable off-time (when one works a swing-shift, one can't know more than a day or two in advance when one will be working), but it never really comes together because what's the use? Anyway, it couldn't compete w/ the latest Iron Man or Zero Dark Thirty.

A more likely scenario is that he is among the homeless population, his mind not merely undeveloped but ruined.

The most likely scenario is that he never existed in Am in the first place. After all, there have been plenty of faculty and students at, say, Julliard (not Walmart) and while they have tons of talent...

Never forget that a lesser figure, the American Whitman, a postal worker, was fired when his supervisor learned (by chance of course) that he had published a poem. It wasn't the content of the poem that brought on the dismissal, it was the fact that W wrote poetry, period. Writing poetry was considered unbecoming in a govt. employee, because it was unbecoming in any grown man.

Let's hope the rest of the world gets around to flushing America sooner rather than later, and remembers to jiggle the handle afterward.

Hm, I see a new T-shirt slogan....

11:12 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Tim-

I think it was Alfred Adler who said that a superiority complex was merely a mask for an inferiority complex. Gd description of the US today, I'm guessing.

JWO-

I believe it was Nikita Khrushchev, actually (old Georgian proverb).

Capo-

What abt Bush Jr's paintings of himself in the bathroom? Americans are fucking nuts! Creepy, even.

jml-

I tend to doubt it. JFK was very much a Cold Warrior; check out his inaugural address. He also played brinksmanship w/Khrushchev over the Cuban missile thing. And then there was the Bay of Pigs. But there is some evidence to indicate, despite his rapid buildup of troops in Vietnam, that he was planning to back off of that adventure. And although it is not likely that there was only 1 gun firing (Warren Report has been thoroughly discredited), we'll never know who it was that arranged his death: CIA, Mafia, disgruntled Cuban exiles, etc. are all possible candidates.

John-

Sounds gd, time in Inja. Wdn't mind doing it myself. ("Tho I've belted u and flayed u, by the living gawd that made u...")Meanwhile, back here on the ranch, Wafers and Waferettes both invest their energies in deli meats.

Hack-

Not to worry; every dog has his day.

mb

11:26 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Sanc-

That's all well and gd, but we still need to nuke Toronto and Paris, the sooner the better.

mb

12:00 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: Charles Taylor writes that for a very long time, Western thinkers were caught up in “the extraordinary idea that there was a single path, from ‘tradition’ to ‘modernity,’ which all societies were bound to travel, some much earlier than others.” This is kind of striking, because politically speaking, the US Gov't is still caught up in it, and as a result it seeks to impose its vision of 'maturity' and 'progress' on other nations--at gunpt if necessary. True maturity, of course, means the recognition of the existence of different, alternative civilizational traditions (even w/in our own history, as WAF argues). This maturity will never arrive on US shores, sad to say.

mb

12:30 PM  
Anonymous Edward said...

Tim Lukeman stated: "the more everyone insists that we're stronger than ever, that we can overcome anything, we can do it all. And I think it's because the vast majority no longer believe in the appearance at some visceral level, and they need to put an enormous amount of energy into maintaining the lie for themselves. So much energy, in fact, that they don't have any left for actual living. Instead, struggling to manage fear at tolerable levels by pursuing constant distraction is the best they can muster as a culture. Which is a culture of denial, disintegrating more each day"

This is why I visit Dr Berman's blog. There is so much learning going on here that I cannot get enough of it. Compare Tim Lukeman's thoughts with the following (after reading both thoughts, check out the author of the second passage):

"Anyone who opposed the war was, by definition, a foolish hippie. Remarkably, that judgment didn’t change even after everything the war’s critics predicted came true. Those who cheered on this disastrous venture continued to be regarded as “credible” on national security (why is John McCain still a fixture of the Sunday talk shows?), while those who opposed it remained suspect.

And, even more remarkably, a very similar story has played out over the past three years, this time about economic policy. Back then, all the important people decided that an unrelated war was an appropriate response to a terrorist attack; three years ago, they all decided that fiscal austerity was the appropriate response to an economic crisis caused by runaway bankers, with the supposedly imminent danger from budget deficits playing the role once played by Saddam’s alleged weapons of mass destruction.

Now, as then, this consensus has seemed impenetrable to counterarguments, no matter how well grounded in evidence. And now, as then, leaders of the consensus continue to be regarded as credible even though they’ve been wrong about everything"

Now check out the writer here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/01/opinion/krugman-ben-bernanke-hippie.html?hp&_r=0

12:40 PM  
Anonymous Xiale said...

Regarding JFK, I'm not sure if anyone has read Ultimate Sacrifice by Lamar Waldron. I think it paints a clear picture of what JFK was attempting to do in Cuba, and how eliminating Castro cost him in the end. Hardly the stuff of someone looking to end the Cold War.

Xiale

1:58 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Edward-

Same kind of reasoning still obtains on Vietnam. To the American masses, it's not that the protesters were abs. correct; it's that they were hippies, the great unwashed, and shdn't have been marching in the sts. in the 1st place. At the very worst, the gov't 'made a few mistakes', that's abt it. Nor will the great and wise American masses be rdg the recent bk by Nick Turse; no way, Jose.

All of this brings me back to 2 crucial pts:

1. From top to bottom, the country consists of morons. Oh, sure, you get a Krugman or Stiglitz once in a while (both, however, pro-capitalist, and definitely not clued in to the fact that the system is collapsing, worldwide, and that we are transiting to something else). But these are minor, and minute, aberrations. When I say morons, I'm not just talking IQ here: Larry Summers has a high one, and he's a dummy. This is a culture of clowns, and I think that is what Krugman is trying to say. Why, indeed, would *anyone* be listening to John McCain?

2. What he does not say, however, is that you cannot save a culture of clowns. Clowns do all the wrong things, after all, and continue to do so rt into the grave. There will be no reversal of the trajectory we are on; that wd require surgeons going door-to-door and administrating lobotomies, both inside the Beltway and without. Not a likely scenario. To quote Geo Carlin once again: "Where do you think our leaders come from? Mars?"

We're toast, kiddies; don't for a moment believe anything else (=fairy tales).

Xiale-

Well, Castro is still around, of course, having outlasted many American presidents.

mb

2:58 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and fellow Wafers and Waferettes,

Dr. Hackenbush-

Behind the shell game of U.S. debt being bought by the People's Republic of China that you describe, are real consequences that provide a stark reminder of how weak American hegemony actually is. China has become the largest foreign creditor to the United States. As a result, it has major financial clout and influence over the American economy, including Kim's rump I might add. The profligate consumer economy that the American dolts enjoy so much, and believe will go on forever, is because of loans underwritten by foreign investors, specifically China. This economic reality, and the U.S. trade imbalance, reveal a nation that is industrially and economically weak. We are basically on life support as huge portions of the U.S. economy and the standard of living tied to it is entirely dependent on borrowing huge sums of money from abroad. Needless to say, should China choose to stop buying U.S. debt, or worse, begin selling U.S. debt, it would first cease one of the largest in-flows of capital into the country and second actually remove money from the U.S. economy. We can only speculate what would happen then. Regarding all the men with guns we station everywhere keeping things under control and shifting the balance toward the U.S., last time I checked, those blokes didn't do so well. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars strained our military to the breaking point and revealed an inherent weakness in the military as well. Could the U.S. actually fight and win a major war anymore? For more on this topic, as well as other catastrophes awaiting the United States, see Andrew J. Bacevich's book, "The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism" and, of course, MB's DAA.

Ellen-

You wrote that oil is unnecessary to maintaining life. Boy, I wish that was the case. Unfortunately, much of what we call modern society is totally dependent on oil. As you know, most things come from petroleum; this includes agriculture and pharmaceuticals. Many scientists indicate that oil is the critical factor for a planet sustaining life to 7 billion people. If you have not seen it, check out the documentary, "A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash."

jml-

For a book that leans in the direction that you are describing, see David Talbot's work, "Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years." That being said, I agree with MB on this one. It was Kennedy who led us into the war. In his first year in office Kennedy suffered the humiliation of the Bay of Pigs fiasco, the erection of the Berlin Wall, and the embarrassing Vienna summit with Khrushchev. Kennedy even admitted that his credibility was on the line to journalist James Reston and that Vietnam would be the place that the U.S. must hold the line against the commies. By the time of Kennedy's death there were 16,900 American soldiers in Vietnam, and 109 were already dead. See Tom Wicker's book, "JFK and LBJ: The Influence of Personality Upon Politics" and David Halberstam's "The Best and the Brightest." Halberstam remains, in my opinion, the most compelling account of America's entry into Vietnam.

Jeff

3:20 PM  
Anonymous Savantesimal said...

Who was Herman Melville if not the closest analog we'll ever have to Tolstoy? It was decades after his death before his greatest novel was recognized for its value, and that only because a used copy was found in a bookstore by a critic prominent enough to draw attention to it. That's how much we appreciate the "value" of great art in the US. What a grim picture Melville paints of Americans, too. Ahab is not just a "workaholic" in the relatively positive sense of being completely absorbed in his job, but also in the negative sense of using his "job" to flee from being human. The "White Whale" is clearly a stand-in for many things suppressed in Ahab himself.

jml: I think JFK had to be "removed" because he was losing the Cold War. Think of all that happened during his short Presidency: The Bay of Pigs debacle, where he refused to send US forces to help to rebels the CIA had landed. The Berlin Wall was built and he didn't do anything about it. Then the Cuban Missile Crisis and he compromised with the Russians by agreeing to remove US missiles from Turkey, after a slight delay to let the US publicly deny any linkage. He even denied to Eisenhower that he had made any "side deals". And he was trying to withdraw from Vietnam instead of wade in and fight to prevent them from electing their popular Communist hero as their leader.

But the high ranking people of the US "intelligence" community knew what was going on. And they were in the position to arrange the things that have been turned up since the supposed "investigation" of the Warren Commission. Lee Harvey Oswald had been employed by the CIA, for example. So he could have easily been setup as a patsy by simply asking him to do something on pretext of it being for some other mission.

3:32 PM  
Anonymous Dean said...

Regarding India---

I just don't see the draw. I tried real hard, as I didn't want to come home from Asia and India is very welcoming to U.S. citizens for long term stays.

Everything I read, other travelers I talked to--all confirmed in my mind, however, that nowhere has bought into and adopted the "American Fraud" more than India. In fact, in some ways they are more American than Americans at this point.

When I also reached the conclusion there was nothing to be gained in spiritual mysticism, India lost all appeal to me. Would love to here divergent views though, as I've never actually been there.

Oh, Dr. B-- I went to the park and did what you said. Not only, however, did I leave without pocket money, but without my pants as well. What did I do wrong?

3:46 PM  
Anonymous Joe Hohos said...

Dr. Hackenbush,

That's pretty much what Paul Krugman is saying. The debt is no more than a tactic used for austerity measures.

Dr. B,

And that's part of the reason the rest of the world hates us. Most Americans pay more attention to celebrities than our foreign policy. I know people and they will tell me so and so is in this or that, and I look at them and say "who"? I also think the dysfunction, the not calling and avoiding real friends, of Americans has to do with not wanting anyone to know who they are. They are afraid they won't be liked if anyone knew them so they have these superficial relationships. Not sure where this clip comes from, but it's very apropos for the discussion which has been taking place.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=ML3qYHWRIZk/

3:59 PM  
Blogger pinkpearl said...

@MB - Thanks for your substantial reply.

@everyone - Um... how about laying off Hack? He originally made ONE joking remark about WAFer dating, a few of us ran with it for a while, on this and one other thread.

In other news, here is an interesting lecture from the home of the Tar Sands:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gjl3kgduA3I

Skip to 5:25 to avoid the annoying moderator person.

4:04 PM  
Anonymous Xiale said...

MB,

I know one post per day, but wanted to clear up what I referenced in my previous post.

I was referencing the Amworld CIA operation calling for the Castro coup using Cuban Commander Juan Almeida, and Cuban exile groups. This was pure insanity given the terms arranged after the Cuban missile crisis. That said, both Kennedy brothers were directly responsible for this invasion and coup attempt. The fact that people still view JFK as some sort of pacifist Cold War hero is mind boggling, and further reinforces the lack of serious historical perspective pervading the American mind.

4:20 PM  
Anonymous david henne said...

I have tried to tell people for years about these things, but I am dismissed as a deluded grump. I have given up and enjoy my quiet retirement.

5:24 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

1st, to all Wafers and Waferettes: do read the 2 links provided by Trout, above. If this research is right, it's not merely that Americans are buffoons, morons, douche bags, and moral dwarves; they actually, on a comparative world scale, may be psychotic. Then the history of much of the modern world has been the efforts of other countries to resist get psychotized (cf. work by Ethan Watters). What a mess we have caused, all because we're nuts and can't see it. All the more reason not to mourn our passing, it seems to me.

David-

You do know the Wafer post-it response, yes? Very gd for yr mental health. You put a little post-it on yr bathrm mirror, and look at it every day. It says: I LIVE AMONG DOLTS. This will help u, because it's true: you *do* live among dolts, and in fact, probably among psychos (see above).

Xiale-

True, but the record on VN is still, on balance, positive (I believe). I'm no fan of Oliver Stone, but many historians believe he got that one rt.

Pink-

No, I think we shd poke at Hack just a bit more. It's kinda fun, and I think he may even enjoy it. Besides, I'm pulling for him: the WDS (Wafer Dating Service) wants some Waferette to flirt w/him a bit (but not on this blog, por favor).

Joe-

But those Americans are rt. If anyone knew them, they *wdn't* like them, because they are not very likable. They are also, very probably, nuts (see above).

Dean-

I talked w/Pancho abt it. Apparently, you told him "The mule is dead." Hence, the negative reaction. As for Inja, u know the joke abt the American kid who searches for the guru reputed to know what life is, and finds him in a cave in the Himalayas. "Life," the guru tells him, "is a waterfall." The kid says: "You mean I came all this way across the globe to hear 'Life is a waterfall'?!" The guru says: "It isn't?"

Sav-

Agree w/u on Melville.

Jeff-

Ellen may have been referring to olive oil, I'm not sure. As for the US military: not all that impressive. We haven't won a major war since WW2, and keep picking on small countries, since we actually are cowards. Meanwhile, we are fighting 2 small countries now, and are unable to win! In terms of the US collapsing, everyone pts to our economy (and rightly so); but our military wd seem to be pretty wimpy as well. (This is why we need to nuke Paris and Toronto, like, yesterday.)

Are we having fun yet?

mb

5:57 PM  
Blogger bowtiejack said...

“We're toast, kiddies. . .”

Ah, Dr. B., I wish you weren’t so persuasive, but the facts are what they are, I guess.

You may have seen that one of the Heroes of Watergate, Bob Woodward, having once stood up to the Spider King himself, Richard Nixon, now feels some White House email has ominous overtones warning him to watch his step. If only Richard Nixon had had email, perhaps he could have saved himself by scaring Bob off with a sharp riposte.

Anyway, for me, the bottom line on Woodward was nailed by Joan Didion in 1996 in a review she did of several of his books in the New York Review of Books.

She summed them up as follows: "these are books in which measurable cerebral activity is virtually absent.” Amen, Sister. Amen. Whatever history is, it is not just putting hard covers on a stack of press releases.

Woodward, however, is one of the Pantheon of Very Serious People, worshipped as demi-god intellectuals. Giants such as Scalia, Gingrich, and George Will, who are, in truth, either hacks or mediocre ideologues. Scalia, in particular, has always hit me as a brash smart ass posturing as Socrates - or as we now know from this week’s argument on the Voting Rights case, a Socrates who really really cares about the rights of white people oppressed by blacks voting.

Clown posse, indeed,

5:58 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Bowtie-

I'm tellin' ya, it's all over but the shouting; and there's going to be plenty of shouting, because that's all horses' asses know how to do.

mb

6:44 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Here's an interesting quote from an article by Hazel Rose Markus and Shinobu Kitayama entitled
"Culture, Self, and the Reality of the Social," Psychological Inquiry, vol. 14 no. 3/4 (2003), pp. 277-83. Kitayama was a grad student in social psychology at the U of Michigan for a time, and

"was curious about why students shouldn't just listen to a lecture and [he] asked why American students felt the need to be constantly active, to talk all the time, often interrupting each other and talking over each other and the professor? And why did the comments and questions of his fellow students reveal such strong emotions and have such a competitive edge? What was the point of this arguing? Why did intelligence seem to be associated with getting the best of another person, even within a group such as a class where people knew each other well?"

Wafers are encouraged to come up w/answers for our beleaguered Japanese visitor, making special reference to the American character.

mb

7:44 PM  
Anonymous Bingo said...

Tim Lukeman,

One might think that losing every war we started in the past 100 years would have driven the point home by now. Let’s see if the coming total financial collapse will do the trick.

John Zorn,

The Transylvania region of Romania is not too bad. Overall, the country is traditional, and except for Bucharest, crime and hustling are low. I think the government is still afraid of the people, as it remembers what happened to Ceausescu. That was evidenced last year, when, after a few violent street protests, the government reneged on its austerity measures and plans to privatize the emergency medical services – no other EU government cowed so easily after street protests. With $1000 a month you can live well. With $2000 you live like a king. My quality of life improved greatly after I returned to Romania (after 30 years of America).

Troutburn,

As an American psychologist, I figured out pretty early that American psychology is just another hustle driven by a desire to sell overpriced tests, books, journals, seminars, and simplistic therapy better suited for training dogs. Also, American psychology academics *always* use the term “Western” when they really mean “American” (the converse if not usually true). Additionally, the idea of multiculturalism in American psychology is nonexistent beyond extensive discussion of various aspects of gay lifestyles -- there is zero understanding of other cultures as in different ethnicities, races, customs, etc. So, American psychology is largely a scam.

In some of his writings, Ethan Waters focused on the criminal activities of American psychiatry and pharmaceutical industry in their highly successful efforts to globalize their criminal business practices. American psychiatry is a much greater evil than psychology. It is a completely genocidal profession driven by an immoral ethos bent on destroying human life wherever it occurs. I expect that psychiatry will once again play a central role in the dystopia that is about to become America -- these criminal doctors can’t help but serve evil every chance they get.

10:16 PM  
Anonymous ellen said...

Jeff,
My meaning regards 'maintaining life' is exactly that--the bare minimum required for subsistence, not maintaining life to any current 'western standard'. Subsistence--which has sufficed for the vast majority of people who have ever lived in this world does not depend on oil, extra virgin olive or any other kind.

Years ago I came across a hermit living in the mountains outside Sofia in Bulgaria. He had a few goats and chickens and foraged in the woods for other fruit and vegetable edibles. He had been a journalist at one time, he told me, but had been imprisoned by both the German and Russian occupiers for publishing his work.
When he was finally freed he moved into this tiny hut in the mountains and had stayed there for 30 years--with no access to or need for oil.

I now live in central London and so unavoidably depend on that oil-fired infrastructure, however frugal I try to be.
So no, I don't live without oil right now but I once knew a man who did and was content with the world that way.

It is certainly possible if a tad inconvenient.

11:20 PM  
Anonymous Paul Baumer said...

Dr. B, you wrote above about the disintegration of the US as being a slow process that will be led by secession movements. For some places that will be good like Vermont, NYC or Hawaii but I live in Texas and I shudder at the thought of the government(theocracy) that will take over here. Secession will cause a serious concentration of stupidity in some parts of the old US. Maybe this will cause my sinkholes and improve the IQ/genetics of our world.

11:41 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Paul-

Yr rt, secession will be different in different places, and TX will surely be one of the low pts. Hopefully you'll be able to move, tho u probably don't have to worry abt it for another 30 yrs. History is messy and complex...there will be lots of down sides to secession, I'm sure, but the net effect will be to render the US inoperable on the world stage, to the relief of most of that stage. But no, the future regions of ex-America will not suddenly have bright, kind people in them. I mean, where the heck wd they come from? This is one reason I keep saying, "renaissance elsewhere"--as in case of collapse of Roman Empire.

Ellen-

Austerity w/a capital A, I guess. Yes, that's definitely in our future, I have no doubt. Suggest u invest in an olive grove.

mb

12:07 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: Finally, we're getting somewhere:

http://www.cnn.com/video/?hpt=hp_t2#/video/tech/2013/03/01/pkg-cell-phone-stun-gun.wbrz

True, it's not an AK-47, but as time goes by it'll be improved, so that (e.g.) it can fire a torpedo. Then, we just need to convince Americans to discharge it against those around them at the slightest provocation. I'm really excited abt this.

12:24 AM  
Anonymous Edward said...

Berman stated: "was curious about why students shouldn't just listen to a lecture and [he] asked why American students felt the need to be constantly active, to talk all the time, often interrupting each other and talking over each other and the professor? And why did the comments and questions of his fellow students reveal such strong emotions and have such a competitive edge? What was the point of this arguing? Why did intelligence seem to be associated with getting the best of another person, even within a group such as a class where people knew each other well?"

"Wafers are encouraged to come up w/answers for our beleaguered Japanese visitor"

One word: hustlers.

American students have the concept of hustling ingrained in their DNA. Hustling goes hand in hand with competition, especially destructive competition in which the self is at the center and the community is thrown to the dogs. Competition for grades is why there is no learning. Competition for bigger houses, bigger cars, and bigger egos is the reason most Americans will do anything to get ahead.

Hustling = competition = destruction of the soul and society.

3:16 AM  
Anonymous Shane w said...

Hack-
The US needs to default, like, yesterday. I'm so disappointed that the US hasn't defaulted yet. We've been promised default for the last few years, but Congress always pusses out at the last minute & resussitates the $. Default is when things really get exciting & the country starts to cannibalize & come apart at the seems. The $, as you noted, is really worthless, or should be.
What with peak oil, & oil getting scarce & expensive, the time is NOW to develop a car that runs on coal," clean" coal, that is, since we supposedly have enough coal to last thousands of years.; )
Reading the journal & magazine article makes me realize how profoundly fucked I am having grown up in the US. I need to go somewhere like MB's village and admit how profoundly stupid I am and learn how to really live. Seriously.

3:20 AM  
Anonymous Bingo said...

Ellen,

That Bulgarian hermit sounds like one happy dude. I heard of a Romanian monk in my area that has been living like that in a mountain cave for many years. He still receives candles, wine, and olive oil from a monastery, but otherwise is independent, and hardly ever sees anybody (for religious reasons, I imagine).

But most people in Eastern Europe want a Western lifestyle, so maintaining life can be costly there too. Even in small towns and villages you need at least $100 a month for gasoline, $200+ for the typical utilities (electric, internet/cable, garbage, sewer, city water), and in winter time heating gas (or fire wood) can run $150+ a month. It can add up. The advantage is that in smaller towns closer to the mountains, one can bypass corporate supermarkets and buy local food, have easier access to quality water from mountain springs, avoid city pollution, and lead a pretty stress-free life overall.

Personally, I am thinking of moving more decisively in the NMI direction spiritually as well as physically. I have several fruit trees and a very productive strawberry patch, and once I return to Romania I am thinking of building a greenhouse and cleaning up an old water well I have in the back yard. If I had my way, I would get a few goats too, but my wife insists that as a dentist, she would become the laughing stock of the town if we had goats running around in our back yard -- I guess I see her point.

What saddens me most though, is that the French have recently made us an offer we could not refuse for our horses and donkeys. So for me, donkey as a future means of transportation is clearly “off the table”... (but not necessarily off the plate).

3:48 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Edward-

No doubt, but another way to say this is that Americans are mentally ill. This is one thing I took away from the Ethan Watters' article, and the essay by Henrich et al.: on a worldwide comparative scale, we are literally nuts; among Anglo-Saxon nations, who are already outliers, we are (to quote Henrich) "outliers among outliers." I wd hafta add that this analysis can also be applied internally, w/in the US, which is what I effectively did in WAF: there was a healthy alternative tradition in this country, but the dominant (insane) one marginalized it, and collapse is now the result. What Henrich and his colleagues did (similar to Sacvan Bercovitch's analyses of the American self) was stand outside of the US, grasp it as a whole, as it were. Once you do that, you begin to understand how crazy the whole way of life and way of thinking really is.

Shane-

Yeah, that was neat: $85 billion in mandatory spending cuts coming down the pike. We have a slogan on this blog: Bad Is Good. You want the system to collapse? Then economic default, along w/cell phones that are also weapons, are very positive developments. Don' worry, mon cher; it can only get worse. Re: exiting from the culture: check out a great film (10 yrs old now) called "Off the Map." You'll love it (it's at least partly true, BTW). But a gd 1st step toward NMI-dom is to realize that up to now, the culture has been stuffing your head with goat turds. Speaking of which:

Julian-

But goats have teeth as well, no?

mb

6:09 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

What Americans Are Concerned With Dept.:

http://www.cnn.com/video/?hpt=hp_c3#/video/us/2013/03/01/mxp-steak-shake-septuple-cheeseburger.hlntv-com

and

http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/01/travel/harlem-shake-faa/index.html?hpt=hp_c2

7:01 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

Goats!

We moved to Alabama about 5-6 years ago simply because property taxes for the numerous plantation bully owners stationed here are below low, as well as, the numerous dirt roads and mountains of highway trash. I figured retirement demanded this because of our resources. (I am a failed hustler in so many ways - I get screwed all the time - people laugh at me and lick their lips when they see me coming.)

We bought a dismal place. Meaning, it was a small patch of land that had had high grade cutting (This terminology does NOT mean good! It means it was completely cut over so that the only trees that were left are the genetically gnarly ones.), a lot of wild privet hedges and kudzu.

Any way, back to the goats. We got certified and designated as Master Goat producers by Tuskegee University (yes, that Tuskegee) and I do not know if goats have teeth or not, except that they will eat all the brush and then you have to start feeding them bought hay. They have a habit of inconveniently dying and selling for virtually nothing so there are no profits, just tax write offs.

The good news is: nobody would want this place except us so I have the makings of a nice monastery. I cd break away from the "Union" and no one would care!

I WIN!!

P.S. I plan on exiting with a dose of Nembutal when the going really gets rough.

8:13 AM  
Blogger jml said...

Regarding the social psychology student's comments - American students have very, very short attention spans and are also filled with anxiety (possibly as a result of increasing,unaffordable college tuition and the sinking feeling that the future is grim.) These two characteristics, I think, cause that behavior. Walk into a college classroom anywhere in the U.S. and the anxiety in the room is palpable.
Another thing which is kind of related is that I keep hearing U.S. educators disparage the "sage on the stage" model of teaching. As if there is something terribly wrong with a wise person speaking and unwise people listening in the hopes that they might learn something. There has been a trend for more "interactive learning" ie: games, group projects, etc. - anything but that awful "sage on the stage." I'm not sure how students learn more this way and I'm not sure that they do. But it takes care of the anxiety and the short attention span and the inability to sit still and listen, which is very, very hard for the current American student.

8:23 AM  
Blogger John Zorn said...

I recommend India to any who want to get out of their comfort zone. Dean said he wasnt keen on India because he didnt buy the spirituality aspect. Hey, neither do I! Dont be so fussy - you'll never find paradise that way. lol! And of course India is FAR from paradise. Go and expose your body, soul and mind to a culture that will astonish you - and disgust you too. Take the hits - it'll free you a little.

India is rewarding and frustrating. You'll cry with anguish and jump for joy inside an hour. Take it on the chin and break up your (my) western veneer.

Dont forget your bowels! The Mumbai quick step awaits you.Learn what it is to be human as the world falls out of your bottom.

Indian travel - if you're crumbly and over 60 like Mr B and me, you'll get a reduction of 30% on train travel. 2nd class sleeper will cost you about 8 euros for 1000 kms. You'll have a free show too, with all the tumblers, singers, transvestites, hawkers, beggars, water sellers and on and on passing in front of your bunk. . NEVER a dull moment in India. If you're feeling sorry for yourself - thats the place to go. You have the luck that they use English there. What are you waiting for? Go next winter, temperatures of 30° in the south. See a land of onetime philosophers when Europe was dragging its knuckles in caves. See the home of your language. Meet the people.

Mr B, This particular Gunga Din says Empire is dead, so go and enjoy. Well, the British Empire is dead, not the later US Empire, but we see that eroding day by day. Sic transit gloria mundi. And about time too. On Empire, may I borrow and adapt your thread title and declare -

"Empire: from Hustlers to Thugs - Two Cheeks of the Same Arse".

India? I could talk for a week - dont get me started.

Bingo - I hope to go east soon. I know the problems there, and I know the benefits. I look forward to that. I'm glad you're back there. My exodus is from UK to France (at present) and now to the east. I hope.

9:27 AM  
Anonymous ennobled little day said...

I was checking out Herman Melville on Wikipedia. Hawthorne apparently wrote the following about him:

"Melville, as he always does, began to reason of Providence and futurity, and of everything that lies beyond human ken, and informed me that he 'pretty much made up his mind to be annihilated'; but still he does not seem to rest in that anticipation; and, I think, will never rest until he gets hold of a definite belief. It is strange how he persists—and has persisted ever since I knew him, and probably long before—in wandering to-and-fro over these deserts, as dismal and monotonous as the sand hills amid which we were sitting. He can neither believe, nor be comfortable in his unbelief; and he is too honest and courageous not to try to do one or the other. If he were a religious man, he would be one of the most truly religious and reverential; he has a very high and noble nature, and better worth immortality than most of us."


...I'm a procrastinator. Yes, it's true. So many papers to grade, so many things I'd rather do. I like my kids, though. Most have not yet been sufficiently corrupted.

9:37 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

John-

I thought "Sic transit gloria mundi" meant "Gloria Mundi got ill on the crosstown bus."

jml-

The hip model of education, for some time now, has been "The kids are teaching *me*." It's a gd formula for no one to learn anything, really--as we have since found out (Arum and Roksa, among many other studies). What's inside an American 18-yr-old's head these days wd frighten (or depress) you. As a professor in VT told me, when I was there last Sept. to give a lecture: "They know absolutely nothing at all. And when I say 'nothing', I don't mean 'just a little bit.' I mean, 'nothing'."

Shep-

Potential source of income: goat turds. There's a factory somewhere that stuffs them into Americans' heads. Proof: just walk down the street (anywhere in US), talk to first person you meet.

mb

10:35 AM  
Anonymous Dean said...

John Zorn,

Thanks for your comments on India. They are pretty similar to other reports I've gotten. Perhaps I'll regret not going at some point and maybe I will some day, as the cheapness, English, and their open door to Americans make it hard to take it off the radar completely. To be honest though, Nepal holds more interest to me if I ever get that way again.

After a year in Northern Thailand, Laos, and (mostly) Cambodia, I can definitely agree that the Eastern mind is a different animal than the Western one. I think I learned though that my mind is irretrievably Western. Perhaps I'm not ready to get far enough out of the comfort zone for a transplant.

---

I don't know though that the Western mind is fundamentally flawed in its wiring. No doubt it's been built on shaky ground and with defective material. Perhaps though it could be reconstructed on a Roman Stoic foundation with materials built for durability and an Emerson facade---if there was the will.

Of course, the Eastern mind, for all its nuance and less sociopathic tendencies, has certainly shown a capacity for depravity and psychosis.

12:33 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Hello Wafers and Waferettes,

ellen-

Thanks for your clarification. You hafta admire the resilience of a guy like that. I hope all is well in London town.

Shane w-

U.S. default is gonna happen. No doubt about it. After all, what chance does America have when its citizens consume seven- patty cheeseburgers and shake dance at 30,000 feet? This gives new meaning to what John Zorn said about "... what it is to be human as the world falls out of your bottom." Oh, the horror of it all...

Bingo-

Fruit trees, strawberry field, stress-free life... sounds pretty cool. Where do I sign up? I'm an expert goat trainer BTW.

Cheers,

Jeff

2:05 PM  
Blogger bowtiejack said...

Comedian David Cross explains it all without, you know, having to read all those books and stuff.

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

2:39 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Bowtie-

Thank god; all those bks and stuff are a real drag.

Meanwhile, here's Robt Bellah's definition of "path dependence":
“Species and societies are enormously flexible, but once they go down a certain path, some alternatives become difficult or impossible.”

Do we all understand the meaning of the phrase, "Totally and irrevocably fucked?" Good.

mb

3:03 PM  
Anonymous Mike Sosebee said...

MB and fellow WAFer's, I recently moved back to Las Vegas (I lived here most of my life)and I joined a local "Non-fiction" Book Club. One of the books we reviewed was "The Money and The Power: The Making of Las Vegas and Its Hold on America" Easily the most comprehensive book about Vegas to date, that became quite a scandal locally on it's publication. Denton/Morris make an excellent case for the "grifter culture" with money-laundering and gaming (Holy-Grail Industry) in Las Vegas has become the broad pattern for America. The culture of getting something for nothing.

The two people in my group that actually bothered to read the book immediately ruled this theory out. They can't even see the corruption and decay of Las Vegas much less America. Las Vegas is known as the "Haiti of America". The complete lack of social services locally compelled 100,000 people to leave Vegas in 2011. In 2021 Lake Mead, the "world's largest man-made lake", will cease to be a lake. In order to head that disaster off the Southern NV Water Authority, following in the Owens valley pattern, has secured water rights for most of the Great Basin Aquifer. Once they begin to pump that with 7,000 acre feet of water annually it will turn one of the last pristine sage biomes into a desert with no life at all. We can't depreive 100+ golf courses of water or two million residents living in an area that can sustainably support several hundred people.

Which leads me to why I came back to Vegas. My family owns property here and we're getting out while we still can.

All the best Mike Sosebee

3:19 PM  
Anonymous Zaid said...

Obviously, WAFERs are pessimistic about the future of USA. Therefore, WAFERs are pessimists and they will live longer:

study
http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/pag-ofp-lang.pdf

articles
http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2013/02/pessimism-future.aspx

http://health.yahoo.net/experts/dayinhealth/study-pessimists-live-longer-healthier-lives

5:44 PM  
Anonymous Joe Hohos said...

jml,

College? When I read the Japanese student's question I was reminded of 5th grade! I remember being a part of that, holding my hand high, barely waiting to contain myself, then some kid says something idiotic and you can't help but blurt out how wrong they were. Why we acted like that I will never know.

7:18 PM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

Dear Dean,

I too, spent about twelve years in Asia: nine in Indonesia, two in China, and one in Nepal. Although I did not come back penniless, the Great Let's-Not-Call-It-A Depression, shrunk money I had not touched into almost nothing, underscoring Buddhist tenets about impermanence and the inherent weakness of the senses, leaving me celebrating the ceremony of three teas: Poverty, Poetry, and Verity.

Would be good to hash over the East vs West thing. My e-mail is mnotz@yahoo.com. Glad you found this blog.

Mark N.

-Mark

8:56 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Joe-

It's called socialization, or enculturation. I was the same way. The US is a large machine for turning out obnoxious buffoons. The detox process is, sad to say, a long one, and only .00001% of the population go in for it.

Zaid-

The 'therefore' is a non sequitur. I have no hope for the US; but I am very optimistic about the human spirit, which I believe will eventually prevail (tho not on American soil). However, these studies are remarkable, because the conventional wisdom is just the reverse. I shd add that a small, esoteric study just released revealed that those who put a post-it on their bathrm mirror, saying I LIVE AMONG DOLTS, live past 120 yrs of age and are extremely happy (and healthy) to boot.

Mike-

Rdg groups are great places to see CRE in action, as u did. Meanwhile, gd luck on yr escape.

mb

9:02 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Dr. Berman,

I guess I wasn’t clear enough to avoid a misunderstanding when I wrote about feminism, gender and social class. I mistakenly thought it would be clear that WAFers were discussing feminism in the context of capitalist society or whatever will replace it, which will almost certainly be a class society.

I heartily agree that ‘Wandering God’ is an important book, and that understanding pre-‘civilized’ societies tells us a lot about who and what we are – and are not.

I think it was Jan Smuts who said, “When I think of history I’m a pessimist. When I think of prehistory I’m an optimist.”

In any case, feminism doesn’t seem to be catching on as a discussion topic, so…

Trout,

Thanks for the Watters article. Basing ‘social science’ research on American college students tells us about…well, American college students.

Wasn’t it Protagoras who said, “Man is the measure of all things.”? If you live in what Joe Beagant called the American Hologram, then ‘Boobus americanus’ is the measure of all things.

In her book, “The Nurture Assumption”, Judith Harris concludes that parents don’t socialize children but that kids are socialized by their peers. That is the way it seems to be working here in the ‘land of the boobies’ with the nuclear family as its norm. What Harris overlooks is that our isolated family unit is an unnatural anomaly, and a dysfunctional one at that.

What is so damaging about taking Americans and their society as the human norm is not what it does to us. After all, this blessed land is doomed by mass stupidity anyway. It’s that people in other parts of the world start letting this kind of intellectual dreck influence how they think and act.

David Rosen

12:00 AM  
Anonymous Bingo said...

Jml,

I used to teach graduate psychology courses. What a nightmare! In a class of 20 students, 15 were on Facebook my entire 3-hour class. One day, I told them to turn off their computers and pay attention, and they filed complaints against me. The dean told me I have to let them use Facebook, because they pay tuition. That’s at a well-known university in the Midwest.

The remaining students (those not using Facebook) were mental cases in bad need of therapy, constantly interrupting me in order to do some inappropriate self-disclosure (usually about their sex lives). At the end of each class I had to run out the room as to avoid being cornered by some needy (i.e., borderline) female trying to mooch free psychotherapy from me.

Most of those students went on to become psychologists and psychotherapists. Very scary!

So for the past 5 years I’ve been teaching online. I love it. I deal with illiterate morons, but it’s totally impersonal, and I have zero stress. I’m doing it for the money, and my educational motto is: “Milk it while it lasts, baby!” Best part of teaching online is that I get large volumes of daily comic relief. For instance, check out what I just received:

“Depreshion have the affects on Somebody to make them the real sad.when these sarts to affect me they will cause you a ton of problem.if there Problems is that Bad that they cunt Perform to where they would be the Great i would say NO Problem.if there Problems doesnt bother there Work i thing them should go a head and give a try.”

I have no idea what he’s trying to say, but I love his random capitalization. Judging by his Anglo-Saxon name, he is a native English speaker. Of course, I’ll give him a passing grade. If I don’t, I’m be bad for business and will lose my job.

So I say, “Milk it while it lasts, baby!” (I’m referring to the school, not the goats).

Bingo
PS -- the online "universities" where I teach are accredited, so many of these students will probably become psychologists also. Yeah, I'd say the Empire is well on its way out.

4:28 AM  
Blogger John Zorn said...

Dean - My India remarks were general; your Asian year means you know all about being in a new place. Nepal is good and many find it a holiday from India.

MB -yes, Gloria's 'pass the sickbag' mishap is immortalised in Van Morrison's late 60's 'Gloria'.

Bingo - thanks for comments on Eastern Europe/Romania.

6:39 AM  
Blogger Sir Tagio said...

How google glasses will simultaneously further distract and alienate users from person to person social relationships, and provide a huge data stream for the surveillance state.

"The key experiential question of Google Glass isn’t what it’s like to wear them, it’s what it’s like to be around someone else who’s wearing them. I’ll give an easy example. Your one-on-one conversation with someone wearing Google Glass is likely to be annoying, because you’ll suspect that you don’t have their undivided attention. And you can’t comfortably ask them to take the glasses off (especially when, inevitably, the device is integrated into prescription lenses). Finally – here’s where the problems really start – you don’t know if they’re taking a video of you."

Article here: http://creativegood.com/blog/the-google-glass-feature-no-one-is-talking-about/

9:46 AM  
Anonymous less gloomy said...

WAFers -

A wonderful story was on CBS Sunday Morning (Skip the Gold Sacks ad), today, about what the world could be w/o dolts.

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50141588n

11:05 AM  
Blogger jml said...

Craft has been spoken about on this blog recently and so I wanted to share this quote from Werner Herzog's new film "Happy People: A Year in the Taiga":

"As they say, you can take away anything from a man - his wealth, his health, and such the like, but you can't take away his craftsman's skills. Once you learn your trade you always know your trade for the rest of your life...all these techniques have been invented long before your time, honed to perfection through the centuries."

The film shows trappers essentially living off the land in the Taiga - an area that is 1 and 1/2 times the size of the U.S.

The man speaking is shown making wooden skis. He has to cut the tree at the just the right time of year in the spring and find a tree with the right grain. Later, Herzog shows him showing his son how to make the curved tips of the skis. Everything has to be done just right so that the wood doesn't crack or burn. Basically the movie is about these people living self sufficiently by cooperating with nature, using customs and skills that have been passed down for many generations. Naturally, one can't help but think that these people will be completely unaffected by the collapse that is in the future for most of us Westerners who have lots of neat toys and gadgets but not many practical skills. It's a beautiful film that leaves one feeling both vulnerable and inspired at the strength of the human spirit seen in these people.

12:02 PM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...

Mike your post reminds me of someone who said to understand america go to Las Vegas. I think that is true. Las Vegas and Florida and suburban sprawl are what Americans are all about. Manhattan, the museums, literacy are a setpiece of the past. I get a huge kick (I am an economist so have to find humor in my racket) from the hundreds of thousands of Floridians who were eager to buy $500k homes and condos on $50k a year (and lie or non income stated) on hope of making riches in real estate. Now that scam is busted and well it turns out that is the fault of the big meanie banks and the activists are begging to insure that people can now live without paying a dime in mortgage or taxes for up to three or four years--see these victims need their rights. From real estate tycoons to squatters all within 5 years. From uppity "real estate investors" to victimied squatters". I love it--its a great show.

12:09 PM  
Anonymous in.fern.all said...

Bingo,
Are you sure your student is Anglo-Saxon? He might simply be using a handle, I don't know. His writing seems almost like slavic-english, the kind used by slavic speakers on certain english language forums. The very first sentence, in fact has that flavor: "Depreshion have the affects on Somebody to make them the real sad." And then (I know, never start a sentence with 'and'), the last one, "if there problems doesnt bother there Work i thing them should go ahead a give a try". Possibly he/she is a Spanish speaker. At any rate there is the possibility (not the certainty, of course) that you are dealing with a non-American. If you were it would certainly be easier to reckon with.

As for the Google glasses, yeah, that's just sick. Talk about the system getting its victims to do its own dirty work.

2:13 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Keep in mind that in America, the victims are very willing victims; eager, even. The reason that a con can work is that the 'mark' is a bit of a con artist himself (or a wannabe).

mb

2:28 PM  
Anonymous Edward said...

less gloomy stated: "A wonderful story was on CBS Sunday Morning (Skip the Gold Sacks ad), today, about what the world could be w/o dolts"
http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50141588n

First, I did not get the moral of the story because I have been prepped for hustling for so long. Then when I reflected on it and watched it again, I realized the joy that filled the place when Mitchell made the last basketball score. The joy I saw at the end of the video is what the world would be like if the whiteman changes his ways.

The whiteman' ways is the problem of the world, period. The article by Dr Berman explains how the whiteman's ways are exported around the world forcefully at gunpoint.

Peoples in other cultures have been forced to think that the whiteman's self-defeating way is good for them. This is the biggest problem I see with the world today. You are cool and civilized if you can be like us and invade and conquer everyone with the biggest and baddest guns like us.

The kid at the end (who gave Mitchell the ball), said: I was raised to treat others as I wish to be treated. Also, the commentator said: at the end both teams win, there is no loser. But these two principles are not how the whiteman thinks of others outside his culture. In fact, Americans do not think of other Americans using the two thoughts expressed here. No anymore. Not after the financial heist of 2008.

The power of the video is real. You just have to watch it many times to understand. Imagine how much money that would be saved in American if half of funds spent on guns (personal and military) are spent on making peace and helping each other. Imagine how the world would be different is all games are played for fun and joy, not for money and profits. Currently, the coaches, players, and even the referees make more money than the highest paid teachers. Imagine where the teachers are paid more than the coaches, players, and referees. Imagine where Lockheed Martin takes less money from the government than universities and technical schools that care for the minds and skills of the American kids. The values are upside down, twisted to feed the bank accounts of the few at the expense of the many.

3:44 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Here's a great quote from John Michael Greer's new book, "Not the Future We Ordered: Peak Oil, Psychology, and the Myth of Progress" -

"Behind the rise and fall of the environmental, New Age, and Christian fundamentalist movements stand the vaster rise and fall of another attempt to build Utopia here on Earth, the attempt we call industrial civilization. Today, as the limit to growth tighten...like a noose and an economy geared to perpetual expansion shudders and cracks in the throes of decline, among the things that are needed most is the willingness, in a time of gathering darkness, to locate what lamps can still be found and to light them."

Fascinating book. Per "Re-enchantment of the World" he talks extensively about the Bateson ""double bind" and its relevance to society's current pathology.

4:13 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Mike Sosebee-

I ran across this article about Las Vegas in today's LA Times. For those who dare to criticize the city, former Mayor Oscar Goodman has some advice: "They should try our lake. It's nothing that a good pair of cement shoes couldn't cure." MB has warned us that the one thing you can't do in America is criticize America, but this takes it to a whole new level... a water over your noggin level.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-hometown-vegas-haters-20130303,0,1307296.story

Jeff

4:13 PM  
Anonymous ellen said...

I already paste a plaster over the camera in my laptop, thinking myself paranoid for doing it-- for who would want to snoop on boring little me?
Now with this tech on the loose I'm going to have to wear a permanent paper bag over my head for a semblance of privacy.

But hang on, a whole new market has just opened up: high fashion balaclavas or gimp masks--and what a wide demographic too, everyone will need at least one with the fashionable demanding new season's colours and a variety of styles to tone with different outfits!

Forget the goats and the olive oil,
the future is mine, mine I tell you!

4:23 PM  
Anonymous Golf Pro said...

This is very impt stuff, it seems to me, and in fact I've been thinking recently how weird Anglo-Saxon people are in general. In my experience, for example, when an American person says to me, "I'll call you," it means precisely "I won't call you."

Actually, I can confirm from personal experience that continental Europeans are the worst for this kind of thing.

On a couple of occasions I've had holidays where I've got to know some of them and afterwards they would request that we exchange addresses and then write to each other. I thought they weren't being serious until they asked to inspect the address I'd written down from their dictation, and made sure that I'd got the intricacies of the German and Italian zip codes abolutely correct.

Afterwards, I almost felt compelled to send them a brief, polite, "how ya doin'" type postcard.

No response.

4:45 PM  
Anonymous Shane w said...

Julian-
Have you ever thought of teaching in Romania? Maybe the pay wouldn't be as good, but it might be more rewarding and less stressful & draining.

4:50 PM  
Anonymous al-Qa'bong said...

Hello from Saskatchewan, WAFers:

I'm new here, although I've been reading this blog since hearing Mr. Berman on Alternative Radio and reading Dark Ages America last summer.

Regarding your Tolstoy or Beethoven, I'd say Raymond Chandler counts as at least your Cervantes, while Gershwin hit the apex of your culture in 1925 with "Rhapsody in Blue," although Jess Stacy's piano solo at the end of Benny Goodman's "Sing Sing Sing" at the 1938 Carnegie Hall concert was maybe the last gasp of greatness in your music.

4:59 PM  
Anonymous Troutbum said...

Dr. MB,

Another recent study is showing that while affluent white students get a world class education, many others in America get a third world education.

Quoting,".....those who attend schools in high poverty neighborhoods are getting an education that more closely approximates school in developing nations".
Consider: "In reading,for example, although U.S. children in low-poverty schools rank
at the top of the world, those in our highest-poverty schools are performing on a par with children in the world’s lowest-achieving
countries."

As the report states, “The common situation in America is that schools in poor communities spend less per pupil — and often many thousands of dollars less per pupil — than schools in nearby affluent communities…This is arguably the most important equity related variable in American schooling today.”

In other words, it's another example of class warfare, the haves vs the have nots.
This is a major vector in America's( WAF)path dependency.

The report is here: http://foreachandeverychild.org/60565_EEC_%28508%29_rev.pdf

5:15 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Trout-

All this will accelerate the collapse. Bad Is Good.

al-

Those are snippets, not symphonies, after all. The distinction between pygmies and giants remains.

Edward-

Remember to think BIG (Bad Is Good).

Golf-

Cd they have caught the Anglo-Saxon virus? We are a planet-wide disease, after all.

ellen-

I'm going to hafta translate your British into American for many of our readers, I'm guessing (I lived in England for 3 yrs):

plaster = bandaid
torch = flashlight
lift = elevator
naughts and crosses = tic-tac-toe
kip = nap
knickers = panties
knackered = tired
bloke = guy
head up arse = CRE

(to be continued)

mb

6:04 PM  
Anonymous Golf Pro said...

Dr.B,

Dunno. Remember, the Anglo-Saxons originated on the Continent.

Generally though, incidents like these tend to make me suspect that either a) I'm autistic, or b) everyone else is autistic.

Neither of these possibilities fill me with much confidence, as you can imagine.

6:18 PM  
Anonymous Joe Hohos said...

Dr. B. and WAFer's,

www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0ZKH2PGA8g/ Greatest bit of comedy I've ever seen.

6:31 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Joe-

Required viewing, that one. The post-Carlin generation, I guess.

Meanwhile, here's a bit from an article by Robt Bellah:

"Narrative...is more than literature; it is the way we understand our lives....Great literature speaks to the deepest level of our humanity; it helps us better understand who we are. Narrative is not only the way we understand our personal and collective identities; it is the source of our ethics, our politics, and our religion....It is older than theoretic culture and remains to this day an indispensable way of relating to the world."

Now try this expt, wh/I call the "dregs of humanity" expt. Go out into the street and accost the 1st American you see. Ask him/her what the word "narrative" means. Then ask him/her when they last read a piece of literature (self-help manuals on how to become rich don't count). Then thank them, and repair to a cafe. Take out yr notebook, and write down the answers to the following 3 questions:

1. In what way is the average American more intelligent than a slug, or a mollusc?

2. Multiplying the person you just interviewed by 315 million, what are the chances for an American renaissance?

3. Why is it I'm still living here?

mb

7:03 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Hackenbush said...

Jeff T.- I don't want to get bogged down in the weeds of China's bond buying and so forth. My main point is just that much of the conventional wisdom on debt and deficit is completely wrong, as I guess Krugman points out (I don't read him much.) The whole 16T debt is just an accounting entry on the government's side, it's completely different from an individual having outstanding debt. The idea that the government has to borrow to fund itself, or even to collect taxes to fund itself, is a misdirection. If the govt can "print" when there are no bond buyers, who needs bond buyers in the first place? It's politically desirable for someone I'm sure (cough, the wealthy owners of the country) but that's what it is: a political decision. And the hype over debt and deficit is being used to persuade the public to accept political decisions they would reject if they understood the nature of sovereign finance. The politicians may believe the dogma themselves, but the Fed guys must mostly know better - Greenspan at least is on Youtube in congressional testimony admitting that a sovereign country is not constrained in the same way a household or state government is. Not to say that the economy, society, etc. doesn't have many collapse-worthy problems, I just think the debt/deficit thing is a big scam. See here for more info:

neweconomicperspectives.com

7:30 PM  
Anonymous less Gloomy said...

Holy Crap al-Qa'bong -

Jess Stacy is sensational and brilliant. I would like to 'SEE" the concert but I guess it isn't possible.

I found a u-tube with the following comment.

"Goodman's solo lifts you up, then Stacey's hands gently push you higher to sweet eternity. The last thing I'd like to hear is that piano solo."

Me too.

Thanks for the tip. 

7:41 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Some yrs ago Clifford Geertz drew up a description of the American/Western self, wh/he described as bounded and unique, a distinctive whole set contrastively against other such wholes (i.e., in conflict w/them). In this case, responsiveness to the social environment is not undertaken for the sake of responsiveness itself, but out of a need to strategically determine the best way of asserting the internal attributes of the self. This type of self is sometimes called 'idiocentric'. What I can't figure out is why it's not called idiotcentric.

mb

7:57 PM  
Blogger bowtiejack said...

What might the post-American Empire society eventually be like?

Here’s an interesting framework (yeah, I know, except for the dolts and “FREEDOM!” problems).

http://www.ianwelsh.net/the-keys-to-prosperity/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+IanWelsh+%28Ian+Welsh%29

8:00 PM  
Anonymous in.fern.all said...

Mr B,
I apologize for the 1+ comment but I simply must respond to al-Qa'bong's assertion that Jess Stacy's piano solo in the 1938 Carnegie Hall version of 'Sing Sing Sing' represents the last gasp of American musical genius. Ever hear of John Coltraine, Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Lionel Hampton, Duke Ellington, Erroll Garner? Louis Armstrong never lost his angelic tone. I could go on. While America has never produced the equivalent of Beethoven or Mozart it did produce for a time a most engaging body of "plebian" music, among which I include bluegrass, earlier country western, blues, soul, and the queen of all, jazz. While most of the work is structurally simplistic in the manner of folk music much of it has an incredible amount of feeling and texture and the improvisational aspect is one of its precious treasures. Right now I'm listening to Chet Baker who had the most interesting quality of singing in the manner of his playing, making a rather mediocre voice something quite wonderful via its phrasing. Perhaps that's a key to the more positive aspect of America's genius. But, Jess Stacy is not its epogee.

8:54 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Fern-

Gd pt! Actually, when I spoke at Clark U. last Sept., someone in audience asked if I thought the US had produced *anything* worthwhile. Here was my list:

1. Jazz
2. Hollywood
3. Open immigration policy down to 1924 (without which, I wdn't have been born)
4. The *idea* of democracy (if not the reality)

This was the order in wh/it tumbled out--I actually said jazz 1st, for what that's worth (I might have added bluegrass and Motown, however). All in all, it's not a bad list, it seems to me.

mb

9:13 PM  
Anonymous Captain Spaulding said...

To those four, I would add the following contributions that America has made to world culture:

1. Mark Twain, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."
2. The Blue Ridge Parkway
3. The Marx Brothers
4. "Be My Baby," The Ronettes
5. Carnegie Deli (57th/7th Av.) tied with Sidetrack Grill (Ypsilanti, MI)

... I mean, if we're going to be NMIs, don't you think we should develop our own canon?

11:05 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Capt.-

But why stop with the Ronettes? What abt the Platters, the Coasters, the Supremes, the Temptations, Martha and the Vandellas? Phil Specter and the Wall of Sound? The Everly Bros? The Shirelles, the Fondelles, the Marcels, Dion and the Belmonts, Paul Anka, Paul Revere and the Raiders? Sam Cooke, Chubby Checker, and of course Roy Orbison?
The Righteous Bros, The Monkees, Bobby Vee, Petula Clark, Bill Haley and the Comets, and Creedence Clearwater Revival? And while we're on the subject of Ypsilanti, what abt Milton Rokeach?

Yes, amigo: our very own canon. (Wafers are encouraged to get on the bandwagon.)

mb

11:24 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: Jesus, I actually left out The Satins.

11:28 PM  
Anonymous Spaulding (Capt.) said...

PS... I studied history, not social psychology, so Milton Rokeach is beyond my ken. I know his big book, "The Three Christs of Ypsilanti" was recently republished by the New York Review of Books press, but I opted to buy their edition of "Masscult and Midcult" instead with my few shekels.

11:57 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Capt.-

Re: yr 2nd (actually, 3rd) post: we have a loose, 1-post-a-day rule here, to encourage lurkers to come outta the woodwork. Hence, pls re-send yr other message abt American talent tomorrow, thanks. Clearly, the Wafer Canon Project is a massive undertaking.

As far as Milton Rokeach goes, u.c. my pt: as w/Beethoven, we're talking US pygmies vs. European giants. We have no sociologists in the league of Emile Durkheim or Max Weber, for example. We have no philosophers like Sartre or Kierkegaard. There is no American Freud, or Rodin, or Goya. Etc.

mb

12:24 AM  
Anonymous Bingo said...

Capo Regime,
It warms my heart reading about those Florida “real estate tycoons to squatters all within 5 years,” even though some are my own family members (the ones who didn’t appreciate Morris Berman’s last trilogy).

Ellen,
Also insert a dead 3.5 mm plug into your laptop’s microphone jack to disconnect its internal mic. When at home, drop your smart phone and RFID passport into a Faraday cage (microwave oven). Most importantly, when outside of the house, don’t forget to carry lots of black spray paint for those pesky CCTV cameras.

Shane,
It’s tough to get into the Romanian state academic system if you didn’t start there from the beginning (and bribes don’t work as well as they used to). But I hear it’s easier at private schools. They still love American degrees for some reason. I could earn enough by offering private English lessons. Or maybe my wife will set me up as “bouncer” at her dental surgery. And I still haven’t given up on the goat idea. Once a hustler, always a hustler...

Edward,
The “whiteman” paradigm is over. Recent US, Britain, France, Belgium attacks on Africa are acts of desperation. I suspect the BRICS + Iran are getting ready to sink the dollar. The best part is that as Karma has its way with the West, WAFers will be supplied with endless comic relief material (e.g., David Cameron’s recent hilarious “pivot to India”). Pepe Escobar is a reporter who explains this well and with a refreshing sense of irony. Here’s a recent interview:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZe7fxQ0MpE

in.fern.all,
I think that student is African-American, although whites write just as poorly. Many are serving in the Army overseas. These are for-profit schools and probably running a corporate/Army scam. All American education is a scam. Here’s another gem I got today from a different student:

"Bing a college student is not real tough just try to meke a goal in life you can stick with it.My perforfmance in thise course was vry good wen it come to geting my wor done on time but I manage to get it turned n some how."

He is guaranteed a B+ in my class.

12:57 AM  
Anonymous ellen said...

Although I'm an internationalist at heart, I should point out, before anyone else gets patriotically possessive, that Petula Clarke is one of ours.
I know this because in her heyday I was visiting her home town when her brother asked me out on a clandestine date (he was newly married) purely on the strength of her then celebrity.

What about those all those incomparable old blues men and women, Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson (both of them) Fats Domino, Richard Johnson, Big Mama Thornton, who wrote and sang about their tough lives and thus built the foundation for so many later megastars?

Here's Big Mama:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=spkcAjt-TKU

3:53 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ellen-

You mean "Downtown" didn't refer to NYC? Well live and learn. Maybe this will make u feel better:

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/borowitzreport/2013/03/pentagon-cuts-could-hamper-ability-to-invade-countries-for-no-reason.html#ixzz2MVlUroKR

BTW, I invented a group in that list--there were no Fondelles--altho I think there are now (Australia).

mb

4:42 AM  
Blogger Listener said...

The comparison between Beethoven and American composers is not a fair one. American classical music didn't really come into its own until the 20th century, and by then all of western culture was in serious decline. Europe's 20th century artistic achievements are rather unimpressive compared to its past glories, especially the architecture of the late medieval, the painting of the renaissance, and in my opinion Europe's single greatest achievement, the music of the baroque, which saw composers creating music of a quality and quantity beyond even the great Beethoven.

While no American composer may quite reach Beethoven, I think they compare quite well to any other country's 20th century output. Gershwin didn't write any symphonies but his piano concerto is the equal of any of Beethoven's, and I'd certainly rather listen to Porgy and Bess than Fidelio. Bernstein was mentioned earlier, but superior to him were Copland, Barber, and I think the more recent minimalists of Glass, Reich, and Adams. Europe has of course produced some good composers during the 20th century, but the best music was written long ago. To me both US as well as Latin American composers such as Ponce, Villa Lobos, and Piazzolla are much more interesting than most of the recent music from Europe.

The problem with US artistic culture is not so much the absence of anything of quality, but rather the distorted emphasis created by the hustling culture, the obsession with making money at the expense of everything else. Exceptional art is created but it simply cannot compete with the mass marketing of lowest common denominator popular culture. While Europe today is little more than a museum, it is at least a museum. They recognize the importance of their culture and history, while the US for the most part does not.

5:47 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Listener-

Well, I was using Beethoven as a symbol, or metaphor; I agree w/u abt the Baroque. But the real issue is the overall picture, no? Yr certainly rt abt hustling; but whatever the cause, when you compare American civilization to European civ in terms of art, lit, music, political theory, philosophy, sociology, psych, and etc.--it's a slam dunk: giants on the one hand, pygmies on the other. Historically, we shall be remembered as a business civilization, and perhaps a war civilization; not much else. Gershwin won't stand out in the minds of future historians of the American Empire, very probably, whereas historians of Europe will certainly discuss Beethoven (and Kant). Again, it's the overall picture that's relevant here.

mb

6:39 AM  
Anonymous gloom n' doom said...

Well, all I gots to say about this here music discussion is: I worked with a Doc at a local health center that claimed him only enjoyed classical music (Lone Ranger Song for dramatic effect) and he was poking his patients during GYN exams. He suddenly left. Protected by his peers, of course.

I still rate Bluegrass "abouve" them all.

7:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. Berman and Friends,

I have enjoyed seeing the names submitted for the NMI American canon. I do think the achievements of our greatest artists are routinely underappreciated in our academic establishments and in the culture at large, as are the works of American philosophers like Henry Bugbee (almost in unknown mainstream American thought). Bugbee's The Inward Morning is a classic of contemporary thought that receives scant mention outside of the works of Albert Borgmann and Bruce Wilshire. Kurt Vonnegut writes in Palm Sunday that historians will remember us for our "jazz and our clowns and little else." In that spirit, I would like to add Buster Keaton to the list. The General and Sherlock, Jr., especially.

Jay

7:34 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

I'm devouring these latest posts!

What strikes me about the American creative scene is that just about everything we'd rate as being of high quality came from the margins. It achieved its deserved fame in spite of, not because of, the prevailing culture. More often than not, it was disparaged, dismissed, ignored by the status quo, whose taste was consistently awful.

Listener is right: for most Americans, the word "culture" is either meaningless or an insult. As for the 1%, who manage the $$$ that can be made from culture, it's either an investment or a status symbol. Or both. Just mention to an average American that you read (or worse, write) poetry, for example. You already know what sort of response you'll get. After all, you can't make money from it!

I've mentioned in previous posts that I've taken up collage, and I've been lucky enough to have a few pieces selected for local juried art shows. All very nice. But the first comment from most people, once they realize that my work is liked by a tiny handful of people, is to start urging me to market it. That's what makes it "good" in their minds: that I could possibly make money from it.

My wife has experienced the same thing with some of her art work. Friends & family urge her to go into business selling it, marketing it. They simply don't believe her when she says, "I just want to do it for myself. I don't want it to become a commodity. It won't be any fun if it's just about money."

When they hear that, they get angry!

9:15 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Personally I'd argue for Neil Young as the best of American musical talent over the past 45 years. Listen to "Tonight's the Night" and "Greendale" among other masterpieces. (His one major conceptual problem is that he still wants to make a (oxymoron) environmentally-friendly automobile - he doesn't realize that the car is the paramount 'progress trap' of the 20th century.)

10:25 AM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...

Collapse is a many splendored thing. Its big things and little things.

I recall in the early 1960's my dad (a mechanic going to night school) having his friends over for cards and drinks. Blue collar guys all wearing shirts and gasp ties! Imagine that today? The listened to (as I do to this day) jazz--Miles Davis and Coltrane and would take their wives dancing (again wearing suits and ties) to a live band. Again, blue collar guys. All of you over a certain age remember conversations, friends over, parents firends and doing things. Now in the U.S. people don't seem to have friends, can't fix or do much, outside of work can;t seem to dress themselves. In addition to this people are now really fat. If you get outside the media fog (as we wafers are wont) you will see what a depressing place America is. Also--thumbs up to the Italians for voting for someone who was not in the media and attacked by the elite media and the interests they represent. A signficant percentage of the paisans still have a relationship with reality and chose to ignore the media.

10:45 AM  
Blogger John Zorn said...

Listener - I really dont think you can say that Europe is little more than a museum.

Whatever it is,good or bad, it is not a museum. There's an undercurrent of anti-European culture in your words. I'm not at all troubled by that, but it kinda skews your otherwise reasonable point of view.

Your comparisons - this one is 'better' than that one, he's not so 'good' as the other etc, incline towards an empty and unhealthy competition about who is the greatest. And we already know that's Mohammed Ali.

11:52 AM  
Anonymous Brian said...

WAFers--

From the annals of "Higher Education: Circling the Drain," I bring you Exhibit #2,589(b):

http://music.yahoo.com/news/oprah-winfrey-deliver-commencement-address-harvard-145944611.html

Brian

12:00 PM  
Anonymous Smith said...

Also, add one good thing to come out of America:

The idea (if not the reality) that you cannot be made to suffer because of an accident of birth is also an American invention (no Hindu caste system reducing some people to "untoucheables", no Chinese foot-binding-and-crippling of women, no British workhouses for the poor and homeless, no Japanese "burakumin", no Tibet "debt enslavement if your parents die", no African mutilation of little girls' clitorises, etc.).

I think above all else, THAT American idea needs to be preserved, at the VERY least, even if America itself falls.

Thoughts, Berman?

12:00 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Wafers pls note: I'm getting a lot of multiple postings suddenly. Pls observe the 1-a-day rule, if u wd. Thanks. Jay: pls pick a handle so u don't come thru as Anonymous, because I tend to delete those. I suggest Rufus T. Firefly.

John-

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.

Brian-

That says it all, doesn't it?

Smith-

True, but in reality millions in America suffer from an accident of birth; it's called poverty. And despite the hype, very few escape from the class into wh/they were born.

mb

1:23 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Good day Wafers,

Wafers and MB-

I'm digging the Wafer canon list of music. Please allow me to suggest Frank Sinatra, Eydie Gorme, and Sly and the Family Stone as great American artists. There's no reason why Wafers can't face the music about America and dance.

Dr. Hackenbush-

Thanks for your response and the neweconomicperspectives.com link. I agree with you about the hype, hysteria, and fear mongering going on out there surrounding the debt and deficit debate. It certainly may be a charade to gut what remains of the social programs and safety net that exists in the country. There is no doubt that the right wing is simply using the debt issue to destroy most of government. Naomi Klein writes about this stuff pretty persuasively. I was just attempting to describe the debt/China/bond buying situation as a way to highlight the vulnerabilities of the U.S. economy and the U.S. military as it is tied to borrowed money.

Jeff

1:53 PM  
Anonymous al-Qa'bong said...

Hello again.

MB
I see that you were using Ludwig van and Tolstoy as metaphors, but I was being a bit cheeky.

That said, maybe even Beethoven isn’t as good as Beethoven.
Here’s what Bix Beiderbecke had to say about classical composers, including Beethoven: “…he felt that he could hear many missing parts in Beethoven's orchestration."

Mozart: "Childish."
Brahms: "Pedantic and repetitive."
Chopin and Liszt :"beer and chocolate soda, respectively."
'Mendelssohn doesn't sound any better to me even in the 'Jazz Me blues.'"
From Richard Sudhalter’s Bix: Man and Legend

"I'll tell you what classical music is, for those of you who don't know. Classical music is this music that was written by a bunch of dead people a long time ago. And it's formula music, the same as top forty music is formula music. In order to have a piece be classical, it has to conform to academic standards that were the current norms of that day and age”
Frank Zappa

A problem with North American "culture" is that it seems to come out of a vacuum, with little thought given to any antecedents or how it might affect the future.

I live in a world of disposable architecture, for instance, where a 50-year old building is considered worn out and ready for demolition.

Contrast that with Europe, where I've seen a door on a village church with "A.D. 1509" carved into it. Columbus had barely started massacring First Nations people by then.

When Americans hear the word "culture" they reach for their handguns...because weapons are their culture.

By the way, Neil Young and Paul Anka (to whom I'm distantly related) are Canadians.

2:00 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

al-

Why shd anyone care what Bix and Frank think, really? Anybody can say anything, but a classic is a classic.

mb

2:18 PM  
Anonymous Edward said...

Berman stated: “as w/Beethoven, we're talking US pygmies vs. European giants. We have no sociologists in the league of Emile Durkheim or Max Weber, for example. We have no philosophers like Sartre or Kierkegaard. There is no American Freud, or Rodin, or Goya. Etc”

One of my teachers in college in America repeated this statement many times: The rest of the world constantly accuse us (the universities in the USA) of not being able to produce good leaders. Many people come to USA for education from around the world but NONE of them go back to their native nations to become effective leaders who make effective contributions to their societies.

If you make statement like the one in the quote above from Berman, you will face these reactions from an American: “if you hate America that much then move out of the country.” “Go back home to your country if you dislike America that much”

Notice the words “dislike” and “hate”. Automatically, you would be accused of hating and disliking America. Some Americans will probably think you are a terrorist.

There is this simplistic way of thinking by Americans. It leads to both technologies and shallowness. Shallowness in moral and philosophical ideas and issues about life and about relationships with other people is more dangerous than having all the gadgets in the world. This what Doug Stanhope meant in the following video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0ZKH2PGA8g
when he states that Black people knew they were in slavery, but the current Americans do not even realize they are in slavery. A person in physical slavery has a better chance than a person in mental slavery. This is why America will never produce philosophers as good as Jeremy Bentham or David Hume or Emmanuel Kant or Fredrick Nietzsche.

The American simplistic way of thinking will always produce people like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. BUT the simplicity in thought, the hustling in orientation, will at the end lead technologies and gadgets that will force Americans to lose their souls; the technologies will be so simplistic and useless to what makes us human that they will in turn ruin the lives of too many Americans and other people around the world.

2:18 PM  
Anonymous shep said...

Dr. Berman -

I cannot believe you lumped Hollywood w/Bluegrass? Hey, the banjo is great (invented by blacks - so I guess it doesn't count - typical white theft).

I can tell you something that Europe can't top. Hicks & Carlin.

2:41 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Shep-

I'm talking *early* Hollywood, not contemporary shlock.

mb

3:18 PM  
Blogger NearFar said...

Hi fellow WAFers-

I check in from time-to-time here in the comments section. But only when I want to report on a "must read" out there.

Here's a must read and link below: a clear explanation of 'finance capitalism' by Richard Peet.

It's so good. It's so necessary to grasp what is happening out there, IMO. Especially the economics & neoliberalism. We can't let the wool be the eyes when it comes to the economics.

Also, Peet's article offers some nice 'waferian' touches. An added (and not un-necessary) bonus. Humorous & serious, at the same time. That's why I'm writing in.

At the very least WAFers, check out the last section called 'Silly in the Face of Catastrophe':

http://monthlyreview.org/2011/12/01/contradictions-of-finance-capitalism


Also, I think many WAFers will love this article because whoever this Richard Peet guy is, he doesn't seem to be subscribing to the 'rape theory' of American History.

You know: TAP* is in big big trouble. TAP doesn't have the wool pulled over its eyes. Ah yes, that miraculous, mythic entity known as TAP...well, let's just say this: we let it happen. We allowed it to happen. All along we were 'consenting adults'. Ya know?

*
That's about it. The important stuff. Read on if you are in the mood for some of my schmaltz about TAP*.

Can't help but cut loose a little. I love to talk me some smack when it comes to TAP.

'Cause articles like this one Peet I find infuriating. CRE over and over again. We are letting this happen to us. Unbelievable. The "american hologram". Phantasy world.

And say it again, if you're listening: there ain't gonna be some miraculous 'deus ex machina' that'll rescue TAP at this point. I don't know 'bout ya'll right now, but it sure don't feel like I'm sittin' in Oprah's studio audience. And for damn sure, I ain't gonna be reachin' under my chair at Oprah's cue, and pulling out the keys TO A BRAND NEW FORD!!!!! (Do you remember that episode?)

(And speaking of importing American culture, what does and doesn't "saturate" consciousness, here's one for you: Hey TAP, do you know whose grave site is the most popular in Paris? Jim Morrison. Or so I've heard... and BTW I saw this for myself a few years ago. The security detail was very annoyed, lots of flowers & mementos...Yep, that's right TAP. Jim Morris at the Père Lachaise Cemetery his grave has a nearly permanent crowd).

(When I think of TAP, I love to think of Morrison singing that verse: "Cancel my Subscription to the Resurrection").

PS. *TAP*--that's what MB referred to somewhere as "The-American-People". Tho I sometimes like to think of that blessed entity TAP as...mmmmm?... well... 'the genius of liberty", I suppose)

Anyhow, I'll be checking out more of Peet. Don't know anything about his work. Any WAFers have knowledge & input to offer? At-any-rate, I'll need to follow-thru on the Richard Wolff suggestions floating around here on DAA.

And if "readin'" is gettin' ya down-in-the dumps, well... there's always "listenin'". Some audio of Peet here:

http://www.againstthegrain.org/program/603/coming-tues-91112

**

Hang tough everybody! Peace.

3:57 PM  
Anonymous Golf Pro said...

The USA has a major disadvantage though, in that it didn't exist before 1776. Therefore I think it can claim artists etc. from the founding culture before this date as its own.

Therefore Shakespeare, Jonson, Milton, Dowland, Purcell, Tallis, Winstanley, Donne, Marlowe, Marvell, Bacon, Bacon, Bunyan, Spenser, Pope, Stubbs, Gainsborough, Hobbes, Locke, Johnson, Dryden, Swift, Hogarth etc. etc.

Think this improves things a wee bit.

4:03 PM  
Blogger pinkpearl said...

The WAFer American music canon will have to be HUGE. America has really excelled in this area. But it's no accident that the best music has come from marginalized groups.

I was just grooving to old school hip-hop, R&B, funk and soul the other night, so there are a few examples. There are some truly kick-a$$ country songs - and I'm not even a country music fan. Plus the blues, plus even grunge (Kurt Cobain would know about the sham of American society).

While we're at it, we might as well throw in the best stuff out of England under Thatcher, e.g. Fine Young Cannibal's first album, The Clash, The Jam.

A big project!

4:04 PM  
Anonymous Pascal said...

Read this - Obama's America:

“It’s absolutely devastating to be 7,000 miles from your home fighting for this country and get a message that your family is being evicted,” said Col. John S. Odom Jr., a retired Air Force lawyer in Shreveport, La., who represents military members in foreclosure cases. “We have been sounding the alarms that the banks are illegally evicting the very men and women who are out there fighting for this country. This is a devastating confirmation of that.”

http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2013/03/03/banks-find-more-wrongful-foreclosures-among-military-members/?hp

4:27 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Pascal-

But those men and women aren't fighting for this country. They are just murdering innocent people who are not a threat to us. And as Bradley Manning recently pointed out, they are doing it with glee.

Golf-

Kinda cheating, no? It didn't happen on American soil, and colonization began in late 16C. Dowland the great colonist? Chaucer, Proto-American? Etc.

Actually, I think this whole discussion is getting a tad outta hand, as everyone has their favorites. Here's the broad picture: Culturally speaking, Europe is fab, and the US is more or less eh. What else wd one expect from a hustling, business civilization? Cultural achievements happen not because of the nature of American society, but in spite of it.

mb

mb

6:05 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Hackenbush said...

To paraphrase the Lorax: Who will speak for the comic books? No Beethovens there certainly, but a few names stand out. R. Crumb became famous in the 60s when he unchained his id on the page, but he went on to produce remarkable social critiques in comic form as well, for example, IIRC "Where has all the music gone, the beautiful music of our parents' generation" in which he portrays the changing times with a vivid directness that pulsates on the page.

Unknown to most Americans but one of its greatest, if least likely, artists is Carl Barks who, c. 1940s to 50s, imbued the "humble clay" of commercial Disney properties with his own modest, humble, but discerning and satirical worldview. He was by no means a sophisticated intellectual, but his native intelligence made him a keen social critic nevertheless. His work is actually better known in Europe, I think particularly the Netherlands, where it inspired a small industry of derivative works and imitators, but they only capture his surface mannerisms, and fall far short of his unique voice, formed out of a hardscrabble background that led him to retreat from hustling to craft enduring childrens' stories that actually have a lot to say about hustling, for those readers who notice. He created Scrooge McDuck and Scrooge's "money bin" a giant vault on "Killmotor Hill" filled to the brim with coins and dollars that Scrooge literally swims in: "I love to dive around in it like a porpoise, and burrow through it like a gopher, and toss it up and let it hit me on the head!" The stories are littered with cons and con-men, not the least of which are perpetrated by D. Duck and Scrooge McDuck- though Donald's three nephews are a little less greedy and rapacious. A valuable guide to the species for young Americans.

Jack Kirby completes the Holy American Comics Trinity, with his visionary art that again belies its humble origins in the pages of funnybooks - only here perhaps, and in that era, could an actual artist appear. I would not be surprised if centuries from now, 20th Cent. "fine artists" are mostly forgotten but Kirby is still preserved and studied for his weird primal visionary art. As he got older it drifted more and more into something completely idiosyncratic and personal that was completely unsuited to a commercial medium, but he was so entrenched by then that it was still published. Much of it is butchered by the commercial committee process and general commercial nature of the medium, and the art and writing itself, when unfiltered, can be strange and offputting. But it's undeniably sui generis. He claimed he worked just for money, to support his family; but nobody just doing a job puts themselves in their work the way he did. He warped the whole industry into the superhero genre, and all the artists today are just doing pale variations on his founding work. Likewise all the superhero movies are his "fault", a delayed impact from his cultural shockwave, although nothing like his work. The movies by comparison are completely sanitized and impersonal, corporate shlock.

6:39 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Al-Qa'bong: Not only Neil but four out of five of The Band...Is this why their take on American history is so insightful? (e.g. listen to "King Harvest (Has Surely Come)")

6:47 PM  
Anonymous Shane W said...

Culture--
for most of it's history, the US has considered itself an extension (evolution?) of Western culture, so I think that the US has claimed a lineage, and a cultural lineage, stretching back through Western Europe into Rome/Greece. For most of its history, the US felt it was founded by/on Western values/culture. I know growing up at the end of the Cold War, the US always claimed that it was a part of/the "pinnacle" of the Western world. Since the end of the Cold War, both the "left" and the right have distanced themselves from Europe, and I think that Europe has done the same. The "left", through multiculturalism, has claimed the US was never really Western in the first place, or only through oppression, while the right has demonized secular, socialized Europe as the Demon/evil incarnate. But, for most of its history, I think the US has viewed itself as an extension or "evolution" of Western culture, the same as Canada thought itself British throughout most of its history. For most of its history, the US would claim Western cultural achievements as its own, particularly those that predate colonization.
The US, in its obsession with the common man and its oppositional identity, has always been suspect of quality in culture. Anything remotely connected to quality in culture has been derided in the US as elitist, foreign, and suspect and not as worthy as that which arises from folk/proletarian traditions. High culture has always had it hard and been suspect in the US.
Hack, Jeff--
please read MB's chapter on capitalism in WAF (or was it DAA?) where he discuses Bretton Woods and the decline/end of Bretton Woods and the gold standard. It is good info and will give you the history you need about how our Casino fiat system came to be. Basically, in a fiat system like ours, money has value simply because the government says it does. The whole value of the US$ is based on people's faith that when the bonds come due, the US will pay them, and that the US will manage the money supply responsibly. There are plenty of examples of countries out there that default on their bonds and print as much money as they can (Weimar Germany, Argentina, Zimbabwe), but their currencies end up being worthless because no one has faith in their economy. I think that the faith in the US$ and, by extension, the US economy, is misplaced. I mean, most Americans favor default, not paying the bonds. If we were a true democracy, we should have bent to the will of the people and defaulted already. It is foolish that anyone thinks that the US can ever pay $14 trillion, and by extension, it is foolish that the US$ has any value at all. The US$ is not a valid measure of wealth.
As for India, can you imagine the cultural damage caused by talking to bigoted, pissed off, angry Americans all day long? I once read where some cultural critic lamented the cultural damage inflicted on India by the call centers...

7:00 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

Music is about psychological states and so is culture-dependent. The culture sets out what classes of psych states are important and "good." That's why one culture's musical classic is another's "anti-art."

The move from the Baroque to Mozart sounds like a change from a more religious world to a more secular one. Going just from Mozart to Beethoven is an audible change to a world of more individualism - where neatness is less important, and personal emotion (primarily, anguish) is more impt. (Compare their piano sonatas.) Switching immediately from Beeth. to any serious 20th century classic, u can hear a (logical) change along an unhappy curve.

In the dystopic film "Children of Men," humanity is dying. A scene has Michael Caine grooving to that culture's music... which is only grunts & shrieks of terror.

Beeth. is really great because he made the changeover mentioned above, a pivotal figure. (He had of course a big tech assist from Haydn's music & a deep knowledge of Baroque masters, whom he revered.) Not everybody's fave, but u feel in his music the presence of an incredible mind - the seminal figure of fully self-conscious individualism in Western music, i.e., a Bryonic J.S. Bach. It's worth noting that all the big shots who came after Beeth. (Brahms, et al.) considered themselves pygmies in comparison with him. Until, of course, we come to American genuises like some of the ones mentioned.

(A recent Beeth. bio is Maynard Solomon's. Readable but sorta psychoanalytical.)

7:29 PM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

Joe HoHos & shep,
Yes, the US came up with Hicks & Carlin.
Before them we came up with Bruce & Pryor.
Stanhope might not be to everyone's taste, but I'd say he is the comedic analog to The Clash back in the day...the only one that matters.


In the musical arena, like dodge-ball-free US education, there are plenty of winners.
Europe can lay claim to Nina Hagen and Camille, but the US has Diamanda Galas and Cyndi Lauper.

As it circles the drain, the US should seriously consider dropping The Star Spangled Banner and using one of Cyndi's hits as the new anthem, and not only because one of the lines is "It's all in the past now"...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ufh8CYcO3eo



8:14 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Shane-

DAA.

Kev-

I've been to Hollywood/I've been to Redwood...

Hack-

Art Spiegelman

mb

8:17 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: We're back up to 1400 hits/day. This topic must have hit a cosmic nerve, for some odd reason. I keep scratching my head. Was it triggered by my claiming that Martha and the Vandellas were better than Telemann? Or that Danielle Steel put Flaubert in the shade?

mb

9:02 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Dr. Berman & WAFers,

Re: American Culture

Almost all of the time I spent in the US until I was 30 was in New York City, which can be like living in a European city. Also, I had grandparents and other relatives who were immigrants. Therefore I was never impressed by American art and music, and I read more European than American literature. Since then, while in the US, I have lived in Iowa and Texas, and I consider myself lucky to have grown up in NY – I like to say that New York is a good place to be from.

Back in the 1930’s Alfred North Whitehead was asked: “Suppose our American culture were wiped out: whom have we produced so far who would stand as a lasting contribution to the world?” He replied, “Walt Whitman.” Whitehead then added, “…Whitman brought something into poetry which was never there before. Much of what he says is so new that he even had to invent a form for saying it. Whitman seems to me to have been one of the few very great poets that have ever lived. He can stand easily beside the really great European poets…”

There is an old Talmudic saying that goes “Jephthah in his generation is like Samuel in his generation.” I guess that whoever and whatever are considered ‘great’ in a society at a particular stage of its history, tells you a lot about that society.

I must say, however that American culture has produced some gems. To this day I can’t get Lightnin’ Hopkins’ rendition of “Go Down Ol’ Hannah” out of my head – and I don’t think I want to.

David Rosen

9:49 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

DR-

Just think: Oprah Winfrey doing the commencement address at Harvard. To what levels of dreck have we sunk?

mb

10:10 PM  
Blogger Zosima said...

Found it...like finding a long lost friend.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfB2Ijo4NHk

Yes, Weeping willow tree
Weep in sympathy
Bend your branches down along the ground and cover me...

1:44 AM  
Anonymous Zaid said...

WAFERs

I need your reactions on Dennis Rodman and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The members of US Press are having a good time criticizing them both.

Some media people say Rodman is not an expert in foreign policy, so his opinions do not count. Some call Rodman a clown who has no business going over there. Some point out the human rights abuses in North Korea. Some say Kim Jong Un is a mad man who should not be allowed to build nuclear bombs. Some say Kim Jong Un and North Korea have a lot of people in prison.

Go through the charges and tell us how America does in each area compared to North Korea.
Kim Jong Un is mad man, so there is no mad people in US government.
Continue.....
There is no single American in US prison. Not one. Bradley Manning is not in prison.
Continue....

4:12 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Zaid-

"I ain' got nothin' against them Viet Cong"--Muhammad Ali. (A much superior foreign policy to that of Robt McNamara, as it turned out.)
Anyway, a gd place for US press to focus their attention: always on THEM, never on us. Safe.

Zos-

Nice!

mb

7:02 AM  
Anonymous Bingo said...

Amy had a few excellent shows lately. I think she gave up on the progressives and is being radicalized to WAFerism.

How is this for "justice" in the land of the free?

"5 Years in Jail for Unlocking a Phone?":
http://www.democracynow.org/2013/3/4/5_years_in_jail_for_unlocking


And now, in daily humiliation of small Britain news:

"UK inquiry into Iraqi prisoner deaths reveals evidence of ‘torture’":
http://rt.com/news/torture-iraq-british-soldiers-817/

This may not be as good as pissing on his Guccis, but I think it's a great start:

"Palestinian students throw stones at UK ambassador in West Bank":
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/03/05/292028/palestine-students-hurl-stones-at-uk-envoy/

Next move: throw an old, smelly shoe at the queen when she's in range.

Thank you, Karma.

7:32 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Julian-

That's gd news abt Amy. Hopefully she'll realize that Waferism, and not 'progressivism', is the way to the future. Meanwhile, if any of the following things happen, I shall be forced to reconsider my atheist position:

1. Amy has me on her show, and we discuss her previous deluded 'progressive' beliefs, and she publicly embraces Waferism as the only outlook that makes any sense.
2. I get to throw a pair of shoes at Bush Jr., while calling him a dog and telling him his artwork is for shit.
3. I get to pee on Obama's Guccis, on network TV.
4. Pigs fly.

mb

7:45 AM  
Blogger Mark Fuller Dillon said...

On the topic of American contributions to the arts, I'd like to recommend POGO, the once-famous comic strip by Walt Kelly.

Re-reading it, I'm struck by Kelly's dark view of American psychology. POGO hit its peak in the McCarthy era, and Kelly was bold in satirizing that paranoia. In the 1950s, his characters were obsessed by the question, "Who is the enemy?" In the 1960s, it became, "Are my friends my enemy?" And by the 1970s, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

It's a fascinating support for Professor Berman's idea that Americans need an enemy Other for the sake of their own insecure (and empty) self-image.

Mark Fuller Dillon
markfullerdillon.blogspot.ca

7:58 AM  
Anonymous ellen said...

I initially thought the Globetrotters visit to Kim a masterstroke of diplomacy and PR with Oprah booked in next; she could do a show blathering on about self esteem, New Thought and a prosperity mindset to the perpetually famine stricken North Koreans--but then how would the US project continue without such evil regimes to demonise and on which to make war? So that was unlikely to be the intention.

Then I remembered how the UK has recently employed the ex-head of the Stasi (East German secret police) as a domestic security advisor and swiftly moved into Alex Jones territory.

Perhaps Dennis is a trojan horse, a foot in the door, there to pick up a few totalitarian tips on keeping the natives quiet while they slave and starve for the greater glory of the Kim lineage?

(Jon Ronson, who made a great doc 'Secret Rulers of the World' with Alex Jones, on what that man was up to:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FSjkkpQY60 )

Is there oil or maybe rare earths available in N. Korea? It hardly has potential as a new market to exploit--not that the US manufactures anything to sell anymore except arms and spin.

Maybe someone is trying to do a Gladio and it will be armed and subverted to function as a hedge against China--which is currently feeding the enormous N Korean army as a hedge against the US.

My head hurts. I'm off to the crossroads to see if I can sell my soul to the devil along with Robert,(not Richard) Johnson.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yd60nI4sa9A

8:07 AM  
Blogger NearFar said...

WAFers:

Oops, yesterday I forgot to link to something else that is a must read (sorry, would much rather 'drone' on-and-on about TAP) :

http://davidmasciotra.com/2013/02/28/major-announcement-new-ebook-now-available-on-amazon-against-traffic-essays-on-politics-and-identity/

8:27 AM  
Anonymous in.fern.all said...

All this talk about the Wafer canon and no one has yet mentioned the Godfather of Soul? Eegaads!!

Que pasa, people!
Que pasa, HIT ME!

8:33 AM  
Blogger John Zorn said...

Wafers

It seems that many think culture means only 'high' culture. I think that's buying into an elitist, exclusive way of thinking.

I also happen to like classical music, but I know too that there is much culture that is equally valid, and that's ordinary culture from the people, from where all wealth and culture spring. There's a wealth of Irish/Scots music for example, and in the US there's blues and jazz; there's early country music (oh yes). In Latin America there's tons of good folk music like cumbia - and more.

If you're an ordinary punter like me, you wont forget this. I like culture from below, just like history.

WAFers - you have nothing to lose but false consciousness! No paseran! Play that funky music white boy!!!!!

9:53 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Dr. Hackenbush,

Ah the glorious age of mind-expanding comics! Agree with you completely on Kirby, of course -- his original New Gods seem more applicable than ever these days, even though subsequent writers & artists have done their best to turn them into homogenized commodities. For those not in the know, Kirby proposed comics that had beginnings, middles, and ends; his seminal series were intended to have final issues, rather than milking the popular characters for decades after to diminishing effect. No dismal, halfassed sequels to make a few more bucks. He may have been putting food on the table for his family, but that's an Artist.

I recall a character from his The Forever People returning from a trip to the past, where he encounters some conquistadors in unspoiled Florida: "I found an ecological paradise and all those fools wanted was gold!"

And of course Kirby was cheated horribly, unable to see any of the money that the corporate powers made by using his creations. Sound familiar?

Superhero comics in the early 197s were a wonder, as their writers were young, soaked in the counterculture, and questioning all the traditional American values ausyally expressed in comics. Consider Steve Englehart's run on Captain America, when the good Captain finally tracks down the head of the Secret Empire trying to overthrow America, and it turns out to be Nixon, who kills himself in the oval office. Or Steve gerber's scathing psychological & cultural dissections of mainstream America in Man-Thing & Howard the Duck. Or Jim Starlin's hallucinatory cosmic anti-authority runs on Captain Marvel, Warlock & later Dreadstar,in which he attacks organized religion, corporate captitalism, and the destructive hunger for power. In the series leading up to Dreadstar, it becomes necessary to destroy the Milky Way galaxy in order to save it; Starlin had been in the Army during Vietnam & got out as a conscientious objector.

Needless to say, all of that has long since been reversed, with superhero comics these days firmly standing behind the government, especially the military, which is practically beatified in their pages. Starlin's concepts will be used in the upcoming Avengers movies, with all the subversive fire sucked out of them, and he probably won't see a penny of the obscenely huge profits.

10:24 AM  
Blogger bowtiejack said...

We’re now in the middle of the sequester lunacy and I want to briefly tease out a couple of points that I think are symptomatic of our own Rome-like decline, as discussed in WAF and DAA.

1. The Bush tax cuts should have been allowed to expire but weren’t (except for inconsequential bites on incomes over about $450,000). This leaves about a $300-400 billion dollar hole in the Federal budget. The only ways to cover that are borrowing (which we’re doing now), raising taxes or cutting programs.

2. The government needs to raise revenue and to do that needs to raise taxes. Tax bills have to originate in the House - Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution.

3. However, through diligent gerrymandering and local (state) politics over the years, the Republicans and their Tea Party brownshirts have got lots of “safe” congressional districts. Congressmen from these districts worry only about a primary challenge from their right by a bigger nutcase than themselves. The election itself is a Republican lock.

4. Republicans in those “safe” districts cannot vote for ANY tax increase because it would be professional suicide when they are primaried on it and defeated in the next election. And without some of their votes, you can’t pass a tax bill.

5. Enter the sequester with its mandatory meat ax cuts to force everyone to the table to supposedly act like grownups (i.e., Obama’s “mix of cuts and taxes” since he already blew it by not letting the Bush tax cuts expire).

6. Go back to Point 4.

Reminds you of the doomsday device in Dr. Strangelove, doesn’t it?


Here’s a nice lucid explanation of the whole depressing thing.

http://baselinescenario.com/2013/03/04/lessons-of-the-sequester/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+BaselineScenario+%28The+Baseline+Scenario%29

11:55 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

"First Counsellor of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations."

Can u believe this title s***?

WAFer fun challenge. Can u beat it?

MB -

The old Hollywood is a very different story isn't it. "Dial M for Murder"

12:02 PM  
Anonymous Mike Sosebee said...

What turned my head around in the 60's(besides a hit of windowpane acid) were the underground comics. Bob Crumb and the Underground Comix movement were obscene and violent and attacked the vapid stupidity of America particularly our hollow morality. I remember ZAP #2 (there were only four) and I saw Wonder Wart Hog for the first time. It was so laugh out loud hysterical that I never looked at super-hero comics the same way. I was 13 then and you could only get them in head shops. I quickly put away my "Nick Fury: Agent Of Shield" propaganda comics and moved on.

Which brings me to muse why The Peace Movement of the Sixties was such a surprise to the power elite in America. The Committee for Public information had been deeply entrenched with Hollywood almost from the inception of the studio system. It was no accident that St. Ronnie ended up heading the actors union. They certainly had the papers in control. What they forgot was the music. Dylan, Baez, Beatles (and lots more) were speaking to kids (us) unfiltered until the late 70's. Even the Smother Bros. show was edgy. That's all gone now. Instead we have the "American Holgram" 24 hours a day. I sure miss Joe Bageant but I'm glad you're here MB.

1:07 PM  
Anonymous al-Qa'bong said...

Shane W.:
"Culture--
for most of it's history, the US has considered itself an extension (evolution?) of Western culture..."

And with the USA, God finally got it right, or as Hegel wrote "der Gang Gottes in der Welt, dass der Staat ist."

Speaking of Hegel, and negative identity, if you ask a Canadian what it means to be Canadian, he'll probably start by saying how we're different from Yanquis.

Joe:
Thanks for that Doug Stanhope link. I hadn't heard of him before. He's brilliant.

1:15 PM  
Blogger Boris the Spider said...

I almost chimed into this culture thread to mention Jack Kirby, but lo and behold, others beat me to it. Growing up reading comics in the '70s inculcated the counterculture mindset and an anti-authoritarian streak in me, which only deepened when I hit college and Alan Moore started deconstructing the mainstream comics scene.

Of course, most of the genius comic creators are posterboys for how creators (laborers) got screwed by publishers (capitalists). And there was Stan Lee, Editor in Chief and main writer, whose persona was a shameless but earnest huckster. And yet, it was the very overblown drama of his hucksterism that actually revealed how ridiculous that stance really was. I don't know if he intended it that way or was just following a trend he thought the kids would dig, but the end result was showing kids like me to see right through the more subtle forms of hucksterism. Thanks, Stan!

1:36 PM  
Anonymous dani said...

Oh, I have been so afraid that Dr Berman and WAFERs are 100% on the mark:

A teacher wrote a threatening message on the chalkboard while the students are watching for intellectual class-time lecture.

Here is the message:

A) You are idiots!!!!!!!! B) The guns are loaded!!! C) Care to try me ?????????"


2:17 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

Tim -

Yes, e.g., Tony Stark (Iron Man) is now an inventor for defense contractors, helping The Empire blow away whole mountaintops and populations indiscriminately.

Zorn -

I love early jazz & used to live in Nashville where a buddy wrote for one of the hat acts 20 yrs ago. IMO in every soul must be an elitist corner...but only a corner.

mb -

The recent comment-avalanche prob comes from how good this post is. I mean, unpacked it says it all, really. If u do another anthology, pls consider including this'un.

2:39 PM  
Anonymous Smith said...

John Zorn, that's a little unfair. Morris Berman has repeatedly praised jazz, and much of his criticism in his books is his lament that technological culture has destroyed folk culture, which has existed for millenia.

He repeatedly studies folk arts such as British and Japanese pottery, Mexican foodways, Southern honor cultures, and Islamic-centric economics.

He only has a problem when people shut the quality control mechanism off COMPLETELY, so they can't tell the difference between good and bad.

It reminds me of an episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, actually.

No no wait wait wait wait wait; I know that's a little girl's cartoon and shouldn't have a place on this blog, please just hear me out first!

There's an episode of that show where a couple of scam artists come to town with a machine that can produce quality apple cider instantly (or so they say), and they end up in conflict with one of the six main characters, Applejack, whose family runs an apple farm.

The conflict ultimately becomes the Apple family's apple-growing business versus the scam artists' apple cider machine, and at first the latter is more popular because it can produce more cider, and more quickly, during a time when the Apple family couldn't grow enough apples to give cider to everyone, and kept running out although the cider was good quality.

The problem is, during the contest, at one point in order to win, the scam artists shut off the "quality control" mechanism, which allows them to win the contest to make apple cider much, much faster than normal since they're not bothering with quality control.

But, no one is willing to drink the cider, because now it has twigs and leaves swimming in it, or it tastes like mud, etc.

That causes the townspeople to drive the scam artists out of town, and to stick with Applejack and her family's apples because quality is more important than quantity, especially if lack of quality control meant you're drinking grass and sticks.

See the point, John Zorn? Berman is only arguing that humans need a quality control mechanism, or they'll constantly swallow shit and think it's caviar, to borrow an expression he's used before.

3:10 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Smith-

Many thanks. Sr. Zorn was so off-base, I didn't know where to begin. Plus, he misspelled 'pasaran'. In any case, I think my favorite phrase is "not knowing shit from shinola."

Sanc-

Well, apparently people have strong feelings abt culture; wh/shows how impt it is to us (question of identity etc.).

dani-

That *is* a tad aggressive, altho s/he got (A) rt.

Mike-

If I remember correctly, LBJ ordered the network to take Smothers Bros. off the air, as they were hitting too close to the bone on Vietnam. (And of course the spineless cowards complied.)

Keep in mind at all times that every day the American head plunges a few millimeters deeper into the American rump. And be sure to consult yr post-it at least once a day.

mb

3:26 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: Marianne: yr email isn't working.

3:27 PM  
Blogger John Zorn said...

Excuse this brief second post.

Smith! I wasn't referring to MB at all! I know very well what he has said about jazz and about folk culture etc. I meant it for others who seemed to think that 'high' culture was the only culture. Sigh...

3:32 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

I guess we can all kiss and make up, then. Remember what Aristotle said (well, he said a shitload, but I'm picking one sentence among many):

"Koina ta ton philon"; The goods of friends are held in common.

Not bad, those dead white Hellenes, eh wot?

3:50 PM  
Anonymous dani said...

Dr Berman, sorry I forgot the link.

http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/Indiana-Teacher-Makes-Guns-Threat-On-Chalkboard-194851881.html

4:05 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Marianne: Anything I send u bounces back as 'Undeliverable'. Call yr I.P.?

4:55 PM  
Anonymous Rowdy said...

Am I the only person who finds Ernest Hemingway incredibly bad?

5:19 PM  
Anonymous Tas Ben said...

Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has been taken out by gringos of America. If you think otherwise, you are not thinking. Think about the huge crude oil in their lands like in Iraq and Libya. The insanity continues because even if they kill the entire world, they will still have to face themselves in the mirror.

5:21 PM  
Anonymous Rufusteena Firefly said...

http://truth-out.org/news/item/14929-interview-with-gar-alperovitz

What about this?

5:44 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Rufusteena-

Well, Gar says we're heading into something similar to the Progressive Era, and the final result of that was more oppression/control, the rise of 'efficiency', etc. (cf. Robt Wiebe, "The Search for Order"): socialist rhetoric, capitalist reality, in short. Also check out Joel Magnuson's bk, "The Approaching Great Transformation"--abt to be released--wh/tries to sort out genuine changes from pseudo-changes. I'm concerned that a lot of what Gar talks about in the category of the New Economy and that whole movement is really more of the same, but w/hip rhetoric. For me, the key is not worker control, but whether an enterprise is not-for-profit, part of what will become a steady-state, noncapitalist economy. Otherwise, we are talking crap, such as 'green corporations', Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and similar b.s.

mb

6:22 PM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

@ The Comix Committee

Yes, Kirby and Crumb...all night long.
I read (past tense) Crumb et al for the stories/text mostly, although some of the art by Moscoso and Robert Williams was deeply stimulating.
I "read" Marvel & DC pretty much exclusively for the art, although some of Kirby's story work after he switched to DC was interesting.
But what tickled my optic nerve most of all was Steranko's work. I don't recall what titles he worked on other than NFAOS and Captain America, but some of those one or two-paged spreads w/o panels were something completely new, and with the help of botanicals or chemicals...well, those were the days.

@ in.fern.all
In case you aren't familiar with it, there is a documentary called "The Night James Brown Saved Boston".
It is available on YT in fairly short clips, but I located a YT clip that appears to have the entire concert w/o interruptions.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BawG-N9_FR8

MB,
Seems you have (dis)connected with Marianne (un)Faithful, the evil twin of the one who gave us "Broken English".
Click on "Show More" for full lyrics.
I still think "Money Changes Everything" merits consideration as a Wafer anthem, but maybe "Broken English" could serve as our, um, y'know...fight song.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-H55V_oma0

P.S. For PC purposes, you might wanna retag Aristotle as an an olive-complected Mediterranean indigene.
Never know when you might need to "teach" a few bunches of yanqui idiotas for one of those online universities in order to build up a nest egg.
Start up funding for the Wafer line of T-shirts and bumper stickers doesn't grow on trees.
On the other hand, maybe just play the loteria and wait for a sign of Providence...lower risk of psychic infection.

6:26 PM  
Anonymous Dean said...

-on Hemingway

You're certainly not the only one not on the bandwagon. I confess, however, to being "on." Yeah, his crudeness hasn't worn as well as I've gotten older. I still think there's something artful about being able to pull off colorful and fleshed out narrative with simple sentences.

"Garden of Eden" is the work I find most enduringly interesting. There was definitely another thread to him there. It would have been interesting to see if he could have tugged on it a little more in his twilight years...if the neurotransmitters and bullet hadn't intervened, that is.

I admit though to being a fan of Somerset Maugham and O Henry, too. So, perhaps it's just that I'm at a third rate reading level. At least, I'm trying.


-on alternative economic systems

A system is only as good as the people operating within it. There isn't a system that can be devised to counterbalance humanity's deep sociopathy. In other words, we're fucked.

Why am I suddenly craving a ham sandwich, an sbsinthe and a Riviera breeze? Ahh, the sweet pleasures of resigned ambivalence. That's the ticket.

7:15 PM  
Anonymous ennobled little day said...

dani-

I currently live in the Hoosier state. For those of you who don't know, NW Indiana is part of the Chicago metro area.

My sense is that people are crazier in the big cities, which is why I'm avoiding them now that I'm looking for a teaching job.


Rowdy-

Chris Hedges once said that Hemingway's early work was better than what he wrote as he got older. I believe he said something about Hemingway becoming a bit too self-conscious or something. I don't quite remember.

When Hedges said that, though, I couldn't help but wonder if he was drawing parallels between himself and Hemingway.

7:26 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Ty-

Well, maybe I shd engage in a bit of hustling, who knows. On the other hand, I like the idea of moving to Japan, getting myself a begging bowl, and going from door to door hoping for a few grains of rice. Meanwhile, Marianne F. keeps pursuing me; something abt we shd get married. Am curious as to whether Wafers think I shd tie the knot w/her. Meanwhile, in lieu of conjugal bliss, I think we do need a Wafer anthem/fight song, beyond "Cranial-Rectal Embedment" (wh/does exist as a song--check it out). Perhaps some of the musically inclined on this blog might compose one..."Down with Dolts!" strikes me as a possible title. Wafers are encouraged to start working on the lyrics toot sweet.

Dean-

Switch from ham to pastrami, you'll never regret it. I like Maugham myself, but perhaps Graham Greene a bit more (shd have won the Nobel). Hemingway is overwrought, I think, tho his appearance in "Midnight in Paris" was quite funny.

mb

7:37 PM  
Anonymous Savantesimal said...

One thought on the culture discussion: "good" culture is almost always spontaneous, and comes from non-expert, non-mainstream, even fringe sources. Only later is it discovered by hucksters and commercialized into dreck. But this is not a new thing, though the particular form of the corruption is relatively new.

All of the great things of the past start as small movements that get corrupted over time even if they do grow. The philosophers we hold up as exemplars of "Greek" culture were dissidents of their times, not mainstream. A modern analog would be some nutty religious cult. Socrates was executed for introducing "foreign gods", remember? And Aristotle fled Athens near the end of his life to prevent it being shortened -- to prevent the Athenians from "sinning twice against philosophy" as he put it. Later a slew of "Neo-Platonisms" grew up, some not very closely related to Plato's thought. But centuries after Plato was gone it became popular to be a "philosopher" and many shoddy schools that we could call "diploma mills" today sprang up.

A more extreme example is Christianity, which started as a very humanitarian movement in opposition to Roman Imperial cruelty and "efficiency" -- but when it got big enough to be appealing to Imperial power lust it was co-opted into a mandatory state ideology that basically replaced the Emperor-as-god with the Romanized Jesus as patron of the Emperor. And it remained a political ideology for centuries, except for the occasional dissident movement that was suppressed with very recognizable Imperial brutality and efficiency.

Similarly, if on a smaller scale, many new styles or genres of literature or music spring up all the time, some of them in the US, and they can be very good. As the Frank Zappa quote given by al-Qa'bong makes clear, "Classical" music was a formulaic, commercial (in the manner of its era) product. We remember the good stuff now, and forget the plain filler that most people would have heard far more often. But new trends are seized on very quickly by the commercializing corporate system now. The story of music in the US through the 20th century is pretty much a constant roll-over of new genres popping up and getting commercialized and standardized, provoking another rebellion in the form of a new style/genre. In much the same way, science fiction and fantasy were an outlet for non-approved ideas in literature for decades. But now there is so much formulaic mercenary stuff out there just trying to make money that it's hard to find anything really new and interesting.

7:45 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Hackenbush said...

MB- Yep, Art Spiegelman. He paved the way for the current crop of sophisticated intellectual type cartoonists (Dan Clowes and Chris Ware are the two major ones I guess) who get reviewed in big institutional publications (and do New Yorker covers.) They are good, there's just something about the clash of Art & Commerce the old comics represent.

Shane W- I feel like I'm banging my head against the wall trying to get through to people that the conventional wisdom on this stuff is all wrong... I'm telling you, if you investigate the links I've been offering, you'll find that you've been living in a Ptolemaic world with the sun going around the earth... All the media blather about how this stuff works is wrong, wrong, wrong and it infects everybody, left or right.

MMT continues the thought of Keynes, who was never popular in the US despite that we still run our economy largely with Keynesian military spending. The conventional neoliberal dogma that several have repeated in comments is derived from Milton Friedman and the 70s Chicago school economists. I can't go into detail here, you have to trust me that it's worth investigating the links to be able to see the water we're swimming in.

I'm not for the MMTers' policy prescriptions necessarily, but to the extent they offer a description of how the economy REALLY works, I can't recommend it enough. Except that it will then be frustrating whenever you hear people repeating the standard dogma. Here's an MMTer giving an intro on Harry Shearer's Le Show:

http://harryshearer.com/le-shows/october-28-2012/

8:02 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Rufusteena-

I just ran my reply 2u past Joel Magnuson; this is his answer:

"That sounds about right. A lot of the hipster b.s. is to romanticize small business' role in the New Economy. But it's hard to find any examples of small businesses that are not just little fiefdoms owned and managed by greedy, self-righteous jackasses."

I think we're probably looking at more hustling, in short. It's extremely hard for Americans not to do it, really; it's in our DNA.

mb

8:31 PM  
Anonymous Mike Sosebee said...

When I graduated from High School my aunt, a successful commercial real estate broker, awarded me with the hustler's handbook, "Winning Through Intimidation". In Robert Ringer's world, other people are the intimidators you are the intimidatee. The only way to counter this to become an intimidator yourself. BTW in America these shallow techniques work, but what can you expect from a country that proclaims the one with the most shit wins?

7:45 AM  
Blogger Dr. Atomic said...

Did someone say they were from Saskatchewan? That makes two of us!

My local library has a copy of Dark Age America on the shelves, right next to books by Barbara Ehrenreich, Matt Taibbi, and Chris Hedges. And judging from the wear on the cover, quite a few people had read it (hopefully with as much Schadenfreude as I did)

Sadly, here in Canada the hustling mentality is pretty much inescapable, though it is a bit milder than it is south of the border. And, of course, we inflicted Justin Bieber and Celine Dion on the world, and we really have no excuse for that. Then again, we also produced Leonard Cohen, so maybe it all balances out in the end.

12:48 AM  
Anonymous Deena Stryker said...

Hi Morris, Catching up with you after several years of just knowing you were in Mexico. Sounds like your latest provides the historical buttress for my own thoughts: this is an irreversible decline. Don't know whether you mention it, but the simple fact that the arrow of time is irreversible makes previous examples unsurprising. And a corollary: nothing lasts forever, which certified Sovietologists didn't realize, but I did, as shown in my book 'Une autre Europe, un autre Monde' published just before the Berlin Wall fell.

12:00 PM  

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