April 06, 2013

The Vancouver Lecture

Dear Wafers:

Well, it seemed to go well enough (this was yesterday morning, out at UBC), with the exception of a douche bag on a cell phone. I'm actually grateful, whenever I give a lecture, if people in the audience don't throw rotten fruit. Anyway, pour yourself a double scotch and sit back:

http://www.extraenvironmentalist.com/2013/04/02/stagnation-sustainability-morris-berman/

197 Comments:

Anonymous Rufus T Firefly said...

Here's a fantastic link for WAFers - it is hard to tell who is the most inconsiderate and buffoonish here:

Captain Diverted Plane Because Family Complained About In Flight Movie

Of course, it is quite telling and very American that there is no option to switch off the in-flight movie...

3:30 PM  
Anonymous ennobled little day said...

Dr. B. and fellow WAFers-

I'm watching your UBC lecture.

Has Mexico ever had a feudal, crafts-oriented tradition? Where can I learn more about this?

4:25 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Day-

Yes, and it still exists, in rural areas of the country. There is a series called "Artes de Mexico" that records some of this, and many bks on Mexican crafts.

mb

5:13 PM  
Anonymous in.fern.all said...

Doctor B,

Sorry for the second post of the day but I can't seem to access your talk using the link you gave. I get as far as the playbill featuring all the speakers but there doesn't seem to be any way to get into the presentations themselves. Please advise me. Thanks.

7:44 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Fern-

When u put the link into yr browser and hit Enter, you'll see a picture of me, and then below that an arrow > to start the video. Click on that, and that shd work. Write back if still having problems.

mb

8:49 PM  
Blogger Boris the Spider said...

Very good talk! Thank you for mentioning William Morris. I drove up to Washington DC last week to see the Pre-Raphaelite exhibit at the National Gallery of Art. They displayed Morris' only known easel painting, as well as his fabrics and editions of his Kelmscott Press books. A great collection; highly recommended. It's there until mid-May.

I've been reading some of Morris'essays on Socialism. It's rather frustrating how so many of the conditions he condemns actually did begin, slowly, to improve (labor hours and such), but the Reagan revolution has begun to unravel what small progress was achieved. His "How we live and how we might live" essay might as well have been written this week rather than in the 1880s. Sigh.

8:52 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

Individualism and the concept of personal rights and personal privacy have done a lot of good. What I wonder is why lefty writers (such as Alfie Kohn) insist on tying individualism to competition - i.e. why they seem to assume an irreconcilable conflict between individualism and cooperation.

(It reminds me of the false political dichotomy "communism vs. fascism," in America during WW2. In those days - this was the CP line, at least - you couldn't reject both as being problematic, you had to embrace one, & this was considered more a matter of philosophical necessity than military contingency.)

The introvert* or psychological individualist (I'm using the terms interchangeably here) contributes to community even if he spends a lot of his time alone. Are such contributors to be discarded in the new collectivist regime?

I propose that the dichotomy "competitive fascist loner who is cutting our throats vs. caring and sharing extroverted communist mensch," which comes thru in much lefty writing, be discarded as an absurdity and replaced w/ something like "selfish unprincipled assholes vs. introverts 'n' extroverts both putting the good of the community first albeit w/ different styles."

It isn't clear to me why the introverted personality is to be considered "uncooperative" by Kohn et al. or, worse, socially destructive (e.g., ruinous of the commons).

--

* MB mentioned he is reading Susan Cain's Quiet. A Cain interview is here
http://www.thepowerofintroverts.com/

10:10 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Day-

Check out the Net for organizations that help people break screen and other electronic device addiction. There are several by now, I believe. Don't delay: this is serious stuff, certainly worse than heroin.

mb

11:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank your for making the lecture available on you tube. It was insightful and thought provoking.

The best part was the Q & A sections, your humor, depth of knowledge and "listen-ability" (ability to hold the audience attention) came to the fore.

There is no need for you to "read" a script. My suggestion would be for you to write questions to yourself on your notes for the lecture and answer those questions.

When you answer questions you are a wonderful dynamic public speaker.

1:28 PM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...

Great talk!

Day--what else to do?

Walk, look at surroundings, paint, look at plants, birds, think, paint, squeeze a ball, adjust genitals, pick nose, people watch, smoke a cigar, go fishing, take up cycling, swim, read a book (carry a paper back with you at all times) write (carry a writing pad) sketch (mini sketch pads), get a camera and see that even a mid priced camera produces images far superior than a phone or pad--nothing pisses me off more than people taking photos (err digitally recorded image) on a phone or pad. I do want to move their head aside and shove the device up their butt.

There is help out there day....

4:21 PM  
Anonymous in.fern.all said...

Sanctuary,

I'm with you 100% on the compatibility of introverts/psychological individualists with communitarian values. One might say that we are a "yin" force: offering insight and nuance, the fruits of reflection and contemplation. We are also often the ones people come to during existential crisis when others seem uncomprehending.

Day,

I believe I responded to the same post of yours that Dr. B did above but [I] did so on the previous thread.

Dr. B,

Got through half the video before having to shut down owing to roommate sleeping. I found the idea of Japanese of every age seeking out their various traditions and consciously reaffirming them surprising and encouraging. It's interesting comparing their reaction to an extended social/economic "crisis" and ours, especially given that theirs has been much longer. It's also an interesting example of how an economic success turns out to be cultural failure, and economic "failure" being the seed of cultural regeneration. However, I haven't heard the whole thing so I suppose I shouldn't be commenting on it.
BTW, you look very handsome in a suit.

7:47 PM  
Anonymous Bingo said...

In my opinion, when it comes to community vs. individualism, I think the ideas many American intellectuals expound about these topics are so simplistic and reductionist, they really don’t contribute much of anything valuable. These people need to spend less time reading each other’s books and more living among other cultures in order to truly understand the differences and the dynamics involved. Also, it would be helpful to discard much of western psychology before approaching the subject of collectivism.

And, speaking of culture, please do not miss this amazing “development”:

http://omg.yahoo.com/blogs/celeb-news/photo-see-kim-kardashian-bare-baby-bump-182941487.html

8:08 PM  
Blogger NearFar said...

Thank you. I'll be watching this again. Lots to 'cull' from this talk. And this UBC talk is one of your best on video that I've seen so far. Somehow, it really came together. (I first heard you on the car radio almost a year ago, quickly wrote your name down on a scrap of paper at a traffic light, so your 'extended' adio talks work well too, imo).

9:39 PM  
Anonymous Shane w said...

I'm still interested in WAFers take on the whole n Korea thing & whether they see parallels with the US & imperial Japan in WWII (America pushes Asian country against wall, country with zealous leaders with death instinct)

10:30 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Anon-

Thank u. In future, however, pls pick a handle, as I usually don't post Anons. I suggest Sam Schmeck, Jr.

mb

12:16 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Superb talk. Your line that the US is stuck between modernity and collapse crystallized so much for me. Now I fully understand why you repeatedly say "Game over" for the US. It's an insight that would if it ever got any major media exposure be universally denounced by both the right and left since as you also stated the difference between capitalism and socialism is minute since both believe in perpetual growth with socialism merely arguing for a fairer distribution of incomes. Hey, even if by some miracle socialism took root in the US, Americans would fuck that up to; you know; some people are more equal than other people to paraphrase Orwell's line.

2:48 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Day,

What Capo said. I always carry a notebook with me, and I try to get out for a walk in our local park every day, weather permitting. There's always something new & beautiful to see, if you just look. A lot of people have forgotten how to look; they're programmed to be wired & blot out the real world.

Capo's also right about making something by hand. For me it's making art. I started with collage, found I had a knack for it, and now I want to try as many different modes of artistic expression as possible. There's a real sense of wholeness in creating something yourself.

By the way, I'm currently reading Fiona McCarthy's magnificent biography of William Morris, which I recommend to all. I especially like his emphasis on even the most utilitarian things being well-made & beautiful. Here's someone who tried his hand at countless creative endeavors & was remarkably successful at nearly all of them.

Bingo, fern,

Yes, this is not a culture for introverts, even though introverts contribute a great deal to any culture. And the meaning of the word "individual" has been warped beyond recognition. To my mind, the only real community is created by genuine individuals -- those who are sufficiently grounded & sure of who they are, so that they can work in a group setting without fear of losing themselves. The "individuals" we have today all fear that they're nothing, they have to keep proving to the world that they're individuals -- and of course they're all individuals in the exact same way, and all equally empty, deriving their existence from the constant attention of others, which they demand incessantly. "We are the hollow men" indeed!

Quote for the day, from the late educator john Holt:

"Beware the man who feels himself to be a slave. He'll want to make a slave of you, too."

10:15 AM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...

MB,

What is your view on Negri and Hardt--other than hard to read! Much like Foucult seems you have to mine nuggets from much sluice. But alas they seem to profer solutions. For concision though can't beat Gray or Berman! The lack of solutions in the latter pleases me for some reason.

How about we launch a delusion watch or chronicle? Chronica de pendejadas. That America has failed is obvious but chronicling the various and several nostrums and crazes could be fun. Think about it--already they are talking Hillary in 2016--amazing. Congress is back and who knows what they will cook up. All of the "solutions" and views are interesting for their sheer idiocy of course but the underlying tendencies informing these views are worthy of analysis.

Keep up the great work and thanks for providing an island of sanity.

El Capo.

11:04 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Capo-

But I do offer (personal) solutions: (a) hit the road; (b) become an NMI. As for structural solutions: (a) watch the present system collapse; (b) try to be part of the emerging alternative, if you feel motivated. Hillary will make a very gd candidate in 2016, since she's committed to our self-destructive imperial program. Only thing I wd like to see is Latreasa Goodman as her running mate (speaking of nuggets).

Tim-

Susan Cain has an interesting chapter comparing American and Asian cultures, noting that the US is a nation of extroverts. Why she didn't add, "actually, of horses' asses," I'm not entirely sure.

mb

11:52 AM  
Blogger jml said...


Day,
I also recommend making things. The process of making is a form of meditation. I paint for about 2 hrs a day. If I do it in silence, it feels healing to my mind which spends too much time being hooked up. But sometimes I listen to good podcasts and lectures - I will listen to Professor Berman's new lecture today.
We live in a world filled with cheap factory/machine-made gizmos, to make something with your hands is immensely gratifying and healing and empowering. We need to teach our children this for this reason only - that it is good for us. Working with our hands is what makes us human.
In a world that celebrates speed and glitter and money, there is something radical and beautiful about being committed to a slow "dead" medium like painting. If you can do it with your phone and computer off, all the better!

1:09 PM  
Anonymous JWO said...

JHK's latest podcast is a talk with Dmitry Orlov who has been mentioned often on this blog too.

http://kunstlercast.com/

(The audio is a little rough)

1:16 PM  
Anonymous Savantesimal said...

Margaret Thatcher has died at age 87. For all the hatred she attracted from the so-called "left" her neo-Liberal reforms were not reversed even by succeeding Labour governments. And that, as even members of the Labour party admit, is probably her real legacy. A shift to the right of the entire political spectrum. Much as we have seen in the US since the Reagan era.

BBC: Margaret Thatcher: How her changes affected your finances

One of the first actions of the Labour government in 1997 was to repeal the ban on unions at GCHQ - the Government Communications Headquarters - imposed under the Tories. But under New Labour, the main planks of the reforms of the Thatcher years remained unchanged.

...

BBC: Margaret Thatcher: view from the entertainment world

[Steve Nallon, impressionist on Spitting Image] said:

I think with Thatcher, you either loved her or hated her. She was either a figure of fun or an iconic hero but the truth is always more complicated. Looking back now, perhaps her legacy is Tony Blair rather than David Cameron. The fact that nobody dismantled politically what she achieved.

...

2:51 PM  
Anonymous ennobled little day said...

Fellow WAFers-

I was actually half-joking but thanks for your concern and advice. I'll "keep an eye" on my cellphone use.

When I AM on my phone, I spend most of my time reading ebooks. I'm currently reading Melville's Moby Dick. When I heard you guys and Hedges speak highly of Melville, as someone who had some real insights into the American psyche...

(Spoken as a desperate drug addict): I COULDN'T HELP MYSELF!!!!!! I KNEW I NEEDED TO SCORE ME SOME OF THAT SHIT!!

4:02 PM  
Anonymous shep said...

From "Nature Bats Last":

Read it and weep?

"Projections based on the best current data indicate that life, all life, on planet earth will be extinguished by the middle of this century due to climate chaos – unless some very radical actions are taken on a massive scale."
+
"An increasing number of scientists agree that warming of 4 to 6 C causes a dead planet. And, they go on to say, we’ll be there by 2060."

4:22 PM  
Anonymous Smith said...

Rufus, to answer your question, the inconsiderate and buffoonish one is the airline captain.

According to the article, the parents who complained were civil and polite, and the other passengers actually agreed to let the movie be turned off.

5:29 PM  
Anonymous Zaid said...

Look at the signs:

REJOICE, The Bitch is Dead!

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2013/apr/08/margaret-thatcher-death-party-brixton-glasgow

6:26 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

The Japanese language school in rural Ohio is owned by the Japanese government and I believe it's the only one in the US. I also think it's interesting that Ohio makes cars for Honda that are then shipped to Japan.

I lived for a year in Portland, where there are trees planted around town that were given to the city by Japan during the 1905 world's fair. I think the connection between Portland and Japan is interesting, especially with the Japanese garden.

Speaking of Portland, the city has become a magnet for hipsters, yuppies, and trustafarians, and the section 8 housing continues to be pushed out with rents increasing and housing availability is extremely low. I felt it was very competitive living there, pretty stressful and I'm happy to have left. I didn't notice a big difference in consumption patterns of Portland vs Houston.

7:13 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Unknown-

Wd be gd if u cd pick a more definitive handle, such as Sam Schmeck, Jr. Also, try to limit posts to one a day. Thanks.

Z-

Yes, the Wicked Witch is dead...but her legacy lives on. E.g., Tony BLiar, pants on fire.

mb

8:14 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and Wafers,

Dr. Berman-

Thanks for sharing the Vancouver lecture. Your research on Japan is very encouraging. The Japanese model of a no-growth economy is something that would be laughed at by most Americans; this means that you're on the right track. The Q & A session was also quite lively and provided a nice contrast to some of the brain dead American audiences that you have had the pleasure (not) to deal with in the past. I'm referring to the DAA lecture that you gave at the New Dominion Bookshop in Charlottesville, VA for C-SPAN. I was shocked when a few folks just got up and left your lecture when you said you were not an activist and could not offer an Oprahlike turnaround for America. I was dismayed to read that screen addiction is also prevalent in British Columbia. Well, at least the Canadians do not assault each other with burritos. Please see link below... and remember to duck if you see a flying burrito.

http://www.thesmokinggun.com/buster/taco-bell-burrito-battery-678451

Jeff

9:56 PM  
Blogger NearFar said...

Here you go Wafers, from today's "Common Dreams" site:

"The Other Side of the Coin in Spain,"
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/04/08-1

catching my attention after MB talked about this in the Vancouver lecture.
*
If you are finding the other headlines at the Common Dreams website a mixed bag (are we finally going to get it America?: Say it isn't so!), I just remembered some homespun wisdom that should cheer the cockles of your heart.

Let's see, some of the other headlines we've got listed here:

"It’s Official: A Democratic President Proposes to Cut Social Security,"

and

"An Outpouring of Love and Support for Bradley Manning to Receive the Nobel Peace Prize,"

and finally, the top story there (other than Maggie Thatcher handin' in our--I mean "her"-- chips) is about the oil spill in Arkansas, ie.:

"Exxon's Unfriendly Skies: Why Does Exxon Control the No-Fly Zone Over Arkansas Tar Sands Spill?"

The "wake-up call" that we are getting in Arkansas now, and this will certainly (won't it) galvanize our citizenry to act, reminds me of that old, old saying they have there in Arkansas.

It's a wonderful saying. Really falls inexorably into wisdom's embrace; it really hits home. It's also an old saying in Tennessee - I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee - that says, fool me once, shame on - shame on you. Fool me - you can't get fooled again.

So don't lose faith Wafers!

10:10 PM  
Anonymous Rufus T Firefly said...

@Unknown: There are quite a few private Japanese language schools in the US, and a number of public schools offer courses in the language as well.

3:02 AM  
Anonymous Marcos said...

Glenn Greenwald had an excellent take on the death of Thatcher:

To demand that all of that be ignored in the face of one-sided requiems to her nobility and greatness is a bit bullying and tyrannical, not to mention warped. As David Wearing put it this morning in satirizing these speak-no-ill-of-the-deceased moralists: "People praising Thatcher's legacy should show some respect for her victims. Tasteless." Tellingly, few people have trouble understanding the need for balanced commentary when the political leaders disliked by the west pass away. Here, for instance, was what the Guardian reported upon the death last month of Hugo Chavez:

To the millions who detested him as a thug and charlatan, it will be occasion to bid, vocally or discreetly, good riddance."

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/04/08-3

6:14 AM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...

Sadly the japanese leadership want to get things hopping in a western way. Bank of Japan set to go on a money printing spree that would make Bernanke blush. Doubling of monetary base. Clearly, the leadership of Japan (no doubt with prodding from U.S.) is like in the west drifted from the will and needs of the people.

8:04 AM  
Anonymous Shane w said...

@shep
We better hope the western economy collapses and comes to a standstill while there's still time left. That, I think, is the only hope for earth sustainability, with the emergence of alternate paths like those mentioned above. Of course, the social unrest & collapse that is sure to accompany economic collapse will go a long way towards reducing humankind's ecological footprint, as well. Can't happen fast enough, IMO

12:25 PM  
Anonymous Golf Pro said...

From a British point of view re: Thatcher; bad as she was, everyone thought when she went that she was an eccentric anomaly.

It was Blair who turned her into an inflection point.

Blair shouldn't have been PM, of course - it should have been John Smith, a very different character.

1:00 PM  
Anonymous shep said...

I found this article, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/apr/25/asia-explosive-transformation/?page=2
extremely interesting, esp. this:

“Let some people get rich first,” the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping proclaimed a generation ago, inaugurating a strange new phase in his country’s—and the world’s—history. It now seems clear that nowhere has capitalism’s promise to create wealth been affirmed more forcefully than in post–World War II Asia."

Also this: "The unsettling last image reminds us of how numerous and unwanted are those left behind—and destined never to catch up—in the Asian race to Western-style abundance and glamour. Though largely mute in these dramas of Asian capitalism, the future really belongs to this invisible majority of the “filthy poor”—people who can’t even try to enlarge their limits of possibility, but retain the silent potential of weeds that can overrun the world’s most zealously maintained gardens."

THE WEEDS ALWAYS WIN!!

1:06 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

I can just remember, from the dawn of life, a feeling that everyone is in this together, that everyone has something to contribute, that life is a shared adventure among all humans, etc.

Man, is that over.

Also dead is the sense that one has a place in the world, a valuable function to perform, and that this is one's stability, one's identity or at least the ground of human identity.

That one lasted (as a feeling only) a bit longer, but now is gone too. Died for me about 30 years ago.

At least we had a "booming" economy to compensate for anomie and social hostility. And now, that's gone. Where are we now? Where is the spring that will never come back?

1:47 PM  
Anonymous Zaid said...

Why would a student run around stabbing other students with pencils and razor blades? This same school again. A few months ago, there was a shooting in the same school. America, the land of the free and the brave!

At least 11 people were hurt Tuesday in a stabbing at a Texas community college, authorities said. The college said it was not clear how many people were injured or how severe the injuries were.

http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/04/09/17673057-at-least-11-hurt-in-stabbing-on-texas-college-campus-authorities-say?lite

2:12 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Deena-

It's best to send messages to the most recent post, as no one reads the older ones. Thanks.

mb

3:16 PM  
Anonymous joe hohos said...

Shep,

To say a 4-6 degree celsius rise in global temperature will kill ALL life is alarmist and untruthful. In 2012, the average temperature of the earth was around 13 degrees celsius. During the Jurassic period, the earth was 22 degrees celsius, or 9 degrees more than it was now. Furthermore, the average temperature of the earth over the life of the planet has been about 18 degrees celsius. Also, we are coming off a mini ice age just 10,000 years ago. Even with the amount of pollution and destruction we have created, mother nature will be fine. We only need to worry about driving ourselves to the edge of extinction.

5:03 PM  
Anonymous Bingo said...

Finally, we're making some real progress:

"Toddler shoots friend in head in US state of New Jersey"

http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/04/09/297441/new-jersey-toddler-shoots-friend-in-head/

8:05 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Excellent talk (although unfortunate that the questions from the audience were largely inaudible) - looking forward to the book synthesizing these thoughts.

Going along with the sustainability theme, here's an excellent interview with Ozzie Zehner on "green" energy - mostly just a form of growth limits denial.

Per Marcos post, make sure to click the link and read the earlier "respect for the dead" piece on Christopher Hitchens (and Reagan).

8:15 PM  
Anonymous Edward said...

@Bingo, you are talking about a toddler shooting a toddler:
"Toddler shoots friend in head in US state of New Jersey"

http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/04/09/297441/new-jersey-toddler-shoots-friend-in-head/

Now read about a toddler killing an adult with the gun of a police officer: "A 4-year old boy shot and killed the wife of a Tennessee sheriff's deputy over the weekend, police say. On April 6, Wilson County Deputy Daniel Fanning was inside his home showing his weapons collection to a relative when the officer's wife and young nephew entered the room. The child grabbed one of Fanning's loaded guns off the bed and fired a single shot."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/09/josephine-fanning-dead-shooting_n_3042312.html

It is as though guns are everywhere in the house that the police man and his wife did no longer think about the need to hide guns from children. Even if the guns are required for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, why they kept the guns loaded is beyond human reason.

6:46 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

NMI or not, I think if Obama gives another speech about gun control and NATO kills another innocent 10 children the same or near same day, I'm going to have a stroke.
Notice how the mainstream (corporate) press offers no criticism of Thatcher and suggests to do otherwise would be showing disrespect to her family, but when Hugo Chavez died every major media organization heralded his passing as "Death to a Tyrant" or some such condemnation. Her passing does show the political awareness of the British public which held parties in celebration. Soon after leaving office Condi Rice played piano with the Philadelphia Orchestra and, of course, was greeted as a rock star. Another near stroke.

7:03 AM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...

Orlov hits it nicely: Collapse is not a nightmare scenario to be avoided at all costs but part of the normal, unalterable ebb and flow of human history, and the widespread tendency to block it out of our worldview is, to put it very mildly, maladaptive.”

Much of what is posted and what MB notes is part and parcel of the "maladaptive" tendency to deny collapse and or to narcotize via spectacles of the celebrity or political sort. The fixation with media and electronic devices and new technological and politcal fixes are all like a drunk denying the booze problem I guess.

O.K. what is this of reading on phones? Stay away from the electrons or leesh in all ways. Paper baby, paper. In my view when they added the e book feature on phones it was like locking in on the addiction. Yes, I am posting and reading on-line--but one hour max 5 days a week--thats it. Soon, nada, nada. Retirement and escape is near....Will miss you guys but on for another 6 weeks....

9:36 AM  
Blogger Deena Stryker said...

Problem is I can't figure out which is the most recent post, as comments are only identified with the time, not the date.

Hope you are not trying to scuttle my contribution......
Why did you answer me without publishing my poast?

Deena

10:24 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Deena-

I published yr message at the post u sent it to, in fact, cuz I thought that's where you'd look. As for the most recent post: it's the one at the top.

Edward-

A short while ago I called for an AK-47 to be put in the cradle of every toddler in the nation. Sounds like that's coming to pass, more or less...

mb

12:50 PM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

Part of a comment recently posted (not by me) on Guy McPherson's blog, Nature Bats Last.

Looks to me like there is a fair level of commonality with Wafers here, not withstanding the difference between GM's scientific focus
and MB's cultural focus.


We’re only stupid on the surface, but unfortunately our current cultural mileau is all surface and no interior.

Yeah, I know it should be spelled "milieu".

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9UKANkpPLI

1:03 PM  
Anonymous Bingo said...

The nice progress we've been making continues unabated:

"At Least 4 People Have Been Shot by Toddlers Since Last Weekend"

http://www.alternet.org/least-4-people-have-been-shot-toddlers-last-weekend

It's great to see 2-year olds take the lead on this issue.

11:39 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Julian-

Thing is, if enuf toddlers kill enuf toddlers, future Democratic presidents won't hafta worry abt abolishing Social Security. See? There's always a silver lining. (And people accuse me of pessimism!)

mb

11:49 PM  
Anonymous Shane w said...

http://news.yahoo.com/suspect-dead-officer-wounded-georgia-hostage-situation-ends-000256514.html?.tsrc=attmp

Another shooting,

12:42 AM  
Anonymous Capo REgime said...

This is interesting for it contains a core misnderstanding..

Looks to me like there is a fair level of commonality with Wafers here, not withstanding the difference between GM's scientific focus
and MB's cultural focus.

Like MB my background is math this allows understanding of many things among which include not gettiing wowed by science. Science is a tool used in the furtherance of cultural norms and beliefs (political religous) it is not some objective truth creator which is followed for the enlightenment of all. Science is an instrument of values and when scientists discover something or confirm something not aligned with current views and interests the finding is buried.

8:19 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

sanctuary!,

I share your loss & despair regarding that sense of life being a shared adventure, something wonderful to be welcomed & explored together -- and this from an introvert! Perhaps that's why the NMI concept resonates so deeply for me. It's the only way to enjoy life these days, shutting out as much of the mainstream as possible & cultivating my metaphoric (and soon to be actual) garden.

For me, it's not so much that the joy has gone out of the world, as that our society is intent on destroying it or else commodifying it (i.e., destroying it). After trying to talk with many people over the past years, I realize that questions like, "What is a meaningful life?" are in fact meaningless to them. MB wrote in The Twilight of American Culture about Medieval scholars who had forgotten how to think with any complexity. I once wondered how that was possible -- how could people forget how to think? But I've encountered plenty of it in recent years, and it's no longer difficult to understand. I see it every day -- people who simply cannot comprehend the concept of a metaphor, or multiple levels of meaning, or questioning the basic assumptions of their programmed worldview. For many, it's not just that they find such things upsetting; they honestly don't grasp what such things are. And of course more than a few have college degrees, which tells you how much those are worth nowadays.

You may have seen a recent online news story about Joan Baez returning to Vietnam after 40 years. The comments posted to any site carrying that story are predictably sad. Amazing how so many believe that "serving our country, right or wrong" (i.e., following orders without questioning their morality) is automatically honorable & good. If you mention that every "good soldier" in history followed orders, including SS officers or Soviet soldiers, you might as well be spitting on a flag with a picture of Jesus on it. "Service" is all that matters. What that was in service to, however, is not to be mentioned or questioned. Ever. Preserve the illusion at all costs!

MB,

Just ordered Susan Cain's book.

9:17 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

Joe Hohos -

Not trying to be alarmist or whatever. There are many opinions on what the climate is going to do.
The quotation I repeated was from Guy McPherson.
This is his response to my inquiry to him based on ur statement.

"Current temperature of Earth is about 14.5 C

During the Jurassic, average temperature of Earth was about 20 C

All prior increases in global-average temperature preceded release of carbon dioxide (due to increased respiration)

All prior increases in global-average temperature occurred far more gradually than the current spike

+4 C almost certainly kills all phytoplankton because of ocean acidification ... there goes the base of the global food change, and about half Earth's oxygen

Extreme events associated with +4 C -- early and late freezes, and also temperatures high enough to denature proteins -- likely will kill nearly all land plants ... there goes the rest of the food and oxygen."

10:11 AM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

Dear MB et al,
I am new to reading the poetry of Frederick Seidel. Two poems of his were recently published in the "London Review of Books" (April 2013. One of them, entitled "February 30th," is a terse synopsis of North American "realpolitik" since Kennedy. Two stanzas are:

Everything keeps changing and we want it to,
But don’t want anything to change.
The pigeons fly back and forth
And look like they’re looking for something.

I went to sleep in Havana,
Turned over on my back in Saigon,
And woke up in Kabul,
With Baghdad as both air conditioner and down comforter.

The jab at the current administration, which closes the poem you may enjoy on your own at www.lrb.com.

10:14 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Capo-

It's sobering to think how many movements began as liberation and ended as tyranny: communism, modern science/technology, or American hustling/democracy, for example.

Tim-

Hustling and commodification of education have a lot to do with the American inability to think. Professors seek tenure and to pay off their mortgages; deans need to make sure enrollment is high to guarantee cash flow (so they can hang onto *their* jobs). All of this hinges on positive evaluations of the profs, who are hostage to students who are dumb as a stick, and very uptight abt their "self-esteem." So the profs can't really teach them how to think (if today's profs even know it themselves) because that requires challenging world views--what's called cognitive dissonance. Such a thing wd upset the students, bruise their tender "brains"; and result in negative evaluations. The circle is complete, and the nation spirals downward into increasing stupidity, while Europeans and Asians learn, think, and yes, buy books!

mb

10:17 AM  
Anonymous Troutbum said...


Dr. MB and fellow WAFers,

Today, I ran across an interesting paper in Daedalus written from the perspective of the future on Why Western Civilization Collapsed. After an excellent summary on the current state of climate change, they observe that we knew what was happening and investigate how it came to pass that we did basically nothing. Their thesis is that we " became trapped in the grip of two inhibiting ideologies namely, positivism and market fundamentalism." Positivism is in short, the belief that knowledge will set you free and empower its holder, except in the case of climate change, they were blocked by the "carbon-combustion complex". Market fundamentalism refers to free market ideologies which have pretty much ruined everything it touched.

Sounds about right to me. I urge you to read it.

An aside to Joe Hohos above regarding a 4 to 6 degree C. rise in temperatures,he states Mother Nature will be fine... no actually it won't be fine at all. For example,it will kill 70% of all species on earth. Just read this article.

Oreskes, Naomi and Conway, Erik M., 2013. “The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future” in Dædalus, the Journal of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. pp. 40-58. The link is here: http://history.ucsd.edu/_files/oreskes/daedalus.pdf

11:29 AM  
Anonymous Mikbeth said...

Dr. Berman:

Thanks for sharing this talk. I appreciate having at least 90 minutes of sanity in my life. I do not have any specific comments on the topic other than I find it easy to agree with you 100%.

I will share that I believe I have found my NMI activity. I posted several months back that I had been doing some research into my family history in the early French presence in the St. Lawrence River Valley (my ancestry’s North American presence dates back to 1660s) and that my impression was that French Canada may have also represented one of the “alternative” cultural models that you cover in WAF. It is unclear to me how strong this alternative strain was. There were certainly people on the make (i.e. hustler culture) especially among the commercial interests and fur traders but it does not seem to be as purely pathological as the English colonies. There are also clearer examples of resistance to this hustler culture that was overtly condemned by the Catholic Church and Bishop Laval in particular.

Because of my initial research, I have embarked on an ambitious project to write the comprehensive 400 plus year history of my patrilineal heritage. While I cannot physically leave the US, this project offers me the opportunity to mentally leave the country and in fact leave the 21st Century as well as I am immersed in 17th Century France and Canada. Since I have two sons, ages 11 and 4, it is my hope that this story will also let them know that they are a part of a long and rich “alternative” tradition.

Mikbeth

1:30 PM  
Anonymous Smith said...

Capo, if I may play the devil's advocate, that's kind of a caricature of science, you're judging it by its worst adherents.

Historians also let their personal biases influence what lessons they learn from history. Does that mean we dispense with the discipline of history?

What about religion? Should we say all religion is evil, because it's been used to advance political beliefs as well?

We're not going to preserve the "life of the mind" if we shut off the parts of it that might be used selfishly; technically ALL intellectual work can be used that way!

Here's a definition of science, from the American Heritage Dictionary:

1.
a. The observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena: new advances in science and technology.
b. Such activities restricted to a class of natural phenomena: the science of astronomy.
2. A systematic method or body of knowledge in a given area: the science of marketing.
3. Archaic Knowledge, especially that gained through experience.

Nobody argues that science is an arbitrator of truth for all domains, it is primarily a tool for investigating the PHYSICAL domain SPECIFICALLY.

Remember an argument Morris Berman made earlier? You can say the law of gravity doesn't exist, but if you jump off a building and try to fly, you'll still fall to the ground.

Remember Plato's Dialogue of Lysis: How can people say we are friends if they can't even define the word "friend"?

That could be applied to science, too. I think we should commit to a definition of the word before we attack it, and not engage in "reductionism".

1:51 PM  
Anonymous Zaid said...

@Shane w

The man who died in the shooting has been identified. See his picture and story here:

http://www.fox5vegas.com/story/21943888/who-is-lauren-brown

Look at this part of the story:
“A total of six guns were found in the house. Neighbors told CBS Atlanta News that Brown lived across the street from his ex-wife and two children. Police said Brown wanted his family to be able to witness what was happening and he had been planning the attack for weeks.”

The man has two kids, but he could not live in the same house with them. The man was really frustrated by the society that took his kids away from him. I am not justifying what he did, but there is an underlying sickness in the whole story. Why would he live next door to his kids? Why was really done to him? What did he do that led to the separation from wife and kids? If these questions are answered, we may be shocked that the hustling culture is at the root cause of the problems between the man and his former wife.

3:00 PM  
Anonymous Joe Hohos said...

Shep,

Thanks. Very informative.

Trout,

Thanks also for the link to the article which I will read in 30 minutes or so. My point is a) the earth has been this warm before, and b) if the earth can survive an asteroid, it can surely survive us.
During the Permian extinction 251 million years ago something like 95% of life was wiped out. http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg17823925.000-wipeout-when-life-nearly-died.html The earth, and life, is still here. What we don't know can hurt us, in more ways than one. I'm not denying climate change, or the fact we have something to do with it. But to say using resources we found on earth will cause the earth to no longer be able to sustain life is alarmist.

Smith,

I think the issue here is not that science itself is not objective, but that its uses can be subverted. Charles Eisenstein says this much better than I can, so here's the link. http://charleseisenstein.net/ted-a-choice-point/

Dr. Berman,

You mentioned somewhere in DAA that you don't believe there is a coherent plot against the people by the 1%, that they are just as aimless as most Americans. What about the Bilderbergs, whose stated mission is to have a one world government, a one world currency? You, rightly, vilify Clinton for cuts to social welfare programs and the signing of NAFTA, and he became a member of the Bilderbergs in 1991. I watched a video for my economics class in which a man said he had been friends with David Rockefeller and David told him in no uncertain terms that they wanted the majority of people to suffer. They want to eradicate the middle class and have the majority of the population in fear. It's already been proven we do not need oil to run vehicles, just look at Brazil where every gas is a blend of ethanol. So why the panic of when oil runs out? Why even attempt to get oil out of the tar sands and have the Keystone XL pipeline when we have another source of energy for vehicles? You even point to how Rumsfeld and Cheney came up with the plan for 9/11 in 1992 or 3, can't remember which, and waited 8 or 9 years until they could put that plan in place. Doesn't this alone suggest that the upper crust does work together, with a malicious and harmful plan, to the detriment of the rest of humanity?

"We are grateful to the Washington Post, The New York Times, Time Magazine and other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings and respected their promises of discretion for almost forty years. It would have been impossible for us to develop our plan for the world if we had been subjected to the lights of publicity during those years. But, the world is now more sophisticated and prepared to march towards a world government. The supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national auto-determination practiced in past centuries." -- David Rockefeller

Only according to you, David Rockefeller, only to you.

9:17 PM  
Anonymous Mo Ronich said...

Sorry if off topic but you need to see this compilation re "privatization of public space"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NciO7AEqKYE&feature=youtube_gdata_player

9:31 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Mo-

There he is: The Ultimate Techno-Buffoon. I see them every day.

Joe-

No, I never said that Rumsfeld and Cheney were planning 9/11, and I don't believe it was an inside job. The thing I pointed to was the plan to secure the Middle East by PNAC, as outlined in "Rebuilding America's Defenses," which was published in 2000. The whole idea surfaced in the writings of Paul Wolfowitz in 1990, then 1992, when it got leaked to the NYT and Bush Sr. distanced himself from it. War in Iraq and geopolitical control of that region is one thing; planning to destroy the WTC is another. They are hardly the same thing. However, I do want to say, as I've said b4, that this is not a website for 9/11 "truth". There are plenty of websites for that, and I encourage those who want to debate it to take the discussion to those blogs.

2nd, we need petroleum for tons of stuff, and I doubt that ethanol is a long-term solution for Brazil or any place else. Petroleum is the source of plastics; even agriculture is dependent on it. This is hardly a phony issue.

Finally, I do believe sociopaths are running the show in the US, but that the resulting misery is because they wish to enrich themselves any way they can, regardless of the ensuing social cost. It's not that they are specifically interested in screwing the remaining 99%; more like, they just don't give a damn abt them. I'm familiar with the Rockefeller quote; the problem is, that it is contested, not certain. And while I don't know very much abt the Bilderbergs, I suspect that the world is a little too complex for any one organization to get control of it. In a word, I'm sure conspiracies exist, but I tend to doubt they are the major part of the story. Illuminati propaganda notwithstanding, history is not run by conspiratorial groups. It's just too pat an explanation.

mb

10:27 PM  
Anonymous Martin Ramirez said...

What should I do? I am addicted to the Internet, but I find the access to alternative or radical sites and blogs such as Dark Ages America a comforting break from my generally unintellectual and limited-thinking-based, if otherwise kind, family (in a somewhat similar situation to the medieval scholastics'- with fundie Catholicism and neoliberal industrialism, where can it go wrong?), in addition to where I live, one of the areas outside Mexico City that vulgarly imitate American suburbia. Sad to say, there is no library nearby, only a book store. Now while we are at this, isn't an inevitable collapse reason enough to accept death? I despise the hollowness of twenty-first century and the consumer society, but I am too accustomed in many ways to the social structures and amenities I have around me. Even with euthanasia or suicide ruled out, my probabilities of survival are most likely very low. And could there be a way to preserve at least the more positive achievements of the modern world? Yes, the truth is difficult.

10:46 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Martin-

Think abt having fun once in a while; it can't hurt. Also: remember to breathe, and perhaps watch a few Marx Bros films (en serio).

abrazos, chico-

mb

11:20 PM  
Anonymous Joe Hohos said...

Dr. Berman,

This is my second post today, but this is intended for you. If you want to post it, great, but I learned a long time ago if someone misunderstands you, you did not make yourself clear. I did not mean to insinuate that you believed 9/11 was an inside job, and I am skeptical on this matter as well. I meant you had written they had the plans to secure the middle east, not that you insinuated that 9/11 was an inside job. I clearly remember reading you saying you personally had not seen enough evidence to believe it was an inside job, and that you weren't sure that even they would stoop so low. I apologize for the confusion. Regarding petrochemicals being used in everything, there are other ways to make the products petrochemicals are used in as well. Hemp can be made into plastics, and with the amount of plastic on the planet, it can continually be reused to make more, since it will never decompose. I will respectfully disagree with you about control in the hands of a few, and their true motives, although as you point out, the top 1,000 companies or so in the world are owned by something like 357 groups.


12:42 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Joe-

I certainly think Cheney in particular is psychotic enuf to hatch such a scheme, but that hardly proves he did it. And why look for anything so outre when there was certainly enuf smoldering resentment of the US in the Middle East to generate the attacks. But this is (and will be) an endless debate, and I have no interest in having it swallow up this blog. As for petroleum and the World Conspiracy, we're just going to have to agree to disagree.

mb

4:40 AM  
Anonymous ellen said...

Martin,

You could take comfort from the fact that your particular conundrum (finding your way forward--an essential process for all thinking persons)has proved very difficult for millennia. It was recognised as such in the Katha-Upanishad:
"The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard,"
Dr B's mention earlier of cognitive dissonance is a clue as to the difficult nature of thinking productively for yourself--it helps to view it as the ultimate human challenge and to approach it accordingly, giving yourself lots of breaks to relax, have a laugh and stop thinking for a while.
The truth is that none of it really matters that much in the end.

Dr B,
Our British Prime Minister told us all off yesterday for celebrating Maggie Thatcher's death, labelling such behaviour 'disgraceful' What a complete prat he has proved himself with that stern rebuke. The woman is so virulently hated 20years after she was kicked out of office by her own ministers that hundreds of parties were planned years ago around the UK and the world for the day of her funeral.
He ain't seen nothing yet.

'Tramp the dirt down.'

5:25 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

What strikes me about the discussions/arguments regarding energy, green or otherwise, is that almost nobody wants to face the fact that there simply isn't going to be more energy, from ANY source. Given expanding population (consumers) & dwindling resources, everyone will have to learn to do with much less. Which is precisely the one thing nobody wants to face or admit. Somehow science will magically pull some new & inexhaustible power supply from out of its hat (or butt) -- under NO circumstances will we have to do with less!

As for conspiracy theories, I agree with MB. They seem like secular versions of "the Devil is behind it all" to me, when simple human greed & stupidity are more than sufficient. I think Adam Smith's invisible hand is an insatiably grasping one; and while plenty of greedy people do work together at times, it's just because they see easier, quicker ways of making more money. And they usually plan on stabbing one another in the back anyway. "More for ME!"

Meanwhile, re: the American psyche & mental health:

http://www.alternet.org/how-america-breeds-mental-illness-birth-until-death

They won't be happy until every basic human feeling is diagnosed as a mental illness, to be treated by expensive, profit-making drugs. In keeping with Ethan Watters' Crazy Like Us, this model for America is being used to colonize the entire world. I'm sure we've all experienced the social timetable for grieving & then "moving on" & so forth, for example. Or the way any mention of concern, anxiety, doubt, etc., is automatically diagnosed by those who hear it, because society has been well-trained to see all human behavior in just those terms.

You know, Agent Smith's little speech in The Matrix about humanity being a virus especially applies to the empty, consumerist model of American humanity, doesn't it?

9:26 AM  
Blogger jml said...

Martin- Turn your computer off and go put your hands in the dirt outside. It will make you feel better and connected to something natural.

9:37 AM  
Anonymous ennobled little day said...

Joe and MB-

If I am not mistaken, the reason Brazil can profitably produce ethanol while the US struggles is because of climate. I don't know the details but supposedly Brazil's more tropical climate allows it to use sugarcane, which is somehow superior to corn when it comes to ethanol production.

Although, if this is true, wound't subtropical states like Mississippi be all over this?

**shrugs**


Martin-

I went through something similar not long ago. Dealing with ones problems can sometimes be like having a job: if you do nothing but work, you're going to burn out! I agree with Dr. B. Try an relax every once in a while to recover your energies.


Oh, and Dr. B., thanks for the info on Mexican crafts earlier!

9:58 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ellen-

I saw a nice graffito on some video the other day: "The iron lady: Rust in peace." What a disaster she was for Britain, with her adoration of Friedrich Hayek and intention of destroying society. And now the govt wants to mythologize her, like we did Reagan? *That's* the disgrace! Add Cameron to the list of Guccis needing urine.

Tim-

Conspiracies certainly exist, but to make history into one is a bit too facile. How do we know Clinton joined the Bilderbergs? And if he did, so what? How do we know they have all this power over everyone and everything else? And is the fact that we don't use hemp and don't recycle plastic also part of a conspiracy? If it were economically viable to do so, why haven't major controversial articles on the subject appeared from credible scientists in the sustainability camp? Or are their publications being repressed as part of the conspiracy? You see the problem with this line of thinking; too often, it's connecting dots that don't exist.

Martin-

Also take up oil painting, or playing music. Less head, more joy.

mb

10:24 AM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...

Smith,

No need to put in more to a simple and accurate statement I made about science and conflating with religion. Yeesh.

Cold war--prestige factor led to focus on space race and much of science focused on that effort.

Nazi Science--lets experiment on lesser sorts and get findings to insure well being of Aryans.

Soviet SCience--focus on mass production of armaments and space program to outshine west.

China---can do a lot of genome science not allowed in U.S.

Marketing science--new ways to get people to buy things they don;t need with money they don;t have--harness psychology and statistical science for this.

Agricultural science--focus on techniques only available to major corporations and develop patentable seeds for monopoly power.

Never said religion was evil (I'm not american or christian so its not a prime part of my mental furniture). All I said is that science serves the perquisites of political and social power, this does not imply that physical phenomenon such as heat, light or gravity are manipulated by congress but rather the focus of scientific inquiry certainly is.

Martin--take the metro go to viveros or coyocan, go to the museums, the pyramids are a blast or a bus to San Miguel. Salte de tu cabeza mano.

10:57 AM  
Anonymous Martin Ramirez said...

I think a good balance would be to take from the skeptics and "truthers" and synthesize it all. Yes, the idea that Earth is entirely controlled by an organization or reptilian extraterrestrials with a nearly perfect, Mary Sue-like omniscience is nothing short of preposterous. But I am open to the idea that special interests have played a role in molding modern history and society (particularly in the West). A mathematical/economic study conducted by the Swiss Polytechnic Institute in Zurich came to the conclusion that half of the world economy is controlled by approximately 1,000 corporations. Add to that the many tenuous connections shared in common by political or religious organizations (e.g. the Religious Right and the Family) and fraternities(the Masonic lodges, for example), then you are left weaving quite a tangled web. But of course, history is also in large part spontaneous, and no one has perfect control of the world, like Alan Moore pointed out. my opinion is that the best way to approach these topics is to try to practice all of these mental positions continuously: skepticism and critical thinking, but also open-mindedness. Without the others to balance one out, each of them falls apart.
Does anyone here agree with John Lennon?
"Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we're being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I'm liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That's what's insane about it."

11:34 AM  
Anonymous al-Qa'bong said...

O WAFites!

This ought to come as no surprise...it's been proven by science that frequent texters are shallow, and have little concern about ethics.

http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Technology%20and%20Science/ID/2375855118/

I'm looking forward to my monastic gardening this spring, but for the time being I'll have to get back to nature by sprouting seeds on the kitchen countertops, since my garden's under huge piles of snow.

1:15 PM  
Anonymous Zaid said...

A scholarly study finds that bras contribute nothing to the breasts or to the woman's body or to the woman. Why didn't I think about this before?

Oh Lord!

WAFERS, please think up things that contribute nothing to you and me.

1) Cellphone contributes nothing to me
2) TV contributes nothing
3) Obama contributes nothing
4) The Senate, the House, college basket and football teams contribute nothing to me and you or to the nation or to education

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/11/women-bras-study-france-false-necessity_n_3062114.html

http://www.connexionfrance.com/Bra-support-damage-professor-Rouillon-back-pain-nipple-14626-view-article.html

1:17 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

I will go to my grave believing that 9-11 was an inside job, but even if it was fully exposed as one, there would be little or no reaction since it gave Americans an excuse to hate Arabs which they were dying to do anyway. The Right might even say it was justified since it allowed the military to gain a foothold in an oil rich territory as we are approaching peak oil and did allow us to topple Saddam Hussein thus bringing democracy to Iraq which, in turn, brought about the Arab spring (of course the media won't bring up the fact that the US did everything to stop it).

1:48 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

ellen--I don't know if you ever read Glenn Greenwald (he now writes for The Guardian)but he had an excellent piece on Thatcher a couple of days ago. I've been guilty myself of the "don't speak ill of the dead" mindset and he makes a good point I won't be forgetting:

"This demand for respectful silence in the wake of a public figure's death is not just misguided but dangerous. That one should not speak ill of the dead is arguably appropriate when a private person dies, but it is wildly inappropriate for the death of a controversial public figure, particularly one who wielded significant influence and political power. "Respecting the grief" of Thatcher's family members is appropriate if one is friends with them or attends a wake they organize, but the protocols are fundamentally different when it comes to public discourse about the person's life and political acts."

He went on to say:

"Whatever else may be true of her, Thatcher engaged in incredibly consequential acts that affected millions of people around the world. She played a key role not only in bringing about the first Gulf War but also using her influence to publicly advocate for the 2003 attack on Iraq. She denounced Nelson Mandela and his ANC as "terrorists", something even David Cameron ultimately admitted was wrong. She was a steadfast friend to brutal tyrants such as Augusto Pinochet, Saddam Hussein and Indonesian dictator General Suharto ("One of our very best and most valuable friends"). And as my Guardian colleague Seumas Milne detailed last year, "across Britain Thatcher is still hated for the damage she inflicted – and for her political legacy of rampant inequality and greed, privatisation and social breakdown."

I wonder what circle of hell she and Ronnie Regan are sitting in now?

Tim--thanks for the reference to the Alternet article on mental health in the US. It's a racket, pure and simple, and everyday I'm thankful my career in the medical field is winding down. No one, and I mean no one, ever talks about the dystopia we live in, the social isolation or any of the rest that creates the depression, anxiety and fear that's part and parcel of life here in the US. There's no money to be made off people who don't want to "ask their doctor if Abilify is right for you" or, even if they do, can't afford it.

Martin--get out of suburbia. It's a dead, joyless place and it will suck you dry. A cousin of mine became a truck driver b/c he couldn't stand the thought of being in an office and didn't consider any work beneath him. A friend of mine's son started working on a landscaping crew for the same reason and his depression became much less as he worked with his body, had plenty of sunshine and no electronics in front of him all day.

4:22 PM  
Blogger Dan Henry said...

Martin

The typical social divisions box us into boys wanna wrestle, girls wanna dance. Go do either. Grappling is why I get up in the morning.

4:36 PM  
Anonymous Bad Idea du Jour said...

The hustling (and the humiliating supra-public failures) can't start soon enough!

http://tinyurl.com/cvzu965

5:24 PM  
Anonymous Mikbeth said...

I just wanted to share this artivcle from the Baffler. This is Hustling of a new kind -- Hustling 2.0 if you will.

http://thebaffler.com/past/the_meme_hustler

5:46 PM  
Blogger Himanshu Tiwari said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I finished reading your book “Twilight of American Culture” (a library copy) a few days ago. I wanted to thank you for the excellent research you have done while writing the book. Your book articulated for me the phenomenon of “post-modernism”. I was stamping my feet when I read its description! It is something that I felt around me since I came to the US in fall of 2003 as a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin’s Madison campus. I could not articulate this phenomenon for myself though.

I want to purchase the trilogy and the book “A Question of Values”. I am wondering if I could buy them directly from you or the publisher? I know Amazon.com has all of them, but I would prefer to buy it from you or the publisher or a small bookseller. Please let me know if you have any suggestions?

When I was reading the concept of the NMI in your book, I was reminded of a quote by Sri Aurobindo, an Indian Yogi and sage who lived most of his life when the British empire occupied India. The quote is:

“The individuals who will most help the future of humanity in the new age will be those who will recognize a spiritual evolution as the destiny and therefore the great need of the human being… They will especially not make the mistake of thinking that this (spiritual) change can be effected by machinery and outward institutions; they will know and never forget that it has to be lived out by each man inwardly or it can never be made a reality for the kind. They will adopt in its heart of meaning the inward view of the East which bids man seek the secret of his destiny and salvation within; but also they will accept, though with a different turn given to it, the importance which the West rightly attaches to life and to the making the best we know and can attain the general rule of life.”
- Sri Aurobindo

I highly recommend one set of his essays, which are now in book form called “The Human Cycle”. Originally these essays were published between 1916 and 1918 under the title “The psychology of social development”.

If you have not been familiar with Sri Aurobindo’s works and writing style, I would say that his writing is quite dense, powerful, and inspiring. Most people agree that he is not easy to understand.

Best Wishes,
Himanshu

5:59 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Hackenbush said...

MB- You commented above to the effect that science was among the movements that became tyrannical and betrayed their early promise. But elsewhere I think I've seen where you accept the idea of man-made climate change, apparently(?) without questions or hesitation. I guess I'm just wondering how you square these ideas, or if you see any conflict there? I'm with (I think it was) Capo above, that "science" is very much a human, social institution and prey to all the human foibles that entails. It drives me nuts when people think that because they've accepted some scientific shibboleth, that now they're superior to religious believers.

Also, on conspiracy, I'm currently reading Russ Baker's "Family of Secrets" about the Bush family, which suggests perhaps a sort of middle-ground one could take on the topic. The book does not make any grandiose claims about one over-arching conspiracy of global reach. However it does meticulously document all sorts of connections and collaborative action between an elite minority of oil men, spooks, financiers, old establishment families, their clubs and social institutions, etc. that amounts to something more than just isolated individuals chasing the almighty dollar.

8:39 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Hack-

Well, science is obviously still valuable for lots of things; we don't want to throw out baby w/bathwater etc. In terms of pure science, sure, there's some wiggle in the system; but it's not *all* wiggle! I was really talking about scientism, and the strange American worship of science and technology. But clearly, truth exists: Galileo was rt abt the trajectory of a parabola; Aristotle was wrong. No doubt abt it. As for 'conspiracy', and how it tends to play out, I think C. Wright Mills pegged it best. (Check my discussion in the QOV essay entitled "conspiracy vs. Conspiracy.)

Himan-

I don't have any extra copies of my own bks. You can buy the 1st 2 in the trilogy from W.W. Norton (call the Sales Dept.), if u want. As for #3, publ. by Wiley: use Amazon, as the bk is out of print. I'm trying to get a pb edn out, but it's slow going.

Dan-

I don't want to be discussing 9/11, as I said, but I agree w/u: even if it cd be fully proven, the American public wdn't really care. Anyway, end of that subject.

al-

Wafers, please. And yes, clearly science is gd for some things.

mb

9:04 PM  
Blogger NearFar said...

Wafers,

I have always been skeptical about conspiracy theories. But I did not have a rejoinder to 'their' arguments until I read chunks of Edward Bernays "Propaganda" (first heard abt it from Hedges' book Death of the Liberal Class, barely 18 mos ago, ie. : the Creel Commission, Walter Lipmann' and the Commitee on Public Information, 'manufacturing consent' for our participation in WW I).

As a result, I still hear conspiracy theories, but I can dismiss them in my mind. But this time I can dismiss them with confidence. Enough assurance, that is, that I can devote my energies to finding out real explanations, and sound truth. In short, after finding out about Bernays, I can't give any conspiracy theory much credence.

"THE conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country."

Here's a link to the Bernays in a .pdf:

http://www.whale.to/b/bernays.pdf

On a personal note, it's been a relief to know I have company here. Thanks for what you bring to the table Wafers.

12:21 AM  
Anonymous Edward said...

They are now praising and giving credits to Karl Marx:

With the global economy in a protracted crisis, and workers around the world burdened by joblessness, debt and stagnant incomes, Marx’s biting critique of capitalism — that the system is inherently unjust and self-destructive — cannot be so easily dismissed. Marx theorized that the capitalist system would inevitably impoverish the masses as the world’s wealth became concentrated in the hands of a greedy few, causing economic crises and heightened conflict between the rich and working classes. “Accumulation of wealth at one pole is at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole,” Marx wrote.

http://business.time.com/2013/03/25/marxs-revenge-how-class-struggle-is-shaping-the-world/

12:33 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Edward-

"[Under capitalism] everything is dissolved in the icy waters of egotistical calculation"--Marx, Communist Manifesto.

Near-

Actually, that sounds like conspiracy theory!

mb

12:56 AM  
Anonymous k_pgh said...

You say that you want a gun in every cradle.

Fair enough, but is that sufficiently proactive?

Representative Stockman knows that what we really need is a gun in every placenta.

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/293601-rep-stockman-if-babies-had-guns-they-wouldnt-be-aborted

1:55 AM  
Anonymous James Newlin said...

Some craftsmen in Tokugawa Japan led a completely nomadic existence and managed to avoid official registration until after the end of the Tokugawa period. I'm a welder and thinking of doing something similar since the best welding jobs are for the most part temporary work.

Do you know about nomadic craftsmen in the US today? I'm wanting to squat on uninhabited land and be as self-sufficient as possible. I know hookers and traveling workers stay in motels and trailer parks, but I don't want to do that.

I saw the show American Nomads on BBC Four and they left out traveling hookers and temporary workers and I'd guess that's a large part of the nomadic population in the US.

6:53 AM  
Anonymous Troutbum said...

Dr. MB,

Here's one for from our friends at CounterPunch :

In 2008 Rick Shenkman, the Editor-in-Chief of the History News Network, published a book entitled Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth about the American Voter (Basic Books). In it he demonstrated, among other things, that most Americans were: (1) ignorant about major international events, (2) knew little about how their own government runs and who runs it, (3) were nonetheless willing to accept government positions and policies even though a moderate amount of critical thought suggested they were bad for the country, and (4) were readily swayed by stereotyping, simplistic solutions, irrational fears, and public relations babble.

Yep! it's all here:
http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/04/05/the-decline-of-critical-thinking/

7:23 AM  
Anonymous ellen said...

Two pictures, the first taken at Orgreave during the miners strike in 1984 when ordinary working people were re-classified as 'The Enemy Within' by Thatcher and treated as such by her newly politicised police forces:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/southyorkshire/content/articles/2009/03/02/lesley_boulton_orgreave_photo_feature.shtml

(The woman with the camera was attending to an injured miner)

and this one, a fitting end for the principal architect of and True Believer in privatisation:

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/the-daily-cartoon-8117874.html?action=gallery&ino=4


Himanshu,

I'll second the Sri Aurobindo recommendation. He was originally imprisoned by us Brits for agitating for Indian independence and then got out and wrote some wonderfully humane books about finding a personal independence that does not depend on a lack of external constraints. A true sage.

7:36 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

NearFar,

If you haven't seen Adam Curtis' documentary/personal essay The Century of the Self, I highly recommended it. Plenty about Bernays & his many bastard spiritual offspring.

I'm taking the middle ground MB suggests re: conspiracies. No Secret headquarters with membership badges, but certainly the old boys club helping each other out to their mutual benefit, including a fair amount of deliberate manipulation of the public. Often with the delighted consent of the public, I might add.

Susan,

I agree, Big Pharma is one more example of putting all the blame & responsibility for human suffering on the individual, and finding cruelly ingenious ways to make a profit from it. But don't blame society! As Thatcher said, "There is no such thing as society, there are only individuals." And you're all on your own, suckers.

Michael Ventura & James Hillman wrote a fascinating book in the 1990s, We've Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy--And the World's Getting Worse, in which they discuss (among other things) the notion that therapy has all too often been used as a tranquilizer, drawing human attention to the minutia of the interior at the expense of recognizing that much of our troubles come from the society around us. They also question such concepts as "the inner child" & suggest that more people need an inner adult at this point. It's rather like My Dinner With Andre in some ways, filled with material that makes you want to join in the conversation.

And let me recommend an obscure little film to all Wafers & would-be NMIs, Obselidia. The links below will tell you all about it; I just know that my wife & I loved it, beginning with the tagline on the DVD cover: "If the world were to end tomorrow, how would you live today?"

http://variety.com/2010/film/reviews/obselidia-1117942031/

http://www.obselidiathemovie.com/

9:22 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

James-

Be sure to see a film called "Off the Map." But no, I'm not plugged into the American nomad scene, I confess. Tho if u manage to do it, us Wafers wd love to hear reports from the front, as it were.

Trout-

This recently from Paul Craig Roberts: "There has never in history been a population as unaware as Americans." But it's worse than unaware, of course. They actually have pureed dog turds inside their heads. Most doctors agree that this tends to inhibit rational thinking. See article by Hans Scheisskopf in March 30 New England Journal of Medicine, "Dog Turds Get in Way of Rational Thinking."

mb

10:24 AM  
Anonymous Brian said...

Hi WAFers and Dr. B--

Progress:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/05/science/new-test-for-computers-grading-essays-at-college-level.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Best--

Brian

10:24 AM  
Blogger bowtiejack said...

Idle thought on a Saturday afternoon.

There have been a few posts lately on Marx, capitalism and such.
It occurs to me.
What is the highest value in our society (i.e, the U.S. where I live)?
Notwithstanding right-to-lifers et al., it is not “human life”, but “private property”.
(That is why right-to-lifers et al. also seem to get rapidly engulfed in screeds against socialism, government takeover, etc. It’s OK to let the poor starve as long as it doesn’t impinge on “private property”. Some things are sacred.)
What if instead of raising the cap on Social Security contributions, we instituted a cap on ownership of private property?
Say $1,000,00? Ah Hell, we’re not socialists, let’s say $10,000,000.
If anyone can justify the need to have more than $10,000,00, OK let them have as much as they can justify. Let me repeat that, “as much as they can justify”.
I googled this a little bit and world-wide I get figures of $7,000 to $30,000 for an equal distribution of wealth. If you’ve got the figure for the U.S. please share.

4:07 PM  
Blogger Dan Henry said...

Just reading a piece at counterpunch and came across this line;

"Why make a flavored heartburn pill?” asked Mr. the Cable Guy. “‘Cuz this is America. We don’t just make things you want, we make things you didn’t even know you wanted.”

Taken from here:

http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/04/12/the-absurd-cool-of-assault-weapons/

4:14 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Hackenbush said...

MB- I don't want to throw science out entirely, as you say, but I do think people don't realize the extent to which it can become institutionally corrupted, even for decades, when big political issues are at stake, and/or big economic interests. All it takes is for the money-men backing the scientists to demand certain results (and this can be done implicitly) and plenty of careerists will appear to play the *role* of scientists, basking in the prestige and high pay of their lofty positions. Alternately, genuine researchers may become entrenched in a certain worldview, which also becomes entrenched in govt policy, until the point when none of these prestigious people are willing to question their fundamental assumptions any more, and actively suppress contradictory evidence. These scientific detours can be more than wiggle room, I would argue: they can be complete inversions of "the truth", as wrong-headed as believing the sun goes around the earth. I highly recommend Gary Taubes' "Good Calories, Bad Calories", which details these sorts of corruptions of science in the field of nutrition. (And the first 1/3 of the book is also very compelling reading - it flags a little after that.)

I don't think I have read your QOV essay on conspiracy, I don't unfortunately have a complete collection of your books. :-(

Also though, that term has become so maligned it's pretty much useless. All the people who "conspiracy theorists" might consider to be either "conspirators" or useful idiots of the "conspirators" use the term almost like they're playing a card in Monopoly --- just throw down that term, and they get to deflect all further questions about whatever dark, mysterious incident they're trying to avoid talking about.

7:59 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Hack-

All that's true--i.e., it can and does happen--but I wd argue that's not genuine science. (We cd have an endless discussion abt this, of course.)

mb

9:44 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

Someone once said that the more depressing possibility isn't that there are all-powerful evil conspiracies, but that there aren't. I.e., the enemy is within us all.

If a conspiracy is 2 or more people w/ a plan that they keep secret from other people, then conspiracies exist. Every love affair is a conspiracy. Every business enterprise is a conspiracy.

But if a conspiracy means the plan of omnipotent and omniscient people to rule the world, no. That's impossible. "Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made" (Kant). The middle ground is abt right. At diff times, fallible (jealous, misinformed, mortal) people w/ their hands on a # of levers of power cooked up more or less workable schemes to rake in coin - and enjoy the wielding of power as a side benefit. These soar & fall.

The most harmful thing isn't a conspiracy but a way of life that everyone in a place eagerly swallows, tho it's poison. Most Amerikans are willing participants in their doom. They wanted to be "brainwashed," no doubt abt it.

I mean, absent physical coercion, is it really brainwashing?

9:51 PM  
Anonymous Martin Ramirez said...

Unfortunately, Morris Berman is not alone. Just about everyone from Cindy Sheehan to Russia Today has been smeared for refusing to kiss the asses of 'Murika, the West or Israel. Which leads to the following question: Ain't it counterproductive and unintelligent to award institutions of any kind (say, the executive branch of government and corporate America) the same right to free speech as individual human beings or communities? As shown by the American media/press, the think tanks and foundations, and the advertising industry, imperial court jesters with not-so-altruistic motivations will clearly take advantage of the ignorant, selfish, bigoted and/or gullible to feed them demagogic bullshit, further damaging society. The "free market" and "Christian conservative" advocacy organizations in particular, are basically the American equivalent of extremist Mid-Eastern or Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi/Afghan madrassas, funded with lucrative corpo-ecclesiastical monies to boot.

11:15 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Sanc-

The real 'conspiracy' is the American Dream, which had some positive aspects to it (ideal of self-improvement, a larger life, individual achievement), but wh/in the fullness of time proved to be an illusion, and very self-destructive. The wonder of it all is that everyone is in on it! Of course, it's not a secret; but the fact that it's an unworkable fantasy that is taking us into the ditch, is. Of course, it's my personal belief that on an unconscious level, Americans know they are up shit's creek w/o a paddle; but they have no idea why.

mb

11:29 PM  
Anonymous Golf Pro said...

Dr. B,

You may enjoy this BBC documentary about Isaac Newton - "The Last Magician"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dkuj_dQ_0lM

6:05 AM  
Anonymous James Newlin said...

I'll check out "Off the Map" - thanks for the suggestion. The loneliness might be the hardest part since my favorite activities have been watching live shows and hanging out with friends (I'm trying to convince other people to join me though). I'll miss the music, art, and social part of the city. I've done some dispersed camping alone, grown some of my own food, and used to design buildings for a living, so expanding on all of that seems doable.

Traveling contract work also has the upside of being able to avoid income taxes.

8:36 AM  
Anonymous Zaid said...

I was watching TV this morning.
Marco Rubio appeared answering questions. (His parents came from Cuba)

He was asked about Beyounce and her husband Jay-Z visiting Cuba. Mr Rubio said that Beyounce and her husband Jay-Z should not have gone to Cuba because Cuba is a terrorist nation and Americans should not visit there. He said Beyounce and Jay-Z should have visited the people suffering in prisons in Cuba instead of walking around smoking cigars.

He was asked about gun control measures here in America. He said that guns are not the problem; the problem is violence. He said that we should be asking the question: why are people so desensitized about violence?

WAFERS, do you see what is happening to your country?

Cuba is a terrorist country, but America is not because was believe so and say so. People are in prison in Cuba; nobody is in prison in USA. People are suffering in Cuba; nobody is suffering in USA.

Shootings and killings with guns are too frequent in USA because Americans are too desensitized. Americans are desensitized because Castro and Cuba are terrorists. If we invade and occupy Cuba, our problems would be solved. What is rate of crime Cuba today? What is infant mortality rate in Cuba today? What of life expectancy rate? Morbidity rate? Literacy rate? We are finished!

2:03 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

WAF’ers,

Doctor Berman said, “…on an unconscious level, Americans know they are up shit's creek w/o a paddle; but they have no idea why.” This is true even here in rural Iowa.

I say ‘even’ because you don’t see the kind of ‘autistic hostility’ that seems to pervade most of the US. People here live in a very small world, and 98% of their attention is focused there. There’s a much greater sense of community among neighbors than elsewhere in our declining empire. Even so, there seems to be a vague but universal sense that things are very bad – and getting worse.

I avoid the lame-stream media, but I noticed on the rack in the local grocery store a copy of “The Gazette” published in Cedar Rapids, Iowa’s second-city. What caught my eye was the feature article: “Fewer getting employer insurance: Rising costs, more uninsured all factors in decline.” The three other articles on the front page were:

1. Obama proposes $3.77 trillion budget plan: Budget would increase taxes, cut Social Security.

2. CR school district facing $4.43 million in cuts: Schools could see staff reductions and bigger classes.

3. Do schools, elections make a bad mix? In-session schools as polling places a security risk.

The clincher was a comic strip in which a schoolgirl says, “When I grow up I want to be deep in debt and still living with my parents.” Someone asks, “You got a C+ for that?” She replies, “By averaging an E for ambition, an A for realism, and the + for making everyone else look good.”

This little comic strip only makes sense to people who know that they live in a declining society with no future – that’s the parchment on which it is written – it’s the air we all breathe, so it’s time to split.

David Rosen

2:26 PM  
Anonymous Joe Hohos said...

Dr. Berman,

On Friday I went to a college town 2 hours from where I live to visit my girlfriends sister. We were driving around the downtown and my girlfriend asked me, "isn't this cute?", to which my response was "I've never thought old buildings filled with corporations was very cute". I was, of course labeled a downer and depressing on the spot. Saturday as we were heading out of town we went to a newer version of the downtown, with really fancy strip mall type buildings everywhere. I couldn't even cope with it. First, I walked out of the corporate restaurant and sat in the car. A few things kept popping up in my mind as I sat there:
1) There was a clothing store right next to the restaurant, and when I looked at it, all I could see in my mind was the sweatshops where these garments were made.
2) For the brief moment I was in the restaurant, all I could see was the 15% or so of each purchase that went directly to the CEO.
3) Looking at the buildings I saw all the environmental damage they caused.
4) I kept thinking how much does a business park like this cost? $40 million? $100 million? If you figure it costs $5200 a year to feed a child ($100 a week) at the low end you could feed close to 8,000 hungry children.
And then the deeper realization set in, this is everywhere, all around me, in every city in this country, and not one place is different. From San Diego, CA to Portland, ME, not one group of people has tried to do anything substantially different. Even Portland, OR which you cite in DAA as being slightly different, is operating under the same paradigm as the rest of this country. 315,000,000 people and not one "social experiment" even worth mentioning. You have stated WAF has sold something like 5,500 copies. Let's remove the 20% of the population under 18 and we have 252,000,000 left. this means 0.00002% of the population has read your book. Let's say, for the sake of argument, each one of them was able to get 1 friend to read it as well. This still means 0.004% has now read your book. Even if each book had entirely unique readers, and Twilight had triple the readers, and DAA had double the readers, we would be up to 0.024%, or 24 in a hundred thousand.

So I finally get it, Dr. Berman. There is NO hope, not only for this country, but for the people of it. Onward & Downward on the front, The Worse, The Better on the back. If I did not have my four year old daughter I would walk across the border to Mexico right now, with nothing but the clothes on my back. If I had any kind of money, I would buy land, start a farm with a few animals, and make my own clothes. None of these options exist for me, however, so I guess I'll do my best to cope on a daily basis. I think I already know the answer, but do you have any other suggestions for those of us who are not in a position to emigrate or NMI, besides the post-it with I Am Surrounded By Dolts?

Btw, my girlfriend said I needed medication because I have trouble dealing with society. Ha.

3:50 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Joe-

Time for a new GF, I guess. The problem is that most American women (and men) are in her camp, wh/restricts the field quite severely. And it's society that needs meds. Oh, wait: they're already on them! Meanwhile, I figure that for every book I sell, Ann Coulter sells 100,000. I wish that were an exaggeration, but I doubt it is. As for protecting your daughter: contact Gloria DeGaetano at the Parent Coaching Institute in Bellevue WA; tell her I sent u. In terms of yrself, I'm sure there are NMI things you can do; that's hardly a nonoption 4u. Plus, be sure to read your Post-It every day, and say it out loud. Also, start a rdg group (i.e. 2 people or more) on the collapse of empire. For subject matter, dig up the bks and articles listed in the ftnotes of my trilogy. Finally, is there any way u can emigrate, and take yr daughter w/u? That wd be the ideal solution. Oh, and put up one more Post-It: I AM SURROUNDED BY SELF-DESTRUCTIVE JOKE PEOPLE LIVING IN DENIAL. Also teach your daughter to say, "I am surrounded by poopy-heads!"

DR-

And notice how everyone, Iowans and all the rest, just take it lying down. They say: Kick me some more!

Zaid-

Bottom line: a dumb populace cannot effect any real changes. This, beyond everything else, is why we're going down the drain. Just look around. Also, read yr Post-It, it is NOT a joke!

mb

4:16 PM  
Blogger nosferat_saolin said...

If the following statistics are to be believed, that WAF sold 5,500 copies is actually indicative of its success.

"A successful nonfiction book sells 7,500 copies."
(Source: Authors Guild, www.authorsguild.org)

Also, let us take a quick glance at the following:

1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.
80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
70 percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
57 percent of new books are not read to completion.
70 percent of books published do not earn back their advance.
70 percent of the books published do not make a profit.
(Source: Jerold Jenkins, www.JenkinsGroupInc.com)

http://stephenslighthouse.com/2011/04/28/who-reads-books/


It is almost axiomatic that anyone who speaks the cold truth about the future will run into a brick wall of people who operate via emotions, hopes and faith that everything will turn out okay. This is "Cassandra Syndrome" in action.

However, the real mystery is that even among American self-proclaimed "Marxists" there is a reluctance to admit the obvious. In the largest English-language far-left forum, the political line called "third worldism" (the position that the US is mainly parasitic, with no proletariat and no revolutionary potential) wil get you summarily "insta-banned." This is all the more absurd in light of the fact that the only other position that gets "insta-banned" is fascism!


5:07 PM  
Blogger Sean Hunter said...

The worst prison in the entire country of Cuba is the one run by the United States in Guantánamo, but we certainly won't be hearing Marco Rubio mention that fact (or that particular prison) anytime soon.

5:49 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Hackenbush said...

MB- "All that's true--i.e., it can and does happen--but I wd argue that's not genuine science."

But I think we agree then--I was just describing how easily science can be corrupted, for those who might put too much faith in its flawless operation. I'm all for "genuine science" (at least with the sort of caveats you lay out in 'Reenchantment'.) I just assume most science today probably is corrupted. Given our money- and/or power-driven, hierarchical society. I wish I could think of the name of this British scientist who wrote a fascinating (IMO) online screed about this very thing, how science today is nothing like its ideal. He talks about his career, and an earlier possible "golden era", and describes all the difficult necessary factors that have to be in play for science to thrive... damn, I misplaced the link...

7:06 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

CRE Dept.:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-04-09/kansas-s-self-destruct-button-a-bill-to-outlaw-sustainability.html

I love it!

9:04 PM  
Anonymous Capo REgime said...

Wow--the "good folks" in Kansas are a piece of work!

It is the land of dolts. I can understand that people are tormented about leaving or NMI. They have family and other bonds. However, I would point out that most so called bonds for most americans are pretty much gossamer fictions. For the fellow with the 4 year old duaghter its probably some sort of divorce situation where he gets to see his kid two weekends a month and pays a lot of money and is still on the hook if he loses his job and usually has no say in the kids life so feel they can't leave lest they be called a deadbeat for not paying for a kid he never sees that lives with the ex and her new boyfriend the kid calls dad. He can change this but he does not have 20k for lawyers to maybe change things.. Others have debts and have a house that is underwater and can't sell, others (most) have no skills and barely speak English. Sick and obese and or full of learned helplessness. I would say that unless you are truly raking it in, there is no reason to stay in the U.S. I marvel that MB returns with some frequency. I am out in June and I can say I will never ever return--Mexico and South Am and Spain will well fill up the remaining two decades or so of my life...Leave if you can!

9:30 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

A good example of the narcissism and shallowness of the American psyche, from a well-known representative of it:

http://tinyurl.com/cqpqt2n

"Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a Belieber."

9:37 PM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

Dear Dr. Berman

I just simply want to understand where my logic is wrong. I thought I was polite when I asked this question but maybe I was not? Was I impolite in anyway? I do have an autism spectrum disorder and because of this I can come across as rude when I do not mean to be and I do have problems with deriving subtext and context behind some things. Why was I insulted? What did I do wrong?

http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/golf-devil-ball-golf/adam-scott-wins-masters-amazing-18th-dramatic-playoff-233915260--golf.html

I posted this question in the comments of this article about our inalienable rights that is claimed we have.

This is what I said.

Me: How can our rights be inalienable in an absolute way if they contradict? Wasn't Typhoid Mary forced to give up her right to liberty for other people's lives? I don't understand this. Can someone explain this and help clarify please if they do not mind?

Garr Obo: Another moron with a computer.

Me: @Garr, did you graduate from Harvard? This was such a profound retort ;) Seriously, I literally do not understand how our rights can be inalienable with a glaring contradiction such as this. According to the Oxford Dictionary the word inalienable means unable to be taken away from or given away by the possessor. By the definition of the word inalienable if one exception exists then how are our rights truthfully inalienable in an absolute way?


Dr. Berman, if you do mind would you provide a glossary of some of your abbreviations like NMI and Wafer? Does NMI mean New Monastic Individual and where can I read more about this?

Thank You

cubeangel

11:35 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Cube-

Wafer is a person who follows this blog w/some sympathy, at least, and is so-called because s/he read and enjoyed "Why America Failed" (WAF). It does not refer to the eucharist. For more on NMI's, check out "The Twilight of American Culture." I wdn't spend too much on the semantics of inalienable rights; I'm sure u have bigger fish to fry.

Sanc-

He's actually Canadian, but a colossal douche bag nonetheless. His Guccis cry out for urine.

Capo-

And Thos Frank wonders whatever happened to Kansas? They filled their heads with rancid HoHos, is what happened. Well, I doubt I'll be visiting KS any time soon, but yes, I do return to the land of my birth abt 2x/yr, usually for a lecture gig or to visit friends or to get a decent corned beef sandwich. It's also kind of an anthropological foray; I always learn a lot (most of it depressing, but still...).

Meanwhile, has anyone read this? It looks gd:

http://www.amazon.com/Fast-Times-Palestine-Homeless-Homeland/dp/158005482X/ref=pd_sim_b_2

mb

12:01 AM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

"Wafer is a person who follows this blog w/some sympathy, at least, and is so-called because s/he read and enjoyed "Why America Failed" (WAF). It does not refer to the eucharist. For more on NMI's, check out "The Twilight of American Culture." I wdn't spend too much on the semantics of inalienable rights; I'm sure u have bigger fish to fry."

I am waiting on the copy I ordered of "The Twilight of American Culture" to come in. It has not :( I did check the status and it said it was shipped.

You're right I do have bigger fish to fry. I do become very Perservative. It is an Asperger trait I am working on. I can become engrossed in my special interests that many hours can pass.

For me, when something does not make sense I become obsessive about it. I do not know why.

12:19 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

cube,

Americans don't like anyone who is different. They talk about being an individual & expressing yourself, but anyone who doesn't fit their narrow definition of "normal" is considered a deserving target of insults & outright cruelty. They especially don't like it when their assumptions about the world, which they laughingly call "reality", are questioned or examined in any way.

Also, beware of online posters, because the comments section of nearly everything brings out the worst in most people. And quite often the worst is all they have to offer; they have no best. From time to time you may find a few thoughtful, intelligent, and basically decent posters who genuinely want to engage in real discussion. But they're far outnumbered by the dolts.

News item for today:

http://truthfultragedy.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/some-states-drop-ged-for-profit-testing-has-arrived/

The GED has been a service provided by a non-profit General Educational Development program. But in 2014, that will change. GED has been bought out by a FOR-profit company known as Pearson Vue Testing.

There are several news stories about in online, but this blogger seems to get to the heart of it, as well as offering much of the original article. Her key insight: It is so obvious there are “certain people” these greedy corporations want to keep down [...}.

Granted, for many the GED is simply a way of getting the necessary certification for even a basic job. But now even that's being made more difficult.

I wonder if Kansas is one of the states dropping it?

Also:

http://www.salon.com/2013/04/14/do_e_readers_inhibit_reading_comprehension_partner/

7:01 AM  
Blogger Sarasvati said...

When all else fails, WAFers may want to consider that “life is easier and the world a much happier place when you’re dumb”…Minus IQ/The pill to lower your IQ permanently:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=z9pD_UK6vGU

7:21 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

While I don't want to break the 1-post-per-day rule, this is priceless:

http://news.yahoo.com/deluded-generation-teens-clueless-own-abilities-finances-prospects-060211780.html

Teenagers’ delusional views about their own abilities may be somewhat to blame for their bad budgeting. Numerous studies have found that today’s average young person thinks he possesses above-average intelligence.

Despite feeling smarter than their parents’ generation, today’s students self-reportedly study for fewer hours. On the bright side, they get better grades because of grade inflation.

8:08 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Joe, the US is an aesthetic nightmare. You are right, it looks nearly the same no matter where you go and then even if you do find an occasional oasis you will find almost everyone you encounter on some form of techno-crap. For example, Rittenhouse Square in the heart of Philadelphia is a lovely place to sit and relax. Still, I notice perhaps on 10% are not engaged in some techno-nonsense. It's no wonder why there is so much loneliness in the US if the dominant signal people send out is "Don't bother me." I remain fully convinced that everyday in the US there are at least half a million relationships that are never realized because one or both people were technologically engaged. Parenthetically, I happened to see the splendid play "A Raisin in the Sun" yesterday and wondered about the quality of play writing in the US 10-20 years from now. It will probably be horrific since most aspiring playwrights are not listening to or engaged in any meaningful or germane conversations. Tangentially, didn't anyone wonder why we needed an Irishman to play Lincoln in the movie "Lincoln"? This damn country couldn't find one American actor to play (at least in the popular mind) our greatest president? How pathetic is that?!

8:17 AM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

nosferat_saolin, If your statistics are true and are objective and free from bias as possible then it is no wonder I can't receive any logical answers to my questions I ask.

It is because most people don't think, don't want to think and simply accept what they are told. You state "It is almost axiomatic that anyone who speaks the cold truth about the future will run into a brick wall of people who operate via emotions, hopes and faith that everything will turn out okay. This is "Cassandra Syndrome" in action. " I have experienced this as well. It is a very frustrating experience.

This is because it has become socially inappropriate and rude to state or ask anything of a negative nature at all. These days people are offended at the slightest provocation.

I'm always told that I'm being too negative. People act like and seem to believe that one's thoughts controls reality. I remember one time I was doing a job which was setting up computers. This was for a middle.

What I saw was so surreal and astonishing. There was a quote that said "one's attitude is more important than the facts." I stood there for a few minutes. I was so shocked. It felt like I stood there for hours. People everywhere believe this without question. There is no logic to this whatsoever I can understand. Why is one's attitude and confidence overplayed yet one's skills, knowledge and abilities are downplayed? Attitude and Confidence are treated as though they're the antecedent instead of the consequent. Why? What is the underlying reasoning for this madness? Almost everyone in America universally accepts this without question.

The only person who challenges this madness is Barbara Ehrenreich. I've read her book called Bright-Sided. It is an awesome book. I highly recommend it.

8:25 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Cube, Tim-

Also check out Janice Peck, "The Age of Oprah." Keep in mind that the greater the delusion, the faster the decline. Where else are we gonna go? Up?

mb

9:41 AM  
Anonymous Daddy Issues said...

Same perspective, different voice. http://bananenplanet.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/10-things-most-americans-dont-know-about-america/

11:00 AM  
Anonymous Edward said...

Another day in wonder land USA:

Police say an off-duty NYPD officer shot and killed her baby son and the baby's father in Brooklyn Monday, before turning the gun on herself.

Police responded to the scene after reports of gunfire, NBC reports. After a brief standoff, the cop then murdered her one-year-old son and the child's father before taking her own life.


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/15/cop-shoots-baby-and-husband-murder-suicide_n_3085099.html

12:10 PM  
Anonymous al-Qa'bong said...

Dear WAFERS:

For those of you thinking of founding a monastery in Canada, ya'd better think again.

The Great White North is succumbing to all those WAF acronyms. If you were to check the CBC website today, you'd find that Oprah "dazzles crowd in Saskatoon," Justin Bieber thinks Anne Frank is a cool chick, Foreign Minister John Baird had coffee with psycho-minister Tzipi Livni in occupied Jerusalem, and the Liberal Party selected pretty-boy Justin Trudeau (golly, he has such a dreamy smile)as the guy who will end the Stephen Harper 1000-Year Government. Furthermore, the NDP has chosen to "modernise" by dropping any references to "socialism" from the party constitution.

And when I got to work this morning I had to play the Cellphone Zombie Frogger game to get to my office.

It's enough to give a gopher the heartburn.

12:45 PM  
Anonymous Martin Ramirez said...

Wish me luck in finding a good place to live with the right people in the future. I'm not really addicted to the Internet because of itself, and I don't buy Wired Magazine's messianic faith in technology- what I really like is the wealth of cultural, scientific, journalistic, philosophical and other kinds of information that some pages offer, one case being Stanford's Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Compared to the radio and television, the Internet is actually a major step up in that corporate conglomerates and governments don't control all of the information. If you look for it, it may be there. Why do you think the traditional muppetstream media circulated so many stories about pederasty rings, cyber-crime and cyber-sex back in the late '90s and early '2000s? To spread fear among the population and make censorship look acceptable. Although not even the most adult-oriented sites I have visited resemble anything remotely like Rotten.com or NAMBLA, gullible baby boomers (including my immediate family) have been bugging me about pedophiles and Internet porn ever since I learned to use the World Wide Web. And believe me, it is beyond obnoxious. More proof of the cranial-rectal embedment is that people, particularly in the U.S., are always more willing to find scapegoats than meditate on complex problems and take a look at themselves.
It may not be very mature, but I was highly annoyed last night when the relatives in my house turned off the Internet modem but continued to watch television into the early hours of the morning. Why can they watch inane soap operas, but I can't read intelligent blogs, encyclopedias or columns and pretend that I have the virtual "company" of Berman and Chris Hedges instead of dogmatic Catholic fundies whose pastime is shopping? That said, I do need more quality real-world experiences.

2:09 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and Wafers,

Meet Jenna Marbles, a new and exciting role model for young American girls. Via YouTube, Marbles gives advice to billions of her followers on how to apply makeup while drunk, dress like a slut, and curse like a sailor. The article also indicates that she has a master's degree in sports psychology and is more popular than Oprah! How exciting...

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/14/fashion/jenna-marbles.html?pagewanted=all

Jeff

3:25 PM  
Anonymous Savantesimal said...

Looks like the obsession with violence is moving beyond guns.

NY Times: Boston Marathon Blasts Kill 2, Police Say

A series of bombs exploded near the finish line at the Boston Marathon on Monday, leaving two people dead and more than two dozen injured, according to the Boston Police Department.

A third explosion was heard just before 4 p.m., about an hour after the first two blasts. The police were apparently aware of that device before the explosion occurred.

The Associated Press, citing an intelligence official, said that two other devices were found at the marathon and were being dismantled.

...

[Meanwhile on the other coast...]

LA Times: Man who died in blast lived in foil-wrapped home, filmed neighbors

A man who apparently blew himself up with explosives in his Costa Mesa home was known to record video of his neighbors from his property, prompting calls to police from residents, authorities said Monday.

Neighbors described Kevin Harris, 52, as odd but harmless with a history of mental illness. They made a point to walk at a brisk pace past his house, which was wrapped in foil, neighbors told The Times. Cryptic notes would appear, taped to a tree in the front yard.

A neighbor showed The Times one such note taped to the tree Saturday morning. It read: “For your information: My introspection and my adversaries behavior have convinced me that electronic mind reading is now reality.”

...

Neighbors said Harris would sit in a chair in his yard and never let anyone inside his home. There were cameras outside his house, neighbors said, but they never knew if they were working.

About 5:45 p.m. Sunday, Costa Mesa police were called to Harris’ home for a report of a man down. When they got there, Harris got up and went back inside. He told police he was fine, and he was wearing a hat that said in effect, “I don’t need any help,” said Sgt. Jerry Hildeman.

Two hours later, police were back and Harris was dead from apparently blowing himself up. Three explosive devices were found inside the home. Two of them were crudely made, authorities said, so they were detonated.

5:02 PM  
Anonymous Joe Hohos said...

Capo,

Although the situation you describe is fairly common, I live w/ my gf and daughter. I am very fortunate to read to her, draw with her, teach her how to write, and do math with her on a daily basis.

Sarasvati,

I've often wondered if life would really be easier if I was dumber. That was funny.

7:14 PM  
Anonymous Kevin Frost said...

First post: Dr. Berman, WAFers all, greetings from Tasmania.

Watching your UBC lecture I was most impressed with how a flourish of empirical research could so convincingly overturn the uncontested spin we’ve all been hearing about Japan since the early 90s.

I suppose that your prospective book will be greeted with dismissals citing the new departures of Abenomics, which have even attracted favourable attention from left critics writing in Counterpunch. It’s a whole new game we are told. But I hope you’ll stick to your guns and get the book out there anyhow.

Dr. Berman, I think you’re on the right track and I’d like to try to explain why I take this view. I’ve come to believe that Japan is significant for us, at least some of us, because we see in this country possibilities for ourselves. It’s well known that not a few of my generation (I’m 62) eagerly took up zazen practice, various marshal arts, and crafts: pottery, ikebana, archery, cha no yu and many other arts. As a somewhat Buddhistic woodworker I’ve long had reasons of my own to hold the joiners and cabinetmakers of this country in the highest esteem, a source of inspiration. But it’s as a student of political philosophy that I’d like to offer a comment which might help to explain why the aesthetic sensibilities of these people are, or at least were, unerring. The old order of Japan was not unlike the ancient regime of the European three estates. The Japanese kuge (as I think they are called), the imperial and allied families along with the Buddhist monastic sangha composed the first estate while the samurai constituted the second estate, similar to old Europe. But with the third estate things were different. In old Europe the third estate was a purely urban affair of merchants and artisans. Generally the merchants were considerably wealthier than the craft artisans and not infrequently bought their way into the nobility, conditions permitting. As for the European peasantry, they counted for nothing and were subsumed in the estates of the landed nobility. In old Japan the peasantry ranked below the samurai, then the artisans, and at the bottom of the heap were the merchants. This is justice.

The folks that I’ve tended to rub shoulders with respect people who get their hands dirty growing food. We think this is a good thing just as we value handmade, or well constructed, articles of use and aesthetic value. We are inclined to evaluate these activities not just as utilitarian goods but more importantly as ways of life, practical ways to be human in this world. We recognise the unavoidable need to buy cheap and sell dear but our attitude towards this is ... Japanese, somewhat. And as we become more ‘Japanese’ we become more what we believe we are, or could be, want to be. We think we have these possibilities.
More later, best, KJF


7:54 PM  
Anonymous Mike Alan said...

To James Newlin: Check out a book called The Man Who Quit Money. It’s about a guy who quit using money and lives on public lands in southern Utah. It may give you some ideas.

On the topic of Science, we just need to remember that it’s a tool. Unfortunately, some people elevate it to dogmatic religious status. Rupert Sheldrake presents 10 dogmas of science in his latest book, Science Set Free which presents some of the weaknesses of science as used today. The questions he raises are not easily answered and will likely be ignored, brushed off and ridiculed rather than answered by the keepers of the dogma much like the church has done for centuries.

9:41 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Kevin-

Many thanks for writing; it's great to have someone here from Tasmania. Just wanted to mention a couple of blog rules (there aren't too many):

1. Try to limit your message to abt 1/2 a page.
2. Try to post no more than once a day.

I wish I had time for exhaustive discussions, but--I've got a bk to write.

Thanks,
mb

11:09 PM  
Blogger NearFar said...

@MB - re: Bernays & "Propaganda" sounding like a conspiracy theory...Yikes. Um, I hadn't thought of that. In some ways it's back to the drawing board for me!

I just ran across this statement (by Mark Crispin Miller) today re: Walter Lippmann who is described as Bernays' intellectual hero:

"Lippmann had arrived at the bleak view that "the democratic El Dorado" is impossible in modern mass society, whose members--by and large incapable of lucid thought or clear perception, driven by herd instincts and mere prejudice, and frequently disoriented by external stimuli--were not equipped to make decisions or engage in rational discourse."

I thought to myself: now what would MB and some of my fellow WAFers think of Lippmann's "bleak view" as expressed above? Now of course, don't let me put words in your mouth, but if this is Lippmann expressing his view of AMERICANS, he's being way too kind!

@Tim Lukeman - Thanks for the recommendation. I had NEVER heard about Adam Curtis and "The Century of the Self." I did some research on it & will certainly be checking it out, and some other projects Curtis is involved with.

@WAFers - I read this today from independent journalist and U.S. university professor Mark Mason (?-he contibutes to PressTV- anyone heard of him before?) talking about the bombing in Boston today:

"Grossly biased US corporate media. ABC is referring to the blasts at the Boston Marathon as "like IEDs in Afghanistan and Iraq." It's astounding. The "journalists" are paid millions of dollars but have no functional brain separate from the US ideological doctrine. No further comment needed."

12:18 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Near-

Again, check out my 'conspiracy' essay in QOV; it might be helpful (or not). As for Lippmann: a very interesting character. Abt 10 yrs ago, maybe more, I read his "Preface to Morals," and found the 1st half of it remarkably contemporary (the 2nd half was rather dated and irrelevant, if I remember correctly). So, you might wanna have a look at it.

As for mass society: I suspect the problem is more *business* society. Hustling, business, commodification (see WAF for further details) creates a civilization of morons, and we are definitely a business civilization (and a moronic one). Not that business is ipso facto bad; but if that's all yr doing, it's very bad.

Journalists: there's a great split now between virtual and hardcopy. The NYT, WashPost and their ilk are by now total b.s.; they exist to reassure the wealthy and the professional middle class that things are basically OK (including torture, genocide, and other charming things we now engage in). This is how 2 of the world's greatest assholes, Friedman and Brooks, wind up w/regular columns and huge amts of $: they echo the party line. This is not true journalism; it's corporate regurgitation. For true journalism in this country now you hafta go virtual: Counter Punch, AlterNet, Common Dreams, Truthdig, Truth-out, and so on. Of course, most Americans don't know those websites exist and wd be repulsed by them if they did.

When I say we are fucked 6 ways from Sunday, and that there is abs. no way of reversing this downward spiral, I am NOT engaging in hyperbole. Maybe Lippmann and Mencken just saw it early on, I dunno.

mb

2:14 AM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

Dr. B

Please check this article out. He really describes how the workplace works in depth.

http://www.kalzumeus.com/2011/10/28/dont-call-yourself-a-programmer/

I don't have the personality or the neurology to fit their mold whatsoever. I am not a hustler whatsoever. It isn't me and it will never be me.

When I read what this person wrote I feel this level of anger building up inside of me. I do not fit into this model in any way, shape or form.

By what I am understanding I am expected to be deceptive in this business model. It feels so wrong.

8:22 AM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...

MB, Interesting point on journalists. What is fascinating to me anyway is that the journalists are no longer chronicling, investigating or journaling per se. At worst they are stenographers for government and interests groups. At best they are debating or advancing some conception or term of art---squester, deficit, quantitative easing, health savings accounts, globalisation, gay marriage, etc. So even at their best they are serving message makers and diserving reality.

Yes, Mencken, Lippman and probably Twain had it right a long time ago and saw the logical conclusion. Really think of the Hays laws, Prohibition, the Mann act and well it was clear that this was a nation of dolts well under way for domination in the 1920's. But---it has become more doltish. In my view hyper egalitarianism combined with a soft if pervasive Marxism has greatly aided stupefecation.

9:33 AM  
Anonymous Martin Ramirez said...

@Capo Regime: In what way is a nation where most of the population and the establishment decry Marx Marxist? Social and cultural relativism are definitely not the same as Marxist economics and philosophy. Again, intellectuals and serious artists may be given as much importance as anyone else in the land of dolts, but America certainly isn't egalitarian in the economic or social sense. As the good doctor (Senor Berman) points out, a one-sided dedication to business and the excessive commodification it brings about have been very bad for the life of the mind on this side of the Atlantic (though granted, modern capitalism first took root in England and the Western half of Europe). And because of globalization, you can feel the stultifying effects as far away as Indonesia (read Andre Vltchek's book "The Archipelago of Fear").

10:56 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

NearFar,

You may not agree with every single thing Curtis says -- I don't -- but on the whole, he's pretty spot on about the forces that enable the overclass to remain over us all.

For a good overview of the propaganda & manipulation exercised by & for that overclass:

http://www.alternet.org/media/propaganda-system-has-helped-create-permanent-overclass-over-century-making?akid=10328.241474.9tn32W&rd=1&src=newsletter825186&t=17

cube,

Yes, they do want you to be deceptive. Having spent too many years in an office workplace myself, I can testify that the emotional atmosphere is usually that of really poisonous high school cliques, with pettiness, immaturity, and backstabbing galore running rampant. It takes its toll on even the strongest. You may not have the personality to endure such an atmosphere -- which is a credit to you, by the way. But everyday decency & empathy are seldom rewarded in the workplace; the exceptions are rare indeed.

I've just been writing to a friend about the ways hustling & monetary value are written into our very language. We discuss the worth of an individual;, we judge the quality of anything & anyone by how much money it can garner; we regard anything done for the sake of itself, rather than for profit, as wasted time & effort.

Savantesimal,

Just imagine how bombings & shootings must look to the current generation of small children. A world filled with random violence that adults accept as the norm is what's shaping their minds & worldview. As with children in an abusive family, they accept that this is the natural way of the world. This is how you're supposed to live. To me, this is monstrous child abuse on a grand scale, what one psychologist called "soul murder" for the millions.

11:52 AM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Good day Dr. Berman and Wafers,

NearFar-

For a fascinating work that deals with Bernays, Lippmann, Gustave Le Bon, and other mind manipulators, check out Stuart Ewen's book, "PR!: A Social History of Spin." Essentially, Ewen chronicles the social and historical development of public relations, advertising, and "spin" culture. It is quite an ambitious and exhaustive study.

Jeff

12:19 PM  
Anonymous Zaid said...

Dr B

They are now reporting that pressure cookers were used in planting the bombs in Boston.

Obama says that he will introduce laws to ban pressure cookers.

NRA and makers of pressure cookers protest, and they say this:
pressure cookers do not kill people; people kill people. Therefore, pressure cookers should be planted in every location where a lot of people gather.
The police should carry pressure cookers to be used in blowing up the terrorists before the terrorists blow up innocent children. Teachers should be trained on how to apply pressure cookers in killing the terrorists before to strike at our children in schools.

2:17 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Zaid-

Some yrs ago, some British moron planted explosives in his shoes, intending to blow up the airplane he was on. But they didn't go off, and he was sent to jail for 300 yrs. Meanwhile, Homeland Security decided to start having people remove their shoes at airports. Can u imagine what TSA check-ins wd be like, if the guy had stashed the explosives up his ass? And what if platters of chopped liver had been found at the bomb sites in Boston?

mb

2:49 PM  
Anonymous James Newlin said...

Mike Allen: thanks for the tip. My plan is to live near cities and be as self-sufficient as possible, and use as little as possible. I've gotten rid of most of my electronics, have started a mostly vegetarian diet, have started growing more food, saving heirloom seeds, and living without A/C, a heater, or appliances. I'll keep making changes over time, adding things as I learn.

I'll keep working my welding job, or else I'd go crazy; I'll just have a lot more money and less time to waste on mindless consumption and electronics. Not sure where this will lead, but we'll see!

3:07 PM  
Anonymous ellen said...

Jeff T,

Adam Curtis based his excellent doc 'Century of the Self' on Ewen's book 'PR!: A Social History of Spin.'

Dr B,
After the moronic British shoe bomber there was the moronic underpants bomber(almost stashed in his arse). Logically, all airline passengers should now be required to remove their underwear before boarding--- but the searching never was about logic it was about the manufacture of fear and paranoia in the masses.

3:19 PM  
Anonymous al-Qa'bong "The WAFerooni" said...

I'm waiting for reports that Homeland Security has started stopping joggers, pedestrians and others similarly engaged in suspicious activity.

Kevin:

You might like this quotation, by Thomas Aquinas:
"There is something disgraceful about trade, something sordid and shameful"

3:30 PM  
Anonymous Troutbum said...

Dr. MB,

Nothing like a national tragedy to bring out the American character. Take a look at the tweets complied by : http://crooksandliars.com

Here's the link: http://gocl.me/ZYxA5K

5:20 PM  
Anonymous Politically Incorrect said...

"And what if platters of chopped liver had been found at the bomb sites in Boston?"

It's still early... the spin doctors, scapegoaters, and conspiracy theorists are working overtime on this one...

No obvious motives, no one to claim responsibility... hmmm, why would anyone do such a thing?.... hmmmmm... why, in such a great country.... after all, we're #1 ...

makes you wonder...

5:43 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Pol-

All delis will be suspect, if that's how it turns out: terrorist corned beef cells, just u wait and c. Meanwhile, a quote from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright: "If you terrorize other people, eventually they are going to terrorize you." Obama repudiated him as his (long-term) pastor, of course. Plus this from Bush Jr.: "But we're so good!"

Trout-

I love it! Remember: the dumber the nation, the faster the collapse! These are my kinda guys!

al-

Why just stop them? Shoot them! National security is at stake!

ellen-

There may be no conspiracy involved. Homeland Security is probably stupid enuf to believe that a hefty % of the population has explosives wedged in their shoes, and up their rumps.

mb

7:55 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

Tim, u r right when u say "We discuss the worth of an individual, we judge the quality of anything & anyone, by how much money it can garner; we regard anything done for the sake of itself, rather than for profit, as wasted time & effort."

If u want a perfect mind-bending demo of that phenom, then try this experiment: go to a video-hosting site (like Vimeo) and view until you find a film w/ these criteria: a. u like it, b. it tells a narrative story as clear as a bell (forget abt experimental films), c. production values are great. Show it to 2 Amerikans separately. Tell the first Amer. it's a trailer for a movie that made a bazillion bucks in (say) Australia. Tell Amer. # 2 it's a film made by some guy u used to know who's living w/ his parents now. Amer. #1 will watch & eagerly declare the film great & that the filmmakers r geniuses. Amer. #2 will not understand the simplest line of dialogue in the film ("What did he mean when he said Good morning?") & likely won't finish it; he will profess to be confused & irritated and declare the film crud. U can apply this exper. to any art - books, poetry, etc.

Amerikans consider $ the source, measure, & goal of all values. Despite the pretensions of some of them, they liter. have ONLY 1 way of understanding the world: $. "Conservative" tea bags respect & more approve of rapper Jay-Z than of any good college opera student: Jay-Z MADE MONEY!

8:11 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Hackenbush said...

Re Adam Curtis: never watched any of his docs, but James Corbett did a critique (search his show archives at corbettreport.com). His verdict was that they contain much worthwhile info, but are also sophisticated propaganda for the sophisticated. I.e., people who can see through the "muppetstream media" (good phrase, Martin Ramirez) get served a heapin' helpin' of Mr. Curtis' brand of swill. (So to speak...) so watch but be wary. (consider the source--aren't they BBC produced? a somewhat suspect provenance.)

Can't remember- who posted the link above to that man whose house was wrapped in foil- but I followed the link to his "rambling, 17,000 word essay" at the news site--trippiest thing I've read in several months... Very lucid, but definitely odd. Could all be true for all I know, but even for me it's kind of far down the rabbit hole. At a certain point I suppose, if that's the world we live in, maybe I will take ignorance.

NearFar- you're told the Bernays quote sounds like "conspiracy theory" itself, so now you disavow it? I'd say consider it on its own terms, rather than letting this red flag phrase scare you off. Bernays seems to have something there with this idea that controlling the media equals controlling the mass of the populace...

Mike Alan- the science book sounds interesting, and--miracle of miracles--my local lib. has a copy. (but how am I supposed to devote time to fleeing Collapseville if I keep finding interesting books to read... I'll still be reading when it all crumbles around my head, if-- I never assume---it does indeed crumble.)

8:36 PM  
Blogger bowtiejack said...

In Re The Boston Marathon Bombing

Lot of stupid chatter, but this smells to me like the George Metesky bomber in 40's and 50's New York. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Metesky

Giving my age away? Good.

And remember the Unabomber?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unibomber

Here's a guy (in the Army no less!) who spells it out:
http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/making-sense-of-news-from-boston-041613


8:37 PM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

Brother Fred is at it again...not sure about his position on deli meats, but the irreverent reality raconteur marches on to the beat of his own drum, sometimes in time with Waferian rhythms, sometimes in syncopation.

Here's from his latest, available at www.fredoneveerything.net:

However, in my humble (but infallible) opinion, the bare ability to read is hardly grounds for participation in government. For that matter, neither is the possession of an alleged college education. Survey after survey has shown that, with exceptions to be sure, college graduates do not know in what century the Civil War was fought or what countries engaged in World War One, cannot name the three departments of the federal government, list three cities in Mexico, or find Japan, or for that matter Africa, on an outline map of the world. The universities in America have become a profitable fraud, and should be prosecuted under the RICO act. (I will consider this happy prospect in a future column.)

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

10:46 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/16/politics/nra-guns/index.html?hpt=hp_bn3

In order to make America safe, we need to provide all 315 million citizens (toddlers in particular) with the following protective devices:

1. An AK-47
2. Their own personal drone
3. A homemade bomb in a pressure cooker.

Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh!
NLF is sure to win!

(Not sure why that's relevant; just popped into my head.)

12:42 AM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

Dr. Berman

I have been reading your book "The Twilight of American Culture." I just got finished reading up to page 102. You ask the question "Do societies possess some sort of mechanism whereby in the process of expansion they discover a great truth and then push it to the point....?"

The answer to your question is yes. This is my hypothesis on what happens. I believe what happens is different societies discover different truths.

The societies become complex and the complexities of these societies cause contradictions of these truths. Imagine America during the time after the American revolution.

Imagine the population then and now. As more population is produced, technology is advanced, and more knowledge is known what if in order to protect people's inalienable rights the overall inalienability of the rights has to shrink therefore causing contradictions.

If Kurt Gödel is correct we can't have a system be both consistent and complete at the same time. Maybe when societies "complete" they become inconsistent therefore causing problems with the current truths that are accepted.

Even truth itself seems to have issues between being relative and absolute.

I believe if we're to prevent another collapse in the next system caused by a contradiction of truths my opinion is truths have to be treated as though they are an ever expanding process of knowledge seeking.

Seeking truth(s) is not an end or a goal but a dynamic process of discovering a truth, completion and then expanding out of the truth and discovering a greater truth. This is what I believe needs to be implemented in the next great society to prevent its collapse. I believe this is how we can resolve the absolute with relative.

In math terms, let's say we have sets A,B,C representing truth(s). As the members are discovered one eventually has to go to the superset of these sets.

I see the process of seeking the truth and continuous refinement as the truth therefore to me both the process and the answer are one.

12:57 AM  
Anonymous Edward said...

Mark Sanford is again charged to court by his former wife for trespassing. He is the governor who went missing because he traveled to South America to sleep with his concubine. His wife divorced him after that. Look at this part of the article detailing the new court troubles for the man:

"Republican Mark Sanford is trying to revive his political career that was derailed by an extramarital affair that ended the couple's marriage. He faces Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch on May 7 as he tries to regain the 1st District congressional seat he held for three terms in the 1990s"

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/16/mark-sanford-jenny-sanford_n_3096176.html


I noticed something happening in America for the past 30 years: These stupid and immoral Republicans hate government (think about Newt Gingrich, Paul Ryan, etc). They all hate the government, but they will not survive one day in the private sector in a real job. Hence they keep going from one government job to another - even though they hate government. The money and the healthcare from the government are sweet, but the government is evil for me and you, and not for them.

1:49 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Red, Green, and Black:

Please keep the following 3 axioms in mind at all times:

1. A nation of dummies cannot make a left-wing revolution.
2. A nation of dummies cannot make a green revolution.
3. A nation of dummies can, however, make a rt-wing revolution.

As for the US: which do u think is likely?

mb

6:47 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Hustlin' USA Dept. (This from cnn.com):

"Within hours of the bombing, dozens of website domain names referencing the bombing were registered, including bostonmarathondonations.com, bostonmarathonvictimfund.com and bostonmarathonattack.com.

"It's too early to know what websites like these will be used for, yet nonprofit experts say that charity fraud is often perpetrated in the days and weeks after tragedy hits and are warning consumers to be on guard.

"While some scammers solicit donations, others use fake charities to steal credit card numbers or to infect computers with malware, often with a link promising 'exclusive' news or video of the incident.

"One fraudster already tried to dupe the public by setting up a Twitter account minutes after the bombing that claimed to be associated with the Boston Marathon organization. The @_BostonMarathon account promised to donate $1 for every retweet. After users called it out as a fake, Twitter quickly shut the account down -- but not before it received more than 50,000 retweets."

7:19 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Hey, at least now I can get a free proctology exam before each sporting event. Never underestimate the American capacity to overreact as in already blaming Moslems, devising new methods of surveillance, and never seeing events in any historical or political context. Callers to sports call-in shows were particularly barbaric in their response with the hosts more or less encouraging it. Appeals to constitutional protections? Forget about it. All are in favor of shredding that document to scap.

7:40 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

The reaction in the US to the Boston bombings is truly revealing. The US regularly bombs people, including children, throughout the Middle East as part of its war on terror, but most people in the US don't give a damn about that. Suddenly, when someone else bombs Americans in Boston, there's a huge outcry and showing of sympathy. It's as if Americans see their own lives as inherently valuable and precious, whereas all those (usually) brown-skinned people bombed by their military, many of whom are civilians, somehow have less valuable lives. I wonder what accounts for this disparate reaction among Americans, whether it's an empathy gap or something more sinister.

7:50 AM  
Anonymous James Newlin said...

After the bombing, these were some of the comments I heard at work (welders in rural Ohio). I've been hearing more people talk conspiracies, prepping, and hoarding guns over the last year.

- "Muslims might have been responsible for the bombing, because they know Muslims don't run the marathon. The only time a Muslim runs is when a pig is chasing them" (and the people around him laugh)

- "The government is going to use this just like they staged Sandy Hook to take away our guns. We're the freest country on earth because we can have guns!"

- "I think this was North Korea. This is exactly why we need a stronger military."

People were either on the side of Alex Jones, or pro-war and anti-Muslim.

8:14 AM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...

Martin,

My bad for putting in Marxist. Marx wrote 1000's of pages but people tend to fixate on a concpet or two and this creates misunderstandings. Save for the very top of american "society" a hyper egalitarianism with some redistributionist tendencies prevails-keep the proles down. Thereis rampant grade inflation, affirmative action, lowering of standards and no demand for excellence. Lots of cries for "imporivng education" but none of these demands include more homework, more challenging classes and beahvior codes. Focus on rights, graduation, self esteem and fairness. So as Mencken said, any man who has read 50 good books, has a modicum of discipline and can speak and write has a huge advantage in this republic of idiots. Its true.

Do wafers buy the republican/democrat division? There is a wafer who buys republicans bad democrats good notion? Throw a pastrami sandwich at this commenter to enable a wakeup. Left wing, right wing, green all abstrct concpetions, in the future the revolutionaries will drive a prius and drink from recycled cups and follow the markets to maximize gains.

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Zaid said...

Dr B

The new secretary of state, John Kerry, was in Japan two days ago. Japanese told him they do not come to US for education because they are scared of being killed by gun nuts. See the video:

Kerry: Foreign students 'scared' of guns in U.S.
http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2013/04/15/kerry-foreign-students-scared-of-guns-in-u-s/

Now look at this; the Chinese will also stay away from bomb-wielding Americans:

Lu Lingzi Dead: Boston University Graduate Student Identified As Third Fatality In Marathon Bombings

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/17/lu-lingzi-dead-boston-marathon-bombing_n_3098112.html

I am not surprised because American and Americans will soon be isolated. America has been at unending wars since 2001. Wars and killing make the Yankees fulfilled, so they have been killing and killing and killing in foreign lands, with drones, with guns, and with bombs. Chicken, they say, is coming home to roost.

One more evidence:

Barack Obama is pushing gun control at home, but he's a killer abroad

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/feb/10/obama-gun-control-drones-killer

9:35 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

I just finished "Mockingbird" by Walter Tevis and very much enjoyed it. Though it is hard to find, WAF-ers might like it too:

(http://sffmasterworks.blogspot.com/2010/09/sf-masterworks-70-walter-tevis.html)

It is kind of a Bladerunner (the movie) and Fahrenheit 451 mix.

10:10 AM  
Blogger Himanshu Tiwari said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Here is a link to an excellent column by Dmitry Orlov titled "Understanding organizational stupidity":

http://cluborlov.com/

Dmitry refers to a paper titled "A stupidity-based theory of organizations" published in the Journal of Management Studies. The authors of this paper (Mats Alvesson and Andre Spicer) describe a form of intellectual impairment called "functional stupidity" prevalent in corporate environments as follows:
"Functional stupidity is organizationally-supported lack of reflexivity, substantive reasoning, and justification (my italics). It entails a refusal to use intellectual resources outside a narrow and “safe” terrain. It can provide a sense of certainty that allows organizations to function smoothly. This can save the organization and its members from the frictions provoked by doubt and reflection. Functional stupidity contributes to maintaining and strengthening organizational order. It can also motivate people, help them to cultivate their careers, and subordinate them to socially acceptable forms of management and leadership. Such positive outcomes can further reinforce functional stupidity."

I think they are spot on.

Best Wishes,
Himanshu

10:57 AM  
Anonymous al-Qa'bong said...

The Boston Bomber used, apparently, pressure cookers as a delivery system for his or her explosive devices.

There's the problem right there. What's the hurry? Does terror (terror, terror, terror) need hustling like everything else? Take it easy.

If ever I decide to join the trend and blow stuff up on my own, I plan on using slow cookers. That's right, my new cell of the "Brigata Lento" isn't in a hurry to bring about the destruction of Western society; we'll set our timers to 8-12 hours and simmer the end of Babylon.

11:23 AM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

Re. charity hustlers exploiting the Boston massacre. Contrary to what the tea bags promote or imply, it wasn't Rahm Emmanuel who originated the advice "never let a crisis go to waste." That advice isn't a foreign, sinister, Marxist, commie philosophy. It's echt-American. It's the reductio ad absurdum of opportunism über alles. "Never let a crisis go to waste" is the motto of everyone who is seeking a fast buck - and oh boy, not only do Americans love fast bucks, unlike people in most other cultures they *deify* fast bucks. Money is the measure of personal value according to the hustling philosophy of Amerika. A man w/ money is a moral man, period... even if he got the bucks by exploiting a massacre.

It reminds me of the Burger King ad after 9/11 that said something like "In honor of the victims, free small fries w/ any purchase of a Whopper. Buy now, don't let the terrorists win."

11:58 AM  
Anonymous Politically Incorrect said...

You don't even have to wait for domain names to be registered... there were reports of looting in the vicinity of the bombing... can you get any more opportunistic than that?

http://www.examiner.com/article/boston-looting-video-boston-marathon-items-for-sale-on-ebay-pandora-s-box

I'd be suprised if people weren't stripping the dead of their possessions... after all this is a 'war' of sorts... Meanwhile The vice president of Srhieve, Crump, and Lowe made everyone come into work the following day despite everything else being closed -out of respect for the victims-. His reasoning being that "it's not about business", "it's about being open"? anyway, unfurled an American flag and draped it over the balcony of the Newbury St store... I guess it's like Bush Jr said... you just have to continue in your daily activities (shopping) or the terrorists win...

I tell you it's a zoo out there...

12:12 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Thank u all for writing in.

One advantage of an event like this, in terms of reactions to it, is that it provides an X-ray of America: who we really are, and what we really think. For example, Mike, yr rt, only our pain counts. The pain we inflict on other people--why shd that matter? 62% of us approve of drone attacks, while under Obama, 2000 people have been killed by them, mostly Pakistani civilians. But these are Ay-rabs, subhuman, so why even think abt it? And then the looting, the scamming, the false charities, the hustling, the call for more guns--this is who we are. Meanwhile, other countries regard us as dangerous, perhaps even mad, both on foreign and domestic soil. Cd there be any better evidence that the sun is finally setting on the American Empire? We still need a "Suez Moment," but it can't be far off now.

mb

12:31 PM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

Dr. Berman

I noticed you did not allow two of my posts. Did they violate any rules that you have? Because of my form of autism if you have unstated rules I will not be able to perceive them unless they're blatantly obvious.

Did I cause offense in any type of way? If I did I apologize. Am I still welcome to post on your blog at all?

12:36 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Cube-

Post away, tho pls, no more than 1 per day. Also, sometimes I can't get into long discussions abt my work or inalienable rts, etc.--it's just not possible, timewise. But yr certainly welcome here, amigo.

mb

12:56 PM  
Anonymous Troutbum said...

Dr. MB,

In a fascinating interview in the Guardian, Jeremy Grantham, described as an "environmental philosopher and legendary hedge fund manager" was referring to books he regards as important cites "Immoderate Greatness: Why Civilizations Fail " by William Ophuls. I have not heard of this title and found the following review here: http://cassandralegacy.blogspot.com/2013/02/immoderate-greatness-narrative-of.html .

Quoting the review, "It is all there: our story, the story of our civilization that we are seeing as it goes through its stupendous trajectory that has brought it to heights never seen in the past but that will end in an even more stupendous collapse. The book doesn't try to convince you of anything, it doesn't create models, it doesn't present solutions, it does not advocate that you change your behavior. It is just that: a narrative of our impending collapse in a slim book of less than 70 pages written in a style that much reminds that of the “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” by Edward Gibbon.

A couple of excerpts (p. 57)

“Bluntly put, human societies are addicted to their ruling ideas and their received way of life, and they are fanatical in their defense. Hence, they are extremely reluctant to reform. “To admit error and cut losses,” said Tuchman, “is rare among individuals, unknown among states”

And (p. 68)

“... the hubris of every civilization is that it is, like the Titanic, unsinkable. Hence the motivation to plan for shipwreck is lacking. In addition, the civilization's contradictions and difficulties are seen not as symptoms of impending collapse but, rather, as problems to be solved by better policies and personnel”.

Wow! Dr. Berman, are you familiar with Ophuls work?

1:39 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Trout-

Thanks for the tip; I just ordered the book. I do remember rdg revs of his stuff long ago, but I didn't keep up w/his later work.

mb

1:57 PM  
Anonymous Martin Ramirez said...

@Capo: I was mistaken. Yes, I agree on American schools and universities. My own position is sort of like some analyses of The Twilight of American Culture: "We should all strive for quality." I see the worth of the lives we are born into in striving to improve ourselves, excel in at least one activity or area of expertise, and further the well being of society and the world. You don't need to be profitable to accomplish this (before some libertarian or neoliberal steps in and says anyone who isn't a Rockefeller is sitting on his rump all day).
As for education, we cannot forget intellectual or artistic rigor, integrity and honesty, but it's only half the problem in my view. No matter how well I did in school (my most fruitful years being elementary and some parts of high school), I still just wanted to finish, get ahead and "GTFO" (the only occasion I have decided to use "leetspeak" because it's slightly more polite). Why are so many children typically afraid of school, or miserable and loathsome in it? Most early education literature, as documented in part by the already mentioned John Taylor Gatto and John Holt, points out that plans to implement technocratic policies and dumb down educational systems were already underway during the Industrial Revolution (read them or early advisers and policymakers such as Alexander Inglis or Charles Thorndike). Let's also acknowledge the reality- most schools, from their ugly utilitarian architecture to banal routines to "communities" of cliques and bullies, have hardly more soul than office cubicles. my proposed solution is a challenging version of the Montessori or sudbury systems.

2:25 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Good day Dr. Berman and Wafers,

Wafers-

Your insight and perspective about the Boston Bombing is very much appreciated. Predictably, all Thomas Friedman could come up with is don't be scared; repair the damage as quick as possible; wash the blood from the sidewalk; relax; schedule another Boston Marathon; continue to build on the great American trait of trust. He is in desperate need of a lobotomy. I would perform the procedure myself if given the chance. Oh wait, there's nothing in there but chopped liver. Is this an insult to chopped liver?

Possible t-shirt suggestion:

Wafism... be more than chopped liver

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/17/opinion/friedman-bring-on-the-next-marathon.html?ref=opinion

Dr. Berman-

You write about a "Suez Moment" for the United States. Does the closing of the Stage Deli qualify? I tell ya... it's a real game changer.

Dr. Hackenbush-

I'm following the bizarre story of the man who blew himself up in his foil-wrapped house as well. There's a kind of creativity to all of this. Sounds like a possible "Dronar" story outline to me.

ellen-

I need to check out "Century of the Self." Thanks for the information.

Jeff

3:13 PM  
Anonymous Ron Parry said...

Dear Dr. B,

I found your lecture fascinating. I have been interested in Japanese aesthetics since I was a teenager and I still find comfort in the artistic results of that tradition. I have only been to Japan once and I was not favorably impressed by modern Japan, to say the least. I wonder if the huge gulf between classical Japanese aesthetics and modernity is part of the reason that some of the young are doing things like locking themselves in a room for decades. I have a question I would have asked had I been at your lecture: do you think Japan might have an easier transition to a sustainable culture because it is a very culturally and racially homogeneous society. The U. S., on the other hand, is a a hodge-podge of cultures and races.

I will certainly read your book on Japan when it appears. Good luck with it!

7:09 PM  
Anonymous ennobled little day said...

That link to Orlav on functional stupidity...

I think that was precisely what I needed to make sense of Moby Dick. I made the connection while reading chapter 22 (or there abouts) about how Stub was apparently rationalizing away Ahab's treatment of him.

9:07 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Ron-

Unfortunately, that's probably the case. Some J politicians have been calling for wider immigration policies, to fend off the decreasing population; but the problem w/that is that the Japanese tend to treat the non-Japanese among them (e.g., Koreans) as 2nd-class citizens.

Jeff-
1. It seems to me Friedman has already *had* a lobotomy. Hence, I think urine on his Guccis is the best course of action. Frankly, he and Brooks having regular columns in the NYT might qualify as a (depressingly long) Suez moment.
2. Waferism.

In general, I'd like to start something called the Wafer-Tourette Syndrome, in which Wafers will walk down the streets shouting things like "Douche bags ahoy!", or "Bozo alert!", and that sort of thing. If you get arrested, claim it's a medical condition. (I'm sure that eventually Big Pharma will come up w/a drug for it.)

O&D!

mb

9:46 PM  
Anonymous Brian said...

Hi WAFers and Dr. B--

Just a few musings . . .

1) Of course, I couldn't resist the unveiling of a new bumper sticker: "Process cookers don't kill people' people kill people."

2) On a different note, I wanted to share some ideas about the NMI alternative that Dr. B discussed at length in _Twilight_. This idea has stuck with me for some time, and I'm interested in the ways in which we learn to enact this NMI model (if you will). I've always appreciated the ("old?") monastic commitment to balance and moderation . . . a certain # of hours committed to (non-huckster) labor (i.e., gardening, baking), a certain # of hours committed to solitude and study. These ideas lead me to ask: in what ways can/should an NMI model respect/acknowledge an intentional allotment of our time among the broad-based realms of "work," "education," and "leisure?" I currently am experimenting as such and making sure that I apportion my time *equally* among these realms each and every day; as such, I feel as I'm doing my part in challenging the harrowing notion of "career" (read: denial/terror of death) and channeling Edward Abbey's mantra: "I don't have a career; I have a life."

In essence, it seems that we are transitioning from an age-segregated life course ("first" education, "then" career [go figure], "then" ["earned" leisure) to a life course that challenges us to balance these realms simultaneously (and not privilege any over the others). In short, I'm trying to think horizontally: life as a series of unfolding experiences, rather than a series of "ladders" to be climbed.

Many thanks to Dr. B for helping me think through many of these ideas in his History of Consciousness trilogy--

Best to all (and solidarity)--

Brian

10:12 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Brian,

Thanks for your musings. If one has to stay in the US, and has to work to support oneself (wh/even so-called 'retirees' have to do in the US, more and more), the choices are something like this:

1. Find a job you love. This is easier said than done. Then you have a life, not a career. But it's a long shot.
2. Find a job you hate, give The Man his pound of flesh, and pursue NMI stuff evenings and weekends. This is not recommended, because The Man wants all of your time, i.e. 14 hrs/day.
3. Work part-time, and devote the rest of the time to NMI stuff. Danger here is that part-time can turn into full-time, in wh/case you might as well do option 2.

Wafers are encouraged to enlarge this list, and help Brian out.

mb

10:53 PM  
Anonymous Brian said...

Many thanks for your response, Dr. B, in response to my musings about the age-integrated response to the NMI vocation . . .

I feel as if I'm in a *ridiculously* advantageous situation . . . only needing to surrender 390 hrs/year (believe me, I've sat down and calculated it) to the nation-state with a health insurance package and a salary that allows me to live simply and minimally, without feeling under duress.

For me, it's all about intention: outside of those 390 hours/year, how else do I decide to spend my *time* (what I consider to be my primary treasure?). I don't have many friends, for I'm sure that many couldn't understand what it means to use this solitude (read: non-work time) as generative space . . . as space for being.

Please know that this space you've created with this blog allows me to work through these issues . . .

11:09 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Brian-

Glad I cd be of help. One thing, tho: try to post only once per 24 hrs; otherwise, this blog cd turn into my life, and I'm actually trying to write a bk and take a shower once every few wks. As for friends and time: why not start a WAF discussion group? You cd place an ad, then use the articles and bks buried in the notes of WAF as things people cd read and discuss. Personally, if I lived in NY, I'd start a deli-meat sampling group. We'd go to a different deli each month, compare the corned beef, pastrami, chopped liver, knishes, matzoh ball soup, cel-ray tonic, rye bread, cole slaw, and rugelach. I wd have died and gone to heaven.

mb

12:06 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Wisdom from Japan Dept.:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/27/opinion/27iht-edhatoyama.html?pagewanted=all

12:24 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Stupidity from America Dept. (Gee, what a shock):

http://us.cnn.com/2013/04/17/politics/senate-guns-vote/index.html?hpt=hp_c3

6:08 AM  
Anonymous Zaid said...

Dr B, Thanks for this article:

Wisdom from Japan Dept.:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/27/opinion/27iht-edhatoyama.html?pagewanted=all

The article should be read by ALL WAFERS. I am telling you, the article says a lot about the current explosion in a fertilizer plant in West Texas. You may not see it immediately or directly BUT the connection is there. Note these:

1) The fertilizer plant is located near schools, retirement homes, and residential homes and apartments

2) The firefighters that went to fight the initial first were all volunteers, not professionally trained. Now read this:

Advisories on safe handling of anhydrous ammonia generally state that the chemical is not considered an explosion risk when in the air as a gas. They add, however, that it can explode in certain concentrations inside a container.

"Emergency responders should not mix water used for firefighting directly with anhydrous ammonia as this will result in warming of the product, causing the liquid to turn into a vapor cloud"

http://www.dallasnews.com/news/state/headlines/20130417-west-fertilizer-plant-said-in-report-that-it-presented-no-risk.ece

3) Back to the article provided by Dr B

The extreme form of market capitalism being practiced in America since 1980 is dangerous for communities of human beings. This extreme form of market capitalism is the reason why you build dangerous fertilizer plants in residential neighborhoods – human life is not as important as capital and profits. Japanese people would be committing suicide if they do not quickly jettison all the market trash they copied from America.

I suggest two books:
1) The Trap by Sir James Goldsmith.
See him here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YW6KkF6aa_A

His main argument is when you allow a tool to become your master, your communities will be destroyed by the tool.

2) The Great Transformation by Karl Polanyi

This book simply argues that the market is not the answer for everything because there are moral, political, and social issues that are not economic in nature. Essentially, the book is a lengthy illustration of this viewpoint in the article provided by Dr B: "Others favored a more reticent approach, believing that efforts should be made to expand the social safety net and protect our traditional economic activities."

8:17 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

A careful reading of what happened in the Senate yesterday shows that it was actually the Democrats who killed the gun control bill. First, "both" party leaders agreed on a 60 vote threshold for passage. They then took a vote on the most controversial measure first which had to do with states recognizing each other's concealed weapons band when other measures such as background checks for the mentally ill, school safety measures, gun trafficking, and funds to improve mental health programs had wide support. In other words, it was the Democratic leadership who sabotaged the bill regardless of what the media will tell you.
Of course, it saddens me as a teacher that both Chinese and Japanese students will avoid coming here to study due to gun violence since, and not to be racist here, Asians have tended to be my finest students. The Chinese student who was doing graduate work at Boston University particularly grieves me.
Brian, you simply need to cultivate the mind in this society and try to find a hobby or hobbies that you thoroughly enjoy. I hope you have a kind of service job. Most fortunately I teach in an inner-city elementary school which gives me great satisfaction and allows me to plant humanistic seeds within my young charges.

8:32 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

Brian:

I've said it before on previous posts/comments but nature and the outdoors is the key to my NMI status. I (plus some of my family) volunteer at a large wildlife refuge performing native prairie restoration and there is nothing like being alone surrounded by 20,000 acres of quiet (save the occasional airplane). Volunteer at a park or at a community garden or river cleanup... after-all I seem to reach a limit at 4 hours of reading a day so I need something to do!

cubeangel: You should think about doing the same thing I recommend above. My mother teaches kindergarten and nearly all of her autistic and borderline autistic kids responded very well to her outdoor classroom, so much so that sometimes a kid who was unresponsive in class became a leader (especially when it came to observing plants and animals) when he was out in the woods.

Lastly, relating to this and MB's work on Japan, just look up "japanese appreciation of nature" and you'll find many, many articles relevant to a NMI.

9:07 AM  
Anonymous Humbled said...

Brian-

I had to close my art gallery 2 years ago because of the recession. While it was devastating emotionally and financially, when I'm really honest with myself, I was ready for a change. Over a ten year period, I watched buyers transition from those who purchased art because they loved the genre, or were moved by a painting, to those who bought to increase their net worth, add to the portfolio, or to meet the criteria of their interior decorators working to fill a third mansion. My business had become increasingly joyless.

What I've found as I've regrouped since then is that there's a fourth option to the 'how to make ends meet' list above. Find a business that offers a service, product or cause that you deeply believe in, and offer yourself there, doing whatever they need. I'm doing that now, and while I may not love the specific work I'm performing, at least I know my efforts are going to something potentially positive.

Dr Berman,

Gratitude for linking your informative and enlightening talk. I'm inspired to research more about the Edo period in Japan. Given my 80% drop in income, I've had to find new and creative ways to get by. One example is that I never buy new clothes. (except socks and underwear!) I know I'm not the only one, as I've watched second hand and thrift stores experience explosive growth in our small town. Given the country now has a permanent 'lower' class of close to 50%, we could be heading into a kind of Edo period. Unless there's dramatic population decrease due to gun violence, bombs, disease, or environmental collapse.

I apologize for the lengthy post. The coffee was especially strong this morning.

10:36 AM  
Anonymous Shane w said...

Sometimes, I think immigrants to the U.S. can be the worst Americans of all. I just can't fathom wanting to come here, and, having come and seen what it's all really about, wanting to stay.

10:51 AM  
Blogger bowtiejack said...

Dr. B.
I was recently visiting a friend of mine who has a house in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington D.C.
We got to talking about reading. My grandson is 8 years old and a voracious reader (as am I). I remarked that it seemed to me that, unlike my grandson, there were a lot of Americans (maybe your dolts!) who seemed to get out of high school or college with the attitude, “Thank God, I will never have to crack another book!”.
My friend then told me the following.
A couple of years ago, when he was looking to buy his first house (having been a life-long apartment dweller and being a very methodical type), he looked at around 134 houses in DC and the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. He wanted to get just what he wanted and not what was available.
He’s a reader too and he said that as he looked at more and more houses, something struck him as odd about them and he couldn’t put his finger on it at first. Then it hit him that almost none of them had any books. Nada. Zero. And these were million-dollar houses affluent sellers were still living in, not vacant. They had big screen TV’s, couple cars in the driveway, etc., but no books.
Another point. My daughter was visiting the mother of one of my grandson’s schoolmates. Again, an affluent neighborhood in Northern Virginia with many very successful lawyers, government relations types, etc. The house itself has a couple hundred thousand dollars of landscaping, is fabulously detailed and furnished.
My daughter was admiring the home and, I guess innocently assuming they had a library in such a lush layout, asked where they kept their books. The mother replied, “Oh we have some books. They’re in a closet around here somewhere.”
Perhaps if you’d published WAF as some sort of video game instead of a book?

11:19 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Sanctuary-

You said: "Amerikans consider $ the source, measure, & goal of all values. Despite the pretensions of some of them, they liter. have ONLY 1 way of understanding the world: $. "Conservative" tea bags respect & more approve of rapper Jay-Z than of any good college opera student: Jay-Z MADE MONEY!"

And of course, they have to relie on others' cues that $ was made in order to declare things 'good,' as you pointed out in your experiment. I read an NYT article recently about how JCPenny lost customers when they switched away from coupons and towards their "everyday low prices" model, because consumers couldn't ascertain whether the prices were fair. Without a bright sticker proclaiming SALE, they had no way to recognize value.

I just returned to the U.S. for a gig for a few weeks, and noticed a similar thing in the supermarket. One brand of coffee beans has labeled all their bags with a color-coding and numbers system to label the coffees' heaviness, acidity, etc. Even coffee appreciation is apparently beyond our grasp. Boldness: LEVEL 2!!! Impossible to imagine seeing such a thing in Denmark, where I live for the rest of the year.

12:08 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

bowtie-

People keep writing in to ask me when the collapse is going to occur, and I tell them, It's going on around u rt now! What do they thing the disintegration of a culture looks like, anyway? You've given us some gd examples, thank u.

I tell u, I love dolts; I really do. I love trolls and morons and buffoons: may they flourish! They are performing a vital historical function, and I hope their influence over American society continues to grow.

mb

12:14 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Hello Dr. Berman and Wafers,

Elvis has *not* left the building!

Apparently the Ricin suspect is an Elvis impersonator (Weeelll... That's All Right Mama...), a conspiracy theorist (Surprise!), and a Mensa member (?). Woody Allen couldn't imagine such craziness.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/04/18/177733297/ricin-suspect-described-as-conspiracist-elvis-impersonator?utm_source=NPR&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=20130418

Jeff

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Martin, Brian, NMI’ers,

The following advice from Albert Einstein may be relevant, although not exactly practical for you. It’s from “Albert Einstein, The Human Side” by Banesh Hoffman and Helen Dukas:

“Early in 1933, Einstein received a letter from a professional musician who presumably lived in Munich. The musician was evidently troubled and despondent, and out of a job, yet at the same time, he must have something of a kindred spirit. His letter is lost, all that survives being Einstein's reply.”

Einstein's reply…

“I am the one to whom you wrote in care of the Belgian Academy......

Read no newspapers, try to find a few friends who think as you do, read the wonderful writers of earlier times, Kant, Goethe, Lessing, and the classics of other lands, and enjoy the natural beauties of Munich's surroundings.

Make believe all the time that you are living, so to speak, on Mars among alien creatures and blot out any deeper interest in the actions of those creatures.

Make friends with a few animals. Then you will become a cheerful man once more and nothing will be able to trouble you.

Bear in mind that those who are finer and nobler are always alone — and necessarily so — and that because of this they can enjoy the purity of their own atmosphere. I shake your hand in heartfelt comradeship.”

Signed E
=========

I don’t consider myself anywhere near as ‘fine and noble’ as Einstein, but I agree that you’re in trouble if you can’t stand being alone with yourself. For me, however, ‘life is with people’. I’ve spent many years living in other parts of the world, so I know how much better life can be – in ways that really count. That’s why I’m planning my final escape from Sodom and Gomorrah before it’s too late.

David Rosen

12:46 PM  
Blogger jml said...

The thought that keeps going through my head in the days after the Boston bombing which happened less than a week after another crazed young white guy attacked his fellow students is:

"How long is it going to be until people from around the world - who have for many years flocked to America for educational and business opportunities - stop coming because they have decided that America is just too violent a place to live?"

I read an article which interviewed an elite runner from Portugal who ran in Boston this year and has run in other American marathons and she said that she didn't know if she would be back to run another one here. And one of those killed by the bomb was a Chinese grad student. How long before international students decide that America is really not all that appealing?

12:56 PM  
Anonymous James said...

Here's the illustrious Bill Hicks presenting his take on Americans and their hostile attitude toward books:

Waffle House

Also, my wife dated an Air Force Academy cadet decades ago who came from a wealthy, supposedly well-educated family. He noticed her love of reading and bragged, "My mother read a book last year, a big one by James Michener!"

1:24 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Brian,

I agree with all the previous posters. Don't underestimate the power of Nature to remind you of what's real & what really matters.

I live in suburban NJ by the shore, and even here my wife & I refresh our souls by simply walking in our local park, where there are several different environments -- we can see deer, ducks, egrets & herons, woodchucks, foxes, countless birds, dozens of different trees & flowers, creeks & marsh & woods & meadows.

For that matter, even in our own backyard, there are squirrels, chipmunks, woodchucks, and at least a dozen species of birds who are regular visitors. We let the backyard grow as it will, so it's filled with flowers & bushes & so-called weeds that are lovely to see, along with butterflies & bees. We watch, take pictures, often simply sketch.

I also agree that making something with your hands is soul-nourishing. For me it's art, but it can be any sort of handcrafting. It can be making your own music -- despite my lack of musical talent, I'm learning to play the kalimba. And I've started writing letters by hand again, which is an unexpected joy. There's something so satisfying about it; and it certainly makes me draw on something deeper within me than just dashing off an email (I refuse to text).

Carry a sketchbook or notebook with you at all times. Read real books. Make things. Keep your eyes open to the simple beauties all around you. Regularly remind yourself that the consumerist society so many take as "reality" is a flimsy, artificial construct that poisons the soul.

In the movie Next Stop Wonderland, the lead character remembers the advice her late father gave her: "Comtemplate at least one beautiful thing every day." As I type these words, I'm looking out the window beisde me at the purple & yellow pansies in the window box, vibrant with color even on this overcast day.

Remember what's real!

1:31 PM  
Anonymous joe hohos said...

Dr Berman,

The article you posted from the NYT advocated a regional currency for East Asia. Do you feel this is counter productive to the Japanese being able to keep their own identity? Although the author thinks Japan should stay away from globalization, he advocates a regional partnership, which is a priority of globalization. And haven't many of the countries in the EU struggled to maintain their identity? It seems like the author is confused.

1:31 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Joe-

Well, obviously he didn't get *everything* rt.

jml-

It's already happening.

DR-

Pretty gd advice, I'd say.

Now switching over to new post, # 177...

mb

2:07 PM  

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