May 10, 2013

Immoderate Greatness

Immoderate Greatnessis the name of a very short, very brilliant book by William Ophuls, published last year. The subtitle is "Why Civilizations Fail," and it contains a lot of ideas similar to my Twilight of American Culture.Nevertheless, his target is not America but the entire industrial-capitalist system, and his argument is that it's Game Over, largely because, as he writes, civilization is effectively hard wired for self-destruction. In what follows, I'm going to provide excerpts from the text, without quotes, except when Ophuls is quoting another author. Tighten your seat belts, Wafers; things are about to get a tad rocky.

New programs within the old paradigm will simply recreate the old problems in a new guise. Moreover, my analysis suggests that there is very little we can do. Most of the trends I identify are inexorable, and complex adaptive systems are ultimately unamangeable. To the extent that we can do something, the required measures are far outside the bounds of what is feasible or even thinkaable today....A genuine cure would require a revolution in human thought greater than the one that created the modern world. Such momentous changes do not occur by acts of human will. "Cultural solutions," says Wendell Berry, "are organisms, not machines, and they cannot be invented deliberately or imposed by prescription."

Democratic institutions...exacerbate almost all the problems described below. Mass democracy is also in large part a sham. To be meaningful, democracy requires settings that allow direct knowledge of persons and issues.

Those afflicted by hubris [immoderate greatness] become the agents of their own destruction. Like a tragic hero, a civilization comes to a ruinous end due to intrinsic flaws that are the shadow side of its very virtues....Indeed, civilization is a kind of Moloch whose demands for material and human sacrifice grow in proportion to its greatness.

One of the greatest traps of all is fanaticism: refusing to reconsider the values and goals of the system, even though they have now become perverse or even disastrous.

In Day of EmpireAmy Chua argues that growing multicultural tolerance and openness dissolves the social "glue" that makes empires cohere and thereby vitiates the elan that makes them great.....[In addition], thanks to the demolition job performed by the intellectuals, the society is increasingly "value free"--that is, it no longer believes in much of anything or takes anything seriously. The original elan, the moral core, and the guiding ideal of the civilization are now a distant memory.

An Age of Decadence inevitably follows. Frivolity, aestheticism, hedonism, cynicism, pessimism, narcissism, consumerism, materialism, nihilism, fatalism, fanaticism, and other negative attributes, attitudes, and behaviors suffuse the population. Politics is increasingly corrupt, life increasingly unjust. A cabal of insiders accrues wealth and power at the expense of the citizenry, fostering a fatal opposition of interests between haves and have-nots. Mental and physical illness proliferates. The majority lives for bread and circuses; worships celebrities instead of divinities; takes its bearings from below rather than above; throws off social and moral restraints, especially on sexuality; shirks duties but insists on entitlements; and so forth. The society's original vigor, virtue, and morale have been entirely effaced. Rotten to the core, the society awaits collapse, with only the date remaining to be determined.

With its ways of thinking and acting set in concrete, increasingly blind to reality and to alternative possibilities, an ossified civilization descends into a terminal stagnation that prepares its demise....The civilization's elites may understand that the system is dysfunctional, but fundamental reform would require major sacrifice on their part, so they fight to preserve their privilege and power....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 extraordinarily reluctant to reform. "To admit error and cut losses," said [Barbara] Tuchman, "is rare among individuals, unknown among states." Instead of changing their minds, leaders redouble their efforts to do what no longer works, wooden-headedly persisting in error until the bitter end.

They resort to stupidity--doing what has never worked in the past, what cannot succeed in the present, and what will destroy the future both morally and practically. First, by engaging in unnecessary wars or imperial ventures that drain the civilization of blood and treasure. Second, by buying off the populace with bread, circuses, and entitlements, thereby promising more than can be delivered in the long term.

A gradual and gentle transition to a viable agrarian civilization capable of supporting large numbers of people and a reasonable level of complexity is extremely unlikely....We must recognize that the deep structural problems elucidated above have no feasible solutions....Hence...the task is not to forestall a foreordained collapse but, rather, to salvage as much as possible from it, lest the fall precipitate a dark age in which the arts and adornments of civilization are partially or completely lost.

If preparations for collapse are made at all, they are likely to be too little and too late. Modern civilization is therefore bound for a worse fate than the Titanic....[The only way out] would require a fundamentl change in the ethos of civilization--to wit, the deliberate renunciation in favor of simplicity, frugality, and fraternity....In The Long Descent, [John Michael] Greer argues...that we will experience a more gradual (but still quite traumatic) "catabolic" collapse....Future generations will feed off the corpse of industrial civilization until the bones have been picked clean and humanity subsists once again on nothing but solar energy. However, this need not entail a hand-to-mouth existence. He envisions a relatively rich agrarian economy resembling that of Tokugawa Japan.

[But as for now, the problem, says Ronald Wright, is that] "As we climbed the ladder of progress, we kicked out the rungs below," leaving ourselves with no non-catastrophic way back to a less complex mode of existence....except among a few rural relicts, chicken coops and vegetable gardens are a distant memory; everyone else depends on supermarkets. Thus the survival skills that saw many through the Great Depression in the US...are virtually extinct.


Anonymous sanctuary! said...

Here is a good NMI project. Raise money, buy loads of acid-free paper and a big printer. Download every one of the world's great literary works you can find, from reputable online sources like real universities. Shakespeare, Darwin, Aristophanes, Borges, Tolstoy, dictionaries - anything you want, makes no diff, don't be overly censorious. Don't worry about copyright: nearly all will be in the public domain or close to going into the PD.

Then seal these works in secure boxes and bury them in various places around the world. Esp in deserts (deserts are dry, they preserve things better).

U think I'm joking. Nope.

Alternately, u could bury some great films on celluloid in a good climate (a mountain interior?) w/ a projector and full tech specs. Here's stuff on serious time capsules.

10:01 PM  
Anonymous Joe Hohos said...


Those quotes resonate with me. Watching "Compliance", my girlfriend went through something similar. She was accused of stealing pills so these other girls could get a new prescription. They treated her like she was guilty from the start.

10:13 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

pinkpearl and other cursive writers,

Re: Zen and the Art of Cursive Writing-

My nephew had been a video game addict for years when somebody gave him a Daisy bb gun. I volunteered to teach him how to shoot it properly. We went out in the back yard, set up a target, and I proceeded to show him how to line up the front and rear sights with the bull’s-eye. Before he managed to grasp this relatively simple task, he lost interest and returned to his video games. My cats have attention spans longer than that!

It seems clear to me that television and other screen technologies which supply both visual and aural input leave certain neurological development undeveloped in children and young people. The result is extremely short attention spans and an underdeveloped capacity for imagination.

That’s why reading, story-telling, and physical skills like cursive writing are so important to children’s neurological development. If this development doesn’t take place by a certain age, the abilities are lost forever – resulting in the CRE and non-surgical lobotomies that we see all over the place.

Take a look at Joseph Chilton Pearce’s “Evolution’s End”. I dug out my old copy and noticed that I had underlined the following: “The massive evidence presented in this section shows that our schools have collapsed not from ‘bad’ educational systems, which have always plagued us, but from a majority of our children having been neurologically damaged past the point of educability.”

American culture produces individuals in a state of “autistic hostility”. (Who was it who coined that expression?). Or according to Pearce, “Our world itself is a threat and we become like William Blake’s ‘armed crustaceans eternally on the alert.’”

Sodom and Gomorrah stifles neurological development, so it’s time to split!

David Rosen

10:17 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I did. I also think Pearce is rt, and this hasn't been taken into acc't by American schl systems: the kids' brains actually got damaged by screens and lack of developmental education (like cursive wrtg, e.g.), and so they don't have the capacitance to read or grasp basic concepts. I remember once, as a tutor in the inner city in Wash DC, trying to explain to the teenagers what a metaphor was. They stared at me like I was describing the far side of the moon. There was no way of imprinting a line like "My love is like a red, red rose" on their brains. All they knew was that love was not a rose, so what the hell was this guy talking about? And how unusual were these kids, really? How many Americans understand what irony and symbolism are? Less than 2%, I'm guessing. There really is such a thing as nonsurgical lobotomy; just look around!


Check out Ray Bradbury, "Fahrenheit 451."


11:35 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Pls try to post only once a day (24 hrs). Also, remember, this blog is abt the collapse of the American empire. It's really not abt any individual's personal problems, unless they directly relate to that. For your own difficulties, I suggest an asperger's support blog, or something of that sort. Thank you.

Meanwhile: Wafers take note: Maybe there is a god: Rios Montt, the butcher of the Guatemalan civil wars (stoked by the US for Cold War purposes), was just convicted of genocide and put in jail for 80 yrs. This is the guy of whom Ronald Reagan said, "he got a bum rap." Of course Ronnie, piece of garbage that he was, was guilty of genocide as well, but never made it to the World Court, sad to say. But this is an important victory for human rts, nonetheless.


12:14 AM  
Anonymous Bingo said...

MB & David Rosen,

More than half a century ago, when Jean Piaget introduced his Theory of Cognitive Development, he said that about half of the population never reaches the Formal Operational Stage (fourth and final stage which normally should be reached around age 11). I fear that if Piaget were alive today, he would say that nobody reaches the Formal Operational Stage, and that less than half even get to the third stage: the Concrete Operational Stage.

With such rapid intellectual decline, no wonder civilizations unavoidably collapse.

12:48 AM  
Blogger NearFar said...

Another gut check. This Ophuls really is nailing something here.Never heard of him, but I'll definitely be getting my copy. Thanks. If someone gave me this to read without telling me the author's name, I would have guessed that it was you, Dr. Berman. Ophuls has that same kind of laser sharp vision that cuts through the *^%^@#. Part of your similarity, I would say now (don't hold me to this) comes from you both having the sense of that concept you've discussed elsewhere MB, the "longue durée." I say that because really I’m trying to understand why (besides CRE) people can’t or won’t tune into this kind of thing, and I just can’t figure it out. People don’t get it.(It’s like that reader who wrote to you Dr. Berman, who thought one of your books was brilliant but pointless). Not to joke around, but here you are, and here’s Ophuls, both laying the thing out. Clearly and efficiently. And what’s the response from our fellow citizens? Nothing. Their tone deaf. Nada. Not even a sense of urgency. Or they’ll engage you in a light-hearted dicussion if you buy them a beer and “agree to disagree.” But what really kills me is when you run across someone who seems to have that sense of "longue durée," demonstrates emotional intelligence and perspective, and it still it doesn’t seem to matter. Why? Because something, or someone, else has been *fucking* with them. Here's an example: I commented on someone's blog a little while back because they were expressing admiration for Joe Bageant and writing eloquently about the US empire and why it was collapsing. So I made some comments (yadda, yadda, yadda) and finally their response to me was, "oh don't let me guess: you’re a white guy?" and I said, "yeah, why?" and they replied, "Nothing, I just can’t vibe with what you’re saying. I'm tired of your entitled angry white man tone." That ended the discussion. Came to find out later, after going thru their old blog posts, that this blogger (a male) was hispanic and that when he was a teenager, his father was incarcerated and eventually killed in a prison in Louisiana. So this blogger was not interested in talking about the collapse of empire with an "entitled angry white man." It's like reading Why America Failed or this book by Ophuls and realizing that you've got to make IMMEDIATE changes in your life, but then after turning the last page of the book, saying, "I can’t disagree with Berman but you know it looks like he would have been pro-slavery back in the day, or he’s kind of a racist." What the hell is going on? Of course, part of this is that "identity politics" thing that has replaced true dialogue across the entire spectrum of our “society”. Anyhow, that incident with the blogger was a real wake-up call. And you know, when folks find out how screwed we really are, white males are (rightly so) going to be blamed. In the coming insurrection, our severed heads will be swinging from lamp-posts. I'm not kidding.

1:26 AM  
Blogger Zosima said...

If it wasn’t for looming catastrophic or even extermination level climate change, I would say that our civilization could have gone on for several more decades, even centuries. Obviously, the degradation of the general population, which has gone on for 40 years, has no threatening effect for the people who own and run our civilization. Since the financial crisis the number of billionaires has increased from about 400 to more than 440. So, for the only people who matter and by the only metric that matters, there is no decline, only progress, as the numbers show that American civilization just improved by 10 percent.

Dr. B, I was only able to briefly look at this book on Japan, but I thought you might find it interesting.

Zen at War --- by Brian Daizen Victoria

4:09 AM  
Blogger the pied cow blog said...

I consider myself to be among the more fortunate of humans to have ever lived, in that I'm alive in this society and at this point in time.

To have been given the privilege to watch first-hand the collapse, or, more likely, the period of the greatest deterioration, of a world view that began with Copernicus, Newton, Hobbes, et al., is nothing short of amazing.

Further, being a non-elite gives me the opportunity to watch the collapse from a point of view of relative detachment because, comparatively speaking, I don't have much to lose.

So although there are certain things to lament apropos of the crumbling of our consumer- and war-based edifice, there's also much to enjoy.

We live in a most portentous moment.

6:09 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

"Immoderate Greatness" is my favorite post, so far, by our esteemed moderator.

Dovidel -

I remember cursive writing in the early grades and thinking ,"What the hell are we doing this crap for." Of course I was a clone of a George W. Bush brat.

Thank you Dr. Berman, Dovidel, and all Wafers for the wonderful clarity.

O&D to our imminent collapse.

7:25 AM  
Anonymous Rowdy said...

This seems like a rewrite of Sir John Glubb's "The Fate Of Empires"

Here's an extract from his book:

"As the nation declines in power and wealth, a universal pessimism gradually pervades the people, and itself hastens the decline. There is nothing succeeds like success, and, in the Ages of Conquest and Commerce, the nation was carried triumphantly onwards on the wave of its own self-confidence. Republican Rome was repeatedly on the verge of extinction—in 390 B.C. when the Gauls sacked the city and in 216 B.C. after the Battle of Cannae. But no disasters could shake the resolution of the early Romans. Yet, in the later stages of Roman decline, the whole empire was deeply pessimistic, thereby sapping its own resolution. Frivolity is the frequent companion of pessimism. Let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. The resemblance between various declining nations in this respect is truly surprising. The Roman mob, we have seen, demanded free meals and public games. Gladiatorial shows, chariot races and athletic events were their passion. In the Byzantine Empire the rivalries of the Greens and the Blues in the hippodrome attained the importance of a major crisis.

Judging by the time and space allotted to them in the Press and television, football and baseball are the activities which today chiefly interest the public in Britain and the United States respectively. The heroes of declining nations are always the same - the athlete, the singer or the actor."

7:35 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yes, he takes a lot from Glubb, as well as other writers.


Yes, I just wrote 1st ch. of my Japan bk, and drew on Victoria's bk extensively at one pt. This is definitely the dark side of Zen.


Why people ignore all this is a gd question, and Ophuls does deal w/that in his bk. He claims it hasta do w/the mind not being able to grasp long-term or exponential effects. Current issue of Daedalus (Winter 2013) has a long essay by 2 historians of science on collapse of civ, arguing that the major obstacle is getting mesmerized by neoliberalism and then being in denial that it's destructive (this fits in well w/WAF, I think). As for me, I'm not a racist, and who knows what I (or anyone) wd have been back in the day; but yr rt, a large part of the American public has been cleverly manipulated into thinking that identity politics *is* politics, so they focus on that--wh/changes 0. This, too, is part of our decline. As for 'coming insurrection': not to worry; if a revolution occurs in the US, it will be from the rt, not the left, and most of those folks are conservative white males (cf. Tea Party, e.g.). They'll go after blacks and Jews. But the impt pt is what u state: intelligent conversations abt real issues are a thing of the past in this country.

I also want to pt out that this type of thinking is very quickly marginalized in the US, so that the denial can be maintained. Ophuls cdn't get his bk published; he had to self-publish it (as I did w/"A Question of Values"). Ernest Callenbach was turned down by 100 publishers for "Ecotopia," then finally self-published it. WAF sold 6000 copies, is now outta print, and my agent has had no luck (so far) getting any publisher to pick up the pb edn--wh/means I may hafta self-publish it as well. (A wonderful irony, since the arg. of the bk is that America failed because it consistently marginalized its alternative voices.) You see the problem: denial is not merely the prerogative of the dumb, in the US; brilliant neoliberal economists are heavily into it as well, as Paul Krugman has repeatedly pointed out. It has a lot to do w/the diff between intellectual and ontological knowledge, wh/I've spoken of b4. You can have a high IQ and be ontologically dumb, and most Americans are. The poet Paul Christensen has written that I'm the Paul Goodman of the post-sixties generation. I doubt I'm really in his league, but I can tell u, as I did in WAF, that there are a whole string of alternative thinkers in American history, starting w/Capt. John Smith (1616) and running thru folks like Jimmy Carter and Wm Ophuls today, who simply can't get a hearing because the American public is ontologically tone-deaf. Which is why all I think I shall have accomplished in my lifetime is to have provided a record, an archive, probably for other nations to read. I can imagine a Chinese historian 50 yrs from now, writing a bk on the American collapse, running across my work and saying (in Mandarin, of course): "Shit, this guy had it rt, way back when, and no one noticed." It does relate to the Massey Lectures Doris Lessing gave ca. 1986 on the CBC: "Prisons We Choose to Live in," in wh/she asked: How is it that we had all the info to save ourselves, and didn't use it?

(continued below)

8:46 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


B4 I 4get, pls write me: I have some impt info 4u regarding chopped liver (seriously). As for American stupidity, this is where the left is in denial, because it makes a mockery of all their great plans and activities. But the truth is that a very large proportion of the US pop. have broken brains, literally; things have happened such that they cdn't think even if they wanted to. This is the one factor Ophuls never mentions, unfortunately, but it was certainly true in the case of Rome (and probably, England; see Theodore Dalrymple): a population that can't think is certainly a factor in civilizational decline, and we've got that in spades today. Americans actually believe folks like Newt Gingrich, Thos Friedman, and David Brooks are cutting-edge thinkers, when they are jokes. This means there is simply no way outta this morass.

What I particularly like abt the Ophuls bk is its dispassionate quality. I suppose this is where I reveal myself as some sort of patriot, because I actually *care* that the US is going down the toilet. I compare the country I knew in, say, 1959 to today, and I see a place that is unrecognizable. Jesus, even w/in a hustling context, we still had such creative potential--and we blew it, as hustling (and ridiculous wars) overtook everything. You compare the NYT best-seller list, 1960 to today, and those folks of 50 yrs ago seem like a different species. As my old colleague at Rutgers, Warren Susman (now dead), once said of me: "He's not red; he's purple!" He was rt. But in the case of Ophuls, there is no color; he's like a sheet of glass. It's just an objective, dispassionate evaluation of what happens to civilizations, and by extension, what is happening to ours. This is simply the historical process, he's saying; no reason to get all worked up. And I can see that distance, perspective, is often a gd thing.


8:48 AM  
Anonymous Martin Ramirez said...

I honestly would prefer that Greer and Ophul weren't correct. Obviously no one on this blog cares about trivial consumer items or brutal high-tech armaments, but it would (or will) still be very sad to lose everything relatively positive gained in the last few centuries.
And don't fall into the trap of romanticizing pre-industrial society. Technological change sure as hell isn't a true qualitative improvement, but not all traditions are good, either- take, for instance, the immolation of Hindu widows after their husbands' deaths ( As for multiculturalism, I would walk a delicate line that doesn't fall into political correctness nor outright xenophobia and bigotry- even in racially and ethnically homogenous populations such as most of Japan or Caucasian Americans, there will still be subcultures that drift away from the mainstream and are often treated badly by the "squares". Second, syncretism has been the norm throughout human history- contemporary Latin and African cultures owe their existence to their own continents' civilizations, Europe and the medieval Judeo-Islamic world, and contrary to the delusions of supremacists and ultranationalists, there is no perfectly "pure" people on Earth. Third, the idea that our own country, race, religion or culture is the supreme one mandated to dominate all others is very often among the most important feeding mechanisms for imperialism, sectarianism, colonialism, bigotry, genocide and ethnic cleansing. In my mind, a truly adaptive culture conserves the good and discards the bad (it obviously still wouldn't be perfect), learning from both the old and the new; neither an uncritical devotion to change, nor to things as they are.
I believe we should start experimental communities that are realistic, but are based on a cretive and humane vision. As a negative review of WAF pointed out, although MB doesn't support slavery, the transcendentalists were still better examples of alternatives to techno-hustling than the frigging Confederacy. No, I don't want to live in a feudal arrangement, no matter how communitarian.

10:22 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, the Confederacy at least had power; the Transcendentalists had words, nothing more, and so weren't a real alternative. Not that slavery is either, of course, but...well, read my book. Anyway, you make a lot of gd pts; this is a nuanced situation. There may be no 'pure' peoples, but I don't think we can really say that syncretism has been the norm. Still, under Islam in the 10th century, or during the Hellenistic era, you had great mixes of people and great civs. Etc.


10:28 AM  
Blogger jml said...

regarding neurological damage in children from screens:

i have taught drawing for the past few years at the community college. it seems that many of the students have a very difficult time understanding spatial depth, that in a drawing we want a foreground, middle ground and background and that there are ways to create that effect on a two dimensional surface. many don't seem to understand what i am talking about when i describe certain parts of a drawing as being "flat" rather than having depth or appearing to recede into space. i had thought that maybe i wasn't communicating well. but, then, i remembered that these were concepts that i and my classmates picked up immediately when i took my first college drawing class 27 years ago. they weren't ideas that the teacher had to keep explaining over and over again. it occurred to me this semester that maybe these kids have some kind of neurological damage and the whole world appears flat, like a screen? for so many years, i felt sorry for the young people of america and i became an art teacher because i thought i could help them or at least ignite a spark in them, but this past semester, i have come to the very sad conclusion that many are simply beyond help. i can't believe i am saying that - maybe i just need a break.

10:35 AM  
Anonymous Golf Pro said...

This is an interesting read for all you dual-processors:

11:12 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


They're probably beyond help. There was a cartoon in the New Yorker a few mos. ago showing a toddler pressing on a living rm window, and the mother saying to the father, "She thinks it's a touch screen." I'm telling you, this neurological/intellectual inability angle is the one thing that 'progressives' overlook, and that is also omitted from accounts of why civs collapse. Nobody wants to say it: The people just went brain-dead.


11:28 AM  
Anonymous al-Qa'bong said...


I share your frustration in trying to get across the concept of metaphor to students. I have a group of Library Techs (y'know, the custodians of our culture) who could not understand how Conrad's Africa could be both a geographical place and a symbol representing one's soul, or how a boat ride up the river could be a literal journey into the interior of a continent and a psychological journey into the darkest zones of humanity.

They kept asking, "Is Africa a place, or is it a symbol?" They couldn't grasp that it could be both.

I finally hit upon the idea of letting them listen to jockey songs from the 1920s to hear how it works. After listening to Georgia White's "Toothache Blues," Ethel Waters' "My Handyman," and Lizzie Miles' "My Man o' War," one of them brightened up and said "I get it!"

I've tried using Chris Hedges' writing on imperialism to make "Heart of Darkness" more immediate to the students, but they don't seem to care. They like telling me about the Disney movies they enjoy, though.

I'll keep at it, and continue to use George Carlin, Ted Rall, Ethel Waters and Tom Tomorrow in class. After all, it's not enough to integrate, one must also disintegrate.

12:16 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Just keep in mind what yr up against. What if they don't have the capacitance, neurologically speaking, to grasp these (or any) concepts? I remember in the early 70s a colleague of mine at Rutgers U. being so frustrated w/the stupidity of his class, he told me, "I shd have just given them wooden alphabet blocks to work on." This, 40 yrs ago. Now, they wd have trouble w/alphabet blocks. If you haven't seen "Idiocracy," now might be a gd time. But this issue of neurological limits is really impt, because why shd the kids beat themselves up for it, or why shd u? If they had no arms, wd u ask them to play volleyball? Here's a gd Wafer expt: go out into the street, and ask the 1st person u meet to give u an example of a metaphor. Report back, we'll discuss the results.

You can't construct a wall if the mortar consists of oatmeal. Nor is this the fault of the oatmeal.


12:30 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I remember a story in Elie Wiesel's Night about a man from his village who had been in a concentration camp,escaped and returned to the village and frantically told everyone what was happening. No one would believe him and minimized and ignored his warnings. Finally he stopped trying to tell anyone what was happening and what the future held for them. Yesterday the world passed 400ppm CO2 and the lead story on the evening news was about--you guessed it--Bengazi and "the cover-up." I've read Immoderate Greatness and was particularly struck by one point he made about successive generations simply be reared in a different culture than the one that initially created the civilization. Silent Spring, 50 years ago, was able to impact public policy b/c significant numbers of people actually read it and understood it. Now no book on the coming ecological changes and probable disaster has any impact. B/c for the last 50 years the generation raised to believe the party will never be over can't imagine anything but this party. Anyone who frantically or reasonably tells them where it's headed is marginalized and ignored. Just like the man in Night.

2:29 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yes, gd comparison; except that most Americans today don't read, and a large fraction of the population can't. But even if they did, I'm quite sure they wdn't care. Benghazi, Jodi Arias--that's where we need to put our attn, clearly.


3:16 PM  
Blogger Ross said...

This notion of a dumb and numb population hypnotized by technological gadgets leads me to speculate that the physical persistent of this situation has been under appreciated.

By the time any reform or rebellion becomes a majority imperative, it will likely be overwhelmed by the physical collapse.

3:17 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Metaphor Time: This may be my all-time favorite: Elaine is dating some destitute guy, and he takes her to the back of a restaurant, for when the chef throws out all of the unsold donuts for that day. He combs thru the bag and finds a bear claw, a rare treat. "Elaine," he tells her, "you are the bear claw in the garbage bag of my life."

Still not clear to me why Larry and Jerry never got nominated for the Nobel in Lit.

4:35 PM  
Blogger Boris the Spider said...

A friend of mine tells me his book club in north Georgia is reading Why America Failed this month. I'm curious to hear the reactions it evokes. Now, to get it into Oprah's book club! Look under your seats -- everyone in the audience gets a one-way trip outta the country!

6:32 PM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

Dear MB,

"This is simply the historical process, he's Ophuls) saying; no reason to get all worked up. And I can see that distance, perspective, is often a gd thing."

I just perused Ophul's work this morning for the first time. Yes, his senee of urgency is subdued and tempered by his extraordinary sense of equanimity--the over reaching perspective of someone who is able, with "equal eye" to see a "hero perish or a sparrow fall" including, of course. civlizations. (Poet quoted--Alexander Pope)

There is the old motto of the Hanseatic league, which I learnt from Paul Ricoeur's discussion of Freud --"It is not necessary to live. It is necessary to sail the seas."


7:17 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...


Regarding Rios Montt, it's quite revealing that whereas Guatemalans are ready to hold their leaders accountable, Americans are unwilling to hold their leaders accountable for torture and extrajudicial assassination. What accounts for this fact is that Americans fear their government and are deeply authoritarian. It makes you see how ridiculous it is when people refer to the US as part of the "First World" and South America as the "Third World."

11:02 PM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...


Great synopsis of what promises to be a good read--on order will read soon.

One more fortifying read!

Screen issue is fascinating. What is interesting is in U.S. going to meetings and lunches (and in Georgetown not little rock) and 40+ years olds openly or furtively glancing at their phones, or in offices having TV's in waiting areas or in offices! Ah technology. My Lexus is several orders of magnitude better than my first car a 1965 studebaker handed down from an uncle, but it was a much better world then my friends. The multiculturalists will hate this but I would posit that some cultures are a bit better at avoiding the neuro damage screen fixation. MB may appreciate this, but having been raised Frum it appears that it does provide some mental furniture to avoid much dreck. I would also add that Mexicans and latins generally are a bit better than the english speakers at spotting bullshit and enjoying human connection. There call me a racist somebody!

MB I see a lot of film recommendations. How about fiction? For Wafers I suggest JG Ballard, Wohlman, Vassily Grossman, Javier Marias, Roberto Bolanos and yes Thomas Pynchon and Delillos' early works. What say you Wafers?

11:05 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Susan W.-

In “Treblinka”, Jean-Francois Steiner tells a variation of Wiesel’s story. In this case, part of the population of a Jewish village was loaded onto trucks and everybody told they were going to a ‘work camp’. Instead they were taken to a forest and shot. A few survived by hiding under a pile of corpses and made their way back to the village to tell what happened. At first they were greeted with disbelief, but when the truth began to break through, they were attacked as though they themselves had killed the villagers’ friends and relatives.

Be careful as you try and tell the truth to the collective feeble mind of “The American People”. First they’ll say you want it to happen, and when it becomes undeniable, they’ll blame you for it.

MB is right about books no longer being a threat to the powers that be. Before it actually happened, it was hard to imagine that the holocaust was even possible. Today, the fact that the Earth is approaching an ecological catastrophe is well understood, but also actively and deliberately denied en masse.

It will be for another generation to struggle over whether the Capitalist World System is replaced by a system or systems that are more egalitarian and democratic, or more hierarchical and authoritarian. I’m afraid that even the young people alive today will probably spend their lives wandering in the wilderness of capitalism’s decline with no clear way to foresee or influence a positive future – aside from teaching love and kindness by example.

All I can suggest is to find a few friends who also see what’s happening, and a safe and pleasant location (certainly not in the US!) from which to marvel at it – perhaps like Douglas Adams’ “Restaurant at the End of the Universe.”

David Rosen

11:24 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

MB nailed this in WAF, but here's more.

Brain, Interrupted

Sadly, every single Want Ad in the 1990s that I saw made "multitasking" a requirement of being employed. (How else can 1 person do the work of 5 eliminated people? was apparently the thinking behind that.)

Fah. 451 - that bk seems more prescient than Orwell's 1984 by the year, no?

12:12 AM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

Metaphor Time: This may be my all-time favorite: Elaine is dating some destitute guy, and he takes her to the back of a restaurant, for when the chef throws out all of the unsold donuts for that day. He combs thru the bag and finds a bear claw, a rare treat. "Elaine," he tells her, "you are the bear claw in the garbage bag of my life."

Dr. B, I will try to interpret this. What this guy is saying is that his life is mostly crap and there are a few rare things that make it sweet. I have had a bear claw and they taste very sweet. Most of this guy's life tastes bitter and sour but Elaine brings a certain sweetness or joy to his life and this is rare for him. His love for her and her love for him makes certain aspect of his life more bearable. He can relish in the good moments.

Am I correct?

Anyway Dr. B, I will create a 2nd sticky note that states your rules of only one post per day, only stick to Waferian stuff, and no more than half a page. Sorry about breaking your rules again. I will discipline myself much better.

12:57 AM  
Anonymous Jerome Langguth said...

Dear Dr. Berman and Friends,

I just watched Compliance and found it a disturbingly accurate portrait of contemporary US culture in decline. Apparently, many who saw this film on its first release at the Cannes Festival judged it to be exploitation bordering on pornography and either walked out in a fit of self-righteous anger or shouted the film down as the credits were rolling. The angry reviews I saw focused on the alleged intent on the part of the filmmaker to titillate with a story of the sexual abuse and humiliation of a woman, which is a fair enough concern of course, but the reviewers seemed to miss the larger theme of cultural decline, unthinkingness as a way of life, and ugliness (CRE) altogether.


8:23 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yeah, altho I don't think Elaine was in love w/him. In fact, she pays him $300 to end the relationship. Glad to hear abt yr dedication to blog rules. In particular, keep in mind that it's about the collapse of the American empire.


It turned out that multitasking was counterproductive and cost American industry billions of dollars in lost time and efficiency. But any techno-hula-hoop that comes along, the whole country gets on the bandwagon. In a country w/no meaning, every silly trend seems to promise redemption. When it doesn't pan out, Americans, not being very bright, don't think about the problem of emptiness and pseudo-redemption; oh no, they're onto the next Big Thing.


I don't think it's fear. Americans are like sheep, i.e. actually agree w/US foreign policy, whatever horror it entails. In addition, they are typically unaware of what we are doing; and if they find out abt it, they don't care. But in addition, there is this impt difference (so far): Rios Montt's govt was torturing and killing Guatemalans (specifically, Mayans), not foreigners.


8:26 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


And complete docility; spinelessness. Meanwhile, in the stupidity dept, have a look at this:


8:33 AM  
Anonymous Dopamine said...

Our entire civilization is based upon escaping the limits imposed by our natural environment. We strive to further our distance from death and discomfort by whatever means our engineers and industrialists can contrive. Our complexity and successes come at the expense of the ecosystem. A human cancer tries to escape too, devouring glucose, growing willy-nilly throughout the body, disrupting existing relationships, killing other cells and dismantling structures. One of the greatest perversities of "civilization" is that our minds have allowed us to escape the realm of natural organic chemistry to become not only physically assaulting but to also become highly toxic. Imagine your body riddled with aggressive tumors that not only physically disrupt the existing order but also ooze highly toxic metabolic by-products.

Unfortunately, due to human competitive nature, the technological neoplasms are also competitive and must eat the host at the most rapid pace just to stay ahead of competing clones. The biggest tumor wins so to speak, but perishes when the ecosystem collapses. All of those college kids are getting their degrees to help engineer and maintain order within a neoplasm that will continue growing systematically until the ecosystem collapses and/or its primary energy source (fossil fuels) is depleted. Civilization will never "fit" within the ecosystem unless it is carefully planned and controlled and all other growing, metastatic neoplasms are destroyed.

Did you ever consider the reason your kids are "schooled" in the arts of reading and mathematics? Just to make them smarter, better people? No. They are systematically "educated" to manipulate information and tools and work in the factories/offices that produce the infrastructure/order for a growing neoplasm. If additional growth/innovation cannot supply the energies needed to support the complexity of the expanding cancer you will see the emergence of disorder and formerly vibrant centers of growth will become necrotic. The massive amount of energy we have entrained has resulted in our high level of complexity, something that could previously happen only at a molecular level. We are the system that fossil fuels built and unfortunately that complexity has enabled things like chainsaws and nuclear weapons to be invented and deployed.

Here's to wishing Mother Earth a happy mother's day and may we penetrate further into her tissues as she lies exhausted upon her death bed.

I love this Kyudo Part I and Part II:

9:56 AM  
Blogger Cj said...

Thanks for the reference Professor. Just ordered a copy.
Looking forward to your next book.

Best wishes,


10:18 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...


Though you're right about the first point, I'm not so sure about your second point. The American government is not just killing and torturing foreigners, but also American citizens. One only has to think of Jose Padilla, Anwar al-Awlaki and his son (both born in the U.S.), all the people in the US who are in solitary confinement and thus being tortured, etc., to realize that the American government is not just targeting foreigners but also Americans.

12:47 PM  
Anonymous Shane W said...

you're forgetting latinos and queer (GLBT) people, when full blown fascism comes to America, immigrants and queer ppl will be exterminated w/vigor. Queer ppl represent the sexual shadow that Puritan America cannot stand, and are the lightning rods for fundamentalists to scapegoat and blame for disintegration of the family & sexual decadence, much the same way Jews are the lightning rod for hustling and swindling.
Brings me to the next point, in discussing the ignorance and stupidity of screen addicted America, will it be a tragedy when those minorities will be exterminated in some future Holocaust? I mean, they will be screen addicted Americans: numb, dumb, violent, complicit, and obedient. I'm just wondering where the ethics and morality falls when it comes to the extermination of dehumanized people. My guess is that it will be a tragedy at all levels.
MB, I wonder why you care about the collapse of the U.S.? Having written WAF, as well as Twilight and DAA, don't you realize that the U.S. is a Seinfeld country, basically about nothing? Having lived and traveled outside the U.S., and made the comparisons, why do you care, or, more accurately, where does your care come from? Just curious.
Honestly, I think MB hit the nail on the head in WAF when he said that Yankee America simply couldn't countenance a non-hustling culture on the continent. Debating "what if" the South had won can be kinda pointless, but here's one possibility: after successfully seceding, the CSA had to face its slave/race problem. Without northern wealth and power to keep blacks/slaves "in their place" a series of slave revolts/race wars/riots end in truce, the end result being a genteel, slow, hierarchical color based (light to dark) mulatto/meztizo agrarian culture similar to other former slave countries in the Americas. Considering how threatened Americans are by Latin America, one could see how a CSA that resembled Latin America would be anathema to the North, and why the current setup whereby the South remains the U.S. shadow and scapegoat, particularly for race, was the preferable outcome for Yankee America.

1:18 PM  
Anonymous Bad Idea du Jour said...


American fiction(aka pearls before swine):

Wendell Berry (the above quoted, a national treasure!)
John Williams
Nelson Algren
Paul Auster
James McPherson
Edward Abbey
Alexander Hemon
Ambrose Bierce (the original WAFer?)

Upcoming from sanctuary!'s WAFer Library Classics Collection:

"Super Sad True Love Story," by Gary Shteyngart
"Visit from the Goon Squad," by Jennifer Eagan (the last couple of chapters)
"Infinite Jest," by David Foster Wallace
"God Bless You Mr. Rosewater," by Kurt Vonnegut
"The Reluctant Fundamentalist," by Mohsin Hamid
"Bring the Jubilee," by Ward Moore
"Ecotopia," by Ernest Callenbach
"The Possibility of an Island," by Michel Houellebecq

If you like a lighter detective novel once in a while, I'd recommend Andrea Camilleri's "Montalbano" books.

1:21 PM  
Anonymous satyaSarika said...

Re: Japan lecture in Vancouver: Fascinating that mental illness rates in Japan rival that of the States. Makes sense that its expression doesn't result in the societal mayhem we see here.

Re: travel: doubtless jet travel has a huge eco footprint, but at least in can have an enlightening effect under the right conditions. When MB travels, I think we all get something out of it. Thanks for everything, dear Dr. MB, and I hope you have a wonderful trip.

I will be traveling to NY state myself (from Utah) next Wednesday, where I will be for a month as I await the arrival of a new granddaughter, poor thing. Apparently I will be there for the once every 17 year emergence of a gazillion cicada, who will be accompanied by cicada killing wasps. Not attractive, but it's all about the anticipated puir wee new arrival. I'm the only Wafer in the family so far ...

3:15 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Thanks for highlighting this book - hadn't heard of it (or its author) but will look it up.

Referencing Greer's "The Long Descent" and the comment stream got me wondering how some of the other authors discussing these topics are doing. Greer's books are still published by presses, albeit small, idiosyncratic ones (e.g. "Descent" and the other two in the series - "The Ecotechnic Future" and "The Wealth of Nature" - are New Society Publishers). Any idea? Can one get the sales figures on-line?

4:49 PM  
Anonymous Mikbeth said...

Dr. Berman:

While I don't want to miss the larger point Ophuls is making, I am always bothered when I see the word "entitlements" somehow linked with the downfall of civilizations. Social Security and Medicare should be the least of our concerns when looking for contributory factors to cultural decline.

While I understand he is making the point about how the ruling elite uses entitlements (I don't like the word, they are social insurance programs)I'm not convinced that the existence of these programs have led to any decline or are even markers of decline. It's too facile a statement to say that future promises are being made that cannot be kept. The problem with our social insurance programs isn't that we have them or that they are bloated, but rather they are not robust enough. That being said, the political elites use these programs to confuse and confound the populace.

6:33 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

1. I confess I don't have much appetite for mass exterminations.
2. I was born in the US, at a time when it still had great creative potential. I'm pissed off that that opportunity got blown. Also, altho I don't miss the govt, the politics, or the people--I do miss the land. It's in my body.


Americans aren't afraid of that. They say, "Oh, they were Ay-rabs," or "Oh, they were troublemakers. That's not me; I don't have anything to worry abt." Etc.


"Spinning Straw Into Gold." Shd be out in June or July, I hope.


6:38 PM  
Anonymous Bingo said...

Just another day in the neighborhood:

"12 shot during Mother’s Day parade in New Orleans"

In reference to brain damage, I had taught an intro to philosophy course for years. Most of my students had serious problems even with simple metaphors. They are hopelessly brainwashed into a fast-food type of Christianity and unable to think beyond very simplistic concepts. Next time I teach that course, I’m tempted to use some of the parables of Jesus to see how they fare. Meanwhile, I’d venture to guess they’ll flunk those too.

My advice to all “educators” in this blog is: “milk it while it lasts!” The education system in America is in total free-fall. Student enrollment is dramatically lower when compared to a year ago, at some schools by as much as 30%. Most schools are now losing money. It’s a bubble which is rapidly bursting. Much of this bubble was fueled by the military tuition reimbursement program, which was abruptly cut 2 months ago and then reinstated after much lobbying from schools, but I am suspecting it is now being killed more quietly nonetheless.

Meanwhile, here’s this to cheer you up:

"Pilots and Professors Barely Scraping By? 9 Surprising Jobs That Pay a Pittance"

7:01 PM  
Anonymous Mo Ronich said...

Here is an article from a an American who is spending some years outside the US, and likens the country to an alcoholic brother. He's gets it, I think.

7:10 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


That's the way I feel: I just don't wanna live there anymore. But he's certainly wrong abt #2.


7:55 PM  
Blogger Zosima said...

About the America the Clueless NYT article--

What this article forgets or ignores is that thanks to “money is speech” and “corporations are people”, the cluelessness of the American public no longer matters politically. The only thing that matters is the wisdom of the 1%. Because all the candidates that run will be selected by the 1% and their money, a clueless public will only be able to pick among these approved candidates, so there is now no possibility of a mistake caused by public ignorance. Money is the ultimate “check and balance” that the 1% has over a clueless voting public. So there nothing to worry about, the problem of an ignorant general public voting in our democracy has been solved! BTW, has anyone noticed that the mass media, our education system, and most of the other sources of ignorance, like the fundamentalist churches, are all completely owned and run by the 1%? They essentially created the clueless public that they require. I think it’s time we stop doubting the genius of America’s rich to solve our problems, and instead simply marvel as the lead us on the march of progress toward a bright future.

9:02 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

By the way, here is what else Reagan said about Rois Montt. Following a meeting with Montt on December 4, 1982, Reagan said, "I know that Rios Montt is a man of great personal integrity and commitment...I know he wants to improve the quality of life for all Guatemalans [except, of course, the 1,700 indigenous Mayans he slaughtered between 1982-83] and to promote social justice."

9:23 PM  
Anonymous Jesse said...

Lord, please have mercy!

A 12-year-old killed his 8-year-old sister. This case has been going on for about 3 weeks. The killed was murdered in her bedroom in an affluent part of city of Valley Spring in California. The police had thought that an intruder killed her.

9:41 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Didn't a 4-yr-old kill a 2-yr-old recently, or something like that? Give it time: eventually a 1-yr-old will kill a neonate, perhaps with an AK-47.


I think something like 200,000 Guatemalans died in the civil wars there. I once dug all the stats up for torture and massacres during 1966-96, this on google, and it was grotesque. I think it was in Antigua, there is a research center for identifying the dead. I leafed thru a huge handmade bk, consisting of typed memos and handwritten pages, of many of the dead and disappeared (desaparecidos). A Guatemalan friend also showed me a movie, this abt 2 yrs ago when I was there, of another research center--rooms full of fotos and notes, each one representing a life destroyed. And the US had a heavy hand in this genocide; no doubt abt it. What a fabulous human being Ronald Reagan was, eh?


10:10 PM  
Blogger High Arka said...

Declaring people "brain-dead," or wholly incapable of learning, is a short step away from concluding that the only way to improve things is by exterminating them. It's not even a "short step" so much as it is the only logical step: if some/most people are truly incapable, then there is no way to improve things except by eliminating the incapable, so that the capable can take action.

Far more dangerous to humankind than melting icecaps is the conclusion of literate intellectuals that people are beyond repair. You are rewriting the Torah--calling upon the inherently sinful to be cast out of paradise, where they must needs wander and suffer.

11:35 PM  
Anonymous Ken Smith said...

I disagree with Professor Berman on one point. In responding to Mo Ronich above, Berman said the author of the linked article, Mark Manson, is certainly wrong that most people in other countries hate Americans.

I'm an American and have spent more than a third of my life outside the USA -- six years now in Mexico, after five years in France, two years in Denmark, and another year in Romania, Croatia, Germany, Sweden, elsewhere in Europe. When I was much younger, I lived and worked in Asia. I have met only a handful of people who were rude to me and even those instances did not approach hatefulness.

Americans love to criticize the French as being rude. By my experience, it is simply not true. There is an old expression in French: "C'est l'Amérique", which roughly translates as "That's so American" and is used to describe something wonderful, not necessarily connected with America at all. For example, a pretty bouquet of flowers might prompt somebody to say "C'est l'Amérique".

I was living in France during the Bush years when "freedom fries" and the maliciously cute phrase "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" were coined by some neo-con (David Frum?). The American neo-cons were sharply critical of France because President Chirac would not allow US jets to fly over France on their way to Iraq. (That's an over-simplification, but it's close enough.)

What I found interesting is that the chief neo-con, Richard Perle, had a vacation home in Southern France at the time and he was staying there while his colleagues back in Washington denounced anything and everything about France.

French political writers found it amusing that neo-cons used the word "con". There are a number of translations for this word, none good and some quite vulgar. Check a French slang dictionary.

I have probably gone over Professor Berman's word limit. So, I will leave the issue of American intolerance of foreigners for another day.

11:54 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Depends on how u read the word 'us' in the article. I read it as America, not as Americans. If so, the guy's wrong: every time I run across a poll on foreign attitudes towd the US, it's negative, and this is not just Islamic countries. However, it depends on how things are phrased: there is hatred of US govt and foreign policy, but enjoyment of the culture (sitcoms and such), altho by now a lot of that culture is a kind of World Junk Culture, not necessarily seen as US.


Nope, that doesn't follow logically at all. Check what I wrote above, in my reply to Shane. Most of the country does seem to be brain dead; my conclusion is not to kill them (which is not for me to say anyway), but only what I wish 'progressives' wd finally acknowledge: there is no way to prevent the collapse of this society. As I saw years ago on a bumper sticker in DC, "You Can't Fix Stupid." The guy didn't also have a sticker that said, "So Exterminate Them!" Finally, I don't think the Torah has very much to do with all this (at least, not to me).


2:54 AM  
Anonymous Bingo said...

Regarding extermination of brain dead Americans: Why even bother? At the rate these mass shootings are happening, in 5 or 6 years max there won’t be anybody left alive in the land of the free.

Take yesterday’s mother’s day shooting, for example. Events like that aren’t even shocking anymore. At this point, they’re comical. Consider this: a few months ago 20 children were shot. So now it’s their mother’s turn?!

What’s planned for father’s day? And how about grandma? when is she getting hers?

MB: do you think the US might be the first empire to die of collective dementia? Some kind of severe collective brain rot syndrome, perhaps? Kind of like an extremely contagious mutant CRE strain?

5:02 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


We do seem to be polishing ourselves off at an astounding rate! If this isn't collective dementia, we're doing something that looks pretty close to it. As you pt out, there's less reaction after every massacre.


8:17 AM  
Blogger Sir Tagio said...

Although Ophuls can't seem to find any traction in the world at large, you might be interested to know that there is at least one large fund manager who takes him seriously, and who encouraged everyone to read him in a post on the influential financial blog, ZeroHedge. Unfortunately, Grantham doesn't believe that collapse is baked in, but thinks that with declining fertility and -- you guessed it -- new technology, we will be able to continue the Grand Project of Civilization. Anyway, FWIW, the collapse story is starting to penetrate the consciousness of fund managers and financial titans. Grantham's article here:
Also, here's Grantham on the (admittedly insufferable) Charlie Rose show.

8:51 AM  
Anonymous Martin Ramirez said...

@MB: After Yankeestan has fallen into oblivion, do you think a new culture could take its place hundreds of years or a thousand ones later?
And what should I do help fertilize the seeds for better societies, part. in the Third World (ex. the Congo and Afghanistan)?

9:37 AM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...


In the Torah I suggest you read the parable of the talents.

I have a brother in law who is on a good day "dull normal", but usually a dolt. I don't want to be rid of him I and others merely don't trust him to do complex tasks at all or simple tasks well. Such is the case of Americans--they would fail Hashem's test of basic competence. I'd say that MB has a good grasp of Torah though he may or may not be secular he gets it.

Stupid people fail to do things, and in fact are a danger to themselves and others. I would add that americans in addition to being stupid are lazy and that laziness in many spiritual and religious traditions is the original sin and destructive. Indeed Americans are lazy, dangerous and destructive. Also, Americans like Ken Smith, the late Joe Bageant or MB who live abroad are not representative of Americans generally and are outliers and true cases of selectively bias. So Ken Smith no doubt your are a fine person but most of your fellow americans are total douchebags---99% pure douchebaggery.

10:58 AM  
Anonymous Smith said...

Shane, if I may interject, I have to confess that I don't consider race-based "hierarchy" systems, "genteel" or otherwise, to be an improvement on slavery, and I promise that's not because I'm "threatened" by Latin America.

My parents brought me up to treat everyone as people, period. The idea of hierarchal systems of people is what got us INTO this mess, as Berman explains in his works on horizontal vs. vertical consciousness.

Also, I've read Berman's "Why America Failed", but frankly I'm not really convinced that the only reason someone could possibly criticize the South is because they're using the South as a scapegoat. (Let's not repeat our mistake with America, and assume that certain groups of people are "above criticism.")

Berman loves the South, but even he acknowledged that the South had some indigenous problems (such as the violent settling of "honor" disputes, or an "us vs them" mindset).

Actually, on a broader sense than that, I'm worried that we're going to end up throwing out the baby with the bathwater, which again is how we got into this mess.

That is, we got into this mess because we started to prize industrialism over human interests, for example.

I don't think swinging the pendulum the other way is going to be useful, though, because our society itself is the result of swinging the pendulum away from a society that placed so much emphasis on the divine that no one was allowed to reason.

I think people on this blog might fall into the same trap: eventually we're going to end up concluding that "everything that isn't American must be good", and then we really WILL be bringing back slavery, or maybe we'll end up justifying honor-killings or justifying Mayan sacrifices again.

That's not paranoia, remember what happened when Rome transitioned to the medieval period? Augustine decided that the collapse of Rome was DUE TO REASON AND THOUGHT, so he swung the pendulum to such a far extreme that thought was essentially banned.

I'm worried that if we chronicle America's collapse, we're going to blame the wrong party, and repeat St. Augustine's mistake.

1:18 PM  
Anonymous James Newlin said...

The comment about 1-yr-old will kill a neonate reminds me of the Pima creation story:

He made a third man and woman, but they took up smoking, younger and younger until the babies in their cradles wanted to smoke. So Juhwertahamkai made the earth fall on them again.

4:56 PM  
Anonymous Edward said...

Language is important. If the 2 brothers who murdered 3 people and injured many are called terrorists, why not the bankers who led to thousands of suicides with their illegal and reckless manipulation of the stock markets? Why does America pursue one kind of terrorists while supporting the other kind? Read the following thoughtful article by GOTTESDIENER

Terrorism is a tricky act to define, particularly when household appliances have become weapons of mass destruction. Earlier in April, as the National Guard and Boston Police scoured the city’s suburbs in search of two men believed to have planted the fatal marathon bombs, another story of violence and mass insecurity surfaced.

As the New York Times reported, “The banks that created risky amalgams of mortgages and loans during the boom — the kind that went so wrong during the bust — are busily reviving the same types of investments that many thought were gone for good.”

In other words, the well-heeled boys are back in town, peddling predatory mortgages to be bundled and sold on Wall Street. Even the Times, generally bullish on business, struck a cautionary tone. “The revival also underscores how these investments, known as structured financial products, have largely escaped new regulations that were supposed to prevent a repeat of the last financial crisis.”

Warnings of a repeat of the last financial crisis — printed on the front page of the New York Times?

Yet, unlike the 24-7 coverage of Boston, the national response to the threat of economic mass destruction has been muted. That’s because almost no one openly discusses the ongoing foreclosure crisis in terms of domestic terrorism. But that’s exactly what it is, and we must recognize this if we want to prevent banks from causing more damage.

5:50 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Capo Regime-

Fiction: Try Ursula Le Guin’s Hainish cycle of novels and novels by Octavia E. Butler. See Marge Piercy’s “He, She and It” and Mary Doria Russell’s theologically evocative pair of novels “The Sparrow” and “Children of God”. (See website “On Being”, archives, and download “The Novelist as God”.) Then there’s Phillip Pullman’s trilogy, “His Dark Materials”.

Also: Many other peoples know how limited and conditional their freedom is, and they understand that ‘governments lie’. English speakers tend to think they’re free and that they’re being told the truth. After all, in a nation of hustlers, words are just something you use to get what you want. In Anglophone countries, especially the US, lying is so universal and widespread that the concept of ‘truth’ is hard to grasp. So many people say whatever works, and believe whatever makes them feel good. Hence, “we’re number one, and everybody else wants to be like us.” In many other countries, people still live within real families and communities where the concepts of truth, friendship, loyalty, honor, and nobility still exist. They recognize bullshit because they still have something to compare it to.

Yes, being raised Frum does provide mental furniture to avoid dreck. If ‘Capo’ means the German “Kapo”, then I understand your ‘nom de plume’. This is indeed a ‘Kapo regime’ where one tries to climb to the top by stepping on others. When you live in a place where the lame-stream society’s ‘normal’ is plastic, hollow, and just plain sucks, either withdraw into a decent culture if you can, or it’s time for a change of environment.

Please don’t sell your Studebaker short. I learned to drive on a 1953 Studebaker, which I still remember fondly. It was the Toyota Camry of its poor generation.

David Rosen

10:29 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


You aren't the 1st, but you are pretty confused abt what I wrote in WAF ch. 4. 1st, I certainly don't say that the only reason one cd criticize the South is that they are using it as a scapegoat. Rather, slavery is the big issue here, nothing less. 2nd, I don't love the antebellum South, but I do admire certain aspects of it. When you say "even he acknowledged," it sounds like yr pulling it out of me, or that I'm reluctant in my criticism, when I excoriate slavery at several pts and say that the Civ War had to be fought to eradicate it. The picture u paint of me, and that chapter, is definitely off base.


7:17 AM  
Blogger pinkpearl said...

MB -

Given that the chapter in WAF about the South has caused no end of misunderstanding, if you had to do it over again, would you leave it out? Was there another aspect of US culture that could have been used in its place?

I've come across the idea that one reason the indigenous peoples were eliminated was that their culture was an alternative to the hustler culture. (Maybe that's in WAF too? I can't remember offhand.) Or something else... like the Amish?

It's a bit mentally twisty to read "take out the slavery and the South was a decent alternative" in the same book that doesn't take out the bad bits of American culture before slamming it. As in: slavery can be left out of the analysis, but Kim K & Newtown must be left in. It's not a fair or balanced comparison.

10:21 AM  
Anonymous Martin Ramirez said...

@Smith: You will just have to hope for positive things to happen, and you might want to behave in a way that is conducive to the future you consider optimal under these circumstances. I wouldn't mind an egalitarian, non-monetary community that favors the arts and humanities.

10:31 AM  
Anonymous Smith said...

I think there's been a miscommunication.

I was criticizing Shane, not you. My apologies if it sounded like it was directed at you.

I was responding to something Shane said, not something you said.

I was merely using your book as part of my argument, but my argument was not directed AT your book.

10:46 AM  
Anonymous in.fern.all said...

Re: Jeremy Grantham's last-best-hope article

His argument is valid but fails to take into consideration the role of individual wealth accumulation, or rather, the pursuit thereof, in this crisis. By citing improvements in renewable energy technology he is essentially saying that we can do more (create wealth) with less (energy inputs) and that along with population decline we can maintain a satisfactory standard of living and hence, save our civilization but he says nothing about the distribution of that wealth nor that the vision he describes is really a steady-state, in which case you cannot have people chasing endlessly accumulating amounts of money. While the physical limits to growth are real and daunting they are still solvable. What needs to change is the political-economic-cultural aspect. I feel that to survive we will have to move from a model of individual wealth to a collective one. We cannot have prosperity even under conditions of resource efficiency and lower population if a tiny fraction of that population is allowed to hoard the majority of wealth. We might think of money as akin to blood circulating through the system and excessive accumulation in any given area as like a clot impeding the nourishing flow. At any rate, we will have to rethink the whole nature of money and perhaps redefine wealth as only that which substantively promotes well-being, i.e. health, relationships, personal expression and creativity.

11:15 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thanks for letting me know. It just seemed to me that in yr use of the bk, u misunderstood the argument. Perhaps I was wrong.


The Civ War came logically after the ch. on tech and progress, and also showed how the "scorched earth" policy became a model for how we treated all our enemies. So it seemed essential to the arg., not an afterthought.


11:46 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Interesting article on the connection between anti-authoritarians and diagnoses of mental illness:

Elements of this reminded me of a decent book, Disciplined Minds: A Critical Look at Salaried Professionals and the Soul-battering System That Shapes Their Lives, which contains a nice account of how many who succeed through academia and/or the professional world develop a highly selective kind of creativity that avoids all critical questioning of real authority positions (i.e. the authorities that directly impact one's individual lives, like a department head or funding organization).

1:34 PM  
Anonymous al-Qa'bong said...


Your use of the South seemed essential to your argument. It was an alternative cultural (not just economic) example that had to be wiped off the land to make way for the industrial capitalist society of the North.

This violent reaction hasn't changed much over the years. Any society that poses an alternative, from Central America to Libya, has to be razed for capitalism to flourish.

Regarding the inability to recognise symbols and metaphor, in a recent discussion I advanced your suggestion that the Boston pressure cooker bomb was symbolic. Some guy swore that it was just a device, nothing else.

I've encountered a similar way of thinking elsewhere when I'd point out that the World Trade Centre and Pentagon were clearly symbolic of the US military-capitalist complex, which is why they were attacked in 2001. The reaction would be, "No, those crazy Ay-rabs just wanna kill Murrkans." I'd respond by saying if that were the case, the Super Bowl (retaining some symbolism there, too) or some other highly-populated event would have been targeted.

That argument seldom worked.

1:48 PM  
Anonymous Scotty said...

Hi, MB. Long time lurker and reader of your blog, but this is my first post. I've also read the entire WAF trilogy and AQOV and I'm just starting on your Consciousness trilogy.

I appreciate the recommendation of "Immoderate Greatness" and I will definitely read it. The passages that you excerpted do speak truth. However, I was a bit disquieted by some of Ophuls' points. The two paragraphs you cited dealing with Amy Chua's book and the Age of Decadence gave me a bit of a chill as they almost read as part of a thinly-veiled argument for fascism. His apparent assigning of blame to secularism ("worship celebrities rather than divinities") and sexual freedom, among other things, for the collapse of civilizations also stuck in my craw, and came across as the rantings of an exasperated old conservative. I'm gay and an atheist, and not only do I refuse to accept any special or extra responsibility for the decayed state of American or Western civilization, but I also fail to see what would be so great about society rushing back into the arms of that Old Time Religion, or of returning to a Victorian sexual morality (brothels for all the guys and repression for all the ladies?), or a time when guys like me could be thrown in prison for private consensual behavior with another adult. Perhaps I'm misinterpreting Ophuls' points, and the book contains greater nuance than these paragraphs suggested. Would you care to weigh in?

2:03 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


He was just citing Amy Chua, not nec. agreeing with her. I rec you read the entire argument--it's only abt 70 pages long.


I also think they chose 9/11 because one dials 911 in cases of emergency, and the idea was to suggest that the US was in such a situation.


2:28 PM  
Anonymous Rowdy said...

I think the point that Chua/Orphuls (and Glubb) make about the prevalence of multiculturalism, sexual freedom etc. in relation to civilizational decline is that these are symptoms and not causes.

Which does suggest that the collective discipline required to build a great civilization requires a certain amount of repression.

i.e. it's not all good, followed by all bad. It's better for the majority and worse for the minority when the civ. is rising, and worse for the majority but better for the minority when the civ. is declining.

Of course, "minority" isn't really the best word to use here, as it usually includes at least half the population.

What Orphuls etc. are promoting is an impersonal process that favors different social groups at different times. I guess what's jarring about this analysis is that "minority" groups and their advocates like to believe that their greater freedom is an "advance" in social "progress", and not a by-product of decay.

But I figure you have to buy the whole theory or reject it whole. As soon as people start special pleading about the parts they don't like, it's rarely objective - it's usually about what applies to them particularly.

4:11 PM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...

Dovidel et al--thank you for fiction suggestions and have a great Shavout and may you find a decent Cheescake or other dairy dessert in Iowa.


If antibiotics, sulpha drugs disappeared, Victorian sexual mores would make a lot of sense from a practical and survival point of view. They had bad prophylactics and a case of the clap would truly be crippling. Lets judge the past fairly and not by incomplete standards. So yes in the past, more sexual inhibition not out of some repressive streak but just practical necessity. As for being gay, in 19th century U.S.A there was a wide and open gay lifestyle especially in the west, things got tight with all of this in the 1920's with the Hays laws and prohibition. So interestingly, up until the 1920s gay lifestyle very common and open. Call me a radical but the 1960's not as big a deal as popular culture made it--just removing government intrusion and now its back.

4:25 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Rowdy et al.-

Just fyi, the stuff abt 'minority' groups is a very minor part of Ophuls bk. His focus is structural reasons for civ collapse.


5:03 PM  
Anonymous Shane W said...

I was just kind of thinking out loud, extrapolating on MB's contention that stupid Americans are capable of a right-wing revolution, taking that to the conclusion that such revolution will necessarily lead to a 2nd Holocaust as white straight Americans will need scapegoats to blame for collapse, and will probably exterminate those scapegoats. So, while collapse is the responsibility of ALL Americans, only minorities will be blamed and feel the wrath, in a possible 2nd holocaust. Because said minorities are Americans, they'll probably sit around hopelessly ignorant or in denial until it is too late, and what country would be open to taking hoards of ignorant Americans, minority or otherwise? I'm not ADVOCATING extermination, just that I think it will be a tragic, unavoidable, logical consequence that I'm not sure much can be done to avoid.
you're misreading my post with an American slant--in the U.S., we group ppl into distinct races, and have a history of keeping bright lines drawn between the races (the whole "one drop" rule) When I was discussing a hierarchical, color (not race) based system like Latin America, I was envisioning something like Latin America, where everyone (or almost everyone) is "meztizaje" (mixed) to some degree, yet there is a color grade from dark to light/indigenous/African to white, with preference given to fairer/more European features, yet without a clear race line. I wasn't positioning it as better, just as an alternative that might have developed had the South won, and a Haitian style slave/race war/riot taken place after the South had won. IMHO, the race line in the South is much different than in the North, in the South, you basically have one culture, and two races, so the race line is basically one of class, not culture, in the North, the race line is one of culture, which is why black ppl have always been treated as foreign in the North, and why segregation occurred "naturally" without the force of law in the North.
I would disagree w/MB that the Civil War had to be fought to end slavery, or, more importantly, that the North had to win the Civil War to end slavery. It's important to remember that the North had slavery as well for hundreds of years, and only ended slavery a mere 20-30 yrs before the Civil War ended Southern slavery. By many accounts, slaves were treated worse in the North, and slavery was ended in the North for purely economic reasons, not humanitarian. Considering that institutionalized slavery was ended worldwide in ALL nations by the end of the 19th century, I think the end of slavery in the South would have been a given. I think it is foolish to think that there'd still be African slaves tending plantations in the 21st century had the South won the Civil War. What the Civil War certainly did NOT do was end racism in the South, if anything it intensified it. What the Civil War did do was provide the North with a scapegoat for racism that continues to this day "WE'RE not racist, it's those damn bigots in the South that are racist" I think that once the US collapses officially, history is going to be much more harsh on Lincoln, because we'll realize just how ineffective the Civil War was long term, and what a bad example it provided in dealing with other non-hustling cultures. I mean, honestly, after the Civil War, living as a conquered, humiliated ppl, festering for over a hundred years, could anything else but the grotesque caricature which is the modern South have developed?

8:06 PM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

Dear MB,

In reading Ophuls more closely I was surprised to find references to Hayek, especially the "Road to Serfdom," which I have not read, although I did read his essay on prices in a market economy, a system which Hayek regards as if it were the beatific vision. The Austrian school of economics (inclduding Hayek, Ludwig Von Mies etc.) seemed so enamoured of capitalism that they endowed it with magical properties, as a Marxist would similarly endow "historical forces."

I don't think a neo-con or neo-liberal would find Ophuls congenial to their "market fundamentalism," and what Ophuls found in Hayek to support his overall of "the immoderate" does not ally Ophuls with that group. Ophuls is beyond naive idealogy.

In re-reading Ophuls, I also thought of Francis Fukuyama, an academic whose tracts (The End of History) were so cagily written that he could be invited to wine and dine with the Reagan crowd, while at the same time allow him to retreat from the neo-con camp with some credibility when Bush junior attacked Iraq. He played a clever shell game. Can't imagine .
a public intellectual like OPhuls being so dodgy, and I doubt any White House, whether red or blue, would invite him for cocktails and a soiree.

8:16 PM  
Anonymous Joe Hohos said...


From the How low can we go dept:
And then, I saw a post online the other day saying this soldier shouldn't go to leavenworth because he got injured for his country, had medals, yada, yada, and his ONLY (this was highlighted) crime was peeing on a dead persons body. O & D all the way.

One movie recommendation, Survivng Progress. Some of the people in the movie try to give solutions, but they are refuted as nonsense by others.

8:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Morris, I've learned much from your writing, and it's a pleasure to have found your blog. I wonder if you've ever read Tim Wise's work on anti-racism. His take on America is, in my view, similar to what you've been saying, though he especially emphasizes the sad - but unacknowledged - fact of white privilege. But what follows is the denunciation of the illusion that the US is one big meritocracy.

J Bass

10:22 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


There are a few historians who argue that slavery wd have petered out by the end of the 19C, but who wanted to wait 40 more yrs, except for the South? Most historians believe that slavery was so psychologically embedded in the Southern mentality that eradicating it required a war, nothing less. That seems likely, to me (as unfortunate as the war was).


10:35 PM  
Anonymous ellen said...

I've just watched the 'Surviving Progress' doc recommended by Joe Hohos, available on YouTube here:

It will be of great interest to all Wafers, I think

4:58 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Note to Unknown-

I don't do anonymous postings, so suggest u pick a handle for future correspondence, e.g. Sam Schmeck. In any case, thanks for yr interest; we are indeed familiar with "Idiocracy," and believe it is only 5 yrs away.


5:06 AM  
Anonymous ennobled little day said...

I was impressed by this clip from Stratfor:

I know what Strarfor is, but the information seemed largely accurate. I know many WAFers live in Mexico. Is he right?

9:37 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

Another (of many) pet peeve of mine is the economic system we have here in this shining city on the hIll.


In general,the only useful purposes for this "law" are hoarding, tax evasion, and affirmative action for progeny.

On a + note, I met a 19 y.o. young lady yesterday in the water department (stolen water meter). While we waited, I learned she is in a good old liberal arts program (English major), she knew Bradley Manning.

10:14 AM  
Anonymous Martin Ramirez said...

I am with Scotty. If bigotry and tribalism are the natural states of human affairs, then what is the purpose of civilization at all? Ophuls and Chua should read Emma Goldman's book "Majorities Versus Minorities"; they might not have intended it, but their social writings could definitely be misinterpreted as paeans to the mob mentality.
With respect to the Austrian School, they were nothing but intolerant zealots who also prostituted themselves to corporate power. At the time of post-WWII reconstruction in Europe, the popular school in the Western half of the continent was Ordoliberal/Freiburg Economics- its proposal was a regulated capitalism with anti-trust legislation, mostly moderately sized nationally based enterprises,spending on some infrastructure and social programs for the population, and a humanistic cultural orientation. But Von Pisses (sorry for this cheap shot) and Co. just wouldn't have it- in their view, it was even worse than socialism and communism. So they viciously smeared and defamed the Ordoliberals, at least in North America. Such evil heresies were apparently enough for them to disrespect their own supposed principle of free speech. And the irony was that at least before the more recent implementation of austerity, the banksters' diktats and full neoliberalism under Merkel, most of Europe except the very poorest countries surpassed America in human development and quality of life. Yes, their worldview subtly boils down to "Get back in those sweatshops and consume in your little spare time, wage slaves!" For more information: I'm with on your vision of a steady-state economy.

10:25 AM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

Question for Wafers. Would you consider these American citizens to be unique, or at least very unusual? Consider their level of education, their values, their manners, their opinion of themselves, their self-control, and their language.

True, TV cameras and social media were a part of the mix here, but I have to say these 2 resonate as quintessential Americans to me. Unlike the "losers" in Am society, they're all abt business, truly don't care abt the product (no craft here), seem to be unethical abt cutting costs, promote themselves like movie stars, seem to be essentially incompetent, and have stratospheric levels of self-esteem (or rather, self-esteem is like a religious practice to them). Just a diff in style from their more buttoned-down colleagues, I wd say.

The society/economy is geared toward those values, even tho many people are shocked (...?...) when these values come out in so sharp a form.

Immoderate greatness in the kitchen.

11:21 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Can someone please explain to me how anyone can listen to a walkman while walking through a lovely forest-like park on a beautiful spring day? I realize I am surrounded by morons but I would still think even a moron would like to have an authetic natural experience without wires hanging from their ears.
In addition, I notice many people have walkmans while exercising in my LA Fitness club even though music is already being pumped in thus creating. I assume, a cacophony of sounds within the walkman bearing moron's head. Someone please explain this to me.

12:52 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

1. Check out WAF, ch. 3.
2. Americans are horses' asses.


You've gotten strangely hung up on a ftnote in Ophuls' bk, and have basically missed the boat. This is not gd. It is extremely un-Waferian.


1:34 PM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...


Tribalism like it or not is a core component of much of humanity. In fact Putnam who wrote "Bowling Alone" had scads of data that he given the political sensitivities of the times (and which you seem to hold) hid from view and more significantly did not divulge results of analyzing said data. Basically the results show that people do not do well in cultural and ethnically diverse neighborhoods and become alientated from their diverse neighbors. There have been a great many civilizations, Indic, Aztec, Sinic, Egyptiac, which have not been "white" if that is your bugaboo and been successful for centuries and they did not value diversity but were tribal. I wish all horses were fast and all whisky old and that I were taller and younger but that like wishing for the happy Valhalla were we all embrace diversity, vote for Obama and live happily ever after in egalitarian heaven is a delusion.

1:57 PM  
Blogger pinkpearl said...

This struck me as NMI-ish (and a very good idea!):

There are a few operating in the USA. What with the lousy economy and loads of unemployed Americans with the right skills (e.g. people who used to work in factories where such things used to be made), there is potential for many more.

2:01 PM  
Anonymous Smith said...

Speaking of the Tea Party, did anyone on this blog hear about the recent scandal where a couple of IRS employees selectively enforced rules on the Tea Party?

The Tea Party websites are FURIOUS. Morris Berman, we may get that right-wing revolution sooner than you thought.

2:54 PM  
Anonymous Troutbum said...

Dr. MB,

Glad you liked Ophul's book, I thought it was a unique synthesis and a compelling read. I'd love to do a 3 day seminar with Ophuls and yourself.

Today, I draw all WAFers attention to The Baffler and a featured article entitled ""A Practical Utopian’s Guide to the Coming Collapse".

Quoting the author, "If, on the other hand, we stop taking world leaders at their word and instead think of neoliberalism as a political project, it suddenly looks spectacularly effective. ....
they have succeeded magnificently in convincing the world that capitalism—and not just capitalism, but exactly the financialized, semifeudal capitalism we happen to have right now—is the only viable economic system.....we are left in the bizarre situation of watching the capitalist system crumbling before our very eyes, at just the moment everyone had finally concluded no other system would be possible."

It's all here:

3:31 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and Wafers,


Good questions. Yes, we are indeed surrounded by morons. Worse still, is that we are now surrounded by morons with wires dangling from their ears. We need a new acronym here. How about EBM (Ear Bud Moron)or ipI (ipod Idiot)?

A big part of the American inability to think is the fact that they cannot tolerate silence or experience nature in non-technological ways. They will literally do *anything* to suppress it. Silence, real experiences, the rhythms of the natural world allow one to think and contemplate the big questions of life. Silence, or sitting quietly alone in silence, may even be the first requirement in understanding the tragedy of life and the reality of death. This is a big no-no for most Americans; all of this is the enemy and must be obliterated at all costs. Unfortunately, this behavior will only get worse because Americans believe that all of this represents "progress." At one point in WAF, MB stated that Americans are essentially throwing away what really counts in life for electronic toys. This is very true, it seems to me.


3:46 PM  
Anonymous Zaid said...

This is another metaphor for declining America. The country is declining fast. It could die, it could come back to life as a result of new way of solving problems, starting with education. But love of guns and killings with guns may derail the effort!

Man Dead For 40 Minutes Brought Back To Life With New CPR Technique

Obama Student Loan Policy Reaping $51 Billion Profit

The Obama administration is forecast to turn a record $51 billion profit this year from student loan borrowers, a sum greater than the earnings of the nation's most profitable companies and roughly equal to the combined net income of the four largest U.S. banks by assets.

A Florida man entered a world of pain Tuesday when his gun accidentally discharged during an evening of bowling at Jupiter Lanes, WPTV reports.

Jarvan Jackson, 11-Year-Old Florida Boy, Fatally Shot By 4-Year-Old Relative

4:04 PM  
Anonymous Bill M. said...

Dear Professor,

Do you agree with the idea that ethnic diversity causes social breakdown?

4:39 PM  
Anonymous Sean said...

Hi all, check this out:

This is just a columnist citing one Rutgers professor, but if it's true, its very distressing. It reports that the Pentagon has instituted a new decree on itself (of course it's unconstitutional, but still) that would allow it to deploy troops on its own authority in the event of an emergency.

The Rutgers Professor pulls no punches. He notes that the language would essentially "legalize Kent State." The language the Pentagon uses is so broad it is legally nebulous. He says, "It’s no different than the emergency powers clause in the Weimar constitution." I think we know how that turned out.

5:22 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I have thought for some time now that there is a kind of split consciousness going on in the Power Elite re: the future of the nation. On one level, most exemplified by Wall St. and the W.H., things are going to get better and America will reign in glory once again. On the Intelligence and Military level, there is an understanding that we are heading for a very serious economic and ecological crunch, and that we had better be prepared for managing things like scarcity of water, breakdown of electrical grid, and mass migrations. I am quite sure the Pentagon has various scenarios for this, and that they are also doing training exercises in Nevada or wherever, contingency plans and so on. My guess is that this new development is just a way of "legalizing" these types of actions. Not that the Pentagon really needs this; when the time comes, they'll do what they want regardless of what's on the bks, and this includes gunning people down like dogs in large numbers, if they feel it's necessary.


As I told Martin, far too much lopsided focus on this. But if you want, scroll up and see my comments on 10thC Islam, or Hellenistic Greece. There is no way I know of, of historically establishing a "rule" for how these things go.


There is no way the US can come back to life. Terminal illness is what it says it is: terminal.


We already have:
1. LH's--Laptop Hooligans (esp. in cafes)
2. TB's--Techno-Buffoons
3. BOP's--Buffoons on Phones

I'm currently in Barcelona. Was here in 2004 when abt 1 out of every 100 people had a cell phone. Place was wonderful, quiet, almost like a village. One saw teenagers having coffee together in cafes and talking to one another. Now, Barc is starting to feel like any commercial city. LH's in every cafe, BOP's flooding the streets, TB's everywhere. American globalization and tech took intelligent people and reduced them to buffoons. Of course, the food is fab (unlike the cardboard taste of everything in the US), as well as the architecture (compare burned-out lots in NJ); but the social life has been murdered by the American idea of the gd life. I had dinner this evening with friends in a wine bar; at the next table, 3 women in their 30s, all on their fones, none of them talking to each other. What douche bags, really. This might finally be more devastating than the Spanish Civil War.

We have, in a few short yrs, witnessed the buffoonization of the US--done to the buffoons by themselves. Now, we are spreading the poison around the world. In time, there will be only a few real people left on the entire planet.

Buffoons Rule!


6:26 PM  
Anonymous James Newlin said...

If anyone thinks there will be a resurgence in the labor movement, think again.

In my experience, workers are far more concerned about throwing their coworkers under the bus than criticizing power. It's common now for people making $10-$15/hr to be libertarians and criticize organized labor, and to criticize people who don't put up with long hours, low pay, and unsafe working conditions.

I'm not sure who Richard Wolff thinks he's talking to, but it seems it is just a small fraction of the working population. Blue collar workers mostly listen to Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

6:36 PM  
Anonymous Shane W said...

Isn't homophobia basically a problem of the monotheistic, Abrahamic religions--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam? I mean, maybe MB knows more, but I always thought that traditional cultures were way more accepting of same-sex activity or gender atypical behavior, either venerating it, like w/the Berdache, or ignoring it. Makes sense, sense less than 10% (or even 5%) of any given population has same-sex attraction, or gender atypical behavior, that traditional societies would intuitively understand that these ppl are special or unique, and certainly have no bearing on the sexuality/procreation of the majority. The sex hang-ups seem to come with the spread of fundamentalist forms of the monotheistic religions and their sex-phobic tendancies.

8:32 PM  
Blogger LL Pete said...

I downloaded "Immoderate Greatness" and read it Sunday night and Monday morning. I just finished reading it again. Wow! As you said, "Tighten your seat belts, Wafers; things are about to get a tad rocky."

As you wrote in an earlier post, "[I]t really is hopeless...and...there can be no reversal of the downward trajectory we are on."

As John Michael Greer advises, "There is no brighter future ahead."

As George W., said, "This sucker is going down."

Curiously enough though, there is a certain calm that soothes the worried brow when you see and feel, deep in your bones, that this is how collapse happen, this is the natural course of unfolding events on all levels; and there really is no one who can or will pull a rabbit out of the hat this time.

As Johnny Cash sang, "I don't like it but I guess things happen that way."

11:23 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Pete, James-

Of course that's the case. The question is how to wake up the 'progressives', who live in la la land. Can we get them into therapy, do ya think? Jesus, anyone with half a brain knows, at this pt, that there is no bright future awaiting us.


3:46 AM  
Anonymous Ray said...

Re: Thread on ethnic diversity as catalyst for social breakdown...
Morris said:"...There is no way I know of, of historically establishing a "rule" for how these things go..."
Some societies embracing diversity (Habsburgs, Ottomans, Byzantines, etc. etc.) were destroyed not by internal conflict but by wars with outside powers. Their internal interethnic tensions loom large in overgeneralized parables about the dangers of diversity, but the record suggests they could have continued indefinitely without foreign interference.
Other societies that were equally diverse didn't break down, because their durable imperial and warfare states could hold off foreign threats and thus allow over the centuries for some kind of internal synthesis. Not via the fantasized 19th or early 20thC US melting pot, but rather through:
a)stalemate between ethnicities (Russian Siberia, the transition from Carolingian Empire to early France and Germany), or b)the rise of a stable ethnic pecking order (United Kingdom, the various groups now known as "Han" Chinese). In other words, many major cultures today have powerful core states that bear the fossilized traces of successful (and definitely not bloodless) diversity management from long ago. Their very success and the passage of time make them less visible. Strong states can keep domestic ethnic conflicts under control indefinitely. Diversity as a monocausal reason for breakdown just doesn't add up.
One thing arguing against it badly managed declines, desperate oiukomenes often act as petri dishes for the latest mutation of intolerant salvation or resurrection cults. The Abrahamic faiths in the breakdown of Hellenism, Nazism via Austrian voelkisch thought, Marxism, etc.
I personally think an illusion-destroying fight to mutual exhaustion is, sadly, a prerequisite for successful coexistence. External conflicts don't really make things better, they just freeze internal conflicts and make civil wars worse once the strong carapace state fails. Except of course for us - we can attack the world, arm everybody at home, hand out credit and make everybody a winner, a soldier, and sometimes both, and that way we will be safe from future ethnically driven breakdown.

4:47 AM  
Anonymous Bad Idea du Jour said...


I think it has something to do with watching too much TV and needing a soundtrack for their lives. I do prefer the earphone crowd to the ones playing music on the phone's speaker.


Yes, add The Baffler to the WAFer reading list. A little hopeful at times, but a great publication nonetheless.


#2 Transl: "America shakes down it's uppity proles for $51,000,000in interest, while the banks borrow for free."


10:37 AM  
Anonymous Mo Ronich said...

Amusing "data" to support the argument. Enjoy!

1:12 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and Wafers,

Dr. Berman-

Your description of Barc social life gravitating toward higher levels of Techno-Buffoonery is quite distressing. I was hopeful that Catalans would arrest and sterilize the seeds of fone disease. Perhaps what is needed at this point is a resistance movement along the lines of the Rosa Luxemburg Battalion. A Wafer tapestry, or painting, in the spirit of Guernica would also be helpful. It could serve as a powerful symbol; a warning against the dangers of being dragooned into the tech steamroller and American inspired madness. At any rate, enjoy Barcelona and the search for a quiet cafe and a great bottle of wine.



3:46 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

James Newlin—

You said, “If anyone thinks there will be a resurgence in the labor movement, think again.” I would add, “…and again, and again, and again.”

The anthem of the British Labour Party, and the first song in the “Little Red Songbook” of the Industrial Workers of the World was called “The Red Flag”. It was sung to the tune of “O Tannenbaum”, and the first lines were the following:

“The people's flag is deepest red,
It shrouded oft our martyr'd dead”

Already by the 1960’s, it would have better reflected most American working-class sentiment if it were changed thus:

“The working-class can kiss my ass,
I’ve got the foreman’s job at last”

While capitalist ‘scientific’ thinking tends to work in a “one-problem, one-solution” mode, the world we live in is almost always more complex. We’ve been talking about the brain-damage caused by screen-technology, but the causes of near universal cretinism among the American People are surely multiple, and probably synergistic.

Almost certainly the widespread dumbing down of the American work-place over the Twentieth Century has been a major factor, with Fredrick Taylor’s ‘scientific management’ removing all thinking, planning, skill, craftsmanship, etc. from the work most Americans do. Adam Smith himself said, “the man (sic) whose whole life is spent performing a few simple operations…generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become.”

I again recommend Harry Braverman’s 1974 book, “Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century”. It shows how mindless work has been extended from manufacturing to clerical work and on throughout the workforce. I've seen it take over medical laboratory work -- and computer technology now makes it possible to dumb down just about any job.

David Rosen

5:02 PM  
Anonymous James said...

Here's another example of America's war on books:

Lauren Conrad's Bookshelf Box!

5:47 PM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...

Interestingly appropos of MB's situation in Barcelona (its better in Madrid or Andalusia) a few years ago I was in a meeting with a private equity group attempting to put together financing for a high end bar restaurant mini chain (10 locations). It was called something like luddites. The key features were no televisions or piped in music and blocking and or checking in electronic devices. No processed food, low carbs and where allowed mostly candle or gas light. I kid you not. We had a study done which found that about 15% of adults over 45 would go to such a place. Larger investors spooked due to downturn in restuarant sector but I maintain its a niche market unexploited. To this day I and others think its a great idea and was going to put in a significant sum into the idea. I may try it solo in DF and run a Wafer special on Tuesdays.

5:54 PM  
Anonymous in.fern.all said...

Mr. B,

An audience member during your Vancouver lecture brought up the many socio-economic experiments currently taking place in Spain. Have you had a chance to look into any of them? Also, do you have any plans for a more extended stay in Japan?

9:23 PM  
Anonymous al-Qa'bong said...

I looked up Immoderate Greatness on, and found it available only in Kindle. Most of Dr. Berman's titles there are also available only via some electronic device, which is somewhat ironic.

As far as ear buds go, I have mine plugged in whenever I commute to work on the bike. It isn't as if crossing town is the same as a nature hike, after all. It isn't much different than listening to a car stereo. Besides, sometimes I need Louis Armstrong, Slim Gaillard and Frank Zappa to drown out the racket made by others.

I've also been known to listen to folks such as Michael Parenti, Noam Chomsky, and Morris Berman...and Morris Berman criticising Noam Chomsky, on the Me-Pod.

12:25 PM  
Anonymous Smith said...

To the people who were debating about gays and how they relate to progress and decay, you might find this article interesting:

12:29 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

James said
"It's common now for people making $10-$15/hr to be libertarians and ... to criticize people who don't put up with long hours, low pay, and unsafe working conditions."

My experience too. And there's a deeply angry, moralistic tone in their criticism. It's really more like condemnation of sin than mere criticism.

Harks back to WAF's discussion of the real religion of America: Am itself; and what Am worships is money, hustling. If u decline to work 11 hours a day for the equivalent of $5 per hr, no benefits, no insurance, no security - then ur a sinner.

If a working person in Am today wants to earn more money at his job, even in the private sector, he's considered a communist. The working people are not to have ambition even of a capitalistic kind: working hard is ok, but wanting to earn more money is considered liberal socialist lazy bum-ism by the Fox News types. But if that same person's bosses want to earn more money, then they're heroic geniuses, secular gods who must be "incentivized," even publicly subsidized, at any cost.

Am is a deeply, incurably fascist country. That it's making a death rattle now may not a bad thing.

12:35 PM  
Anonymous Jesse said...

One down, many more to go (useless people - eat your guns for lunch, daily)

A Denver-area woman died Tuesday night after an assault rifle she was handling accidentally fired and shot her in the head.

Witnesses told ABC Denver affiliate KMGH that Anastasia Adair, 22, was passing an AK-47-style assault rifle to her husband, Dana "Shane" Adair, when the gun went off. A second shot was fired when Anastasia fell and dropped the rifle, but no one was hit by it, two witnesses and the husband told police.

Shane Adair told police that the gun had a light trigger pull. Federal Heights Police Lt. Gary Toldness said that the fatal bullet's trajectory appeared consistent with the witness accounts of an accidental shooting. The investigation is continuing.

3:05 PM  
Anonymous MONTIE said...

Morris berman,
Funny how it strikes me that so many of your population grasp on to abstract concepts – the second amendment – some religious belief – then refuse to let go of their artificial construct – even when they well know it is utter piffle.

The same is happening here in Australia.

When there is nothing left to believe we make artificial constructs surrounding the mob of crackpots putting themselves up for the reverse raffle that we pretend is an election.

Voting in Australia is compulsory.
We have no charter of rights.

Those two facts fairly demonstrate what sort of ‘democracy’ we lack here.

And our allegedly elected ‘masters’ seem uncommonly keen to pretend the capability of bolstering what they insist is an alliance with the USA.

Precious few here of Australians support what has been happening since the VietNam defeat – but those who win the political raffle here keep sucking up to whoever is the latest pres of the USA.

Hubris is a BIG word which encapsulates ‘Dunning –Kruger’ spectacularly.
And saves much time now that I think about it.

But when you want us to discuss devolution to a simpler, more agrarian existence – please stop – stop – stop – right there.
There happen to be dotted like raisins in the bun of society – countless useless dolts like myself.
My sort have qualifications and experience enough for much of it to be leaking out our ears these days.

My sort of doofus honestly believed that making a buck wasnn’t the most useful way to progress through life.

What WE wanted to do was find a way to support our society , as they jokingly call it now, sustainably.
Yet those who have followed that honourable path have been generally spat-on, then marginalized.

There IS/WAS a ‘golden mean’ and an envelope of opportunity – but the upcoming generation (those below @about 40YO) have lost the opportunity to even begin to understand what could have been possible.

9:54 AM  
Anonymous Mike Alan said...

To James Newlin,

My experience mirrors yours. I have encountered a large number of people in the $10-15 per hour types of jobs who are staunchly conservative/libertarian. To me this emphasizes the whole temporarily embarrassed millionaire mentality that pervades this country. What amazes me about this ideology is how it makes wage slaves see themselves as free in their slavery and how they will defend this system to the end with no consideration of alternative ideas. Well, I guess that’s what we talk about on here quite often.

Concerning ’progressives’ I have friends who are intelligent liberals that work as socially responsible investment brokers. Whenever I mention collapse or concerns about the dollar being ousted as the world reserve currency they just give me a smile like “awww…isn’t he cute, he doesn’t understand how money works.” But every now and then something happens like the savings theft in Cyprus and all of the sudden I get an email from them asking what I think is going on.

My daily experience anymore indicates that folks on both the left and right are extremely reality-challenged and incapable of interpreting or understanding what is going on around them. If this crap heap of a culture collapsed any faster, most would suffer from deer in the headlights syndrome and stand stunned while awaiting instructions from anyone with the ability to dictate any action that would save their dazed and confused selves from doom. Although, maybe that's just my cynical attitude coming through, but I don't think so.

11:00 AM  
Anonymous James Newlin said...

Maybe I haven't been paying attention, but it seems like there are a lot of conspiracy theorists now. Most recently I've seen a 'birther' bumper sticker, several family and friends wanting to tell me about Info Wars and the Illuminati, and a motel employee was telling me how climate change is a liberal conspiracy.

What's going on?!

1:47 PM  
Anonymous Winter in America said...

Greetings All,

In the previous post I mentioned the use of language as a possible topic. Quite by accident I just stumbled on Language of the Third Reich: Lingua Tertii Imperii by Victor Klemperer.

The following is from the book description:
First published in 1957, The Language of the Third Reich arose from Klemperer's conviction that the language of the Third Reich helped to create its culture. As Klemperer writes: 'It isn't only Nazi actions that have to vanish, but also the Nazi cast of mind, the typical Nazi way of thinking, and its breeding ground: the language of Nazism.'

I was wondering has anyone here read this title — if so was it a worthwhile read?

Some parting quotes...

By and large, language is a tool for concealing the truth. - George Carlin

As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too. Words are used to disguise, not to illuminate, action: you liberate a city by destroying it. Words are to confuse, so that at election time people will solemnly vote against their own interests. - Gore Vidal

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. - George Orwell

10:08 PM  
Anonymous ellen said...

How to turn a terminal disaster into short-term economic opportunity--or the gobsmackingly hollow political cynicism of our leaders showing its true colours:

'Obama's Arctic strategy.....'

Hope you are enjoying your visit to Barcelona, Dr B, a glorious city.

6:13 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Whenever I'm away from the Internet for a few days, there's a wealth of new posts to read here, and a feast of food for thought.

I was in Virginia, visiting my wife's family, and was once again struck by the decay of so many small towns along the way that are dying. Just a few "businesses" fill most of the main streets: we-cash-checks, we-buy-gold, car title loans, auto parts stores, tattoo parlors, gun & ammo shops, and of course a huge Wal-Mart toward one end of town. So many people on the streets have that hard, blank look: no hope, no purpose other than getting through the day, and an almost visceral, primal distrust of anyone & everyone else.

Not that I mean to sound superior -- here in NJ, since several of the military posts were shut down & Sandy cut a brutal swath down the shore, the economy has plummeted & the same check-cashing & gold-buying places are springing up everywhere. One local small town had 2 new bookstores & 3 used bookstores a decade ago; not a one of 'em survives today.

And yet -- surprise, surprise -- most people around here still vote for the 1% & their lackeys.


Did you see this:

Since much if not most of psychiatry has forgotten about helping people & has instead chosen to serve the powers that be in manipulating people, it's clear tat they won't be satisfied until being a reasonably whole, complex human being is pathology, and the human condition itself a disease.


When my wife & I walk in our local park, we're amazed & distressed by the number of people who yak ceaselessly on their cellphones while walking & ignoring everything around them. Worse, their yakking is always obnoxiously loud, often scaring away the wildlife we've come to observe along our walk. We certainly don't want to hear about their private business, which is invariably banal & empty anyway.

Contemporary America is like a huge tangle of sticky, clinging cotton candy without any substance or nutrition, but slowly smothering & strangling you all the same.

10:38 AM  
Anonymous jpf said...

Just an inquiry ... are you still set to lecture on June 22 at Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Michigan? Any other details?

3:26 PM  
Anonymous shep said...

I'm sure most wafers are familiar with Permaculture. I wasn't.

Some of us cannot emigrate or breezily drive around in Porsches dreaming of their next capitalist project with Rushbo Limbaugh.

6:21 PM  
Anonymous Edward said...

Mo Ronich, thanks for this article:

It is an example of how people have become selfish. The idea of community is gone in America. One would think that a community of theater goers has one purpose in mind: to watch plays or movies without any distraction.

Jesse, thanks for posting this article:

How a person is able to buy a gun with magazines but does not know how to separate the magazines from the gun, especially when at home with loved one, is beyond human comprehension. Idiots like Ted Nugent have been running around like infant making ignorant statements. Again, the idea of selfishness is at work here. Read from his brother:

“Irresponsible gun owners are bad for everyone” says Jeffrey Nugent, Ted Nugent's older brother.

7:35 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Sorry, al-Qu'bang,
Even if it is only a ride to work I still think anyone who does techno-crap in public is a BOP-Buffoon on phones (Hey, aren't you afraid of not hearing on-coming traffic?)Multiply your act the million times it happens each day and we see the results-lack of community, lack of neighborhood, lack of genuine friendship which requires thinking of someone other than yourself which technology renders nearly impossible; in short, a lack of what it means to be an authentic human being.
Now even morons are starting to wake up to the impending fascism but it all started with them-the depersonalized way of life that technology didn't create but certainly facilitated.

7:38 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

Whew! I've been away from the computer for a few days and there is lots of good stuff up.


HA! That video is great and the comments were good too. It reminds me of someone I knew who worked in a used bookstore. He said you wouldn't believe the numbers of people who would come in from the suburbs and say, "I have all these empty bookshelves in my new house but no books." They would then buy old art books and cheap hardcovers by the linear foot so it would appear they had full libraries. This was a good 10 years ago too, it is hard to imagine what it would be like now with all the techno-buffoonery.

Capo: Great idea for a bar! I used to own one of these:


but I incurred such wrath I stopped using it. People would go nuts! I would say, were you actually watching sportscenter? They would say no, but you have to watch something...

If they weren't illegal, a cell phone jammer just might be the ticket too.

9:17 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Here's the dope on the Postman Award lecture.

June 22, 4:15 p.m., Loosemore Auditorium, DeVos Center of GVSU's downtown campus, in downtown Grand Rapids. The only problem is that the Media Ecology Ass'n is admitting only those who register for the conference. I've asked them abt the cost, but have not yet gotten a reply. I'm guessing at least $100, and let's be honest: there's no pt in shelling out $100 or more for a 30-min lecture. I'd love to tell u I'm worth it, but I'm not. In addition, they have agreed to send me the video link after the conference is over, which I'll then post on this blog; and armed with a large glass of Scotch, you can view it in the comfort of yr own home, and not hafta pay anything for it.


10:19 AM  
Anonymous Ken Smith said...

Capo Regime:

Thanks for the kind words. Much of the time I think of myself as a typical lower middle class American from California. But, you are probably correct that Joe Bageant, Morris Berman and I are not at all typical. Nor is my family typical.

I have lived outside the USA for the past dozen years -- Mexico for the past six, after four years in France, two years in Denmark, and another year bouncing around Europe. My younger brother left the USA 25 years ago and is now a sheep farmer in a remote area of northern Denmark. My son lived in Montréal for a decade and recently started a new position at the Université de Paris as a professor of the history of philosophy (proud of that boy).

I think we are a normal family, but friends and relatives back home view us as a bit odd -- even traitorous. I can have friendly conversations with Americans as long as I don't venture off the narrative and give my views of American culture, politics, imperialism and consumerism.

Joe Bageant was a good friend. When I moved from France to Mexico, Joe came to visit and stayed for the last three years of his life. I launched and managed Joe's website and I'm keeping it active as a way to promote his books. Here's the site:

One book that Joe often referred to in conversations was Berman's Dark Ages America. Joe was particularly struck by the notion of the New Monastic Individual. As it happened, Joe and I had both independently been corresponding with Berman, and we learned that Berman was also a sixtyish American expat living in Mexico, just a four-hour bus trip to the east of us. Joe and I had been planning to invite ourselves to visit Berman, but it didn’t happen because Joe was diagnosed with rapidly growing and inoperable cancer.

Three days after Joe died in March 2011, his second book, Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir, was published. I phoned Morris and asked if he would be interested in writing a review. Of course, he said. That review was posted as "Bageant’s Frustration: Extreme Isolation". In just those four words of the title, Morris wrote a biography of Joe Bageant. It's a brilliant review and I highly recommend following this link:

Here's a clip from Berman's review:

"The similarity between his last book, Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir, and my forthcoming Why America Failed: The Roots of Imperial Decline, is in fact quite startling. True, I’m analytical where Joe is homey, and my historical perspective is that of 400 years rather than just the twentieth century; but Joe’s way of addressing the issues is gritty, and right on the money. One can only hope that his book gets the posthumous attention it deserves."

10:25 AM  
Anonymous Martin Ramirez said...

@Ray: Thank you for the background.
@Capo Regime: Would I have been attracted to this blog if I supported Obama and believed in the Demopublicans? It doesn't matter to me personally whether you are Irish or Kurdish, that would not make me better than you nor entitle me to conquer you, discriminate against you or oppress you. That belief that our own society is the supreme tribe is also a delusion used by elites to further their own interests (these are often far worse enemies than dark-skinned foreigners with an accent). We can't be naive utopians, but let me repeat, the status isn't necessarily impossible to worsen or improve. The belief in eventually solving problems or improving my situation is what has carried me through my worst days.

3:42 PM  
Anonymous James Newlin said...

I listened to a radio debate this past weekend about Common Core in Ohio. There were comments on how standards continue to be lowered in schools, but what got me was a comment about blue collar reading material.

Someone in the debate said it used to be that you could find a blacksmith reading a text in Greek on their lunch hour. Compare this with today: blue collar workers mostly read nothing, or the screen of their phone, or one of those free newspapers on cars or recent arrests.

Another comment -- I'm tired of hearing people blame Millennials for our social ills. We aren't the ones who threw thrift out the window, and most people are following what they were taught as kids -- quick consumption and instant gratification from technology. I'm 29 and I was raised on McDonald's, supermarkets, Walmart, and tons of TV in a car-dependent neighborhood. It's the baby boomer generation who decided to toss their thrifty upbringings out the window, not us.

3:59 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

By golly, I wonder how New York Mayor Bloomberg got to be so rich and powerful.

"If you gaze for long into an abyss," Nietzsche said, "the abyss gazes also into you."

6:23 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

As Rios Montt is deservedly found guilty of genocide, the NY Times sees fit to offer "balance" by publishing the self-serving justifications (i.e., lying bullshit) of one of Reagan's toadies:

And how is this really any different from the "progressives" who excuse drone warfare, official torture, and the continued existence of Gitmo?


Sadly, the very concept of "an authentic human being" is totally foreign & frightening to a majority of Americans. They undoubtedly consider it "elitist" and thus someting to be avoided at all costs.

7:16 PM  
Anonymous ennobled little day said...

Carl Sagan: Techno-Buffoon?

(The music is awesome!)

7:26 PM  
Anonymous Door said...

I was wondering if Bingo could suggest some books to read.My nephew is seventeen and addicted to screens.The sources are x-box,cell phone,computor etc.His attitude has gotten worse i.e.ruder.Does not help with chores,hanges out and plays video games with his friend.The video game I observed him playing involved driving a car and gettig points for running over pedestrians and if that doesnt work shooting them with a pistol.What can I say but onward and downward but it still hurts. Thanks,Paul

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


That was beautiful. You managed to articulate two major strains of yankhead - moralising Puritanism and FEAR OF EVERYTHING - in one scolding.

Someone on a bike is aware of everyone. I can tell whether there are cars coming up behind me in one lane or both lanes, despite listening to Don Redman's "Shakin' the Africann" on the Me-Pod.

We cyclists get sworn at by both drivers and pedestrians, and since we're right out there, we can swear back. On the flip side, we often have chats with people when waiting for stop signs and red lights. Try doing that in a car.

My students think I'm strange. One said to me a couple of months ago, "You don't have a cell-phone, you don't eat meat, you ride a bike. Do you live in a hut?"

Anyway, I'm not sure how you managed to get that cuneiform smoke signal of yours to connect to Dr. Berman's blog, but I commend you for being able to do so without using technology.

12:38 AM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

Dr. B and others

I have come to realize there is nothing I can do about this country or the world. I don't have major influence or say in national or global politics. I have more control over what is in my immediate surroundings.

With that being said, I want to do some Wafering and NMI activity myself. I see myself as the stereotypical computer geek. In fact, I loved a game called Robot Odyssey when I was in 2nd-3rd grade.

Do you have any specific recommendations that can be tailored to me?

In addition, What are excellent books that you recommend so I can expand my thinking and have more of a wider perspective on things?

I do want to improve my abstract thinking and big picture thinking as part of Wafering activity as well. I want to be able to do special NMI projects as well. Do you have any books, ideas. or anything that you recommend? I am ready and raring to get started on Wafering!!

8:11 AM  
Anonymous TWilliams said...

Just curious, has Mr. Berman given a timeframe for the actual collapse of America? I seem to be inundated with "doomers" these days who do nothing but speak about how America is collapsing and/or on the verge of it. Ok, so when is it that America will collapse? And don't say NOW because if this is a COLLAPSE then I guess I get to work, pay bills, and drink beer during a collapse. Please...really, when is this all over?

And please give me a timeframe and don't be a dick. :)

8:11 AM  
Blogger Sir Tagio said...

Dr. Berman,

If I may be allowed a shameless plug, my daughter, who is teaching English in Japan, has a blog where she comments on her experiences living in Japan, makes observations about Japanese culture (e.g., the importance of aisatsu) and occasionally translates a Japanese poem (currently, Ibaragi Noriko, "When I was most beautiful"). I think it's a neat little window on Japan.

The blog is:

9:12 AM  
Anonymous Savantesimal said...

According to the movies and tv shows, it was only the enemy soldiers who abused civilians. But every so often someone breaks the code of silence and reports on what the great "heroic" US soldiers were really like, even in WW II. This is a problem in the headlines right now. But sexual assault is not a remotely new problem in any military, including the US military...

NY Times: The Dark Side of Liberation

The soldiers who landed in Normandy on D-Day were greeted as liberators, but by the time American G.I.’s were headed back home in late 1945, many French citizens viewed them in a very different light.

In the port city of Le Havre, the mayor was bombarded with letters from angry residents complaining about drunkenness, jeep accidents, sexual assault — “a regime of terror,” as one put it, “imposed by bandits in uniform.”

This isn’t the “greatest generation” as it has come to be depicted in popular histories. But in “What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American G.I. in World War II France,” the historian Mary Louise Roberts draws on French archives, American military records, wartime propaganda and other sources to advance a provocative argument: The liberation of France was “sold” to soldiers not as a battle for freedom but as an erotic adventure among oversexed Frenchwomen, stirring up a “tsunami of male lust” that a battered and mistrustful population often saw as a second assault on its sovereignty and dignity.


2:07 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


One problem with someone entering this blog and not knowing the context is that it wd require a lot of repetition of past discussions. Your question has been asked and answered many times here, amigo, so I guess all I can do is suggest that u scroll thru past discussions. Honestly, I just don't have the energy to answer this question yet one more time.


3:28 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

America, land of the free and home of the brave. The war which began against terrorists abroad has now acquired an additional target: activists and journalists living within the U.S. Two representative stories, in this regard:

May 21:

"A woman who became an activist after JPMorgan Chase foreclosed on her home in 2011 was shocked with a Taser and arrested while protesting outside the Department of Justice on Tuesday.

In video obtained by Occupy Our Homes Atlanta, large men with assault rifles can be seen surrounding Carmen Pittman before one of the agents shocks her with a stun gun and she falls to the ground.

Pittman seems to writhe in agony on the ground for a few moments before a man in a yellow police shirt picks her up. As he restrains her, other officers place her in handcuffs."

In other words, the 'terrorist' has become the activist, who causes 'trouble' and needs to be contained with non-lethal force.

Whatever happened to America, the land of the First Amendment, with freedom of speech? Now Obama is prosecuting journalists who publish classified information with 'espionage,' and illegally stealing information from the Associated Press. This means that the Department of Justice is effectively criminalizing the practice of investigative journalism. Which illustrates how absurd it is to call a manifestly illegal organization - as judged by its own laws - the Department of "Justice." Another one of those deceptions of language.

5:34 PM  
Anonymous TWilliams said...

@Morris fair enough, I'll search through your blog (even though it should be pretty easy to just say '10-20 years read more' or something to that effect). I also ordered your books last night after hearing you with Chris Hedges and hope to gain some valuable insight through those. Just thought I'd at least attempt to receive a straight forward simple answer. Gracias.

6:11 PM  
Anonymous James Newlin said...

From a historical marker in Columbus:

"[Dave] Thomas changed the image of fast food by serving fresh, not frozen hamburgers, hot off the grill with a choice of toppings in a clean comfortable setting"

Even though this is historic, Wendy's didn't hesitate to close this location down due to declining sales.

Is this really our history??

7:03 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


You'd be rt, if the answer were straightforward and simple. Unfortunately, history is not. Hence, if yr looking for "pretty easy," you've come to the wrong place. However, you might be on the verge of thinking like an historian, in which case things tend to be complex and nuanced (like human life). Good luck!


2:55 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


I've been seeing similar stories about redefining journalism or even expressed doubts as terrorism. Remember Air Fleischer warning Americans to watch what they say, watch what they do? Apparently the current administration agrees completely with the advice & intends to emphasize it -- relentlessly.

As for (un)social media, this is truly vile:

Yes, this is the full flowering of the promise of the digital age. What is says about the callous dehumanization of the coming generations is both sickening & frightening.

Note that in the comments posted to this article, several people raise the question of the culture at large & what it's breeding.


The above stories are just examples of the ongoing collapse, which is incremental, rather like the story of the frog slowly boiled to death in a pot of gradually heated water. Wile there may occasionally be spectacular events, like train crashes, mass shootings, etc., the majority of the decay is in little details, a steady coarsening & loss of culture, civility, compassion, intelligence, and so on.

You may remember an early episode of The Simpsons set in the near future, where Marge says something like, "Did you ever realize how Fox became an all-porn channel so gradually that no one noticed?" That's essentially what's happening now, to everything.

6:55 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

There goes yet another news source I thought I could trust to speak truth to power:

10:17 AM  
Blogger Himanshu Tiwari said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I finished reading your book "Why America Failed". In the chapter "Rebuke of History", the general thesis is that the South was defeated and forced to adapt the "hustling ways" of the North.

We also know that the South was responsible for the "Trail of Tears", i.e displacement of the Indigenous tribes such as Cherokee, Chickasaw, etc. Would this not qualify as "hustling" on part of the South? How do you reconcile this tragic event with the "non-hustling" mentality of the South?

Thank You,

10:39 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...


What's so frightening about the current attacks on journalists by Obama's DOJ is that they are one of the few remaining avenues for challenging those in power. The judiciary and Congress have given up on their responsibility to provide a check on the executive branch, but journalists (at least the ones who are performing their adversarial role, rather than being the instruments of those in power) have not.

It is really absurd when you think about it. "Terrorists" have caused only a few thousand American deaths and injuries, much less than, say, the deaths and injuries in the U.S. caused by car accidents. And yet the US government, in the name of terrorism, is glad to abandon due process of law (with its assassination program), freedom of the press (with its targeting of journalists and whistleblowers), and any hopes of living in a state of peace.

Most people in my generation (I'm in my mid-20's) have now grown up almost all of their lives with this endless war on terrorism, and have pretty much come to accept all these absurdly disproportionate attacks on American democracy as normal. How a people can be so stupid as to glorify endless war and the troops fighting that war, when war is one of the worst evils affecting humankind, I really don't understand.

11:40 AM  
Anonymous Smith said...

You might find this interesting:

I have to wonder at these people. Where were they when Bush Jr. spied on people, or when Woodrow Wilson rounded up political dissidents, etc.

Typical American "doublethink"; the same behavior is suddenly good or bad based solely on "who's doing it".

12:30 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Hustling is not = aggression; it only refers to a certain type of economy, that's all. Aggression goes back to the Paleolithic, but u can be sure our Paleolithic ancestors were not hustlers. (That wd make for a great Fred Flintstone cartoon, actually.)


1:21 PM  
Anonymous Zaid said...

A man was beheaded in a street in London. His body is left right there in a road. The interesting parts:

A serving British soldier was the victim, U.K. lawmaker Nick Raynsford said in an interview on the BBC. No other people are being sought as suspects, said Raynsford, who represents the Greenwich and Woolwich areas of London

The attackers were yelling “Allahu Akbar,” meaning “God is great” in Arabic and attacked the soldier with knives, both Sky News and the BBC reported.

2:21 PM  
Blogger pinkpearl said...


Where is the video or podcast or whatever with both MB and Hedges? Not sure how I missed it but I would love to see/hear it.

As for the timing of the collapse, collapses usually take a long time. I'm reading A Forest Journey by John Perlin right now, and so far it's one chapter after another about societies that used up all their wood resources, declined and eventually disappeared. In no case did it happen in a decade, more like a couple centuries, with people using various workarounds for a while, until they finally had to bail.

I think it's pretty easy to see evidence of workarounds in this society. E.g. propping up economies with bubbles and currency experiments. Or psychological workarounds, like people getting really into home design (all those decorating and real estate TV shows, websites, etc) - as the outside world gets scarier, people compensate by controlling their home environments ever more. Don't forget reliance on anti-depressants, painkillers, etc.

Another sign of workarounds: people who are already preparing to bail, people doing NMI-ish stuff like setting up farmers markets and co-ops and barter networks, etc. I.e. people experimenting with ways to get their needs met outside of the current dysfunctional system, and possibly laying the foundation for a new system.

Another sign of workarounds: Protests, which we've been seeing a lot of lately, around the world. The demands of protestors are often workarounds, generally to change something back to how it was or tinker with some of the rules of the system. So far there aren't many protestors demanding a big overhaul of the whole system.

In any case, yeah, people still had to work and pay bills and stuff during their society's collapse. Kind of a rip-off, but there it is.

4:05 PM  
Anonymous Jesse said...

WAFERS, this one was designed and implemented with you in mind. I am not saying that WAFERS are anti-gay. But what I am saying is that chicken will eventually come hoe to roost:

“I believe it is necessary to sacrifice myself to break with the lethargy that is overwhelming us,” Venner wrote in his letter, adding, “I am killing myself to awaken slumbering consciences.”

5:25 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

What's shakin' Dr. B and Wafers?


I appreciate the fact that you use "Wafering" as a verb. It's also great that you realize what we Wafers are up against. In terms of the NMI, or NMI projects, I can't offer anything specific in the realm of the computer world. Heck, I still spin vinyl! However, from my own experience, I think that any kind of cultural preservation, community volunteer work, education, helping someone in need, and carving out an existence that is outside (as much as possible) of the greed and selfishness of the never ending hustle are all very important NMI projects. I can also suggest a few books, outside of Dr. B's books, that have helped me see the bigger picture; namely, "A Short History of Progress" and "What Is America: A Short History of the New World Order" by Ronald Wright and "Are We Rome: The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America" by Cullen Murphy. I hope this helps...

Tim Lukeman-

Thanks for your thoughts. I have witnessed similar cell phone abuses in public parks as well. Perhaps, getting behind city ordinances that ban cell phones in public parks would be a worthy Wafer project.


I read the very same article and thought about posting it. I'm glad that you did. It reminded me of a fantastic book I read some years ago that challenged "the good war" premise and many basic assumptions about World War II and the period surrounding it. At one point, the author states that during the Italian campaign, VD cases outweighed American battlefield wounds. The book is "The Best War Ever: America and World War II" by Michael C.C. Adams.


5:28 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Yesterday's "Zippy" - seems on point.

6:15 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I did a conversation with Chris Hedges over the fone when I was in Vancouver last month. The link for this just got posted on the extraenvironmentalist. Altho it is now public, I thought I should ask Chris if he was ok with my posting it here, so I wrote him today and am waiting for an answer. I assume he'll say yes, but I wanted to do him that courtesy. So hopefully, I'll be posting it b4 2 long, but you can already locate it online without too much trouble.


6:36 PM  
Anonymous shep said...

Kevin -

RE: Zippy Cartoon

I remember the Ga lottery was sold, in the beginning, for scholarships for college. To qualify for the free ride (books were not included), anyone earning over 60K did not qualify. Shortly, that was raised to 100K, and now, any rich bastard can get the state to pay for their children's education.

Luckily my daughter and husband have two good jobs so they can send their two children to school FREE. Lucky for them, but it is wrong!

8:44 PM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...

Immoderate Greatness--solid and thought provoking. Thank you MB for putting up the work would not have otherwise come across.

But will say you are more in depth and more empirical. I still am vexed by that woman who gave you a negative review in the times--but though sensitive to how nasty the review was it was instructive in that itspeaks to a certain sensitivity among imperial types. There is no empirical reality only opinions and there is a prevailing opinion/ortodoxy and if you go afoul of that you are a very very bad and condesding man who does not recognize the diplomatic genius of Hilary Clinton and the keen wits of the editorial board of the new york times.

Ken Smith--thank you for aknowledgement I was lucky to run into Joe Bageants book Deerhunting with jesus at a booksellers in Australia some years ago. I devoured and have been an admirer of Joes work and your support of his work since. Keep it up KS.

Martin R, sometimes people misunderstand things I suppose. I was and am ribbing you a bit as you tend to express some of the tired lefty slogans of race and so forth which remind me of a post structualist analysis of exploited people of color and cross gender stigmas in post colonial latin america taught at a place like Vassar or UNAM in the 1970's. That sort of thing and its opposite the neo liberal gospel are equally useless and besides the point to what ails us all regardless of skin hue. But admire your earnestness but no need to be defensive.....

D Rosen--as aways great insights from the "heartland". Maybe see you in Mexico soon.

On a general note--have been enjoying the mixed coverage of mexico in the U.S., one moment the new economic powerhouse and then a week later just a corrupt violent place full of murder and decapitation--I hope they stick to the later narrative as it should keep the gringos out.

9:03 PM  
Anonymous Winter in America said...

Language redux or addendum to my most recent comment on the subject.

Please bear with me — I wasn't on a mission to search this out (Common-use words and their implications upon our thinking), I came upon it by happenstance.

Some additional quotes on language:

We cannot be too careful about the words we use; we start out using them and they end up using us. - Eugene H. Peterson

People who cannot distinguish between good and bad language, or who regard the distinction as unimportant, are unlikely to think carefully about anything else. - B.R. Myers

“The misuse of language induces evil in the soul” - Socrates


Re: Hedges/Berman conversation, ClubOrlov also has linked to this podcast Days of Destruction, Dmitry Orlov is interviewed in episode II of DOD where he discusses his recent book The Five Stages of Collapse.


Oh, one final item on language and I'll desist.
Television the Drug of the Nation by Michael Franti circa 1991 prior to Spearhead.
Song ends with this:

Television, the drug of the Nation
Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation

CNN ESPN ABC TNT but mostly B.S.
Where oxymoronic language like
"virtually spotless" "fresh frozen"
"light yet filling" and "military intelligence"
have become standard

T.V. is the place where phrases are redefined
like "recession" to "necessary downturn"
"crude oil" on a beach to "mousse"
"Civilian death" to "collateral damages"
and being killed by your own Army
is now called "friendly fire"

Full lyrics here.

9:15 PM  
Anonymous Martin Ramirez said...

My family in Florida would like me to visit them, and my father wants me to translate for him on a business trip to California, but I am more than a little afraid of the police state and meeting all sorts of unsavory people. What is your advice, MB?

10:23 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

This is Waferian. "Delete Facebook"

The guy sounds young but disillusioned.

12:32 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Just pretend yr an anthropologist, visiting some bizarre tribe.


Re: NYT rev. of DAA: check out my letter to the editor, posted in the Archive section of this blog, ca. 16 June 2006. Times wdn't print it, of course. So much for their masthead slogan, which in reality is "All the news that fits our views."


12:51 AM  
Anonymous ellen said...

There is something new and truly bizarre about the killing of the British Soldier in London yesterday, immediately and conveniently labelled 'terrorism.'

The two 'terrorists' hung around the body in the street for thirty minutes waiting for the armed police to arrive. In that half hour they were dripping in blood and holding knives and machetes but spent the waiting time chatting to bystanders and passers-by and encouraging all and sundry to film them. There is a bizarre film of one talking to camera while a little Indian lady with a shopping trolley pushes past him on the pavement, seemingly oblivious to his blood drenched hands holding the murder weapons.
You can see her here but the bit where she pushes past the killer has been edited since I saw it last night on the TV news.

When the cops eventually turned up the two guys attacked them and got shot--but not killed. I thought this was an attempt at suicide -by-cop but it is unusual that there were two of them.
A very strange incident indeed. I am taking Dr B's anthropologist position--it's the only way to stay sane.

5:13 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

Just listened to a part of the Hedges/Berman/Orlov discussions.

It is pretty much impossible to believe that two individuals can be so smart and perceptive, although, it is obvious when one looks around with the Berman/Hedges cabal guiding you.

I give Dr Berman the edge, even though, both seem to have a virtual photographic memory at their commands of endless libraries. I worship both for their insights to current civilizations.

One issue I cannot get over is that Hedges probably believes there is a supreme being? I am an atheist exactly because of the genius of Hedges/Berman.

7:53 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

MB and WAF-ers:

Just listened to the Hedges/Berman/Orlov audio on extraenviro, good stuff. The illusion of participation part was good as was Chris's Easter Island analogy.

I am also struck that 99% of the people in the US (and elsewhere) would have no idea what you guys were talking about. MB brings this up during the interview (and has done so on this blog too), but it is always worth repeating.

9:24 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


Yes, I was struck by the media-drenched ambience of that whole horrific incident. Reality TV taken to a new level, with everyone wanting to be filmed & thus made real for just a few moments. Talk about other-directed lives! Or can you call them lives at all, when the point seems to be a fictional, crafted-for-media persona that avoids any genuine humanity in favor of one-dimensional media cliches? Nothing is real because everything is "reality" shaped for consumption.

Just one small but typical example of The Dumbening:

JJ Abrams has had great financial success with his revival of the Star Trek franchise, mainly by turning it into a wiseass action-adventure geekfest. He's been quoted as saying that he prefers Star Wars to Star Trek because the original Star Trek series was (his exact words) "too philosophical" -- and who wants that? Stories that are actually about something? Stories that question cultural "wisdom" & reveal it to be rooted in adolescent fears? Can't have that! Let's just go into space & kick ass! (And while we're waiting to go into space, let's kick ass around the world.)

9:42 AM  
Anonymous Capaneus said...

Since the interaction of language and politics seems to be a regular topic here, I'd like to sound out the Waferian opinion on something: It seems that during the last year or two, the past tense has largely disappeared from US TV news broadcasts. It's not just the local amateurs, either; the national broadcasts also do it. Do you think this is just lazy or ignorant writing/editing? a stylistic move to put everything in the "historic present" to make it seem more exciting? or something sinister and Orwellian to train the proles not to think in terms of history and causation?

11:22 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Chris trained as a seminarian, I as an historian. That is probably why his position is a moral one (fight for the sake of it) and mine pragmatic ("I'm not going to let Athens sin against philosophy twice"--Aristotle, as he packed his bags and hit the road). But I do agree with Heidegger's assessment (Der Spiegel interview, 1966), that "only a god can save us now." Which means that we are totally ausgefucked.


11:39 AM  
Anonymous ennobled little day said...


Your link inspired me to unfriend everyone on my facebook account.

(I'd close the account, but I've also used it as a convenient way to store bits of information.)

Thank You!

Dr. B.-

I started reading Elijah Anderson's "The Code of the Street" (a recommendation of yours from a while back). Having lived away from the LA inner city for several years now, I had somehow come to believe that the rest of the US was different. That LA, and maybe even California was some odd, ugly mixture of "the good and the bad," but Anderson's account of Philadelphia just threw all that out the window.

I think I'm starting to see connections between all the places I've lived in in the US. I'm guessing that the only difference was my age and maturity (and probably also circumstances), which caused me to see different places differently.

4:53 PM  
Anonymous joe hohos said...

Dr. Berman,

A great interview once again. More signs of the totalitarian state you and Hedges were talking about.

5:55 PM  
Blogger Dan Henry said...


Re: your Jew in Germany past 36/ present day USA analogy... expletive warning...fuck, that one scared me.

1:55 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

It seems that every day brings news of increasing totalitarian control, increasing surveillance and militarization. This is hardly paranoia, hardly in our imaginations; it's even making it into the pp. of the NYT, fer chrissakes. How long b4 we are into a McCarthy-style persecution of intellectuals? 5 yrs? 'Terrorism' has become the excuse for everything.

Have been rdg Edward Said, "Orientalism". His 2003 Preface, and 1995 Afterword, are outstanding--a model of nuanced thinking, a refusal to be B&W in the teeth of a society that can't think otherwise. No wonder he lived such a lonely life. At one pt he writes: "Ever since the demise of the Soviet Union there has been a rush by some scholars to find in an Orientalized Islam a new empire of evil." Well, the results of that are with us now, in spades. He also has a very nuanced picture of the multicultural issue that we have discussed on this blog from time to time: Sympathy for the postmodern, cultural critique stuff that has flooded the university since he wrote "Orientalism" in 1978, and yet, he's clear abt the tendency to be misguided. The interest of Western academics in multiculturalism and post-colonialism, he says, can in fact be a cultural and intellectual retreat from the new realities of global power. Globalization, in other words, is a system by which a small financial elite expanded its power over the entire globe, redistributing wealth from the poor to the rich--and *this* is the crucial issue. Said quotes from a 1993 article by Masao Miyoshi in which he says: "What we need is a rigorous political and economic scrutiny rather than a gesture of pedagogic expediency, exemplified by the liberal self-deception contained in such new fields as cultural studies and multiculturalism." Or to put it another way, exactly what got accomplished by having a black, female Secretary of State who is a war criminal?

Moving rt along...I went to a classical guitar concert last nite in a very old church in Barcelona. I played classical guitar myself, for several yrs, so I really enjoy these things. Except I cdn't enjoy it: everyone around me was on a cell fone! They were all watching the guitarist on a tiny screen, rather than just looking at the guy, who was sitting abt 20' away from us! Camera flash was constantly going off as well. These people wd manage to stop doing it for 5 minutes, but then the addiction took hold, and they had to fotograph or watch the guitarist on their screens. And to none of them did it occur, that there was anything nuts abt this. For them (young and old alike, BTW), it was a great (pseudo-)experience. I realized I can never go to a concert again; I'll hafta be content with CD's, because the World Techno Jackass Population is now thru the roof.

There was, amazingly enuf, one pt of abt 6 mins. when everyone stopped this insanity and just listened to the guitarist. It was great--reminded me of what a real guitar concert is like, or usta be. It's amazing how all of this tech changes the entire atmosphere: people are not actually present at the concert, and the effect is quite dramatic. So while for centuries, people went to concerts and were present at them, were absorbed in the music, artistry, and setting, as of abt 15 yrs ago all that got destroyed, overnight. It was also scary to see the power of the addiction: woman on my left, abt my age, kept massaging her fone, compulsively, as tho it were a rosary. But the scariest thing of all is that all of these morons regard this as 'progress'. WHAT can ya say?


3:41 AM  
Anonymous Troutbum said...

Dr. MB,

Greetings to all WAFers across the planet. Today, I bring to your attention an article of interest :
Violence, USA : The Warfare State and the Hardening of Everyday Life by Henry A. Giroux


"In U.S. society, the seductive power of the spectacle of violence is fed through a framework of fear, blame, and humiliation that circulates widely in popular culture. The consequence is a culture marked by increasing levels of inequality, suffering, and disposability. There is not only a “surplus of rage,” but also a collapse of civility in which untold forms of violence, humiliation, and degradation proliferate. Hyper-masculinity and the spectacle of a militarized culture now dominate U.S. society—one in which civility collapses into rudeness, shouting, and unchecked anger. What is unique at this historical conjuncture in the United States is that such public expression of hatred, violence, and rage “no longer requires concealment but is comfortable in its forthrightness.” How else to explain the support by the majority of Americans for state-sanctioned torture, the public indifference to the mass incarceration of poor people of color, the silence on the part of many Americans in the face of the increasing use of police and state-sanctioned violence against peaceful Occupy Wall Street protesters, or the public silence in the face of police violence in public schools against children, even those in elementary schools? As war becomes the organizing principle of society, the ensuing effects of an intensifying culture of violence on a democratic civic culture are often deadly and invite anti-democratic tendencies that pave the way for authoritarianism."

It's all here:

6:49 AM  
Blogger shep said...

Dr Berman,

I do not know much about poetry but this short quotation seems to sum up the present state of affairs in this wacky crumblin' world of today.

"Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity”

William Butler Yeats

7:01 AM  
Anonymous Winter in America said...

Dr. Berman,

I had picked up a copy of Immoderate Greatness after you had mentioned it in a previous post — amazingly Ophuls provides a densely packed primer, in 70 pgs, on civilization's tendency toward collapse. Its size makes it ideal to share with anyone who is approachable or open to many of the issues addressed here on this blog.

Another title you all might find of interest, if you haven't already discussed it is A User's Guide To The Crisis of Civilization by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed. A documentary of the book was made and can be viewed here in its entirety.


Sanctuary - I second Enobled little Day's appreciation for the delete facebook link — thanks for sniffing that one out — well worth passing around.


Capaneus, not having watched any tv news in a quite some time I'd venture to say that it's Orwellian — hey, check out Sanc's link for delete facebook, the narrator hits on the language issue in a couple of instances. The acronym-speak associated with social media is abysmal.

7:09 AM  
Anonymous Bingo said...

@ Door,

I was off the computer for the past several days, and did not see your post until this morning. The type of video game addiction afflicting your nephew is increasingly common among teenagers. It can be very harmful across many domains, so it’s worth trying to help him stop. I would recommend these books:

Virtually You: The Dangerous Powers of the E-Personality by Elias Aboujaoude (2012)

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle (2012)

The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr (2011)

Virtually You is written by a psychiatrist who specializes in this area. He discusses a broad range of pathology that video games, internet, smart phones, social media, etc. can cause, so it might be a good book to start with.

Also, all three authors have many interviews posted on YouTube, if you search by their names.

@ ellen,

There are many bizarre things about the British soldier incident in London, as there are about the recent Boston bombing (including the recent shooting of the Florida man during his FBI interrogation). I didn't use to be inclined toward conspiracy theories, but after what I read about Operation Gladio, and now seeing these recent events, I am beginning to think that people like Alex Jones may be on to something.

After all, didn’t Donald Rumsfeld once say that a Super Power creates its own reality?

7:54 AM  
Blogger jml said...

"Or to put it another way, exactly what got accomplished by having a black, female Secretary of State who is a war criminal?"

The problem with much of the celebrated multi-culti viewpoints is that they focus completely on the superficial, on appearances. This worked very well for Obama. Although his skin is brown, his life experience has not in any way been like that of most African-Americans. But no one would ever bring that up. That he keeps exploiting this superficiality as he did the other week in his speech at Morehouse College, comparing himself to the students there, is really disgusting. I could be wrong but I think the said, "I am just like you..." He is not. He is the son of a white academic who worked for the Ford foundation and had all of the privileges that came with that. He was not excluded from elite circles or schools. No one ever brings this up.

It is another symptom of American stupidity to think that things that kind of LOOK ALIKE are in fact the SAME. There's a profound quote by someone about this, but I can't find it right now.

8:33 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


As usual, you've stated something elegantly & eloquently in your most recent post about being "present" for an event. This strikes me as a crucial idea about what our culture has lost & why it's crumbling so rapidly. More & more, other people simply do not exist as people to the screen-addicted vidiot. They're props at best, objects to be used & discarded as required; all that matters is that the individual's carefully scripted & unreal "reality" be perfect. And perfect usually means untainted by actual human contact.

And of course this sort of "individual" is anything but a genuine one-of-a-kind human being; instead, it's an "individual" designed by committee, by market forces, by those with the real power. It's a cog with a deliberately constructed & constantly reinforced self-delusion of individuality like a million others.

Here's one example of creating an unreal reality by sweeping away the parts that don't fit:

In other words, the Potemkin village. And it's ultimately intended to be a global village, populated by people with Potemkin personalities, all surface & nothing beneath. Nobody "present" for anything, and nothing to be "present" for. in fact. Just a continuous loop of surface that eventually decays into empty static.

9:36 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

Sorry you had a bad experience at the concert Dr. B. One can only hope that more venues will ban phones someday, especially if they can get the artists involved.

Good essay in CP about the vacuous US left:

However, I am again reminded at how even the strong critics of the left such as Hedges in his interview with you and the author of the above article keep asking where the "progressive" revolutions and protests are without realizing that they will never come. It just seems that very, very few authors/commentators/etc. seem to get this save you Dr. B and the rest of the NMI-ers here. Joe Bageant is about the only other one I can think of right now.

10:36 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Gd stuff here on CRE, obviously. Every day the American head goes another few mm. deeper into the American rump. I confess, I love it.

Tim: pls post yr 2nd message tomorrow, thanks.

JWO: how to extract the 'progressive' head from the 'progressive' rump may be the major challenge of our times. That and sorting out Ted Koppel's haircut. And getting Kim's ass on the $1 bill, of course. But what's frustrating for me ( besides having to look at Geo Washington, instead of Kim's crevice), is that if all the 'progressives' got together and just admitted it, that their narrative of marching toward freedom is a pile of shit, it wd then open the door to a serious discussion of what is *really* possible, if anything, and if not, what's left (emigration, NMI, etc.). It cd open the door to a major conference on WHY we cannot reverse our trajectory, and this cd be a very enlightening experience. But as long as the purported left is in denial abt this, we can't get down to reality, to a serious discussion of our situation. I suggest that this open admission of impotence come on July 4th of this year. Then, Wm Ophuls and I will arrange a conference called "It's Over", to be held in Madison Sqr Gdn on 1 Jan 2014. Speakers will be limited to those who promise to offer nothing optimistic. Anyone with a hopeful message will not be allowed to attend. I will open with a lecture entitled, "How did the left manage to have its head in its rump for so long?" Ophuls will follow up with a talk called "Kiss it goodbye, folks." There will be workshops on why things can't change, from an historical and sociological perspective, and also on the psychology of denial. On Day 3 we shall consider what, in addition to emigration and NMI strategies, Wafers and a few other Americans in the know might suggest, given the fierce constraints on extricating ourselves from the oncoming collapse. Realistic (if limited) plans will be formulated, specifically eschewing the kaka promoted by 'progressives' over the last 12 yrs. Registration is free to Wafers; $1000 for everyone else. The $ collected will be used to establish an anti-CRE Foundation. For which, we need a logo. Wafers are encouraged to submit designs.

Julian: actually, it was Karl Rove, to David Susskind.

Shep: check out my essay, "Slouching Towards Nuremberg" (in the Archive section).


2:08 PM  
Blogger Esmond Lyons said...

Humans and human products. e.g. civilization, are ultimately, despite a continuous stream of denial, nature. Civilizations arise and decline according to a natural timetable in much the same way as seasons do. The real meaningful choice for humans then at this closing of an epoch is to become "seed people" or to perish in the long winter. Again, this may not be so much a choice as a phenomenon of nature or dare I say a plan.

6:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is a "wafer"? Thanks, anybody.

9:45 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


We don't have too many rules on this blog, but since yr new, let me clue u in to a few of them.

1. Don't post on a previous blogpost. Post on the most recent one. No one reads the old stuff.

2. Don't post as Anonymous. Pick a handle. Let me suggest Sam Schmeck.

3. Wafer: these are the best people on the planet. Name is derived from WAF, the acronym for "Why America Failed," my most recent bk. Wafers are WAF enthusiasts, people who understand that the US is going down the drain and that nothing can be done abt it.

4. If yr still interested in becoming a Wafer, and participating in this discussion, pls post no more than once a day, and limit yrself to abt half a page.

5. Hope 2 c.u. in future posts, amigo. All the best.


12:06 PM  

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