September 17, 2013

In Treatment

Dear Wafers, and Waferettes:

I was planning to post the following essay on this blog after I gave it as a talk for book promo for Spinning Straw Into Gold. I wrote several bookstores in New York and Los Angeles, but they had no interest in hosting me (most didn't bother to write back). So...might as well give up on that, and post it now. Hope you guys enjoy it, in any case.

In a similar you all can imagine, I don't get a lot of invitations to speak in the U.S., for some odd reason, but I do have one nice assignment coming up, namely a lecture at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, VA on Nov. 19. It will be held at 5 p.m. in the Northen Auditorium of the Leyburn Library, for those of you within striking distance of Lexington, and who might wish to attend.

And now, without further ado, the essay:

In Treatment was an HBO TV series that debuted in 2008 and ran for three seasons, starring Gabriel Byrne in the role of a psychotherapist named Paul Weston. It was based on an Israeli series of the same name (Be Tipul, in Hebrew); apparently, many of the episodes were verbatim translations of the Hebrew originals. Personally, I found the show highly addictive. Dr. Weston has a veritable parade of troubled patients traipse through his office, and their problems are unfailingly gripping, even mesmerizing. He seems to be a good therapist, although the results are rather mixed: some folks improve, some seem to go nowhere, one may have even “accidentally” committed suicide (triggering a lawsuit from the dead patient’s father). But the most powerful aspect of the show is that in the fullness of time, nothing is quite what it seemed to be. Paul’s own therapist (played by Dianne Wiest) seems to be empathic and supportive, but winds up using Paul as material for a novel she writes, in which the “Paul” character is cast in a very bad light. One of Paul’s patients, an Indian man living in an unhappy situation with his son and daughter-in-law, tricks Paul into getting him deported back to Calcutta, which is where he wants to be. Paul falls in love with his second (and final) therapist (played by Amy Ryan), but knowing how the mechanism of transference works, can’t decide if it’s love or illusion. What she gets him to see, in the course of a few weeks of therapy with her, is that he has spent his entire career getting over-involved with his patients as a substitute for having a life of his own. At age 57, the ground has shifted from under his feet; he has no way of knowing what is true and what is invented, and as he tells his therapist, “I’ve lost my way.” He even wonders if he ever loved his ex-wife, or whether he is capable of love at all.

The final session is a tour de force by virtue of being anti-climactic. Paul ends his therapy and walks out into the Brooklyn night, having nowhere to go and nothing to do. This is as un-Hollywood as it gets: no satisfying wrap-up, no happy ending, just a state of wandering through the world with no meaning and no sense of direction. The most one can extract from this last scene, if one insists on being optimistic, is the Socratic dictum, “Ignorance is the beginning of wisdom.” Maybe. But for the time being, existential loss is just that—loss. The gray night of the soul, perhaps, except that to me, the non-resolution of the story had an almost religious quality to it.

Which is probably why I watched the last episode several times, on DVD. I had been in Paul’s situation at age 28, when I came to the conclusion that my academic career was a farce; or at least, unreal. I remember I was living in England, on leave from my university in the United States to write my first book, and a British graduate student came to see me for advice about his research and his career. I can’t remember what I told him, but I remember feeling hollow, formulaic. Could I encourage him to pursue something that I no longer believed in? It was late afternoon by the time he left, and it was already starting to get dark. I sat in my chair and looked out across the room, feeling depressed. I had no idea what life was about, or how I might ever feel happy again. I felt like an empty shell. As the months passed, the dark night of the soul became increasingly dark.

How all that got turned around is another story, and a rather involved one, best saved for another time. But in a nutshell, it involved faith, which to me meant betting everything on something that was invisible, and in contemporary American culture very much of a long shot. Not God, I hasten to add; but definitely something involving the life of the spirit. I guess, at the end of the final episode of In Treatment, I wanted to pull Dr. Weston into a nearby café and talk to him about belief. Why, I’m not sure. Perhaps because he’s such a sympathetic, earnest, and honest character; perhaps because I felt that people with that level of integrity deserve a good life. Perhaps because I would have felt lucky to have had him as a therapist, or at least, a friend. I really don’t know. But belief is not really transferable, in any case. It’s hardly a matter of an intellectual decision, but rather something that emerges from your body, in a visceral way. There are no shortcuts in the life of the spirit, as it turns out; each of us has to find our own way.

I guess it says something that In Treatment ran for three seasons. Americans are not big on ambiguity, or non-resolution, after all; they aren’t a terribly sophisticated people, in my experience. But are Israelis so different? I guess I would have to say yes: more honest, more in-your-face. Two Israeli films come to mind that have this quality of non-resolution, and are (like Be Tipul) very powerful because of it. The first I saw about twenty or thirty years ago, and can’t recall the name; but it involved a New Age guru living in the suburbs of Tel Aviv, and his devoted followers, who come to his apartment once a week for a group session. The guru, meanwhile, gets increasingly wigged out, until he finally becomes convinced (inasmuch as everything is supposedly in the mind) that he can fly. So he jumps off the roof of his apartment building, only to discover that gravity has other plans for him. In the wake of his death, his disciples are not able to put their shattered lives back together, and become like the children of Israel, wandering through the desert, but without Moses to guide them. I found it a very courageous film.

The second film is called The Footnote (2011), starring Shlomo Bar Aba and Lior Ashkenazi as a father and son caught up in an epic Oedipal struggle. I won’t bother to recap the story here, except to say that it ends on a huge existential question mark. The moment of truth has arrived in the relationship, and it is up to the father to bite the bullet or cop out, in accepting or not accepting a prestigious award that was actually meant for his son. As he is in line to be called and walk up to the podium, the film ends. It’s unclear what he is going to do. (At this point I had actually stopped breathing.) All three of these stories—Be Tipul, the flying guru, and The Footnote, affected me very deeply, and in recent weeks I’ve been trying to figure out why. Because they are Israeli, and I’m Jewish? Nah, that didn’t really ring true. And then it hit me: all of them involve uncertainty. Of course, if you were to ask me how I feel about uncertainty, I would tell you that I hate it; but I’m not sure I do. I may not love it, but I’m certainly intrigued by it. My first memory, at age two-and-a-half, was precisely about this theme; and I recall that Camus wrote somewhere that our first conscious moment contains the issue that we will dance around for the rest of our lives. As one psychoanalyst puts it, the infant’s first sensory experiences presage the way he or she will view and construct the external world. But here’s the catch: the external world that we seek out is in synchrony with our first sensory experiences; and if those experiences are, for example, ones of uncertainty, then what the adult will seek out—for comfort(!)—is uncertainty. This, then, is a paradoxical type of harmony, what this psychologist calls “primal confusion,” or the paradox of finding solace in uncertainty.

In the Jewish tradition, when you paint your house, you are supposed to leave a small but visible section of one of the interior walls blank. The idea is that only God is perfect, so it’s important for us humans to be imperfect as a reminder of this. I believe there is a similar tradition in Navajo weaving, of leaving one strand loose, unwoven, so that there is a place for the Great Spirit to enter. And the asymmetry of Japanese art may be based on the same sort of premise. Uncertainty—things out of order, out of kilter, unfinished and incomplete—is, on this interpretation, a great gift. Dr. Weston left the therapist’s office to float around Brooklyn like a rudderless ship; but if his therapist was right, he had never really lived an authentic life, and now that terrifying opportunity had been presented to him. Ditto, the devotees of the flying guru. And something similar is going on at the end of The Footnote, where the father could, if he chose, abandon his need for a hollow Oedipal victory and come clean—in public, no less.

I have not enjoyed uncertainty in my life; I have endlessly pursued ways to be able to stand on terra firma. But I have never escaped the aura of that first primal awareness, which stimulated me to search for the sources of security in human life for the next sixty-seven years. Nor is it an accident that my current research is on Japanese culture, which is based, like karate, on the creativity of empty space—the “meaning of meaninglessness,” as one Japanese philosopher called it. I have always envied those who were blessed with a deep sense of security, who moved through life free of anxiety—or so it seemed. I guess I still do. But there is no getting around it: for better or worse, without uncertainty I wouldn’t be, to quote the epitaph on Kierkegaard’s tombstone, that individual.

©Morris Berman, 2013


Anonymous Capo Regime said...

MB: In Treatment was fantastic though I did like the Israeli version better. I would not dismiss the fact that as a Jew one gets a lot of resonance from Israeli literature and screenplay sensibilities. If you are on that theme, I commend Robert Musil's The Man Without Qualities. If you read German it would probably be the way to go but English translation is solid.

Musil: It is reality that awakens possibilities, and nothing would be more perverse than to deny it.

In the novel at fin de siecle Austro Hungarian Empire we see how social ideas, identity, status are all organized by a culture and are all exposed as farcical as the society is coming to an end. Much like the U.S. the Austo-Hungarian empire was collapsing and in it you see the silliness of nationalism and individual vanity hanging on in the face of an indifferent reality.

9:46 PM  
Anonymous Captain Spaulding said...

Dr. B. - Without wanting to get too therapeutic or personal on this blog, I wanted to say that this talk resonated with me deeply (I've read it twice now). I've suffered from a deep sense of insecurity and uncertainty my entire life and, like you, came to feel that my academic research was pointless and not worth spending at least another ten years of my life. (This epiphany hit me in grad school.) What I appreciated most was your ambivalence to this persistent sense of uncertainty, that it has made you the person you are but has been a painful path to enlightenment too.

For a long time, as an agnostic, I've distrusted writings about faith and "spiritual" matters, but I'm finding through "Spinning Straw" and "A Question of Values" that you really can't get away from it. I sometimes think that the humanities in higher education started unraveling when it stopped asking the bigger questions: is there a pattern and meaning to history? do civilizations go through 'a cycle of life,' etc.? We don't really educate kids anymore on how to build a meaningful life and I think it's because we've divorced the "spirit" from the content of our subjects. It's really no wonder why the humanities are shutting down in the US - first, they don't train anyone either to make money on Wall Street or run a machine; and, second, they don't fulfill their original purpose anymore. Your books and this talk helps me to see this more clearly.

Anyways, I found your talk consoling. Thanks for posting. -- The Capt.

10:49 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I lived in Germany 1991-92 and during that time read a lot of German fiction. I did read Musil, but I can't remember if I read it in the German original or the English translation. In any case, it does have a haunting quality, and for exactly the reasons you state. It's kind of intriguing, that we cannot seem to learn the lessons of this argument (which is made in many great works of fiction--Proust, for example). Of course, Americans are not likely to have read Musil (or much of anything, as the stats reveal); but how is it that even smart people keep playing games so that they don't have to reckon with that "indifferent reality"?

In the US rt now, the reality is that we are disintegrating, going down the drain. The recent Syria fiasco may amount to a semi-Suez Moment, for all I know, with the president now revealed as empty and inept, and having no moral vision at all. But let someone like Putin point out the destructiveness of our feted "American exceptionalism," and Ovomit & Co. go nuts, defending this stupid concept when all we are doing is digging our own grave with it. Or let Jimmy Carter state that we no longer have a functioning democracy, and the media reply with complete silence. The fact is that if you want to talk about reality, you simply can't get a hearing. It's why American "conversations," even at the individual level, are basically about nothing. Hence Auden, in "The Age of Anxiety": "We would rather be ruined than changed." What would it take, for a major newspaper or politician to declare, "You know, Putin (or Carter) is right: we need to take a cold, hard look at what we believe, and what we are doing"? A miracle, I'm guessing.

O&D & R.I.P.


11:03 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you, Dr. Berman, for recommending "In Treatment". I haven't had a hookup to TV for many years and I had never even heard of this show. I just found it on Netflix and the first DVD will be here soon. I'm looking forward to seeing it.

11:05 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Glad to be of service, and hope u enjoy it. BTW, pls pick a handle in future, as "Unknown" is a bit too anonymous. You might consider Cranston Butterworth III, or Sam Schmeck, D.D.S. Chico Chicolini is also gd.


I appreciate yr appreciation, thank you. One thing that led me to that academic crisis was that at age 28, two things seemed mutually exclusive: intellectual rigor, and spiritual insight. It took me many yrs to work it out, that it was possible to do both, simultaneously. In a sense, it became my life's work. It was precisely because of this supposed dichotomy (I think) that the humanities drifted into a meaningless relativism, postmodern deconstruction, in which all texts were equivalent and there was no such thing as truth. This was a perfect way for the humanities to commit suicide, and within the Academy, at least, they largely succeeded--having 0 meaningful to pass on to students. Somebody smarter than this once referred to postmodernism as "the revenge of intelligence against genius"--! Pretty good characterization, I think.

In addition, spirituality, in the US especially, got co-opted by New Age dreck. Oprah, est, all of that shit, is just a pseudo-spiritualized version of Ayn Rand, narcissism, neoliberalism, radical individualism, and the corporate-consumer society. It always boils down to money and success, in America, no matter how cleverly it's disguised. Christopher Lasch was certainly on target in "The Culture of Narcissism," but it was pure critique; there was finally nothing to believe in. Better than postmodernism, to be sure, but still not a living path.


11:52 PM  
Blogger GregJS said...

Another lurker of some months here, I feel compelled to come forward at this time for a few reasons:
1) Along with infanttyrone, I also had the “My Dinner With Andre the Giant” idea in response to the Kantian shoot-‘em-up movie premise; and a coincidence of this gravity and import indicates some deep synchronistic movement within the heavens that is not to be ignored
2) The chicken nuggets video was the funniest thing I have ever seen – I had to express this (and in general, I find so many great links and references here)
3) Your latest post, Dr. Berman, like SSIG (along with everything else of yours I’ve read or watched/heard), speaks so closely to my own interests, which are very much about the connection between security and uncertainty. Well, I’m assuming I even understand what you mean by uncertainty. I see it - in a positive sense - as living in a kind of open-ended relationship to an undefined reality; being OK with the unknown; not needing to define the ultimate nature of things in hard-and-fast ways. If this is at all similar to what you mean, I would say that the ability to live with this kind of uncertainty requires a great deal of security. But not the kind of security we are trained to strive for in our culture, which is precisely the attempt to nail reality down to the nth degree. I mean another, deeper, visceral, innate type of security-in-uncertainty - a security that we are born with but that our way of life drills out of us in the first few years of life, so most of us apparently don’t even seem to know we once had it – hence the common, never-ending quest for security-in-certainty, the ultimate expression of which is that woman screaming about chicken nuggets - and all the other expressions of a culture making its last few swirls ‘round the toilet bowl. (Actually, I’m curious if anyone out there has come across the concept of an innate/inborn sense of security as a clearly defined concept in the psychological literature. I haven’t. But since I’m working on a book related to this idea, it would be great to learn of any possible references to it that may exist. I’m no psychologist.)
4) Finally, unless I’ve missed something, there is one seeming prejudice I’ve encountered on this blog that I’ve long felt needs addressing. Deli meat. As a baker/pastry chef by training, I’m a bit miffed that no one ever mentions bread. Good bread is good. It’s an important part of any sandwich. And cheese - my second love after baked goods. Good cheese is good too. I hope there is room within this community to recognize the importance of bread and cheese (not to the exclusion of, but in addition to, the importance of deli meat).
Sorry first post is long.
[also I don't know how to post here - my user name is GregJS]

12:10 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Welcome to the blog. Always great to have a lurker come outta the shadows.

Too bad we don't know the name of the Chicken McNuggets woman, as she could be on the presidential ticket 2016 along w/Lorenzo Riggins and Latreasa Goodman. This is my kinda gal, quite honestly.

On certainty etc.:
a) Check out Keats on "negative capability."
b) Ch. 1 of my bk "Coming to Our Senses" reviews the relevant psychological lit down to 1989.

Finally, bread is often mentioned on this blog, as in Corned beef on rye with cole slaw and Russian dressing.


12:25 AM  
Anonymous joe hohos said...

Dr. B,

This one's for you

12:46 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


A good portrait of contemporary America: douche bags on parade.


1:30 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

And speaking abt what's important to Americans:

What depth! What integrity!

2:29 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

That was a great essay Berman and now I am racking my brain for my earliest memory ! Uncertainty is such an overpowering concept in modern life and so rarely gets addressed.

How did you continue a career for the next forty or so years if you disliked academia at 28?

Could you give one piece of advice on writing? (Preferably serious)

Fao/Greg - Bread is the best and it's what makes a sandwich. A soft, warm delicious bread loaf or pastry can really make a persons day - one of the best comfort foods.

3:16 AM  
Anonymous ellen said...

infanttyrone, in reply to the previous post (a bit out of sync, here):

Point taken re the endorsement or not of 'The Official Version of Events'. Official versions of anything demand very close scrutiny.

Regarding your other point about who qualifies as working class, I can only assume that this is a cultural difference. I consider myself working class since I must work for a living and am not, and have never aspired to be, a rentier. I spent a year once working in the US and noticed that the term 'working class' there has been redefined into 'middle class' (that is a terminology change, not a fundamental status change)--something I found odd and confusing coming from such a class-obsessed society as the British one. It struck me as being fundamentally dishonest and misleading--there being pride, not shame, for me in working for a living.

Those mad, defiantly working class fools were canny enough to change the very telling punch line of the original lyric to chime with the US audience's cultural sensitivities though, weren't they? But then Pete at least still has bills to pay.

Hope I die before I get old:

3:47 AM  
Blogger the pied cow blog said...

I'll pretend to have a bookstore so I can invite you to deliver this presentation.

Nice work.

4:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Morris,

Thank you for your post. The strain between "intellectual rigor" and "spirituality" you talk about reminds me a lot of Pirsig's dichotomy between "romantic quality" and "intellectual quality". How big of an influence has Pirsig been in your work?

All of this also reminds me of a quote by the French writer St-Exupéry:"Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."



5:47 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Not a lot, altho I found it a very powerful piece of work. It contributed to the "strain," in any case (he himself offers no solution to it); was part of the mosaic, for me, in short.


There wasn't much continuity. Not too long after that British 'episode' I quit my university and free-lanced in San Francisco for 5 yrs, wrote the Reenchantment book u like so much. I was basically in and out of academia for most of my life, even got tenure at one pt and then gave it up. Advice on wrtg: if yr not into it, don't do it.


7:04 AM  
Blogger jml said...

re imperfection:
i'm sure you know of the japanese pottery tradition of wabi sabi where the imperfection becomes what makes the bowl beautiful. these pieces are incredibly beautiful and moving b/c they mimic the fragility of human life. in america, we expect life to be completely formulaic and mechanical, but life will only ever be organic, irregular like those wabi sabi bowls. something americans can't grasp. perhaps, one has to go through a dark night of the soul to get that. and we don't do that here - we take pills to prevent dark nights of the soul.

7:54 AM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

Well Dr. B

I have ordered Dark Ages America from Amazon. With my previous post, sometimes I get carried away. I just simply got deeply into it.

With that link you posted about making people think you're bigger than you really are this is how a lot of people operate in America.

Instead of saying they bought supplies from WalMart they will say that they are partnered with a number of distributors. This is what business people do and this is what is expected. It saddens me to even watch this whole display of exaggeration, misdirection and flummery.

The truth won't just set you free it'll make you mad.

Dr. B, what do you do now to provide for yourself?

7:56 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I have a begging bowl, and go door to door. People are amazingly kind.


It's remarkable what children Americans are, and this goes all the way to the top. Putin writes a measured, mature article, suggesting that we finally grow up and dispense with the "we are special" bullshit, and the response of Ovomit and press and major politicos is to throw a tantrum! I tell u, there isn't enuf urine in this world to soak the shoes of these people thoroughly (which they sorely need). The US is so dense, and its people so fogged over, that no wake-up call will ever get thru.


8:12 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

Dr B,

What do you expect? It's another empty suit in Mexico with new Emperor Nieto. The American Capitalist Stain ("money and success") runs so deep it cannot be escaped.

Guess u are going to have to emigrate eventually because it won't be long before the chicken McNuggets start flying. Yeehaw! Screw everybody but me!

10:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Wondering why you don't have a go at a screenplay.

Here's one that may not have been posted.


10:55 AM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...


The CP piece is a bit decontextualized. Also, as an actual Mexican I would note the author (typical white idealistic lefty) makes a false equivalence, as many people in Mexico are truly proud to belong to a people and the independence day is meaningful unlike the U.s. when its a day to get a good deal on a dryer. However, protests, recognition of class, distrust of politicians, are all part of the scence in Brazil, Spain and Mexico and these are good things. Mexico like all places is flawed but the charm, the social vigor, general good sense make it a good place to live. My wager is MB like many of us will remain in Mex.

1:19 PM  
Anonymous James Allen said...

For those moments when the world is too much with you, I offer the following diversion, combining alcohol and Western philosophy in a most delightful fashion:

Poto ergo sum.

1:51 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and Wafers,

"I wanted only to try to live in accord with the promptings which came from my true self. Why was that so very difficult?"

~ Hermann Hesse, "Demian"

Dr. Berman-

A beautiful and insightful essay; one that contributes to the overall vision of SSIG.

To embrace a kind of duality, i.e., the deep themes of certainty and uncertainty, of completeness and incompleteness, of spiritual self-realization while being firmly rooted in reality, is critical to finding our true selves. This theme runs through the novels of Hermann Hesse (one of my favorites) and I believe it to be necessary to our understanding of the bigger picture.

Needless to say, I was deeply disappointed to read that no bookstores in Los Angeles showed any interest in hosting an event for you; a collection of philistines to say the least... Have you contacted "The Last Bookstore" in downtown LA? It would seem that you and your message would be right up their alley. Here is their contact info:

Jeff/a.k.a., LA Wafer

Boris the Spider-

Chicken Nugget Rampage video is an absolute award winner! We hafta track down this woman and congratulate her on behalf of Wafers Worldwide.


2:29 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yes, I wrote Last Bkstore 2x, but they never wrote back. I think in all these cases--as w/not being able to find a publisher for the WAF pb edn--it's not really ideological. Basically, my work doesn't smell of money, and as the empire collapses, this is really all these folks are looking for.
Of course, as I argue in WAF, money *is* ideology, in the US; my marginalization, so to speak, just substantiates my argument. I'm quite sure that if I were a celebrity, or if SSIG had some Oprah-like, New Age message, there wd have been no problem getting a gig in LA or elsewhere. The truth is, I'm stuck speaking to the 0.1%--probably much less, in fact--who have values that lie outside of those of the dominant culture. As someone once wrote abt my work, "If Berman were successful, his whole thesis would be wrong." Res ipsa loquitur, as one of them ol' Romans once said.


3:00 PM  
Anonymous DiogenesTheElder said...

Lexington! I will be there! Great news. That's only an hour away.


4:46 PM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...


to change the very telling punch line of the original lyric to chime with the US audience's cultural sensitivities

Not sure if you are referring to the "Do ya ?" after "...the hypnotized never lie."
If so, I'm pretty sure I can hear it, although it is off camera.
If something else, please advise.

Interestingly, here's a version from Texas in 1975 where I don't hear "Do ya?" at all. Not sure I can blame them; Texans can get awfully touchy about perceived insults.

Official Version
My non-endorsement of The Official Version of Events wasn't meant to score a point against anything you had posted...just didn't want anyone to assume I knew the truth about 9/11 one way or the other. As the late Prof. Feynman cautioned, if there isn't a fair amount of doubt surrounding something, it's almost certainly not The Truth.

working class
I guess my idea of working class is anyone whose livelihood depends (or will in the future depend) on an employer or customers or both. Basically someone who doesn't have the option of taking the week or month off, as I think your "rentiers" would be able to choose to do. Some of them have pride in their work or business enterprises - others might be ashamed of their current status. (c.f. Steinbeck's 'temporarily displaced millionaires')

Do as you will, but I'm buyin' a Powerball ticket this afternoon.
Stay tuned, if I hit the jackpot, I'll personally underwrite the 2014 Wafer convention.

5:07 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

dg said,

"MB, Wondering why you don't have a go at a screenplay."


MB, u have a gift for humor (along w/ much else of course) in writing. And at yr age, w/ yr wisdom/experience, the screenplays wd fall from the pen. A Berman "Idiocracy"...tell me some young indie filmmaker out there wldn't turn it into a utube classic.

What is the meaning of existence? Work and love. The pursuit of same gives shape to our day & wards off the uncertainties that will kill us. That seems to be the traditional answer & it has something going for it. The craft people don't look for fame, they practice their craft in that simple faith, it seems to me anyway.

5:47 PM  
Anonymous Mikbeth said...


I picked up your book Destiny awhile back and took my time getting through it. I really don't know how to describe it. I found myself engrossed in the stories but the style of the stories caught me off guard. The stories seemed so relaxed and unforced.

I found the stories very provocative. My takeaway is that this notion that we can somehow control our own destiny is not only wrong but it's really unimportant! I've spent much of my life being dissatisfied with my life and then feeling bad about feeling that way. It was a vicious circle. I'm able to let it go for the most part and I found the stories poignant meditations on the topic.

Thanks again. I continually find value in each book of yours I have read.

Also, just ordered Season 1 of In Treatment. Sounds like it is right up my alley.

7:10 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Hmm...yes, perhaps a screenplay based on the Chicken McNuggets Freakout we've been discussing. Really wish I cd find that woman; she's my dream angel.


Wafer convention is in 2015: Ireland, June 1-5. Word hs it that it's going to be the most significant event since the Neolithic Revolution. Steinbeck: embarrassed, not displaced.


I look for'd to seeing u in ol' Virginny.


7:10 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thank u for yr appreciation, and yr support. I have long been aware that for a variety of reasons, I can reach only a very few people in the course of my work. But perhaps quality, rather than quantity, is the greater issue. Destiny, SSIG, and the poetry book (Counting Blessings), in particular, fall into the category of what u refer to as 'meditations'. All three of them had the feeling of being 'channeled', altho subsequent editing was of course quite necessary. But most of the opening long novella of Destiny was written in 9 days in a cottage on the edge of the Aegean Sea, off the coast of Turkey. SSIG fell out in 24 hours while I sat sunk in a sofa chair in Mexico City. And Counting Blessings was written on napkins in a cafe in a small town, over a period of 3 days. In any case, meditation is really the idea here: to get folks to think abt what their lives are, or shd be. Speaking for myself, I blinked, and 50 years went by. Subjectively, it seems like we have a lot of time, but the truth is that it's all over in a flash. The only conclusion I can come to, wh/I want to pass on to any reader who might chance to come across my work, is this: get yr priorities straight. You can't be wasting yr time on crap, and if u are, you'll eventually regret it. If yr not living out of a genuine spiritual center, one that is somatic rather than dogmatic, why even bother? Either yr living or yr sleepwalking, and it's never too late to choose life.


8:28 PM  
Anonymous Ken Smith said...

MB and jml,

I'm certainly no expert on Japanese art, but it could be that wabi-sabi is related to the kintsugi tradition of fixing broken pottery with a grout made of resin and gold flakes. The repaired pot is then considered more beautiful. I've read that some entrepreneurs, unfortunately, are buying old Japanese pottery, purposely breaking it, then repairing in the kintsugi fashion to increase its value.

As for the Jewish tradition of leaving one wall unpainted, there is something similar in Muslim culture. Islamic artists, with no distinction between religious and secular art, make a deliberate error in their work because only God is perfect. So, a Muslim tile setter will purposely set one tile at an odd angle.

8:47 PM  
Anonymous Death to Generalizations said...

"the humanities drifted into a meaningless relativism, postmodern deconstruction, in which all texts were equivalent and there was no such thing as truth."

Please name one--just one--person in academia who holds these ridiculous straw man positions, and include specific citations.

Thank you.

9:26 PM  
Blogger GregJS said...

Thank you, oh All-Knowing Google for remembering (from long-forgotten extremely short-lived blog) that I’m some kind of fou.

And thanks Dr. B for pointing me back to your excellent 1st Ch. of CTOS. I especially enjoyed it when I first read it not too long ago – and in general am a big fan of your “consciousness trilogy” (although just read the 1st in your “decline of America” trilogy, TAC, and it was excellent, too). If I follow your overview - as it relates to security, in particular - the consensus seems to be that, although we are born into what could be called “innate security” due to our being in an undifferentiated state of consciousness, differentiation necessarily entails the loss of this security (i.e., the “nemo” IS the self/other dichotomy; differentiation is inherently problematic/anxiety-inducing). In other words, most of current psych says whatever “innate security” we might have at birth is only temporary. To me, that means they don’t see it as truly innate at all. Very helpful to learn, so thanks.

Liedloff, with her continuum concept, seems to be the lone voice in your survey clearly saying differentiation isn’t inevitably problematic (which is no surprise to me - she’s one of my guiding lights; and also not a psychologist!). I’d even go as far as saying that we can’t differentiate fully/properly unless we retain our innate security – never mind differentiation causing us to lose it.

I know – this isn’t a psych blog. So, getting back to stuff that matters, if choosing presidential candidates comes down to asking “Which of these jokers can I best tolerate listening to the next 4 years?” then I fervently nominate Chicky Nuggetina, not just for prez, but Empress - because I could watch her all day, every day. May Her Ultimate Form reign (scream, hiss, punch, slash) forever!

Glad to see bread is cool here. And of course in Jewish delis, cheese + meat ain’t kosher – so what was I thinking? (I’m really too out of touch with my Jewish heritage). Too bad, though, because that moldy, stinky stuff is straight from God.

10:05 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Sorry, I really don't have time to do a research paper for you. That wd take a fair amt of plowing thru my library, for bks and articles I read in years past, and I'm onto other things now. But that was the gist of what I read, and what I'm saying here is very well known; these assertions are hardly "ridiculous straw man positions." Stanley Fish comes to mind, for example, and you might look up critiques of his work (most recently by Russell Jacoby in the New Republic, Aug. 21).(Also check out the hilarious sendup of Fish as Morris F. Zapp in David Lodge's novel, "Changing Places"--but then, it's 'just' a novel, altho Lodge has a great ear for academic discussions.) I never talked w/Fish myself, but I certainly had discussions with various postmodernists during their heyday, esp. in the 80s, and these were definitely positions they (aggressively) held--no two ways abt it. There have been a number of critiques of postmodernism in general that show this (complete with citations), which I also read yrs ago--for example, Carl Rapp's bk, "Fleeing the Universal." Anyway, I appreciate that this is not as academic/comprehensive as you might like, but it's abt all the effort I can put in on the subject rt now. Serious critics of postmodernism (like Rapp) have had no problem demonstrating what I'm saying. But you would undoubtedly get a lot more satisfaction, in terms of intellectual debate, by engaging w/folks who are really into all of that, pro and con, on a professional basis. I'm not an expert on deconstruction, and it's not really the focus of this blog, in any case.


Well, it depends on which psychologists you read. Lacan argued that we were social beings from birth; Henri Wallon said we were 'confiscated' later on. Some do argue that it is truly innate; it just depends on how u define 'temporary', I guess. Freud placed the intrusion of the Reality Principle kind of late; the question is at what pt true otherness enters the picture, for the infant (also discussed in CTOS, and maybe WG as well). Typically, the 1st conscious moment occurs around age 2.5 (altho there is a lot of variation in this), and that is the moment when the infant realizes that there is something that is Not-me. Surely, this is the origin of fear.

The problem for me, in trying to respond 2u, is that I read all this stuff ages ago, so I'm not au courant on my (Melanie) Klein et al. who wrestled w/all this. I'm guessing that there is a spectrum of opinion on it among the Object Relations people. In addition, CTOS takes the discussion of the literature down to 1989, and there must be more research on the topic since then; altho for a # of reasons, Object Relations never caught on in the US. You might have a look at some of the essays in Paul Horton, "The Solace Paradigm" (altho it came out in '88).


11:13 PM  
Anonymous Captain Spaulding said...

Dear Death - Postmodernism was pretty prevalent in literature departments in the 1980s and 1990s - Frederic Jameson wrote the ur-text, "Postmodernism: Or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism" (1990). I don't think it's quite as fashionable now as it used to be. Partly, as Russell Jacoby mentioned in his "Last Intellectuals," that postmodernists generate a lot of impenetrable texts but little actual insight. Case in point was the "Sokal Affair" (1996) when an NYU physics professor submitted a deliberately nonsensical paper using postmodern jargon to a peer-reviewed journal and was accepted. I can't speak for lit studies but in history, it never really caught on and you'd be hard pressed to find any history dissertations these days citing Derrida, Spivak, or even Jameson. The harsher post-9/11 world we all live in makes it very difficult to sustain the idea that the capitalist world is made up merely of texts or signs whose meanings are completely arbitrary. I'm sure there's still a lot of "pomo" scholars around - you're bound to find some in any good sized English department -but I think it's an intellectual fad that's finally starting to fade away (at least from my vantage point.)

That's about as specific as I can get especially since I resisted the pomo trend back in the day and haven't read much of it in the past fifteen years. But it is, truly, the worst type of academic jargon imaginable - and the best commentary on it is, actually, Rabelais's "Gargantua and Pantagruel." (1532) When Gargantua encounters a scholar during his travels, the man talks in such horribly inflated jargon that the giant strangles him out of frustration. While Gargantua is choking him, the poor scholar starts screaming for help in his native rustic accent - he's a provincial pretending to be a sophisticate. I always thought of that episode every time I had to read any postmodern book or article.

12:31 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you for the advice and your response. I'm glad there was no continuity, I was unaware of your "career path" and was afraid you had slogged it out for decades in academia.

I'm loving the screen play idea.

12:36 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


To launch the project, I need a working title. Perhaps: "Chicken McNuggets, Nosepicking, and Postmodern Deconstruction in the Context of Social Disintegration and Imperial Collapse, with Special Reference to Paul de Man and the McNuggets Freakout Lady." Catchy, eh wot? Wafers are encouraged to submit other possibilities for our general consideration.


12:51 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Q: What do you get when you cross a postmodernist with a mafioso?

A: Someone who makes you an offer you can't understand.


12:54 AM  
Anonymous Captain Spaulding said...

Here's my vote for a working title: "Discourses on post-spatialites and subjective intertextualities within late capitalistic transformative governmentality practices: A Foucauldian paradigm realignment among interstatial actors."

Translation: I'll take my pastrami on rye, thank you very much.

1:06 AM  
Anonymous Pat Fitz said...

Serendipitous tangent that just happened to me yesterday. I was looking up literary theories about historical relativism for a graduate research paper about a Francoist propaganda film adapted from a previous play (I study Spanish Lit) and came across this.

It's far from perfect and maybe a bit old, but is least partially echoes el buen maestro's lament and can probably clarify somewhat for Death to Gen.

MB, I rarely post anymore but reading you keeps helps me feel sane, so thanks again. Looking forward to SSIG, and my USA Exodus is also well underway.
O&D for now,

Patrick from WA

2:50 AM  
Anonymous Golf Pro said...

How many Freudians does it take to change a light bulb?

Two. One to change the bulb, and one to hold the cock....sorry, I mean step ladder.

4:53 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Many thanks. In future, however, pls post only once a day; it's sort of an informal rule we have here.


Nice to hear from u, and thanks for the ref. I confess, for me guys like Kimball take empiricism much too far, claiming that all discussions of social construction are invalid. (Typically, as in his case, this just turns into an attack on the left.) His argument that we must not confuse science with the sociology of science, for example, is true only up to a pt, it seems to me, because the latter (used judiciously) can cast some doubt on the truth-claims of the former. My own Reenchantment book is in part a discussion of the socioeconomic and political forces that accompanied the Scientific Revolution, and I'm sure Kimball would hate it. At the same time, I never claimed (e.g.) that projectile motion was sharply discontinuous (Aristotelian theory) down to 1600, and then somehow 'converted' to a parabolic trajectory after the work of Galileo (wouldn't that be a hoot!). The problem is the lengths to which all of this got carried, in the pomo heyday, such that (e.g.) gender was seen as imaginary, and the human body regarded as nothing more than a social construct. I remember someone saying to me, years ago, that the problem with postmodernists was that they took a small truth and turned it into a big lie. That seems abt rt. Unfortunately, we cd be debating all of this stuff until the cows come home; which has already been done.


5:37 AM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...

Death to Genealization,

Well Academic opinions are well just that....If you have seen anything produced by humanities departments the statement made by MB is a obvious as Hilary Clintons ass.

However, both Noam Chomsky and Richard Dawkins hold views much like that of MB on the humanities and certainly post modernism.

Your nome de plume is interesting. Generalization is based on the quite human (and even protozoa) of pattern recognition. Generalization is essential in a tough competitive environment (and it works pretty well). Generalization is what all social science is based upon and even medicine. Even to some extent generalization is used in math and physics. Of course some Frankfurt school types, post modernists and historicists do not like generalization. this will lead to 100 page treatments on how to cook a hard boilded egg and cite academic authorities on how really the need for water to reach 100c to boil is a social construct.

7:57 AM  
Blogger plotinus said...

Dear Dr. Berman,
This may be slightly off topic but I'd like to thank you for introducing me to the work of Robert Bellah of whom I was unaware. I just started reading "Religion in Human Evolution". The Preface itself was insightful. I'm looking forward to working my way through it.
With regard to Chica McNugget, I spent more years than I care to remember hanging around in low life taverns and I knew a few Chica (and Chico) McNuggets in my time. Let me assure the Wafer community of two things about Ms. McNugget's future:
1) She will be in the state penitentiary fairly soon.
2) She'll make out just fine there.

9:17 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yr welcome. You might wanna have a look at my discn of Bob's famous 1967 essay on 'civil religion' in essay #3 of QOV, and also his bk The Broken Covenant. He was a great interlocutor, and I'm very sorry he's gone. As for Ms. McNugget: a pity, as I'd prefer to see her sitting in the Oval Office myself, flanked by Lorenzo Riggins and Latreasa Goodman.


9:51 AM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

Call it

"For Smart People"

- u will have queues around the block.

11:06 AM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

I watched the McNugget lady and I've done a bit of digging. The audio and text are fake. In actuality, there is no audio or text. It is a parody. The video is true though.

Relativism is a logical contradiction. If relativism denies that an objective truth exists well isn't this an objective truth in itself? Proof by contradiction in the analytic way says it has to be false.

To do it by the synthetic way, if there is no objective truth and all facts are merely subjective opinions then it would be valid to hold the truth that I do not exist at all and I did not write this. Yet, the words are on here and my ISP can be confirmed through the IP address and they can confirm that I exist as a customer.

In addition, I could state and hold as an opinion that Pastrami Sandwiches do not exist and you Dr. B can refute that by coming on webcam.

It is true that what we hold as a truth may be mistaken or based upon faulty reasoning. It is true that some things could be taken out of context. To deny that there is any truth makes no sense to me and I don't get it.

By my observations and what I do understand about logic this is what I derive.

a. Some iterations are true in all conditions.

b. Some iterations are true in some conditions which means in other conditions some iterations are false. To further go into this this leads to these corollaries. I. Some things are true but there are things that are more true. II. Some things are false but some things are more false.

c. There are iterations that are never true no matter what conditions exist.

d. Keep in mind that some truth(s) may have to be refined.

11:45 AM  
Anonymous Golf Pro said...

For info.

11:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: Screenplay

An MB "Idiocracy would be perfect. Don't know if it's true, but I read that the money for the film was cut when the big shots learned of the content.

Starting an Idiocarcy genre would be of lasting benefit to future generations.

11:57 AM  
Blogger GregJS said...

No worries about not having this psych stuff at your fingertips anymore, Dr. B. I only inquired on the very off chance that someone here would just happen to know of any theory explicitly based on “innate security.” I appreciate your offering some possible leads and will have a look.

If such a theory exists, it’s probably obscure because our culture so deeply loves its notions that life=massive insecurity; that pre-civilized people spent every moment of their lives in sheer terror; that babies start life with zero security; and that we modern folks are the smart ones who finally figured out that the object of life is to maniacally rack up, create, or acquire as much “security” as possible, by any means imaginable – but oh yeah, you can lose it all in a split second at any time, so no amount is ever enough (unless, like infanttyrone, you win the mega-lottery – good going!). So no matter how many guns you have and no matter how big your underground bunker, if they don’t serve chicken nuggets when you want ‘em, all your hard work in life is out the window and you’re instantaneously reduced to what we kid ourselves is a “primitive, savage condition” when actually, you can’t possibly get any more modern than Ms. Nuggetina, long may She freak.

12:27 PM  
Anonymous shep said...

My brain is completely out of tune. I need help! (Capo will luv this)

U referred Plotinus to QOV, Essay #3, about Bellah's comments on 'civil religion'.

Is this the one u meant?

I read it and got even more confused.

I understand the rope-a-dope utilized by Japan and now China. Where u lost me, is when u say. "The Chinese economic system is..., and widespread institutionalized bribery".

This is also the main ingredient in Free Market Capitalism and Colonialism. No?

I need to stick to music. There is nothing to figure out or do. Just enjoy.

Seems like u mentioned one time that u liked Bluegrass?

12:30 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Dr. Berman,
Just wondering how you're doing in Mexico City and the ok?

1:10 PM  
Anonymous Joseph said...

That you couldn't present this in the US is a statement of American culture (or "culture," rather) in and of itself. Fantastic essay, MB.

1:19 PM  
Blogger cosmoflanker said...

How about:

"The waning influence of pastrami on rye as a factor in sociologically driven imperial decline, with consideration of the correlation to accelerating instances of chicken mcnugget incidents: a critique of post-modern contextual and pre-subjective views."

Hopefully SSIG arrives today or tomorrow. Looking forward to it.

1:24 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


Just wanted to thank you for this lovely, thoughtful & thought-provoking essay. It deals with precisely the sort of vital material that Americans avoid at all costs, for fear of having to face up to what they're so desperately fleeing at full speed -- going at such speed that they don't even see where they're going & really don't care, either. And that's what they call "life" of all things, God help them.

A truly sad but telling story here:

Please read the posted comments for too many similar stories. A perfect example of how consumerist America regards & treats education. As one poster commented, it's absolutely obscene.

3:24 PM  
Anonymous Pat Fitz said...


The Kimball article definitely devolves into the conservative personal agenda realm and holds empiricism as overly sacred. It is important to note however that the author is often seen wearing a bowtie, which as any WAFER-certified physician will tell you, is a hallmark sign of early onset CRE in american men in non-waitstaff positions of employment.

3:42 PM  
Anonymous Edward said...

What do you call this: lack of self-control or love of money or both???

Warning: This article addresses graphic subject matter that may not be appropriate for all readers.

With news cameras flashing, adult film performer Cameron Bay told reporters that in her last porn shoot before testing positive for HIV, her partner's penis was bleeding -- and he wasn't wearing a condom. After stopping momentarily, the cameras continued rolling, she said.

4:12 PM  
Anonymous Vesuuja said...

I thought America is a model of how the rule of law helps the economy and the society. While the police in NY are busy abusing Hispanic and Black kids, the real murderers are getting away with murder:

In the years since the financial crisis, we may not have solved too big to fail, sent any bankers to jail, or done much to prevent another financial crisis, and we certainly haven't changed Wall Street's devotion to money-making at all costs.

But we at least have finally gotten a bank to admit it broke the law.

In what amounts to a relatively stirring triumph of justice on Wall Street, the Securities and Exchange Commission has convinced JPMorgan Chase, the biggest U.S. bank by assets, to admit that it broke federal securities laws in its handling of the $6.2 billion "London Whale" trading debacle.

5:47 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


He might actually be on the verge of full-blown dementia.


When I think abt the influence of pastrami waning, I weep bitter (salty) tears.


Americans are interested in dogshit; what else can I say? Maybe one day I'll write an Oprah-type bk and become a celeb, just to prove my pt.


Mis pies estan secos, gracias.


Oh shit, I meant #2. Sorry, Plotinus. My brain is turning into cottage cheese, at an accelerating rate; as most of my critics will affirm.


Liedloff probably comes closest to what yr looking for, tho her view of that Amazon tribe might be a bit romanticized.


Pls, I'm begging u, stop w/the logic chopping. Halfway thru yr post I developed a severe headache. There are numerous websites where you can indulge in the ramifications of Goedel's Theorem, or proving a negative, or the exact topological structure of Kim's ass, to yr heart's content. This is not one of them! If u keep doing this, I'm going to shoot myself, and then u can take over the blog and provide the differential equations for mapping Kant's navel onto the head of a pin. Please, amigo, have mercy already!


6:18 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

American Justice: I can't get enuf of it!:

This is also gd:

6:29 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings MB and Wafers,


What the hell is up with that cop in Ohio? This shit's getting outta control... Wafers are gonna hafta get some nukes for protection, pronto!


Regarding porn, profit, and how it destroys lives, see Chris Hedges "Empire of Illusion" chap. II.

Pat, MB, Capt. Spaulding, Death-

I stand in unity with the Capt. regarding postmodernism in the history department, yet I have this overwhelming urge to bonk Kimball and Windschuttle over the head with a pastrami sandwich.

W/out beating the pomo argument to death, please allow me to suggest one source: "Telling the Truth About History" by Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt & Margaret Jacob.


Did you ever pick up that Martin acoustic from Ricky Skaggs?


A fake! Say it ain't so! So much was riding on Ms. McNuggetina. Well, that does it, I'm heading out to the deli for some navel pastrami, it's the only thing I can believe anymore...


7:42 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


We need to start drawing up an agenda for the Wafer Ireland Summit Conference (WISC) in 2015. I wd like to humbly suggest (really: when did I *ever* suggest anything humbly? What dogpoop!) that the 1st order of business is how we can supply every Wafer with his/her very own drone. #2 might be how to get the Pentagon to nuke Truth or Consequences, NM (or Peoria, IL; who gives a shit?). Wafers are invited to add to this list.


ps: In anticipation of the Conference, can anyone manage to whip up a bunch of buttons that say WAFERS IN THE EIRE ?

9:08 PM  
Anonymous kyle said...

I'll be attending the Lexington speech. I go to school a hour away at James Madison University. You need to be warned though that the dolts are thick in this part of the woods.

9:32 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Will be gd 2 c.u. Do u by chance have any anti-dolt spray? Sounds like we're gonna need it.


12:03 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

It's a good title - real pompous and academic .

Yes , write an Oprah style book . That would be the best way to make your point and it would be hilarious . You understand the American psyche so well . Now just Pander to it. Have an over the top uber patriot all-American protagonists that has humble beginnings and hustles his way to the top with the help of god and a can do spirit . He should fight crime and prevent terrorism as he grows his business empire/ popularity . Have a fairy tale ending where him and his sexy wife watch their beautiful kids playing in their spacious yard knowing they'll have bright future just like their country . Tie it all in with a negative identity - the protagonist is never really described - Ike the Twilight books . He just exist in opposition to despicable Others . Give it a title like : The Winning Drive or The Ambitious American .

4:52 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

It's starting to happen every few days now:

5:06 AM  
Anonymous ellen said...

infanttyrone, (I always read your name as infantryone. Freudian, much?)
"Do ya ?" is way too subtle for me. I meant the very last couplet which has a satisfyingly sledgehammer quality for me:'t-Get-Fooled-Again-lyrics-The-Who/761EF79AAB42FA9C48256977002E72F9

I am waiting to hear some bluegrass now from Shep. I love the manic fiddle on the cabbage boiling tune, it almost makes up for the revelation that Ms McNuggets has not yet in fact manifested her 'Ultimate Form'--there's more to come!

5:42 AM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

Dr. B

Crap! I got carried away again. I am working on this. I'll tell ya what. I will treat you to Pastrami on Rye bread for you one day.


Yes, I am afraid the audio part is fake. The guy who did the audio overlays obtained the phrases "ultimate form" and "super sayian" are from Dragon Ball Z. He did all of the voices. It is still true that she still had a meltdown over chicken mcnuggets. I still think she should be president.


What I have been told is this by someone. Most people in America conceal a part of themselves. They hide a part of their souls. With all of their confidence and bravado, deep down they're afraid. The 2nd part was really weird. I don't conceal that part of myself which makes them afraid of me.

Until Dr. Berman wrote about the Existential Strain I did not understand why. It is because there is no substance to them. Their identities are tied into their jobs and the culture itself. The existential strain hypothesis reveals a lot and explains a lot. It is like dealing with an animal who is cornered. If one corners an animal the animal will strike hard.

We Americans made a bargain with the devil and guess what? The devil is coming back to collect what is owed to him.

8:24 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

more fun on the internet:

"It was a hard read" HA!

I guess that means the head of the school board couldn't understand the following: “What and how much had I lost by trying to do only what was expected of me instead of what I myself had wished to do?” ... oh wait, an American without nuance and critical reading skills? Of course.

Viva Bolivia:

My kind of craft tradition in Japan:

Maybe if I just keep my head down all the dolts will kill themselves off?

9:46 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

Jeff T'

“Did you ever pick up that Martin acoustic from Ricky Skaggs?”

Sure ‘nuf.

That was in 1998 in Elba, Alabama, where Henry George is anathema.

This morning I'm on fire with Identity Politics , but, Capitalism is revealed, yet again, to be the worst cancer this world has ever created. Creepy! Let's nuke everything.

This program was on NPR radio (surprisingly) this morning. It covers the loss of consent for females in California's prisons. The bastards, as a matter of stealth, sterilized inmates (1997-2010) w/o any consent or knowledge of the procedure.


Another Capitalist freak: Ron Paul.

"Mr. Paul  in his book on education calls for homeschooling to be the major type in the US, he is against any educational universal standard."


Displaced condensate tanks near Greeley and Kersey, CO, from flooding.

"These tanks are used to store waste liquid from drilling operations. Oil and other hydrocarbons not captured in earlier separation processes rise to the top of these tanks and are recovered as marketable. The toxicity of the liquids stored in these tanks is largely unknown because they have been exempted from federal environmental laws."


Dr B,

Please! What do you think of Bluegrass music and Michael Parenti? They do not call me the "Pester" for nothing.

9:56 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


I've noticed that newscasters use the phrase "in the latest shooting incident" when reporting shootings now. Clearly they're expected on a regular basis, it's just a matter of precisely when & where for each one. Otherwise it's just part of the daily landscape.

Meanwhile, more about the move to label every aspect of simply being human as a medical problem to be treated with pills & accompanied by a life-long label:

Get 'em while they're young!

Pat Fitz,

The little I've read by Kimball over the years reveals a perpetually petulant personality (it almost sings, doesn't it) who still can't understand why he wasn't considered cool by the other kids while growing up, when he so obviously deserved to be admired & respected. This seems to be a major factor in the shaping of a certain type of intelligent yet somehow clueless conservative, e.g., see: Rod Dreher.

10:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A perhaps pointless addition to the original essay on uncertainty:

"I love hushed air.
I trust contrariness.
Years and years go past and I do not move
For I see that when one man casts, the other gathers
And then vice versa, without changing sides."

Sorry for the formatting. Blogger isn't helpful which isn't very Lorem ipsum of it, eh?

That's from Seamus Heaney's Casting and Gathering for Ted Hughes.

Many thanks for all the rest.


10:12 AM  
Blogger Horatio Nelson said...

don't know why, but this news item has a touch of tragedy about it.

10:54 AM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...


You are the 2nd person (that I know of) who sees infantryone instead of infanttryone. If you used to play poker (for play money) on a site called FlipSide, then maybe you're one and the same, and thus unique in that regard. Not qualified to relate it to anything Freudian, but it might be connected in some way to the phenomenon described in this interesting clip.

And speaking of the mind's ability to backfill with plausible data, I always associated that "New boss - old boss" line with "the chorus", which a reading of the printed lyrics, thanks to your link, shows that there is no chorus...yikes, who was driving my mental (or magic) bus during all those listening episodes ?
Neal Cassady, mebbe ?

Shep's link to Mark O'Connor led me to explore some of his more recent work...this one below ain't bluegrass, but it sure is Da Blues.
Check out his Orange Blossom Special clip below that, especially for the part with Paul Franklin on pedal steel, for some passages that'll shiver yer synapses.
Sorry about the 15 second ads that may appear 'courtesy' of Youtube.
Probably a small price to pay in such a hustlin' culture as ours.
Exponential thanks to shep...


How's about a tip o' the hat to Alfred Jarry: "The Collapse of the American Empire Considered as an Uphill Monster Truck Mud Race" ?
Gild the lily if you like and change Mud to some sort of slurry composed of what was once a combination of deli meats.

11:05 AM  
Anonymous Edward said...

MB stated: American Justice: I can't get enuf of it!:

Jef T stated: "What the hell is up with that cop in Ohio? This shit's getting outta control."

Imagine where those three victims were Blacks or Hispanics. Everyone would cry racism and white supremacy. Not that there are not some white racists among the cops; but I think the abuse of power and wickedness in America today have affected everyone and every part of the society.

There is noticeable madness in the air we breathe so much so that everyone in America today is insane. You can feel it as you walk around grocery stores or as you drive down the streets. No more sympathy, no more reasoning, and no more communication or attempts to use communication to solve community problems. Everyone is stressed out and it takes very little to piss off some people. The cop in the video is pissed off at the world.

11:52 AM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...

MB: Will be in D.C. area in Nov so will pop down the Shenandoah and attend your lecture. Looking forward.

Thinking of your essay it reminded me of my time in academe. In graduate school and later as a professor (for 10 years) I found it a strange blinkered and often absurd experience. The academics where dull and obsessed with their narrow focus and minor disagreements metastized into hatreds and all manner of passive aggressive vendettas. It was though idealized for many of us young uns not that interesting or fun (save for teaching and interaction with the brighter students). It was (is) a weird racket. I too suffered a dark night of the soul as an academic as I realized it was meaningless. I found (and maybe chanelling Nassim Taleb but he is correct on this score) that smaller scale commerce and trading was more honest, in your face and transactions with diverse party's in different lands lead to tolerance and much learning. In a way I found people in effect building something or making a deal led to more honesty that people chasing honors, status and awards. Also, if I made a mistake I would end up bankrupt, if an academic or bureaucrat (corporate or government) make a mistake a cover up, denial or excuses work and thus reality is averted.

11:56 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


It's a 5-hr drive, amigo; I'm quite sure nothing I have to say is worth it. But--if you really wanna do it, I look forward to seeing u.


That hostile ambience is the main reason I left the US. You can't imagine how different it is down here.


I love Flatt and Scruggs; or as I like to call them, Scratt and Fluggs. When combined with a lg platter of chopped liver, they can't be beat!


12:13 PM  
Anonymous Bingo said...

MB & WAFers,

I enjoyed reading your essay. As a psychoanalyst, please allow me to share my 8-step approach to solving that pesky uncertainty dilemma (I know this sounds like CBT, but what the hell, give it a try):

1. Forget all that uncertainty. I say forget it! Got that?
2. Pick up your iPhone and send a few tweets about something – anything.
3. Get in your V8 SUV and head over to the mall. Pick up a macchiato from Starbucks on your way.
4. At the mall buy yourself that Gucci pair of shoes you’ve always wanted. Charge it to your credit card.
5. Sent another tweet and attach a picture of the shoes. Put it on Facebook too.
6. On your way back, stop for some authentic Mexican dinner at Taco Bell. Don’t forget to tweet about it.
7. Once you’re back at home, pop in a few Xanax pills and go to bed.
8. Next day repeat steps 1 through 7 with minor adjustments as necessary.

I guarantee the procedure above will provide you with an authentic life, a high degree of certainty, and an existential equilibrium like you’ve never dreamed of. It works great for 315 million Americans and their Peace Prize leader...

Except on days like this:

“Bolivian President Evo Morales will file a lawsuit against the US government for crimes against humanity. […] At a press conference in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz. He branded the US president as a ‘criminal’ who violates international law.”

12:35 PM  
Anonymous Jesse said...

Edward and Dr B:
You got to watch this guy - he summarizes everything we have been saying here - about texting, about technology, about everything - a good summary: toxic kids, stupid kids, mean kids, being a person, emptiness, being alone, sadness, pain, murdering people with cars, we push away sadness with our smartphone, but sadness is necessary for happiness, etc

1:56 PM  
Anonymous al-Qa'bong said...

Dear Dr. B, Wafers, and ships at sea:

Every time I read one of your books or essays, I feel as if I'm meeting someone vibrating at the same wavelength; mind you, your wattage is higher, but still...

I dropped out of university after two years, thinking that what I was studying, PoliSci, was a farce. I went back to school eight years later, cynically, for employment reasons: I didn't want to be a labourer as I grew old.

I ended up an English major, but one who had no use for literary criticism. Despite writing an "eminently readable" (according to one of the profs at my thesis defence) MA thesis, I obviously had no future as an academic.

I've been embracing uncertainty for years. As a young "seeker," I read such things as "The Cloud of Unknowing" and Alan Watts' "Wisdom of Insecurity." I've found that planning for the future isn't always a fruitful endeavour - chaos usually insinuates itself amid the best-laid schemes.

I remember after 9/11 how Dubya said he was going to make 'Murrcans "safe." I thought that was a useless thing to say, even if it hadn't been Dubya who said it. Nobody and nothing is really safe. If people could accept that, perhaps they could rid themselves of a lot of anxiety.

Q. - How many surrealists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A. - A fish.

Louis C.K. is a WAFer:

My copy of SSIG has not yet arrived, but I saw that the local public library has put through my request that they purchase a copy.

Onward and upward...

3:20 PM  
Anonymous Mike Alan said...

Edward Said:

"There is noticeable madness in the air we breathe so much so that everyone in America today is insane. You can feel it as you walk around grocery stores or as you drive down the streets. No more sympathy, no more reasoning, and no more communication or attempts to use communication to solve community problems. Everyone is stressed out and it takes very little to piss off some people."

I've noticed this for some time now and am glad to see someone else mention it so I don't seem like the one who always notices these things. If I always bring it up then people will say that I am somehow "attracting" these people to me or I am just focusing on the negative. Yet I sense this barely concealed anger all the time anymore and almost everywhere.

My main concern with this building pressure cooker is that Americans will do what they usually do an misdirect their anger toward the target. Instead of focusing their anger toward this corrupt system and the people who perpetuate it, they will instead focus on people who are different than themselves, which is what the hustlers want them to do.

Thus far the hustlers have been able to keep the wealth flowing upward while only dropping folks near the edges off the cliff of the economy. However, more and more folks who thought they were going to do alright are now closer to that edge so the next inevitable economic downturn could lead to the pot boiling over. I'm guessing more and more people will start assuming their "ultimate form" as the slightest inconvenience send them over the edge. What more should we expect from such a degraded society?

3:56 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and Wafers,

MB, Wafers,

A totally cool hippie Pope?:


Absolument, mon frere. The nation is simply breaking down; trapped in a vicious cycle of violence and madness too cruel and distressing to even contemplate. The brute fact is continual decay and insanity. As William Ophuls reminds us: "So the silent, stealthy erosion of the civilization's moral core proceeds unchecked. Once the damage is done, however, it is too late. Nothing is left but to suffer the consequences."


Indeed, mass shootings are now a matter of course in the US. I read somewhere, (The New Yorker, I think), we hafta suffer through at least another 12 to 14 future mass shootings before Obama leaves office. This figure is based on the historical trend since he's been in office and the frequency and speed at which these events are occurring.


Cool! You can't go wrong pickin' Bluegrass on a Martin for sure. Henry George, now there's a name from the American past! I read that some of George's followers helped create the Gulf coast town of Fairhope, Alabama.


WAFERS IN THE EIRE buttons for the (WISC) in 2015 is a great idea. We also hafta come up with a logo for the event as well. I keep envisioning Wafers on Toast, or perhaps Wafers shown in a semicircle smashing cell phones with little hammers.


4:06 PM  
Blogger GregJS said...

It doesn’t seem our culture has done too much with Liedloff’s ideas in the almost 40 years since she published. No one seems to have picked them up and developed them in any significant way. (Joseph Chilton Pearce has been covering similar ground too, but with a somewhat different focus.) To me, this is the biggest pity of all in our culture because I see no chance for a worthwhile existence outside the human continuum she describes. But everything we do violates the hell out of it.

Your warning, Dr. B, about Liedloff’s possible romanticization of the natives she lived with is well taken. Of course, not too many westerners have avoided misrepresenting aboriginal peoples in one way or another. They seem to make most of us go a wee bit crazy (or really, they reveal how crazy we already are; and we return the favor by killing them; so I conclude we don’t much appreciate being shown how crazy we are). Your own WG is one of the few books that even acknowledges the kinds of biases we’re likely to bring to the subject. No doubt that’s why your ideas there ring so true. But still, compared to most of what’s out there, Liedloff’s core idea seems mainly right on and indespensible.

Until I looked more closely the other day, I had always read infanttyrone as “infinity r one.” Thought you were real cosmic and all!

4:35 PM  
Anonymous Kleinder said...

Why don't you talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Don't you know about the atrocities that the Israelis have brought about against the Palestinians?

5:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Onward Armenia!:

What will the Turks do next? And when will the USA announce the new $1 notes?

5:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An author and book right up your alley (ouch!), Mr. Berman:

James Polk (no pun intended). Author of,
THE TRIUMPH OF IGNORANCE AND BLISS. Thx to you, Mr. Polk, and Mr. Hedges, I can confidently report that I am indeed a modicum less ignorant, and whole "hellofalot" less blissful!

Your works (all three of you) are a much-needed, bracing tonic.

Also, wd you consider writing a book on expatriation perhaps?--assort of, "Nuts and Bolts on Dealing with Nuts and Dolts" guid?

Thanks for all you do. Still have Kevorkian on speed-dial.

Adam Magid

7:18 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Forget Kevorkian! Read the Twilight bk, become an NMI.


That's an easy one to answer: this blog is not abt the Israel-Palestine conflict; it's abt the collapse of the American empire. I don't really mind Wafers talking abt the Middle East, but I wd like it tied into the US going down the drain. The problem is that there is a small fringe that really wants the blog to be abt something else: 9/11, mathematical logic, Israel, you name it. I hafta keep suggesting to them that there are already blogs on those subjects, and they wd be advised to direct their attn to them, not to this blog. In particular, I don't want the blog to get swallowed up by side issues. But again, to the extent that our unhealthy (imo) involvement w/Israel is contributing to the American collapse, that wd be jus' fine.


There was actually a critique of Liedloff by some Swedish therapist (transl. into English) abt 20 yrs ago, based on notion that carrying infant on body all the time is bad for infant: it needs to crawl, she argued, to move around. But I've forgotten author and title. You might also have a look at essay by Merleau-Ponty I cite in CTOS (on Wallon and 'confiscation') for additional ideas.


Or perhaps a group of Wafers porking out on pastrami sandwiches.


"Wisdom of Insecurity" is one abs. fabulous bk. As for SSIG, I suggest ordering another, because you'll need 1 for the kitchen, 1 for the bathrm. Idea is to be rdg it all the time, nonstop.


U 4got this:


8:31 PM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

Holy Crap! We were one switch away from a major disaster. Our country is truthfully fucked. The USA is done.

12:24 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


This is gd, but it bothers me that it was accidental. I've been wrtg the Pentagon for over a yr now to nuke Paris and Toronto, but it occurs to me: why not start w/*American* cities? Certainly not Goldsboro, NC, but perhaps we cd do, say, Austin, or maybe Chicago? And maybe we get Slim Pickins to ride the bomb down, yelling "Yee-hah!". What a rush.


2:39 AM  
Anonymous From Imbecileville said...

Here is an old review of one of V.S. Naipaul's collections of reportage by Hilary Mantel. I vividly remember reading this book when it came out 10 years ago and being so freaked out by it that I had to put it down halfway through.

In retrospect, I think I understand why. Naipaul's unvarnished limning of the Third World in the 60's and the 70's seemed to eerily portray the contemporary American landscape. Sadly, sentiments like a “collapse of sensibility, of a people grown barbarous, indifferent and self-wounding,” [India] and "Argentina is a bogus society, an imposition on nature, a parasite culture, unreal to the people who inhabit it" only kindled my anxieties and insecurities about the U.S. ten years ago, but today they are the recurring thoughts and feelings of any honest, thinking person.

In light of the recent contretemps in the American media over the Putin NYT editorial, here is an observation of the 1984 Republican convention that shows how little has changed: "What strikes him about this political convention is the actual absence of politics; instead of debate there is a repetitive delineation of anxieties, “schools, drugs, race, buggery, Russia,” and as a solution to these anxieties, “Americanism, the assertion of the American self.”

I still have the book, and it remains half unread. That is perhaps the greatest tribute to a keen writer who, at least in his younger years, neither flinched from, nor demurred in reporting, what most others refused to see.

3:45 AM  
Anonymous James Allen said...

"And maybe we get Slim Pickins to ride the bomb down, yelling "Yee-hah!"

Since Mr. Pickens has joined The Choir Celestial, might I suggest another cowboy--or, rather, one who wishes to be seen as one--namely George Bush the younger.

Recognizing that even he might find reason to object to such a proposal, perhaps we could sweeten his disposition and encourage him by identifying the location--city, town, municipality, other--with the highest concentration of homosexuals or atheists/agnostics and making that his bronco-bustin', bush-clearin'* target.

Just a thought.

*Don't fergit to drop those dadgummed "g's"; it's the Cowboy Way.

6:15 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

What we are doing to our youth:

Also, excerpts from David Finkel's article, "The Return," in the New Yorker, 9 Sept 13:

-Two million Americans have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan; 25% of these are now 'mentally wounded'.

-One man in group therapy w/other vets wrote of an early mission in Iraq: "I don't remember the exact briefing before we left but we were to show extreme force to let these people know we owned this city now. The adrenaline began to flow, the thought of having that kind of control was intoxicating in a sick way."

-Another said: "It really hit me when I saw my first baby come in burned...Dipped in boiling wter and skin sloughing off. I got to the point where I started feeling kind of sorry for them. I started feeling sorry that we're sitting there fucking beating these people and it's just like that fucking baby. We're just using them, like they're fucking nothing. Like they're not even human...."

9:48 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

This is particularly neat, I think:

9:54 AM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

And then there's this.

Who says the entrepreneurial spirit is dead? Job creation in microcosm.

12:33 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Somebody mentioned "The Bling Ring" a while back...I just watched it. Very gd portrait of America today, and based on a true story.


1:32 PM  
Anonymous shep said...

This is one of the most shocking essays I have ever read. It’s long and language vulgar.

Linh Dinh (He has been posted several times prior) describes America now as well as anyone around. Here is his latest article as posted on his blog. Maybe we shud invite Linh to Lexington, Va. on the 19th of November to meet and hear Dr Berman and to do a postcard from the end of America of Lexington?

One comment I agree with is:

gypsytravash said...


Man, your writing on the rot inside of the Empire is getting better and better... This was a great essay on the actuality of Atlantic City, and on the actuality of the Amerikan Imperial nightmare. It commits more mass murders than the Nazis or the Soviets ever did across the globe, and at the same time, it murders the people inside of the monster through poverty, prisons and despair."
Edward “Not that there are not some white racists among the cops;”

In Alabama most white people are racists. You just have to live among them to believe the depth of the hatred. I almost totally agree with you “that everyone in America today is insane”
Jesse & al-Qa’bong,

Tks for “See-Kay”! An apparent replacement for my Hicks and Carlin injections!

2:36 PM  
Anonymous ellen said...

Re: What we are doing to our youth; it might be illuminating to see what we are doing to everybody else's youth also.

I remembered this Malaysian court finding when Bingo mentioned that Morales intends to file a lawsuit against the US government for crimes against humanity. The testimonies are harrowing and the damage done irreversible. A 57 year old woman held for more than 6months in Abu Ghraib talks about children held there:

'What hurt her most was to see the children in Abu Ghraib, some twenty-five of them aged from 5 to 12. “What could they have done?” she asked. Some of the children stayed for a year and half. She heard some of them killed themselves. “What you hear and see from the media is just a drop in the ocean to what went on in Abu Ghraib. My cell was in front of the interrogation cell. I never imagined anything like this in my life — not in horror movies,” she said. “They actually have no conscience. They are not human, they have no humanity inside them.”

2:41 PM  
Blogger GregJS said...

I realize this blog is focused on expressions of decline, rather than analyzing its causes. The two are related; but my focus does tend to be on the latter – so please let “the new guy” know if I’m going too far afield with my musings. (Unfortunately, I haven’t found other sites where these kinds of thing are discussed intelligently, and definitely not in the Bermanian-Wafarian way!)

You said previously: “Typically, the 1st conscious moment occurs…when the infant realizes that there is something that is Not-me. Surely, this is the origin of fear.” This much does seem certain. Fear can’t arise until a self emerges to feel it. The place where I see that a critical new distinction can be made is: While the emergence of selfhood is what gives rise to fear, there must be an innate form of security that is meant to persist, because only a secure person can feel and act upon fear (or any other emotion) in a healthy, balanced way. If that underlying security is lost (as in modern, civilized society, but esp. USA), then a person will not have the ability even to be properly fearful – meaning that they will experience varying degrees of numbness (inability to feel) and will get caught up in emotionally-charged thoughts that are exaggerated, unbalanced, and inappropriate to actual circumstances (inability to act healthily). Simply put, we need a basic, underlying type of security to feel fear.

The loss of this underlying security is what I see underlying the pathetic decline of American culture (aka the miraculous rise of dogshit culture). In my view, literally everything we do that’s outside the range of sanity – everything documented on this blog – can be traced back to the defenses we erect to cover over this void. And so the “nemo” is not the self/other split, exactly, but the loss of innate security; and these are separable. The self/other split gives rise to fear, but innate security is meant to remain intact. The nemo only arises if that security is taken away.

Liedloff doesn’t express this exactly; but she does demonstrate, in actual practice, that people really can remain fully secure, even in self/other awareness and fear. As for “There was actually a critique of Liedloff by some Swedish therapist…based on notion that carrying infant on body all the time is bad for infant: it needs to crawl, she argued, to move around.” I’ll have to find that. Curious to see if the Swede kept in mind Liedloff’s central observation: that the Yequana only carry their babies until they indicate a desire to move off and crawl – i.e., they act in total synch with their expressed developmental needs (which only the baby itself can know/feel). Civilized people typically try to impose an idea of what is “right” in place of viscerally felt knowing.

The one critique of Liedloff I’m familiar with, by feminist scholar Chris Bobel, is (as I recall) based on the following line of reasoning: It makes me feel guilty; so it’s wrong. Real friggin’ genius.

Initial quick search on The Solace Paradigm didn’t turn up too much, but the title is intriguing, so I’ll try a more in-depth search on that as well.

I dutifully followed your 8-Step program, which looked promising, but still felt a flicker of uncertainty afterwards. This caused me to feel anxiety, hopelessness, and then to spiral down into a deep, morbid depression. Since you’re a professional psych, you’re entirely responsible for this. So I’m adding step #9 - the step that all true Americans know is certain to cure what ails ya’: Sue!!! (I’m feeling better already just thinking about this!) Hope you’ve got great malpractice insurance. (And if anyone else feels they’ve been injured and wants in on this sweet deal, let’s go class-action. That’s where the big $ is!)

3:45 PM  
Anonymous Smith said...

Tim Lukeman, you remarked about Kimball that he sounded like a petulant teenager who wonders why his peers didn't admire him, since he obviously deserved respect and admiration.

But, I'm confused. Isn't that why we're all here? Because we're holding onto values no one appreciates, so we have to congregate on this blog as WAFers so we can confirm that we're not insane?

Didn't Berman leave because no one in America could understand his viewpoint?

Or did I miss something?

4:42 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


No, not correct: we're interested in causes as well; but perhaps not so much in individual psychology.

Solace Paradigm is on Amazon:

Pls limit yr posts to 1/2 a page, thanks.

Wafers: Here's another gd film: "The Company You Keep."


4:50 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and Wafers,


Glad to read that you enjoyed "The Bling Ring." I posted a while ago that I had seen it along with Woody's new one, "Blue Jasmine" (also not to be missed, imo). After the two flicks, my wife and I grabbed a bite at Canter's Deli; I called it a Wafer Trifecta. Another Wafer, quite recently, commented on it as well. Jesus, the fact that "Bling" was based on a true story and that some of these kids were home schooled by parents using "The Secret" as educational curriculum took my breath away.

In terms of an EIRE (WISC) logo of Wafers gorging on some pastrami sandwiches... I like it. I'm thinking a Leprechaun holding a platter of deli meats would also be a good logo. No offense to Leprechauns, of course.


5:01 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Tim will hafta speak for himself, obviously, but I just wanted to pt out that millions of Americans appreciate Kimball's values, and share his viewpt (at least as an adult; as to what he was like as a teenager, I have no idea). The same cannot be said of me, as of course u.r. aware. In a nation of 315 million people, 133 are registered on this blog, and 6000 bought a copy of WAF; which was unable to find a publisher for the pb edn. In the case of SSIG, no bkstore was willing to host a rdg. If I submit an article somewhere, they don't even bother to send me a rejection notice. I cd extend this list indefinitely, but you get my pt.


5:06 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Canter's! I hate you!


5:29 PM  
Anonymous Ariel Ballesteros Elías said...

If we start from the premise that certainity is a dream or a charade, your article brings me back to a poem by Gongora y Argote that goes:

"Si persistes en perseguir sueños y abrazar engaños,
mal te perdonaran a ti las horas,
las horas que limando estan los días,
los días que royendo están los años"

So wellcome that uncertainity. The one that causes reality to be flexible. And liveable.

7:08 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Help me w/line 2:

"the hours will forgive you badly"?


7:47 PM  
Anonymous Mikbeth said...


I've come into possession of the Great Books of the Western World put together by the Encylopedia Brittanica published in 1952.

The 1st volume is entitled The Great Conversation and it is filled with a "Waferisms."

Here's a choice quote:

"Many claims can be made for the American people; but nobody would think of claiming that they can read, write, and figure. Still less would it be maintained that they understand the tradition of the West, the tradition in which they live. The products of American high schools are illiterate; and a degree from a famous college or university is no guarantee that the graduate is in any better case."

So little has changed in 60 years!

10:31 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, 60 yrs ago they were dumb. This is a constant, yes. But to that now we need to add that they have become violent, and most impt, that they are douche bags. Level of douchebaggery (this coined by Tina Fey) was much less in 1952. To see this in neon, once again I hafta recommend "The Bling Ring."

I also hafta note that 60 yrs later, u can't publish quotes like that one, in a major text or encyclopedia. It's considered politically incorrect, wh/now trumps truth.


10:46 PM  
Blogger Zosima said...

Imbecileville freaked out by it that I had to put it down halfway through. I still have the book, and it remains half unread. That is perhaps the greatest tribute to a keen writer.

Yes, the Naipaul reference only adds to the burden, dare I say it, the torture of there being too many good books for any one person to read in a single lifetime. I found my copy of George Steiner's, In Bluebeard’s Castle, and I want to slap him for being so damn interesting. Jews brought us monotheism, Christianity, and socialism, and we barbarians just couldn’t handle it. Even if you don’t agree with that, the implications of it, and the questions it raises go on and on. I need to join a study group on this, followed by one on uncertainty, and on on infant consciousness.

Even if you don’t agree with that, the implications of it, and the questions it raises go on and on. The same thing is true of WAF chap 4, which I recently reread. When Jefferson Davis said the South wanted to be left alone, he was not just lying because the South also wanted to expand slavery, he was lying because he knew that slavery required the active cooperation from every citizen in every part of the country. (see fugitive slave laws)

shep said...In Alabama most white people are racists. You just have to live among them to believe the depth of the hatred.

Chap 4 provides the answer to the source of the depth of the hatred in southern whites.. “if Southern society was easygoing and gracious, there was no getting around the fact that it was based on slavery, on brute force ... the lash lurked always in the background.” You see, blacks ruined this charming and gracious world by not playing their role, not cooperating and accepting their fate and being happy slaves...they can never be forgiven for that.

Freaky question #1: The South wanted to expand slavery to the new territories in the West, but think about, deep in their hearts, why wouldn’t they also want to see it reintroduced into the North and even to all parts of the world where it had been banned?

11:17 PM  
Blogger pinkpearl said...


Thanks for the link to the Dinh essay.

I spotted this line:

"It wasn’t so long ago that the only Americans who placed personal ads were in their mid-thirties or older, but now, even our very young, buff or nubile can’t find partners in their immediate physical environment."

Just this week a coworker in her 20s was telling me about the difficulty she and all her friends have finding dates. It should be the easiest thing in the world for young attractive women to date! But nope, and they are all in a panic about it. Young men are mainly interested in friends-with-benefits.

Not to push some 1950s agenda, but most people do better in a variety of ways with a partner. I wonder what these 20-somethings will be like in their 40s.

11:33 PM  
Blogger jml said...


7:55 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

This too:

9:39 AM  
Anonymous Ariel Ballesteros Elias said...

"Mal te perdonaran a ti las horas" meaning in time, you will not come out in a good shape. Your time will be badly spent in the act of embracing "engaños". Like the american dream or the momento mexicano for all that matters. Congratullations Morris, for your work and your vision. In another publication I said that with your moving to Mexico the United States paid back for the land they took away from us. A bit exagerated ...but sustainable!

11:22 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Ah, claro; gracias. I doubt I'm worth all that land space: CA, TX, NV, AZ, NM, but it's a nice thought, nevertheless. Por cierto, the Spanish trans of "Spinning Straw Into Gold" will be published by Sexto Piso in March, if you would prefer to read it in translation: De paja a oro.

Cuidate, chico-


11:46 AM  
Anonymous shep said...


I wonder how accurate this article is about the Fukushima Unit 4 reactor?

Hope it ain’t happenin’.


Two analogies:

Goats are just like Americans. When you feed them, they will ignore a full container of food right in front of their noses to go to another one that another goat is feeding in and push & punch them out of the way.

Similarly , dogs will eat the food in another dogs bowl when they won’t eat the same food in their own bowls. Guess it goes to show we’re all from the same DNA with very little variation tho’ we look so damn different which indicates that beauty is skin deep and all creatures are dolts except a few of us. Can’t wait for Ireland for an anthropological study of WAFers.



For me, I cannot function nearly as well in this illusory life unless I have a partner. This is not just about marriage either, it is about all phases of my life. I do so much with acquaintances.



Yes, the 'book burden’ is insurmountable. A quote from Marcus Garvey (1937), (Called by MLK, Jr., “...the first man of color in the history of the United States to lead and develop a mass movement.”)

“Read! read! read! and never stop until you discover the knowledge of the Universe.”


RE: Ur “freaky Q No 1.” Here is a quote for you by W.E.B. DuBoisin his book. “John Brown”.

“The slavery of the new Cotton Kingdom in the nineteenth century must either die or conquer a nation-- it could not hesitate or pause... it could not divide do so meant economic death...This the South saw as it looked backward in the years from 1820 to 1840. Then its bolder vision pressed the gloom ahead, and dreamed a dazzling dream of empire. It saw the slave system triumphant in the great Sowthwest --in Mexico, in Central America and the islands of the sea..If worse came to worst, they held the trump card of disrupting the nation and founding a mighty slave aristocracy to stretch from the Ohio to Venezuela and from Cuba to Texas.”

BTW. In 2012, a Wafer, either, u, Bingo or Tim created a Wafer e-mail network?
Do you remember who this was and how it worked

Jeff T,

Tagio put me on to Adin Ballou who started the town of Hopewell, Mass. (sort of like Fairhope, Alabama.) It 'failed' when Ebenezer (love it!) Draper and his brother pulled out 75% of the town funding to start a company that ended up being Rockwell International, a wonderful, militaristic, capitalist, death machine. In this place, all hope always fails. EMIGRATE PEOPLES! If u can!


1:13 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

More on techno-buffoonery (TB):

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...

MB: More on your essay. There seems to be a red thread in the essay. There is for some a process of assimilation and then realization that you have assimilated into dreck and then clearing your head and finding your way. Think about it. Much of american insanity stems from strong disapointment. A overwhelming media edifice and national myth saying one thing and your experience saying another. In the U.S. I find most people nuts save recent immigrants and ultra orthodox jews (neither bought into the myth either due to recency of arrival or long discipline).. Your typical americano of 4 or 8 generations has nothing to fall back on. I think MB you had the several traditions of our peeps from the pale of settlement to keep you from going of the derech though its not easy after being steeped in U.S. culture. Security is ephemeral and its a complex thing as many are secure but most are in crisis. As a side note, I just returned from a business trip to Tennessee and Arkansas U.S.A. It is plain that the apocalypse has already occurred to many people in many parts of the U.S. I saw people in their 30's clearly zombified from their diet of chemically laden junk food, probably handful of prescription drugs. They had blank baffled looks, were very fat and unkempt and had looks of hopelessness. Most seemed sick and were probably dependent on government to survive. The children seem dull witted and are usually nursing a sugary drink and fat. Many kids are so strung up that they wear clothes with no labels as these bother them and make them anxious! What was amazing is that these people are for the most part decendants of the scots irish who sailed the north atlantic (a brutal trip) and then crossed the appalachians on foot or with a mule and set up farms and built towns all by hand. Now getting up from in front of the TV and drive to the market is a major inconvenience. Authentic life erodes to that of mindless zombie in 150 years....this is tragic and painful to see.

4:02 PM  
Anonymous Ariel Ballesteros Elias said...

Ideas are worth more than real state, I think. I read all the books of yours that Sexto Piso has published including the latter "cuestion de valores". Do you think your work losses on translation? I have only read your blogs and interviews in english. This time I might try de paja a oro in its original english version....enhorabuena!

4:12 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


The translator and I know each other very well, for many yrs now. As I read his Spanish, I can hear my voice in it, so I wd say he has done as gd a job as any author has a rt to expect. In the case of 'Cuestion de valores', I personally checked the translation, but did not do that w/the other bks, just read parts of them later on. I'm intending to check 'De paja a oro', if I have time.


A friend of mine who lives in a small town in VT has the same thing to say abt the people he sees there, walking down the street. I don't know if leaden forks did the Romans in (a popular belief), but you can see something like that happening to the American population: the walking dead. It's pretty depressing. There will be no 'revolution' against these late-empire effects of capitalism; we (a handful of us) can only explore alternative diet, energy, ways of life and so on, and hope to 'triumph' somewhere down the line--but it won't be anytime soon, except on a local level.


4:25 PM  
Anonymous Jesse said...

The only sin or crime I see is the boy is under age; if you say men should marry men and women should marry women because God is irrelevant to you, well....:

A Catholic priest in Pennsylvania was charged with molesting a 15-year-old boy after cops say he was caught in the act.

Father W. Jeffrey Paulish was allegedly found with the boy -- who was wearing no pants -- in a car on the Penn State University campus Thursday, CNN reports.

Police say they discovered the 56-year-old Scranton priest and the boy while responding to the call of a suspicious vehicle.

Paulish initially told cops that he was working on his homily on campus when he met the boy, who he said was in emotional distress and needed counseling. Police say he later admitted that he met the teen through the "casual encounters" section of Craigslist.

Paulish said he asked the boy several times if he was over the age of 18, according to the Times Leader.

6:47 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Sorry, I had to omit yr comment, because we've re-fought the Civil War here many times, and I don't want to encourage another onslaught of trolls etc. But re-send the Mencken quote, if u wd; that was pretty gd.


8:02 PM  
Anonymous Suzanne said...

County board in North Carolina bans Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man from school libraries due to 11th grader's parent's complaints.

8:47 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


You know, this is really neat:

There isn't a day now where the US, at national or local level, doesn't do something really self-destructive. I mean, ya gotta hand it to them.


9:12 PM  
Blogger Zosima said...

“This novel is not so innocent; instead, this book is filthier, too much for teenagers. You must respect all religions and point of views when it comes to the parents..."

Hey, this could have been my next door neighbor's mom. My born again Christian neighbors were determined to protect their children from contamination from sources like dirty words, evolution, and yes, Jews. She told a 6 year old Jewish boy to leave her yard where many us younger kids played. My brother was friends with his older brother. When I asked why, I was told by her four year old daughter that it was because he didn’t believe in Jesus. They train them young, don’t they? It remains the only open act of antisemitism I’ve ever seen. There is a bright side to the story, they also had a deep hatred of Catholicism, but for some reason they didn’t ban us. I guess there are degrees of contamination.

1:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Morris - I am reading your three excellent books on the Evolution of Consciousness and find your writing and thinking to be insightful and omniscient. I place your work with two other books that have helped to shape my own thinking -Jean Gebser, The Ever Present Origin; and Jose Arguelles - The Transformative Vision. I can only hope that you take this as a compliment as your writing has been most stimulating. I think that the major paradigm shift is moving from Either...Or to Both..And; and your efforts to bridge the gap between Mind and Body alienation should be a cairn on this wandering journey. Without beginning to discuss the wealth of your ideas, I wanted to thank you for your erudition and effort in the creation of these most essential books. Raymond Harrison

5:28 AM  
Anonymous James Allen said...


Your comment reminded me of a rhetorical question that has been posed by Richard Dawkins, namely, whether we would be justified in accusing parents who teach THEIR religion--any religion--to their children as being guilty of child abuse.

As for your facetious comment about there being a "bright side" to the story, perhaps the reason they didn't banish you from the yard, your Catholicism notwithstanding, was because they recognized that no matter what "wacky" things your branch of Christianity believed, at least you had the good sense to believe in Jesus.

It would be interesting and mildly diverting to try to imagine how they might have reacted to a child whose family believed in Jesus but whose particular "brand" required them to take up serpents or drink caustic agents.

After all, we all know there are "sensible" religions and then there are "wacky" ones, and we don't need to consult our own religious leaders or our holy books to know which are which.

7:57 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Many thanks; I'm glad u.r. getting something out of that trilogy. Do me a favor, if u can, and check in as Ray, rather than Anon. Makes it easier on this end, since I usually don't post Anons. Thanks, and--keep reading!


9:19 AM  
Anonymous joe hohos said...



11:48 AM  
Blogger GregJS said...

Dr. B – thanks for Amazon link. I was hoping to find even a wee shred of discussion of it online but no such luck. “Psychological Immunity” (subtitle) sounds interesting – or scary. But Amazon has it for $4, so what the heck, I’ll give it a shot.

A couple of impressions skimming through Sunday NYTimes:

3-D printers: Anyone else worried about these? As an example of what will soon be possible, an essay described how, if we decide we want to wear a certain pair of shoes some evening, we can just print them out and off we go, looking hip as can be. Basically, anything we want – even food (already printable) – can be squirted out of these gizmos. But just imagine what this will do to the rate of resource consumption if, anytime our empty, hurting little egos decide they “need” something, we can have it at the press of a button? Just pour in the raw materials and wear brand new shoes every day.

At least now, if we want new shoes (or whatever), we have to go to a few stores, look around, find our size/style, etc. - and then maybe even wait till they go on sale - i.e., there are at least a few natural “brakes” on the consumption process. Even shopping online takes some effort/time. What will happen when the last barriers to instant gratification are removed? It’s enough to make me hope the 1% do succeed at pounding the rest of us into abject serfdom – just so we won’t be able to gobble up/print out the world as quickly. (Then again, maybe this is how we all come to own our very own, custom-designed drones?!)

I suspect all this is leading to the day where “the good life” will consist of owning our own all-in-one sex doll-Gameboy-iPhone-drone devices with 3-D printer nipples that we’ll just sit and suck on all day long while having virtual sex/war with anonymous strangers elsewhere in the twittersphere.

Advertisement on back of magazine: An actual retired exec is quoted saying, “My relationship with First Republic (investment/banking service or whatever) has been one of the most important in my life.” Bet that line wasn’t even made up. Could we be getting so disconnected from genuine human values that we’re finally ending up with a weird version of “truth in advertising?”

12:37 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

Re. "negative identity"

H.L. Mencken identified a few in the "endless series of hobgoblins" that Americans fight to convince themselves of their own existence.

"The whole history of the country has been a history of melodramatic pursuits of horrendous monsters, most of them imaginary: the red-coats, the Hessians, the monocrats, again the red-coats, the Bank, the Catholics, Simon Legree, the Slave Power, Jeff Davis, Mormonism, Wall Street, the rum demon, John Bull, the hell hounds of plutocracy, the trusts, General Weyler, Pancho Villa, German spies, hyphenates, the Kaiser, Bolshevism. The list might be extended indefinitely; a complete chronicle of the Republic could be written in terms of it." (Notes on Democracy)

That was the list as of 1925. More recently, the US attacked Iraq because Saddam was going to put the bad kind of mushroom cloud over Chicago.

As MB has pointed out, Americans w/o an enemy are Americans who don't know who they are.

12:37 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and Wafers,

Wafers, MB-

Good News! Americans are getting dumber by the day:


I tell ya MB, you're gonna be invited to the 2014 Emmy Awards. I can feel it! A best writer nomination for your hit TV show about American buffoonery is the future. You'll take Hollywood by Sturm und Drang; book deals, TV appearances and interviews, spin-offs, the works. Most important, Tina Fey is already preparing to be your date for the festivities. Strike while the iron is hot MB, things are definitely looking up for 2014...


2:55 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


r.u. personally in touch w/Tina? Perhaps we shd date a bit *before* the Emmys, I'm thinking. Then we can show up as an item. Meanwhile, I'd like to make my appearance wearing a T-shirt that says, YOU'RE ALL MORONS, which will probably seal my victory. After which, we can talk abt coffee mugs, pens, and a range of pasta sauces.


3:06 PM  
Anonymous Savantesimal said...

Well, the reason Americans are getting dumber every day might be related to the destruction of even the rudimentary education system they used to have. Corporatization is well underway at all levels. Some people have caught on to this. There have even been defections among the reformers. But the process rolls on, destroying grade school, to high school, to "higher" education. Listen to a reformed reformer argue it out with a corporatization droid in this recent NPR talk show.

Onpoint: Diane Ravitch And The ‘Error’ Of American School Reform

For years, Diane Ravitch was a big voice in hard-nosed school reform. Working under President George H. W. Bush and after, she wanted teacher accountability. She wanted school choice. She wanted charter schools. In the years that followed, we got No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, the Common Core — and lots of charter schools. But Diane Ravitch has jumped ship. Reform has become an attack on public education itself, she now argues. A Trojan horse for privatization. And the real problem is poverty. Up next On Point: we’re testing Diane Ravitch on testing, public schools, and more.

3:19 PM  
Anonymous ellen said...

The security/insecurity dichotomy brought to mind this from Leonard Cohen:
'Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.'

The above link is to the lyric as the song itself is a bit of a dirge unless you're in the mood for that.

This however, same theme, same Cohen, is lovely and all things considered, quite cheery for him:

4:22 PM  
Anonymous Bad Idea du Jour said...

Haven't been able to keep up with the comments, but felt that some of you would appreciate Franzen's thoughts:

5:15 PM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...


And some wonder why you life in Mexico. Flawed like all places but a hell of a lot more alive and interesting than the U.S.


5:54 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

We're such an *intelligent* country!:

It's stuff like this that makes me homesick...


5:46 AM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and Wafers,

Dr. Berman-

Unfortunately, I don't know Tina personally. However, I enjoy a good meal at the LA Original Farmers Market on occasion; a hotbed for celebrity sightings. I'll keep my eyes out for Tina and will slip her a copy of "Counting Blessings." When this plan succeeds, here are a few suggested titles for your couples biography:

* "Deli Days and Hollywood Nights"
* "Two on the Town with Morris and Tina"
* "YOU'RE ALL MORONS and We're Not!: A Love Story"
* "Cozy: At Home with Tina and Morris"

And, of course, in the biopic of this romance, I'll look forward to the musical montage of the two of you skipping around town, holding hands, and visiting all the stellar Delis of the world...


10:53 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I do think the Tinaberm Story, cast as a Broadway musical, will have a definite appeal. Pls, keep on the lookout for her.


12:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wafers, I've been here a few months, but haven't yet figured out what "O&D" means. Please enlighten.

MB, perhaps an acronym dictionary can be added to the sidebar?

And just so you can get that blood pressure spiking for today, have a gander at this: "AIG CEO Compares Anger At Wall Street Bonuses To The Lynching Of Black People In The South,"

1:53 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


O&D = Onward and Downward, the present direction of the US. As for those poor CEOs, consider how terribly they have suffered.

CRE = Cranial-Rectal Embedment (which is what they are actually suffering from).


5:11 PM  
Anonymous Mikbeth said...

I work for a large federal agency and this is the book they are recommending to deal with the challenges of administering a government agency in the age of austerity.

Yes the answer to our problems is to be even more manic and in a hurry!

Here are some "reviews"...We're doomed!

"Is our 24/7, CrackBerry, more-faster-now culture eating us alive or setting us free? For everyone feeling trampled by the speed of life and business, author Vince Poscente reveals why harnessing the power of speed is the ultimate solution for our time-starved era. The Age of Speed shows this and other groundbreaking revelations at work with case studies drawn from renegade companies such as Netflix, Geico, and Nintendo. With smart personal revelations, addictively clever pop science, practical case studies, and a fresh voice, The Age of Speed is a fast, fun read.

"God bless Vince Poscente...a good counterpoint to all the handwringing that technology is sapping our very souls." -- Austin American Statesman

"Illustrates why harnessing the power of speed is the ultimate solution for those seeking less stress, less busyness, and more balance." -- Soundview Executive Book Summaries

"The trick isn't trying to slow things down but knowing when and how to speed them up." -- Chicago Tribune

"Thought provoking new book ...advocates coming to terms with --nay, savoring -- the `more-faster-now world'". -- TIME Magazine

"Presented briskly - and at times it's as light as a balloon, with its breezy call to turn speed into an advantage. And he helps us address the world more realistically, providing a glimmer of how to beat the tortoise or soar like a jet." -- Toronto Globe & Mail

9:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finally, they're converting the old fighter jets to good use:
Expect these to become a status symbol as keeping up with the joneses hits those who want their own supersized unit.
Think of the possibilities for old tanks (land-based drones) and old warships...

10:01 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Great example of CRE. It's well established that when an empire or civ goes under, in its final phase it does precisely those things that accelerate the decline. With everyone standing by and applauding, of course. I have a magnet on my fridge that says: Drink Coffee: Do Stupid Things Faster with More Energy. Next to this is a picture of a demented-looking woman, drinking coffee.


11:06 PM  
Anonymous shep said...

A lady I know went on the internet to borrow $400 for air fare so her son could get to Arizona and take advantage of a full football scholarship that supposedly includes books, room and board.

She has to pay $70 every two weeks as interest and they take it out of her daughter's paycheck.

If you decided not to pay it off, the annualized interest is 1820%.

This can't be happening or true.

I will give further details as they unfold. If this turns out to be true, I might tried to find one of these bastards and put a nice bullet hole metween their eyes

I told her not to let her son come home until he gets a job with the NFL or a Burger King.

11:49 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

Seeing enemies everywhere is a way to avoid uncertainty, isn't it? It's a quick and dirty way to know who you are. You aren't Them. It strikes me that negative identity and negative capability come from very different places in the psyche.

7:56 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, negative identity is false certainty, and negative capability is genuine doubt.


8:18 AM  
Blogger GregJS said...


I’ll make this super-extra quick since we’ve all got a lot going on.

Advertisement on back of NYTimes magazine, 2 weeks ago – for Capella McUniversity:

“Business moves at the speed of light.
Health care moves at the speed of light.
Information Technology moves at the speed of light.

Universities had better pick up the pace.”

OK gotta run. Busy busy busy…

12:05 PM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

GregJS @ The Speed of Light FTW

From c to shining c !

Ives lives...

6:19 PM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

Check this article about Eastern Island.

Dr. B, maybe the next civilization will find your books and learn from it. Maybe you shall be held in high esteem and high regard.

7:04 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Maybe pigs will fly. But I'm hoping that in 50 yrs, crowds will gather in Tiananmen Square, holding the Mandarin translation of WAF (in a red cover, of course), and be shouting: "Belman! Belman!"


7:13 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

The real question is: Who are the real bobbleheads?

8:51 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Hackenbush said...

Thanks Dr.B for the essay and follow-up thoughts. I have maintained a decent silence with regard to other topics out of respect for its profundity, but feel its wake has begun to subside (only half-joking.)

So... since we're back to randomness... What is with David Lynch? No, I don't mean his "weird" movies, I love and respect his weird movies. But have you seen him talk about "transcendental meditation" (aka "TM")? Why would a guy who makes great movies get wrapped up in something like this? His credibility prompted me to investigate, or at least watch a Q&A he did in Berkeley in '05. Kind of on the fence about *his* comments, but the guy he appeared with - what a scammy reincarnation of a 19th cent. patent medicine salesman. They claim that if you get 8,000 TM practitioners together in one place, they'll act as a battery and create world peace... Fine, I just want to know if Lynch is a dupe, or if it's some kind of performance art to him, or what. Or maybe it's a way to fund his movies, con people out of their money ($2500 bucks a pop to learn TM) and feel no shame because they're morons for buying it?

9:04 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, this is an odd corridor to walk down, but just for a moment...There are basically 2 types of meditation, bliss and emptiness. Emptiness is Zen, Vipassana, or just watching yr breath. Bliss is mantras or chanting. TM falls into the latter category. Both types have their advantages, and have validity in that they generate certain results. But as w/any spiritual practice, they can also go nuts, and take a lot of devoted sheep with them. On Zen, for example, check out Brian Victoria's bk, "Zen and War." As for TM, they usta charge $400 back in the day, so I guess inflation is part of the practice. I also remember followers claiming that in the advanced courses, u learned to levitate (check out my discussion of the flying guru film in the post). And most of these traditions claim they are going to transform the world, etc. The Dunce Factor is often very high, in short. Abt Lynch, I really don' know anything at all.

I do recall that the Beatles got into TM w/the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. In typical devoted sheep tradition, 10 million other people immediately followed suit. Then when the Beatles dropped him, so did the 10 million sheeple. I remember telling someone that I was willing to become a follower on condition that the MMY change his name to Maharishi Ma-Cornedbeefhash Yogi. When he failed to comply, I knew this was not true spirituality, and resigned myself to reciting a mantra to myself in a corner of my rm, while sampling chopped liver on Ritz crackers. As for the MMY, he kicked the bucket in Holland in 2008 and is now pushing up tulips.


11:03 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Interesting word- transcendental. It literally means "beyond teeth".
Yes, I did study transcendental meditation and reached completely new levels of unconsciousness. I remember driving in the 1970's and a truck driver calling out, "Hey, buddy,what the hell you doin'? you unconscious or somethin'? " Now how did he know I was studying transcendental meditation?-from my brief career as a stand-up comedian.

11:36 PM  
Anonymous Megan said...

Dr. Berman,

Yes, the foundational book of American Yoga culture, "Eat, Pray, Love", is an unspeakable cesspool of narcissism, materialism, and chilling shallowness. Needless to say, it was one of the greatest bestsellers in American history. So, yeah, basically we have managed to turn the wisdom of the Gita and the Upanishads into frivolous vulgarity--where you conspicuously carry around your yoga mat, spout a few Sanskrit words that you learned from the phony guru guy at hot yoga class, and look down on everyone around you for living on a lower spiritual plane. And, of course, you get bonus points if you shop at Whole Foods, and say "Namaste" at least twice a day! (That Whole Foods article, was hilarious, by the way!)

Sorry if this is a digression, Dr. Berman, but your comments about yoga reminded me how much I hate this new Americanized faux spirituality, that seems to have metastasized over the past few years. However, the fact that millions upon millions of American women (it makes me ashamed to have breasts!) actually see this Elizabeth Gilbert person as an enlightened guru, tells you everything you need to know about where we're at.

1:25 AM  
Anonymous ellen said...

Dr Hack,

Some hilarious visual aids for your odd corridor:

I liked this review from Peter Calder of The New Zealand Herald who wrote that the "geeky" Sievking's "decision to incorporate his personal romantic life into the narrative is an error, but as a study of the more ludicrous excesses of the global business known as Transcendental Meditation, it's a cracker, an alternately hilarious and sobering study of credulity and greed."

I came across an interesting book recently that could apply just as much to religious seeking as to the drug-enabled escapism that the author documents:

Finally this good piece, from some old geezer with one foot in the grave: 'Memento Mori
The Death of American Exceptionalism -- and of Me'
By Lewis H. Lapham:

BTW, Lynch? -- definitely a (very wealthy) dupe who should know better. There is a vacancy for a charismatic frontman now that Mahesh is feeding the fishes (cremated by the Ganges in accordance with Hindu tradition and sadly not picturesquely planted amongst the tulips)
Jai Kali Maa!

7:28 AM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

Dr. B

I was thinking centuries from now to maybe a 1000 years from now. Who knows though? Supposedly with all of this positive thinking crap it should happen.

By the way, I ordered Dark Ages America and it finally came. I got it for about $0.04 plus shipping costs. This means hardly anyone is caring enough to even buy it let alone think about it.

This alone is a premise that proves that your conclusions are sound.

8:38 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

Excellent essay in Truthout by our friend Henry Giroux:

Just a few highlights:

"The increasing militarization of American society is matched by its increasing depoliticization and its increasing incapacity to make moral judgments and act with compassion against the most shocking injustices."

"Sorting out populations based on wealth, race, the ability to consume and immigration status is the new face of America."

"The enemy is not a market economy but a market society ..."

9:07 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


It's not that there isn't such a thing as valid spiritual practice; it's that the US turns everything into a commercial gimmick. 60s radicalism, est, TM, Oprah, Whole Foods, yoga classes, the latest guru--it always comes down to how to make huge amts of $ while being chic. In terms of hosing down these people's shoes, there just isn't enuf urine to go around.

My own spiritual life was shattered last Nov. when the Stage Deli on 7th Ave. had to close down. This was the shrine at which I prayed, even at a distance; my Mecca, as it were. Religious practice in my cult was to slowly (with great awareness) eat a corned beef sandwich with cole slaw and Russian dressing (dill pickle on the side) once a day, after intoning the words "Om mane padme hum." There is no way this cd be commercialized, hijacked by the Liz Gilbert crowd. In general, my feeling is that any religion or spiritual practice that does not have a ritual involving deli meats simply cannot get you off the wheel of samsara. Our informal slogan is, "No Pastrami/No Satori".
But meanwhile, in the absence of the Stage Deli I am a broken man, an empty vessel, wandering thru a spiritual desert, looking for a new church to organize my life around. (While I have gotten some satisfaction out of Canter's Deli in the Fairfax section of LA, it's not quite the same thing, as the Stage was literally the Vatican of my religious belief.)

Thank you for listening.


10:39 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

Dr Berman,

This is really going to sound ignorant (I am risking being thrown out of the WAFer Society), but, is the point of 'Identity Politics' that it doesn't matter!

If so, then I'm a nihilist? eh?

Lately, nothing seems to matter about anything! I mean, if u die, so what? I think it has been this way with me all of my life. Feels good. All weight is gone.

Maybe it was the yoga my wife and I took up at one point, not to be hocus pocus but simply to stay

11:42 AM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

Pets must cope w/ the new speedy & speedier "life"style - put some Prozac in their Purina!

Note that it's ok to pump the stuff into yr kids but still questionable if u shld drug Fido. Priorities!

12:42 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Not sure what yr asking. What's the pt of living? Is that it?

As far as identity politics goes, of course it matters to those involved, whether black, female, latino, or whatever. They want a larger slice of the pie, and some of them have gotten it. That's gd, as far as it goes; but as MLK said just b4 he died, Am I just corralling black folks into a burning church? He was no fool: he saw the larger picture. Sure, you can have a bigger slice of the pie, but the real problem is that the pie is rotten. Why be eating putrid matter? The truth is that we need a completely different pie.

How to achieve that (some wd call it utopia) is something that has taxed the finest minds in history, whether Thos More, Fourier, Marx, or Daniel Cohn-Bendit. Sometimes, in the history of a nation (but not of a civilizatin or empire), a major redirection of the regime is possible (French and Russian revs, for example). For a # of reasons, this is not possible for the US today. The platform of the 'progressives' is not any more radical than identity politics, really; they just want a fairer distribution of the (rotten) pie; very few Americans today are calling for a whole new pie. I am, of course, but I have no voice, no influence at all; and in any case, my argument has been that the way is thru, not around. For the US is embedded in a world capitalist system that itself is crumbling, and the only way out is to persevere in its foolishness, wh/will accelerate the crumbling. This is like the end of the Middle Ages; more than one country is involved. In the meantime, if one is committed to political activism, my own feeling is that it shd be along the Dual Process line: you work on the cultivation of an alternative (decentralized, eco-sustainable, no-growth) socioeconomic formation. This can be part of what I identify in the Twilight bk as the NMI option.

However, it seems to me a mistake to make politics one's entire life. The NMI option hardly rules out the cultivation of the soul. True, this is an individual path, and thus not one that can solve the structural problems of late-capitlaism (and our problems *are* structural in nature); but it is a path of sorting out how to live, given the context in wh/we have to live today. This is probably why I wrote SSIG, tho inasmuch as I knocked it out in 24 hrs, I have the feeling it was 'channeled' (whatever that means). I'm not suggesting my path shd be everyone's path (which wd be quite boring); my hope re: SSIG (and also my novel, Destiny) is that it lead readers to contemplate what their own path might be.

I hope this helps.


12:53 PM  
Anonymous Megan said...

Dr. Berman,

Haha, very funny about your "deli withdrawal" experience! But I think what you are describing is nothing less than the medieval mystics' "dark night of the soul." In fact,I believe that Meister Eckhart (or maybe it was St. John of the Cross?) writes somewhere about the spiritual torment of going without pastrami for several weeks....However, there was a happy ending there, and the experience ultimately brought him even closer to God.

I agree completely about genuine spirituality. The problem with the Liz Gilbert stuff is that it absolves us of the burden of having to look any deeper. It's exactly what Heidegger meant by "idle talk." That is, the false sense that we understand something, when we actually understand nothing at all.

Speaking of idle talk, I was somewhat disappointed in the new Salinger movie. Seeing Martin Sheen and Danny Devito appropriate Holden Caulfield, sort of gave me the same disorientated feeling I got while watching Ms. Gilbert appropriate Patanjali and the Hindu sages! Good grief, if everyone in America understands Holden C. and the mystics, then why do we still suck so much?!

2:56 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Haven't seen Salinger movie yet, but heard it was abt as engaging as rancid chopped liver. As for St. John, original title of his bk was "The Cloud of Un-Beefing," wh/dealt w/pastrami withdrawal. Friends persuaded him to chg title at last minute; a terrible mistake, imo.

BTW, we have a kind of informal rule on this blog: pls post no more than once every 24 hrs. That way I get a chance to actually do some work. (If u shd experience blog w/drawal, it's OK to hit the pastrami, until 24 hrs go by.)


3:18 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

I'm very excited abt possibility of all Americans being required to wear these, 24/7:

Now we're getting somewhere!


5:51 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Hackenbush said...

MB, ellen- Interesting, thanks.

Not sure myself if Lynch is a "wealthy dupe who should know better" though, or running a con himself. He did start a David Lynch Foundation to promote all this, which I assume is raking in lots of money from "dupes" out there.

Also, in that Q&A I linked, he got one skeptical question from an audience member about whether they (the university students) should get their mom & dad to fund TM for them. Lynch chuckles slightly at the cynical terrain they're walking into, but smilingly says Yes, he thinks nothing would be better, and pads it out with some paeans to TM.

One thing he says is that it's helped him with creative breakthroughs; I don't doubt that, but at the same time, clearly all the other TM disciples are not making Lynch quality movies, so the "magic" is within Lynch, not TM. Ergo, what a waste for him to spend time on this "foundation" instead of movies (unless he's sick of making them.)

His "Mulholland Drive" is the only movie that I ever watched, and then immediately after the credits rolled, watched it again. I was so baffled by it, and at the same time felt there was some "code" to it I was missing. I did not crack the code, but I did twist my mind into a pretzel over it for a while, which is more than can be said for most movies, which usually just inspire a quick move to "whatever's next."

"Inland Empire" was kind of hard to take, but there are some mesmerizing scenes that, in a visceral artistic way, get at some of the same themes as this blog. (And that has been your capsule movie reviews for tonight.)

7:04 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Rec rdg: "The Chymical Wedding," by Lindsay Clarke.


9:22 PM  
Anonymous ellen said...

Dr Hack,

I liked Lynch's 'Blue Velvet' but still wouldn't buy a used car from him, as I have an immediate visceral revulsion towards anyone touting 'salvation' in any form (the lingering effects of a hard-core RC indoctrination). My objection is the current TM 'mission' to put this stuff in every schoolchild's head. Lynch is a True Believer and foremost proselytiser of that 'mission'.

I don't think it a waste of time for Lynch to sit and bliss out every day if that's what he wants to do--I do think it wrong to foist this very expensive guru-devotion (bhakti, bliss meditation) stuff on schoolkids before they have a chance to develop their own critical thinking skills (jnana, knowledge).

Besides, there are multiple authentic Hindu temples, even in the US now that many Indians have immigrated, where someone truly interested in that cultural and religious context can go for basic instruction, (at little or no cost!) if that is what they want.

Mahesh was a con man of the highest order, he certainly did a good job on any vulnerable high profile seeker he could snag. An old and telling term for it is 'selling water by the river'

Given his output, I can see why Lynch is attracted to the extremely generic nature of TM, which also has no 'code' (apart from the incrementally calibrated financial outlay) to be deciphered either, except in terms any pre-existing puzzle that the seeker himself brings to it.

Lynch as film maker is primarily an entertainer, a court jester for us jaded moderns--and, in an extremely generous interpretation while overlooking (!!) the very obvious delusional calculation of his rampant megalomania, so was Mahesh.
I just prefer the term 'con man' myself, it takes up less space in my beleaguered brain.

8:55 AM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...

MB: Its a matter of debate....Stage Deli fine place. Let us find you alternate sanctums But better than 2nd avenue deli? The 2nd is a good 2nd. Canters in LA--they serve ham sandwiches dammit what kind of trief business is that? If when in the Virginia area and happen to pop in to D.C. Elis is quite good--you can even wash it down with a cel-ray. The parkway deli in Silver Spring is good too--similar to Stage.

By the way is AKA Kosher in Condesa (under a garage) still going?

11:38 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

Dr. Berman.

Thank you for the comment. Very helpful.

Speaking of burning buildings, here is a must listen about Uncle Versey Ledbetter.
The Burning Bldg - Jerry Clower

1:29 PM  
Anonymous k_pgh said...

Buffoons on parade…

The following appeared in my local newspaper yesterday. This is from the the print edition. (The “current” online edition is somewhat more weasel-y, and hence slightly less amusing.)

Committee explores STEM ideas for district
Norwin seeks to ready students for jobs such as robotician, holodeck trainer
by Amanda Dolasinksi, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The job market could be seeking people to work as clone ranchers and energy harvesters.

A high-tech building Norwin School District officials envision for its campus should be set up to prepare students for these and other jobs, they said.

A steering committee for the proposed STEM Innovation Center met last week to discuss ideas for the necessary space and equipment at the center.

More than 50 people, including representatives from the offices of Gov. Tom Corbett and Sen. Kim Ward, attended the meeting, which attracted professionals in businesses including aerospace science, DNA health, geosciences and defense manufacturing.

Officials noted the center should train students for future jobs, such as chef-farmer, clone rancher, digital archaeologist, drone dispatcher, energy harvester, global-system architect, holodeck trainer, mobile biomass therapist, personal brand manager, smartcar interior advertisement sales representative, space-junk hauler, transhumanist consultant and robotician.

1:31 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Many thanks for impt deli info. I won't be near DC, I fear, but when I'm next in NY I'll check out 2nd Ave Deli. If u give me address of deli in La Condesa, I'll check that out as well. (muy amable)


I like the idea of becoming a mobile biomass therapist. It just sounds cool.

Meanwhile, on the subject of Salinger movie, it got panned by the New Yorker. At end of rev the author writes (issue of Sept. 23, p. 117): "...his unforgettable voice, a comic and lyric creation so fully expressive of distaste for the crass energies of our business civilization that many readers, battling their own anxieties and revulsion, never get it out of their heads."


9:19 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

The term "douchebags" is here to stay:

What other word so well describes such people, really?

According to Rick Wolff, only the Fed's frantic unsustainable money-printing is keeping all of America from becoming Detroit (in video Part 2):

If that is true, then the D-bags will soon be in the economic discard.


9:44 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Trouble is, this is all a re-run of the 90s and the dot-com boom. I had an ex-girlfriend living in SF who finally had to leave because the rents on garages in her neighborhood (Russian Hill) were 5K/mo. Even b4 Tina Fey coined the term, douchebaggery had swept the city, so this current mourning of the ruination of the Beat Generation etc. is just old hat. As for the dot-com bust, the joke that went around after it occurred was: What do you call a yuppie (aka douche bag) after the dot-com bust? Ans.: "Waiter!"


9:59 PM  
Anonymous Bingo said...

WAFers & MB,

First, here is a 3 second illustration of the American Spirit at its finest:

Second, we seem to be in the middle of a veritable American Suez Moment. Let’s review what happened just in the past 2 weeks:

1. The British bailed out of supporting the US in Syria. Now, that’s historical irony at its finest.
2. The US Navy was just defeated by the Russians in the eastern Mediterranean (the other branches of the US military were already defeated in Iraq and Afghanistan).
3. The president of Brazil slammed Obama and his policies in Latin America, and cancelled her planned visit to the White House. She also demanded Obama and the US apologize for the NSA.
4. The president of Bolivia called for Obama to be put on trial for crimes against humanity, for international terrorism, and for supporting and financing terrorism. Now, the guy has ball, I must say.
5. The president of Iran snubbed Obama at the UN.
6. Putin and Lavrov are now driving American foreign policy, while Obama is totally impotent.
7. The NSA bad news just keep on coming.

What’s Obama going to do? Is he going to send in the Navy? Is he going to bomb Brazil and Russia into submission? Is he going to ask the Fed to print a few trillion to bribe his foes?

This is the Empire today:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
Four-score Men and Four-score more,
Could not make Humpty Dumpty where he was before.

9:59 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and Wafers,


I also wondered about ham on the menu at Canter's. This, coming from a Gentile who shies away from it anyhow. The Pastrami Reuben, however, is absolutely delicious; can't be beat, imo.


Thanks for the heads up regarding the Salinger documentary. This new Muhammad Ali doc. looks intriguing, tho...,0,2029301.story


10:10 PM  
Blogger ijcd said...

Prof. Berman, (or would you prefer Belman?)

You may not remember me, but I am probably the only Cuban that has read your blog & books; and you may remember I used to be a bit agitated from second-hand CRE in the USA. I come back and lurk once in a while, but never felt like posting anything, especially since I do not feel at the level of some of the other regulars...I rather learn from the elders for the time being ("learning from the elders", something generally ridiculed in this sick culture). I have a link you may want to share, and read yourself, and a pic all of you may enjoy. BY THE WAY, I HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO INSERT A PICTURE INTO THE BLOG COMMENTS.

Why are Americans giving up their citizenship?

11:01 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Didn't realize u were going to post this, since u already wrote it to my email address. Now that I see yr pic (wh/u managed to insert), of course I remember u: yr a math wizard, rt? I hope yr still in touch w/Ana, and also that u will come back to visit us soon; I had a question abt differential equations I was hoping u cd clear up 4 me. Of course, I might have u confused w/another Ivo, and if so, perdoname. Belman is OK, but since yr not Chinese, and are a hispanohablante, mauricio is probably better. Patria o muerte, etc.


Float like a butterfly/Sting like a bee.


Re: #2: r.u. kidding? If shots had been fired, it wd have been all over the news. Google just talks abt Russian buildup in the Med, but no actual fighting. But it may be that as other countries sense our growing weakness, the vultures (or dogs) are starting to circle. I mean, just consider this:

Otherwise, yr rt on all the other pts. I'm not sure it amts to a Suez Moment, but we're getting close. Did I talk abt this b4?: There was an internal intelligence report, 2-3 yrs ago, called "Global Trends 2025," that predicted that by that yr--a mere dozen yrs away--we wd be a 2nd-rate power, w/our political and economic influence much diminished. It's not happening dramatically, but that influence is slowly leaking away. Of course, no one in govt, Obama included, has any vision for the US beyond Keep doing what we're doing, and it's clear that that won't work anymore. Meanwhile, on the microlevel, that video sort of sums it all up: Me, myself, and I. Kind of hard to sustain a nation on that sort of 'vision'.


11:40 PM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...

MB: Aka Kosher is at Acapulco 70 which is in the kosher grocery in Condessa. Was actually mexican kosher tacos and such for relatives headed down and wondering if its still around--hope so.

Pastrami--a short trek from Condessa Kurson Kosher (milio Castelar 204, in Polanco. It actually good (much better than Kleins in Tpngo).

8:56 AM  
Blogger bowtiejack said...

Dr. B:

" . . , no one in govt, Obama included, has any vision for the US beyond Keep doing what we're doing, and it's clear that that won't work anymore."

And that lack of vision is the problem. Thus, the woman snatching the baseball from the little girl and a whole generation enslaved with ONE TRILLION dollars of student debt. Crushing debt not dischargeable in bankruptcy.

Of course, having a lot of highly educated young people reduced to desperation? . . . . How has that worked out before?

There's actually a study on "surplus elites" (i.e. unemployed university grads) and what happens.

Strange times, Dr. B., strange times.

4:54 PM  
Anonymous Andrew said...

Life is uncertainty...

Thanks for that essay, it was beautiful. I'm a sucker for this kind of stuff, i find it very enriching.

7:21 PM  
Blogger MJ said...


Add to that list #8- Germany sent helicopters to snoop for NSA spy equipment at US consulate in Frankfurt.

As for what Obama will do in response to all this evidence of the decline of American influence internationally, there really is nothing the US can do in a multi-polar world order where most countries are questioning American power more than ever before.

The US is no longer in the position it was in in the 1980's when it could fund anti-communist death squads throughout Central America. Military force is a totally ineffective tool for empires when they lack allies on the world stage.

8:44 PM  
Anonymous ellen said...

Jeff T,

Thanks for the Muhammad Ali doc info. I'm not a boxing fan but did inadvertently meet him once and as a result, have since taken an interest.

He was at the time doing paid appearances where for megabucks he would turn up at a venue to shake hands and pose for photos with various bigwigs. I was working at such a venue in London in the early 70's when he was booked for a half-hour appearance. He duly did his contracted half-hour (to the minute) smooching the paying punters 'front of house' and then went 'back of house' which was staffed by the usual crew of brown, immigrant, poorly paid kitchen porters etc and spent more than an (unpaid) hour doing exactly the same with those guys. The bosses who had shelled out the megabucks were unamused but dared not complain.

Years later on a visit to LA to look at the Watts towers, I was shown his Hollywood star plaque which is, uniquely, at eye-level on a wall in the theatre entrance. The story is that he refused for years to have one as he wasn't allowing anyone to walk on his name. He finally relented only when given the wall position.

A man of principle and the courage of his convictions, a rare bird indeed but not yet extinct.

6:21 AM  
Anonymous Troutbum said...

Dr. MB and Fellow WAFers:

In your heart, you knew it was true. In the LA Times recently,it was revealed that the FBI has been using Drones in America since 2006. Unfortunately, they were not armed. On the other hand, the FBI said it saw that there was "no need" to write new privacy guidelines.

My thought is that either they are lying about not being armed or they soon will be armed.

It's all here :,0,3270950.story

7:41 AM  

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