September 07, 2013

Mene mene tekel upharsin

Hola Wafers!

Not much to say this time around, except to urge all of you to keep in mind that (a) the president is a douche bag, and (b) he is the best the U.S. can come up with these days in terms of leadership. Handwriting is on the wall, amigos.



Blogger Morris Berman said...

From the cabalistic literature:

"The forces of creation, destruction, and preservation have a whirling, dynamic interaction...Rhythm is the basis of life, not steady forward progress."

What will it take for American 'progressives', and American civilization in general, to figure this out?


2:37 PM  
Blogger Boris the Spider said...

How's the book on Japan and the craft tradition coming? I heard a report on NPR the other day about how Japan's bid for the Olympics is probably not going anywhere -- despite their robot demonstration! -- because nobody wants to go anywhere near Fukushima.

The nuclear tragedy isn't getting any better, but maybe there is a bright side. Japan is dodging a bullet here. The Olympics is a real-estate developer's dream, sucking in vast amounts of taxpayer dollars to build giant stadiums nobody will ever use again, leaving empty, depressed cities in its wake. In other words, Progress.

Heck, why isn't Detroit making a bid?

3:13 PM  
Anonymous joe hohos said...

Dr. B,

Seems like the collapse of everything is the only way anyone will recognize this. You get people to understand there is at least a little a little bit wrong with our society, but when you begin to suggest growth is an inadequate measure of economy, Japan being at the lower interest rate bound for 20 years yet still having a thriving economy, or that the two party system doesn't serve the needs of our society, or that high taxes are worth the price for equality for all, or that our whole society is set up wrong, etc., you are received with blank stares and defense of the status quo, even though they agree something is wrong. Infuriating and mind numbing, to say the least. The blaming of poor people for their own situation is also highly disturbing in our society and the worship of competition. During the Little League World Series recently a kid hit a home run and as he was rounding the bases the third baseman from the other team gave him a high five and Rush Limbaugh, an intellectual genius, took this 12 year old to task for being nice.


I have been only entering the letters on my posts and it works just fine for me.
Any way we can disrupt TPTB in any small way works for me.

5:04 PM  
Anonymous From Imbecileville said...


I say this as someone who is simpatico to your thinking, but you guys need to stop masturbating to some imagined "Suez moment", or impending “collapse” of the American empire or way of life. All of this sounds strangely like the eschatological ravings of the early Christians about the end of the Roman Empire and the imminent arrival of the Messiah to redeem the world.

Neither happened. What we prejudicially call the "collapse" of the Roman Empire was nothing more than the loss of the western part of the same in 476 that was seized upon by Augustine (he actually died earlier, but the loss of territory had already been underway for some time) and later Gibbon and others, for exactly the opposite reasons, as part of their own respective morality tales of decline and fall. In reality, the "Roman" Empire continued in the east for another 1000 years as Byzantium until the Turks put an end to it in 1453. Imagine talking about the end of Mexico after it lost about a third of its territory to the U.S. in the Mexican American war!

I bring all this up only to make the simple point that nobody today can possibly know if, (let alone, when, why, or how) the U.S. is going to "collapse." Maybe the American Nightmare is here to stay, and this is as good as it will ever get. What if our dreams of a future with steady-state economies, spiritual fulfillment, communal harmony, and ecological sustainability are simply that?

We have perhaps permanently damaged ourselves and are doomed to endless misery and despair. Even the barbarians who conquered Rome thought of themselves as Romans and continued its traditions and way of life. Look at the world outside the U.S. today and that’s exactly what’s happening.

Maybe, after all, there is no alternative. In which case, let’s take our heads out of our own rumps and just live!

5:14 PM  
Anonymous Pastrami Sandwich said...

Today I was browsing in a used book store and was suprised to come across a copy of the Reenchantment of the World. Needless to say I bought it and am going to read it tonight.

5:46 PM  
Blogger Agent of the Fifth International said...

I just finished an online debate with a Democrat on the topic of Syria. I tried to explain that there was a scientific and historical reason as to why the US was pursuing Syria. He responded by saying I was an "anarcho-Marxist" who couldn't accept facts and that the US state was "motivated by human compassion". He quote Kerry at a good length, showing how much he took the words of the Obama regime at face value.

Meanwhile, the majority of Americans have no support for the war effort, yet its not translating into much actual opposition.

6:28 PM  
Anonymous Vince said...


Thank you for your latest book. I have read it 3 times to date. Thinking about one's personal narrative can not be underestimated. I have recently spent some time contemplating the forces that have shaped my life. It is work in progress as I have entered the middle 40's where I find myself trusting that inner voice more and more everyday.

During your award lecture in Grand Rapids you responded to a question about a possible change taking place by the young. The term "colonizing their minds" has stuck with me. While I do not completely write off technology as a being utterly useless, I will agree that the faith that it is the means and the ends. The notion that technology will save us goes right back to what you have mentioned in your past writings. Our bright future is always on the horizon. Isn't this how technology is marketed to us? Just wait until product 'X' comes out, then your life will be better.

This to me is the narrative that stands steadfast in the face of any real progress. On the horizon is our national narrative. This is utter nonsense of course. But I must admit that it is the perfect way to get people not to take real action now. However, when the time comes to take action arrives it is really a reactive set of measures with no real objective other than to maintain the status quo.

I can't help but feel that the empty people running the show so to speak might just sleepwalk us into WW III.


7:35 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I fear u came to the party kinda late. We are not saying what u claim we are saying, and u have misunderstood our analysis. Suez Moment didn't mean apocalypse for England, and Rome went thru a 'punctuated' decline. You've missed the whole discussion of this, including the thesis of Dual Process. In a word, yr attacking a straw man. Suggest you go thru past posts and comments, do some catch-up. Or even read my Twilight bk. There is nothing apocalyptic abt my analysis, and even sharp discontinuities (e.g. USSR) are well-prepared.


This is a gd bk to read while eating pastrami. Enjoy!


Keep in mind that stupid people are actually fun!


8:54 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Hackenbush said...

Capo- Repressed and alienated, ah yes.. that works for me. I went out to a street festival art show last night, and it was very pleasant at least as atmosphere. I saw a few people I "know" and had very fleeting little exchanges with them, as they bowled me over with their delight to see me, then quickly got bored by my non-glibness... quickly gauged that I had no interesting baubles of news ready to hand, and moved on. I chatted with one of the artists, a painter of dystopian, sad-faced young men who looked as if made of boards and cubes - the women were more organic and dynamic, so there's an obvious interpretation there, but it also seemed to be about that "repressed and alienated" society. He seemed the most sincere of anyone there, a guileless naif painting something genuine - many of the young artists are carefully put-together "hipsters" who, while artistic and talented, aren't really at odds with the shape of things - pleasant schools, pleasant hipster girls, pleasant hipster shows about themselves like Portlandia.. what's not to like. I envy them, actually..

RealityChecker- That's a quote from Angelo Codevilla, not me (see linked article.) But feel free to correct him, I'm all ears if you want to dispute his article. I don't think he cited Columbia, maybe Columbia is a real bastion of eggheads. I'm prepared to admit it. This all started with T. Veblen's "The Higher Learning in America," of course, which I still need to read.. I think the title says it all though - can't you just hear the dripping sarcasm.

9:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael in Oceania said...

Balaam's Ass speaks:

Meme, meme, tekel, upharsin, indeed!

As the old saying goes, "It isn't over until the fat lady sings." But, wait! Is that a fat lady I hear approaching, with thunderous footsteps on tympani and bass drum? No! Methinks it is "l'uom di sasso," none other than the "Convidado de Piedra himself!

With what shall we fete this long overdue guest!? What hero's welcome shall we give him?

10:16 PM  
Anonymous Edward said...

Imbecileville, after you looked at everything about USA – inability of politician to solve any problem, rotten educational system, high incarceration rate, high gun violence among kids, high number of people on Prozac, high unemployment rates and disappearing domestic manufacturing base caused by bad trade deals and outsourcing, high external debt caused by unnecessary wars and militarism, etc, etc – after you considered all these things you still believe the best days are ahead for USA? You must be smoking something!

10:24 PM  
Anonymous The Dude said...

Today at the grocery store I saw a quintessential American sight, namely a Stop Global Warming bumper sticker plastered on the back of a gigantic Chevy Silverado SUV. The vehicle also was also sporting a PETA sticker. Just imagine walking up to the driver and informing them that their oversized, gas guzzling piece of crap is as responsible for climate change (not to mention dying, floating polar bears) as anything corporate America is doing and the sheer delight of observing their facial expression as brain freezes up from the cognitive dissonance.

Also, it it just me or are there far more alleged adults driving around in this country with simplistic sloganeering bumper stickers plastered all over their cars? I think I was 19 when I gave up doing that. Almost always, when you see one of those cars the driver is either a rabid teabagger or a progressive douchebag.

In that spirit, we WAFers need our own bumper stickers: Too Many Shoes, Not Enough Pee.

11:29 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Or maybe, So Many Shoes, So Little Urine! Wd make a gd T-Shirt as well.


11:52 PM  
Anonymous al-Qa'bong said...

Hello Dr. Belman, and Wafers in the United States and Newfoundland (it's a hockey thing):

I dropped off a request for SSIG at our local anarchist bookstore a while ago, and today ran into the "owner," who confirmed that the order went through. It's slower than amazon, but...

Regarding Imbicileville's critique, he's right about some things, but misses the point of the "Suez moment." England and France had their empires handed to them on a plate during the Suez incident, but both countries are still around today. Obama might just be having a similar predicament now over Syria (with his allies telling him he'll have no help polishing that Nobel Peace Prize of his) which may precipitate the signal that the US empire is kaput. Dixie and Wall Street may be with us still, regardless

By the way, I was reading
Gibbon 17 years ago, and today have a 16-year old son named Alaric.

11:53 PM  
Blogger Dan Henry said...

Just watched The Bling Ring. Astounding doltage, I shuddered and cringed through it in a rotation of revulsion and laughter. I can only hope many of my young peers heed this example and attempt to seize the celebrity lifestyle for themselves between shifts at the only McJobs left available to us. O&D

12:31 AM  
Blogger Horatio Nelson said...

as an old friend used to say, vis a vis bumper stickers:

"assholes always advertise"

1:30 AM  
Blogger Zosima said...

Voting against killing Arabs is verboten, do it, and you are doomed. Bombing Syria will happen. Place your bets now.

2:13 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, he's rt to the extent that we've been saying those things on this blog for more than a year now. Not all that diff from John Michael Greer, whose work is a combo of a gloss on the Twilight bk and the Dual Process concept (tho Greer doesn't use that phrase). And Greer's concept of 'catabolic collapse' can be seen as a more precisely worked out version of Toynbee. Anyway, we are not talking abt precipitous collapse here--it rarely happens that way--and a Suez Moment is merely a 'significant punctuation,' as u note. But Alaric is a nice name (O those Vandals!). However, if this blog existed 17 yrs ago and u had been rdg it, it's possible u wd have named yr kid Anti-Dolt, or something like that. As Dan Henry pts out, it's not the voltage; it's the doltage!

Of course, it's also possible u cd have named the kid Pastrami, or even Corned Beef on Rye with Cole Slaw and Russian Dressing.

Today Syria, tomorrow the world! Bomb, kill, drag yrself into the ditch!


5:28 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


I went to a local flea market yesterday, and really watched the people milling about, so many with logo-emblazoned T-shirts -- the walking equivalent of bumper stickers, I guess. And I've seen many an SUV with socially conscious stickers myself. This strikes me as a desperate attempt to establish one's label without actually having to be present as a human being.

Dr. Hack,

Yes, the self-conscious hipster, self-consciously hipstering for all the world to see! Wearing his mass-produced label of "rebellious outsider" proudly & utterly unaware of how neatly he's been pigeonholed & neutered. Or else "ironically aware" & proud of knowing it, which is even worse. Somewhere Herbert Marcuse is smiling ruefully & shaking his head ...

After reading yet one more article about how this or that aspect of America can be salvaged & restored -- education in this case -- I thought of Andre's story about visiting his terminally ill mother in the hospital, and having the arm specialist examine her arm, then proclaim, "Boy! Don't we have a lot of reason to feel great! Isn't it wonderful how she's coming along!"

Just the sign-in letters for me too -- works every time.

10:24 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Front page of NYT today: beating the drums for war against Syria. What a piece of trash that newspaper is.


12:26 PM  
Anonymous Capo REgime said...

DR. Hackenbush,

No need to envy the hipsters. Just enjoy your perspective and clear headedness. To be envious of such obvious douches is like being enviou of drunks having belly laughs or junkies in drugged out bliss. Your insights are a burden but alas you will come out jut fine and the portlandia viewers will have it rough as they wake up from their outer directed posing.

Collapse can mean many things and often its not the obvious things. I take MB's term of the Suez Moment as a metaphor for societies core beliefs and functions to no longer be operative. What is a society but a set of beliefs, rewarded and prohibited behaviors, view of world and self and purpose. As each of these is either contradicted, ignored or abandoned by larger numbers or resource limits rear their head the particular conciousness or belief system is undermined by reality and evolution (and need not be "positive" evolution) of one sort or another occurs. Its the cycle MB notes. How did we get as western culture from Benjamin Disraeli to Lindsey Gramm? Metternich to Clinton? Carruso to Lady Gaga? Mozart to Snoop Dog (or Lion). Its a cylce and as John GRay (and Barzun) show us--progress and improvemen not evident features of said cycle.

1:10 PM  
Blogger ccg said...

Speaking of the NYT, today's Week In Review section is especially obnoxious, I mean with articles by Kristof and Dowd. Dowd seems to think Obama has an inner dialog of some kind with himself. Maybe he does, but I think it would only on how weasel around to do favors for certain parties of interests. But most egregiously she never gets around to his rank hypocrisy. Syria must be held accountable for its alleged use of chemical weapons to kill 1,400 people, but he, and America, cannot be held accountable for drone attacks in other countries where the civilian death toll is surely as high. That would be unthinkable to all good so-called liberals/progressives. I guess this all is just another manifestation of American exceptionalism: an exceptional level of hypocrisy. And we now that he will take on Congress for at least one cause, the wrong one, naturally. He's a douche bag of a much higher order than the usual garden variety. Squared, cubed, quartic...

1:20 PM  
Anonymous Jesse said...

Good work! Police SWAT team was able to kill an old man with guns, not with talk and communication. What an achievement? The chief of police in the community should be given a Presidential award for job well done!

Monroe Isadore, 107-Year-Old Man, Killed In Police Shootout

1:54 PM  
Blogger Dan Henry said...

David Malone's last two posts have been about the Syria debacle, interesting breakdowns of the nonsense...

2:01 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Am currently visiting friends in New Mexico. Went to Whole Foods store to get some shampoo. Woman behind me in line, late 30s. I started to kid around with her, whereupon a look of terror came over her eyes. It's easy to forget, think Americans are normal, and then you are confronted with this terrible emotional damage, and realize yr not moving among people who are truly human. She was still frozen when I paid for my shampoo, turned to her, and said Have a nice day. She was unable to even nod. What a sad, fucked up country.


3:02 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

Growth is impossible to sustain.



3:23 PM  
Anonymous Savantesimal said...

Here and there something of reality does seep into the mainstream media. It's just not seeping fast enough. People are too busy with their "reality tv" shows or buying the junk that advertising tells them they should want. Meanwhile:

Yahoo Business: An Obituary for the American Middle Class

It’s the elephant in the room no one wants to talk about…

The middle class in the U.S. economy is on the verge of collapse. Yes, I said collapse. That social class that once helped the U.S. economy grow and prosper is coming apart. Will the U.S. economy ever be the same without it or is this the new norm?


3:49 PM  
Anonymous ellen said...

Here's an apposite cartoon, ambiguous enough to spawn some thought. Putin of course has his own agenda re the fate of Syria:

This desperation to go to war must surely be due to the sickening knowledge that the current economy only limps along because it is a long-term war economy. Peace (or relative peace) can only enhance the rate of decline/collapse.

Here's a tune, written by a German squaddie in WW1, popular with everyone in WW11 due to being played on Radio Belgrade and beamed into North Africa. This version is wrongly attributed to Dietrich but is sung by the much better voice of Lele Anderson in 1938:

4:07 PM  
Blogger Boris the Spider said...

Maybe the woman in your Whole Foods encounter was star struck -- here she was, standing next to the author of Why America Failed, the tome that saved us all! She was frozen in awe, her mind trying to formulate a way to tell you how much your work has meant to Americans like her, but her tongue just couldn't speak. Later that night, still shaking from the heat of that proximity, she smashed her tv and picked up a good book to read -- Coming to Our Senses, perhaps.

Or maybe she went home and watched the season finale of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, to try and forget the trauma of a fellow citizen actually trying to speak to her in a checkout line. Her O&D journey will be blissfully free of conversation and community.

4:29 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and Wafers,


Your latest post regarding your outing to the Whole Foods to purchase shampoo conjured up so many thoughts and questions that I've decided to simply list them all:

1. Why on earth are you buying shampoo at the Whole Foods?

2. What are you doing back in the *Empire* on the eve of another war?

3. Do you have an exit strategy to return to the "real" Mexico? I worry that once the missiles are launched, you may be apprehended at Customs. (N*S*A, if you're reading this and plan on apprehending Belman... DON'T! He's one of the good ones.)

4. Regarding the woman behind you in line... I'm sure that when she read WAF, she neglected to commit your book jacket photo to memory. That being said, she obviously didn't realize she was being spoken to by a well known author.

5. Or, she did recognize you and was simply star struck and rendered speechless.

6. Speaking of the Whole Foods, I've just learned that my local store now sells vinyl records. Now I can pick up some Amy's coconut milk w/pulp and a James Brown record. Thanks hipsters...

p.s. I hope your new shampoo provides an excellent lather and a brilliant shine.


4:50 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Well, u guys are too funny. I'm in NM visiting friends for a few days. I need hydrating shampoo because it's so dry in Mexico, and Whole Foods sells a shitload of such products. I have a sneaking suspicion that Little Miss Terrified did not recognize Famous Author, oddly enuf, and just lives in a state of terror of strangers, as do most Americans--esp. of ones who make jokes, because the avg American has no sense of humor and is very confused/threatened if people shd suddenly act friendly and light-hearted toward them. It's not that LMT is a douche bag; she's just sad and pathetic, really. (And Americans call this Life.)

And this is part of our collapse, as much as imperial overstretch and our upcoming war on Syria. Just as the macrocosm is rotten, so is the microcosm. Pathetic people, pathetic nation.


5:23 PM  
Blogger Horatio Nelson said...

admittedly, I would be polite but cautious in her shoes too.

you're not living in the U.S. anymore, and don't deal with the daily realities. when people approach or try to interact with you in public and you don't know them, it is usually something you don't want to get involved with.

last summer I was bussing in to my statistics class at the community college on the hill. I made the mistake of saying a few words about the bus to a fellow traveler, and suddenly was hit with an onslaught of how evil therapists are after answering a few questions about my studies (i'm not studying to be a therapist, but my studies can encompass such things as psychology).

the woman obviously had a big beef with some past therapist in her life, and the one sentence set her off on a tangent. ever after that I had be cautious when taking that bus, because she rode it regularly and always wanted to rave at me.

some of us are also from the Mean Streets, and our attitude is always to be cautious first and try to scope out the situation. probably, i would have laughed at your joke but still wondered "why is that old guy being so friendly with me?...weirdo!" because the only people who DO interact in such ways in public now ARE the strange and crazy ones.

yes, i too have lost my humanity just by being here. is there room in Mexico for a gringa like myself? i was there once 15 years ago in the capital, and it blew my mind. but i'd be worried about a)not speaking the language b)crime c)cops/soldiers in the streets toting automatic weapons suggested that the place was always in danger of serious insurrection of some sort.

and, naturally i'd need a jaaahb.

6:06 PM  
Anonymous Chistoso said...

The lady at checkout may be a meth head or prozac head. You joke about the weather but in her head MB said--glancing beady eyed at her card MB slurs--you call that a cucumber? I have your organic cucumber right here.

7:27 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Hackenbush said...

I second Dan Henry's recommendation of the golem site, for interesting thoughts on Syria:

Also see this Mark Ames article (but hurry before it's locked)

8:34 PM  
Anonymous joe hohos said...


Interesting encounter, especially considering what I just read in one of my Business class books. To network, you're supposed to talk to people in the checkout line and ask them out to coffee. Ha! How out of touch are the professors w/ the way the world actually works?

Found a deli in town which serves the same corned beef/pastrami as the Stage Deli used too, delicious btw, however, they don't have chopped liver. I'm not as adventurous as I once was but is tongue good?

8:39 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Not a big fan of tongue, unless sex is somehow involved. There was an episode of Seinfeld in which George tried to combine having sex with eatg a pastrami sandwich. Woman wasn't into it. But then he met
a gal who was heating slices of pastrami in her kitchen, and said "I have always found pastrami to be the most erotic of the cured salted meats." 5 seconds later they were copulating on the kitchen floor.


I actually wasn't trying to pick the poor girl up, but maybe I'll try that cucumber line on another occasion. An obvious winner. Eres chistoso, tio.


10:56 PM  
Anonymous in.fern.all said...

Mr. B,

What did you say to the woman in the check-out line at WF? Was it in any way political, perhaps a derogatory remark about Al Gore light bulbs or visualizing world peace through $8 a pound celery? Could she have interpreted it as intrusive or perhaps suggestive and inappropriate? I can't imagine what anybody could possibly say to me in a similar situation, short of pulling out a gun and waving it in my face, that would render me speechless with fear.
To paraphrase Issac Hayes:

"You say this cat Berman's a
bad muthuh--

(chorus):--"Shutchyo' mouth!"

"I'm talkin' about Berman"--

(chorus):--"Well, we can dig it".

11:16 PM  
Blogger Zosima said...

Can you believe it? All our favorite right-wing military heroes are now cheese eating surrender monkeys! What’s going on? Just a few short years ago, these guys wanted us to double or triple our war spending and sung songs about bombing Iran. I thought I knew what country I was living in politically, now I’m hearing only Twilight Zone theme music.

3:44 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Not terribly scary, I don't think, or even that funny. I was poking thru the organic chocolates they sell at the cashier's, asked her if she had ever tried them, said something abt how overpriced they usually were, that sorta thing. Fairly innocuous, and not very political or suggestive,but it generated a look of terror. I'm telling u, Americans are a pathetic bunch. This is exactly the loss of 'social capital' that Robt Putnam describes in 'Bowling Alone'. There's no way a Mexican person, nor most people on the planet, really, wd respond like that; down here, or in Japan, it wd be considered rude. Of course, it's possible she was demented, but then 99% of the American public wd be as well. Which ain't that farfetched...


5:49 AM  
Anonymous Jerome Langguth said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Your recent Whole Foods anecdote captures very well the social atmosphere of the US as I experience it as well. Many of my students, for example, report that they feel uncomfortable in face-to-face social interactions and that they rarely have casual conversations with even their friends if no screen is involved. And as another commenter observed, to speak to strangers on a bus or the street triggers a perhaps sensible caution given the overall culture. Distressingly, I find that even old friends prefer not to venture out much or even chat on the phone. The sudden appearance of an amiable, open, and humorous soul in such a desert is probably just so shocking that one is at a loss for words.


5:53 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


There is a problem of Americans in general not being able to see what I'm referring to because that type of antisocial behavior has become as 'normal' in the US as the proverbial water surrounding fish ("what water?"). For the woman I was speaking to, and for perhaps 99% of the American population, fear, withdrawal, and cold neutrality are perfectly OK; they are supposedly how strangers behave toward one another. But go to another country, practically any other, and such behavior is not only nonexistent; it would be regarded as a sign of mental illness. Since, as Putnam argued, this is the destruction of social capital, and since such capital is basic to a healthy society, it isn't much of a stretch to see it as the microcosmic analogue to our macrocosmic collapse. You know, C. Wright Mills argued that real history was composed of millions of tiny daily interactions. Every time one American treats another like a potential threat just for being friendly, this adds up; it takes its toll on the body politic at large. This is why I keep saying that at this stage in American history, Bad is Good. The destruction of healthy interpersonal relations is hardly incidental to the national suicide in which we are currently engaged. Or to put it another way: the sicker, the better.


8:12 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

My public experience with others is a bit more nuanced. The more money & position they have, even slightly more, the ruder & more self-centered & entitled they tend to be, it seems. The people who are most likely to react normally to politeness & friendliness? Those with shit jobs. Cashiers, grocery cart gatherers, etc. -- they're either ignored or treated with contempt by most customers, probably by many of their superiors, too. I've found that when I treat them like fellow human beings, they're both amazed & grateful -- which really makes me sad, because treating them like fellow human beings should be the norm.

On the other hand, how many times have any of us said that we'd like to tell that rude SOB off, but hesitate because he might have a gun? I've done it. We take it for granted that any interaction can lead to shooting; that's the norm.


I see that fear of actual human communication more & more myself. Lines of people all face-down in their digital devices. A group of teens sitting together, facing one another, conversing via text. A fear of using even a telephone to talk.

I have to say that much of the friendliness among strangers that I do see turns out to be "networking" (i.e., hustling). But I do think there are still some people out there sensitive enough & hungry for real human contact -- it's just more & more difficult, even dangerous, to find. And becoming scarcer every day.

8:40 AM  
Anonymous shep said...


I was reading the latest essay posted on "Nature Bats Last" and I found this tidbit.

"A year or so ago, in their unending quest to discredit me, certain Christian fundamentalists did me the greatest imaginable honor by linking me by reputation and accusation to the brightest lights of western culture — people such as Morris Berman and Noam Chomsky: I would never pretend to any arrogant comparison of stature: I’m not worthy to lick the sandals of someone like Berman. Nevertheless, as he has articulated more clearly than anyone I know, the nature of the sickness of western civilization and the reason for a prognosis that is anything but optimistic, I find myself in profound agreement with him: if you want to know my position with respect to our predicament, read Berman. If we have a future, it is because of people like Berman and Chomsky."

The article is here, by David Goza (?).

8:54 AM  
Anonymous Capo REgime said...


You are on to something here. Though for reasons I can't well articualte something about Putnam and his work is annoying. In my adult working life 10 years of working internationally and 8 years of college and grad school plus 20 working in D.C. I have been stunned how the majority (90%) of my friends have been made outside the U.S.. I have more real social contact with people on the other side of the globe than I do with people I see in the halls in D.C. In Mex people invite me to activities all the time, people in Australia, Africa and Israel invite me to visit in home, in markets or restaurants make new friends meet the following day for coffee etc. The difference is remarkable. Further--americans are a bit hampered in the conversation area--has to be positive and superficial.

Keep shopping at Whole Foods! I bought a lot of their their stock in 1990 for .89 and its now well over 50.00.

9:12 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thanks for the ref.

Re: my observation that Americans are basically a collection of degraded buffoons: Check out Tina Fey's movie, "Mean Girls" (god I love that woman). There's a scene where she goes into a video store and tries to kid around with the young adult or teen staff, and they just stare at her, a mixture of fear and incomprehension. She captures what I'm talking abt perfectly. Who or what can save these kids, or that pathetic woman in Whole Foods/Broken Souls? This IS America, muchachos; for a moment, I had forgotten that.


9:40 AM  
Anonymous AS said...

Iowa is now selling guns to the legally blind:

10:38 AM  
Blogger Agent of the Fifth International said...

One of the best recent articles on the "crisis of humanity".

10:49 AM  
Blogger Horatio Nelson said...

some of us have always longed for real community, and the evolution in "friendship" that has happened to me over the years signifies that the culture is breaking down.

networking is all. friends are, in truth, acquaintances that you happen to have where you are working at the time. one guy I worked with 10 years ago (a much older man), when I was moving to another state and ceasing my employment there, was honest enough to tell me "well, good luck. I am not going to say that we shall keep in touch because that isn't how life works. everyone says that and then never does it. so whatever you do in life, good luck with it."

trying to be close to people, or see them on anything more than a periodic basis (weekly if you are lucky) has, over the last 15 or so years become a scheduling nightmare as people are so busy trying to fill out their "bucket lists" ain't on it! trying to have coffee with a girlfriend once was like trying to schedule a canal. "no, I don't have Thursday afternoon open. that's my Bikram yoga time. how about...."

over the years, I have become more and more isolated. I took these "hints" as evidence that I was someone who wasn't really worth knowing. I did not have a fancy, upwardly mobile job and wasn't into "neato" exciting hobbies like rock climbing, or whatever the current fad was. I was a bore. perhaps too moody. willing to be honest about how I felt about things (generally, not positive about many things, but still trying to have a sense of humour about them nonetheless).

and, as someone points out above: there's nothing worse in American small-talk than being anything less than superficial and positive. as an extreme introvert, some of us are incapable of being the first and, considering my perspective on the world (crumbling, even if they built 3 new Starbucks in a 2 mile radius within the last few months. actually, crumbling BECAUSE OF such developments), find it hard to be the latter all of the time.

so, some of us had no choice but to turn inward under the assumption that "I am a social dud. the zombie at the party."

1:03 PM  
Blogger ThxKMikk said...

Hi - my first time here. I've just started DAM yesterday and love the Style as well as the contents so far. (I read and it's like I were listening to an old friend speaking softly to me, this is what I mean by "Style"). Good complement to "Empire of Illusion" by Chris Hedges - maybe both authors know each other - well, they should. Happy to be able to partake of your wisdom and looking forward to discovering your other works, past or future.
This said, I don't agree with your view of Obama as a "douche bag": I see him as a diabolic demagogue, capable of inspiring quite the opposite feeling his deeds deserve. I see him as a true conservative President projecting a (false) progressive image, and he's quite gifted at that. Tariq Ali had it all right in his "The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad", the title alone says it all.

1:05 PM  
Blogger Horatio Nelson said...

a "root canal" is what that was meant to say. I was about to type "colonoscopy" but have never had one, so don't really know anything about the experience except by report.


1:19 PM  
Anonymous in.fern all said...

Freaking out over a comment about a candy bar? Awesome!

1:32 PM  
Anonymous al-Qa'bong "The WAFerooni" said...

Greetings, Dr. B. and Wafers:

Anti-dolt as a name? Pastrami, or even Corned Beef on Rye with Cole Slaw and Russian Dressing?

How about "Electrolyle?"

Or better yet, "Jayden Brayden Keegan Jared Electrolyte?"

I visited the British Museaum last summer. Luckily I don't have a kid on the way, or I'd be tempted to name him Tiglath-Pileser or Ashurbanipal.

2:40 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Check out conversation I did with Chris in Vancouver last April. You can find it online, or in the Archives here.


Check out "Quiet," by Susan Cain.


Remember to consult yr post-it every morning.


2:47 PM  
Blogger Dan Henry said...

Thanks for that link Shep. Very good essay.

Re Whole Foods: even better than the assortment of bumper sticks that always dots the parking lots is are the obligatory "fuel efficient vehicle" designated parking spots. "Liberal" American nonsense at its best. And further on the Whole Foods front, I recently heard that they are opening a branch in the Englewood neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. You may want to sell off that stock...LINK cards will not support the inflated margins driving that chain.

2:57 PM  
Blogger Publius said...

This is my first comment, though I've been reading you for some time.
I just finished WAF, and now Dark Ages America.
You've been keeping me up too late on work nights! Luckily, my employer provides all the free coffee and espresso we can consume. Clever of them to provide stimulants for their employees.

Not relevant maybe, but I work for a company that actually treats its employees well, in terms of loose environment, great benefits, even stock options. Kind of like the last tech boom. However: sales people are fired all the time, and their firing is announced the next day. Nobody ever mentions them again.

Last week, a sales guy I know was let go. I approached one of his colleagues about him, saying "too bad about X," etc. No response in words, just anxious silence.
I am a Gen Xer. I am shocked by how the Millennials love to wear the company logos, and make their whole lives revolved around the company. Hustling lifestyle. I guess I am too cynical to pretend to join in.

Regarding Whole Foods and Americans. Not all of us are like that. I routinely talk to strangers, bus drives, people in stores. I keep trying, even though a large percentage don't really respond. In fact, an older lady walking her down down the alley behind our new little house completely ignored me when I said hello and smiled as she walked by with her dog! It was like I was not there. She didn't completely ignore me, actually - she had a look of rigidity, and a rictus on her face. She was downright hostile. I felt she wanted me to not exist.

Regarding Obama: I always saw through him. I find his oratory to be way over-rated. He puts me to sleep. He's full of shit. He's a knave, a cowardly sock-puppet, and soon to be a vulgar war criminal. There is something eery about his lack of engagement, his facile ability to lie and bamboozle his acolytes: something is seriously sick in this country's soul.
Be well. Your voice as a writer has given me pleasure, and I feel like I kind of know you. If I ever get to see you in real life, I'll be honored.

3:56 PM  
Blogger cosmoflanker said...

Doc Berman,

Distinguished Wafers y Waferettes,

Yes, grocery stores north of the border can be frightening places.

A couple of years ago I came out of my local store to find in the parking lot an SUV with a message, not on a bumper sticker, but custom lettered onto the back window. It read “I would destroy the entire planet to protect my family.” I was physically sick. I thought about waiting around to see just what this person (?) looked like, who held not only such a psychopathic belief, but feels the need to clobber everyone around them with the message. Oh I should also mention, although you won’t be surprised, that they were taking up TWO parking spaces – and at the front of the store, not far out in the parking lot – no doubt just to complete their “F-You” statement to society.

I don’t know if they actually felt they were showing “love” for their family, but of course it never occurred to their tiny, reptilian brain how absurd their statement is because no planet = no family. It shows how they think of themselves in isolation, not part of a system or community, not needing anybody or anything else. The penultimate height (or is it depth?) of a selfish stupidity - a true Randian hero, and a true ‘Merkun.

Just a couple of weeks ago I was shopping in the same store, and as I was coming to the end of an aisle, an older lady with a man who I would guess was her adult (late 20’s) son, came to a stop with their basket blocking the end of the aisle. I came up to them and waited for a couple of seconds while they talked, then the lady noticed me and moved, saying “I’m sorry.” I then distinctly heard the presumed son whisper to her, “don’t apologize.”

Been quite a while (I believe over a year) since I have made a comment here, but I read your posts and everyone’s comments every day.

And with that, I duck back under cover. Never know when a drone is overhead.

4:16 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and Wafers,

Tim Lukeman-

I agree with your position regarding wealth and rudeness. The sense of entitlement and antisocial behavior among wealthier Americans is palpable and even observable. Here's an article that further argues the points that you made:,0,4776054.story

You know, being raised in mid-twentieth century American middle-class suburbia, I recognized the status of wealthier Americans, i.e. their place in the scheme of things early on. This awareness or class consciousness most likely set in for me during the seventies, so to speak.

I'm probably being naive about it, or perhaps nostalgic, but it seemed that wealthier Americans during the late sixties and early seventies weren't as big of entitled, empty, and compassionless douche bags as they are today. Of course, they drove around in a big Caddy and smoked their Lucky's... but they didn't try to run you over crossing the street. What was the trigger for all of this? Is this something we can contribute to Reagan, capitalism run amok, globalization, fear and insecurity, self-help pop psychology, Kim Kardasian's rump, Reality TV, what? Any thoughts or sources you (or anyone in Waferville) have would be greatly appreciated.


Luv the Issac Hayes lyrics. Perhaps this lyric applies to MB's Whole Foods encounter as well:

"All around people looking half dead

Walking on the sidewalk hotter than a match head"

From the Isaac Hayes version of "Summer in the City."


4:58 PM  
Blogger Paul Brodsky said...

MB -

Your Whole Foods incident brings up another interesting topic: the awful character of American women. One European friend of mine commented that American girls act as if you're a rapist if you try and approach them. Sites like have horror stories regarding this issue.

5:27 PM  
Anonymous Edward said...

Listen to the video - this will not end well for this guy. Whoever the gods will kill, they first make mad. That boy is mad now; his death is next! In a way, this guy is the perfect metaphor for America.

5:33 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Nebuchadnezzar is also very stylish. But perhaps Reuben Sandwich wd be easier to pronounce.

Cosmo, Publius-

Always glad 2c a lurker step into the light. Welcome to our world. Discussions of deli meats always bring Wafers a frisson of joy.


7:23 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Hackenbush said...

Okay, this topic of MB's Whole Foods encounter w/ LMT has reminded me of something funny along those lines.. I was in a Publix supermarket here in Birmingham, AL, in the produce section. For context, I recently tried some yucca roots and found I really like them. I was about to check out their selection, when a guy walked up and started going through a bin of some other "weird" root right next to them. Usually I never see anybody messing with that stuff, but this guy looked to have Asian ancestry so I figured maybe it was a staple of Asian cuisine. I asked him if it was any good or if he recommended it, and he didn't mind being addressed by a stranger at all- he seemed delighted to tell me all about it, although he was annoyed by their shoddy selection (of "nam" I believe it was.) He gave me advice about what to pair it with, all sorts of stuff- my American-ness showed here b/c I was surprised we got into such a thorough discussion, and did feel thrown off by it. As we talked I noticed that shoppers wandering by looked alarmed that we two had suddenly struck up this big conversation, and glanced away when I noticed them observing us! It struck me as bizarre, that we had attracted attention just by talking to one another (though it might have partly been his tone of annoyance that had attracted attention.) Then, this gentleman, still very peeved about the shoddy nam, called over a nearby stocking clerk. And didn't pretend to any niceties, he just started tearing into the hapless guy about what a crime it was to foist that stuff on the public. In line with MB's theory, the clerk seemed terrified - not just by the criticism, but by the scenario of our conversation itself. I actually started to laugh, I was so amused by what had escalated out of my innocent query. The clerk pleaded that they had tried to improve the nam situation, but their managers were dismissive of such eccentric tubers (true story.) After the clerk escaped, my advisor assured me that it was still fit to buy, even if it wasn't up to grade-A standards.

Not sure what this says, but I think Larry David should do something with the whole topic in an episode of "Curb yr Enthusiasm."

9:43 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

WAFers and WAFerettes, here are some articles of interest:

West's wars of choice target the weak

Hacktivist Journo Barrett Brown And Lawyers Gagged

NSA Affair: Germans Conduct Helicopter Flyover of US Consulate

11:26 PM  
Blogger Zosima said...

“I was poking thru the organic chocolates they sell at the cashier's, asked her if she had ever tried them, said something abt how overpriced they usually were, that sorta thing. Fairly innocuous, and not very political or suggestive, but it generated a look of terror.”

Here’s why. A woman where I work used to be a manager of a Gap store, she said that the corporation would send spies to stores to test customer service. You criticized the high prices at the store, that's a red flag, if the cashier agrees with you, she’s fired. Everything she is doing is being timed and counted by management to save every penny and keep the number of employees to a minimum. If she talks to you too long, or even at all, that counts against her. The same goes for call centers. It really is that bad, the American retail corporate chain store is a gulag for people like her. I know you expect her to act like a normal person, but it’s like expecting an inmate at Dachau to be cheerful. Any criticism should be directed at management, don’t believe me? Look at the Mengele who runs Whole Foods, those are managers in the background, they’re the prison guards, cheerful bunch huh? That’s where your blame should go. Sad thing is, this best thing you can do to help the poor clerk is to shut up be quick. That what her corporate slave masters want. Thank You For Shopping!

12:30 AM  
Blogger Dan Henry said...

LD did sort of touch on the heart of it with the "stop n chat" episode.

1:22 AM  
Blogger goritsas said...


I thought Sapolsky's baboons gave us a perfect framework to deal with the issue the entire world is facing today: the existence of dominant aggressive males. Get rid of them and there may be hope for the rest of us. Whether they are killed by implements, chemicals, or pathogens, or castrated chemically, or surgically, with or without anesthetic, doesn't matter much to me. I'd like to see the back of them in any case.

Then, with any luck, we too can live in a more serene and peaceful world within a generation, just like them baboons! Maybe we'll finally get to be our "true" selves and get to money around at last! I could get into that daily grooming stuff pretty damn quick. Looks like a whole lotta fun. Fuck advanced mathematics. Grooming for nothing and your ticks for free. :)

4:26 AM  
Anonymous Megan said...

One thing I do notice is that this depends on age to some extent. I experience this all the time at work: people 35 and below, routinely walk past me in the hallway, and don't so much as nod. (And to make it worse, there isn't even anyone else around: they just stare right through me.) On the other hand, I older people, usually women over 55, have distinctly better manners and social skills. Of course, there are many exceptions, and plenty of rude older people; But as a general tendency, I think there's some truth in it.

In any case, my theory is that older people have more ties to traditional values, and are less steeped in our media saturated, me-first, American culture. Anyhow, the thing about not even nodding really bothers me. I don't always feel like being Chatty Cathy, but I just can't bring myself to walk past someone on a deserted street, for example, and not so much as nod in their direction.

5:53 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

About Sarah Plain, lesser known as Palin, by John Cleese!

Cleese's immediate, automatic laugh is fabulous when asked about Sister Sarah and his description of her as a Parrot. (First 40 seconds)

9:29 AM  
Anonymous Gino said...

An intriguing article about a family who has given up all technology invented after 1986. They even make house guests deposit their smartphones and other gadgets into a box upon entry.

9:42 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Cd be, but I think that's a long shot. I was talking to some random woman who got in line behind me, not to the cashier; and we were out of earshot of the cashier at that pt. It's a lot more likely that she was just another terrified, antisocial American.


9:54 AM  
Anonymous ellen said...

I can suggest another possibility with the terrified woman shopper, since I am well past the age of caring, and that is that women past their mid forties generally aquire invisibility for the world around them. It can be disconcerting to experience this at first but becomes quite a boon once you get used to it. Perhaps your shopping companion was simply shocked that her cloak of invisibility had been so abruptly penetrated?

Dr Hack,
That was a great link ( you and Dan Henry gave for some Syrian analysis. I'm about Syria-ed out for the moment but found this interesting breakdown of the official opposition (minus the al Nusrah's and sundry other interest groups) and who is picking up the tab and nurturing these guys along, which adds another piece to the puzzle:

10:51 AM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

Zosima, you said "Here’s why. A woman where I work used to be a manager of a Gap store, she said that the corporation would send spies to stores to test customer service."

I know exactly what you're talking about. These spies are called mystery shoppers.

First, anyone can sign up for different mystery shopping companies. This means one does not have to be effectively trained to do it.

Second, I have done mystery shopping myself. I give everyone a pretty good report but not excellent. I know their jobs are on the line and sometimes things do happen. You don't make a lot doing it.

Third, there is an algorithm to the whole interaction and I have profiled this so well I can make up the interaction now. The corporate interaction they demand is so predictable now that it seems like a science.

Zosmia, this whole thing is like a machine. It is a soul sucking to deal in. The whole thing is so empty and lacks substance. There is no critical thinking involved in any of this and there are no extenuating circumstances considered when being mystery shopped.

Mystery shopping has given me a chance to go behind the scenes and tread where others do not. The corporates are cold, empty, iced, monsters.

"Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you." Friedrich Nietzsche

This abyss destroys you with its gaze. If you stare into it long enough you will eventually become the cold, empty, iced, monster they are. Dr. B is right. If you can, hit the road. If you can't physically do it then do it mentally and concentrate on simple things like roses and the love of your life. I do that.

11:38 AM  
Anonymous Smith said...

Brilliant post, sir!

Yet, if I may play devil's advocate for a moment, maybe Americans like that woman you met in Whole Foods have good reason to be terrified of strangers.

Given how doltish Americans are, there is a very real chance in this country that if someone is joking around with you, he is going to do something horrible to you, and worse yet, you won't even be allowed to defend yourself if he does.

That's how it works "on the ground", so to speak, in "daily life." Mark Ames' "Going Postal" is a good analysis of this; what's happened to our country is that there is essentially never any penalty for being cruel to each other and treating other like shit. So, we've started to think that's how all human interaction must be, and we essentially respond to all displays human vulnerability by telling them, "Get the fuck away from me!" Think of how Americans react to children who are bullied in school, or poor people who have lost their jobs, or just in general anyone who's been dominated and trampled on. We tell them, "Don't display any emotion! Shut up, and quit complaining!"

Maybe the woman thought she was being set up to be knocked down if she displayed the vulnerability you were looking for. Maybe she thought, if she responded to your joking around, you would punish her.

Perhaps Americans can't afford to be fully human because, unlike other countries, there is a very real chance they'll come under emotional or physical assault if they do.

11:41 AM  
Anonymous al-Qa'bong said...

Greetings Dr. B and you Wafers;

Assuming there are still people on the planet in 3,000 years, what artefacts of the US Empire would be housed in a British Museum of the future?

Where are the Nimrods and Ninevehs of today? What paeans to the glory of Bush Caesar and Tiglath-Obama will adorn the walls of the Merkan display?

I had an interesting chat with a clerk in a Tesco's in London this summer. I found some frozen Jamaican samosa-like patties, and when I went to pay for them and my other grub, the clerk said, "Oh, West Indian food. Those are good." She then told me she was from the Caribbean, and when I asked her if there was any special way of preparing them, she explained how.

11:57 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Jeff T, Megan,

I agree, among many older people there's still more of a sense of proper behavior & manners than among many younger people. Granted, that's a sweeping generalization, but I've found it to be true more often than not. Just look at the social models young people get these days, conflating quiet self-confidence with aggressive rudeness, honesty with gross vulgarity, basic human decency with weakness. Might as well call it "How Not To Be An Adult 101" & have done with it.


Yes, keeping up friendships (not "connections" or "networking") requires effort. More than just effort, really -- caring & a desire for genuine communion with others on some level. Ironically, modern social media makes it so easy (in theory) that it takes no thought, no reflection. Since little to nothing truly human is put into it, there's little or nothing to lose if you don't follow up.

As I've mentioned before, I'm starting to hand-write letters to friends again, What a difference it makes! It not only makes me think about what I'm saying, it makes me feel closer to them, because I'm actually putting something of myself into each page.


A sad, scary story! Of course, most people really don't think about what they plaster all over their cars, other than that it's "cool & edgy" or whatever. I'll bet their only concern is what is says about them -- or what they fondly & mistakenly believe it says about them, anyway.

I'm convinced that so many people slap on public labels & try to call attention to themselves to convince everyone that they actually exist. There's nothing inside, so they've got to constantly maintain the outward facade of an actual person. The ultimate "there's no there there" I guess.

12:42 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I was looking for elementary courtesy, not vulnerability. Also, not much chance she'd get attacked in a large grocery store with lotsa people around, eh?


She was abt 36.

Let's face it, folks: she was a typical American: antisocial, scared, angry, clueless--a douche bag!


2:37 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

I used to do some professional acting on the side in the USA. I keep getting agency notices by auto email & peruse them for grins. U wldn't believe some of the new "reality" TV shows producers are trying to gin up constantly! A real window into the heart of darkness. Anyway, I saw a esp weird one the other day.

First the roles, then the description.

Roles: a Purchasing Manager, two Sales Reps, an Infection Prevention Dept Head, an ER Nursing Dept Manager, a Lab Manager, a Hospital Chief Operations Officer.

Get the description:

"This is a LIVE audience interactive event for a corporate meeting. Talent will be in character for the full day; there will be 2 formal presentations, then informal interaction with the client's employees for the rest of the day. EXCELLENT ACTORS !! ALL talent must be excellent actors, and GREAT WITH IMPROV"

Talent will be in charac for full day, informal interaction, must be great with improv. This is telling me they want to pull a fraud - the actors are to represent themselves (falsely) as having these jobs (dept mgr, etc). Can't they get any real people who DO have those jobs to give the presentations?

"I'm not a doctor but I play one on TV" is now, "I play one at a conference."

2:43 PM  
Blogger ccg said...

I'd like to relate what happened to me earlier today, this being anothe example of American anti-social behavior--is the there's no shortage of such examples.

I was walking through a parking lot when suddenly a car started backing out right at me and I was only foot or so from the its bumper. The driver evidently hadn't bothered to look. I was able to dance out of the way a little bit so as not to get hit, but when I pointed out to the driver, a guy in his twenties, that I had been directly behind his car when he started to pull out, he said to me: "You could have moved." Not even a slight acknowledgement that he did something wrong. Would he have said that to an elderly person after he had run them down? Surely. I'm not too young myself so I'm sure that he would have behaved the same way: blame the victim. American seems quite extraordinary in its ability to produce citizens each without an active conscience. This sort of thing may not be typical, but it isn't that rare either. People like this are far more dangerous that mere douche bags.

3:42 PM  
Anonymous Megan said...


Yes, it is a generalization, but I do think it holds, and is more accurate than not. I also agree about the fear of using phones. In America we equate "coolness" with "busyness", so I guess even calling someone these days is decidedly unhip. Why not just send a fragmented, grammatically poor text message?

Jean Twenge wrote about the under thirty crowd (which she calls "Generation Me") in her book "Epidemic of Narcissism." In one study, they determined that levels of empathy among college seniors today, is something like 35% lower than it was just 30 years ago. To me, that is a chilling statistic. Imagine what that will mean when all the older, sensible people die off! It's bad now, but in 30 years it will be a REAL wasteland.

Of course, this isn't terribly surprising. We worship Simon Cowell, who is one of the most odious, disgusting people in existence. Yet Americans almost universally think he's a great guy, and someone to be emulated. Likewise the Kardashians, etc. So instead of a Thomas Mann or an Albert Camus to reflect our national identity, we have people like this. A collapsing civilization indeed!

3:54 PM  
Blogger Jarid Wagner said...

Hello everyone, I'm loving the in-depth analysis of the grocery store encounter. Lots of different viewpoints, I enjoyed the satirical version where she was awestruck by Berman.

Any word on the Chinese WAF and it's preface being censored? I hope it goes through the same as how it was posted on here. George Orwell wrote a preface to Animal Farm where he warned that Stalinism could come to England and that it was important to maintain freedom of speech to prevent such things. The preface was censored of course and not published for decades. WAF could have the same ironic outcome.

5:21 PM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...

Hello MB and fellow wafers. I don't like posting links but this was too good to pass up. It mocks progressives and Obama and techno narcissism. I think MB that you will love this.

5:34 PM  
Anonymous Michael in Oceania said...

And now, bringing us back to the original subject of the post!

Pepe Escobar has a good write-up about Russia's diplomatic gambit:

Methinks the Russians have taken the wind out of the Ziocrazies' sails, almost completely. I don't know if this will end up as a true Suez moment, but it comes close. At any rate, everyone knows that the only ones in the room acting like adults are the Russians.

When this is all over, I think no one will respect the U.S. anymore. Many are still afraid of its military, but everyone now knows that this is a gangster regime. It has no moral legitimacy with anyone. As Napoleon said, you can do anything you like with bayonets, except sit on them.

6:03 PM  
Anonymous turnover said...

You gotta love this post on Ann Arbor, MI Craigslist:

" Girl Looking For U of M Guy - w4m - 19 (Ann Arbor)
I am looking for a university of Michigan guy who knows girls from the sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma. I am in KKG and want to get some dirt on some of my sorority sisters in case I ever need to use it against them. If I am satisfied with the information you give me maybe we can meet up for some fun!"

7:45 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Sanctuary - I suppose it's bound to happen in a country where the Gipper got to be "in character" as Chief Executive for eight years in much the same manner. Maybe he was better at improv than his performance in Bedtime For Bonzo would suggest.

8:57 PM  
Anonymous Edward said...

Zosima stated: "That what her corporate slave masters want".

Slaves indeed!

I did not know that I will live long enough to read about sentiment like above where Americans actually realize that they are economic slaves.

Did you guys hear that Obama has backed off from waging a war with Syria because of the stance of Russia. Russia openly stated it would support Syria and America had to chicken out. This is good because it proves that the war mongering thugs only messes around with small countries with less weapons to fight back - when those with big guns come out, Americans run and hide like chickens. Chicken hawks!

9:40 PM  
Blogger Zosima said...

Morris Berman said...Z- Cd be, but I think that's a long shot. I was talking to some random woman who got in line behind me, not to the cashier...Let's face it, folks: she was a typical American: antisocial, scared, angry, clueless--a douche bag!

Yes, my mistake, I thought u were talking about the cashier, but noticed after my post that it was a customer. The destruction of social capital is a side effect of the willful degradation of people in the workplace where people spend most of their lives, it can’t help but spill over onto the rest of societal interactions. I just try to keep in mind that capitalists want this, because it really does help them in a very tangible way. Fearful, lonely, empty people will buy more empty useless products. All pleasure or happiness must produce a profit for some capitalist, if simple friendly social interactions produce pleasure for free, this is competition that hurts capitalists and so it must be “eliminated from the social scene.” This includes even the simplest social interaction. Remember the Wallerstein quote:

If we say that a system 'gives priority' to such endless accumulation, it means that there exist structural mechanisms by which those who act with other motivations are penalized in some way, and are eventually eliminated from the social scene.

A simple, friendly, spontaneous conversation doesn’t produce endless accumulation. So, it must be killed. I see what’s going on as a deliberate process that is inevitable in any society where capitalism is given dictatorial power, as it has been given in America. It becomes totalitarian, leaving no area of life untouched.

9:51 PM  
Blogger Horatio Nelson said...


thanks for the book recommendation, and i'll try picking it up soon. sometimes, this environment drags ya down. hate to be having a pity-party in yer blog.

say it with me now, and make it sound like the howling of the wolves:

I want ouuuuuuutt!

of your cruel, American insanity and hologram world. eating sand in the desert would be better.

11:31 PM  
Anonymous joe hohos said...


Great link!

Dr. B,

Not quite understanding why Obama would ruffle his feathers and threaten military action w/o previously gathering the votes from congress first. (Not even going to pretend that I think the will of the people matters anymore.) Of course his secret advisors prob told him it would be good for business, but being this out of touch shows what a pompous douche bag he actually is. I thought before you go around pronouncing you're going to bomb another tinpot dictator you first make sure you can get congress on your side. Do you think he's so out of touch that he thought congress would go along with him no matter what he did? The way they have fought everything else he's done, including the upcoming government shutdown, you would think he'd know better.

1:07 AM  
Blogger Horatio Nelson said...

I know you do not allow more than one comment a day, but this one is just for you:

methinks someone read Twilight, and understood it!

1:09 AM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

perhaps a bit late to the game here (as usual), but I'd bet my bottom buck that the terrified woman was just a douche, like 99% of the people surrounding us here in America. Rude, self-centered, angry, etc. Rich, poor, man, my experience, it doesn't matter. The percentage is generally the same. Hell, I grew up pretty lower-middle class, and poor people could be just as goddamn mean and antisocial as the richer ones I knew. It wasn't like Dr. B was hitting on her or touching her or acting intimidating. He was attempting nonchalant, courteous small-talk/humor, which in other countries (at least the few I've visited) seemed to be expected , or at least part of the social fabric. Even the little tiny interactions are part of the grace which makes life more bearable, and makes it so very unbearable here.

2:36 AM  
Anonymous ellen said...

Artifact of US empire that will become a museum piece: the MacDonald's burger for at least two reasons. It has already demonstrated its longevity by remaining spookily intact for many years and Kroc's original business model, which was less about building a restaurant chain than about real estate land-banking, is eerily reminiscent of the machinations of empire.

Your incident reminded me of an exchange in the collateral murder video where the Apache pilots are told to hold fire because they have shot up some children. The response is: “Well, you shouldn’t take your kids to battle.”
The soldier, Ethan McCord, who disobeyed orders and grabbed the kids and took them for medical treatment has an interesting if very painful story himself:

3:52 AM  
Anonymous shep said...


On today 9-11-1973, first they broke his hands and smashed his guitar, then, he returned to the stadium and kept leading the crowd with his voice. Then, they cut out his tongue, in that Santiago stadium, because he would not stop singing to protestors of Pinochet gathered there. He walked rght back out there and led the singing with his arms, so they had to put 40+ bullets in him. Eight have now been Id’d and charged. One lives in Deltona, Fla.

The sheep’s clothing is slowly sliding off a WAFer.

The Whiole Foods Libertarian CEO uses double speak talking about Fascism. Pathetic. Plus, to shop there is a way to impress people that you are a social conservative (A conservative Government is an organized hypocrisy. - Disraeli - a conservative himself?).

In the South, people used to be very friendly. At one time is was easy to travel North of the Mason-Dixon line and have the girls following you wanting to hear that drawl and experience gentlemanly ways. Northerners would come to work in the South and when they wd pass by they would look at the ground. Never eye to eye contact.

For all the dog people out there, there is this poem my wife showed me on her Facebook. Maybe we should try to be more like dogs?

Don't be angry with me for long.
You have your friends, your work, your entertainment.
I only have you.

Talk to me sometimes. Even if I don't
understand your words, I understand your
voice when it is speaking to me and it comforts me
and makes me feel loved.

Remember, before you choose to hit me: I have teeth and jaws that could easily crush the bones of your hand,
but I choose not to bite you.
I understand. But please be aware of how you treat me.
I will never forget it.

And always remember that it is you that I live for.
It is you that I am loyal to.
It is you that I want to please.
It is you that I love unconditionally.
Without you, I would have no one at all.

9:52 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Well, Waferinos, I think we've run the poor terrified douche bag in Whole Foods episode to the ground. No need to beat a dead douche bag, I'm guessing. As for Syria: the Ovomit admin is already spinning it to read that this Russian intervention was somehow their intention all along(!). In other words, Ovomit said that without his aggressive stance, Russia wdn't have proposed a conciliatory one. Like *we* were incapable of proposing the monitoring of chem weapons. Well, given the fact that we are little more than a genocidal warmongering plutocracy, perhaps that's true. If the American public doesn't see thru this obvious kaka, you can be sure other nations will. More egg on face for an empty piece of dreck known as the POTUS. I actually don't think he's diabolical. Rather, I think he has no idea as to what he's doing, because beyond keeping the rich happy and doing ad hoc crisis management, he has no program or belief system. This is all part of the 'colossus adrift' scenario (original title of DAA, BTW) that we are now caught up in.


11:10 AM  
Anonymous Jesse said...

Oh yes, the way the cops behave these days:

11:19 AM  
Anonymous James Allen said...

Regarding WAFer turnover's item on the University of Michigan Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority sister's ad on Craigslist seeking a snoop:

Would we be justified in calling her a job creator?

If so, then we might take some comfort from the recognition that each of us is a potential job creator. All that is needed is imagination and initiative.

11:42 AM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

The story is some years old, but here is what the talking heads in the US value:

Charlie Rose sacrifices his face to protect his MacBook Air (whatever that is). "Charlie Rose is a hardcore gadget fetishist: TechCrunch also included a previous photograph of Rose showing off three cell phones (he was probably using at least two of his three cell phones when he tripped!)."

(Father Zosima, I cherish this blog for the frequent insights from everyone. Yrs abt the totalitarian nature of capitalism is an example. "A simple, friendly, spontaneous conversation doesn't produce endless accumulation. So, it must be killed." This seems pretty accurate, never thought abt it that way.)

12:01 PM  
Anonymous Bingo said...

WAFers & MB,

This is hilarious... and so American:

"Help Kickstart World War III!"

1:45 PM  
Anonymous Bill said...

Well, Professor, what novels are you reading these days? Simple curiosity.

2:40 PM  
Anonymous joe hohos said...

reasksiDr. B,

Here's some info on the next collapse from an insider. Could even be the people Margin Call was based on, idk.
Looks like the Chinese preface will fall on deaf ears after all.

2:55 PM  
Blogger ccg said...

Thanks for reminding me about that "take your kids to battle" incident. It demonstrates, among other things, how little Americans understand such concepts as the laws of causality and of chance, If anything, they understand the laws of causality and of chance exactly backwards. The Fox News/Republican mantra that people on unemployment are just lazy came to mind after yesterday's incident.
I heard an NPR story a year or so ago were they were following some people in St. Louis who had been out of work for a long time. One of them, a guy who had worked for a bank, and, of course, was a Republican, said that "yeah, there really should be unemployment benefits." But the stupid reporter didn't ask what opinion he held on that issue before he lost his job. You can be sure he didn't approve of unemployment. Americans can only empathize with themselves, if that makes any sense. Life in the US today is all a nightmare out of a Kafka novel. The idiot that nearly hit me probably has a seat in the Senate waiting for him. Or, more likely, he's being recruited by some police agency. He clearly has the "right" mentality, that perfect combination of stupidity, arrogance, and belligerence, to be a cop.

3:32 PM  
Blogger Barry Bliss said...

Morris, I am wondering if you have read Tom Hodgkinson's book, How To Be Free.
Quite a good read, if you ask me.
I recently quit my job at Whole Foods Market after 6 1/2 years of hearing their propoganda.
WFM Inc. is as cut-throat as Morgan Stanley.

4:02 PM  
Anonymous RealityChecker said...

Dr. Hackenbush:

Apologies if I misattributed, but I supposed I assumed endorsement, too, rightly or wrongly.

As for Columbia as an exception to the article you quoted, well, all that's needed is a quick check of its required core curriculum, which hasn't changed much over the years. It still features heavy does of Plato, Aristotle, Homer, and the like, a two-year foreign language requirement, etc.

4:08 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


OK, that's it: from now on I get my shampoo somewhere else. Which means I won't hafta run into terrified customers who can't even manage to grunt. Unless, of course, the somewhere else is in the US.


"Pastrami Rules," by Deli J. Meat.


4:34 PM  
Blogger Horatio Nelson said...


the problem I have with a video like that is that it shows that, even if the middle class (or aspirationally so) new generations are humanitarians, they don't recognize that the system that provides the level of material comfort shown in the background of that video causes actions like what they are trying to pull in Syria to be necessary.

granted, they are just put-upon, underemployed fellow Americans trapped in it the way (some of) us are, but still.

making ironic funny sketches about serious world problems doesn't strike me as funny, even if the points made are true.

it's the difference between a John Stewart and a Russell Brand.

((and if RB doesn't "clean up his act" then he'd best watch it, as his fame will be on the chopping block. his recent interactions prove that he's aware, but if he keeps pointing them out to everyone, he'll be treated as the poor relation or skeleton at the feast soon enough.)

4:35 PM  
Anonymous Bill said...

Oh come on. I want to know.

5:58 PM  
Anonymous The Dude said...

Given what is posted around here about the current dreadful state of higher "education," this guy could be a WAFer...but that would require not being so dumb as to post a message on Facebook that could be interpreted as threatening:

"...communications professor, Matthew Rouch, now faces charges for producing and possessing marijuana, after his home pot lab was discovered during a weapons search, according to The Kansas City Star.

"The paper reports that Rouch originally caught the attention of local police when he posted a potentially threatening message on his Facebook page.

"Rouch reportedly wrote that he was always optimistic at the start of the school year but "by October, I’ll be wanting to get up to the top of the bell tower with a high powered rifle — with a good scope, and probably a gatling gun as well," according to the Star.

"United Press International points out that Rouch's post recalls the 1966 mass shooting from the top of the University of Texas bell tower."

6:08 PM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

ccg you said and I quote

Thanks for reminding me about that "take your kids to battle" incident. It demonstrates, among other things, how little Americans understand such concepts as the laws of causality and of chance, If anything, they understand the laws of causality and of chance exactly backwards. The Fox News/Republican mantra that people on unemployment are just lazy came to mind after yesterday's incident. "

Thank you my friend. You got it. I never knew that this was the term but this is exactly what Americans lack understanding. Americans generally believe in an extreme form of Internal Locus of Control. Americans can't conceive of external entities causing problems for a given individual.

I have questioned various people including other members of my own group the metaphysics and the philsopophy and how they derive it. The best answer I receive is that I am living in a world of ideas and not the real world.

They only tell me that it is but they can't tell me why it is and how they came to their conclusions. They're sticking by their preconceived beliefs that they were taught without thinking through them whatsoever or the ability to think through them.

I really do live in a nation of people who do not think, don't want to think and who are dolts. Even when trying to gain understanding of something people are easily offended and become hostile. Let's say the worst of all of them was when they referred to Two Girls, One Cup.

What a screwed up country we live in.

6:35 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Pls post only once every 24 hrs, thanks.


I can't remember. Honestly. If u just want a gd read, try the last 2 from Hilary Mantel. I read them a while back.


7:01 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Hackenbush said...

RealityChecker- I only endorse Angelo Codevilla's "Ruling Class" article inasmuch as I found it thought-provoking. I have not fact-checked it. I'm merely taking it under advisement as I continue my research about these humans.

That said, it *seems* to fit the facts. Isn't Columbia one of the top schools, producing graduates who go on to major positions in said ruling class? And yet, we have a sucky ruling class... What am I to infer about the quality of an institution that breeds such specimens. But obviously it's more nuanced than I can get into here, this is just my general bias, if you like. (btw I don't exempt myself from criticism - I'm part of this whole shebang too. I'm not better than anyone, I don't act on my principles in any big way, I just try not to get crushed by the capitalism steamroller.)

Horatio- Russell Brand is an impressive character, from what I've read and seen from him. He's not the typical celebrity, he's a much more serious person than I think would appear to many at a glance. I've somehow missed his recent(?) boundary-pushing appearances though, not sure where I'd have to be to stay appraised of his doings...

8:18 PM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...


In defense of Bingo the video is pretty damn funny. I posted it before him. It was on the site Naked Capitalism run by a former collegue of mine Susan Webber who has extraordinary intellectual power and ethical standards.

The video is not ironic it is however a great satire. The point of the video is to point out the stupidity and blind dedication of Obama voters and progressives. The video does not trivialize events but rather shows how due to stupidity and hero worship the progressives will follow Obama and support him to any end no matter how evil. Its not about trivializing the war its about showing via humor the stupidity and danger of american progressives in the thrall of Obama and technoloyg--common can;t you see progressives embracing hybird tanks and Ipad guided missels. Think of Herman Marcuse and how he pointed out how technology leads to totalitarianism and winds up making people dangerously stupid. Lighten up--family members who were holocaust survivors could not get enough of watching Mel Brooks do Spring Time for Hitler. If you ask why--I just wasted my time on this entire post.... I do think MB needs to watch...

8:45 PM  
Anonymous Suzanne said...

@Paul Brodsky:

Re your comment about the "awful character of American women", perhaps you haven't spent some time engaging with American men. If you do, let me know what you think of the depth of their character!

9:25 PM  
Anonymous Bingo said...


I thought the Second City skit was excellent satire. The clip is ridiculing the shallow American psyche and behavior. The background music, camera angles, the way they speak, and their body language are all very American... and very ridiculous and repulsive. The clip even mocks the techno-buffoonery we have discussed here in the past. As far as the “comfort” visible in the background, I suspect that too is mockery. The average barista certainly lives in worse conditions. In fact, I suspect most Second City actors live in worse conditions.

But above all, this clip ridicules the stupid Ovomit supporters. The morons who voted for him twice and who still support him blindly just because he’s black and just because he’s not Bush. The cretins who make excuses for his crimes, his weakness, his corruption, and soak up every shameless lie that rolls off his forked tongue. I know many so-called “progressives” like that, and I have lost all respect for them over the past 5 years.

That’s why I liked that clip.

1:06 AM  
Anonymous J S RANK said...

Greetings Dr. B and fellow WAFers !

I was asked by a friend that teaches a course of sociology at a local smaller college to speak on the subject of income/wealth disparity/inequality in the US today. This was precipitated by the class having had an animated discussion concerning recent food service workers in NY and elsewhere protesting their unlivable minimum wage jobs.
These students come from modest or less backgrounds themselves, yet most took positions AGAINST the low wage workers using many of the typical right wing arguments against their own better interests.
I titled my presentation, "The Growing Chasm Between Rich and Poor in America".

I wore my most professional looking suit and dress shirt, dark grey, and a tie that has $100 and $50 bills printed on it.
I began with a few simple questions...first asking the class if any in attendance were 'rich'. No hands. Then I asked how many would like to be 'rich'. Hands shot up. Then I asked them to put on a piece of paper just what they thought 'rich' started at... income per year.
While the teacher collected and talleyed their answers, I put up various charts and graphs showing the demographics with the bottom four quintiles of income, then the top 20%, 10%, 1%, 0.1%, and finally the top 0.01%.
All were amazed by the disrepancy between the top categories and everyone else, and it reflected in their notes they handed in.
9 thought that 'rich' was somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000 a year. 7 said $500,000 a year. 8 replied a million $ a year. 4 said 2 million $ ...and 2wrote over 2 million a year.

I was these final two that were even remotely close, and that is at the lower end of the 'rich' scale. I showed them the "vulture chart" where the ultra-riches income has soared over the last 30+ years, while everyone else has stagnated or fallen.
Also how the richest and corporations have had reduced taxes while the average working person has had their taxes double or more, while at the same time their incomes have declined.

I then correlated this shrunked capacity for the bottom 80% with the rise in poverty and near poverty...pointing out that many are in a condition of virtual slavery, but without the guaranteed food, housing, and at least rudimentary health care that the peculiar institution provided.

Of course, I answered questions along the way. I had to explain what plutocrats are, and what plutocracy is ( none knew ).
I recommended articles, and a few books: "Bait and Switch", Barbara Ehrenreich; "Free Lunch", David Kay Johnston; "The Other America", Michael Harrington; "How the Other Half Lives", Jacob Riis; and any works by Vance Packard.

I thought they were too unprepared for Dr. B's works at this time; but I will have further opportunity during a future talk...and perhaps knowing the ones that might be receptive.

The feedback I got from the few brave enough to chat afterwards is that they KNOW things are out of whack, but are in a state of combined despair and apathy; which is pretty much where the power elite want them to be.

2:22 AM  
Anonymous ellen said...

Putin has an opinion piece in the New York Times, giving his view on US exceptionalism and, oddly for an ex KGB man, God.
Worth a read:

Also, reading about and watching the vid of the Canadian Guelph family determined to live as if still in the 80's reminded me of what has been called the first reality show on TV, a year-long Iron Age experiment filmed by the BBC in the 70's. The village they built still exists and functions as a kind of open air laboratory and experimental museum.

6:52 AM  
Anonymous Edward said...

President Putin of Russia writes an op-ed article on Syria and US exceptionalism. Be sure to read the comment sections:

"No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists."

"The world reacts by asking: if you cannot count on international law, then you must find other ways to ensure your security. Thus a growing number of countries seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction. This is logical: if you have the bomb, no one will touch you."

"I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation."

Op-Ed Contributor
A Plea for Caution From Russia
What Putin Has to Say to Americans About Syria
Published: September 11, 2013 696 Comments

8:54 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Good article about Jimmy Carter's statement re: no functioning democracy in the USA, and the media's massive failure to acknowledge it, by & large:


I can hear many American voices saying:

"Thomas Mann? Albert Camus? Who the hell are they? You think you're better than me, don't you! Elitist! Try being a real person! Man, that new Fast & Furious rules! Hey, Miley Cyrus was wearing sheer pants without any underwear!"

Those studies about the massive drop in empathy are frightening. There's such an emphasis on being grotesquely strong & aggressive today, a sure sign of fatal insecurity & hollowness. Few are willing to risk the vulnerability of trust, compassion, understanding. Everyone else is out to get you. Winner take all. Etc.

My wife & I went down to the beach the other evening & just walked the nearly empty shoreline for a couple of hours. It was like stepping back millions of years in time, yet also timeless. Though at one point we did pass another walker, nose buried in his digital device as the primeval waters of the sea washed around all our ankles, and the seagulls hung in the air within reach of my hand. He might as well have been anywhere & nowhere. As is America.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and Wafers,

I'm sure all of you have seen this:

Pootie-Poot taking the Americans behind the woodshed for a good talking to... and perhaps a wittle spankin'. Absolutely fascinating!


10:43 AM  
Blogger Sir Tagio said...

On the 5th anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Bros, the illustrious ZeroHedge points out that in the last five years, for the G7 nations, it has taken $18 of additional debt to generate $1 of growth, and the total G7 debt to GDP is now at 440%:

"With everyone focused on the 5th anniversary of the Lehman failure, we are taking a quick look at how the world's developed (G7) nations have fared since 2008, and just what the cost to restore "stability" has been. In a nutshell: the G7 have added around $18tn of consolidated debt to a record $140 trillion, relative to only $1tn of nominal GDP activity and nearly $5tn of G7 central bank balance sheet expansion (Fed+BoJ+BoE+ECB). In other words, over the past five years in the developed world, it took $18 dollars of debt (of which 28% was provided by central banks) to generate $1 of growth. For all talk of "deleveraging" G7 consolidated debt has been at a record high 440% for the past four years. So in the G7, which is a good proxy for the developed world, debt continues to increase whilst nominal growth remains extremely low thus ensuring that the deleveraging process has yet to start. As Deutsche Bank states, "at best we’re stabilising the ratio at or around record highs."

By the way, by using the simple amortization programs on the internets, you can find out that if you borrowed $18 at 3% interest and were going to pay it off with that $1 of additional income you were earning thanks to borrowing that $18, and you paid it off by making a payment of $1 once a year, it would take you 26 years to pay that new debt off. After which you could finally start enjoying that $1 and using it for other things.

KaBOOM! is on its way.

12:12 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

An American douche bag, close up:

2:07 PM  
Anonymous James Allen said...

Believe I may have first learned of this book on DAA. WAFers/-ettes may find this excerpt a stimulus to get a copy and read it themselves.

From Chapter 7 of Philip Slater's The Pursuit of Loneliness:

"Some years ago a Harvard psychologist, Richard Herrnstein, suggested that inequality of wealth, status, and opportunity was a blessing in disguise, since if all these were stripped away, inequality would be determined by innate differences in ability from which there would be no appeal. For Herrnstein, ability or competence was something I.Q. tests measure--verbal facility and logic. He thought that with equal opportunity, people with high I.Q.'s would oppress everyone else with perfect justification, since they were of most value to society. The flaw in this argument is that people considered especially bright have managed to make an unusual number of disastrously short-sighted decisions during the past fifty years, and I'm far from convinced that we need still more of what they have to offer. If the opposite of what they've been giving us is stupidity, then I would maintain that stupidity is a priceless national resource."

[If memory serves, I believe I read that when Slater died, his estate consisted of a couple of small boxes of possessions.]

4:13 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...


While sorting books, I happened on one called “Paths of Wisdom: Principles and Practice of the Magical Cabala in the Western Tradition” (1997) by none other than John Michael Greer! Is this the author of “The Long Descent?”

Inside I find the following:

“Like the orthodox religions of the West, with their Second Comings and messianic prophecies, the magical Cabala has produced an enormous body of prophecy and prediction down through the years, extending the mythic structure we’ve explored into distant ages. Very little of this material has practical application in Cabalistic work, though, and a great deal more shows signs of the same sort of wish-fulfillment and fantasy one finds in so many Christian and Jewish prophetic works. Like the prophecies of the orthodox, too, the visions of future transformation that have emerged from the Cabalistic tradition have one thing overwhelmingly in common: those that have been put to the test have, almost without exception been wrong.”

Looks like the same Greer to me.

What he says applies equally to the true and only Heaven that progressives believe we’re progressing toward. In fact, every secular ideology I can think of contains this kind of messianic thinking, be it free-market globalization, classless Communist society, or racially pure thousand-year Reich.

Understanding millennial fantasy is important because too many people can’t seem to live without it; it’s virtually everywhere. That’s why John Gray called Norman Cohn’s classic, “The Pursuit of the Millennium” his ‘life-changing book’.

There’s good and bad religious thinking, and there’s good and bad secular thinking. So to me it’s not a matter of choosing between religious and secular; it’s a matter of ending up with good from both. Hopefully children of the future age will no longer confront the enlightenment’s great gulf fixed between sacred and secular, but live in a reenchanted world.

David Rosen

PS: I’m off to Guanajuato – chime in when I return.

4:17 PM  
Anonymous Marcos said...

Tim Lukeman stated: Good article about Jimmy Carter's statement re: no functioning democracy in the USA, and the media's massive failure to acknowledge it, by & large:

Here is a quote from the article:
"Jimmy Carter is both a former U.S. president and a man with a deserved reputation for integrity. You'd think a man like that saying a thing like that would be some kind of news. You'd think the major news outlets would be at least interested to get confirmation and an elaboration from Jimmy Carter."

"They" have labeled Jimmy Carter an anti-Semite simply because he voices equity and justice when dealing with Palestinians. This kind of madness really confirms to me that America is finished. When people cannot state their opinions and views based on truth and justice, you know that madness has taken over. Some people have taken over the soul of America, and America is finished, period. If you refuse to understand or if you understand but would not state it, then you are part of the thought police/SS thugs.

6:17 PM  
Blogger Horatio Nelson said...

hey, no foul. I just prefer my satire with a more serious and instructive overtone, ala Carlin or even this piece on Cracked:

it may have come up around here before, and I missed it, but my new theory on why Americans are Douchbags includes emotional invalidation on a massive scale.

it solves the "why are so many people doped up" problem, and explains a lot of social interactions. if the American coping (avoidance) mechanism for uncomfortable feelings is a cross between cruel mockery and pep-talks, then no wonder we're so p*cked up.

now how to coordinate this with the famous Existential Strain Theory is beyond my power.

8:12 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Edward- Putin's article is making valid points. If you read the letter while ignoring its author, the arguments about the need for international law and the danger of militaristic American unilateralism are quite correct.

But instead of actually addressing Putin's arguments, American politicians and intellectuals endlessly lodge ad hominem arguments against Putin, pointing to his own record (against homosexuals for instance) to show he doesn't live up to the values he defenses.

Not once do American politicians and intellectuals reflect on their own country's violations of international norms, such as the norm against torture and extralegal, indefinite detention, instead deflecting all their anger to the conduct of foreign leaders. It is a kind of mass narcissism on the part of Americans.

Some articles concerning this:

Op-Ed Reflux: Senate Foreign Relations Chair Menendez “Almost Wanted To Vomit” After Reading Putin Column

"House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that she thought it was "great" that Russian President Vladimir Putin included a line in his controversial New York Times op-ed about all people being created equal under God.

But she reminded him he needs to practice what he preaches.

"I hope it applies to gays and lesbians in Russia as well," Pelosi said during a Capitol Hill press conference."

10:58 PM  
Anonymous Megan said...


Haha, that's funny! I thought you had to had to read Proust two times, or make oblique references to works like "The Dialectic of Enlightenment" to get your genuine snob cred. I guess you're right that we've even dumbed down the concept of elitist!

In fairness, literary snobs are almost as insufferable as economic/social snobs. But it's also true that in a media-dominated, homogenized society like ours, books are virtually one's only defense against the false and decadent, consumer culture values. This wasn't always the case, however: my mom, for example, hardly reads at all, yet she comes from that older tradition, where people still had a sense of values and personal integrity. So I would never pass judgment on someone like that. But in today's culture, if you don't read, the odds are highly against your being anything but a money-hungry, fame-seeking, consumer-drone, with little in the way of individuality or interesting ideas. There are exceptions, and for them one shouldn't harbor the slightest sense of superiority or pretension. But, alas, I fear they are increasingly rare nowadays.

Your techno-buffoon beach experience is depressing. It reminds me of something that Nixon once said. He was with Kissinger in some place like the Swiss Alps, and after looking out at the mountains and observing the sunset, he turned and said, "Henry, this would make a beautiful postcard!"

2:25 AM  
Anonymous ellen said...

Hi Dovidel,

You quoted Greer:
"Like the prophecies of the orthodox, too, the visions of future transformation that have emerged from the Cabalistic tradition have one thing overwhelmingly in common: those that have been put to the test have, almost without exception been wrong.”

One of the conundrums that has occupied me for a few years is how much the current crop of apocalyptic foreshadowings (and I include all doomy forecasts in this) owes to the deeply entrenched Judeo-Christian narrative of End Times, Messiah and salvation and how much is reality based. Added to this is the natural expectation of my own death (end) which will inevitably come along some time soon. An unanswerable question for me is how much these narratives influence my personal acceptance of immanent apocalypse 'just around the corner.'

When I was going through a personally apocalyptic time in my late 20's (marriage foundering, fighting against cruise missiles being siloed in my backyard in Germany etc etc) and was at a very low ebb, I had a split-second vision of the world after the dread deed had occurred. It was detailed, very different, no humans I could see but life (trees, plants etc) went on. I found this desolation weirdly comforting even as I accepted that it was some momentary aberration of the nervous system.

I still do find it immensely comforting for no discernible reason whatever. I quite like reading Greer, despite finding the whole latter day, self-styled Druid thing risible. Fun, maybe, for a day out at the local henge but still risible since based on even less historical record of druidical beliefs and practices than we get for believers in the bible, q'ran etc.

Your posts always make me think. Have a good trip.

5:12 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

Good old stupid Texas is codifying that Creationism is to be taught in all schools:

There are an endless number of reasons why I am an Atheist but there is occasional Christian iliterature that is worthy of reading. Here are two selected quotations from a recent book publishing by a 'true' believer.

WAFers, I think, will agree with it.

"... the structures of the institution of the Church, geographically, universally, nationally, and on diocesan and parish levels, as well as much of the leadership of the existing Church along with many Christians, do not in fact put into practice or even teach the words of Jesus that are in the four Gospels and were the bedrock of the first three hundred years of Christianity."

"How did Christians get so far removed from the teachings of Jesus, ignoring Jesus's words and actions and altering them to serve their own ways in the world... How did the religion of Jesus become an individualistic work for saving one's own soul... how did the followers of Jesus become those who dominated the world, history, the rise of nations, economics and politics, steeped in blood, war, violence, torture and the only religion that has value and meaning?... It seems that by the third century (Christianity)... was instead the religion that had become the tortureres, the empire, the force that dominates, manipulates, and demands that all become believers or else."

As Dr Berman began this post: "What will it take ... and for American civilization in general, to figure this out???????

8:52 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Looking at the evening news last night, re: Putin's op-ed in the NY Times, I saw that the main thing about it American reporters seemed to be covering was his warning about the dangers of American exceptionalism. Sure enough, the politicians asked for a response all reassured the public that we are indeed exceptional & should be plenty damn proud of it, by God!

And so it goes.

Review of 2 new books about the pathologizing of normal human emotion (stress, sadness, depression):

I can easily see people being put away "for their own good" if they refuse to take their prescribed meds, or even if they refuse to admit that feeling sorrow, despair, longing for something better is a sane reaction to current society, rather than a malady to be "cured" by any means necessary.

J S Rank,

Thanks for that report from the field, as it were. You've struck on something: many people do know on some visceral level that things are going wrong, but they've mostly bought into The Official Story of why things are wrong, complete with scapegoats provided & genuinely truthful sources denied. In fact, the thrust of much advertising today seems to be telling young people just how hip & canny they are, so wise to the ways of the world ... which turns out to be the perfect way of manipulating them as desired.

9:31 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Just remember to consult yr post-it every morning, and you'll be OK.


11:47 AM  
Blogger Sir Tagio said...

What is the book you quoted from and who is the author?

Speaking of the occasional Xn literature worthy of reading, Christian Non-Resistance, by Adin Ballou, is very, very good, and had a noteworthy influence on Tolstoy:

You can read it for free on the internets here:

More info on Ballou here:

Kierkegaard also has much, much good work expositing Xn teaching. Here is a discussion of one:

12:08 PM  
Anonymous J S RANK said...

WAFers, MB, Tim

To follow up, briefly and anecdotally, on my presentation the other evening.
Most of the students were quite young, as expected, 19 or so. Mostly hispanic.
During the talk in a short question/answer, I was making the comparison of historical models ...particularly monarchy, with todays rulers of pseudo ( de facto ? ) royalty. How both systems depend upon a court, an inner circle of functionaries and professional sycophants to prop up and support the 'leader'.
Some recognized the inherent unfairness and inequality of such a structure, and questioned why the 'inner circle' behave as they do. I replied, because they have a good job, and if they weren't obedient they would either be thrown out to fend with the rest of the peasants, or have their heads cut off.
One quickly asked, " Isn't there Anything they could do about it ? ", and I said, " Well, they could always poison the King ".
Many laughs !

When I finished my remarks, the class was split up into small groups come up with possible solutions addressing income/wealth disparity.
One group came up with drug legalization/decriminalization. Another cited campaign finance and election reform.
A third emphasized education, but the speaker began by saying, " WHY weren't we taught this stuff in High School ? ".

My next scheduled talk is broadly supposed to be about 'politics'. I plan to focus on the current, not the past.
The teacher informed me that the class is concerned about political and congressional stalemate: so the title I have is " The Cause of Gridlock: Why the Power Elite Create and Maintain a Non-Working Government ".
Lots of borrowing from "The Power Elite" by C. Wright Mills, but with a dash or so of Berman thrown in !

I have a really funny shopping experience, but will save it for another time.

3:35 PM  
Blogger Zosima said...

J S RANK said...

Most of the students were quite young, as expected, 19 or so. Mostly hispanic.

The teacher informed me that the class is concerned about political and congressional stalemate: so the title I have is " The Cause of Gridlock: Why the Power Elite Create and Maintain a Non-Working Government ".

...and why it will never change because “gridlock” is a design feature of our constitution, making politics in America futile. So forget Cesar Chavez and read columnist Linda Chavez, and if you’re black, forget MLK and listen instead to Herman Cain. You have two choices, follow the L Chavez / H Cain path to your place in the thugocracy, or leave the country. For a lot of reasons, 99.9% of you can’t or won’t leave the country, so I guess you only have one choice.”

God, I wish someone had told me this at age 19.

3:36 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


My problem is that I love Herman Cain. He's so stupid he's actually cute. The day he occupies the Oval Office, my life's work will have been realized. If, as pres, he offered me the job of shining his shoes every day, I wd jump at the chance.


10:54 AM  
Anonymous shep said...


I meant to reference.

Here is the Amazon link:

Ms. McKenna is a living Saint.

Thank you for the reference to Adin Ballou. I have to sheepishly say this is the first I’ve known of him.

If I was still 'born again', I would definitely explore Ballou tenaciously.

11:32 AM  
Anonymous ellen said...

Regarding Megan's reference to snobbery and elitism, I was just reading a good article on how appreciation of classical music, wine and various other 'elitist' pursuits is based on all of the senses (including inbuilt bias presumably if one counts, as I do, cognition as one of the senses) working in concert rather than an objective judgement of the item in consideration:

Marketers and successful salesmen have long known this of course and didn't need an article about a psych study in an elitist mag to see it. There is a punch line to a Jewish joke about a tailor selling cloth to a customer who is undecidedly fingering the goods that illustrates this well: 'Never mind the quality, feel the width.'

Here's something lovely, sad but lovely. Scroll down a wee bit for the wonderful vid (that senses in concert thing):

2:16 PM  
Anonymous Vince said...


John McCain and Herman Cain will be running together in 2016. It will be known as the Co-Cain campaign.

On another note, I will be bowing out for a while. I do not seem to be clicking with any of the current conversations.


2:37 PM  
Anonymous RealityChecker said...

Dr. Hackenbush:

Here's one question from my final examination at Columbia in Humanities C1001x:

In Book 4 of the Aeneid, Aeneas responds to Dido's reproaches:

"If the fates had allowed me to live my life under my own auspices, and attend to my own concerns as I wished,
I should first have cared for the city of Troy and the sweet relics of my family, Priam’s high roofs would remain, and I would have recreated Pergama, with my own hands, for the defeated.
But now it is Italy that Apollo of Grynium,
Italy, that the Lycian oracles, order me to take:
[...] If the turrets of Carthage
and the sight of your Libyan city occupy you, a Phoenician, then why begrudge the Trojans their settling of Ausonia’s lands?
It is right for us too to search out a foreign kingdom.
Stop rousing yourself and me with your complaints.
I do not take course for Italy of my own free will."

Compare this conception of the relation of the individual to the community with that expressed in two of the following: Illiad, Odyssey, Eumenides, Antigone, The Peloponnesian War, Apology, Republic

(And yes, we read all of those works during the first semester).

As the cliche goes, you can lead horses to water, but you can't make them drink. The example above is at least one concrete example of an Ivy League school tried to lead the horses. Feel free to forward it to the person you quoted.

Signing off now on this topic.

3:06 PM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

Vince said,

John McCain and Herman Cain will be running together in 2016. It will be known as the Co-Cain campaign.

Recently seen on Guy McPherson's Nature Bats Last blog was a suggestion that Oprah Winfrey should marry Deepak Chopra so her name could change to Oprah Chopra

This would be wonderful, if only because it would bring to mind more often Anthony Hopkins' recurring line from Hannibal, "Okie dokie".

It's Saturday, so maybe no school shootings today, but there's always the chance of a Sunday School event tomorrow. Like The Pasteurizer always usta say...chance favors the prepared Wafer.

5:41 PM  
Blogger Zosima said...

"Don't blame Wall Street," Cain said. "Don't blame the big banks. If you don't have a job and you're not rich, blame yourself." - Herman Cain, 2011

Yes, he is a great genius of American ruling thought. Too bad he wasn’t around to oppose and debate Frederick Douglass and tell people they were wrong to complain and blame slavery, that they should have blamed the slaves themselves. We sure could have used his wisdom back then, and saved the country the loss of 600,000 lives in the Civil War. I guess it just takes 150 years for moral progress to advance.

"Don't blame slavery," Cain said. "Don't blame the slave traders or the big plantation owners. If you’re a slave, blame yourself." - Herman Cain, 1861

I live in a very liberal metro area and I noticed that he is now part of the talk show lineup on our local right wing radio station, and all across America. That means that the great thoughts Cain, not Berman, are heard by millions every day! BTW, his philosophy is the ruling philosophy of the leaders of our economy and has been for decades, indeed, he was one of those leaders. So, remember, the man is not a joke, in fact, he is your sovereign. Young people, I implore you, think about these horrible facts and ask yourself: is this really the kind of country where I want to spend the rest of my life?

7:09 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Hackenbush said...

RealityChecker- IMHO. FWIW. And since you've moved on anyway (thank you for offering your views), can't say that really does *that* much for me. Mostly I shudder to think of trying to read and appreciate 7 or 8 weighty books in one semester. And then grapple with weighty-sounding, but somehow also trivial exam questions- "pick 2 from the list.." - what is it with school- Always imposing this sense of irrelevance on everything... Nothing matters, it's just a "test," another hoop you must jump thru, we pat you on the back, hang a mortar board on your head, and you're off to serve the demons on Wall St. Or whatever other sub-dungeon of Hell you fall into.

School to me, I think it's one of those Foucault-like situations (not having really read Foucault though so take it with a grain of salt..) where the Form is more important than the Content. I can see it more clearly now, having been out of that environment for a good # of years now- I live near a college campus, and sometimes walking around I'll see a class following a professor around. They're like little ducklings, contentedly quacking after their master. But of course these "kids" are 18, 19, 20 yrs old --- still in this docile, trusting (or at least complicit?) stage.. When, in earlier times, there were 14 year olds who served as officers in the revolutionary war (again, can't source that - sort of pulled that out of the air; I think the gist of it is true...whaddaya expect, I am just a horse doctor.. who dropped out of a state uni after 3 years.)

9:41 PM  
Anonymous MLW said...

Who says America doesn't export things to other countries:

Serious question though: Dr. Berman, what do you think of Shinzo Abe's economic stimulus program in Japan? I've heard that Abe is a bit of a right-wing nationalist, but that shouldn't immediately write off what he's doing. Here's Joe Stiglitz:

4:18 AM  
Anonymous ellen said...

This is interesting, re Putin and the uproar his op-ed has caused amongst US politicos. Written by 'a reader who was born in the Ukraine, came to the U.S. as a child, and is now an American citizen living in California.':

'He has established, further, a precedent. That the United States does answer to the council, that it cannot act unilaterally and that our nation can be made to suffer a geopolitical consequence. If you were a country in the Middle East, whose protection would you want right now?'


'We got duped into having a fight we didn't want to have. We wanted limits on Assad's power, and we now have significant limits of our own by way of this precedent.

I believe it is quite possible that we were playing a long game, but in this instance, I believe our opposition was playing a longer one.'

Not quite game, set and match yet but definitely an indication of the quality of strategic thinking from the opposition. As all good chess players know, quality opposition is essential to improve your own game.

Here are some mad fools making a lot of unnecessary noise and spectacle, but those working class lyrics are worth some reflection, 'Meet the new boss, same as the old boss':

5:39 AM  
Anonymous Troutbum said...

To Dr. MB & fellow WAFers:

Today a draw your attention to a great graphic further documenting the decline of America : . This graphic maps out the highest paid public employees. In 40 of the states, the highest paid public employee are college sports coaches ( football, basketball and yes, hockey ).

Quoting, " When a country places more importance on sports than on academic achievement, its decline is inevitable..... This is why our politics are a disaster. When you raise a generation to believe that throwing a ball is more important than fulfilling their civic duty to make informed decisions, you allow charlatans to sell their lies to the public unchallenged."

Not to mention how the college/sports/NCAA/entertainment complex exploits the student athletes.

7:22 AM  
Anonymous Savantesimal said...

NYC Police "accidentally" hit other people while shooting at some poor guy who is deranged and wandering in traffic as if he wants to get hit. Yeah, that makes sense. If some poor deranged guy is trying to commit suicide, why go to any risk or exertion to prevent it? If you have a problem, shoot at it. It's the American way. And anyway, anyone wearing a uniform is a good guy and can't possibly do anything wrong of course.

NYTimes: Firing at Man in Times Square, Police Wound Two Bystanders

Confronted by an agitated man who at one point lay down in the middle of a crowded intersection in Times Square, two police officers fired shots late Saturday evening at the man, striking two bystanders instead, the police said.

Both bystanders are women from Manhattan, and happened to be walking in the vicinity when the police officers opened fire, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said at a news conference at Bellevue Hospital Center early Sunday morning.


9:56 AM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

Jay Raskin has Cain's number. It ain't pretty.

The link below goes to the first article; read the others also; they get progressively horrifying.


10:55 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I just read an essay on modernity by Jonathan Franzen in the Guardian that I think you and the blog readers will find interesting. He's referring to Karl Kraus, an independent German journalist who published prior to WWI. From the article:

"Kraus was obsessed with the role of modern newspapers in papering over the contradictions. Like the Hearst papers in America, the bourgeois Viennese press had immense political and financial influence, and was demonstrably corrupt. It profited greatly from the first world war and was instrumental in sustaining charming Viennese myths like the "hero's death" through years of mechanised slaughter. The Great War was precisely the Austrian apocalypse that Kraus had been prophesying, and he relentlessly satirised the press's complicity in it.

Vienna in 1910 was, thus, a special case. And yet you could argue that America in 2013 is a similarly special case: another weakened empire telling itself stories of its exceptionalism while it drifts towards apocalypse of some sort, fiscal or epidemiological, climatic-environmental or thermonuclear. Our far left may hate religion and think we coddle Israel, our far right may hate illegal immigrants and think we coddle black people, and nobody may know how the economy is supposed to work now that markets have gone global, but the actual substance of our daily lives is total distraction. We can't face the real problems; we spent a trillion dollars not really solving a problem in Iraq that wasn't really a problem; we can't even agree on how to keep healthcare costs from devouring the GNP. What we can all agree to do instead is to deliver ourselves to the cool new media and technologies, to Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos, and to let them profit at our expense. Our situation looks quite a bit like Vienna's in 1910, except that newspaper technology has been replaced by digital technology and Viennese charm by American coolness."

The link is:

12:48 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Hola Waferinos! I'm back in Mexico, por fin. Thanks for all the interesting links; I look forward to reading them.

Meanwhile, another fucked-up American story. I tell u, I keep forgetting that Americans are not normal. I get the plane to Mexico City at DFW, and have an aisle seat. Next to me is an empty seat, and then next to the window a woman of abt 75. I notice that it is really chilly in the plane, for some odd reason, so, trying to be friendly, I say to this woman, "Hi. Pretty cold in here, eh?" "It's always cold!" she snaps, angrily. There's no way one wd get such a hostile, gratuitous response in Mexico (or practically anywhere else) from a stranger; I suddenly remembered: Oh, she's an American. So I don't say anything more. 5 mins. later, a woman in her late 60s comes in and sits in the empty seat in the middle. Immediately, Hostile Lady begins talking to her, and this goes on without interruption for the entire flight--2.5 hrs. After abt 15 mins. I put earplugs into my ears (I always carry them as douche bag protection), but I could still hear her. And what conversation! She talked abt how her son-in-law fixed her car, how long lines at airports are, etc.--the mental equivalent of nosepicking. The poor gal next to me was reduced to saying "Uh huh," and not much else. It just went on and on.

I have often regarded this type of compulsive talking as an oral fixation, in the same category as alcoholism or compulsive overeating. The person got deprived of love at a very early age and is desperately trying to make up for this--looking for love in all the wrong places. It's a substitute for the breast. Since the need is infinite, you can't eat enuf, drink enuf, or talk enuf. Of course, this is not just an American phenomenon, but I'm acutely aware of how damaged Americans are, in particular. Sad, angry, broken people; and to see it up close, all u hafta do is say "Hi!".

I really hafta remember to stop being friendly to them; it's just too depressing.

And then I got to Immigration at the Mexico City airport, and was suddenly reminded of why I moved here. I gave the officer my papers, and he said "Gracias, Caballero" (Thank you, Sir). He stamped them, and said: "Welcome back." And I thought: Yes, I'm home. This is my home.


8:43 PM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

ellen said:
Here are some mad fools making a lot of unnecessary noise and spectacle, but those working class lyrics are worth some reflection, 'Meet the new boss, same as the old boss'

I think the lyrics attach to multiple classes: working, student, homeless, entertainer, etc...just about any class other than the one that contains the old & new bosses.
Here are the same mad fools, greyer and possibly wiser, performing in NYC in 2001.

**the performance venue in this clip does not represent an endorsement (least not by me) of the Official Version of Events.

9:57 PM  
Anonymous Golf Pro said...

I have to say the airplane incident is the opposite of my experience in my limited travels in the US. I find that Americans tend to engage in friendly open conversation for about 10 mins, and then suddenly and mysteriously clam up, and any attempt to re-start the conversation is doomed.

This can be quite tortuous if you're in close physical proximity to them, and you come from a cultural norm that expects conversation in such settings to be open-ended.

I can only presume that their attitude when the aforesaid 10 mins us up is "I've done you now".

5:21 AM  
Anonymous Jerome Langguth said...

Dear Dr. Berman and Wafers:


It is too bad that Kraus is not around to write about the current techno-cheerleading and the way it drowns out any serious thought about technology. The latest installment of which is Clive Thompson's Smarter Than You Think, in which the author replies to "doomsayers" like Nicholas Carr by extolling the mind-enhancing powers of the internet and the wonders of the "supersmart friend inside our smartphones" (Google, apparently). From Thompson's website:

It’s undeniable: technology is changing the way we think. But is it for the better? Amid a chorus of doomsayers, Clive Thompson votes “yes”. The Internet age, he argues, has produced bold new forms of human cognition, worthy of both celebration and investigation. We learn more and retain the information longer, write and think with global audiences, and even gain an ESP-like awareness of the world around us.


6:43 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


But either way, the idea is to keep others (who are presumably dangerous) at a distance. After all, in 2.5 hrs of nonstop talking, Hostile Lady learned abs. 0 abt the person whom she was talking to. The crucial pt is that on a worldwide comparative scale, Americans are weird; nuts, even; sick. This is *not* hyperbole.


9:14 AM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...


Here is a corrected link to the Raskin analysis of Cain. The previous one I posted didn't take u to all the articles. Apologies for going on abt this.

10:07 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


In a similar "when in doubt, shoot to kill" incident:


I've heard gadget-happy friends argue that "it's just a different form of learning, and better, and that's the way the world is going, so get with the program" -- you know the drill. Yet if I press some of them, using Carr's data, they'll confess that they don't read books very much any more, that they don't read in depth or at length. And then they say it doesn't matter, we've got AI coming that'll do our thinking for us.

"The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes." - Wikipedia definition

We've all run into such people, many of them supposed "experts" who pontificate on any & every subject without having a real clue. As just one example we all know & loathe:


Gah, the compulsive talker who says nothing! Again, I know people like this. You simply cannot raise any serious or meaningful topic with them, even in the most superficial way. They react as if threatened, getting That Look on their faces. One person I know absolutely forbids the discussion of anything in the news if you're visiting his house, because it upsets the family.

I'm sorry to say that I'm NOT making this up or even exaggerating slightly.

10:30 AM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...


Not to come off as pedantic but superficial banter is not conversation. MB is correct, your typical garolous american is typically a borderline or other nut job on a manic jag/fuge. Americans talk at you, present powerpoints, repeat slogans and go on manic talk jags, they do not converse. i.e. thank you for shopping! Have a nice day!

Probably the best part of the Mexican official greeting MB is that it was sincere. IN the U.S. greetings from officials are part of a script providing at a training and had to be "firendly" as they are monitored. This is true for waiters and even reception at hospitals. They are told what to say so its no wonder its stilted and robotic.

11:09 AM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

Tim you said "And then they say it doesn't matter, we've got AI coming that'll do our thinking for us."

Are they crazy? Are they freaking stupid? Do they understand what a computer is and what it does? A computer does what it is programmed to do. It does not deviate. I don't want a computer to think for me because it thinks within the bounds of its own programming even if it is A.I. I created a Tic Tac Toe Game with an AI player.

The AI player makes decisions based upon the algorithm a person sets up. Have they at least seen the movie I, Robot and actually examined Issac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics? An AI will follow the Three laws to the exact letter.

I don't want a computer running my life. It has no soul and will only go by its pre-programmed logic. If we had automated drones it would not hesitate to blow up its target. It can't be reasoned with or bargained with. At least people will question and have doubts. AIs will not. It won't be long before we have Skynet.

Wait a minute! I will answer my own questions by referring to my own post-it note.

12:52 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and Wafers,

Bienvenido de vuelta Dr. Berman!

What's worse than an American on an airplane... sitting next to one. MB's experience and data confirm this. Most are completely clueless and hostile. They are simply sitting around waiting to die or get rich, whichever comes first.

Well, MB, I hope you had a good time and found a good Delicatessen in New Mexico.

Meanwhile, speaking of the rich:

Gird your loins Wafers, I'm envisioning a Yellow river...


2:45 PM  
Blogger jml said...

i used to work with several people like the chatterbox on the airplane. if you asked a question, they didn't hear you, just kept talking. i am convinced that they were insane. i found that one way to shut them up was to talk about myself. this often produced a look of confusion but it often got them to stop talking.
capo is so right about the disappearance of conversation. it's something i miss terribly everyday. i remember i used to have interesting conversations every now and again. i so miss this. another good reason for a wafer summit.

4:08 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Jerome--you might want to watch this clip from NBC news a few nights ago:

Yes, makes me proud to be a Texan. Apparently books are no longer needed in one of the states' largest cities, just digital access. I wonder what will happen when the power goes out? Or a hacker just shuts the whole thing down for fun? Or a poor kid who doesn't have a Kindle, PC or iphone would like to actually read a book in their own home? Well, too bad b/c there are NO books in this "library" -- hard to believe, but true. The movie Disconnect will be released on Netflix soon and I really hope you find time to watch it or fly to San Antonio and watch it online at the very least.

The shooting today in DC is part of the all too familiar pattern seen routinely in the US. There's a mass shooting once a month now and the head of the trauma center that several victims were taken to said there's something wrong in our society that produces this violence. She went on to say "this just isn't the US" but, sadly, it is and we have the body count to prove it.

6:26 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I did go to the deli in Albuquerque; the sign said Closed for Yom Kippur. I thought: What kind of Jews are these, closing a deli for *any* reason? Corned beef is, after all, a direct route to God. As for urine: a colossal project. There are a total of 730 million shoes in America that need to be hosed down. Even a team of dedicated Wafers can't manage such an assignment. What to do...


6:41 PM  
Anonymous Bingo said...

Looks like the Empire is having another fit. It could not get its wish to kill a few hundred thousand Syrian women and children, so it had to settle for a little massacre in DC today:

Hey, Putin! Would you kindly put this bitch out of its misery? She’s got rabies, for sure. Thanks, muchacho.

7:17 PM  
OpenID parkyourtuchus said...

Huzzah - more drones for the masses:

7:29 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Hackenbush said...

Speaking of the devil, this from Russell Brand, after attending the GQ awards:

"...I thanked John, said the "oracle award" sounds like a made-up prize you'd give a fat kid on sports day – I should know, I used to get them – then that it's barmy that Hugo Boss can trade under the same name they flogged uniforms to the Nazis under and the ludicrous necessity for an event such as this one to banish such a lurid piece of information from our collective consciousness.

I could see the room dividing as I spoke. I could hear the laughter of some and louder still silence of others. I realised that for some people this was regarded as an event with import. The magazine, the sponsors and some of those in attendance saw it as a kind of ceremony that warranted respect. In effect, it is a corporate ritual, an alliance between a media organisation, GQ, and a commercial entity, Hugo Boss. What dawned on me as the night went on is that even in apparently frivolous conditions the establishment asserts control, and won't tolerate having that assertion challenged, even flippantly, by that most beautifully adept tool: comedy.

The jokes about Hugo Boss were not intended to herald a campaign to destroy them. They're not Monsanto or Halliburton, the contemporary corporate allies of modern-day fascism; they are, I thought, an irrelevant menswear supplier with a double-dodgy history. The evening, though, provided an interesting opportunity to see how power structures preserve their agenda, even in a chintzy microcosm."

Conde Nast had the video removed from that link, but it's still on Youtube:

7:56 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Julian, Tuchus-

I'm very excited abt the possibility of drones being available (eventually) for $75 or $100 a pop. In the final conflagration, or ecpyrosis, guys like the DC Navy Yard shooter will have lots more to work with. I mean, knocking off 12 people is really small potatoes. The day every American has a drone, urine won't be necessary: the entire population can simply open fire and wipe itself out. It's only fair: not all of us get the oppty to travel halfway around the world and murder little brown people who pose no threat to us, after all.

Death Is Life! This is the kind of America we can all be proud of.


8:41 PM  
Blogger Horatio Nelson said...


glad to hear that you've finally exited this land of hostile insanity and entered saner territory.

I have no news, except that Sept. is only half over and already Halloween candy is for sale in all the shops. all holidays are now ruined by commercialism. our family used to purchase a tree one week before Xmas, do a massive house decorating, and take everything down the day after while snacking on leftovers. other holidays were only prepared for a few shopping days in advance, and that was to stock in the consumables.

now, from Sept. to Jan. is just one long advertisement. any excuse to put plastic lights up and crap on your lawn.

time to get a dog and train him to attack those balloon pumpkins and turkeys.

my post-it lately just says "Doooooomed!"

9:56 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


We need something a tad more positive here. Perhaps: I REFUSE TO LET DOGSHIT DEFINE MY LIFE
(just a thought).


11:16 PM  
Blogger Jarid Wagner said...

Hahaha YES! The people who talk and talk and say nothing are an abundance in America. The culture is trivial though so it's hard to have good conversations. Besides, anything interesting or controversial is taboo ; sex,religion, politics. Even with mass shootings there is only a shallow analysis (must have been video games) but nothing penetrating like: "we are an alienated people that glorify violence and competition."

I've thought for awhile now this would be a funny interaction :

Polite American : "Sure has been hot out lately."

WAFer : "I know how the weather is asshole, now what do you think happens when we die?"

11:26 PM  
Anonymous bob thurston said...

WAFERS looking for a lucrative career in the US of shit could pick up the trade of selling doomsday bunkers/weapons/survival supplies. The amount of paranoid Americans is increasing day by day and for good reason. Should be plenty of fools wanting to hide away in bunkers as the country tears itself apart.

You can't win against dolts, however you can make lots of money arming them.

11:51 PM  
Blogger Zosima said...

MB said: It's only fair: not all of us get the oppty to travel halfway around the world and murder little brown people who pose no threat to us, after all.

Although, if you're a Jew you do have the oppty to travel halfway around the world live on the West Bank and murder little brown people if they resist your colonization of their land. So, at least there’s that.

3:11 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Zos et al.:

I appreciate what yr saying. Perhaps this will make u feel a bit better:


3:57 AM  
Anonymous Jerome Langguth said...

Dear Dr. Berman and friends,

Amidst the news of fresh horrors in the US, I stumbled across this. Now here is one kind of violent act that will never happen here, down to the description of the weapon as "non-lethal".

7:16 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Susan W.

Thank you for the link re: the digital "library" in Texas. What's mind-boggling is just how many people happily believe that this is A Good Thing. But as you say, what about those who don't have digital access, i.e., the poor? I guess that's part of the overall plan, since cogs & cannon fodder don't need no fancy edumacation.

Here's an article by Diane Ravitch, an excerpt from her new book, detailing the fraud of "school reform" & the monstrous nature of education-for-profit:

The comments from obviously paid trolls are ugly.

And speaking of mind-boggling, the very idea that things like health & education should be for-profit industries is enthusiastically endorsed by an increasing number of Americans, who actually believe it to be the natural order of things. It's all about the money, baby!

MB's suggestion about a more positive post-it is on the nose. When you gaze too long into the garbage, the garbage also gazes back, as it were. You are what you eat. Maybe you can't change & save the country, but you can at least change & save your own soul.

9:16 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I love the last line: "It was not clear which of Kant's ideas may have triggered the violence."

I can just see it now: Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson in a film called "The Categorical Imperative," in which they have lengthy discussions of "The Critique of Pure Reason," and finally one shoots the other over the existence of the *ding an sich* and the synthetic a priori. Boy, that'll pull the (American) crowds into the theater, no doubt abt it.

HOW did we get so dumb?!!


9:22 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: the two people having the argument were guys in their early 20s, in a small southern town (Rostov-on-Don). I'm going to fly to some American equivalent--say, Rapid City SD--and come up to the 1st 22-yr-old male I see, and say to him: "When Kant argued that we can only know representations, and never the *ding an sich*, what do you think he meant by that?" I hope some Wafers might be there with video cameras, for a later airing on YouTube. This shd be much more interesting than the rude encounters I had with Miss Terrified in Whole Foods, or Hostile Lady in DFW. In fact, a really gd Wafer project wd be to tour the US, a la Jay Leno, asking American citizens about Descartes' notion of the res cogitans, or what Schopenhauer had to say about the will, or Locke's influence on Jefferson, etc. We may have a box office winner on our hands! Title: "The Cutting-Edge Mind of the American Citizenry."

(BTW, there was a video online recently of some guy standing in front of the Women's Studies Center at UCSB, asking female students if they wd sign a petition opposing women's suffrage. Most signed it quite eagerly, saying "Of course we are opposed to the suffrage of women!" Does it get any dumber than this?)


10:27 AM  
Anonymous al-Qa'bong said...

Dear MB and Wafs:

I posted a categorical imperative joke on that site, then went on to read the rest of this blog and found that the esteemed Dr. Belman did the same here.

What a noumenal coincidence.

Anyway, regarding digital ruination of libraries, it isn't confined to Texas. The "educational institution" where I work has been gutting its library for years, replacing books with some sort of digital surrogates.

A couple of years ago I tried reading a book that I found on the on-line database, since there was no copy on the stacks, and gave up after one page. There's too much crap to deal with; turning an on-line page is a pain, you have to scroll all the time, and going back to read something you read earlier is too much trouble, compared to real books.

Last week I requested a review copy of a book from the University of Ottawa Press. They sent me a PDF version. That book ain't a-goin' on the course reading list.

11:13 AM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...


Your proposed movie "The Categorical Imperative" will need some creative casting, as Bronson died just over 10 years ago.
But considering his relatively narrow acting bandwidth, as long as the makeup department were reasonably skilled, perhaps one of the newer Japanese robots would suffice.

As long as we're blue-skying, why not a double-bill with "My dinner with Andre (the Giant)" ?
That would pack in the dolts so mega-boffo-mente that Paul Craig Roberts might write a piece citing you as the final catalyst in the implosion of American could double your book sales and make you a force to be reckoned with in the publishing game.


Is it possible that goyim could serve in the IDF ?
If not for pay, then maybe as volunteers ?
This sort of multiculturalism would garner lots of Amerikans not satisfied with the number of automatic-weapons-toting shiksas back home.
Not sure if Thomas Pynchon would license them to use the lyrics of "Floozy with an Uzi".
Maybe they'd just use it and say, "So sue me!".

11:27 AM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

Dr. Berman

You said "When Kant argued that we can only know representations, and never the *ding an sich*, what do you think he meant by that?" "

I am embarrassed to say that I still have a lot to learn. I have briefly looked up Kant as well. It is very interesting what Kant says. I am only scratching the surface so please bare with me as I am trying to understand some of this.

I read his first formulation and about perfect duty and imperfect duty. I have some questions about it. Is it truthfully possible to universalize a maxim without resulting in a contradiction with it self and other maxims.

If Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness theorems hold up then how can a moral system be consistent and be complete? How would it be possible to have a Perfect Duty from the First Formulation at all if a moral system can never be truthfully complete and consistent?

If it is impossible to have a perfect duty then it must follow that all duties are imperfect. Is this correct?

If all duties are imperfect then based upon this, the second and third formulations one must constantly examine and re-examine what is the good, the just and moral and make constant adjustments and improvements to it.

In addition, one must encourage others to do the same thing as well. In the end, the whole process of routing out contradictions, improving oneself and others becomes the end? What do you and others think?

This is what is wrong with America today. People do not question their own morality, their premises, ethics and hardly anything else.

12:27 PM  
Anonymous shep said...

Time for some toe tappin':

If you like Wynton Marsalis' jazz and Mark O'Connor's fiddle playing, this is the best, ever, rendition of a very simple tune, "Boil Them Cabbage Down".

These cats are unbelieveable.

1:11 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

The Ayn Randers hate Kant so u may well find undergrads in small college towns who will offer quasi-Nietzschean statements abt how Kant's Copernican Revolution undermined Enlightenment hubris. & if u get in a dispute w/ them over it, they may well knife u.

The #s are interesting. Atlas Shrugged sold 500,000 copies in the English-speaking countries in 2009. So let's say 25% of readers read further. Soon they will come across Rand's statement "Kant is the most evil man in history!" Worse than Osama bin Laden, whoever. So that's 125,000 Anglosphere readers in 2009 alone who might end up in the Russian assault situation.

The avg Tea Partier sees no sense in that egghead stuff but as the US continues to disintegrate into cults expect the weirdest things imaginable. Personally, I want to see "CRE Liver Sandwich" on the menu of a Dark Ages America deli.

1:34 PM  
Anonymous Bingo said...

Ouch! Here comes another slap in the face:

“Brazilian president postpones visit to Washington over US spying”:

I say: on your knees, scum! Beg for mercy and forgiveness, right now! Scum!

3:04 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Good day Dr. Berman and Wafers,

Jerome, MB-

A great story and great film idea! In terms of the flick, "The Categorical Imperative," my money would be on Eastwood as he probably has one more ass kicking left in him. He did, after all, support our Mittney and talk tough to an invisible Obama at the GOP Convention. Jesus, who could forget that; a great political moment for the nation.

I can hear Clint saying something like: "I'm talking about the thing-in-itself motherfucker." BANG! BANG!

Maybe a little play riff on the Robert De Niro classic, "Taxi Driver" as well: "Das ding an sich, man... Ever heard of it? Hey, I'm not square, you're the one that's square. You're full of shit, man. What are you talking about?" BANG! BANG! BANG!


3:54 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

I love reading this blog, and the associated comments. Reading intelligent, closely reasoned arguments, supported by amply cogent and highly credible evidence, about how stupid and vicious are the great majority of my fellow-Americans, makes me feel good. It cheers me up. It confirms my world-view, and supports me in my ardent wish to finally leave this dismal paradise of putrescence, the contemplation of which goal gives me a warm fuzzy feeling.

But as Dr. Berman might say, I've come to the party late. I am not up to date on all the relevant acronyms and phrases. Therefore, WAFers and Dr. B, please inform me: what is it that I ought to write on my post-it? And where exactly ought I to post it? Please tell me, 'cause I really wanna know, and I can hardly wait to get started on this vitally important project.

4:40 PM  
Anonymous James Allen said...

All this talk of Kant and Locke and Schopenhauer and American general ignorance of same brings to mind the 1974 Woody Allen short story "The Whore of Babylon," a detective novel parody in which private detective Kaiser Lupowitz investigates a brothel where the johns pay beautiful young women to discuss literature and philosophy.

For example:

"He pressed a button. A wall of books opened, and I walked like a lamb into that bustling pleasure palace known as Flossie's. Red flocked wallpaper and a Victorian decor set the tone. Pale, nervous girls with black-rimmed glasses and blunt-cut hair lolled around on sofas, riffling Penguin Classics provocatively. A blonde with a big smile winked at me, nodded toward a room upstairs, and said, "Wallace Stevens, eh?" But it wasn't just intellectual experiences. They were peddling emotional ones, too. For fifty bucks, I learned, you could "relate without getting close." For a hundred, a girl would lend you her Bartok records, have dinner, and then let you watch while she had an anxiety attack. For one-fifty, you could listen to FM radio with twins. For three bills, you got the works: A thin Jewish brunette would pretend to pick you up at the Museum of Modern Art, let you read her master's, get you involved in a screaming quarrel at Elaine's over Freud's conception of women, and then fake a suicide of your choosing - the perfect evening, for some guys. Nice racket. Great town, New York."

Sorry for the diversion from more serious discussion.

5:45 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

O U Guys, always keeping me on my toes!



What wd we do w/o Woody? I mean, really?


The post-it goes on the upper rt corner of yr bathrm mirror, so u can look at it every morning. It says, in block capitals: I AM SURROUNDED BY DOLTS


Perhaps we shd remove In God We Trust from legal tender and replace it with BANG! BANG! Seems a lot closer to the mark.


Actually, this isn't a Kantian blog (tho it might be fun to find one!). I just wanted to make the pt that Americans don' know shit abt anything. Young adult males in remote Russian towns get into heated debates over philosophy, while their American counterparts can barely drool, and discuss the lastest video games.


Why not send them a vial of urine, in return?


7:36 PM  
Blogger Boris the Spider said...

Wow, we've got a new Presidential contender for candidate next time around -- and she's not wasting time calling 911 when her chicken nuggets don't arrive, she's "assuming" her "ultimate form" to lodge her citizens complaint!

This is the most demented thing I've seen in a long while. It really is O & D time.

8:51 PM  
Anonymous Golf Pro said...

In fairness tho', you shouldn't shoot someone over Kant's philosphy (it's not even that perspicacious).

Think Americans actually have it right here: better to resort to violence over low-brow issues.

8:56 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


The guy was using rubber bullets. Can u imagine that ever happening in the US?


This is the true face of America. Much better than Latreasa Goodman, to be sure. I love it! Where can the US possibly go, after this?


9:31 PM  
Blogger Horatio Nelson said...

yes, we've moved on to other things, but I thought this article on the "culture" of Whole Foods was pretty funny. the handful of times I've ever been in to one, it seemed like a well lit 4th circle of hell.

then again, most places in America are like that. either that, or a McNugget slum. choices, choices.

my post-it says "Urine go bragh!"

10:39 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

This is what Americans fight over: not Kant:

12:02 AM  
Blogger Zosima said...

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.

Paul sound appealing (while Peale remains appalling). I like the ending too, we are invited to speculate where he might be going, and what will happen to him. It reminds me of this:

I also like the idea of people fighting with Kantian ethics in mind, might make a good sf story. A Kantian planet where people fight with each other to be last in line for food, or to see who gets to clean the toilet, or take out the garbage. Where people are lined up around the block for weeks to buy the new pb ed of WAF. Kantian Planet, starring Matt Damon, coming to a theater near you.

9:43 PM  

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