January 22, 2014

210

Ah, Waferinos! Here we are again, starting yet another post. Hope you're all staying warm.

Trolls and buffoons seem to have (temporarily) crawled back under their rocks, for some reason. They tend to attack in waves, so sooner or later I expect more flak from the poopy-heads. I've also been musing on a way to combine them, conceptually: trolfoons? Wafers are invited to suggest names for these pathetic creatures, folks who have made America the great nation that it truly is.

Other than that, my mind is once again the proverbial wind tunnel, so I leave it to you guys to lead the way in terms of sterling conversation.

-mb

190 Comments:

Anonymous ellen said...

Cube,

I had decided that I had made my last post on this blog but you have directly addressed your post (209) to me so I'm responding, against my better judgement, then I too will be 'picking up my crumpets' and walking.

Your hypothesis is fine as far as it goes but you assume far too much on pure speculation without any reference to fact or reality. I am acutely aware of my very, very dark side and of the consequences of letting it loose. I kept very large, powerful, military dogs at one time and I now view my dark side the way that I trained and viewed those wonderful dogs--- great when properly disciplined, in control and mostly kept on a leash. I wouldn't be without it, there is no more loyal companion than that.
That's my kind of pragmatism.

Here's some fine listening from Joe Higgs:

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

1:28 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Banana-

Wasn't able to post u; limit is once every 24 hrs. It's really impt to stick to this, because otherwise my time gets swallowed up by the blog, and that's not gd for me. But as far as yr comment on trolfoons goes, a lot of yr bewilderment might be cleared up if u just keep in mind that they are poopy-heads.

mb

2:59 PM  
Blogger Dan Henry said...

Ellen,

Sorry to see you go. If you feel like replying just one more time, Ill ask if you comment regularly anywhere else. Ive found your comments to be reliably insightful, and being completely selfish here I dont want to lose your voice...

3:48 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Wafers,

Re: ‘Education’ in America – a side issue.

A while back somebody posted a link to an article describing a study done by a Professor Willingham at the University of North Carolina which found that a huge percent of their athletes had between 3rd and 4th grade reading levels, while 10% were at 1st grade level. I saved a bit of the article:

“UNC basketball coach Roy Williams said he did not agree with Willingham's findings.”

"I don't believe it's true," Williams told the AP. "It's totally unfair. I'm really proud of the kids we've brought in here. ... We haven't brought anybody in like that. We've had one senior since I've been here that did not graduate.”

"Anybody can make any statement they want to make but that is not fair. The University of North Carolina doesn't do that. The University of North Carolina doesn't stand for that."

Notice how Coach Williams speaks in short, simple sentences – that way 90% of his athletes have some chance of understanding him. I wonder what *his* reading level is?

However, the big question is – How different are these athletes from all the other UNC students?

I find it very meaningful that the coach said, “We've had one senior since I've been here that did not graduate.” What that means to me is that if you’re looking for a place to get your pet goat a Ph.D., you’ve found it.

David Rosen

4:10 PM  
Anonymous Seeking Sanity said...

This week's weekly blog by James Howard Kunstler was spot on for many of the things discussed here. It's about how most males in 'Merca view being a warrior, thug, gangster, etc... as the essence of of what being a man is all about. I found it unsettling yet on the money.

http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/warrior-land/

On top of JHK's essay, I also happened across the website "Jesus Didn't Tap" where mixed martial arts fighters express their devotion to Jesus.

http://www.jesusdidnttap.com/

I love how the Xians have turned their that they often describe as love personified into all manner of caricatures to suit their needs, even a cage fighter! You can't make this stuff up.

4:16 PM  
Anonymous Michael in Oceania said...

Since MB has invited us to start new conversations, here are some of my thoughts on the late comedian and social critic George Carlin. What follows is a bit of a rant-cum-lamentation, not so much in the spirit of "trashing" this man, but more of an expression of regret for "what might have been."

Like many of you, I have downloaded videos of his great routines. My favorites are the ones about education and "the Owners" of America, and his take on politicians and voting. The 1992 take-down of George Bush, Sr. and the first Iraq War was an absolute barn-burner.

One poster (I forget who) described Carlin as "the American Shakespeare." I have also seen a photo-shopped image of a classic portrait of Goethe, with Carlin's head superimposed on it, suggesting that Carlin was "America's greatest poet." To me, both comparisons are over-drawn. Rather, I think of Carlin as a contemporary version of the earlier great wit and social critic H. L. Mencken, whose work I also admire, and several volumes of which are in my library.

OK, now for my semi-rant. There are two things about Carlin that always bothered me, and caused me to not take him very seriously until the last two or three years of his life.

The first thing (which still grates against my ears) is his constant profanity and gutter language. This probably reflects my upbringing in the American South, but I have always thought that, if you are so witty and brilliant, that you should be able to express outrage and craft invective without recourse to crude "potty language." Good examples of classic invective and satire are Alexander Pope's The Dunciad and Epilogue to the Satires, and pretty nearly anything by Jonathan Swift. What Swift and Pope understood (and Carlin, apparently, did not) was that suggesting and hinting at certain things, paradoxically, often has a more powerful rhetorical effect, than leaving nothing to the imagination of the audience.

Also, his militant insistence upon the "right" to use potty language on the air, suggests to me a state of permanent arrested emotional development. Acting like an adolescent in middle-age is very off-putting to me.

The second thing that caused me not to take him very seriously, was his militant and extremely crude atheism. I remember one clip in which he "disproved" the existence of God by shouting, "If God exists, let him strike me dead here and now! See! He didn't do it! He wouldn't dare!" In another interview, he "disproved" prayer by saying that, when people pray for anything, their results are no better than chance, and that, when people's prayers are not answered, they rationalize it by saying "It was God's will." Therefore, to Carlin, that "proved" that prayer was meaningless and delusional.

Now, anyone, who has practised any serious spiritual tradition, knows that Carlin was knocking down straw men. I can't help but think that Carlin knew this too - he was too smart not to know. Even in his last, "farewell" routine (the "Big Electron" skit), his views sounded like something out of a mediocre 1950's science fiction novel. I suspect that the issue here was not "logical" but psychological - another example of permanent adolescent rebellion and arrested development.

OK, end of semi-rant! Thanks for letting me get this off my chest!

In the end, Carlin was who he was, for better or worse, and I suppose we ought to be grateful for the level of honesty he was actually able to bring to the stage.

5:34 PM  
Anonymous Banana_Stinky_Face said...

Sanity,

Thug culture, with its glorification of violence, is a very old theme in American culture. Back in the good old days, when Americans were ethnically cleansing the natives, soldiers would use Native American children as target practice, and would rape every Native American female in sight. These soldiers were, in turn, lionized by their American fellows.

In America, military might was always seen as proof of Divine Providence, of America's right to conquer and kill whoever or whatever it desired. This "might makes right" ideology has lost its religious overtones, yet it remains, probably magnified by many orders of magnitude precisely because it lacks any religious framework to restrain it.

It's interesting how the serious, fundamentalist Puritanical culture slowly but inexorably gave way to contemporary thug culture, since on the surface, these things seem to be worlds apart. But look below the surface, and thug culture is extremely serious and fundamentalist. One's self-image is always at stake; friendships are faked and then discarded when no longer useful. People who are different, like gays and intellectuals, are ruthlessly persecuted in American thug culture, and are often murdered. Narcissism and militarism are at the heart of both Puritanism and thug culture, providing the necessary historical link.

7:07 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and Wafers,

Seeking Sanity-

Jesus, those "Jesus" T-shirts are absolutely appalling. No surprise, tho, as Americans are programed to reduce everything down to a sick and twisted commodity.

ellen-

I second Dan's emotion: Don't go. I too enjoy your contributions and hate to see you go. You will always be a Wafer even w/out your contributions of course, but the loss of you, or any Wafer for that matter, is a tragedy of unimaginable proportions. Please reconsider.

MB-

How about fiendfoons or troltwits?

MB, Wafers-

I'm always looking for a reason to pour a tall double scotch. This will do quite nicely:

http://economy.money.cnn.com/2014/01/22/wealth-world/?hpt=hp_t3

Jesus, it's such a lost cause...

Jeff

7:54 PM  
Blogger patricia walsh said...

Winter, Streetlight and the new Dark Ages - I moved from Massachusetts to a small coastal island in South Carolina and there are no lights at night - except for one. The neighbors say this awful orange thing is owned by the power company and cannot be shut off. I arrived home last night at about seven and found my power off (due to the cold, some say) and the whole island was dark….. I have lamps inside and, even though it was cold, it wasn’t too cold (I am from New England after all). The stars were brighter than most nights because they had no competition and I quickly realized that my cat’s fascination with the candles and oil lamps would make me worry more than the light was worth, so I left it dark. By morning my power was on and I could make coffee and I wasn’t too cold (it’s South Carolina after all). The most irritating problem of this short outage was that the only light showing in several square miles was the damn orange streetlight which (every night) ruins the dark. I find it hard to follow the news these days and often believe that a dark ages II is right around the corner and I wonder if there was a plus-side to the first one………..the sort of regrouping and rest that occurs in winter. I follow your blog occasionally and read quite a lot of history when I am not painting (I am an artist) but I have never heard anyone write that the dark ages were a necessary and restful period following an earlier era. I am wondering what you think about this………..I believe that I would rather have a full-on darkness than that damn artificial orange streetlight. Love your work and wish I had the stamina to move somewhere but here!

8:19 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Patricia-

r.u. on Tybee? I usta holiday there every yr during Xmas wk (actually, I think that's off N. Carolina). As for Dark Ages as a rest, Pirsig argued that in Moto Maintenance, and I think we may be entering something like that soon. In the US it won't be pretty, because Americans are vicious and stupid. In Japan, it was called sakoku (locked door), the Tokugawa Era--one of the great periods of cultural efflorescence, yet combined w/Buddhist economics, so to speak. Now's the time to become an NMI, clearly. You'd be better on an island off the coast of Normandy, no?

Jeff-

Smokey Robinson & The Miracles?

mb

9:11 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Hackenbush said...

"you better watch my sides
I'm like a stepping razor
I'm dangerous"

brilliant song lyrics. Joe Higgs is new to me. Nice easy going delivery.

9:44 PM  
Anonymous Mo Ronich said...

Folks, recently I met someone from military special forces. He revealed that he and his colleagues are wafers in a sense, and we were in wafer territory very quickly in our conversation. Most of his crew are quite aware that there could be an impending meltdown and may be privy to info the average citizen doesn't hear. He seemed to know of some of the literature discussed on this blog. Several are ready to move quickly, bug out bags at the ready etc. Financial breakdown seems to be where they are looking for a catalyst. It was startling to hear this from someone in that line of work, but maybe not so surprising in the end.

12:07 AM  
Blogger GregJS said...

MB, JWO – thanks for movie suggestions. Bummed to find that the friend I’m cat-sitting for has her “parental controls” set so I can hardly watch anything! But she has good wi-fi, so I paid to watch God Bless America on my laptop. Great stuff – like a day-dream snatched right from my scull. Never fell into the typical rhythm of a Hollywood movie. Not quite a comedy, not quite a drama – just it’s own waferish thing. I feel refreshed. Must be more like-minded souls out there if this movie could get made. I’ll try a few more of your suggestions throughout the week.

Dovidel - I’m aware of Bucke’s “CC” through other writers’ references. Seems safe to say his views fall squarely within the spectrum of religious-spiritual views of life – which is somewhat (but not totally) different from what I’m getting at. Like the God Bless movie, it’s not quite this, not quite that – not quite mundane (“out there”), not quite religious-spiritual (“within”), something of a borderline or interface between the two, but still its own, distinct third category – one that’s been excluded from the civilized POV.

ellen – if we keep directing posts to you, will you keep responding? But of course if it’s time to move on, then let me thank you for your contributions and wish you the best.

1:50 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

I'm giving some thought to changing my name to Woseribre Senebkay. I have a feeling the guy was a Wafer. Or maybe another T-shirt:

WOSERIBRE ROCKS!

mb

2:23 AM  
Anonymous Crappy_head said...

Mr.B,

one of the debates i like to follow is the one abt paleolithic mind. Just saw this book review, which acknowledges your work, just wondering if u are familiar with it:

http://blog.humangivens.com/2013/12/new-godhead-book-review-our.html

4:41 AM  
Blogger Yossi said...

Michael in Oceania.

The two things about Carlin that always bothered you were his ‘profane’ language and atheism. I’m not sure why you took him seriously during the last two or three years of his life, then because he retained these characteristics until the end.
Profanity refers to language which is not sacred or biblical; secular rather than religious. So I guess you’re killing one bird with two stones here aren’t you. You object to his atheism period. This would stop you liking an awful lot of writers too numerous to mention.
I wonder why you let your upbringing in the American South dictate your thoughts and actions for the rest of your life? Why not cast off these chains and live your own values ? Even consider the fact that the language you choose to use, if you wish it to be effective, will depend on the audience you address. How many people in Carlin’s audience would have even heard of Swift or Pope?
Potty language is an old-fashioned expression. In my country it means slightly mad. Is this what you meant?
How do you interpret one’s use of language as insistent? Was the language you used in your post insistent and when does the choice of language change from natural to insistent.? Also when does it become militant? Militant means combative and aggressive in support of a political or social cause, and typically favoring extreme, violent, or confrontational methods. If this really what you got from Carlin?
What exactly is militant atheism? This is a term I have heard used about Dawkins, Hitchens and others. When were they ever violent?
It is a meaningless term that believers bandy about to denigrate atheists. Are you a militant believer?
Do you have any evidence to show that he thought himself witty and brilliant, and “knew’ he was setting up straw men?
Who were the straw men that you say Carlin attacked? How did he misrepresent their position?
Finally do you consider anyone who is an atheist to be in permanent adolescent rebellion with arrested development?
Your post raises a lot of questions and makes a lot of unfounded assumptions. but you appear to be a believer so that is understandable I guess. Perhaps you think I am militant because I disagree with you?

5:32 AM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

Ellen

It was nice talking to you for the little bit that we did talk. I am going to pick mine up and walk as well.

Dr. B

Speaking of walking, I am going to have to let this be my last post as well. I will continue to read from time to time but my issues are not psychological but communication. We both speak English but it is like I'm speaking middle English and you're speaking modern English. We're not speaking in the same vernacular.

I believe this is what is happening between Ellen and I and you and I as well. I don't understand what Ellen was trying to convey to me when she said "Your hypothesis is fine as far as it goes but you assume far too much on pure speculation without any reference to fact or reality." What is the proper response that I am suppose to give here? I don't grasp what she was trying to convey to me with posting a link to music by Joe Higgs. If she was trying to imply something it went way over my head. In order for me to participate on this blog I would have to have this meta-discussion that you don't want.

Therefore, the only way I can follow your rules is to not participate. Keep up the good fight my friend.

Banana Head

My friend, you are still on the autism spectrum my friend. You may have developed better functioning and coping abilities but nevertheless you still are. If you are using chelation therapy, DON'T. It is quackery and it is a pseudoscience. You see the truth as I do. It is not about Autism rights anymore. Your very soul is at stake. Please help to construct one of these post capitalistic alternatives Dr. B was talking about.

To all

You have made an excellent choice by listening to Dr. B. He is a great mind who will be in the future history books. Future historians will look back and archeologists will dig amongst our ruins and put together and see how much of a fucked up culture we are. Please put his works into a form that can be preserved for centuries.

I leave you all with this song.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6n9Q8bsONw4


To everyone else in America who is not a Wafer and who are not doltish:

You can't reform America because we are the conclusion of what was laid in place centuries ago. The beliefs of America are encoded within the fabric of the cultural DNA. People were nurtured with this for most or all of their lives. The culture is what gives a people their identity. By destroying their identity you destroy them. The people would have to get a different identity but for them to admit their entire way of life and doing things is wrong and faulty would be to painful for a lot of people to bare.

To the dolts out there:

You all are a bunch of dolts and have shit for brains. Quit salivating over Kim Kardashian's ass. This is all that needs to be said.

9:33 AM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...

Hmmm, I recall somebody writing a book titled "Whats the matter with Kansas".

Well here is one thing...http://www.kansascity.com/2014/01/22/4769468/judge-rules-kansas-sperm-donor.html

9:47 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

Greg: Ouch, you definitely will not be able to watch "House of Cards" or "The Wire" with parental controls on. You can also try PBS video, they have a lot of stuff streaming these days, the Frontline programs "Digital Nation", "Kind Hearted Woman", and "Poor Kids" are a few good ones.

10:11 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Cube-

Actually, telling another Wafer that you didn't understand what they were saying, and that u need a clarification, is conversation, not meta-conversation. Meta-con is wanting to discuss the nature of the blog, who I am, how I run the blog, what language I am using and that I shd be more polite, whether we are or are not politically correct here, what subjects the blog shd *really* be discussing, how the blog cd be dramaticaly improved if we did X, etc. That's of no interest to me at all. So you don't hafta leave us just because you want Ellen (or anyone) to explain something 2u, as long as it doesn't turn into an elaborate discussion that takes us far afield.

That said, this blog is not for everyone, for a whole variety of reasons; and since yr own particular focus is logical discourse and your own personal situation, you'd probably find greater satisfaction in blogs that deal w/those issues. All we're up to here is the collapse of the American empire, and I've had to struggle occasionally to keep that discussion on track. (I haven't always been successful, I'm sure.) But we wish you the best, and feel free to check in at any time.

Mr. Linden-

No, thanks.

mb

10:12 AM  
Anonymous Rowdy said...

There you go:

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/photobomb-sparked-deadly-beating-nightclub-article-1.1587713

11:45 AM  
Anonymous Edward said...

To ellen: I wish you stay and participate fully on our conversations.

We all learn from each other’s input – I even learn from bad posts . For example, go and read the posts on discussions on plagiarism (SUBJECT: Ron Paul’s plagiarism).

To cube: you should also stay.

In the last thread (209) before this one here, I posted something that every wafer should read and ponder: it is on Frank Luntz and Glenn Beck on the use or abuse of language in public discussions/conversations.

Frank Luntz:
http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/01/the-agony-of-frank-luntz/282766/

Glenn Beck:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/22/glenn-beck-fox-news-mistakes_n_4643537.html

One of the issues or challenges that preoccupy my thoughts these days is this: why do we (as human beings) always say/do certain things that we perceive/think would benefit us but that would harm other people in the society?

Another one: what percentage of our thoughts/actions is designed for personal benefits and what percentage is designed and calculated to benefit everyone in the society? Think of Obama and other politicians. I recently read that all members of Congress are millionaires. Do they think in terms of personal gains or in terms of the gains of everyone in the society, and why, or why not?

12:16 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Note to Wafers:

George Zimmerdouche is still in the news. Will someone tell me why that is?

mb

1:39 PM  
Anonymous Troutbum said...

To Dr. MB and fellow WAFers:

Today, I wish to bring to your attention a remarkable magazine full of insightful articles, albeit on a higher level of intellectual discussion. The "Monthly Review", an Independent Socialist magazine, http://monthlyreview.org/ ,first published in 1949 and its first issue featured an article by Albert Einstein, no less. In the current issue, the feature article is titled, "The Plight of the U.S. Working Class".
Directly quoting, " ...the capitalist economic system does not produce enough jobs for everyone.....Workers in the United States are currently under extreme pressure—unlike any other period since the Great Depression of the 1930s...the economy has been characterized by deepening stagnation—with real GDP growth declining from around 4 percent a year in the 1950s and ‘60s to around 3 percent a year in the 1970s–1990s to 1.8 percent a year for the last decade (2002–2012). Financialization, arising in response to deepening stagnation from the 1970s to the present, has served to preserve and promote wealth at the top and temporarily to lessen stagnation in the economy as a whole—but at the cost of even greater economic instability over the long run."

There is simply no better lens thru which one can understand the power relationships in capitalism than the tools offered from Marxist Economics.

1:43 PM  
Blogger Publius said...

Has anybody seen any of the episodes of the AMC show "The Walking Dead"?

I was reading about the show in an old issue of the Rolling Stone will taking a sauna last night, and was interested to read that the creator of the comic book series on which the show is based believes that US society is on the verge of collapse.

And that he thinks it will be nice or good for Americans if they lose some of the excess and trappings of consumerism.

That's odd, considering his show is a metaphor for how Americans are really zombies, except for a small number of the protagonists who struggle to maintain their humanity.

@Prof. Berman: In the last post, I think you talked about the leap of faith you took, when you chose to become an independent writer/thinker, instead of an institutionalized academic. That was very inspiring to me, for many reasons.

1. It proves that you can pursue what you love without being institutionalized. Historians such as Barbara Tuchman and others have done it, of course, but it it good to see it.

2. The prospect of leaving the US, the more serious I get, causes me pangs of fear, akin to, "what am I thinking? Could I really survive in another culture? Would I miss people here so deeply that I'd waste away?

3. Faith - the idea that you just have to make a leap of faith sometimes.

I feel more and more that I am complicit in the system, as long as I am contributing taxes to it.
Sure, we could just drop out, live off the grid, and not contribute taxes. My own courageous uncle was in the crosshairs of the IRS for years during the Vietnam war because of his tax strike, but that was sure unpleasant for him.

Even if/when the system goes down, I am also starting to feel like, if the plug is pulled on global crapitalism, do I really want to experience that crisis with my fellow Americans, or with a people who are possibly more civilized and humane and literate and full of solidarity?

In the good news here in Minnesota, Garrison Keillor has a full-time archivist going through his letters, papers, and manuscripts. So there are still jobs to be had... one of my friends knows the archivist. It's funny - Garrison has bothered or been frisky with at least two women I know in Minnesota. That's little devil!

2:28 PM  
Anonymous bartleby the Scribbler said...

Jonathan Swift, potty-mouth:

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/180934


Ellen, thanks for the Joe Higgs. I didn't realize the Tosh version was a cover. Have invariably appreciated and enjoyed your comments. Hope you return whenever you feel like it...

MB: George Zimmerdouchebag is a great American painter, don't you know? In America, great artistic talent rises inexorably to the top.

http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/23/us/george-zimmerman-new-painting/

Also, George W. Douchebag .... along with some profound artistic insights into his recent work offered by a Pullitzer-Prize-winning art and architecture critic of The Washington Post...

"Indeed, this might be the best thing that has happened to the arts in a long time.":

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/style-blog/wp/2013/02/08/the-artistry-of-george-w-bush/

3:27 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Greetings Great Woseribre and fellow Woseribreans,

Edward-

These are good questions. The work of the Frankfurt School and C. Wright Mills are great places to begin shedding some light on the issues you raise. Mills points out that increased societal rationalization actually diminishes freedom and paints the spectre of a society of "cheerful robots" who desire and happily submit to increased servitude while believing that this is benefiting them. Horkheimer and Adorno analyzed ways that social rationality turns into irrationality, how enlightenment turns into deception, how modes of freedom and progress turn into domination and repression. Here's a nice quote:

The fallen nature of modern man cannot be separated from social progress. On the one hand the growth of economic productivity furnishes the conditions for a world of greater justice; on the other hand it allows the technical apparatus and the social groups which administer it a disproportionate superiority to the rest of the population. The individual is wholly devalued in relation to the economic powers, which at the same time press the control of society over nature to hitherto unsuspected heights.

~ Horkheimer and Adorno, 1972

Great Woseribre-

You better you better you bet!

Meanwhile:

A little known fact about Woseribre is that he died with his sandals on battling trolls and buffoons the whole way...

Jeff

3:45 PM  
Anonymous Banana Head said...

MB,

What are you saying "no" to? I don't think I asked or offered you anything... *confused* ...all I did was post something on American thug culture...

Perhaps someone hacked into my computer and tried to post something here? If so, that would be the weirdest thing I've ever heard of. What sad, sad individual would hack into a computer just to fool you about what someone said on this blog? Someone needs to get a life.

Cubeangel,

How do you know I'm still on the spectrum? The only evidence you have are my posts on this blog...doesn't seem to me like enough for a diagnosis. I don't believe my comments are so strange and off-putting that I could be diagnosed with autism over the internet by a complete stranger. Also, what do you mean about my soul being at stake? I am very much committed to a sustainable post-capitalist way of life. I think I've made that perfectly clear with my posts on this blog. All in all, your post comes across as a subtle insult. I do not appreciate it.

4:54 PM  
Anonymous Savantesimal said...

The dumbing down is becoming increasingly militant.

The Death Of Expertise

I am (or at least think I am) an expert. Not on everything, but in a particular area of human knowledge, specifically social science and public policy. When I say something on those subjects, I expect that my opinion holds more weight than that of most other people.

I never thought those were particularly controversial statements. As it turns out, they’re plenty controversial. Today, any assertion of expertise produces an explosion of anger from certain quarters of the American public, who immediately complain that such claims are nothing more than fallacious “appeals to authority,” sure signs of dreadful “elitism,” and an obvious effort to use credentials to stifle the dialogue required by a “real” democracy.

...

5:05 PM  
Blogger bowtiejack said...

Dr. B

Just a hearty thank you from me and the other Wafers for your astute management of this blog and keeping the thing from being dragged off into the weeds on peripheral topics. Talk about "the center cannot hold" if you weren't around. Seriously.

And I have no idea why anyone pays attention to
George Zimmerdouche, any Kardashian, Mike Huckabee, Glenn Beck, or a long list of other people which would easily violate the one-half page guideline.

5:08 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Mr. Linden-

You asked me if I was familiar with a particular review, wh/made reference to my bk WG. I said no; but I also thanked u for the heads-up. Or r.u. not "Crappy Head"? (I just assumed u were all those various 'Heads' that keep showing up here. Why not just go back to Noah?) BTW, I think Cube was just trying to be helpful, and maybe just didn't say it as suavely as he might have, is all.

Jeff-

The poor shmuck. I wonder what the hieroglyphs are for 'troll' and 'buffoon'. Maybe that's my next bk: "Trolls and Buffoons During the Reign of Amenhotep IV."
Talk abt best-sellers, eh?

mb

5:16 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Sav-

In case u hadn't noticed, the American public consists of a very large collection of horses' asses. These rear ends definitely do not like smart.

Bowtie-

Yr welcome. Altho I know it does make some people unhappy. But w/o sticking to the subject at hand, we wd indeed be in the weeds, as u put it. What can ya do? Either way, they'll dislike u. Happily, I enjoy being detested and reviled; it's like oxygen for me.

mb

7:21 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Troutbum,

“Monthly Review” is a good find – if you don’t expect all the answers from it. I discovered MR about 50 years ago, and among all the leftist periodicals published at the time it was like finding a diamond among the grains of sand on a beach. Of course they didn’t get everything right, but they had a unique and refreshing lack of dogmatism, and a lot of what they wrote and published has withstood the test of time surprisingly well.

Back in the late 60’s and through the 70’s they pointed out that capitalism was in a state of “permanent crisis”, and were predicting exactly what you quote their successors now describing as actually happening.

I met the late and lamented Paul Sweezy, one of the founders and original editors of MR in 1979 when he spoke at Iowa State University. A few third-world Trotskyists tried to give him a hard time, and he handled it brilliantly. Later on, we exchanged a few letters while I was in Mozambique.

During the decade after the collapse of communism and the USSR, I knew many East Europeans working in Kuwait, including the former East German ambassador to Kuwait who ended up teaching German at Kuwait University. Most of them were appalled at what was happening back home, and didn’t feel very liberated. They quickly agreed when I remarked, “Everything Marx said about capitalism was true.”

I peek at MR’s website once and a while and it looks as though they are maintaining the same quality and non-dogmatic independence, and have avoided the ‘dumbing-down’ which has been sweeping the US.

Wafers,

Somebody just forwarded me the following Plato quote:

“Those who are able to see beyond the shadows and lies of their culture will never be understood, let alone believed by the masses.”

A time-traveler from today’s America could have replied, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

David Rosen

7:55 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Today while taking a walk I passed a prosperous-looking house before which grows a lemon tree, rich with fruit. Pausing, I reached a foot or maybe two beyond the wrought iron fence and plucked a lemon, pocketing it: meaning therewith to prepare a medicinal beverage for a family member who happens to have a bad cold.

This house stands at the foot of a street beyond which lies a canal. The canal was created fifty years ago by destroying a public beach in order to install a quite ugly housing development that lies twenty or thirty yards across it. From this development across the canal suddenly bellowed a woman's voice: THAT'S STEALING, TO TAKE A LEMON OFF A TREE!

Insightful WAFers, and wise and good Dr. Berman, please instruct me for I am confused. Is the woman a righteous and public spirited individual defending neighbors from vile pilferage? Or is she an American douchebag noisily minding business not her own? My soul's salvation may well depend upon the answer.

Since I am making shameful confessions, I might as well make another. Many are the comments on this forum deriding those who make too much or injudicious use of cell phones. But my access to this blog all along has been solely through a cell phone. This is because my computer broke down last year and I can't afford to repair or replace it. Gotta tell ya, reading blogs on a teeny tiny screen is pretty hard on the eyes, and I'm nearsighted already.

BTW, a day or two ago I happened to stumble upon a web page featuring, among other items, a thumbnail photo link to an article on Kim Kardashian. The image was a close-up of Kim's tush, dimly veiled by the shockingly sheer dress she wore. Through it one could dimly discern the majestic crack of her ass. Being a red-blooded patriot, I thrilled at this bottomlessly (so to speak) engrossing spectacle, warm with gratitude for the superb journalism that focuses the public attention on this vitally important subject matter.

Dr. B, if I may hazard an answer to your question: George Zimmerdouchebag remains in the public eye because he is a great American philosopher. I am fully expecting that very soon at every American university his illuminating public pronouncements and the fascinating details of his life will be required study, displacing the stilted and stultifying works of Sandburg and William Carlos Williams.

10:47 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Kev-

1. Probably wd have been better to knock on door of house, ask permission. I mean, it's *their* tree. The woman who yelled was rt; tho this doesn't preclude her from being a douche bag (she is an American, after all).
2. I'm thinking of doing a bio of Kim w/her rump on front cover. Title: "Crossing the Continental Divide."
3. Rumor has it that the Princeton Philo Dept. will soon be offering Zimmerdouche an endowed chair. Wafers are invited to submit titles for an inaugural lecture. E.g.: "Get All Worked Up, Kill Yrself a Black Teenager, and Then Pray for an Incompetent Prosecutorial Team."

mb

11:26 PM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

Not sure about the viability of comparing Americans to recently discovered Egyptian royalty...
but if so, then how's about Cartouchebags ?

1:54 AM  
Anonymous PennaskRainbow said...

Hello fellow Wafers long time Canadian Wafer here. I couldn't resist posting this little gem, I'm sure you Wafers will get a kick out of this. Enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GH68bSJXGE8

7:09 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Cube-

I cdn't post it--too long. Try half a page (max), and I'll be happy to accommodate you.

Penn-

That pretty sums up the American mentality these days. We welcome contributions from Cdn Wafers--thank you.

Ty-

Cartouche bags will be a big part of our Egyptian accessory sales items. Hope Wafers can come up
w/some gd Woseribre T-shirts.

mb

9:36 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

Kev: Yeah, according to most urban foraging guides it would have been legal to collect the lemons from someone else's tree only if it overhangs the public sidewalk or public land. Knowing you are in 'murica you might be facing a crazed buffoon with a shotgun next time you try ... especially if you're in Florida.

9:39 AM  
Blogger Publius said...

Prof. Berman: Well, your CTOS is on its way! I look forward to it.

I met a fellow WAFer last night. We had a good chat. He's a good guy. A nature boy, like I used to be. I've got to get back to the rivers, forests, and streams.

Does CTOS discuss our relationship with the natural world, or does it focus exclusively on the body?

Do you have a sense of the extent to which the collapse or change in natural systems will contribute to the USA's problems and collapse?

California is in serious trouble, due to a drought that may last... well, decades. The Ogallala Aquifer is being depleted astoundingly rapidly - soon they won't be able to grow corn in Kansas.

But almost no American understands or believes that their existence is intimately dependent on the current, used-to-be stable configuration of climate, water tables, resources, and ecological relationships. Highly irrational, isn't it?

What is even more odd is that being in the non-artificial world is so calming and healthy... yet most people willingly choose the virtual over the real.

12:04 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and Wafers,

Here We Go Again Dept.:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXyc6c9YWGs

A couple of douche bags with serious attitude fer yer enjoyment. Notice the Sarah Palin style eyewear on the female.

Jeff

1:18 PM  
Anonymous bartleby the Scribbler said...

Yossi asked Michael (and since Michael hasn;t responded): What exactly is militant atheism? This is a term I have heard used about Dawkins, Hitchens and others. When were they ever violent?

Yossi, militant atheism doesn't necessarily mean violent, although in Hitchens case he joined the Neocons in militantly advocating for the invasion of Iraq so some militant atheists might also be violent (or promote violence).

Dawkins giving a talk on militant atheism:

http://www.ted.com/talks/richard_dawkins_on_militant_atheism.html

Merriam-Webster Synonyms for militant: aggressive, argumentative, brawly, confrontational, combative, disputatious, etc.


Russian use of non-violent political protest as well as alternative to pissing on Guccis.:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYtTWO8bWV0

1:22 PM  
Anonymous Edward said...

@Jeff T:

Thanks!

I am familiar with C. Wright Mills's "The Power Elite".

I am now of the opinion that democracy is inconsistent with capitalism - both of them cannot and does not exist in one country. And both do not exist in USA as many people would have it. The basic foundation of market economy is the idea that incentive matters - people produce more due to incentives. In today's America, the less you produce the more you make in salary. Just read below:

"A year after an embarrassing trading blowup led to millions of dollars being docked from Jamie Dimon's paycheck, the chairman and chief executive of JPMorgan Chase is getting a raise"

http://www.cnbc.com/id/101361475

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/24/jpmorgan-dimon-pay-raise_n_4656711.html

1:52 PM  
Anonymous Capo REgime said...

Banana,

More support for your assesement of u.s. prisons.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jan/23/staff-members-committed-half-sexual-assaults-priso/

This goes to the horror that are the several institutions in a decaying culture. Schools, banks, police, prisons, all are in rapid descent.

While many are of an abstract turn of mind here and indeed many americans are dolts, it should pain us all that many of the institutions devised ostensibly to aid and further civilization are in fact horrific means of alienating, neglecting and yes raping and killing their wards--more often than not powerless. In some of the posts here I detect a bit of pain and anger, not so much at the collapse of the u.s.a but at each other. The seed seems to be people get upset at not being right or of events and reality upsetting long held beliefs and ideals--dead beat dads, the goodness of the progressive movement, white bad and black good, republicans bad but dems less bad, voting important, democracy good, equality good, money bad, poor good, rich bad etc, etc... even wafers have some of these ideas and seeing them turn to dust in reality or dismissed in this blog seems to get people steamed. To a greater extent the ongoing slaughter of sacred cows by MB certainly brings in the trollouches who are more often than not scared and angry.

As a related aside, Mexican Billionaire Hugo Salinas Price is a Wafer. Wafers, should be an equal opportunity organization:)

2:10 PM  
Anonymous James Allen said...

"Back in the late 60’s and through the 70’s [Monthly Review] pointed out that capitalism was in a state of “permanent crisis”, and were predicting exactly what you quote their successors now describing as actually happening."

Economist Richard Wolff has included the following remark in his speeches to one group or another concerning the capitalist system and its failings:

If you lived with a roommate as unstable as this [capitalist] economic system, you'd have moved out long ago.

4:24 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Edward-

Keep yr eyes peeled for Nomi Prins' latest, "All the Presidents' Bankers."

mb

4:57 PM  
Blogger dg said...

CDN Wafer update

SO is a primary schl tchr (ages 6-9). Past few weeks SO's room has been without heat. A religious org. feeds the hungry kids in the am. The 6 fig schl execs have manged to get each class an ipad and are on my SO about keeping her blog up 2 date.

Hilarious and sad at the same time.

5:03 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Hackenbush said...

Dr. B- Can you shed any light on this passage from a Pepe Escobar column? Pasolini is new to me, but this interests me. Do you think babies saved by modern medicine could represent some sort of new class of mankind-

"When examining the dichotomy between bourgeois boys and proletarian boys - as in Northern Italy vs Southern Italy - Pasolini stumbled into no less than a new category, "difficult to describe (because no one had done it before)" and for which he had "no linguistic and terminological precedents". They were "those destined to be dead". One of them in fact, may have become his killer at Idroscalo.

As Pasolini argued, the new specimens were those who until the mid-1950s would have been victims of infant mortality. Science intervened and saved them from physical death. So they are survivors, "and in their life there's something of contro natura". Thus, Pasolini argued, as sons that are born today are not, a priori, "blessed", those that are born "in excess" are definitely "unblessed".

In short, for Pasolini, sporting a sentiment of not being really welcomed, and even being guilty about it, the new generation was "infinitely more fragile, brutish, sad, pallid, and ill than all preceding generations". They are depressed or aggressive. And "nothing may cancel the shadow that an unknown abnormality projects over their life". Nowadays, this interpretation can easily explain the alienated, cross-border Islamic youth who joins a jihad in desperation.

At the same time, according to Pasolini, this unconscious feeling of being fundamentally expendable just feeds "those destined to be dead" in their yearning for normality, "the total, unreserved adherence to the horde, the will not to look distinct or diverse". So they "show how to live conformism aggressively". They teach "renunciation", a "tendency towards unhappiness", the "rhetoric of ugliness", and brutishness. And the brutish become the champions of fashion and behavior (here Pasolini was already prefiguring punk in England in 1976).

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/World/WOR-02-170114.html

6:15 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Noah-

I'm glad u apologized to cube, but enuf w/men vs. women. I'm not printing that stuff anymore, as already indicated. Yawn city.

Meanwhile, Wafers might appreciate this:

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

mb

mb

8:27 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps:

http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/24/justice/arizona-inmates-bread-water/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

9:02 PM  
Blogger GregJS said...

US athletes told not to wear their red, white, and blues uniforms outside the Olympic venues in Sochi. That’s how well-loved we are.

http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/24/us/sochi-us-security/index.html?hpt=hp_t1

(Athletes who wonder why this warning is necessary should be handed copies of DAA.)

But based on the video you just posted, Dr. B – more US citizens killed within the US by police than in 10 years of war in Iraq – those athletes might be safer in Sochi than the rest of us back here in the “land of the free (to be shot).”

Hack – Sounds like Pasolini could be referring to another one of the many interlocking, highly contingent aspects of traditional cultures that may have helped to make them work in ways that modern culture no longer does. The fact that fewer of us now die in childhood is looked upon as unequivocal “proof” (along with, say, the abolition of formal caste systems) that modern society is superior to earlier forms. (Never mind that the US – shining beacon of the modern world – has somewhere near the worst child mortality rates and the greatest class divisions of the developed world.) But it could very well be that high infant mortality serves a kind of beneficial, “quality over quantity” purpose. Keeping every baby alive via drugs and surgery might indeed be producing a category of people who will never feel quite right.

But refraining from doing everything medically possible – letting nature take its course in this sense – is probably one of those “misfiled” ideas from the past that we are now all supposed to shrink from in horror as good, enlightened little liberal doobies. Don’t even get me started on the practice of infanticide in still earlier cultures…

10:38 PM  
Blogger Yossi said...

bartleby the Scribbler said...
‘militant atheism doesn't necessarily mean violent, although in Hitchens case he joined the Neocons in militantly advocating for the invasion of Iraq so some militant atheists might also be violent (or promote violence). ‘
Some atheists might advocate violence as Hitchens did but in this case he wasn’t violent in his atheism but in his advocacy of the invasion of Iraq. If he had argued strongly against the illegal invasion wouldn’t he still be labeled as a militant atheist by some people?
It seems to me that some commentators automatically label any atheist who argues for atheism strongly and publicly as militant, but would not label a believer who argued their case just as strongly and publicly as militant.


3:26 AM  
Blogger Zosima said...

GregJS said...But based on the video you just posted, Dr. B – more US citizens killed within the US by police than in 10 years of war in Iraq – those athletes might be safer in Sochi than the rest of us back here in the “land of the free (to be shot).”

It would be foolish for them to judge their safety based on a comparison of completely unrelated categories. But it is part of the dumbing down of society that such comparisons are accepted rather that laughed at. And the studies (UNC) do show that US athletes are pretty dumb, so it is likely that they would fall for such a meaningless comparison. I have a feeling Russia athletes would be better able to figure out where they would be safer. Perhaps one or two might be smart enough to base their safety on a meaningful apples to apples comparison. Such as the intentional homicide rate per year per 100,000 inhabitants.

US 4.7
Russia 10.2
Mexico 23.7

5:56 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Zos-

Well, technically u might be rt, but I think the overall pt is valid. All in all, the US is not a very safe place to be, if the police is now heavily militarized and 5000 civilians are gunned down by cops in 10 or so yrs. (On the militarization of the police and close monitoring of the population by them, see Dana Priest's Wash Post articles from a few yrs back. This is probably not going on in Sochi.) One is probably safer on the sts of Baghdad than NY, for example; that comparison has also been made. So you may be missing the forest for the trees here. As for yr stats at the end: kinda meaningless. I feel much safer in Mexico than the US, and the 23.7 is arrived at as an overall average. The rate for Mexico City is 9 per 100,000 per annum (=that of Wichita KS or Stockton CA), whereas for Ciudad Juarez it's around 169. The border states (and Michoacan) are what drive the #s up; most of Mexico is not caught up in violent drug wars. World stats are also deceptive, based on internal situations. Colombia, e.g., has highest homicide rate (or did a few yrs ago), because of political instability; but I walked down the sts of Bogota and it was like any perfectly normal metropolis (why shoot a tourist?). Etc.

Yossi-

I call folks like Hitchens and Dawkins 'atheist fundamentalists'. They *do* have a religion, to wh/they are fervently dedicated: atheism. It's still an ism, after all. True Believers have no distance from their belief system--that's the sticking pt. I guess the 'militant' label can be confusing, because it doesn't nec mean violent, or refer to the encouragement of violence. It just means a tad overzealous.

"Surtout, pas de zele"--Talleyrand.

And on that note--

mb

7:48 AM  
Anonymous Deborah said...

This entry in "expat exposed" illustrates the importance of doing your homework before making your move. The other entries I read support this blogger's view. The six weeks I spent in New Zealand in the 80's convinced me it would be the perfect place to live. But then 30 years is a long time....


"Don't move to New Zealand if you:
# value the service,telecom or hospitality industries, and believe that food should be affordable and not coated in chemicals
# believe in a genuine National Health Service, with modern approaches, medicines and equipment.
# believe any qualification gained there will be viewed as anything but inferior anywhere else in the world. And that Kiwi employers should recognize your own qualifications.
# believe that your mortgage repayments should be managable on a cold, moldy, cardboard construction.
# have the opportunity to live anywhere ANYWHERE other than New Zealand. (even if 'home' is hell, it is home. why move to geographically pretty little hell and struggle to make it home?)
1 Extra:
#Would like to protest the free trade agreement with China.

Don't move to New Zealand if you're not

# Prepared to live off and drain any savings that you enter the country with - you'll be earning a laughable wage that will hardly cover the cost of living.
#Being relocated from a country by the UN, and of refugee status. Unless 'home' is war-torn, this place is a step down from anywhere. (check out murder, rape and suicide rates per capita)
# Happy living in an utterly rascist, sexist, old boys network
# Prepared to live without genuine culture, (that isn't regurgitated) freedom of speech, intelligent, informative media that DEBATES issues.
#Inclined to compromise your own standards of living and step backwards in time.

1 Extra
# Don't move to New Zealand, if you're not an All Black. They the only members of this society that actually gain any respect. Over Drs, Laywers, Teachers, Tradesmen, Artists, Thinkers.[/b]"

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Deborah (and all Wafers) –

I know almost nothing about New Zealand, but since I consider learning another language, even at my advanced age, to be part of the adventure, I’ve never considered moving there. Also, this is very unfair, but I’ve always gotten the impression that living in Australia would be like being in Texas, only with Kangaroos. So what would be the point? (Somebody correct me if I’m wrong.)

Anyway, I long ago decided that I wanted to avoid the Anglo-Saxon world – that is, any culture tainted with English Puritanism, of which the US is a prime example – it’s absolutely saturated with it.

My first attempt to go expat was in 1979, when I hoped the Peoples’ Republic of Mozambique might finally get Socialism right. It was a complete failure, but my most valuable discovery was just how ‘American’ I was, and how much I had to overcome.

Living and working overseas for a few years, even with a volunteer organization, can be a valuable experience for a would-be expat, even if it is only temporary, and in a place you might not choose as your permanent home.

A gig overseas for several years can be super-edifying for children too. They can pick up another language – but, even more important, it can open a big window in the American Hologram – that is if you can avoid spending all your time hanging out with American expats.

Getting out once and for all is the preferred option, but it can be very difficult, depending on one’s particular circumstances.

I’m going to have to cut back on posting for a while, since I’ve got so much to do in preparation for my escape to Mexico, but I’ll try to post some stories about Western people with kids that I knew, the experiences the kids had, and what they seemed to get out of it.

David Rosen

1:58 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Thanks Dr. B & JWO for your responses. Of course you're right Dr. B, I can't argue with you. Objectively, the woman was right. Subjectively, I got the impression she was hoping and trying to create an ugly confrontation, not excluding possible violence. JWO's onto something. I suspect that before long Americans will be frequently killing each other over this sort of thing, and not just in Florida. They're already doing it over parking spaces.

If "Les Miserables" were set in present-day America, Jean Valjean woulda got lynched right off the bat; Inspector Javert would be the hero.

Publius, I've read that according to climate forecasts California's drought will intensify and continue over many centuries. This will happen to the whole southwest, up into southern Oregon or thereabouts. Looks like it's already starting.

Zosima, I've begun to wonder if we're not seeing the start of the official American police death squad - not in a haphazard incidental sort of way, but in a premeditated systematic way, like they've had in parts of South America and other places. An online historical commentator - I'm afraid I've forgotten who; it might have been Chris Hedges - has observed that one of the standard features of a decaying empire is that it eventually imports for consumption by its own people brutalities and injustices formerly reserved for residents of subject countries and client states in the imperial periphery. That might be what we're seeing now.

Deborah, I appreciate the lowdown on New Zealand. It's important to know the skinny on expat destinations, bad as well as good. I learned this in Florence, Italy, where I once studied for a year. I found it also makes a difference what town you're in. Most Florentines struck me as distinctly unfriendly, but by traveling around I learned that if I'd stayed in Naples or Syracuse or even in a neighboring village near Florence, I probably would have had a much better time.

2:54 PM  
Anonymous Pauli said...

http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_24992400/police-confirm-shooting-at-suburban-baltimore-mall

3:10 PM  
Anonymous Capo Regiime said...

Dovidel,

I lived in Australia for 3 years. It was very pleasant and much nicer than Texas . The wine is good and as I was an off the derech young man enjoyed the social scene. The south Adelaide and the West Perth and well as Mebourne very pleasant but thought stunningly beautiful Sydney not my thing. Australians are very pleasant. Very egalitarian society, the past prime minister had a partner(un married) who was a hair stylist.

Dovidel Eduction--lot to be said for the Steiner approach and his Waldorf method. In a funny way, reminds me of the Orthodox shools I sent my kids too--no TV, no technology, no civics or political stuff, child centered and no grades or homework or emphasis on conformity. S

Homicide rates--one time averages are of very limited usefulness. Also, in the north the Mexican drug gangs have been in essentially a war and so the death toll goes to national homicide rate. Same is true for some parts of Russia by the way. If you eliminate the body count in the north of mexico, you will find that in Mexico city (800 miles to the south) the homicide rate is lower than that of D.C., LA and Chicago. So yes, many criminals are in fact getting killed in MEX and Russia. They are so bumbling that they have not figued out the whole random killing of kids in schools and people in malls and movie theatres.

Lesson here kiddos--data without context is useless as is aggregate date of large nations.

3:29 PM  
Anonymous Noah said...

Today, I want to share with you an anecdote from my own life that illuminates the difference between Americans and Latinos. I recently got double jaw surgery for a life-threatening condition. I stayed at the hospital for five days before returning home. During my stay, I had many, many abusive nurses; almost all of the abusive ones were African-American. On the other end of the spectrum were the Latino nurses, who seemed mostly to be from Mexico. Without exception, they were caring and compassionate.

I'm not being racist here, just recounting my experience at that hospital. It really shows you that you can't blame everything on poverty or other external pressures; real differences do exist that are the result of what lies inside the collective consciousness of a culture. Present-day African-American "culture" is literally nothing but thug culture. Present-day white American culture is literally nothing but thug culture with a smiley corporate face, a false veneer of friendliness. But Latino culture is different; it has within it a great deal of love and consideration for others. I have great respect for it, and am now thinking of moving to Central or South America. It's gotta be better than living in New Jersey.

4:17 PM  
Blogger likebike said...

Just a few thoughts.

Maybe there should be a slogan to celebrate the conceptual journey for WAFers.

YOU CAN GET THERE FROM HERE
AND LOSE THE DOUCHEBAGGAGE
FLY WAFERAIR
(Yes, I did toy with LUFTWAFAER, but . . . )

Treating the motto found on the coin of the realm as an anagram yields the following which may be useful: wet dogs in rut.

David Clausen

4:32 PM  
Blogger nosferat_saolin said...

"The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is accurate. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude. [...] Studies on the Dunning–Kruger effect tend to focus on American test subjects. A study on some East Asian subjects suggested that something like the opposite of the Dunning–Kruger effect may operate on self-assessment and motivation to improve. East Asians tend to underestimate their abilities, and see underachievement as a chance to improve themselves and get along with others."

DeAngelis, Tori (feb 2003). "Why we overestimate our competence". Monitor on Psychology (American Psychological Association) 34 (2): 60. Retrieved 7 March 2011.

4:49 PM  
Anonymous Brian said...

WAFers--

Simply priceless; enjoy . . .

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GH68bSJXGE8

Brian

5:28 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Brian-

Yeah, already posted here, I believe, but we can't have enuf evidence that the nation is a large collection of buffoons.

Pauli-

And also of violent, miserable, unhappy people. Are they once again going to find a 'disturbed loner' here? Maybe the entire nation is a disturbed loner, no?

Kev-

As for domestic killings, this is not quite exact, but it does remind me of the pattern of medieval heresy, in wh/in addition to finding external enemies you begin to find a 'fifth column' of 'impurity' within, and start to hunt that down (cf. McCarthyism). Of course the 5000 dead were not political; these were just random civilians. But I keep coming back to Goya's famous "Saturno devorando su hijo" as a horrible image of the suicide phase of empire we are now engaged in. The US don' hafta worry abt al-Qaeda, fer fuck's sake; it's doing itself in by its own hand. Rebellion in this context, imo, doesn't make a whole lotta sense; what u need to do is get outta the way as the bulldozer plunges over the cliff. One thing that is *absolutely* clear: the bulldozer cannot be stopped. (When cops kill the mentally ill and defenseless, and get off scot free, u know the game is up.)

mb

5:58 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: Noah: I agree, u need to leave NJ. I'm also glad yr not writing in abt gender anymore. The problem is, you seem to have switched to race. I don't doubt the veracity of yr observations; however, race is not the topic of this blog any more than gender is. Let me clarify: this blog is abt the collapse of the American empire. If u cd stick to that specific topic, I'd be very grateful. (You can, however, submit observations abt deli meats if u want, but that, and the pharaoh Woseribre Senebkay, are the only off-topics we care to entertain.) I thank u4 yr patience and understanding. Yr a trooper.

mb

6:41 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Impromptu Wafer trivia quiz: In what TV show does the following line occur:

"Call Marla Penny to the stand!"

mb

9:36 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

A nation of violent, stupid people Dept.:

"I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind...as in America...It seems at first sight as if all the minds of the Americans were formed upon one model, so accurately do they follow the same route."

--Tocqueville (1835)

"The American cult of friendliness conceals...a murderous competition for goods and position," a competition that "has grown more savage in an age of diminishing expectations...In a dying culture, narcissism seems to embody--in the guise of personal 'growth' and 'awareness'--the highest attainment of spiritual enlightenment."

--Lasch (1979)

mb

10:29 PM  
Blogger Yossi said...

Capo Regiime .

If you believe Australia to be an egalitarian society can I suggest that you have a look at John Pilgers latest film "Utopia".

MB.
A tad too overzealous is not to be sniffed at. It could be applied to your writings on the ghastliness of so much of the USA now. I understand that Sam Harris doesn't use the term atheist about himself as there are so many deities to dis-believe in.

6:44 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

That line from the last Seinfeld episode. As you know we in the east are suffering terribly from the snow and cold. Anyway, my mom's neighbors occasionally go away for a few days and ask my 89 year old mom to hold their mail until they return which she does. So one of our big snows comes and their son shovels their side of the walk and not my mom's. Not to be racist but the family are Asian who from my experience are usually deeply concerned how others perceive them. It just shows the ubiquity of selfishness that is the American culture.
Also, last week I was asked to cover for a few days a class of seven 2nd graders whose teacher went out on maternity leave. These are delightful children some of whom I taught when they were in 1st grade. So what did this teacher do with a small group of 2nd graders for 45 minutes a day? Handouts- the lowest form of education. On top of that she ascribed daily homework. I mean what's the point of having small classes if you do the same thing you would do with a class of 30? Parenthetically, this teacher walked everywhere with her laptop. I mean talk about a techno-buffoon.

7:52 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Yossi-

Nope, yr way off base. I haven't made a religion out of critique of the US, and there are lots of other things I write abt, as is obvious from my list of publications. The same cannot be said of the overzealous, militant atheists. Atheism really *is* their religion, and in a fundamentalist form. So I not only sniff, I reject. You might consider doing the same.

mb

8:38 AM  
Blogger Yossi said...

MB

I agree that you haven't made a religion out of critique of the US. Just as I don’t believe that Dawkins. Krauss, P Z Myers, Dennett, etc have made a religion of their critiques of religion. You all put your views coherently and strongly. My point is that there is tendency for people to describe their own views and method of presenting them as reasonable and those they don’t agree with as overzealous, fundamentalist and militant. I know that you have written a lot of other things - I have read and enjoyed a lot of it. Dawkins et al have written much more science than anything else.

10:33 AM  
Blogger Jack Lattemann said...

Marla Penny? That's Seinfeld! When we watch TV, not often, we watch the re-runs, it's like sticking a CRE post-it reminder on the TV.

10:48 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Yossi-

A few things:

1. Post only once every 24 hrs, thank you.
2. Even if I *were* overzealous, what does that hafta do with the militant atheists? I might be, in that case, hypocritical, i.e. accusing them of what I myself am doing; but that wdn't make the accusation wrong. Red herring, in other words: these are two unrelated subjects.
3. Yr still off-base. Dawkins et al. have certainly made a religion out of their atheism; the tone of their attacks on religion make that clear enough, that they have no real distance from these views at all, and are at heart atheist fundamentalists. (They have even sponsored a compaign of anti-God placards on the tube in London. This takes a lotta money, and a lotta dedication/fervor.) And I wd argue that their writings on science are fine, but certainly have the added bonus of supporting their campaign against religion; they are not, in other words, in a whole different field of endeavor. In any case, whether you decide to approve of or reject their militant atheism is entirely up to you, of course, but don't kid yourself that it isn't militant atheism.
4. Finally, I'm not the subject of this blog. My *work* can be; no problem there. But saying "hey, *you* are overzealous!" is abt me, and my (supposed) motivations, not abt the actual work. In the past, a lot of folks here thought that I personally was the focus (or shd be), wh/led to a lot of confusion. I trust you won't make this mistake in the future. Thanks.

mb

11:26 AM  
Blogger Publius said...

Prof. Berman:
I am really enjoying CTOS.
So the search for success, money and wealth is a substitute for that void, eh? I have thought that for a long time. Of course, that makes it difficult for me to fit into the corporate culture. At my company, for example, we are all expected to be "evangelists" for the product, a product that serves those "devices we all love so much." It is hard to feign that evangelistic fervor, and even if one can, it feels terribly false and disgusting...

My own brother is a highly successful sales executive, yet he is very unhappy much of the time. He claims to want a wife and child, but he can't really find a partner that works out. Whenever he has a new g/f, I eventually ask him, when he asks me what I think of her, "Do you really love her? Do you feel any passion?"

He responds with a list of her accomplishments, and how they have similar interests, etc. He doesn't seem to actually understand my question. Is this normal/common?

We raised our son in pretty much the attachment parenting mode... he got, and gets, lots of hugs, gets to sleep in our bed whenever he wants, etc. We were criticized by some for this. Yet he seems fairly well-adjusted, other than the fact that public school seems to cause him some anxiety. I take this anxiety to be actually a good sign, since it's American public education, for crying out loud!

I do notice that he seems to have a strong sense of self. When his last teacher was a shaming bully to him, he told us, and we moved him to another class. For this, one of my son's friends mothers also shamed us, saying we were "undermining the teacher's authority."

Then, her son slapped our son on the bus just because our son laughed at a joke or story. We brought this up to the school, and we haven't seen or heard from the mother or family again.

I mentioned the ex-friend we had to get rid of, the drunk bully - the other night, my son asked at bed time if he was going to die that night. I asked him what he was talking about. He said that we was worried that the douchebag in question was going to sneak into our house and attack him. Good lord...

Militant atheism: Dawkins, Harris, et. al. are definitely religious folk. They crucify heretics verbally. They claim knowledge that is impossible to know (the ultimate spiritual makeup of the universe, etc.). and they are just plain mean-spirited bigots. Their attacks on Muslims, Christians, etc. just doesn't stop. Some of them are also strange Randian tecno-anarchists who don't give a damn about the destruction of the biosphere. To these narcissists, man's domination of nature is far more extensive than anything promulgated by the Bible. Finally, when one sees or reads them, one gets a sense of seriously unbalanced personalities, with no sense of nuance or depth.

12:43 PM  
Anonymous Pauli said...

The shooter at the mall yesterday is only 19 years old. He would have been 13 years old in 2001 when 9/11 happened. Someone said somewhere in this blog that America and Americans have been out for the human blood since 2001. In other words, the so-called "war on terror" is another name for war on training an entire nation (USA) on how to solve problems with guns and bombs - and it is paying off today in the numerous shooting incidents we have been seeing in America. An article follows:
=================

COLUMBIA, Md. (AP) — Police have identified the gunman in the Maryland mall shooting as a 19 year old from suburban Washington.

Howard County Police Chief William McMahon said Darion Marcus Aguilar of College Park, Md., arrived at the mall shortly after 10 a.m. on Saturday armed with a Mossburg 12-gauge shotgun and used it to kill two people at a store on the upper level of the Mall of Columbia before killing himself. McMahon said police are trying to determine whether Aguilar knew either of the victims.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/26/maryland-mall-shooting-darion-marcus-aguilar_n_4669271.html

1:00 PM  
Blogger GregJS said...

MB, Yossi - Trying to define “fundamentalist/militant/overzealous” in relation to atheism and so on is a tough call because, as you say Yossi, one person’s “militant” atheism (or whatever) is another person’s “reasonable rationality,” if they happen to agree. But one distinction that may hone in on what this conversation seems to be about is:

people who think they can narrowly define the ultimate nature of reality versus people who are comfortable leaving it open-ended and undefined

There could always be more to reality than what we currently know, but some people – theists and atheists alike – want to claim “THIS is how it is. Period. And therefore THIS is how everyone should live. Anyone who thinks or lives otherwise is an idiot.” To me, this kind of fundamentalism – again, whether theistic or atheistic, capitalist or communist, etc. – drives the whole sham of modern civ. and is used to justify imposing itself on the rest of the world and wiping out all other ways of living and being. (Previously, when cultures clashed over land/resources, the winners wouldn’t usually impose their way of thought/life; it was assumed that many ways of looking at and living in the world could co-exist. No one believed there was “one right way” for all people to think/live and no one really cared how other people thought/lived.)

In your books, Dr. B, you’re clearly exploring what it means to live in a kind of openness to a reality that can’t be defined in simplistic, narrow terms. No matter how vigorously a person expresses this point of view – and you are very vigorous, thankfully – it can’t be militant/fundamentalist in the same way as someone saying “This is how it is.” Strength of argument does not equal zeal. Even arguing that, “It’s certainly better for us all to remain open to an undefined reality” is not the same as saying “THIS is certainly the nature of reality.” Those two forms of certainty have totally opposite lived consequences.

And yes, atheists who think they can fully define the ultimate nature of reality (i.e., “reality is ultimately physical” or whatever) are “religious” in their beliefs because any attempt to define reality must rest on an unproven, untestable leap of pure faith.

p.s. enjoyed The Joneses movie – really captures the longing-fakeness-emptiness-tragedy of modern USA

1:27 PM  
Anonymous Deborah said...

For those of you that are young (and not so young):


http://www.alternet.org/culture/get-out-while-you-can-why-young-americans-should-emigrate

2:07 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Well, thank u all for yr various ruminations. The bit abt fundamentalism boils down to whether there is any distance between a person and their beliefs. For the True Believer (Eric Hoffer), like Dawkins et al., there really is no distance. I'm not religious myself, but I understand the need, the impulse, so I can be a little tolerant, at least, even tho I think it's mostly (not entirely; there is such a thing as sacred experience) delusional. I'm also aware of what the militant atheist crowd is nervous abt: the history of religion is bloody. But then, the history of sci-tech culture is bloodless, and I can't convince myself that we have made any *human* progress between 1550 and 2014. In many ways, I suspect we've gone backward. We live in an anomic, meaningless, dehumanized, and cut-throat world; this much must be obvious; and in terms of #s of civilians killed, the 20C is the genocide champion of all time. Progress?

One thing that can promote the distance I'm talking abt, wh/is really perspective, is to realize that everything you do is ultimately trivial. Not to you, of course, but in the grand scheme of things. I wrote a few bks, I loved a few women, I made a few friends, and then I died. At most, I will have positively influenced a few hundred people, and once I'm gone, I'll be totally forgotten; probably, 20 yrs after, not even a ftnote in any bk (tho there won't be bks by then). Between 1920 and 1950 *the* public intellectual was Walter Lippmann; he was literally everywhere, in the news. Who thinks abt Lippmann today? I doubt there are more than 100,000 Americans in the entire country who cd tell u who he even was. And while it wd be great if Chinese historians discover my work in 50 yrs and say, "Wow! Belman!"--well, I tend to doubt it.

Gandhi once said that nothing you do has any importance, but you shd do it anyway. Now this was a guy who was definitely not fundamentalist.

mb

2:52 PM  
Anonymous al-Qa'bong said...

Dear Wafers:

I participate in an obscure Canadian "progressive" discussion board in which the chat over what I used to call "radical atheism" is generally the most heated and vitriolic of any topic.

On the death of Christopher Hitchens:

http://enmasse.ca/forums/viewtopic.php?t=400&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=800

On the passion of atheists:

http://enmasse.ca/forums/viewtopic.php?t=7413&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=950

In the latter thread I cite Dr. Berman, as he said much the same thing as what I was arguing.

In case there's any doubt, those discussions show that "progressives" can be as dogmatic and narrow-minded as anyone.

2:58 PM  
Anonymous James Allen said...

"...once I'm gone, I'll be totally forgotten;"

All this talk of atheism, theism, and the end of us all--whether we're remembered or quickly forgotten--reminds me of a line from Woody Allen, written in the salad days before Soon Yi and all that mess:

Woody wrote that he didn't believe in an afterlife, but he WAS taking along a change of underwear.

An idea we could all embrace, I should think.

3:09 PM  
Blogger bowtiejack said...

Dr B:

A couple of thoughts, not necessarily in any coherent order.

On the whole atheism fundamentalist thing, it seems sort of like all those NY Jewish (no offense intended) Trotskyites in the Kristol, Podhoretz, etc., etc., mold who became the neoconservatives. In other words, it seems not to be about "truth" so much as an intemperate narcissism and tendency (Trotskyism? com'on!) to go to extremes. I think Eric Hoffer had their number.

People who are this passionate about some stuff (the right-to-life crowd, Trotskyists, neo conservatives, evangelicals, and so on) seem to lack that sense of balance and proportion and good humor that the stoics (or Gandhi or you) encourage. We are ripples in a stream that flowed before we got here and will flow after we are gone.

And again, thank you for your very astute management of this little corner of sanity.

3:55 PM  
Anonymous shep said...

This is a militant band! No brag just fact. The Moore Brothers. Ck out the 10 y.o. guitar maestro. Little b*****d.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQv1upKsRAg

5:21 PM  
Blogger Frederick Froth said...

I havent been here for some time but check in every day.
I live in Australian. A small town of 6,000 people 60 miles from Melbourne - it is about benign as you can get.

Australia is paradise compared to almost anywhere else, although like everywhere else it is slowly getting worse and will do so especially under our new "open for business" new government. Like everywhere else we will soon be faced with various demographic crunches in the near future which will create social and political frictions.

Housing in the cities is very expensive due largely to tax breaks available to investors and the fact that people from China and Asia are buying up everything in sight.

The people are generally friendly and you can walk around the major cities at night relatively safely. 20 years ago an American friend who was visiting me in Melbourne was amazed that you could do this. Our public transport system is quite good. Again the situation is slowly getting worse with drunken yobbos deliberately targeting Asians with violence. We do have a burgeoning ICE or meth addiction problem both in the cities and especially in many country towns.

Our police force is generally free of corruption, and there is nothing remotely like the police heaviness and violence that occurs in the USA which is regularly mentioned on this site.

There is an abundance of relatively cheap fresh food. Our fragile environment is in relatively good shape although feral pests (both plants and animals) are causing big problems.

Our social security system is generally quite good although it is straining at the edges especially as unemployment rises.
Our universally available old-age pension is just adequate. Heaps of people are on a disability pension, although in my opinion many should NOT be. We have a universal health care financed by a small tax levy system which is generally quite good. People who want more or special treatment etc take out "private" health insurance which is subsidized by the government. There are long waiting lists for elective surgery. One of my friends who is schizophrenic has a totally free hip replacement operation. Another has had his left leg systematically amputated over 15 years - all of which cost him zilch. He has a free prosthetic leg which has been replaced several times.

Via a systematic campaign to denigrate what used to be a good public education system the government is now locked into providing heaps of finance for "private" schools, most of which are operated by the various religious denominations. Per capita "private" school children get more money than those in state schools. Huge amounts go to the very wealthy "private" schools.

The climate is generally mild - no ice and snow. We have no gun culture with no white supremasist right wing militias etc. Our "aborigines" are in appalling shape. There are hardly any right wing religionists wanting to turn the Land of Oz into a theocratic state. Our previous red-haired prime minister was an atheist. She also struck a world-wide chord of sympathy when she gave a speech attacking the misogyny of the then right-wing "catholic" opposition leader (he is now our prime minister).
We have a general tolerance towards all religions although there is increasing suspicion and hostility towards both Moslems and Jews.

6:18 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

al-

'Progressives' are dogmatic because their position is very brittle, and on some level they know it: we ain't goin' nowhere, baby. But once they admit that, they start contemplating suicide; so instead, they are rigid and aggressive (and tedious; Jesus, are those people tedious). You watch: they'll start saying how Hillary is gonna make it all rt, we hafta get behind her, etc.--same crap they said abt Ovomit, who is worse than Bush in many respects. There will not come a day when they wake up; I guarantee it. Hillary will be a shill for Empire, and after 8 yrs of that, the 'progressives' will say, "Oh, what we need is Joe Blow. *He'll* make it rt." Yeah, he'll make it rt, you poor saps.

On the edge of the 2008 election, Michael Moore predicted that the coming Obama victory would "sweep" the nation. Then, after Obama swept civil liberties out the door, he predicted OWS would "sweep" the nation. Then OWS turned into meaningless irrelevance (what a surprise). Michael, I'm begging you: put down the broom! We aren't going to sweep shit, get it? But for Michael and so many other well-meaning folk, putting down the broom = lying down and dying; so they live in a hallucinated future instead. You remember I keep telling you guys, stupidity is not just a function of IQ.

Jas-

Probably gd advice. That, and a corned beef sandwich.

Bowtie-

Yeah, that's it: it's abt having something to fiercely believe in, doesn't matter what. Like the 'progressives', the neocons never became transparent to themselves.

mb

7:10 PM  
Anonymous Noah said...

Speaking of the militant atheist liberal-hippies-turned-neoconservative, it always amazes me how easily most Americans are lured into the arms of the far right. It only takes the mildest of catalysts to provoke a thorough transformation, like the opportunity for a little bit more money, the opportunity for a little bit more power, or a little bit of hardship. In many cases, this metamorphosis happens spontaneously, without any observable external cause. My New Jersey town is filled with such loathsome people - men and women for whom the 1960s was nothing but an orgy of self-indulgence, and for whom the ongoing misdeeds of the Democratic Party are completely excusable by the mere fact that Romney would have done a little bit worse.

The spiritual emptiness at the core of most Americans makes such a transformation easy, it seems to me. It makes it easy to abandon the lofty ideals you thought you stood for, and jump on board the bandwagon of unbridled greed and selfishness.

10:09 PM  
OpenID atearinrain said...

I totally agree that atheist fundamentalism is a thing, as atheism seems to be a religion to many people (e.g. Dawkins). For a decade or so I maintained a strong materialistic belief system and was quite sure that my non-spiritual views would never change. However, I was never anti-religion and have actually got into many, many more heated debates with militant atheists than I have with pro-religion zealots. Atheist fundamentalists get worked up real quick and for no good reason imo, and aren't too rational in my experience neither. I don't like organized religion much but I do owe much of my value system (of which I am proud) to my very religious family, who instilled in me a strong morality.

Publius, any chance you live in Minneapolis? Or the Winona area? Beyond Waferism, I like much of what you have to say, especially the value of nature in one's life. My experiences with the natural world are nearly as important to me as the quality of my relationships with humans. A regular presence in nature and a healthy dose of silence and solitude has done as much for my well-being as anything else I can think of. It's neat to read that you, Dr. B, love to just sit around and think about nothing. One of my fondest memories are of doing just that, which led to what I consider to have been quite an intellectual breakthrough. Sometimes I feel self-conscious about "wasting my time," but whenever I make time for it my imagination blooms and I feel more like my real self.

It shouldn't surprise me to see a Wafer post a Natural Born Killers link, but... cool! It's been my favorite movie for 14 years or so. I guess I was long destined to read Why America Failed lol. And can a movie soundtrack get any better than that? I played The Future for a friend at work several years ago, stating excitedly that the lyrics are possibly the best I've ever heard. She listened and became seriously disturbed. Needless to say, we never became friends outside of work. Which is just as well, because her reaction was priceless.

1:54 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Trivia Quiz #2:

In one of the Seinfeld episodes there is a character named Yasif Kassem. But the Gang of Four have another name for him. What is it?

mb

4:40 AM  
Blogger Zosima said...

Morris Berman said...Zos-

Well, technically u might be rt, but I think the overall pt is valid. All in all, the US is not a very safe place to be, if the police is now heavily militarized and 5000 civilians are gunned down by cops in 10 or so yrs.... As for yr stats at the end: kinda meaningless. I feel much safer in Mexico than the US, and the 23.7 is arrived at as an overall average.

Dr. B & Capo

It looks like were not gonna see eye to eye on this one. A person can say they “feel much safer” in a certain place compared to another, but if the data says otherwise, then in reality that person is not safer. The murder rates are the best way for an ordinary person to compare the level of violence between places/countries that are not at war. And the data for Mexico shows that they are being murdered at 4-5x the rate of the US. If overall averages bother you then here are the totals: US 14,612 Mexico 27,199. You can add those 500 US police killings that so alarm you, but difference remains staggering esp. considering US pop is nearly 3x bigger. Of course you’re right that the murders in Mexico are concentrated in certain places and if you avoid those or leave them out of your data, then Mexico looks less violent. But the same is true for the US, take out NO, STL, Det, (where much of the crime is also drug/gang related, just like Mexico, recall the crack wars of the early 1990s) and the US 4.7 rate goes down to European levels. So, you can’t have it both ways, you have to look at the context in both countries.

This is going to sound strange after having said all that, but I am considered moving to Mexico or other countries that may have higher murder rates than the US. I desire to leave the US for reasons that have nothing to do with a concern for safety. I feel safe in the US and I would feel safe enough in Mexico. Statistically, your chances of being murdered in either country are low. But if someone were to ask me why I was moving to Mexico, I couldn't tell them I was moving there in order to feel safer - at least not while keeping a straight face.

4:48 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Zos-

The problem is that the data support me and Capo, not you. Sure, stats are uneven in the US as well as Mexico, but hardly (in the US case) because of drug wars, wh/is clearly the Mexican case. For the most part, murder is pretty random in the US, including crimes of passion (in which the parties know each other; this is very common) as well as stranger murders; and the 5000 killed by cops is across the board, not abt drugs or any particular 'theme'. You might be safer in Peoria than Detroit, of course, but given what Dana Priest has uncovered (Wash Post, 2010) about militarization of the police and massive increase of citizen surveillance--again, across the board, w/local cops everywhere eager to get on the technological bandwagon--yr not gonna feel safe for very long. Nothing like that is going on in Mexico, whether in the DF or quiet towns in the Yucatan. In addition, half of American households have weapons, something that is certainly not the case in Mexico, wh/suggests that homicides down here are geographically pinpointed and theme-specific (i.e., drug wars; the narcotraficantes get their guns from American stores just north of the border). Once again, yr comparing apples and oranges. So the data do not say otherwise, and you can keep a straight face w/o much of a problem. However, I agree w/u, that we won't see eye to eye. To me, anyway, your reasoning is specious, and your analogies stretched.

mb

5:55 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

I can't stop laughing. Anyone who thinks that a God or "spiritually" is going to save the planet is waaaay off base. Dream on!

In addition, Atheists I know aren't close to being militant nor neoconservative or any other pejorative term. I am offended. Just the opposite, they are kind and reasonable individuals that know the earth is not flat and they certainly aren't racist. Most people that claim not to be racist turn out to be bigots. I see this over and over. They are simply playing the blame game.

In addition, please, Aussie's are exactly like the USAers. See any column of John Pilgers's. or, his docs.

7:09 AM  
Anonymous Edward said...

@Berman and Zosima, RE: Murder Rates in USA vs. Mexico
Think in terms of the culture of the nation involved. In Mexican culture, violence is not glamorized, and as a result Mexicans are peace-loving people who did not inherit violence as a way of solving problems. On the other hand, the American culture cannot be completely and honestly defined without mentioning violence (extermination of American Indians), and (at least since 2001) the people in America consider wars and violence as the only means of solving problems – hence the gore and blood-thirsty mindset among the American people/American police/American youth. In America, mothers kill husbands, sons, and daughters with guns; fathers kill wife, sons, and daughters with guns; children shoot each other and they shoot their parents. Some gun-related violence in USA is unthinkable in Mexico and in other parts of the world. Plus, whatever drug-induced violence currently going on in Mexico can be ultimately traced back to the wickedness of some gringos in America and in American government (think of CIA and Chile, Iran-Contra, CIA and El Salvador, etc). Without the violent meddling of America, Mexico would be like a paradise compared to America.

8:13 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

WAF-ers: Here is Chris talking about comparing the US to Moby Dick:

(http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/chris_hedges_jan_27_column_transcript_collapse_of_complex_societies_2014012)

Fred: Thanks for the info on Aussie, there's a good job open right now in Melbourne ... but it doesn't pay nearly enough to live there!

atear: Not to speak for Publius, but we do live in the Twin Cities.

Deb: Good link.

9:15 AM  
Anonymous bartleby the Scribbler said...

mb,

Yev Kassem ... the soup nazi. I worked for a decade a couple blocks away from Yev. In reality quite a nice guy. On more than one occasion I found him doling out free soup to homeless after biz hours. Stand out soup. My favorite was his Mulligatawny.

9:17 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

shep-

Clearly, you know the 'right' atheists. But u don't know *all* of 'em, boychik, and it's hardly a uniformly pleasant experience. However, I agree w/u that God won't save the planet.

Edward-

Mexico is not w/o its history of internal corruption and so on, wh/is pretty bad; but I agree w/u (and Porfirio Diaz, in a famous remark) that its major problem is the US. W/o the US and a hustling, high-pressured way of life that creates a huge need for drugs, there wd be no narcotraficantes. W/o the American weapon supply-shops north of the border, the resulting violence wd be much less. And yr rt: problems and all, Mexico is not an inherently violent country; we are, and our history makes that quite clear.

mb

9:28 AM  
Blogger S. P. Hunter said...

Edward,

You are 100% correct. In Latin American culture, not just Mexican, violence is not glamorized like it is in the U.S., and the vast majority of Mexicans, Central and South Americans don't even consider it as a solution to problems the way Americans do.
And yes, the U.S. definitely has it's grimy hands in the chaos taking place in Mexico. Operation Fast & Furious proved that, as well as the accusation several years ago that the Iranians had hired Mexican cartels to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, DC. This rumor was so outlandish that even some of the biggest American dolts didn't buy it, and it thus faded away, but it shows that America is giving Mexico the same treatment it has given so many other nations in the region: instability, chaos,and despair.
As for the crime stats being discussed by Zosima, the U.S. media has always portrayed foreign countries, especially those of Latin America, as dangerous places. I've seen the Dominican Republic listed as one of the 10 most dangerous places in the world, with the other nine being Chechnya, Somalia, Iraq, etc. It's complete utter B.S., all to keep American dolts afraid of finding out how well other people really live compared to them. I have lived in the DR for 6 years now and not once have I had a close call in all my travels all over the island, even on numerous visits to Haiti (another country billed as extremely dangerous).
I have had numerous run ins with obnoxious gringos, though, which is why I avoid tourist areas.

10:07 AM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

Dr. B

Thank you for trying to accommodate me. I really appreciate it. For the most part, I do agree with what you say but you're looking at the macro or the big picture of it all. It doesn't account for small fluctuations in the system. Something that may seem insignificant to you may lead to major change.

For all we know, five years from now you may get to actually speak in the Parthenon and they give you free Pastrami Sandwiches on Rye Bread.

There was a time that Socrates words were forgotten during the Dark Ages but his words were rediscovered. Two thousand years from now your words may be discovered and you could be considered as great as Socrates.

More than likely, and it is unfortunate, no one will remember who you are and you're right.

I do have a thought experiment to ask you and others. If you were able to use a time machine and go back in time what time period would you go back to and change to make sure doltism did not come about? Would you actually attempt to change history?

I have another thought experiment. Let's say you were put into a cryonics chamber for about 2 - 3 thousand years. Let's say you were revived into a civilization that was more technologically and morally advanced than America. They discovered your cryonics pod in one of the ruined cities of America. They had missing information and did not understand certain aspects about American culture. They had certain theories which were wrong and they started asking you questions? They kept trying to examine the ancient archeological records to try to understand rationally what the civilization of America or what they called USA(ooo sah) was all about. To them it was so nonsensical. What would you tell them Dr. B?

10:41 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

cube-

Glad yr still w/us and esp. grateful for ref to pastrami, tho I doubt they serve it at the Parthenon. As for time machine etc., I don' have time to have that discussion, but I did write a novel on the subject that may interest you: "Destiny." Get 2, one for kitchen, one for bathrm.

Hunter-

Actually, I am rather grateful to the US media for constantly cranking out scare stories and "data" re: Mexico, because it works: the gringos read this dog-poop and stay home as a result. One thing Mexico definitely doesn't need is more gringos, esp. of the type that seem to make their way down here.

bartleby-

Yes, Yev, not Yasif, right: the Soup Nazi. Supposedly the actor who played him on Seinfeld looks a lot like him. But surely his real name was not Yev Kassem? And those 2 gay guys who stole the armoire--what a hoot!

mb

11:27 AM  
Anonymous Bruce Bennett said...

"Trolfoons" is a good one. They also regularly visit such other sites as Salon with their rank stupidity and prejudice. Good for a very limited amount of entertainment value but depressing to think that so many other Murkans agree with them.
Speaking of entertainment - the country is getting ready for the next big spectacle, what I like to call the "Stupor Bowl". It is a huge thing for USAns. Ad rates are in the millions per minute and I expect that this year there will be another half-time tribute to our "heroes" in the military. Speaking of that, Morris, I read recently that Southwest Airlines has a policy of deplaning in which they let any military personnel off first. But that isn't good enough for Southwest. They also have a flight attendant remind the other passengers that these military folks are helping to preserve our freedoms. Uh huh.

12:33 PM  
Blogger Publius said...

Minus fifteen F here, without windchill!

@tearinrain: yes, I am in the state capital. Sounds like you are around here somewhere? That makes three regular WAFers from the "least miserable state." Thanks. Yes, I need more peace and quiet, more contemplation, more staring at the sky. When I was going through more turmoil in my late 20's/early 30's, I'd routinely head up to the North Shore, and just camp for weeks on end. It was very therapeutic, and potentially life-saving. Now I work for the man, and it's a lot harder to get away. More debt. More obligations. I intend to light out for the territories somehow, whether that means emigration, or living "off the grade" (partly), I don't know.

The nicest man I often see walking through downtown after getting off the express bus is the street preacher. He looks people in the eye, unlike the zombie hordes.

Religion certainly won't "save" the world, whatever that means, but religion and/or spirituality are not the main force destroying it, despite what the New Atheists claim. Ayn Rand was a devout atheist, and turned man into his own god, and capitalism as the church. Think Thomas Merton for an example of the spiritual path.

Anyway, the religion debate gets a bit old, just like the man vs. woman thing got old. There is literally no connection between religion and American's collapse. Anything that was good in other cultures, or its own culture, is converted by Americans into something either banal or destructive. Did anyone see the cover of Time magazine recently, on Mindfulness? Everything is turned into kitsch and trivia. So now Mindfulness training can allow you to be the hyper-consumer you love to be, without the damaging effects of overstimulating and alienation. Good lord.

12:41 PM  
Anonymous Capo REgime said...

Shep, I don't know who this John Pilger is. Having lived there I can safely say that Australians are not just like americans. Beyond personal anecdote, there are reams of data that show they are quite different in many key ways but like people anywhere similar. The ealier post by a fellow living outside of Melbourne is on target and consistent with the data. Besides the films of this Pilger fellow did you draw this trip from a stay in Oz or interactions with australians--usually quite pleasant and bright people. Very low crime rate, no gun culture, first rate food, solid health care, and a very well designed social welfare system. And based on income distribution and the background of elites--it is pretty damn egalitarian.

I do understand the tendency of people to draw up imaginary utopias (and maybe this Pilger like many progressives has this tendency). But in the current physical realm (outside of fantasy or wishes) there are very very few places on the surface of the earth that are better to live in (warts and all) than Australia. Maybe Switzerland? Consistently, Australia tops the charts of actual data for quality of life. Its a fact, I am not an aussie booster just deal in facts--I am a Mexican and will die there but all told, television and movies probably not the best way to understand the world.

Data: Zos in addition to MB's astute comments, data aggregated at a national level is pretty useless. think Italy, the south poor and the north has historically been richer than the richest parts of the U.S. Monterry Mexico if taken alone is wealthier than any city in Russia or Eastern europe and even Buenos Aires. City data much more useful--and even that has limits.

1:04 PM  
Blogger Yossi said...

MB

My intention was not to suggest hypocrisy but to highlight the fact that a lot of people propose ideas passionately even zealously and to call this militant is troubling. Seems that we disagree - fair enough.
The campaign to which you refer was not on the tube but on a number of London buses and Dawkins didn’t organise it. It was created by comedy writer Ariane Sherine with support from the British Humanist Society. The campaign's original goal was to raise £5,500 to run 30 buses across London for four weeks early in 2009 with the slogan: "There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life". Not a particularly militant phrase. The campaign raised a total of £153,000 and Dawkins contributed £11,000. Maybe this is a lot of money to some people but it did not involve a lot of dedication or fervour on his part.
I’m not sure how Dawkins comes across in the US. Here in the UK he always appears reasonable to me: polite, respectful, often amusing, but very sharp in his reasoning and questioning. However most of the folks in the US seem to be religious and most of us here are atheists. I suspect that he doesn’t provoke the same antagonism here as demonstrated by one poster on here who uses language such as: ‘crucifying heretics verbally’, ‘mean spirited bigots’, ‘tecno-anarchists’, ‘narcissists’, ‘unbalanced personalities’. I’d be interested to be shown a reference to him claiming to know the ultimate spiritual makeup of the universe, as claimed by the same poster. Such ad hominem attacks and spurious references deflect attention from the debate.
I wonder whether Carl Sagan was considered militant and whether his scientific writings supported a campaign against religion? I don’t think they were and I don’t think I’m kidding myself.
I agree with the Gandhi quote ‘nothing you do has any importance, but you should do it anyway’ and also your assessment that everything is ultimately trivial. I think that ‘doing it anyway’ includes debating honestly and reasonably without ad hom stuff or hyperbolic language.

CapoRegime
Reference John Pilger, you couldn't be further adrift. Utopia was a detention centre set up by the govt to incarcerate aboriginals. If you know nothing of the real history of Australia and the treatment of its original inhabitants and you are curious and care about how the weak are treated by power go to his web-site, read his books, watch his films.

2:53 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Yossi-

I'm sorry, you haven't convinced me; Dawkins et al. go at the atheism thing in a way that is clearly zealous, beyond just having strong views, as far as I can see--a religion, for them. That contribution of 11,000 quid says a lot, to my mind; something like that isn't casual. (Sagan was in a very different category, it seems to me.) However, I think we shd just let it ride, and agree to disagree; we are just going in circles at this point. But I don't think I'm being dishonest, or smearing Dawkins, or being hyperbolic. There's just a fundamentalist rigidity to that crowd that I personally find suspect. But again, this is a no-win argument. You admire those folks; I don't. End of story.

mb

3:53 PM  
Blogger S. P. Hunter said...

MB,

I couldn't agree more about the horror stories put out by the U.S. media, I'm very grateful to them also, and I hope they never stop.
In fact, there has been several occasions where I have run into gringos who dared to venture away from the tourist resort they were staying at in order to explore a little bit.
When they see me and ask if the area they're in is safe, I tell them "No, not at all unless you know someone around here." They'll get this worried look on their faces and scurry off to find the closest taxi to take them back to the tourist resort where they'll pay $6.00 for a bottle of beer that would only cost .50¢ anywhere else in the country.

5:47 PM  
Anonymous Noah said...

It should also be noted that the militant atheist agenda dovetails with that of the Christian Right. Both groups are extremely bigoted towards Muslims; Sam Harris, at the end of his book The End Of Faith, strongly advocates for a preemptive nuclear strike against the Middle East. In plain English, this means obliterating most of the world's 1.2 billion Muslims in a nuclear Holocaust, including those that have never taken up arms against the West (which is just about all of them). And he is absolutely representative of the attitude of most militant atheists toward the Middle East.

If such a view isn't fanatical and fundamentalist, I don't know what is. In addition, this sort of view is completely disconnected from reality; it has literally nothing to do with historical fact, the present reality, or any future scenario that has the slightest chance of coming to pass. Promoting the murder of literally billions of people because they adhere to a faith that you personally dislike is, well, taking fanaticism and fundamentalism as far as is humanly possible. This sort of propagandizing is nothing but the twisted work of a sociopath; it is no different than what people like Hitler and Stalin attempted to do (with a considerable degree of success), and it frightens me that self-proclaimed "rational" and "reasonable" people would see the brutal murder of 1.2 billion people as a form of progress.

Another curious thing about the militant atheists is that they are astonishingly unconcerned with the ongoing destruction of the biosphere. Instead, they are deluded enough to believe that technology will somehow solve all the problems that are creating this crisis, even though the world is overpopulated by a factor of about 7, and simply cannot sustain a human population anywhere near today's scale. Seriously, do they believe they're going to genetically engineer humans so that they no longer need food, water, clothing or shelter? Once again, the militant atheists are living in a world of pure fantasy; they are completely disconnected from reality, despite their scientific, rational pretensions.

6:30 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Noah-

As someone once quipped abt Descartes (it may have been me, in fact; I can't remember), "Though this be method, yet there is madness in it"--with apologies to Shakespeare (Hamlet). There are two types of madness: a totally irrational world, and a totally rational one.

Hunter-

Ya done good, myte. But do me a favor: post only once every 24 hrs (informal rule we have); I'm actually trying to have a life here. Thanks.

mb

6:43 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Frederick Froth, Capo --

I shouldn’t have made that ‘how to win friends Australia is like Texas’ remark without knowing what I was talking about, but then I wouldn’t have heard from you. Thanks for your comments. I still think I need spend the rest of my days in detox from Anglo-Saxon culture. I just hope that capitalist globalization is dropped into a jar of formaldehyde before Mexico catches up with the US.

Capo –

When I studied linguistics I was told that there were three parts or stages to language. First is phonics and phonetics, where sounds form words. Second is semantics where words have meaning. And third is syntax where words are arranged into phrases and sentences. Well, over the years, as a language teacher and learner, I realized that there is a supremely important fourth level, and that is context. Language out of context is always hard to understand and is often completely unintelligible.

I’ve since realized that one of the principal flaws of modern thought is the tendency to look at almost everything out of context. And Americans are often the worst offenders. That’s what Joe Bageant’s “American Hologram is all about – you could almost call Americans ‘the people with only one context, their own. Probably the last people on Earth capable of seeing themselves as others see them!

That’s why your comment, “data without context is useless” really rang a bell with me.

David Rosen

12:58 AM  
Blogger Zosima said...

Dr. B, Capo, Edward, others -

Thanks for your comments. I think what's going on here is that I just have a different level of concern on certain Wafer topics. I would define myself as a non-alarmist Wafer. I just don’t see the evidence that catastrophic events await every Wafer in America. This is because I know a few facts that give me some perspective and context in the areas of crime and gov surveillance. On crime, one fact is that crime/murder rates in the US have been going down for 20 years and are now half of what they were in the mid 90’s. Another vital factor is that crime always was, and is now, concentrated among certain minority populations, esp blacks (I am white).

On surveillance - whenever the NSA revelations are brought up, the fact that the FBI had a file the size of a phone book on John Lennon always comes to my mind. In other words, we’ve always known since at least the 1970’s that the US gov can and does spy on us with impunity. And now Snowden had revealed that it doesn’t even matter where you are or who you are (Angela Merkel). So whaddya gonna do? Just say hello, I guess. Hi, NSA!

On the most other areas of Wafer concerns (empire,etc.), I share them. Though for me the two areas where America is most different from the rest of the Western world are its large number of religiously insane fundamentalist Christians, and the equally large contingent of those committed to the most extreme form of capitalism. Those are the two factors that most make America a place I want to leave. There are a number of other esthetic and cultural factors that also make it worse than most places - more on those later, as I’m up against the limit. So au revoir...cheers! And have a happy sandwich.

3:38 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Zos-

Well, once again, I cd start refuting yr evidence--this time on crime stats and surveillance-- but I think I'll sit this one out and let other Wafers take it up, if anyone cares to.

mb

3:52 AM  
Anonymous Golf Pro said...

re: Dawkins, there's a writer over here named A.A. Gill who has placed a wager that The Dork will convert to some form of fundamentalist Christianity before he dies.

As with Hitchens going from extreme Trotskyist to extreme Neo-con, he will simply keeping the form while changing the content.

5:16 AM  
Anonymous bartleby the Scribbler said...

mb, the Soup Nazi was in reality the Soup Man and named Al Yegenah. Al was taller and more imposing than the actor who played him and had no mustache but there was something of a resemblance other than that. He didn't serve soup in his own little restaurant with all that staff. He had a tiny hole in the wall not much wider than the soup containers that he served from. People stood on the sidewalk and ordered.

After the episode came out he naturally became a famous TV star and the lines would often queue up to the end of the block, like lines outside the Letterman show. On top of that there was a sign next to his place with KRAMER TOURS. I'm not sure if you're aware, but the real life Kramer set up a bus tour where he'd shuffle people around to various sites that were in the show.

Al franchised his product but the soups are lousy compared to the original. A Soup Man franchise I went to in Denver where they copied his recipes was lousy as well and has since closed.

Hustling America. What can you say? LD is a genius at capturing it.

8:24 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

As Piano Red used to say when he signed off of radio in Atlanta, "I hate to left u but I gotta went."

WOW.

There are plenty of *soft* trolls on Dark Ages America now. Soft because they fashion their comments with sugar for the moderator and then softly drive home their point with a simple, short sentence.

It is correct. Context is everything. I suspect the Ireland meeting will be a real eye opener.

In parting, these are my final crumpet comments. Sorry, Dr. B., I enjoyed it for a long time, or maybe I was just addicted and could not see the forest for the trees.

__________

Leonard Cohen:

“I have also studied deeply in the philosophies and religions but cheerfulness kept breaking through...”, during a concert.

“You don't know me from the wind
you never will, you never did
I'm the little jew
who wrote the Bible..."

“There'll be the breaking of the ancient
western code
Your private life will suddenly explode
There'll be phantoms
There'll be fires on the road
and the white man dancing.”

And finally, Ignorance comes in many forms so having degrees very often means nothing.

I’m surprised that anyone on this blog has not heard of John Pilger.

I await your book on Japan.

8:42 AM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

David

I can relate to what you are saying from experience simply because I have pragmatic deficits myself and I struggle because of it. The fourth component of what you're describing is called pragmatics. I have come to the conclusion that people in America have pragmatic issues themselves and one sign of this everyone having their own meanings to their own words. I learned this from a relative as mine as he was complimenting me on how I ask for clarification on what people say. What most people do is pretend they understand what the other person is saying if they don't understand what the other person is talking. Until he mentioned this, I did not know most people did this.

As an example on my support group, a woman on the spectrum had a son who had major pragmatic issues. She was able to over come hers by majoring in acting and theatre and part of this is that it teaches one how to look for the subtext in various plays and stories. She had to write reports on what the subtext was. She has been trying to help her son to overcome his pragmatic deficits.

She noted that a lot of students had pragmatic issues themselves and they were considered discipline problems instead of communication problems. This was a lot of the student body. One example was every student pledged to not bully and if they were bullying to stop bullying. Bullying did not end and here is why. Every student pledged to stop bulling and not bully based upon their own definition and own interpretation of bullying. To them, certain things that administration considered bullying the students did not.

She tried to explain this pragmatic problem that was happening across the board to administrators but they wouldn't listen to her. She wanted pragmatics training across the board. A lot of students are being railroaded through the school system because of pragmatic issues and it in fumes her. The whole thing is pathetic because the first thing administrators and teachers do first is to assume it is a discipline problem when it may not be. I bet this is occurring in a lot of schools across the country.

It is true that data without context is useless as a person with contextual and pragmatic issues can testify.

8:55 AM  
Anonymous Holzwege said...

Dept of America's Love of Guns

For immediate release:

"Guns Send 20 Children to the Hospital Per Day in US: Report"

www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/01/27-7

9:38 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Exploding the myth we can change...
http://survivalacres.com/blog/exploding-myth-can-change/

A sobering summary of Why America Failed.

10:15 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Holz-

And when I tell people that the country is finished--they laugh!

shep-

Rethink! We need you! It may be *now* that you can't see the forest, amigo. ps: It's not a crime to have not heard of John Pilger.

Golf-

Wdn't surprise me in the least. True Believers all, that crowd. You know, the New Yorker did a profile of Hitchens some yrs back, meant to be complimentary; but what it revealed was a guy who from a very early age had to be attacking someone or something to even feel alive. So when he ran out of legitimate targets (Henry Kissinger, e.g.), he began to attack his own camp, alienating everyone he had been close to. He was a great example of negative identity (Hegel), having nothing inside, and finally (I heard from people in DC, who knew him personally) became a very heavy drinker. So he wrote a bk attacking religion, but eventually wd probably have written a bk attacking atheism. All that mattered was the fervor of the attack, wh/is what kept him going. I guess in the end, Jack Daniels was the only thing he didn't attack. I look forward to Sam Harris' conversion to Islam. (Love and hate are actually the same thing; the true opposite of hatred is neutrality.)

bart-

Thanks for the info. I do like the name, Yev Kassem. As for Kramer: that whole thing was revealed on the episode in wh/Michael Richards was driving a bus around labeled "Peterman Reality Tours." Kenny Kramer was the American hustler par excellence, doing everything he cd to acquire fame and fortune by virtue of having been Larry David's roommate--as Larry predicted wd happen when they decided to use the name Kramer in the show instead of Kessler or something similar.

Al made a bundle as a result of that Soup Nazi episode, but was nevertheless angry at how he had been characterized, so demanded an apology from Jerry; who came out with a sarcastic, phony "I'm sooo sorry!" kinda thing. End of story; unless he opened a deli somewhere, I dunno.

mb

10:17 AM  
Blogger Publius said...

Two interesting quotes on Wittgenstein on religion (not really directly concerning the collapse of the USA, but he represents kind of the opposite of the prevailing mode of thinking here):

"Anyone who ridicules these matters is a charlatan or worse."
and even better:

Yes, those prayers read as if they had been soaked in centuries of worship. When I was a prisoner of war in Italy we were compelled to attend Mass on Sundays. I was very glad of that compulsion ... But remember that the Christian religion does not consist in saying a lot of prayers, in fact we are commanded just the opposite. If you and I are to live religious lives, it must not just be that we talk a lot about religion, but that in some way our lives are different.

That really nails it: in some way our lives are different.

In general, American fundamentalist Christians are different only in embodying the worst of American character: materialistic (strangely), nationalistic, violent...

However, I've met many strains of American faithful who embody resistance to mainstream values: the wonderful Mennonites in town who took in a homeless friend of mine for years (he's still there), and espouse a kind of communist-Christian, anti-war, anti-capitalist creed. The Quakers. The Amish. On and on.

In fact, some of the greatest struggles against war, hustling, and other inhuman products of American ideology have come from such spiritually motivated people. Chris Hedges himself is an example.

12:59 PM  
Anonymous PennaskRainbow said...

@Pauli

Here is a little something on those mass murders, I can't imagine something like this ever being run on American television it would hit too much of a nerve.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rs5OqrgVNEw

1:19 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Pub-

Or Catholic Liberation theology.

mb

1:34 PM  
Blogger Yossi said...

Noah.
I don’t hold any brief whatsoever for Sam Harris’s individual views in this respect but I think that you fall into the same trap that you accuse him of. You condemn a group, who you refer to as ‘militant atheists’ for the words of an individual. You say that he is absolutely representative of the attitude of most militant atheists toward the Middle East without knowing this to be the case. You condemn him for lumping all Muslims together, yet you lump all ‘militant atheists’ together. Do you have any references to other ‘militant atheists’ calling for the bombing of the middle east? I note from a previous post that you also lump together all Latin culture, and American-African culture - not a good idea. Are you not an individual yourself?

You use the term militant atheist - could you tell me who they are? Are you referring to all scientists? The terminology used on this thread is incredibly loose. Among those that I hear often talked of as belonging to this group are Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Lawrence Krauss, P Z Myers. Could you refer me to anything written by or said by these people that shows that they are unconcerned with the ongoing destruction of the biosphere and that they are deluded enough to believe that technology will somehow solve all the problems that are creating this crisis. More than that - you would need to show that there was an agenda for these people to hold these views as a group, namely as ‘militant atheists’ rather than as individuals. Unless you can I suggest that it is you who are living in a world of pure fantasy.
Do you seriously think that these scientists, who you malign without reason, are worthy of your approbation with regard to the destruction of our planet when the Koch brothers, BP, the shale frackers, Chris Christie, Karl Rove, Rand Paul, Penny Pritzker, and all their ilk are in their zillionaires mansions scheming more destruction?

2:33 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

I'm not an atheism-booster by any means, but I feel Sam Harris is getting a bum rap about allegedly hankering to nuke Islamabad or some such target. I've read the passage in question, which is in his book "The End of Atheism," a couple or three times pretty carefully, and nowhere does he advocate doing such a thing. Instead he worries that on account of the dangerousness of Islam things could get out of hand to the point where it *might* be necessary for the west to defend itself by doing something like that, and isn't Islam awful for possibly making us do it. Whatever one may think of that view, it is *not* the same thing as passionately advocating a nuclear attack. Even Chris Hedges, great as he is and much as I admire him, has grossly misrepresented Harris on that score. I feel it's important not to distort what someone has said in order to attribute to them malign motives one wishes to associate with their worldview.

In all other respects I'm inclined to agree with the criticisms made here of the "new atheist" crowd. They tend to be rigid and dogmatic and intolerant. Also, it is true that they show little or no concern for the environment. They're true believers in the predominant religion of the scientific Industrial Age, which involves worship of the great god Progress. In that religion, Progress assumes the salvific role of Jesus, and hence will save us from the consequences of our own fecklessly imprudent actions. Thus no need to worry about overpopulation or the environment - human ingenuity, geoengineering, and an assortment of techno-fixes will solve the problem handily. I fancy that this unwarranted faith in Progress will be a major contributor to the downfall of industrial humanity, with the United States as the leading edge of an exciting, innovative wave of general ruin.

A writer who I feel represents a more constructive mental attitude toward reality, whatever that may prove to be, is Robert Anton Wilson. He consistently advises one not to take one's own BS (belief system) too seriously. That is my idea of healthy skepticism. According to devout atheist materialists, skepticism is the reflexive rejection of any claim that seems as though it might be dubious according to the known physical laws. According to RAW, evidently it means leaving your mind open to doubt, and also to even the wildest possibilities, simultaneously. His universe is a much more fun universe, to my way of thinking.

2:35 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and all intimates in the Worldwide Wafer Spectrum,

Well, Wafers are we ready for some more bullshit? Word has it that president Obama is gonna *say* something about extreme income inequality in his SOTU tonight. Whee!!! Maybe he'll raise the minimum wage to $32.00 per hour. We're gonna be rich, Rich, RICH! Be sure to whip up some pastrami and cole slaw with a smidge of Russian dressing for the festivities.

You know, O's approval ratings are nearly identical to those of George W. Bush at the same point in his presidency. Who could've dreamed that this would be the case. I wonder if he'll mention anything about the Colorado High School student who decided to set himself on fire in the cafeteria yesterday. He survived his suicide attempt with burns covering a large portion of his body. Poor guy...

Just once, I would like to hear Obama say: "I can't fix it, no one can. It's recommended that all sane Americans emigrate to save yourself. For those that wanna stick around, get yourself a good psychotherapist, because the United States of America is actually a tragedy... and it's gonna get a whole lot worse." Well, who knows, stranger things have happened.

Not only did Hitchens drink a lot of booze, he smoked like a chimney, as well. This guy was clearly in pain, depressed, and covering up a whole lot of issues and demons. Jesus, he would even take his whiskey with him out on stage while giving a talk somewhere or appearing on the Bill Maher show. And no, I'm not making this up!

shep-

Don't go! I appreciate your perspective. Plus there's always some good music and pickin' that you contribute. Speaking of which, check these guys out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZT3ZInKueo4

Toodles,

Jeff

3:50 PM  
Anonymous Michael in Oceania said...

Well! Since I am the one who started this firestorm of debate, with my piece on Carlin, I think it is incumbent upon me to make a bit of a peace offering re: atheism, belief, maturity, etc.

I was raised in Texas, in a religiously indifferent household, but surrounded by Southern Baptists and other hard-core sectarians of that kind. My youthful impression of Christianity was quite negative as a result. Thus, I went through a (brief) atheist rebellion when I entered university. By the time I graduated, I was just as disillusioned by materialist ideology as I had been by the fundamentalisms around which I had grown up. To make a long story short, I searched out all kinds of traditions, in Augustinian fashion, until I found Eastern Orthodox Christianity, into which I was baptized at the age of 45. So, I have been through much of what the posters here have talked about.

A Russian-American blogger has posted a really good discussion on this topic here:

http://vineyardsaker.blogspot.com/2013/12/replies-to-comments-posted-under-russia.html

I agree with his statement that: "I consider that being an agnostic or an atheist is the normal and healthy reaction to exposure to false religions." For more detail, please read the post (which is quite good, in my view).

I will add two quotes which are relevant to this issue:

Blaise Pascal: "Atheism shows strength of mind, but only to a certain degree."
Francis Bacon: "It is true, that a little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion."

Why do I agree with Bacon's statement? It is because, when you begin to study philosophy, you learn the power of human reason, and it is exciting at first (especially when you are young!). However, when you dig in deeper, and study problems in epistemology (e.g., Berkeley, Hume, et al.), and especially when you study experimental psychology, you run into the limitations of human reason, and you discover, as Shakespeare's Hamlet said, that "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio/ Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

As I see it, "depth in philosophy" can lead to one of three places:
(a) A return to the religion in which you are raised, with a deeper and more nuanced understanding of its teachings;
(b) Migration to another religious tradition entirely (as in my case), or
(c) A respect for the spiritual dimension of life, even if one has not found a tradition one can embrace. That is my understanding of MB's position.

I can quite confidently state that "depth in philosophy" will not lead to the kind of "atheist fundamentalism" you see from people like Dawkins, et al.

My beef with Carlin is that I think he was smart enough to have the sort of nuanced understanding that MB shows, but he chose not to "go there." Why? - I don't know. In any case, I agree (again) with the above quoted blogger that: "As long as you always follow your conscience and seek The Truth will all your heart, mind and will, you are living a righteous life."

And with that, I hope we can draw a line under this discussion. I hope that I cleared up my own position, at least.

4:16 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Michael-

Thanks, but kinda long. Pls keep to 1/2 page max in future.

Jeff-

I was told Ovomit is going to say, "I tell u honestly, I'm completely full of shit. I don't stand for anything at all, really, and I'm amazed that you folks haven't figured that out by now."

Kev-

Also a bit long, and pls post only once every 24 hrs. Re: Hedges and Harris, I did read, some time ago, Harris' defense of his position in a riposte to Hedges, and it had the feeling (to me) of splitting hairs, so as to claim he was not saying what he was saying. In short, he did come across as an Islam-hater; that was the feel of what he had to say. But this was a couple of yrs ago, and I don't have the reference 4u.

Finally, u guys can keep going on this topic if u want, but I have a feeling we've drained the 'militant atheist' argument to the dregs, and are not going to get any more vino out of it at this pt. I suggest we get back to
Guess What? Yes! Collapse of American Empire.

mb

4:57 PM  
Blogger Jack Lattemann said...

More evidence of the institutionalization of the corporate security state: a work colleague of my spouse sent this link:
http://calendar.northeastern.edu/event/homeland_security_launch?utm_campaign=widget&utm_medium=widget&utm_source=Northeastern+University#.Uugtr8vTmUk

Northeastern University-Seattle is another one of those private education entities springing up. It traces its roots to its 1898 founding as the evening school of the YMCA in Boston MA, and now with global branches describes itself as "a top-tier global; research university". Now it's kicking off a master's program in Homeland Security, featuring academics such as Dr Themis Papageorge, who gave a talk this summer on "Information Assurance and Cyber Security, The Security Risk Management Challenge." I am not making up this name - do students call him Papa Doc?

5:33 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Papa John, more likely.--mb

5:39 PM  
Anonymous Noah said...

Yossi,

Want proof that American atheists don't acknowledge the reality of peak oil and climate change? Look no further than Discover Magazine and Scientific American - two publications that are widely read by American atheists. Both of them have had recent articles claiming that the world will never run out of oil, and that future technologies will somehow reverse global warming, and literally solve all of mankind's ills. Christopher Hitchens did occasionally come up with a little bit of print acknowledging the reality of global warming, but he was mostly silent on the matter. Sam Harris has been basically completely silent on this matter; his focus has been on stirring up hatred against Arabs. It's true that Richard Dawkins acknowledges and speaks out about the reality of global warming, but he's British, not American.

When I mentioned white American culture and black American culture, etc., I was merely speaking in general terms, *and you already knew this*. Obviously, I don't believe every single white American is a thug at heart, etc. You've accused me of being bigoted and fundamentalist by deliberately misinterpreting what I was saying, for reasons that have to do with your own personal ideology (atheism), not mine. An apology from you would be in order.

Other Wafers,

As far as the ongoing collapse of America is concerned, if you really want to see where America is headed, listen to current American pop music. It is lifeless, mindless, and just plain terrible. It says nothing, and exists only to make money. You can literally feel the insincerity and stupidity of it - try listening to Soulja Boy, I DARE you. You will feel yourself dying as you listen to it.

7:20 PM  
Blogger nosferat_saolin said...

On the question of Trotskyism being an ego trip, I disagree. As a Atheist and a Trotskyist, I see political militancy as a source of personal satisfaction. Any Atheist confronts the fact that life has no intrinsic "meaning" or purpose. The question that then arises is "why don't I just shoot myself?" If I did not feel that I was contributing to something greater and more important than myself, I would feel no satisfaction and no purpose. It really is that simple. There is no ego involved.

7:29 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Nosferat-

Fine, but Eric Hoffer wasn't talking abt individual ego; he was talking abt what u.r. talking abt: psychological survival by means of a cause. The Neocons went from Trotskyism to Neoconservatism because content really made no difference; what was crucial was to have a cause, because it endowed their lives w/Meaning w/a capital M--as in your case (cf. yr references to 'more important', 'purpose', etc.--the language gives it away). The question is whether you cd enjoy yr life, find it worthwhile, *w/o* a cause. That's the true challenge for a human being (check out ch. 1 of CTOS); I mean, anybody can fasten on to a cause--that's no great accomplishment. Hell, people do it every day. It's what religion is abt, including the secular religions such as atheism and Trotskyism and consumerism and scientism and 'progressivism' and etc. etc. But the truth is that a cause is pseudo-psychological stability. It's really just a larger ego, in wh/the adherent participates; and in the psych lit is called 'secondary narcissism' (read Heinz Kohut for full elaboration). Truth is, it isn't 'that simple', as you claim; and in Kohut's sense, there's tons of ego involved. However, I sympathize that it won't be easy 4u to see thru yr own narrative (a stance known as 'reflexivity'; more on this in SSIG), for at that pt--the jig is up. And don't kid yrself: every 'ism' is a jig, amigo; to live via an ism is to live in the dark (check out Plato, Republic, Bk VII). This doesn't, BTW, mean we shdn't have things we care abt or are committed to; I personally am committed to deli meats and to waking the American people up (Jesus, talk abt chronicles of wasted time, eh?). The question, once again, is how tightly those things or commitments are held. (Which is why we have sensitive atheists and fundamentalist ones, or easygoing Christians and lunatics.) Someone once wrote me--and I'm sure it's not true, but the possibility was intriguing--that the most quoted line on the Net was from CTOS: "An idea is something you have; an ideology is something that has you." (On that note, you might also not-enjoy an essay of mine called "The Hula Hoop Theory of History," in QOV.) Good luck!

Yossi-

I agree w/Noah that u owe him an apology. Yr coming a bit too close to ad hominem attacks here--1st against me, then Noah--and as I tried to explain 2u b4, we don't do that here. I said 2u, "I trust you won't make that mistake again." I don't care if the target is myself or another Wafer, it's a no-no. You *do* have a fair amt of trouble taking info in, as the discussion of 'militant atheism' very clearly demonstrated; and I had to give up on that discussion, for that reason (I suspect other Wafers felt the same, tho I can't speak for them). However, that's *your* karma; I can't be bothered w/it. But this personal attack bit makes me uncomfortable. You can't keep doing it and stay on this blog. I do hope you can take this in, at least. Thank you.

mb

8:33 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps:

shep:

As Burt Lancaster said in 1952,
"Come Back, Little Shepa!"

mb

8:52 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Hackenbush said...

Crime Stats: Some researchers are claiming that crime stats correlate very well with the introduction and removal of leaded gasoline, i.e., crime spikes and then drops in tandem (albeit with a 20 year lag time for the victims to grow up and display their lead-induced thuggery.) Supposedly these stats are very robust from country to country, even neighborhood to neighborhood, and correlate with when and to what degree lead was increased or decreased. I don't have any links, but I'm sure there are plenty of articles if you do a DuckDuckGo search.

Pop music: I don't care for much of it either, but I am quite taken with one big pop star currently on the charts. The song "Royals" by Lorde seems really exceptional to me (but what do I know, I've never had much musical ability.) Anyway I love its melancholy vibe and intriguing lyrics, and I have to credit the slovenly public for embracing it!

9:07 PM  
OpenID atearinrain said...

Whoa, two other Wafers in the Twin Cities, totally rad. I don't think I'd be making myself too much of a target for the trolls and buffoons (I think 'poopyheads' would be a great name for them) by telling you my facebook name is Kywul Shiz. You two (JWO and Publius) should send me a friend request if you have fb accounts. It'd be great to connect with more people that don't have balloons for heads.

Noah, Dr. Hackenbush:
I made the same argument a couple weeks ago that a good example of our society's rapid decline is the sorry state of pop music. And not just Top 40, but just about anything new on the radio. 'Royals' also completely took me by surprise. The 80s cranked out decent pop tunes like this every other day. Sure, a lot of pop music has always been pure bubblegum, but what's somehow being enjoyed by young people today is terrifyingly terrible. My own theory on why this is so is because we live in the Age of Indie. Sure, record companies are full of greedy, corrupting bastards. But when musicians let the more business-minded handle the promotion and distribution side of music, artists have more freedom to keep their heads in the clouds. Drink a lot, fight a lot, drop a lot of acid. Stay up all night listening, writing, jamming, reading, watching David Lynch movies, pass out in a park because you're lost in a city you've never been to before. That separation kept the art relatively free of the bullshit, imo. Which was a necessary environmental condition for what gave us the late 80s and early 90s musical efflorescence: Soundgarden, The Pixies, Pantera, Janes Addiction, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Bjork, Portishead, Meat Beat Manifesto, Boards of Canada, Tupac, Notorious BIG, Tori Amos, PJ Harvey, NIN, Primus, Blur, Marilyn Manson (pre-burnout), Beck, Nirvana, Massive Attack, Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins, Orbital, I think I'll cut myself off here. Now the only great new artists that come to mind are Arcade Fire and Crystal Castles. The indie environment has produced a scene in which the most business-minded artists succeed because they are good at promoting and distributing their own stuff, whereas nowadays I'm assuming the musical geniuses are ignored. This process parallels the rise in crap consumer products—the 'smart' companies invest their money into the image of their product, because image is what sells (especially in the superficial culture of today); don't waste your money making a quality product.

2:33 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Tear-

Kywul Shiz is a great name; I love it. Makes me think of Woseribre Senebkay. But if there are 3 identifiable Wafers in Twin Cities, you might wanna think of a mini-summit mtg. The 1st actual, non-virtual mtg of Wafers took place in NYC last Nov. at a restaurant in the West Village: Sir Tagio, Bowtiejack, Greg, Kevin, and a few others. So memorable was this event, so earth-shattering, that New Yorkers will be talking abt it for yrs to come. The next major Wafer Summit Conference (WSC) is planned for Ireland, 1-5 June 2015. But in the meantime, since that is 16 mos. away, Wafers might wanna organize some MiniConfs, as in Twin Cities. Scope out the deli situation, get together, have a Pastrami Pork-Out (PPO). Then report back to us, tell us how it went.

On other fronts:

-Shep! Reconsider! My mailbox is now flooded with messages all saying the same thing: WHERE IS SHEP? GIVE US SHEP! WE WANT THE SHEPSTER! etc.

-Tim Lukeman: r.u.o.k.? We haven't heard from u in a long while, are starting to get worried.

mb

4:07 AM  
Blogger Zosima said...

Jeff, I want to thank you for that song because it reminded me of this one from the same year, 1961. Lacks the high quality pickin' of your song, but oh those lyrics. As the guy said, a real tear jerker. Thanks again.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4bo4ByFhLM

5:07 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

Tear: Sorry friend, I don't own a computer (I'm at work right now ... shhhh) nor a facebook account, but feel free to email (letter o)ner000(number two) (at) umn (dot) edu ... if you can decipher that. Publius has my email and phone too if that is easier.

In all my barhopping I've actually met another 2 or 3 WAF-ers (meaning they have read DAA or Twilight or WAF) around the Twin Cities, but they haven't gotten to the blog yet. I guess this concentration of WAF-er-dom it is due to the nihilism bred of -20 degree mornings, nature right out your back door and the ability to get a good bowl of pho.

10:08 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

jwo-

I'm going to Vietnam in May. Is pho pronounced 'fer' or 'fa'? I wanna make sure I'll be able to order some.

mb

10:25 AM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

Zosima said:
On surveillance - whenever the NSA revelations are brought up, the fact that the FBI had a file the size of a phone book on John Lennon always comes to my mind. In other words, we’ve always known since at least the 1970’s that the US gov can and does spy on us with impunity. And now Snowden had revealed that it doesn’t even matter where you are or who you are (Angela Merkel). So whaddya gonna do? Just say hello, I guess. Hi, NSA!

MB said:
Well, once again, I cd start refuting yr evidence--this time on crime stats and surveillance-- but I think I'll sit this one out and let other Wafers take it up, if anyone cares to.

I wouldn't venture any serious analysis of crime stats unless I had detailed info from three different agencies along with specifics about their reporting protocols...but, MB, are you disputing the size of the FBI's dossier on Lennon ?
Or disputing that many of us didn't know of the NSA's STRETCH & HARVEST computers since the 1970's or earlier ?
If the disagreement is about something Zosima posted further upthread, please advise.
----------------------------------

MB,
A friend & former instructor adopted a couple of Vietnamese daughters a few decades ago.
Her pronunciation of "pho" comes out as "fuh"..."uh" as in "Uh, oh".
Don't know if that is a regional or national pronunciation.
-----------------------------------------

Kevin,
Yes, RAW's analysis was a treasure of how to think clearly about the necessarily obscure subjects he wrestled with.
Another key observation of his was that there are usually a dozen or more significant conspiracies afoot in the world at a given time and that over-focusing or obsessing on just one or two will limit your ability to notice how some of the less expansive ones interact/interfere with the conspiracies of larger scope.

11:42 AM  
Anonymous Holzwege said...

More for the Dept of America's Love of Guns

Could also be filed under Dept of It Gets Better and Better in America


"Two Proud Gun Nuts Second-Amendment Each Other To Death In Road Rage Incident" (article posted on September 19, 2013)


Two men are dead in Ionia, Michigan after a road rage incident escalated into a shootout Wednesday. Police say that James Pullum, 43, and Robert Taylor, 56 apparently argued after Taylor became enraged over something that occurred while driving though the details are not clear as to exactly what precipitated the incident.

For more, go to:

aattp.org/two-proud-gun-nuts-second-amendment-death-road-rage-incident/

11:44 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

MB: It is "fa" see:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgX2q9WPoqo

11:52 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Ty-

As I said, I'm gonna sit this one out. If you or anyone else is convinced by Zos' logic/evidence, that's OK w/me; but I just can't go another round here w/a pattern that is endlessly the same, regardless of the topic. I don't have the energy for it anymore. Sorry.

mb

11:57 AM  
Blogger Publius said...

@tearinrain: Hello! Unfortunately, I am not on Facebook. I left Facebook over a year ago, because I determined that it's really a way for humans to turn themselves into commodities. I feel freer now. I found out that 90% of my "friends" on Facebook couldn't be bothered to email me the old-fashioned way, let alone call or text. But... I will email you if you give me a way! You've already revealed your real name.

Did anyone listen to Obama? I heard he said something about lack of social mobility, and gave a shout out to a local Twin Cities restaurant owner, who pays his employees at least $10/hr. So move here, and work in the pizza industry, and you'll be fine.

Music: The only music I listen to that is current is obscure folk and country music that is local, or the orchestra, etc. I highly recommend my friend Jack Klatt, who won a Minnesota Arts Board grant a few years ago.

He's the real deal. A great troubadour, and song-writer in the folk/blues/gypsy-jazz tradition.

Question of the day for MB: to what extent will the power structure actively attempt to stamp out alternative ways of life and experiments by NMI's and others? It seems to me that Obamacare is largely about forcing participation. I suspect such coercive methods will become more prevalent. Another reason to emigrate, if at all possible.

3:09 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Yossi-

Sorry, I think the atheist discussion is over (thank god). Maybe find another topic--collapse of American Empire?--and don't attack anybody personally.
Thanks.

mb

3:13 PM  
Anonymous Noah said...

OK everyone,

Here's some more evidence of America's ongoing decline. As of 2012, American high school students read, on average, at a 5th grade reading level. Perhaps now, two years later, it has fallen to a 4th grade reading level.

These people will go on to college, where they will likely understand very little that their teachers will attempt to teach them. After that, they will go on to become America's next generation of professionals. I can't help but think they will be the most incompetent idiots that America has thus far produced. People who cannot read cannot think; so how will anyone expect these people to be able to perform well at their jobs?

I'm thinking that America's infrastructure, agriculture, and health care will fall apart largely due to stupidity instead of corruption or resource depletion (though the latter two factors certainly don't help).

MB,

Did the Roman Empire ever suffer from this sort of illiteracy and stupidity? I remember that in one of your books, you wrote that illiteracy was the norm near the end of the Roman Empire. It's hard for me to believe it was as bad as America's current problem, because at least the Romans weren't staring into the screens of cell phones all day.

6:11 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Unter den Linden-

It's nice to know someone still wants to discuss the topic of this blog, thank you.

I discuss the Roman situation in the Twilight bk, but there's no way to make a definitive comparison; atho there's no doubt that stupidity and ignorance were instrumental in the Roman collapse. Honestly, I don't think that there's been a dumber population in the history of the world than the one currently existing in the US. When I was writing that bk (late 90s), the stats were that 120 million Americans (then out of abt 300 million) read at a 5th-grade level. It's a gd bet that 20+ yrs later, the #, and even the %, is much higher. I haven't checked the data recently, but if the avg rdg level of the entire country were that of an 8-yr-old, I'd hardly be surprised. There was also some study a few yrs back that showed that a huge % of Americans cdn't read the instructions on a coke machine so as to be able to extract a can of soda pop. Given the fact that 'progressives' badly need to hang on to their (doomed) cause, you can see why this is the one factor they refuse to take into acc't in assessing America's future. Add in the factors of violence, douchebaggery, and all-over incompetence, and well...Lights out, kiddies!

mb

7:25 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Dr. B., I'm not the only Kevin posting to this forum. I'm pretty sure my prior post was preceded by more than 24 hours of radio silence on my part. Maybe one of us Kevins should adopt a different handle..?

Sorry about the length. That's a little hard to keep track of when you're typing with one finger on a two-by-three inch monitor. I'll try to keep it down in future.

You may well be right about Sam Harris - that he really does want to nuke Islamabad (or Mecca, or Medina) even if he didn't say so in as many words in his book. I'm not on a mission to rehabilitate him; it just seemed like fair play to point out that he didn't explicitly state that in the place where some have claimed he did. Anyway, I'd much rather read Chris Hedges any day - or RA Wilson.

I think our civilization's (such as it is) confrontation with Islam is connected with our imperial decline. I doubt we'd be having such an intense confrontation were it not for the USA's heavy military and political presence in the Middle East; and in turn we wouldn't have such a weighty presence there if it weren't for certain bad choices we made a few few decades ago - the same choices that have accelerated our downward trajectory to ruin. When American voters rejected Jimmy Carter's energy conservation policies by voting instead for Ronald Reagan back in 1980, we thereby also voted for long-term abject dependency on foreign oil. Hence our malinvestment in attempting to control the Middle East, chiefly for the sake of access to oil; and hence much annoyance with us by people in that predominantly Muslim part of the world. We've made our bed, and lying in it is like the Sleep of Reason that Produces Monsters, to reference Goya again.

8:33 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and Wafers,

Noah-

Just the other day, I had a student raise his hand in class and ask me what I meant by the term Greco-Roman. Keep in mind that this is a college level history course. I shoulda told him that this was Steely Dan's third album. But then, he woulda raised his other hand and asked me something about Steely Dan. There's just *no* end to it. At one point, MB said on this blog, that if we were to split open American skulls with an axe, we would literally find dog shit packed inside. I'm afraid that this is the case. Most evenings, when I arrive back home from school, I wanna beat my head against a wall until I pass out. I tell ya, love of pastrami and this blog remain my only saving grace...

Holzwege-

Great story! All the necessary ingredients are present: road rage, trigger crazed Americans, a shootout, and a couple of fatalities. Only trouble is, that before these two jokers finished each other off, they shouda took out a couple more motorists.

Zosima-

You are very welcome. Many thanks to you for the Don Gibson clip. That tune made me wanna go to the moon! Another good one by Gibson is "Oh Lonesome Me."

Goodnight Irene,

Jeff

ps: Please join me in lighting a candle for Pete Seeger tonight. He was one of the good ones...

9:09 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Kevin-

We seem to have a surfeit of Kevins here, apparently. You guys need to get together and pick from the following:

1. Kevin Chopped Liver
2. Kevin Pastrami
3. Kevin Corned Beef

etc.

I'm not sure oil has been the #1 factor in our foreign policy outlook, altho it's obviously impt. (In 2003 we were getting much more oil from Venezuela than from the Middle East.) I think the US believes it can only be safe when it controls the entire world (and even outer space, apparently; "full spectrum dominance"--the philosophy of the insecure). Since the Middle East is the world's flashpt, the goal, I believe, has been to control that part of the world (wh/is partly why Israel is so integral to our foreign policy). I mean, we didn't care abt the 'plight' of Kuwait in 1991; that was pure b.s. And then, we go after Iraq in 2003, when none of the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqi and Saddam and Osama hated each other. Why not bomb Ghana? Logically, it made as much sense. Imperialism, in short, isn't just abt $; it's a much larger, cultural phenomenon, involving notions of 'white man's burden', racial superiority, and the belief that the West has had that they were civilized and everyone else was savages, of one sort or another. Karmically, of course, the wheel is turning; the 21st C will not be a Western one...

mb

9:27 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Jeff-

18 mos. ago I was in VT, talking to a prof. at a party (not sure if he was from U of VT or not, can't remember), and he said: "When students arrive at the schl, they know nothing. And when I say 'nothing', I don't mean they know a little; I mean *nothing*."

"What do they talk abt?" I asked him.

"Video games," he said.

Yes, tell me all abt how the future of the nation lies w/our youth.

Meanwhile, here's a sign of real intelligence, and an example of what I have called "Dual Process":

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/29/world/europe/after-crisis-greeks-work-to-promote-social-economy.html?utm_content=bufferd4177&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer&_r=0

mb

9:50 PM  
Anonymous dawgzy said...

What's all this I hear about a "Superb Owl?" It sounds perfectly fine to me and I'm glad that so many millions of my country-critters will be watching this big event on Sunday. I think personally that it's going to be showing forth of an avatar of Pallas Athena. Imagine such a thing on TV!! There IS hope!
Drink the wine and chew the WAFer.
Emily Litella

1:44 AM  
Blogger Dan Henry said...

MB,

Have you watched the HBO series The Sopranos? I am rewatching it now, first watched it in college. I did not realize how deeply it critiques the American dream back then, but I am seeing it constantly now on the second go through.


Unrelated, on meritocracy:

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2001/jun/29/comment

2:23 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Emily-

I haven't heard anything abt a Superb Owl, but there are cafes in Tokyo where you can stroke an owl while drinking your cappuccino.

Dan-

I caught some of it when I was still lvg in the US. Say more abt your interpretation, as I didn't think of it in those terms then.

mb

3:41 AM  
Anonymous Edward said...

The land of the brave:

Jacob Williams Accused Of 2nd Fatal Drunk Driving Accident In New Mexico

A New Mexico motorist guilty of killing a motorcyclist in a 2006 drunk driving crash is accused of causing another fatal accident while driving under the influence.

In an apparently cruel coincidence, the Albuquerque Journal reported that the man Jacob Williams allegedly killed on Saturday was the brother of the judge who sentenced him for the first deadly wreck.

A witness twice called 911 about Williams; once for driving erratically in her neighborhood in Berlen, a town 30 miles south of Albuquerque and, hours later, for fighting with a neighbor.

Shortly after the second complaint, the 27-year-old suspect allegedly veered into oncoming traffic and crashed his pickup into a motorcycle carrying two people. The head-on collision killed 51-year-old Daniel Sanchez and caused serious leg injuries to his 11-year-old daughter Magan Sanchez.


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/29/jacob-williams-drunk-driving_n_4689376.html

4:42 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

WAF-ers: The latest literacy stats for Americans pretty much say the same thing as the 2003 survey, 1/3 of them read at or below a 5th grade level.

Just so everyone knows what that means, The Red Badge of Courage is a typical grade 5-6 level book. It does contain some esoteric language (bethought?) so I can forgive a little confusion. Here is a passage:

"As they climbed the hill on the farther side artillery began to boom. Here the youth forgot many things as he felt a sudden impulse of curiosity. He scrambled up the bank with a speed that could not be exceeded by a bloodthirsty man."

Maybe not the best example...

Anyway, some examples of a 12th grade reading level are The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Hugo and The Prince by Machiavelli. Here is a little Hunchback:

"Night comes on early in January. The streets were already dark when Gringoire issued forth from the Courts. This gloom pleased him; he was in haste to reach some obscure and deserted alley, in order there to meditate at his ease, and in order that the philosopher might place the first dressing upon the wound of the poet. Philosophy, moreover, was his sole refuge, for he did not know where he was to lodge for the night."

BTW: The Dec of Independence, Bill of Rights and Common Sense are all grade 12 reading level ...

8:49 AM  
Blogger GregJS said...

JWO - The only viable solution here is to do what we usually do: lower our standards. Let’s just declare 4th grade reading level to be 8th grade level now. If nothing else, this will better help to prepare our youth for the real world, where nothing is expected of them anymore. This would also be just one more way our lives creep ever closer to Idiocracy (which was my grand finale for my week of movie downloading - thanks for the suggestion; I’d seen bits of it closer to when it first came out, but in the few years since, it already seems less like a spoof of our way of life and more like a realistic portrait or documentary).

Dawgzy - This Sunday is what I consider to be a good downhill skiing day (sometimes the only day I go all winter) because the slopes clear off and the lift lines disappear by mid-afternoon as everyone heads off to gather their chips, wings, beer, etc. But now I’ll keep my eyes open for any appearances of the Great Goddess of Wisdom just in case you’ve uncovered the real spelling/meaning of our yearly pagan Rite of Winter.

11:34 AM  
Blogger Publius said...

Question of the day: Is it really fair (whatever that means) to say that Americans are "dumb," or stupid, or morons, etc. Now, I say the same thing quite a bit, but consider:
Most people are mainly products of their culture and environments. The average person is, well... average.

It is doubtful that the average American is genetically less intelligent than the average human. So it's cultural. Thus, Americans are really tragic. A genetically and physically well-endowed child might never reach his potential due to his environment.

In fact, it is almost impossible for Americans to understand how messed up their environment is. That's like asking a fish to imagine life on land. Most Americans have never traveled. I was simply lucky that I impetuously decided to study in France as an undegrad. It was not required. I just had to get out, suddenly. And it changed my life, and opened my eyes.

I'm a Burkean-type conservative in many ways, because I think that most humans need a church/tradition/guidance to fulfill their potential as human beings. Progressives/liberals think that the state or government should take this lead. I think that is very dangerous. Non-state institutions such as the church, local traditions, cultural memory, the guidance of elders, literature, myth, religious holidays and events, theater (think ancient Greek theater's role in the culture) all serve to provide grounding and guidance.

Unfortunately, in the USA, culture is dead, replaced by mass media, which is purely servile to money and government/corporate propaganda.
How can the individual struggle against the fact that we live in a society where consent is literally manufactured, all major events are filtered if not outright fabricated or engineered?
I really so no alternative to the collapse of the current system, because it is so awful, that even people who can't imagine an alternative are mired in misery, because it is so antithetical to what a human needs to thrive. However, the psychosis caused by collapse will be very destructive. Think mass schizoid behavior.

12:11 PM  
Anonymous Noah said...

JWO,

Indeed, the Red Badge of Courage isn't a very good example. A huge percentage of Americans couldn't read that passage; about 40%, I'm guessing. Artillery? Impulse? Scrambled? Bloodthirsty? These are words that are beyond the vocabulary of many Americans. Something from the "Jack and Jill" series might be a better example of the reading level of a typical American.

Something more appropriate for the reading level of a typical American might be something like this:

"Katie brushed her teeth. Then Katie took her backpack and went to school. After school was done, she came home. She saw her daddy and hugged him."

Why am I this pessimistic about this particular topic? Well, one reason is that McDonald's is the biggest contributor to Detroit's public libraries. This isn't out of some genuine philanthropic impulse; it's because most people that apply to work at McDonald's can't read well enough to do their jobs. You only have to read at a 1st grade level to be able to work at McDonald's. Granted, McDonald's employees are not the smartest people in the world, generally speaking, but nevertheless, what does this say about the reading level of a typical American? It's probably at about 3rd or 4th grade; in 20 years, I would guess that very few Americans will be able to read at all.

Another reason for my pessimism: the majority of immigrants from non-English-speaking countries that have been in America for at least five years speak better English than your typical American.

2:59 PM  
Anonymous Dave Young said...

Essay: Allergic to America

http://narrative.ly/american-dreamless/allergic-to-america/

3:33 PM  
Anonymous politically incorrect said...

"The Dec of Independence, Bill of Rights and Common Sense are all grade 12 reading level ..."

Trouble is most couldn't read (and may have aspired to then) when those documents were written and today most can barely read (and just don't care to) ... oh, how far we've come...

besides, why read when your fone or 'puter will do it for you... better yet just watch Faux News on Tee Vee...they always tell us what we need to know anyway...

One good thing television gave us... Seinfeld ...the episode when Newman's postal truck caught fire comes to mind...

"oh, the humanity...."

3:45 PM  
Anonymous turnover said...

Headline from the Detroit News: "Infant mortality rate rivals areas of Third World"

Sounds as though the Detroit News is seeing the reality.

5:11 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Pub-

Not only is it fair, it's abs. mandatory. It can't be said enuf. And while it's partly cultural, I think that by now, after 400 yrs, it's been sewn into our DNA. There is such a thing as neo-Lamarckian mimicry, so that if acquired characteristics aren't literally passed on, it sure looks as tho they are. The Weissmann barrier has become somewhat osmotic, in short: Americans are dummies down to their socks. Also consider work of scientists on brain plasticity since J.Z. Young's first work in 1948: exposure to enuf screens, for example, and the synaptic firings start to change. (Maryanne Wolf at Tufts has more recently done these types of studies as well.) Americans can't think their way out of a wet paper bag. Even as I write this, OB-GYN wards across the country are turning out neonatal dolts by the thousands. Go stand on a streetcorner, eavesdrop on teenagers. They can't do much more than drool.

Pol-

I also like the one where Kramer bought a pair of extremely tight jeans, cdn't get them off. Jerry is levering him up and down on the couch, trying to loosen them. Meanwhile, he's due to be at an audition for Mickey, who will be acting in a play called "Flesh Wounds in Ithaca."

mb

6:02 PM  
Anonymous Michael in Oceania said...

I just read the latest post on Greer's Archdruid Report:

http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2014/01/a-bargain-with-archdruid.html

This passage expresses very well my increasing misgivings about what people like Chris Hedges have been posting lately:

"Effective violence of any kind is a skill, a difficult and demanding one, and effective political violence against an established government is among the most difficult and demanding kinds. I’m sorry if this offends anybody’s sense of entitlement, but it’s not simply a matter of throwing a tantrum so loud that Daddy has to listen to you, you know. To force a government to do your bidding by means of violence, you have to be more competent at violence than the government is, and the notion that the middle-class intellectuals who do most of the talking .. can outdo the US government in the use of violence would be hilarious if the likely consequences of that delusion weren’t so ghastly. This is not a game for dabblers ... The radicals I knew in my younger days had a catchphrase that’s apposite here: “The only people that go around publicly advocating political violence are idiots and agents provocateurs. Which one are you?”

I know Hedges has some idea of doing what Gandhi or ML King did, but his expressed desire to "overthrow" the Corporatocracy smacks of "leading from behind" to me. In other words, put out a lot of high-flown rhetoric, and bask in the glory of it all, while the young and the naive try to act on this stuff, and end up getting killed or doing hard time in prison - for nothing!

I don't think Hedges is doing this deliberately - I believe he is a better man than that. I just wish he would think more deeply about the second- and third-order effects his rhetoric is likely to have.

6:03 PM  
Anonymous David Graeber said...

Both you and your amigo Chris Hedges were way off in your commentary on Occupy.

First off, Hedges wrote an ignorant rant about Black Bloc, based on his time in Yugoslavia and East Germany, NOT on Black Bloc itself. I suggest you read the open letter to Hedges from David Graeber in n+1.

Now, you've been criticizing Occupy, while also praising Adbusters as "NMIs" - the organization who started Occupy and coined the 99% phrase! For a better picture of Occupy, I suggest reading "The Democracy Project" which is completely against any of the hustling you're referring to.

You need to stop with all the anecdotal evidence, it's really hurting your very valid points. I think this is why people have been avoiding your books.

Here's what Occupy was really about (again, from "The Democracy Project"):

1) The nature of money and debt (global debt jubilee?);

2) The assumption that work is necessarily good. There is plenty of work being done we'd all probably be better off without, and workaholics are not necessarily better human beings. And this is true even if we don't take into account ecological concerns;

3) Submitting oneself to labor discipline - supervision, control, even the self-control of the ambitious self-employed - does not make one a better person. What actually is virtuous labor about? Labor is virtuous if it helps others. Technological development should be directed less toward creating ever more consumer products and ever more disciplined labor, and more toward eliminating those forms of labor entirely;

4) The amount of bureaucracy (mostly corporate, financial, and educational);

5) Communism. All societies are communistic at base, and capitalism is best viewed as a bad way of organizing communism.

Stop with calling everyone "buffoons" and "hustlers" and with all the anecdotal evidence. Maybe YOU need to learn what constitutes valid evidence. Your anecdotal evidence reminds me of the writing of Tom Friedman.

6:51 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Hackenbush said...

MB- I always mean to research those screen studies, but there's so much else to get to. I'm always wondering if they've found a direct physiological effect caused by the tech itself; or if they're saying that the habits of mind (skimming, etc.) gradually erode the deeper skills encouraged by books.

Sopranos: Haven't watched it, but I think the gangster genre represents the dark id of the American psyche, where it imagines "taking" the American Dream, not working for it; not putting up with all the BS any more. Repressed urges are unleashed and the hologram is seen thru to some degree, seen as a flimsy charade (not with much sophisticated analysis, but just in a direct visceral way. The pieties of everyday life are overthrown.) I think if you're trapped in a grind of school, or wage slavery, the gangster life (as seen in movies) is a great escapist fantasy. Sometimes with a harsh ending that brings the viewer back down to earth and reminds that it's risky to stray from the daily grind...

7:57 PM  
OpenID atearinrain said...

Thanks mb! I like nicknames. I'll make one for you. How about MC BOmbER? Because you're always dropping funny-bombs on this great nation, shattering Americans like it ain't no thang. I'm such a predictable American, using militaristic metaphors even when I'm mocking my own country.

Publius,
all I got for you is Pubes. Cool to hear you like (parts of) Burke. I consider myself a "conservative pluralist" as I am a huge fan of the late Robert Nisbet. I just like the idea of as much local autonomy as feasible, communities taking matters into their own hands (whereas I used to consider myself an anarchist, back when I thought that much social progress was possible). Luckily for my ego, I find this political philosophy to be just as legit in a sustainable society as it is in one facing impending collapse, for tight-knit communities will be islands in an ocean of chaos.

JWO,
you oughtta be ashamed of yourself. Using the internet for personal use while you're supposed to be working is theft. People like you and welfare mothers are why our economy is in such bad shape.

8:33 PM  
Blogger Dan Henry said...

MB,

Tony's therapy largely revolves around his existential strain. The biggest problems in his life don't come from his crime ties, its his immediate family that causes him the most trouble. Having this crime boss's life under the scope lets the viewers see how he goes farther than most are comfortable with, but its for the same success that they crave. His massive house, gas guzzler, multiple women are never enough. His wife has some very good moments involving her own conflicted feelings. Shes goes to a psychologist who tells her to leave Tony and renounce all ties...no more blood money. But she cant do it, shes too comfortable with her lavish trappings while emotionally she is dying

This piece explains it fairly well. There's a lot of depth to the series and Gandolfini's character especially.

http://www.popmatters.com/column/149233-the-sopranos-dissatisfaction-and-the-american-dream/P1/

12:04 AM  
Anonymous Pauli said...

OMG, this woman and her husband are challenging wafers with their Triple Package:

"Those who talk of America’s “decline” miss this crucial point. America has always been at its best when it has had to overcome adversity and prove its mettle on the world stage. For better and worse, it has that opportunity again today"

And more here:

"The United States itself was born a Triple Package nation, with an outsize belief in its own exceptionality, a goading desire to prove itself to aristocratic Europe (Thomas Jefferson sent a giant moose carcass to Paris to prove that America’s animals were bigger than Europe’s) and a Puritan inheritance of impulse control.

But prosperity and power had their predictable effect, eroding the insecurity and self-restraint that led to them."

http://tinyurl.com/mpleojf

12:35 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

Pol Incorrect, Noah, Greg:

Perhaps a better example for reading levels would be Aesop's Fables, they range from 3rd grade to 9th grade ... guess what grade this one is:

"A Man came into a Wood one day with an axe in his hand, and begged all the Trees to give him a small branch which he wanted for a particular purpose. The Trees were good-natured and gave him one of their branches. What did the Man do but fix it into the axe head, and soon set to work cutting down tree after tree. Then the Trees saw how foolish they had been in giving their enemy the means of destroying themselves."

That is considered 7th grade.

OK now back to my usual task of finding cool links and posting them. Here is a short one on Americans and the Apocalypse in history:

http://www.thesmartset.com/article/article01211401.aspx

FYI: The essay is around 11th grade reading level.

10:04 AM  
Anonymous Edward said...

@Dave Young, thanks for providing the link to the essay titled "Allergic to America". That was a good read. If you love it, you will also love this one (from the same website):

"The Unbearable Loneliness of a Cubana in Miami"

http://narrative.ly/american-dreamless/unbearable-loneliness-cubana-in-miami/

Notice a couple of issues:
1) women are at the center of the two essays

2) consider how empty those women feel after achieving the so-called "American dream"

3) when hustling defines our existence, when money and material possessions are placed above human dignity, when we stress for stupid things, we ignore the most important things in life; we ignore health, family, self-respect, human decency, etc

11:34 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

David-

My bks are quite rich in statistical evidence, in case you hadn't noticed; and believe me, that is hardly the reason very few people read my stuff. Yr way off on that one, mon cher; you don't seem to understand who the American people really are, and the nature of brainwashing that takes place in this country from abt age 2 (BTW, the data on Americans who actually read *anything* anymore are quite depressing). The smear that DAA was purely anecdotal was from Michiko Kakutani, and she definitely had not read the bk. I'm sorry you took her word for it, as opposed to actually rdg my work; yr an excellent example of what yr accusing me of, ironically enuf. As far as OWS is concerned, I don't know how one *would* gather statistical evidence abt it, given how ephemeral and ineffective it was, but I'm certainly open to the idea.

2nd, I never got into that whole thing with Chris and the Black Bloc, so I really can't try to judge who was rt and who was not. Sorry.

Next: I praised Adbusters in 2000, way b4 OWS ever existed, and I was critical of them as well (again, you need to read what I actually wrote). But your comparison is a poor one, because they were, at least back then, abt cultural commentary, not major street action. OWS was trying to do something very different, it seems to me; and they failed for major structural reasons.

That failure was one of organization and of lack of coherent ideology, as far as I cd make out; so of course it collapsed like a house of cards. I'll be glad to read "The Democracy Project" if you send me the link, but I never saw anywhere online, during the heyday of the demonstrations, a coherent statement of purpose beyond opposing the 99%. There was nothing as savvy and sophisticated as the Port Huron Statement of 1962, for example, that was clearly visible and in the public eye. I mean, lots of folks like myself were searching for it, waiting for it, and were never able to find it. And the attempt at 'horizontal' political organization (which I do have some sympathy with) was not really able to generate any political clout. OWS dissipated like dandelion spores in the wind. Are you seriously arguing that they amount to anything, today? Nor can I imagine that the OWS experience cd possibly serve as a model for any serious future political activity.

I call Americans hustlers and buffoons because by and large, that's what they are, and the charácter of this people is the one factor 'progressives' consistently ignore; which makes their optimistic outlook touchingly naive. Hard data on this--the violence and stupidity of Americans--has been accumulating now for at least 15 yrs (one bk after another, since I wrote Twilight). As for hustling: 2 yrs ago the Pew Charitable Trust did a study in which 62% of those polled said they had no objection to a small, wealthy elite running the country--not at all. Rather, these people said they just wanted to be *part of* that elite! It wd seem that it is *you* who needs to learn what valid evidence is, in short. But if you want to equate me with Thos Friedman, that's of course yr prerogative.

mb

4:04 PM  
Anonymous bartleby the Scribbler said...

Sorry, David, with the ad hominem attacks it was a bit hard to decipher what exactly you're getting at.

Do you disagree with Prof. Berman's conclusions in Why America Failed or do you just think he should be more circumspect in his identification of buffoons and hustlers? A buffoon is simply a ludicrous figure, according to Merriam-Webster. Are you suggesting that people identified here as buffoons aren't ludicrous figures?

Hustler (Macmillan) = someone who is very determined to get what they want.

That's not an apt description for Americans? Go getters. Entrepreneurs. Would those terms make you happier?

Personally, I think the term high IQ moron (applied to figures like Robert McNamara) should have a bit more usage on the blog. Plenty of those to go around, generally holding ivy league degrees.

To say the least, the terms you use to describe what OWS is (or was?) about are a bit vague.

On point 5 "All societies are Communistic at base.": You're saying that Fascism is basically Communistic at base? Too bad you weren't around in the 1930s and perhaps something like the Spanish Civil War might have been avoided with your explaining this to the warring isms.

Be that as it may, perhaps you could explain what you mean here?


4:59 PM  
Blogger Publius said...

My my my, look what the cat dragged in:
"Jurors delivered a split verdict Friday for a western Colorado woman whose two sons died of overheating after she left them in a running SUV last winter."

"Prosecutors said 2-year-old William and 4-year-old Tyler died of hyperthermia after Jensen left them in her SUV with the motor running and the heater on in late November 2012 while she had sex and smoked marijuana in another vehicle nearby."

OK, Prof. Berman - maybe there is something to your neo-Lamarckian theory. Good lord.

I see David Graeber showed up here to attack you!

@David Graeber: I admire your work. My sense is that you are angry with Morris because he's written off the American people. I addressed that in my last comment. I do think there are a small minority of Americans who "get it," and want to change things, but it has become clear to many of us that it's a losing battle. OWS was summarily crushed - according to a strangely non-publicized FBI report, there was even a shadowy group getting ready to literally kill OWS leaders. Very troubling. Time to get out for me and mine.

@atearinrain: not sure what you mean by "Pubes." I was trying to suggest that we actually should all get together! I'm pretty sociable.

Here's the way I am feeling today, courtesy of Leonard Cohen's song "The Future":

Take the only tree that's left
and stuff it up the hole
in your culture

5:16 PM  
Blogger Frederick Froth said...

Yes Screenagers rule OK!
Screenagers is the title of a book by Douglas Rushkoff.

Joseph Chilton Pierce has been writing about the effect of TV on brain and nervous system patterning for years. Especially in his book Evolution's End.
He also describes how our entire "culture" is a systematic assault on the intrinsic psycho-biological intelligence of our body-mind-complex. And why many/most young people are beyond any kind of "redemption". Which is of course what Morris is telling us.
These references introduce his work.
www.ratical.org/many_worlds/JCP98.html
www.ratical.org/many_worlds/JCP99.html

Then there is This Little Kiddy Went To Market by Sharon Beder which is introduced here:
www.uow.edu.au/~sharonb/kiddy.html

5:24 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Good day Dr. Berman and fellow Wafers,

David Graeber-

What is your evidence for point number 5? While I'm inclined to agree with you that capitalism as an economic system is an unsatisfactory and unhealthy way of organizing human life, one thing is certain: American society was not built by communists or on any communistic ideal. It was built by hustlers; very good ones, in fact. To believe anything to the contrary is, quite frankly, delusional. Narratives about how the Puritans were communists or how movements, such as, the Farmers' Alliance shook Wall Street and the bankers down to their socks in the name of democracy, justice, and a non-hustling way of life during the Progressive Era do not wash. If past progressives did anything of lasting value, we wouldn't be living through the collapse of 2008, would we?

The reality is that the US is a nation of the hustler, by the hustler, for the hustler. Feel free to insert buffoon for hustler as desired. C'mon, even you, an OWS spearhead, would hafta agree with this, yes? Real liberation, I'm afraid, is the freedom to call a spade a spade. In addition, the US is also going to perish from the earth as well, regardless of what OWS did (not much!) or will do (big?) in the future.

Jeff

7:24 PM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...

Wow--this David Graeber guy is something else! If he is posting here I can just imagine the people you are preventing from accessing the blog.

MB--you are very gracious in your reply to this Graeber fellow and well your restraint is amazing.

His (Graeber's) post is really indicative of a certain type of mindset common in a country full of morons and buffoons.

1.) In a basic way comes in on an attack mode--goes after you and Chris Hedges and charaterise work as ignorant. Its substance free and ad hom w no substance just assertions--he is correct because its his opinion you see.

2.) Tells you what you should not say and well he thinks you have a potty mouth I suppose by calling people dolts and buffoons. Clearly, he has somehow ascended to a status such that he can come to a persons blog and tell them what they cannot say--not much on respecting freedom of expression generally and well it seems to have eluded him that its MB's blog and he can do as he pleases.

3.) Attacks MB for not using "valid" evidence but provides no evidence. If there is some sort of valid evidence which proves that americans are neither dolts nor buffoons I defy him to marshall this evidence and leave us all gobsmacked on how we failed to recognize the U.S. is populated by geniuses and people of unerring probity , solid principles, and good taste. The very archetypes of civilized man--please Mr. Graeber do provide "valid" evidence that americans are neither dolts nor bufoons.

4.) Its not clear what Mr. Graeber seeks to achieve in his post. MB and Hedges wrong? Gee look I can make a list of OWS that any 8th grader can grab from web? I want to regulate the discussion and use of language of a reknowned man of integrity and vision (hedges) and the western hemisphers leading deli meat authority (MB)? Like most people in the dolt republic, Mr. Graeber is incohereent and viscerally attacks his betters.

10:12 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Capo, bartleby et al.-

Thanks for yr take on Professor Graeber. I'm actually glad he showed up here, because it may give us an opportunity to discuss a few issues worth discussing. The first thing I want to pt out is how he chose to present himself: hostility, antagonism, attack. This is, of course, very American. It wd have not been impossible for Graeber to have said, "I'm having a problem with some of your arguments, and am hoping we can go over them. In particular..." That wd have opened the door to a dialogue. Instead, as Capo writes, he orders me around: "Stop doing X," etc. It's quite amazing: this level of arrogance and rudeness is an American trademark. Personally, I can't imagine writing him and saying, "Stop telling people that radical democracy is just around the corner!" It's not my place to tell him to do anything; obviously, he is free to do what he wants. Again, this basic lack of elementary courtesy is quintessentially American.

I'm also impressed that he calls works that are rich in stats, documentation, and ftnotes, "anecdotal" in nature; and that he himself provides no real evidence (certainly not stats) for his own views.

I confess to not having read Graeber's work, altho he has high academic stature and friends have told me that his book on Debt was outstanding. But that he stooped to what is essentially a rude, emotional, and ad hominem attack on me, suggests that something else is going on here: deep intellectual insecurity. I suspect that on some level, 'progressives' like Graeber know they are whistling in the dark; that OWS was fluff, and that there will be no radical social-political change coming down the pike. So when someone pts that out, it triggers a defensive rage, because if they can't believe in OWS or some sort of socialist-anarchist future, their whole raison d'etre goes down the drain.

Some time ago I wrote a colleague, a 'progressive' writer, providing him with the incredible stats of American ignorance (e.g., nearly 30% think the sun revolves around the earth, or don't know which revolves around which). He wrote back: "I can't really think about that, because if I did I wdn't be able to do the work that I do." At least the guy was honest--unlike Mr. Graeber.

In any case, here are some of the pts I wanted to make:

1. I didn't realize that the "Democracy Project" was a bk by Graeber. I thought he was referring to an OWS manifestó. Now I may be wrong, but as I said to him, I never saw any 2011 equivalent of the Port Huron Statement from OWS online. As far as I know, such a clear statement of analysis and intent never appeared. What they argued for over and over again, from every online source I had (and from friends who went to demos) was "the American Dream for everybody."

(continued below)

9:01 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

2. Given Amazon revs of my own work, I know how biased these things can be. But I was struck by one review from a guy who argues in very specific terms that Graeber got the details of Occupy Oakland quite wrong; that what we are seeing in Graeber's account (which then gets generalized from Oakland to all of the US) is shoddy scholarship, real distortion of the facts. Given the way Graeber responded to me--with knee-jerk emotionalism--I can well believe that his heart got the better of his head: OWS *has* to have been significant in his versión of it, even if it wasn't in reality, because if not significant, then the jig is up, and Mr. Graeber (and a whole lot of other 'progressives') are going to be extremely depressed as a result.

3. Historically speaking, what is required for revolution, or radical political change?

a) Widespread disaffection from the current regime, or way of life. One can *say* that's the case in the US, but in fact the American Dream is alive and well. Tent cities and soup kitchens fly the American flag above them; the poor, as John Steinbeck once remarked, regard themselves as "temporarily embarrassed millionaires," just waiting for their ship to come in.

b) The existence of a coherent, politically savvy, organized, and armed cadre. OWS was anything but that.

c) The willingness of the pólice or military to defect, or at least remain neutral in the case of armed confrontation. This also is nonexistent in the US; this is not where the army's head is at, quite obviously.

4. In addition to this historical reality, what Graeber et al. are ignoring is that nothing lasts forever, and certainly not empires and civilizations. This has been documented from Toynbee to Tainter. In addition, it is quite obviously now our time--as scholars from Andrew Hacker (in 1970) to present-day declinists have pretty convincingly demonstrated; and neither OWS nor bks erroneously claiming it amounted to anything significant can change that. Far better than living in fantasy, and thinking that a few thousand demonstrators are going to reverse the fundamental trajectory of this country, it seems to me, wd be analyzing *why* America failed. That may at least open the door to our declining gracefully. We wd do a lot better facing the hard, unpleasant realities of our situation rather than engaging in pipe dreams, no?

As I said, I'm glad Prof. Graeber showed up here, so that some of these things cd get aired (once again; they are hardly new to Wafers). But I confess to being a bit embarrassed for him. He could have been courteous and honest, and opened a dialogue with me and other Wafers, and I genuinely regret that he chose not to take the high road. Instead, we have a distinguished scholar gratuituously attacking me on an ad hominem basis; comparing me to a clown like Thos Friedman; saying that my work is purely anecdotal when it most definitely is not, and when he himself provides no evidence for his arguments; ordering me around, telling me to do this or that--as Capo says, if this is what a prestigious profesor comes out with, you can imagine what I hafta deal with in terms of the 'regular' trolls and buffoons. This is, however, precisely who Americans are.

O&D, my friends; O&D.

mb

9:20 AM  
Anonymous Capo Thinks Graeber a twit said...

Oh its that David Graeber,

Sorry for this additional post withing 24 hours but this is importante. Among people in my trade---economists and people who have expertise in debt Graeber is considered a dolt. There is evidence to support this-some of which is provided below.

A coffee friend and fellow economist out west has had a few things to say on Graeber. One wag even had a twitter feed known at graebererrors

Graeber is consistent and a very, very sloppy "scholar" there is much "valid" evidence to support this assertion.

http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2013/01/the-very-last-david-graeber-post.html

10:26 AM  
Blogger NearFar said...

Hi Dr. Berman & Wafers,


MB -

Here's something that may interest you, ie., re: the "Hiroshima" chapter in your forthcoming "Japan" book: "MEMORANDUM of Telephone Conversation between General Groves and Lt. Col. Rea, Oak Ridge Hospital, 9:00 a.m., 25 August 1945."

Of course, you've completed the first draft, so this may be (as they say) "water under the bridge." Anyhow, here's a link to a PDF file:

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB162/76.pdf

Note: this memorandum is included in Noam Chomsky's book (co-authored w/ Laray Polk) "Nuclear War and Environmental Catastrophe" (Seven Stories Press, 2013), Appendix 1, pp. 89-95. It includes the following headnote:

"On September 12, 1945, the 'New York Times' published a front-page story by William L Laurence, “U.S. Atom Bomb Site Belies Tokyo Tales.” The story and the transcript below have a direct correlation: Laurence’s report downplays radiation as the cause of death and suffering as a result of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and portrays symptoms described by the Japanese as propaganda meant to solicit sympathy. Laurence had been hired in March 1945 by the US War Department to write official statements and news stories; in 1946 he won a Pulitzer for a series of ten articles appearing in the 'New York Times' on the “significance of the atomic bomb.”
*
Wafers-

I suspect that David Graeber is not the 'actual' DG, but a "troll," b/c of the all-too-convenient reference to Thos Friedman, which seems to me designed to get our host's "dander up." But in 2 followup notes MB lends it credence. I have to say, I admire the "real" David Graeber, but distrust his 'grandstanding' as both an "anarchist thinker," *and* progenitor of OWS (ie., google his interview on MSNBC's show Up! w/ Chris Hayes). I distrust DG's claims of yours b/c no genuine "anarchist thinker," would make such a claim (ie., who is the "anarchist thinker" making such a claim abt such popular movements in Spain (c. 1936))? Closer to home, did MLK ever claim to be the one who started the 1960s Civil Rights movement? Of course not. Any genuine social movement begins long before a "name" is attached to it. MLK knew what made MLK possible: ie., he might acknowledge the groundwork laid by unsung 'heroes,' *long* before he showed up. In MLK's case, he knew that the "founding fathers" (or immediate precedent figures) of the movement he was part of were, let's say, the civil rights workers in Mississippi in the 1930s. Nameless still, not in the history books: tho blood was shed & their sacrifice is what gives "heft" to a figure like MLK. So too, are there similar "precedent figures," allowing a DG to make such bold claims as one of the founding thinkers of OWS.. As for Chris Hedges, I attended some impromptu lectures of his this past summer and he stands by his writing re: Black Bloc. (I have it on tape, btw, so if this DG is the real deal, and I need to respond further, I may do so).

10:57 AM  
Anonymous David Graeber said...

"The Democracy Project" by David Graeber, Spiegel & Grau, 2013.

http://www.randomhouse.com/book/220295/the-democracy-project-by-david-graeber

Here's an excerpt:

http://www.thebaffler.com/past/practical_utopians_guide

11:54 AM  
Anonymous Noah said...

I could have accepted Graeber's bad attitude, given his support for OWS, except for two things: 1.), his comparing MB to Thomas Friedman, who is definitely a sociopath; and 2.) his claim that well-documented evidence is nothing but anecdotes, while proclaiming his own purely anecdotal evidence to be fact-based.

By extension, Graeber seems to think Hedges and the rest of us are also sociopaths, like Friedman, merely because we see OWS as a failure. This is pure self-delusion. It's the result of being so emotionally invested in an ideology that clarity becomes impossible. It's also a vicious and undeserved condemnation of all of us, who have exactly the opposite stances as Thomas Friedman does on every single issue that really matters.

I have to credit Graeber with being much better than the typical America, in terms of political views; but on the personal level, he's not much different than the typical American (aggressive, overbearing, egotistical, clueless). In order to truly do what is right, you've got to have good political views (which Graeber does) *and* treat other human beings with love and respect (which Graeber doesn't). You can't really have one without the other, existentially speaking.

4:04 PM  
Anonymous Diva's Butler said...

Does any one else on this blog strongly suspect that this 'David Graeber' commenter is not in fact the actual Professor David Graeber, but someone just hiding behind his name in an attempt to appear as a credible challenge to Professor Berman?

Consider the final sentence to the second paragraph of his comment: "I suggest you read the open letter to Hedges from David Graeber in n+1." Why would the real David Graeber refer to himself in the third person and why , throughout his comment, does he write of the book , 'The Democracy Project' as if it was the work of another author and not his own?

I also wonder why the real Prof Graeber would feel the need to attack Prof Berman, considering that Prof Berman doesn't have the profile of a Hedges or a Chomsky and his work will, unfortunately, only be appreciated by a tiny percentage of the population.

The final sentence of the comment, "Your anecdotal evidence reminds me of the writing of Tom Friedman" strikes me as the ridiculous attack of someone who has read little to none of Berman's work, and nothing like the David Graeber that I have read or seen giving lecture's and interviews in which he comes across as a polite, thoughtful and an informed individual.

I dunno; maybe this guy is the real David Graeber and I've just seen too many episodes of Columbo and read too many Father Brown stories, but is there any verifaction of this or could we be criticizing the wrong guy because someone has shamefully used his name and reputation?

4:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From my 'on the ground' observation-- Occupy was too small, too infiltrated, and too fractured with ridiculous identity-politics rigamaroles. Many of the people were well intentioned though, and they're still doing small things to help people here and there. Obviously in the collective-adrenalized fervor of activism realism takes a backseat.

Yes, America will collapse. But so will every other nation. . Climate change hasn't even kicked into gear yet. Mexico will be completely devastated by it as well. There is no safe haven on this plane of existence.

-Maxwell

7:48 PM  
Blogger GregJS said...

JWO - That Aesop guy is way too radical and subversive for our vulnerable 7th graders!! Let’s stick with safer, less through-provoking fare provided by our trusted corporations. Or maybe Noah’s suggestion about Katie and her toothbrushing.

As for the American fascination with apocalypse, Philip Greven related it (very convincingly IMO) to our excessive use of corporal punishment, esp. in a religious context, in his book Spare the Child: The Religious Roots of Punishment and the Psychological Impact of Physical Abuse. If I remember, he somewhat followed Alice Miller’s approach. Not surprising that the folks mentioned in your link were Germanic. I’ll bet they were thrashed pretty brutally as children.

Fred Froth - I strongly second your recommendation of J.C. Pearce. His books on childhood development fill in some of the major gaps in the modern, western approach to that side of life - and human nature in general. And reality in general. I was just watching a video of him on the Touch The Future website (ttfuture.org) and even well into his 80’s (I’m pretty sure) he’s incredibly lucid, present, and sharp.

10:40 PM  
Blogger jml said...

mb: regarding your comment on "revolution and radical political change," i watched the film 'the square' the other night. i highly recommend. it is a great film that shows just how very, very difficult it is to change a power structure.

it is also a beautiful film because of the youth who are depicted in it. they are articulate, energetic, and smart. i couldn't help but compare them to american youth who do not seem to possess these kids' energy, selflessness, or understanding of world history.

7:14 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Maxwell-

Thank you. In future, pls check in as Maxwell, and not as Anonymous. Re: OWS: like lots of folks, when the movement 1st began I was badly wishing it wd succeed; the problem (for me) was that I knew my fellow countrymen only too well. If yr interested, somewhere back in the Archives on this blog there are two essays on OWS that u might find relevant: "The Wall St. Protests" and esp. "Energy vs. Analysis."

Noah-

I'm with you on this 100%. A few mos. ago I was treated quite viciously (no exaggeration) by the editor of a major left-wing journal (I'll spare you the gory details). Up to his sudden attack on me in a message to a journalist friend of mine (no, not Hedges), I had thought we were friends. It was an incredible stab in the back, and completely gratuitous. I was not so much angry as struck dumb, and wrote him a polite letter asking him why he did this. I got no answer. Like you, my feeling is that having the correct political views makes no ultimate difference if you can't show others (let alone yr friends and/or allies!) minimal respect, or just observe a code of elementary decency. It's very doubtful, imo, that the Left has any great future to offer us. For most of them too (but not all; Noam comes to mind), it's all abt power and self-importance.

But that raises some further issues I wanted to discuss regarding Professor Graeber's unexpected visit to this blog.

1. I have repeatedly argued a microcosm-macrocosm thesis in my work. Perhaps the best expression of it is in my essay "How to Get out of Iraq," in QOV. What I showed was that how Americans behaved on an individual level got mapped onto our foreign policy; that it was exactly the same behavior. And here we have it w/Dr. Graeber. Does it matter that he is left-wing? Does it matter at all? He shows up in "war mode," not dialogue mode. He's rude, arrogant, and ignorant; only his reality counts. This is exactly how gringos behave in Mexico, and in fact around the world--as most foreigners well know. They regard Americans, rightly, as boors, and this "I'm important, I know best" kind of swaggering is what we do in Iraq, Chile, Vietnam...you name it. One correspondent on this blog wrote to me privately, regarding Graeber, "Even with the academic background that he has, there's no escaping our emotional lives." Well, those emotional lives get translated quite naturally into our political lives. Graeber proved to be more of a dictator than a left-wing anarchist, and it is *this*, not anything anyone particularly says, that counts. As my grandfather used to say, "The tone makes the music."

2. This brings me to my 2nd pt. Another thing I have argued is that America has no future because the country basically consists of violent, stupid people. Mr. Graeber is the "brightest and the best," to quote Halberstam (regarding the folks who brought you Vietnam). If *he* behaves this way, what do you imagine the rest of the country is like?

As for those of you who think the Graeber who showed up here is not the real David Graeber: one can only hope!, although I have a feeling that this was indeed the author of "Debt."

David-

Thank you for the link. The problem was that I was unaware you were referring to one of your bks. I thought you meant that "Democracy Project" was a coherent statement of political intent issued by OWS in 2011 or 2012, online. As I said, many of us were waiting for something comparable to the Port Huron Statement of 1962, and were never able to find it. Perhaps it was issued and we just failed to notice, but if not, this rather glaring lacuna was to us more evidence that OWS really had no coherent politics or organization, and thus not much of a chance of succeeding.

NearFar-

Thanks for Groves-Rea memo, very kind of u; I'll check it out.

(continued below)

9:38 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Anyway, enuf with poor Prof. Graeber; I suspect we have lambasted him sufficiently, and need to just wish him our best. Let's continue on our merry way, and remember that having fun is extremely impt, esp. in times of total cultural, social, psychological, political, moral, and economic collapse (have I left any dimensions out?). Wafers rule, chicos!

mb

9:41 AM  
Anonymous Duly Noted said...

Capo,

You mentioned Waldorf education in a much earlier post. I'm also an advocate, and last August got hired to work as the Admissions Coordinator in our local Waldorf school. Since there are 100's of Waldorf schools around the world, my 3-5 year plan is to find one in another country to transfer to as a means of escape. I'm sure easier said than done, but I'm determined to make it happen.

While it's not perfect, Waldorf is one of the few healthy educational options available, at least for those who can cover the tuition. One thing I've seen over and over again is how students change when they transfer from other schools, both public and private. They come in uptight, suspicious, shut down and within a week or two relax into the environment and become actively engaged in our liberal arts education. While it's not a religious school, there is an undercurrent of what I consider spiritual humanism based in 'sense.' I've often thought if there could be some form of educational template derived from CTOS, it would be along the lines of Waldorf.

10:24 AM  
Blogger Ken Barrows said...

Capo Thinks Graeber a twit,

I have no opinion on whether he is a "twit," but to say economists and people in the trade think he is a dolt isn't very convincing.

Aren't most of these economists of the inexhaustible earth variety?

3:00 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Wafers,

Wouldn’t you know it, I skip checking on the blog for a couple of days and ‘the thought of Professor Graeber’ hits the fan.

I remember an English professor at a state university who was a self-proclaimed ‘anarchist.’ He was a center of attention at social gatherings, and had a small following of students who enrolled in all his seminar courses. He never said much about anarchism but spent his time attacking Communists. I recognized it as a safe form of ‘radical-chic’ that was no threat to authority.

Is this what Professor Graeber (about whom I know nothing) has fallen into? Who knows? It could be a plausible hypothesis, but probably not worthy of further discussion.

Re: Trotskyists and Other ‘Ultras’

Back in the 60’s a Marxist scholar and union leader whose opinion I still respect was asked why Trotskyists were so destructive. He replied, “This isn’t usually a satisfactory answer, but I think they’re simply crazy. All they can do is attack while having nothing positive to offer.” Lenin called ‘ultra-leftism’ an ‘infantile disorder’, and later such people gravitated to the Trotskyists.

Well, when Communism was totally discredited in the US and there was nothing left to attack, Trotskyists from CCNY easily switched from ‘without communist interference workers will automatically produce the perfect society’ to ‘without government interference markets will naturally produce the perfect society’ and presto, they were neo-conservatives. In Trotskyists, neoconservatives, ultra-leftists, or ultra-libertarians we see a parade of negative identities – attack and eliminate certain enemies and free the (people, workers, or markets) to work their wonders.

The problem with these simple-minded positions is that every once and a long while history permits such people to get taken seriously by more than a few childish groupies – the most egregious example being the neocons under Bush/Cheney, and maybe Pol Pot in Cambodia.

David Rosen

3:28 PM  
Blogger Publius said...

This David Graeber affair really bothers me.

I think it's the real Graeber. I think Graeber's ideas on debt, labor, and economic democracy are good.

I would like to hear David Graeber's take on the interaction here (sorry to say this, Morris, because I know you wanted to put this to rest).

I have noticed that online interaction has become brutal. Maybe it was always that way, but in the last week, I've been treated poorly on two other blogs. One blogger simply deleted my comments, and won't let me post. What is strange, is that I was basically on his side, regarding climate change. I had simply brought up some analysis from another blogger, who is generally quite good, although a bit centrist and limited in his ability to see beyond the axioms of American-type crapitalism.

Anyway, the blogger I agreed with ended up calling me a sock puppet, and claimed I was simply trying to promote the other blogger, whom I did not agree with!
I explained in detail that I was simply a normal guy trying to understand the issue. No response.

The other blogger doesn't censor, but uses ridicule and shaming, and never tries to understand the POV of the commentators, unless they agree with him almost 100%. Quite depressing. I finally realized the shaming blogger is an abusive asshole. I also realized that I have Stockholm syndrome: I am so used to boorish behavior from living in the USA that I tolerate too much of it.

Thank you, Morris, for providing a fairly open forum, while setting reasonable ground rules for behavior. You don't ridicule people who are trying to understand things, even if they don't agree with you 100%. You don't allow name-calling and abuse. You don't censor non-trolls.

Cross-country skiing today was beautiful. Sunny, cool, crisp 2F! It's amazing how being in your body can be so therapeutic. I'm really enjoying CTOS.

I was talking to a Danish friend and author and psychotherapist via videochat today. He's being very helpful and encouraging about emigration. He stated that he thinks the American system is wearing me down.

I found out something even more depressing about the infamous company holiday party I complained about. It didn't cost $150K or so, rather about a cool million. And our sales people damaged the place where the party was, punching holes in walls, etc. Dear Lord, what is wrong with these people???

4:09 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Pub-

I do think that online communication lowers the bar for common courtesy. People can remain hidden, so they flame quite easily. The Net becomes a lightning rod for all their hurt and pain.

Meanwhile, time to switch over to a new post.

mb

8:33 PM  

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