March 19, 2014

A Collection of Degraded Buffoons

A few years ago I read a monograph by Sara Maitland called A Book of Silence. Lately, I’ve been thinking how precious silence is, how little of it exists in the U.S., and how I now have an abundance of it in my own life; so I decided to reread the book. Here’s a bit of text worth thinking about:

“In the Middle Ages Christian scholastics argued that the devil’s basic strategy was to bring human beings to a point where they are never alone with their God, nor ever attentively face to face with another human being….The mobile phone, then, seems to me to represent a major breakthrough for the powers of hell—it is a new thing, which allows the devil to take a significant step forward in her [sic] grand design. With a mobile, a person is never alone and is never entirely attentive to someone else. What is entirely brilliant about it from the demonic perspective is that so many people have been persuaded that this is not something pleasurable (a free choice) but something necessary.”

Everywhere you go in the U.S., you see Degraded Buffoons on phones. People talk on them while driving cars (resulting in lots of accidents, including fatalities), or while running down the street. You go into a café, and half the clientele are either on phones or on laptops, distorting what used to be a social experience, or a private creative experience (reading, writing), into a hustling experience—a rude hustling experience. The issue of people never being attentive to another person is so obvious: I’ll be talking with someone, their phone rings, and they completely forget that they are having a conversation with me and immediately go off on some diatribe with someone a thousand miles away. There is not even the faintest awareness that this is rude beyond belief. Indeed, it’s a good example of what Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to call “defining deviancy down”—that over time, what used to be regarded as vulgar becomes the norm. We’re pretty much at rock bottom by now.

I remember, a number of years ago, having a leisurely lunch with my then girlfriend at an outdoor café in Philadelphia. We were the only customers, and it was a nice balmy afternoon. Suddenly, some bozo runs up to the café, his cell phone rings, and he yells: “This is Joe Blow! What can I do for you?” This is what I mean by a Degraded Buffoon—a man reduced to nothing but hustling. He doesn’t say, “Hi, this is Joe Blow, how are you? What’s happening in your life?” No, it’s “Let’s do business!” Nor does it bother him to be disturbing a couple having a quiet lunch six feet away from him—fuck everybody else, I’m Joe Blow! Hard to describe how stupid he looked: crew cut, hatchet face, a bundle of tension. And I thought: yes, this is America, my friends; this rude, stupid piece of trash is who we really are.

Shortly after her cell phone discussion, Ms. Maitland takes up the topic of how (quoting Ernest Gellner) “Our environment is now made up basically of our relationships with others.” Not our relationship with a larger spiritual reality, or with nature, or with ourselves. No, it’s always with others, as though this were the only source of happiness. Kind of sad, when you consider how thin those relationships typically prove to be. She continues:

“This idea, that we feel ourselves to be happy and fulfilled only when we are interacting with other people, creates a dissonance with the equally popular mythology that stresses individual autonomy and personal ‘rights’. If I need interpersonal relationships and I have a right to what I need, it is obviously very difficult to have relationships of genuine self-giving or even of equality. However, this problem is not addressed, is indeed concealed, within popular culture. The consequence of this, almost inevitably, is the creation of an increasing number of lightweight relationships—relationships that appear to connect people, but are not vulnerable to the requirements of love, and therefore tend to lack endurance and discipline.”

This is an interesting observation: that friendship requires love and—horror of horrors!—staying power, discipline. When I left the U.S. (thank god), I think I had a total of three or four genuine friendships, after all of those decades of living there. One thing I discovered about Americans was that they have no idea of what friendship really is, and that it does take love, endurance, and discipline (effort, in short). These are alien concepts to Degraded Buffoons. “Lightweight” is precisely the right word here. Over the years, I noticed that it was not uncommon for people to disappear from my life, and the lives of others, overnight, and without so much as a word of explanation. In a few cases this even happened after a year or two of knowing someone, having had dinners together, having had (I thought) meaningful discussions. And then: poof! They’re gone, and apparently could care less. If you live in a world of noise, cell phones, and hustling, why would any one person mean anything to you? And this is the norm, in the U.S., my friends; what I’m describing—you all recognize this—is hardly aberrant.

What kind of lives are these? What kind of empty, stupid lives? People in a rush, people blabbing inanities on cell phones, people who have no idea what silence is and who probably fear it; people who can’t begin to imagine what love, endurance, and discipline consist of. These are what we call Degraded Buffoons.



Anonymous Dovidel said...


So much I’d like to chime in on, but things are really hectic as we prepare for our final escape to Mexico – ojala in three weeks. However I consider opera really important, hence…


While Americans tend to think of opera as elitist and pretentious, in Italy, if not the rest of Europe, it has tended to be much more a part of popular culture. When Giuseppe Verdi died in 1901, the thousands of people who attended his funeral accompanied the casket to the cemetery singing the ‘Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves’ from his opera ‘Nabucco’. That was before TV, radio, or even recordings – but people knew it and sang it.

(By the 1960’s American degraded buffoons would have watched the funeral on TV, and if it wasn’t televised, it wasn’t important. Today they would all be mentally masturbating with cellphones, i-pads, or other techno-dreck. But I digress…)

Some time back I mentioned that Alfred North Whitehead considered Walt Whitman “to have been one of the few very great poets that have ever lived.” With that in mind you might want to check out Robert D. Faner’s 1951 book, “Walt Whitman & Opera.” Whitman was a real opera buff who frequented opera houses in New York, New Orleans, and wherever. According to Faner, Whitman’s poetry was deeply and extensively influenced by opera, particularly Italian opera, so that later in his life he wrote to a friend, “But for the opera I could never have written ‘Leaves of Grass’.”

But then, I’m a real sucker for all types of schmaltz. Opera composers used every cheap musical trick in the book, and on me it works every time.

David Rosen

11:09 PM  
Anonymous Ariel Ballesteros said...

Greetings Dr. Berman,
Totally agree with your comments. I also live in Mexico and in this country there's about 80 to 90 million cell phone contracts. In a poor country of 110 or so million people! I hope the 30 million that do not have cell phones enjoy silence. Doubt it. Because there's the noise of meaningless life that is being exported to the rest of the world from the so called developed countries. The way we eat, the way we have "fun" etc. I remember when I was a kid some 45 years ago and we brought our great grandmother from a little town in the Sonora mountains to live with us in Hermosillo (she was 101 years old). The phone on her night table would ring and ring and she would not pick it up. When we'd ask her why she'd say: if it's important, they will call again.
Well, they keep calling again and is not important.

11:13 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hello Morris, my good (online) friend(and master yogi of all wafers). This thought of friendship and the effort it requires is very insightful. I remember growing up and having people whom I thought were my friends. I was the one whom always called to see how they were doing and ask if they wanted to get together. Eventually I realized I was the one constantly doing the reaching out. So one day I stopped and that was it. I never heard from them again! It was a life lesson for me and told me who my friends really were and who were not.
This critique of Americans and their interactions with each other reminded me of something else. Years ago I was living in the western United States and doing a lot of backpacking and mountain climbing. I bought a couple of books on the subject. One was titled Annapurna, about the French expedition to be the first to summit an 8000 meter peak and return. The second was titled The Last Step, about the first American expedition to summit K2. They couldn't have been more different. The French story was all about team work and a common goal and sacrifice to reach that goal. The Americans story, on the other hand was disgusting. It was all competition, in-fighting, betrayal on the mountain and rivalries within the team. Everybody hated each other. They succeeded in their goal but it was an ugly story that left me with a distasteful feeling. At the time I didn't realize it but now I see it as the perfect microcosm for American society. Pretty sad.

11:16 PM  
Anonymous Bingo said...


Of course, what Joe Blow really meant was “What can you do for me?”

The scary part is that these degraded buffoons, who have no idea what love is, oftentimes produce children of their own who will then become even worse degraded buffoons. I’d call that phenomena “The Degrading Spiral of Buffoonery.”

Fortunately, it looks like this will all soon come to an end:

“Collapse and Systemic Failure at All Levels Coming to U.S.-Dmitry Orlov”


11:18 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

A superb essay, doctor. I could hardly imagine a worse time to be alive in the USA given the ubiquity of all this personal technology. A few recent incidences stand out. I know a family in which the mother had beautiful twin girls about a year ago. They also have a 9 year old girl who completely ignores her siblings as she sits laughing and singing at images on her laptop. One wonders if she even knows her sisters' names! The father gets angry at her but not angry enough to throw the fuckin' laptop in the trash can and demand she give them the love and attention they need.
On another occasion, I had the misfortune of working out at my neighborhood LA Fitness. I would guess between 80-90% of the people exercising there wore earphones. This on top of the fast music played throughout the gym. What was even more disconcerting was that some of the older people also wore earphones (Et tu, Brute?). Finally, I entered the sauna room and guess what? There were people in there with earphones! Thus, by the time I left the gym I was more stressed out then when I came in.

11:32 PM  
Blogger Ben Bachmann said...

I moved to San Francisco from London eight years ago. I was walking home from the grocery store a week after Hurricane Katrina made land fall and discovered a book, The Twilight of American Culture, on top of a garbage can in front of my apartment building. I read that book in one sitting and have read every book by Mr. Berman since. Each one contains something that resonates with that feeling in my gut that life in the United States is horribly out of balance. In part because of Mr. Berman's books, I have learned to embrace my solitude, I have learned to put down the phone, to be content with fewer friends, and to believe what I suspected all along, there is much more to life than "this" and there is a better basis for meaningful relationships than branding and self promotion. I've read this blog for a couple years, and this little essay about our infantile relationship to the technology that controls us inspired me to comment.

12:11 AM  
Anonymous Lorenzo Patterson said...

"Over the years, I noticed that it was not uncommon for people to disappear from my life, and the lives of others, overnight, and without so much as a word of explanation."

Tell me about it. I've found that if you are not in someone's Facebook newsfeed then you are not in that person's world. I've, sadly or intelligently (perhaps both), given up on developing real friendships/relationships here. It's just not in the cards. And don't even start on marriage! LOL, you've got to be kidding.

Yes, I'm definitely experiencing loneliness, but when I look at the alternative (putting on my moron hat and pretending I am truly interested in the nothingness), I choose loneliness.

12:18 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...


These lives are empty and stupid indeed. People in America are simply not engaged with others in their daily environments any more, as they are constantly distracted and atomized by their phones and laptops. In this case the technologies are having an extremely individualizing effect, setting each person apart in his own private stream of digital information.

Dan Henry:

I am not protecting any billionaires. And the Wafer ethos also involves a commitment to critical thinking, not just simply throwing around ad hominem smears at our opponents ("billionaires") without considering people's arguments.

Also, I was not protecting a billionaire, but rather Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald is no corporate shill, but is rather a serious intellectual who has explicitly developed philosophical views through various books. He argues that in America the rule of law is dead, and what we have instead is a two-tiered criminal justice system, where the rich and politically connected can violate laws with impunity, while the rest of society is targeted with harsh
laws and mass incarceration.

12:21 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thank you all for your stories and observations of DB's. As Tina Fey (heavy heartbeat here) once said on "30 Rock," "I will not tolerate douchebaggery." That's a direct quote. Had the show continued, I'm sure she wd have been discussing Degraded Buffoonery.


There's something poetic abt the Twilight bk sitting on top of a garbage can. This too is a microcosm of the US, methinks. Welcome to the blog.


12:28 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


1st, let me say that I'm relieved yr not Lorenzo Riggins; tho I'm hoping he does run for prez in 2016. 2nd: the trick is to enjoy yr own company. This is the diff between loneliness and solitude. Most of what I experience when I'm by myself is the latter, wh/is just fine.


1:26 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: Someone once wrote that loneliness was a yearning for kind, not just for company. In the US it's easy to surround yrself w/shmucks, and have lots of company. Finding kindred spirits is a whole other story.

1:29 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Honestly, I jus' can't get over how charming and gracious Americans are:

3:06 AM  
Blogger Val said...

Dr. B, you are right of course, but you neglected to mention the many other infernal devices designed to deprive the thinking mind of that reposeful quietude which it craves: leaf blowers, motorized lawn mowers, pointlessly squawking car alarms, and other grossly assaultive sonic buffooneries that even moderately intelligent people would scarcely tolerate but which everyone around these parts seems to think represent the exercise of some inalienable right to degrade the quality of public life. Verily, they must be done away with.

Ariel, I fancy that the mental attitude behind your grandmother's refusal to answer annoying phone calls probably had some connection with her longevity.

Backpacking has been mentioned; so at the risk of sounding like an old fogey I'll compare the present unfavorably with an aspect of the past. Backpacking was big in the 70's. At my high school we were so into it that I and many schoolmates took a long and seriously rugged walking trip into the high Sierras - three weeks in the wilderness, miles and miles from any road, and of course without communications devices of any sort. How many young people today could imagine without horror being separated from their electronic pacifiers for that long - to say nothing of a physically demanding experience of brutal imperious nature? Nature has content; nature is real and is likely to expose you to silence of the deepest sort. I'm afraid the vast majority of today's youth would run in gibbering terror from such an experience; and the change of zeitgeist is not for the better.

3:26 AM  
Anonymous Megan said...

Dr. Berman,

Excellent post. For the record, I've noticed the exact same phenomenon in my own life regarding how people sometimes just disappear--often after years of friendship--and without the slightest explanation. Not romantic partners, generally, but other people who come into my life one day, and then after a couple of months or years, all contact is abruptly broken off. Weird and depressing at the same time. I don't think it's me, but who knows?
Does anyone else here experience this?


Thanks for the Diana Damrau link--I really enjoyed it. While I didn't really like the movie "Amadeus", I believe that the part about Mozart finding inspiration for the Queen of Night in his mother-in-law's nagging, is historically accurate. My favorite scene is the one where her bitching is transformed into such lovely music! (Apparently Mozart had a low opinion of that particular aria. Needless to say, I disagree with him!)

Incidentally, I've read somewhere that Hitler could whistle Wagner's entire Die Meistersinger by heart; but I wonder if the world would have ended up different place, had he just taken to whistling the delicate and tender arias of Papageno? Hard to picture the Fuehrer in a birdcatcher suit, however.


Interesting about Whitman's love of opera--I wasn't aware of that. Of course, while I think some opera is pretentious, I still love the Grand Theme composers like Verdi and Wagner. (The latter, more of an appreciation than true love.) But with an opera like La Traviata, I almost hate to know what they are saying. Such sublime melodies, yet what common, human-all-too-human sentiments are revealed when you learn the meaning of the words!

3:28 AM  
Blogger Zosima said...

Everywhere you go in the U.S., you see Degraded Buffoons on phones.

Ariel Ballesteros said...I also live in Mexico and in this country there's about 80 to 90 million cell phone contracts. In a poor country of 110 or so million people!

Yes, this train left the station long ago. A recent article on the subject said that 6 of the world’s 7 billion people now have access to a cell phone. Soon, if you’re seeking a cell phone free location, undiscovered tribes in the Amazon or New Guinea will be your only hope.

3:58 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

Nice post. Though I may be taking your point too literally, here is a book recommendation on the subject:

And though we have talked a bit on the blog before about silence in nature, here is an interesting story on trying to find the quietest natural place on earth:

8:50 AM  
Blogger Dan Henry said...


That you can berate the rich and corporate power in the same breath as extolling a man working directly for such institutions as a " serious intellectual" is so funny as to be sad. You cannot see the forest for the trees. Ill not be replying to you again.


Some Larry David humor re Wagner

10:45 AM  
Anonymous Ken Smith said...


I am back home in Mexico for two weeks now after spending last month visiting my son in Paris. I am not bothered, just amused, by ubiquitous mobile phones. I have an iPhone, but rarely use it, other than to confirm a time and place to meet somebody. I don't chat. But, I like the wireless access to Google maps, which I use often while walking in new cities.

In France, I was buying time for my iPhone so that I could have internet access to maps. I said to the clerk, an early twenties French woman, that I was surprised by how many people I had seen on Paris streets wearing a Bluetooth ear piece for their mobiles. I had been caught off-guard several times when I thought people were talking to me, only to quickly learn that they were on the phone talking to somebody else.

The clerk asked if I had seen the "famous American comedy skit about Bluetooth or schizophrenia." No, had not seen it -- or much of anything else on American TV in the past 20 years.

Her English was nearly fluent with an American accent. I asked where she had learned English and if she had ever been to the United States. No, but she watches "Friends" every night in English with French sub-titles. Her favorite TV program, she said.

By chance, later that day I had an encounter with an actual schizophrenic, not just somebody with a Bluetooth ear piece. An old woman with hair like a witch's fright wig approached me and for some reason was agitated that I was reading a map on my iPhone. In incomprehensible mush-mouth French, she was saying something about it was not necessary to look at my phone when the name of the street was posted on the side of the building. Maybe she wasn't so crazy after all.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I share your horror, and there is absolutely no doubt that you are on to something----and have been for years, which is why I always enjoy reading you. But . . . Is there some possibility that what you say might be a little, I don't know, provincial? This is a good example: Do you have any idea how ubiquitous, and in-your-face, electronic communication is in Hong Kong? In Rome? In Dusseldorf? Your visceral hatred might be distorting a wider problem about the conditions of modern life to which every culture is subject.

11:27 AM  
Blogger Jake said...

A few years ago, I hung out a lot with musicians of the folk/Americana variety. I thought, here's a group of people that reject the sick culture around us!
I enthusiastically tried to help this revolutionary counter-culture. In one case, I came up with the entire concept for a musician's grant application, helped him write and edit it, etc.
He won the grant! $8000 or so to make a new record.
At the CD release party, he mentioned everyone but me in his thanks. He had grudgingly put my name on the credits of the record, for "creative concept," but I realized that he was resentful about that. Yet he wasn't grudging about crediting the other musicians.
The thing was, I helped him as a gift, so I wasn't that angry, just surprised, and a little hurt. I didn't even get on the guest list!
In general, I found that this group of artists that I thought were all about friendship, mutual support, etc., are as much full of ambition, competition, and backstabbing as everyone else. And the moment you are no longer useful or a fawning fan, you no longer exist.

I also find that people, in general, a very afraid of intimacy (non-romantic) and mutual support. They like to have "play dates," and short get-togethers, but nothing approaching heart-to-hearts, etc. If I get too "real," they generally get uncomfortable, and that's that. You are expected to be phony to be allowed the companionship. Self-censorship is the norm, but maybe there's nothing even there to censor anymore.

11:52 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Sure, but it's a bit more complicated than that. I saw the Maori on cell phones in New Zealand, and elderly indigena ladies using them in Guatemala. But here are a few things to consider. 1st, the cancer has spread to the entire planet, but the epicenter is the US--wh/spreads its destructive values along w/its technology. Of course, you can say the phones are manufactured by Nokia in Finland, but this is neither here nor there: the spread of this type of communication has been at the forefront of the whole American neoliberal globalization project. It's essentially an American-inspired phenomenon.

2nd, I've observed that as opposed to the rude and vulgar way Americans use the technology, other countries occasionally seem to have limits. I've commented on this b4 with respect to Japan: it's regarded as rude, for example, to be talking on a cell phone on the metro in Tokyo, and in fact, there are signs there asking passengers to keep them turned off. In Mexico, it's quite common, if your phone rings while u.r. in a restaurant, to get up, go out of the restaurant, and have your conversation outside, in the street, so as not to bother the other people in the restaurant. In the US, people will just start yelling into their phones, and to hell w/those having dinner 3 ft away. Larry David even did a skit abt this, which is both depressing and funny.

I guess it might come as a shock, but I have traveled quite extensively, and have observed both the penetration of American techno-cancer into other cultures *and* the attempts to curb its excesses.There is a level of vulgarity and narcissism in the US that few other societies have managed to achieve.


11:57 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Dan Henry:

Guilt by association is not an argument. So what if Greenwald works for a media organization run by a billionaire? If you actually look at what the journalists working for First Look Media is doing relative to other mainstream news organizations, you will see that it is much more critical of the US government and corporations than most other American news organizations.

What is funny is that you want to smear people through ad hominem and guilt by association attacks and then when your argument is called into question, you refuse to engage in debate. An intelligent person would look at what Greenwald has actually said and done when judging him, rather than simply dismissing him because of the company he keeps.

12:27 PM  
Anonymous Sam I Am said...

Was it Publius who was having a hard time with his kids school situation a while back? Check out this fantastic article on outdoor and unsupervised play from The Atlantic

12:53 PM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...


You have had that experience as well. Wow, we're kindred spirits. I have had similar experiences as well and I have always thought it was me. I am elated and feeling jovial that I have someone to confirm this to me.

I do have a question for you. If you brought this up to others did others accuse you of lacking social skills and basically accused you of having the problem?

I have come to a realization. The horrible man I was conversing with a few weeks ago was very logical but he lacked passion. Everything was logic, rationality and numbers to him. He lacked a soul.

When I went to middle school I had to read to literary works by Jonathan Swift and they were called "Gulliver's Travels" and "A Modest Proposal". Have you ever read either one?

In the final story he reaches an island that contains a race of intelligent horses,

and savages called yahoos's_Travels)

The Houyhnhns used reason and only reason. Everything was numbers to them. To them, when one of their spouses died to them it was just that. Everything in the concrete world was all there was to them. They could not imagine anything outside of it even though they could reason within it. They lacked a passion for justice, love, mercy, etc.

The yahoos lacked reason were passionate and only passionate. They were loathsome creatures and brutes.

The man I conversed with was a Houyhnhn while people in America for the most part seem to be Yahoos. I thought Cantor's Infinity was the way but I'm wondering if Canterism at Canter's Deli would be better.

1:16 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Good day MB and Wafers,

A contribution to MB's points about cell fone distraction, danger, accident, and vulgar Degraded Buffoon behavior:


1:21 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I tell u, Americans are gracious and charming. We are abs. outstanding in that way.


Waste no time! Book a flight to LAX, and a hotel rm in Fairfax. Once settled in, walk over to Canter's. Order:

1. Corned beef on rye w/cole slaw and Russian dressing

2. Plate of dill pickles

3. Side of chopped liver

4. Cel-Ray Tonic.

This will be the greatest day of yr life, bar none. You *will* experience infinity (Canter-style).


1:35 PM  
Anonymous James Allen said...

Since the subject of opera has been brought up, and specific reference to Richard Wagner has been made, may I offer the following from a man of letters who had rather a negative view of the form:

Wagner's music is better than it sounds.
- Mark Twain's Autobiography (re-quoting humorist Edgar Wilson "Bill" Nye)

For more Twain comments on the subject, see

3:27 PM  
Anonymous Bruce Bennett said...

Speaking of our endless need to be "connected" it has been unnerving to me when I have visited doctors in the last several years that they no longer pay real attention to me as a human to be communicated with. Instead, increasingly, they bring a laptop to the appointment and look at it more then they look at me. I realize that there is a lot of medical info to be gleaned from various online sources but the whole experience leaves me with the feeling that I am little more than symptoms to be treated and not a human being with anxiety and concerns. Dr. Marcus Welby is long gone.
As for the addicted cell phone users, they are a continual irritant and I wish it was legal to use one of those cell phone jammers that project a "cone of silence" about 25 feet all around you. Maybe it will get so bad that we will pass laws to create cell phone free zones such as the cell phone free train cars that they have in England.

3:43 PM  
Anonymous Frankistan said...

Zosima said: "A recent article on the subject said that 6 of the world’s 7 billion people now have access to a cell phone"

America has only 330 million people, so then the rest of the world has the same problem with noise and cellphone.
I know a lot of Latinos and Mexicans who will kill you if you mess with their cellphones. In fact, check out any Mexican; you will see he or she has the latest iPhone.

4:29 PM  
Anonymous Brian said...

Dr. B--

Thanks for the posting on Sara Maitland; I find myself revisiting my working notes on her _Book of Silence_ again and again.

On that note, I wanted to pass along this piece on Maitland from the Guardian:

I discovered this interview when I visited The Hermitary (, an incredibly well organized and exhaustive site that other WAFers and NMIs may find useful.


5:03 PM  
Anonymous Michael in Oceania said...

@MB: The Mexican mobile phone etiquette (i.e., leave and go outside to answer the phone) is also the custom where I live as well. Also, in classes, meetings and conferences in my city, most people put their phones on "silent" (i.e., vibrate-only) mode so as to not disrupt the proceedings. I have never seen people diddling with their phones in meetings, classes or conferences (although I do see it on the bus sometimes). All in all, people around here seem to be able to use their devices without being obnoxious about it.

In my church, we have a rule that you turn your phones off during services, or (if you must be available for some important call), keep it on vibrate-only mode. That rule is well-respected, and I have only seen two occasions where someone's phone went off in the middle of Liturgy (being as I am the lead chanter, those occasions obviously drove me up the wall!).

FWIW, I have further personal rules, which I follow. For me, Sunday mornings are when I leave the gizmo at home to recharge. Also, (unless I am expecting an important call), I shut the thing off after about 7:30 p.m. each day. In addition, I do not turn on my Wi-Fi on my broadband modem, unless I have a guest in the house who requires Internet access for some reason. Technology may be ubiquitous, but I insist upon keeping it as my servant, and not letting it become my master.

Your mileage may vary .......

5:43 PM  
Anonymous washington dc yuppie said...

I agree w/you that phones suck, but my job (like many) requires we have phones on us 24/7, and answer calls no matter where we are. We are barely hanging on w/the economy being shitty as it is, so if we don't hustle, we lose our jobs and have nothing. Most of us don't have a house or savings, we are paid less than a living wage, and this behavior is demanded of us by people who have more $ than we do.

I'd love to toss my phone in the trash and live some other way. BUT, most of us have no control over our own lives, and whether I want it or not, I have to carry a cell phone w/me if I want to keep my apartment. Maybe you've been lucky to never have a job where you'll get yelled at for not picking up your ph immediately anytime it's called by a co-worker or client.

If you have a better suggestion of how to pay my debt, have a place to stay, and have a job that doesn't require a phone, I'd love to hear about it. I have no useful skills other than carrying a ph around and staring at a computer, so that might be the tricky part.

Please lay off people who are using ph for work, it's not like it's an option here for many. Generally I don't see people yelling into their ph anyway, mostly people quietly staring at a screen (which is terrible too).

6:34 PM  
Anonymous david strayhan said...

Can't say I've ever seen anyone talk on their cell phone on the train ride to work. They do stare at emails. And people turn up ear buds too loud, that's the loudest noise I hear, not talking.

The loudest person I've heard on the ph is my boss from middle east, who's constantly yelling at someone in arabic, no matter where we are.

So, based on my anecdotal evidence, I'd have to disagree about the curb your enthusiasm thing, seems like BS these days. Maybe 10 years ago it was like that, but people are quiet now. Maybe you've been in Mexico too long to realize that things change.

6:44 PM  
Anonymous SrVidaBuena said...

On the subject of people 'disappearing'... funny, I've been trying to figure out how to make more of them 'go away'. (Though your point is well taken, I've experienced it myself).

As for helping out 'artists'. I've been in similar situations as far back as twenty years ago. While many can be quite congenial and even 'friendly' in a proscribed sort of way. I came to the sad conclusion that it was really 'all about them'. None ever called me up to see how I was, or what was going on. Whenever the phone rang or an email came in I knew it was to ask for something. I think it speaks to how deep the (hustling) rot runs. And to a certain extent it probably has to be that way if they want to eat (and art is how they do that). I know that sounds like an excuse for poor manners. But that's how a depraved culture works. Systemic doltishness makes it extremely difficult to resist the same way. Perhaps I should say the system makes certain pathways much easier than others. Yet another reason to emigrate.

8:46 PM  
Anonymous Mikbeth said...

Dr. Berman:

I really appreciate what you have expressed in this post. I remember one experience I had with a young woman in whom I was interested. This was back in the pre-cell phone prevalent days of the early 1990s. At the end of a long telephone discussion (must have lasted about an hour) I suggested that we get together in person. She declined because she was “too busy.” She had just spent an hour on the phone with me but she was too busy to meet in person. The only conclusion I could draw was that people wanted friends who are convenient and “not too much trouble.” After that, I refused to be “convenient.” Of course, now I have no friends. How I ever managed to get married still perplexes me.

Like others that have posted here, I have had people with whom I believed I had shared meaningful experiences just disappear. In my case, distance has been a problem. I have tried to stay in touch via letters and even e-mail (I can’t stand talking on a phone of any kind) but no one writes letters anymore (except my 91 year old mother) and if anyone receives an e-mail that contains more than 500 words I suspect they find it a nuisance.

Time is a big problem. The way I am living my life, commuting up to 3 hours a day, trying to raise 2 autistic (high-functioning) boys, a wife who works long hours as well as commutes, trying to pay off an over-priced home, there is little opportunity for the quiet contemplation which I used to have and grossly undervalued in my 20s. I do not want to be living this way, but decisions made years ago under different circumstances have created a very uncomfortable present for me.

What is worse is that now I am equipped with the Wisdom of Waferism, my life is completely at odds with my views, which makes things very uncomfortable for me. I watch my kids with an enormous sense of grief that they are condemned to a hopeless future.

9:16 PM  
Anonymous Bingo said...

Dovidel, Megan,

I think the “Everything Is Awesome” song from the Lego movie is perfect for our times. The song is here:

The lyrics are here (and they’re awesome):

Here’s a teaser:

“Everything is Awesome,
Everything is cool when you're part of a team
Everything is Awesome when you're living out a dreams
Everyone's talking: Life is good!
'Cause everything's awesome
Awesome jobs and new opportunity
More free time for my awesome community
Let's party forever
We're the same unlike you, you & me we are workin' in harmony
Everything is Awesome,
Everything is cool when you're part of a team
Everything is Awesome when you're living out a dreams
A Nobel prize, a piece of string
You know what's awesome? Everything”


10:55 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Amtrak once instituted a cell phone-free car on its trains; problem was, no one honored the rule, including the conductor (I actually called in abt this once to the central office).


Definitely not my experience of Mexico, tho I agree it's getting worse over time.


I dunno what yr talking about, quite frankly. I go back to the US 2-3x/yr, and the rudeness and abuse is worse every time I visit.
So yr rt, things change; but not for the better. Apparently, yr powers of observation are not quite up to snuff.


I do appreciate the dilemma, but chances that I'm going to follow yr instructions are probably kinda small. Altho to be honest, I'm not really bothered by what Americans do, so long as they are destroying American society; wh/cell fone users definitely are. My concern is the cancer spreading to decent societies, and that is indeed a threat. Anyway, use yr fone more, and try to get everyone you know to do so as well.

I recall, being in a doctor's office in the US a few yrs ago, and a woman in the waiting rm was talking on 3 phones simultaneously. I had to restrain myself from saying to her, "You know, the really cool people have 4 fones, at least."


Yeah, in retrospect these departures were no great loss; it's just the general phenomenon that is depressing. Anyway, yr rt, that's how a depraved culture works. That's why poor Yuppie doesn't have much of a choice. But depravity is still depravity, eh?


1:18 AM  
Anonymous Megan said...

Dan Henry,

Thanks a lot for the Larry David skit--that was hilarious!


I'm glad the thought of our common misfit status lifted your spirits! To be a misfit in this society, simply means that they haven't yet broken everything of value in you.

Regarding "disappearing friends", I didn't mean to imply that I'm a social leper or anything.(Though in America, that might well be a badge of honor!). More like two or three times that this has happened over the past ten years. But as Dr. Berman said, it just had a weird, "I haven't quite seen this before" feel to it. Symptom of decline, no doubt. As SrVida pointed out, however, virtually every phone call or e-mail I receive, is just another demand or lopsided imposition. Very little human interaction, and always choppy, text-like sentences, even in e-mails. Almost never a "Hello Megan!" at the beginning, or an, "All the best" at the end. Just brevity, demands and superficiality throughout. I've come to feel an almost physical shudder when I turn on my computer these days, and it says, "You've got mail!"

Oh, and I did read "Gulliver" many years ago, but it's pretty blurry in my mind. Still, I've never run into the problem of someone with too much logic. With people I know, it's usually the opposite problem.


"Everything is Awesome"....Okay, what in the F was that??!!! I was laughing throughout, but how preposterous! What kind of person could possibly have written that?....All I know is that if I ever decide to take my own life, I will almost certainly have that song playing in the background!

6:29 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Shortly b4 he died, Kurt Vonnegut was interviewed on TV by Ted Koppel. I was, of course, horrified by the latter's haircut; if we need any evidence of American collapse, why worry abt cell phones, or meaningless friendships? Ted's haircut is proof enuf. But I digress. In the course of this interview Vonnegut asserted that American 'culture' consisted of an ocean of garbage punctuated by a few islands of civilization. I think he was being too generous, really. But he was referring to culture in the high sense, not the anthropological sense. In terms of the latter, i.e. the daily behavior of everyone in America, their mode of interactions w/each other, this is also true, it seems to me: an ocean of Degraded Buffoons punctuated by a tiny group of Wafers. Techno-buffoonery, and lightweight, meaningless 'friendships', are the order of the day. One might call it a poop-culture. Historically, when a civilization enters its most serious, and irreversible, phase of collapse, it turns into a poop-culture (PC).


6:44 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: one service Wafers can provide, of course, is to furnish evidence of PC. We call these DBB's: Degraded Buffoon Bulletins. To wit:

Wafers are encouraged to submit the worst cases of douchebaggery/buffoonery so that other societies, ones w/a shred of decency left, might know what to avoid.

6:57 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps2: perhaps not unrelated:

7:06 AM  
Blogger Dan Henry said...

Mike, you've just equated the employer-ee relationship to mere "association" and then have the gall to accuse me of refusing to engage in intelligent debate. The contradiction there should have knocked you out of your seat before you finished typing. I could be kind and accuse you of concerted trolling for a vested interest. However, I'd wager this is indeed a case of vested interest, but in the typical can't teach a man to walk when he's paid to drive vein. You are exemplifying the standard American reaction to the utterly authoritarian nature of our society. It's one of the most hideous contradictions of the American experiment that we created a government supposedly intended to be opposed to authoritarian abuse through checks and balances yet so utterly committed the society to authoritarian rule through economics under the guise of merit. And so here is Mike, defending and exalting Greenwalds move ever further toward outright authoritarianism. If Greenwald is half the leading light he's purported as by so many, he has long ago realized the identity-politics-like destractive nature of so much of what he reports. He hacks at specific, enclosed branches of evil, and staunchly refuses to recognize the root while moving himself ever closer to it, and you laud him for it... At best he's myopic. Maybe MB can provide you with some in person de-CRE services, cause you've got a brutally deep case. I realize you've internalized the damage, probably beyond help, that such authoritarian relationships and societies inflict on us all; and I'm betting most regulars here have already disregarded your sputterings for the nonsense that they are. But I post this in the hope of catching a few souls who might be wavering, that they might avoid falling into the dump with you and so many other Americans.

There's an entrepreneurial opportunity for you MB! Massive growth potential. I'll only charge you a 15% consultation fee.

Sorry if this is on the long end.

11:07 AM  
Anonymous Bingo said...


Indeed, that’s an awesome song to commit suicide by. National suicide, that is. Close your eyes, and imagine society, empire, economy, education, environment, food, truth, values, all coming down crashing into a million pieces, while that ridiculous song is playing in the background:

“Everything is Awesome,
Everything is cool when you're part of a team
Everything is Awesome when you're living out a dreams
Everyone's talking: Life is good!
'Cause everything's awesome
Awesome jobs and new opportunity
More free time for my awesome community
Smelling like a possum, everything is awesome
Let's party forever
Everything is Awesome when you're living out a dreams
Blue skies, bouncy springs, we just named a few awesome things
A Nobel prize, a piece of string
You know what's awesome? Everything!”

The irony makes it well worth living through these times.


11:15 AM  
Anonymous Bruce Bennett said...

Interesting about your experience with Amtrak. I believe that what the British did was to create train cars that were screened so that cell phones simply wouldn't work. Seems unlikely that we will see that in this country. Thanks to cell phones the U.S. has become a national phone booth. I have even read of people who answer their phones during a funeral!

11:15 AM  
Anonymous skbeverly said...

Thank you so much for your comments on the value and, indeed, the necessity for silence if one is to have a genuine spiritual or intellectual life. I attend a Quaker Meeting in a small village at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains founded by Quakers, and I definitely feel that we are fighting a losing battle as far as the wider culture and our country is concerned. I began reading your books in the early 2000s, and they have helped me enormously. I, too, thought seriously of leaving the USA in 2005 but was unable to do so because of family obligations. So I am still here, meditating more and more.

A second issue that I wanted to mention is all the heat you took over your comments that the ante bellum south presented another way of life from the "hustling" culture. I grew up in the rural south and even in my day, life was slower, more gracious, and more livable than it is now in so much of our country. I think that one has to remember how hot the south was without air-conditioning and how much rest and slow moving that required. But most of all, I think that our long association with our black brethren and their gentle and humorous (especially with children) ways deeply affected the south and southerners, and I am very grateful for that.

12:42 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I doubt u and Mike are going to come to a mtg of minds here, and shd probably just hang it up. But please, avoid ad hominem attacks. We try to be as courteous in our disagreements as we can, on this blog. Thanks.


12:43 PM  
Anonymous al-Qa'bong said...

nuqneH Wafers, and all others with smooth foreheads:

Check back with that doctor in five years, Mr. Bennett, you may find he's devolved into something resembling the fast-medicine clerks in Idiocracy.

I don't know how Wafish was the recent HBO programme, "True Detectives," but at one point in the series, a lapsed preacher named Theriault told Det. Rust Cohle that all he ever wanted was to be closer to God. What he found was...silence.


2:10 PM  
Anonymous Mo Ronich said...

I enjoyed reading today's material on my iphone while having lunch at a restaurant. I guess this makes me a Waffoon.

3:50 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

In a once beautiful but slowly rotting So. Cal beach town recent storms pushed moored boats free onto the shore. A wedding party of young DBs thought the destroyed beached ship would make a great backdrop for some post-wedding pics. They had a great time it seemed, celebrating their union in front of a shipwreck.

4:42 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Dan Henry,

I will ignore your ad hominem attacks, as they really don't advance the argument or show that anything you're saying is of merit. I wonder if this goes back to what MB has said, about how the anonymity of the Internet brings out the worst in people. Perhaps you could display a little civility, and address my arguments without personally attacking me.

However, I would like to address this point:

"He hacks at specific, enclosed branches of evil, and staunchly refuses to recognize the root while moving himself ever closer to it, and you laud him for it..."

Greenwald has written prolifically about the national security state, which he sees as the deep pathology from which many other government abuses spring. He also has written a book describing in great detail the problems with the two-tiered American legal system. That is hardly "specific" or "enclosed," but rather deep structural analysis.

And far from "moving ever closer" to the root of evil, Greenwald is barred from even returning to his country of citizenship, out of the fear that government officials will arrest him upon entry for his journalism. How you could say that a person who has sacrificed so much by criticizing his own government is moving closer to that government truly baffles me.

5:18 PM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

Well Megan

First, how have you been doing anyway? How are things?

Second, with email and texting, tell me about it. I'm always having to ask people to clarify further. It seems like ten years ago, people used to be a lot more clearer when they spoke and wrote. Now, they're so vague and all they seem to do is use hackneyed slogans that mean nothing to me. You're right again, there is no caring behind the emails as well.

With regards to Gulliver, it is rare but it is possible; look at me as an example who tried to apply Cantorism to Americans. For the most part, again you're right it is the opposite problem. Dr. B has had to keep telling me that people are not logical. When I observe people, I have to conclude that his argument is valid and sound.

It is so alien to me that people do not use logic or reason at all or very little. Most Americans are just a few steps above Yahoos. Why would anyone want to be a Yahoo though? I went the opposite extreme which was the Houyhnhn. Yahoos are filled with passion that supercedes over reason to much and Houyhnhns are filled with reason that supercedes over passion to much. What I have noticed about Wafers is that they balance the two out and interrelate them in a synogistic harmony. I have to do so as well. Cantor became a houyhnhn and that is what happened to him.

6:24 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I find the concept of the Waffoon intriguing. We need to explore this further. There may be a whole T-shirt line in this.


9:13 PM  
Blogger Hopeful in Arizona said...

Greetings Wafers,
Please let me introduce myself: I'm an ex-wayfarer; not because I want to be an ex-waferer, absolutely not. I immigrated to Israel back in 1993. I was preparing to move from the Negev, to Sfat (north Israel); (I loved its old European feel and mystical ambiance with all its Kabbalistic history) - until I found out that my father was no longer able to live on his own. So, I returned to the states to take care of him until his passing in 1998. So here I am, trapped in the U.S. of A. I can't return to Israel though, it would be too costly for me. I'm 56 years old and useless to them now. I've heard its changed a great deal since the last time I was there and not in a good way.
I really used to love this country at one time; my father taught me that, he was one of those disabled veterans that always wore a hat that communicated to the world that he was a Veteran. He displayed a huge American flag outside the house on every Fourth of July; we spent a lot of time at military bases, shopping at the PX, eating dinners at the NCO club etc. Somewhere along the line, I can't remember exactly when, I lost my love for my country. I became disillusioned with it all.
I read Dr. Berman's blog every chance I get in order to keep my sanity in this G-d forsaken soulless and cultural wasteland. I haven't given up hope yet, that I'll be able to emigrate again, maybe France or Canada, anywhere but here. I refuse to give up hope, for If I were to lose hope, I'll have to take that cyanide pill, like the one given to Jodi Foster in the movie "Contact", in case she became stranded in space with no way to return home.
Dear Dr. Berman and my fellow wayfarer bloggers, thank you for being you, and sharing your thoughts without which I would feel like a lone wolf in this insane asylum.

10:53 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thanks for checking in. The most consistent comment I've gotten over the years (trolfoon attacks aside) has been: I thought I was crazy until I read ___. The US is basically a training center for committing spiritual suicide, and there is a tiny fraction of the American public that knows this. Anyway, don't take that cyanide pill just yet.

Books you shd probably read, rt away:

-Ilan Pappe, "The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine"
-Max Blumenthal, "Goliath"

No, going back to Israel is probably not a gd idea. But you do need to get out. We all do.


11:38 PM  
Blogger Val said...

Good news: for reasons beyond my control, I am told that my cell phone web connection will imminently be severed. The downside is that I will no longer be able to follow the most important blog in the universe. The upside is going cold turkey on my web addiction, freeing me to get on with productive work like that perspective treatise and other projects of a creative and constructive nature.

I use the phone as a phone comparatively little. In fact I usually keep the ringer turned off. There are only one-and-a-half people I care to hear from, and I don't always answer even them. I'm starting to find myself groaning when I get email. I can see the day coming when I'll do without the device altogether.

I've recently bought the plans for a sailboat. It's too small a design to let me follow the Sea Gypsy Philosopher out onto the whale road, but it's a start. I'll have to get very, very lucky to get the shekels together that are needed for that purpose. I'd like to leave before the next big economic tsunami hits, if possible. I'm trying, but to speak truth I think my chances are slim. I fear that I may wind up eking out an existence as an NMI in the Land of Zero Happiness.

High culture is where it's at. Anthropological culture is for monkeys and trolfoons.

Best wishes to WAFers.

3:50 AM  
Anonymous washington dc yuppie said...

Encouragement is not needed to get people to use their phones more, there's maybe only 1 in 100 not doing swipey BS on the metro. Anyway, I can't imagine people are forced into this, most people want to stare at the ph constantly, it's pretty bizarre watching nearly everyone swiping thru junk. I'd guess approximately 0 people on the train want to get rid on their phone, so no worries there.

On the funny side, there continues to be a rash of ph thefts on metro, people will snatch phones right out of people's hands on the train and run off w/them (see video below):

"Grab-and-run thefts have been a recurring problem for Metro for several years. In 2011, there were 438 such thefts; in 2012 that number increased to 491."

4:13 AM  
Anonymous Megan said...


Yeah, and don't you love how they just throw "a Nobel prize" right in the middle of the stupid song?! I mean, where in the hell did "Nobel Prize" come from? And then to be followed by "a piece of string, everything is awesome"?!!! I don't know, but I think it has great potential to become a classic of the Absurdist Theater. Indeed, if Beckett were alive to work it over a bit, it might actually be worthy of the Nobel Prize!

PS after researching it a bit, I'm even more astonished to see that this song is some kind of mega-hit with the public. Well, I'm not astonished, really, but that does make it even funnier!


While everything is a bit short of "awesome" in my own life, I have to say that I'm doing pretty well overall. I hope the same is true for you, my friend.

Logic is nice for getting us on the right path, but for most of the really important things, it has little to tell us: love, death, suffering, loss, God, the meaning of life, etc. etc. Most of these things transcend logic--and when we try to unravel them strictly through the use of logic and Reason, we tend to go round and round in pointless mental circles.

Anyway, have a great weekend, Cube. I hope life is treating you kindly.

6:43 AM  
Blogger Enigmatician said...

Nice article. I have been wondering about this mobile phone disease for many years. In my mind the question was always something like "why are all the people, around each other, not communicating, but feel the need to talk to someone who is elsewhere?" Or, why are the folks right next to me not worthy of common communication/decency. Instead we have arrived at the point where, If I (a man) says "hello" to a random female for example, it is thought of as awkward, and the female is frightened...Such an empty society I am still living in...

8:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


If you guys haven't already done so, I strongly recommend you watch the movie "Army of Shadows" by Jean-Pierre Melville. It's a great movie about the deeper implications of being a wafer in our time.

The trolfoon Larry David link was brilliant. Check the stop phubbing facebook page to see more funny bashing of tech idiots.


9:22 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Dear MB,

John Michael Greer seems to be making some of the same points you have been making in his recent essay titled "American Delusionalism, or Why History Matters"

"The current blind faith in American exceptionalism, in other words, is simply another way of saying “it’s different this time.” Those who insist that God is on America’s side when America isn’t exactly returning the favor, like those who have less blatantly theological reasons for their belief that this nation’s excrement emits no noticeable odor, are for all practical purposes demanding that America must not, under any circumstances, draw any benefit from the painfully learnt lessons of history. I suggest that a better name for the belief in question might be "American delusionalism;" it’s hard to see how this bizarre act of faith can do anything other than help drive the American experiment toward a miserable end, but then that’s just one more irony in the fire. "


9:28 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Male-female interactions in America are another sign the society is falling apart. I was in a food court yesterday, in a town abt an hr from where I live (in Mexico), and as I sat down with my tray, a woman of abt 20, very pretty, came and sat at the next table over. She smiled at me, and for a second I was completely disoriented. I forgot I was not in the US, where such a thing wd never happen. American women are scared; they don't smile at male strangers, and don't make eye contact. So I was thrown; it took me a second to realize that I was in a healthy society, not in the US. I smiled back, said "buenas tardes." It clearly wasn't in her mind that I was going to rape and murder her; and her smile wasn't a come-on--it's called, "being friendly." Imagine that!

In the last Seinfeld episode, "The Finale," there are two incidents where Jerry and George are walking along and a stranger says something like "Hi! Nice day!", and Jerry shrugs and says to George, "What's wrong with *him*?"


All that makes me feel v. gd. The 'fabric' of American 'society' is already badly frayed; all of this stuff can only work to make it come completely apart. Maggie Thatcher, a very sick individual, once said, "There is no such thing as society." America is proving she was correct--at least, for America. Other nations know differently.


I told u b4: you hardly need a fone to check into Blog No. 1. Just duck into an Internet cafe for 10 mins a day, get yr fix.


10:01 AM  
Anonymous Mikbeth said...


I've been searching unsuccessfully for the interview of Kurt Vonnegut by Ted Koppel. I suspect that Koppel's hair has been banned by You Tube.

I have found lots of other good material with Vonnegut. Although I had heard of Vonnegut, I had never read him. What a gem!

Here is a short video of Vonnegut explaining every story ever written.

I also stumbled across this discussion moderated by Stephen Ambrose between Joseph Heller and Vonnegut about their experiences in WWII. I found there observations complex and thought provoking.

Thanks for enriching my life with Vonnegut. I continue to get good "food for the soul" from this site.

2:25 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


My favorite was "Cat's Cradle."


5:19 PM  
Anonymous Bingo said...


Re. male-female interactions in the Land of the Brave. You are 100% on the mark. I psychoanalyzed that for years, and didn’t understand what was going on until I took a trip back to Europe and saw how different women are here. First time I returned to Romania (after 20 unhappy years of America), and women were smiling at me on the street and making eye contact was shocking to me. Back then, as an American, I had the same reaction as you – I was not sure why they were doing that. I initially thought they had an ulterior motive -- surely they wanted my dollars, I thought. Turned out, they had no ulterior motive and wanted nothing from me – they were simply being human and acknowledging my own humanity (I guess they could not tell from eyesight that I was American, and thus not really human). And it’s like that in most of Europe -- France, Spain, Italy, Russia, and all of Eastern Europe. And I saw the same dynamics when I was in Mexico. But try that in America. Try to make eye contact with a woman in Chicago and she’ll call the cops on you for attempted rape. Very sick.

Bottom line, Americans a not only a bunch of buffoons, but more specifically, a bunch of angry, frightened, hurting and emotionally devastated dehumanized buffoons. And it’s not just the men-women relationship that reflects this. Just look at how parents interact with their children in the Home of the Free. All the poor kids ever hear from their parents is “no” and orders and commands of all sorts. No emotional contact, no closeness, no affect, no parental warmth, no nothing. Then they wonder how come half of their kids turn into drug addicts and the other half signs up for the Army and goes on killing women and children in foreign lands they can’t even locate on the map.

That’s what you get when you build a society on fear, intimidation, violence, abuse, domination, competition, and relentless brainwashing. And this is reflected in every aspect of that screwed up nation: in employer-employee relationship, in its foreign policy, in economic policies, in its culture (if you can even call it that), in everything. A nation of psychopaths. A culture that sucks out the very soul of its people. A vampire nation. I could never live in that hellhole again -- the thought of it nauseates me.

Yeah, the rest of us will sure miss that shithole after it finally collapses into the black hole that it has always been. I say, happy collapse, baby – that’s the karma you so rightfully deserve.


5:29 PM  
Blogger Zosima said...

Excellent observations. Did you know that there have been studies showing that the range of expression human emotions in developed countries like the US has steadily contracted over the years? It appears that modernity is creating an emotionally and spiritually washed-out type of human. A shadow of a real human. I imagine this would become even more noticeable to me if I were to live for a while in a country like Ecuador or even Mexico.

I still remember an article from maybe two decades ago where Vonnegut said that he wouldn’t use ATM’s because he wanted to make human contact, as this was a vital part of being human. The unforgettable takeaway quote: “I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different.”

5:54 PM  
Anonymous SrVidaBuena said...

Dr. B. I loved your story about the food court. That's one of the things I miss most about Mexico. The last thing I want to do is open up the 'battle of the sexes' can of worms again. But please indulge me with yet another tale from my time in Mazatlán...

Over ten years ago when I first met the woman I would eventually marry in Mexico, I was still living much of the year in the US. She worked as a chef at an upscale beach hotel. This hotel had a webcam mounted in such a way that visitors to the website could get control and maneuver the camera to view the beach, pool, terrace dining area, etc. I found I could use this camera to see my sweetie during her morning stint at the breakfast buffet. The first time I called her long-distance and complemented her blue dress, which blew her mind until she realized I could see her on the web cam. We carried on this way for months while I was primarily stateside. Some mornings she would wave which meant she wanted a phone call in order to tell me something. And so it went.

Now the point of my story is this: every American woman I've told this story to for more than 10 years finds it 'creepy' and/or calls me a 'stalker'; every Mexican woman tells me its adorable. I'll leave it to all of you to decide for yourselves. Oh, we're still together and our son is about to turn 12 and we're looking forward to 'retirement' someday in Mazatlán - only thing missing is the wherewithal to do so. How many 'stalking' tales do you know that turn out that way?

6:34 PM  
Blogger jml said...

Speaking of Vonnegut, it seems he was an NMI, too. A few weeks ago, I came across the following quote by him:

"Go into the arts. I'm not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something."

I teach art at a community college. One of the other teachers posted this in one of the studios. B/c the current climate in higher education is credentialing, art teachers are continually having to prove that art classes teach skills that are "marketable" and useful to other professions. But the only reason I ever took art classes when I was a college student was b/c they were a refuge, which is, I suspect, the reason many students take art classes - to make life more bearable. Fewer and fewer people understand this these days.

6:46 PM  
Blogger S. P. Hunter said...

There was a sickening article on the website Common Dreams about a week ago titled "Stop Telling Women To Smile". It's about how women are constantly under siege and being harassed by men all the time, and the one way to "defend themselves" is to be more colder and distant.

More progressive dreck of the kind that has me tired of visiting those sites despite the few good articles they may have once in a while. It's only because of Chris Hedges that I visit TruthDig, for even that site has a lot of drivel too.
Here's the links to the above mentioned article:

On another note, I just finished reading a great book titled "Around The Craggy Hill" by George F. Kennan. I loved it. My curiosity about the supposed racial comments atributed to Kennan peak my interest, because they seem out of character with the way he writes in this book. I definitely want to read more of his books as soon as I can obtain them.

8:39 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


How odd history is, really. Richard Powers has a novel, "Gain," that describes the evolution of a tiny soap and candle 'company' (two brothers in Boston, w/a shop on the harbor) in the late 18C to a Big Pharma megacorporation at the end of the 20th. The early yrs show capitalism at its best: an energetic little co. trying to do well by its customers and make a small profit at the same time. The 20C mega-version is polluting a river in the Midwest, causing cancer, and trying to cover up what it's doing. It's huge, anonymous, bureaucratic, and vile.

So the problem with business may not be one of capitalism per se, but of scale. (BTW, the novel won Best Historical Novel of the Year, I think from the OAH--Organization of American Historians). As things evolve, late-capitalism turns everything into a commodity. The early co. was abt service to customers, and maintaining relationships w/clientele. People came 1st. The later co. put people last; they were nothing more than ciphers, objects, in the Big Pharma outloook. And when the size gets large enuf, the ideology of capitalism manages to turn everything--science, art, friendship, romance, education, whatever--into a commodity. This is the process of hollowing out the soul, and the truth is that no civilization can avoid collapse, once it enters this phase. In the Twilight book, I talk abt the Roman empire (speaking of size) as collapsing partly because of spiritual death, and that's what we have in the US today. Durkheim called it anomie, and claimed that it was the source of suicide. We are now living in an anomic society, one w/o any real purpose or moral compass at all; which is why all these 'progressive' attempts to shore up various institutions cannot work: how do you get cancer out of the bloodstream, so to speak? This vacuity shows up in the eyes of Americans walking down the street (something I discuss in my 2013 lecture, "In Praise of Shadows," wh/I think is floating around YouTube somewhere). Yes, we are a collection of degraded buffoons, but it's actually worse than this: we are a collection of empty and vapid buffoons. The individual is anomic, and so is the entire nation. It shows up everywhere, particularly, in recent months, in our foreign policy, where it is clear that we simply have no foreign policy and don't really know what we are doing. (I'm no fan of Assad or Putin, but at least they fucking know what they are doing.) And it shows up in street-level male-female relations, where saying 'hello' to some gal is somehow equivalent, in her mind, to being grabbed by the ass. This is as gd an example as any of a culture eating itself alive, spiralling downward into self-destruction.

Part of my own frustration over my work being ignored or marginalized is

(a) 'Progressives' ignore the role of culture in the devolution of a society. Oh, they talk about how the 1% oppress the 99% and so on, but this is only one factor in our decline, and possibly not the most impt one. Real history includes street-level interactions; it's not just about the rich and powerful and the members of gov't. The real story is much more complex.

(b) There are very few authors who not only connect the microcosm w/the macrocosm, but who also reveal and analyze the interrelationships among the various institutions of society. Once you grasp these 2 things, it becomes absolutely clear that there is no recovery in the pipeline--and Americans of any stripe don't wanna hear *that*. Instead, they want a book about (e.g.) how the educational system is fucked up, and how to fix it. But the educational system (or the courts, the economy, the military, etc.) don't exist in splendid isolation, and the truth is that to fix one (i.e. really fix it), you hafta fix all. And how in hell is *that* gonna happen? Rotsa ruck, amigos.

Vonnegut's response was irony. Mine was emigration (and publication).


8:45 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


There are a few pp. in DAA assessing Kennan's role in American history, wh/u might find helpful (or not).

Meanwhile, here's Philip Roth's portrait of contemporary America (this from a recent interview):

"Very little truthfulness anywhere, antagonism everywhere, so much calculated to disgust, the gigantic hypocrisies, no holding fierce passions at bay, the ordinary viciousness you can see just by pressing the remote, explosive weapons in the hands of creeps, the gloomy tabulation of unspeakable violent events, the unceasing despoliation of the biosphere for profit, surveillance overkill that will come back to haunt us, great concentrations of wealth financing the most undemocratic malevolents around, science illiterates still fighting the Scopes trial 89 years on, economic inequities the size of the Ritz, indebtedness on everyone's tail, families not knowing how bad things can get, money being squeezed out of every last thing--*that* frenzy--and (by no means new) government hardly by the people through representative democracy but rather by the great financial interests, the old American plutocracy worse than ever....The fantasy that prevails is the all-consuming, voraciously consumed popular culture, seemingly spawned by, of all things, freedom. The young especially live according to beliefs that are thought up for them by the society's most unthinking people and by the businesses least impeded by innocent ends."


9:40 PM  
Blogger Dan Henry said...

I visited a Russian sauna last night, my first time ever. Very cool experience in a boiling hot room. I went with a couple guys I train jiu jitsu with. We were among a very small handful of English speakers there, most being Eastern European or Mexican. Very friendly atmosphere, tons of conversation, feels inviting even though I couldnt understand 90% of it. Definitely worth checking out for NMI folks stuck inside the beast.

11:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My closest friend of several years—someone I knew since early childhood—fits every description of a Degraded Buffoon. His road rage over small inconveniences, addiction to technology, money worship, extreeeeme materialism, belief in American exceptionalism, superficiality, bloated sense of entitlement. He also had the tendency to just cut off communication with one or more of his friends from time to time. The last time he did this to me I finally told him how much of a douche he was for doing this, and he disappeared for good. Now I understand we were never very close at all, for he didn't understand the nature of friendship. He is a soul-sucking jerk and I'm better off without him, but even after almost a year it is still very difficult for me. What's sad is he understood my hatred of American society, but wasn't brave enough to make the inner shift. Hell, he introduced me to God Bless America and is as much a fan as I am. This wasn't the first time I had to cut ties with what I thought was a close friend—not that I think I'm better than these people, just that with friends like most Americans who needs enemies? Appreciating the benefits of solitude is definitely important here.

I am fascinated by how extremely phony most people I encounter are. All of their discussions are meaningless. They are all about style, and actually FEAR someone with content. They are attracted to highly charismatic people that have nothing to say but are always talking; the type of person that will use you and dispose of you when you are no longer useful to them. That such sociopathic behavior is considered attractive is perplexing, yet fascinating. It truly is, as Maynard Keenan aptly put it, a "bullshit three ring circus sideshow." What's funny is when you're living in a crazy world, maintaining one's health and sanity is to be considered a "crazy person." I'm pretty sure I know of several people that think I am truly insane. My values and actions seem backwards. I used to wonder if maybe I was to blame for not having the friendships that I thought others had. Then I started paying closer attention to their relationships. The difference is that I won't put up with that shit, whereas most Americans seem to consider it normal.


12:11 AM  
Blogger GregJS said...

Sam I Am - thanks for providing the link to the article about how kids don't go off and engage in unstructured, unsupervised play anymore:
One part of it that seems worth highlighting on this blog is where it talks about “the work of Kyung-Hee Kim, an educational psychologist at the College of William and Mary and the author of the 2011 paper “The Creativity Crisis.” Kim has analyzed results from the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking and found that American children’s scores have declined steadily across the past decade or more. The data show that children have become: less emotionally expressive, less energetic, less talkative and verbally expressive, less humorous, less imaginative, less unconventional, less lively and passionate, less perceptive, less apt to connect seemingly irrelevant things, less synthesizing, and less likely to see things from a different angle. The largest drop, Kim noted, has been in the measure of “elaboration,” or the ability to take an idea and expand on it in a novel way.”
The good news is we don’t need creativity anymore since we can just google it.

12:26 AM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and Wafers,

S. P. Hunter-

The source for George Kennan's racial comments is "The Kennan Diaries" by George Kennan, edited by Frank Costigliola. I shoulda provided the source in my post a ways back. Take care.

Buenas noches,


1:25 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Perhaps send him a vial of urine w/a note: "Apply liberally to shoes."


But all of this--less humorous, less imaginative, less passionate--is a description of Americans in general (DB's). Grim and stupid, basically.


3:10 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

And speaking of DB's:

3:35 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Loving this discussion & constantly nodding my head in agreement!

I've noticed that as digital "communication" becomes simpler & faster, there's actually less & less real communication. I have friends & family members who can no longer be bothered to respond to an email, because "it takes too long to read or write one" -- texting (or txtng) is their preferred method. I've no doubt that the character limit for Twitter will soon be considered excessive verbiage.

When I've tried discussing this with some of them, I'm told that they're "just too busy all the time" -- and much of this turns out to be time spent checking things digitally. Then they ask me why I don't go on Facebook to keep up with everything.

Which leads us to the prevailing notion that we all must be connected at all times, that there's something abnormal, certainly un-American, about not be available anywhere at any time.

When I mention that my wife & I share one basic cellphone -- no camera, no Internet, to be used only for car breakdowns in the middle of emergencies -- I get appalled or uncomprehending reactions. And of course we don't text, Tweet, or anything like that, which brings similar reactions.

(and by the way, words like "Tweet" make me realize just how infantile everyday language has become, reflecting the mindset of those who use it.)


You've described it EXACTLY! I sometimes feel as if mainstream culture & its inhabitants form one continuous slippery, superficial film that clings to everything, yet at the same time is something that nobody can touch without sliding off. Certainly you can't penetrate or puncture it -- and even if you could, there'd be nothing behind it.

9:35 AM  
Anonymous bartleby the Scribbler said...

Good review of Kennan Diaries at NYRB (unfortunately locked but you can read a few paragraphs):

Val, you can also get internet at library. Don't leave us, amigo. Enjoy hearing your thoughts on art.

jml, my recollection of that Vonnegut quote is that it was a response to a request by a middle school teacher sent to a broad number of writers to say something to young students. Vonnegut was the single writer who bothered to respond.

mb, once again you hit the nail on the head. It's hard to believe, but this hell gets worse by the day. I've told my wife (25th anniversary approaches) that I have PTSD from living here so many years. It's my excuse for avoiding as many social occasions as I can. Besides I can't contribute to conversation because I'm not up on the latest incarnation of Kim's rump, the missing plane, or the nature of the latest exciting app (whatever an app amounts to). My PTSD has been getting only worse and I now realize, thanks to your latest writing, that I've entered into Degraded Buffoon Syndrome.

I'm just hoping my NMI project can save me from Terminal Buffoonery. At the moment I'm an aspiring lotus covered in sewage, as I believe you expressed it regarding your residence in the wasteland's capitol. As the shitpile gets higher I keep having to extend the breathing tube to reach oxygen, which at this point is almost solely provided by you and the WAFer community. So thanks all!

9:57 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Read my new bk, "Waferdom or Douchebaggery: The Choice is Yours." Coming soon to yr nearest T-shirt.


10:16 AM  
Blogger Sarasvati said...

Years ago I was at a dog show and remember looking at all the people milling around and suddenly being struck by the thought that they were actually robots; it was quite unnerving.

I have mixed feelings about women smiling at strange men. For myself I’m very friendly, look people in the eye and smile. Always did, still do. However, from experience I can tell you that men very often mistake friendliness for personal attraction and sometimes proceed to ruin things. I can handle myself, but it can be very discouraging.

Then there’s sexual-harassment. Years ago I worked for a company where the VP of engineering liked to pinch me. The first time I made a comment that should've warned him away. The second time I went to his office and had a private conversation telling him that if there was a next time, I wouldn’t be so circumspect. Of course there was a third time, and he did it in front of his employees. At that point I turned around and verbally blasted him. Guess who got in trouble? Ah, the good old days!

I read the article about Clinton and McCain and the only thing more discouraging than the article itself were the comments. People really do suffer from CRE and are oblivious to what’s staring them in the face.

10:52 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Dear MB and Wafers,

Fred Reed in his recent column titled "Onward into the night" compares today's schooling in USA to when he went to school (1950's and 60's). here is an excerpt:

"As an example of documented current practice in urban schools—I have seen similar from Detroit, Chicago, and Mississippi—here are a few emails sent to the New York Post by students of Manhattan’s Murry Bergtraum HS for Business Careers. These have been posted by various horrified writers, but I repeat them here in case the reader hasn’t seen them. They concern the students’ support for something called “Blended Learning,” in which one watches a video, answers a few questions, and gets credit. The Post had written a piece critical of same, putting the students into an uproar.

A junior wrote: “What do you get of giving false accusations im one of the students that has blended learning I had a course of English and I passed and and it helped a lot you’re a reported your support to get truth information other than starting rumors . . .”

Right out of Milton, that."


11:51 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


In the Twilight bk I wrote that the US was a gigantic dolt-manufacturing machine. 14 yrs later we see that it's also a factory for turning out Degraded Buffoons. Of course, calling Americans trash is politically incorrect; the problem is, it's correct. The student Fred quotes is but the tip of the iceberg.


12:14 PM  
Anonymous Seeking Sanity said...

It's nice to see Kurt Vonnegut Jr. fans on here. Science Fiction fans have read some of his stories and posted them as podcasts on iTunes. Search iTunes for Short Science Fiction Collection podcasts and you will find his story 2 B R 0 2 B available on Collection 039. Collection 041 features his story The Big Trip Up Yonder which literally had me laughing out loud while listening to it. There are several other science fiction podcasts that may have other Vonnegut stories available as well as many other stories by science fiction authors. Just search iTunes podcasts. There may be some Vonnegut interviews on there too now that I think about it.

I often work alone so I download podcasts all the time for listening while working. Of course I instantly download all of Dr. Berman's interviews whenever I find them. Every now and then I luck out and find them before he posts them here. That's usually because I subscribe to some of the usual suspects that interview him, like The Extraenvironmentalists. Have you ever considered making a weekly or monthly podcast Dr. Berman? We could all go to iTunes and give it stellar reviews and maybe get the word out to a wider audience. It might help us in finding the 2000 or so Waffers in the U.S. who haven’t found your blog thus far.

Waffers also can find several podcasts with Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky and many others that share our view of the world. I am always searching for podcasts that appeal to the Waffer in me. Currently, I am hooked on Terrance McKenna as he has some really interesting ideas and a unique perspective on things. Seek and enjoy fellow Waffers.

12:53 PM  
Blogger jml said...

I feel like I need to chime in on the comments regarding how American females react to friendly men. Does anyone remember a movie called “Fatal Attraction” that came out in the late 80’s starring Glenn Close and Michael Douglas? I was in college when it came out and and it was extremely popular, especially with the boys. It seemed to spawn the following trend: anytime a girl and boy exchanged any kind of intimacy or tenderness, whether it be physical or just verbal, the girl was labelled as being “fatal” (i.e.: psycho) if she somehow misinterpreted verbal or physical intimacy as meaning that the boy actually cared about her. I heard these terms (fatal, psycho) used repeatedly throughout college and into my twenties, and even early thirties, to describe females who had the gall to believe that when a male expressed affection it actually meant something, and then were hurt when, later, that male seemed to pretend that he hardly even knew her. This seemed to be the state of male/female romantic relationships in America when I was in my twenties. It seemed that most young men simply weren’t interested in having a relationship with a young woman unless she could somehow help to further his career. Many young women were driven into therapy by this state of affairs, only to be told that there was something wrong with THEM, that they were addicts (to love) and needed to find a 12-step program. (Is it possible to be addicted to love?) Many of them actually entered 12 step programs thinking there was something wrong with them for having the nerve to believe that a male’s affections were authentic. What I believe actually caused this sorry state of affairs is that Gen X males knew, consciously or not, that they were going to have a much, much more difficult time financially providing for themselves and their loved ones than their fathers. Feelings were simply a liability, dating had to be strategic in order to find a way to sustain a middle class lifestyle. American men are just as damaged and afraid (if not more) than their female counterparts. I am sorry to say that I used to be that scowling, afraid woman who was leery of all men who smiled at me, and then I met one who was not afflicted in the manner describe above. All of this brings to mind Christopher Lasch’s description of American social relations as “combat.”

1:02 PM  
Anonymous Pauli said...

Mr B, your friend speaks, finally (he speaks for 76% of white people in America who voted for him):

"Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Sunday that President Barack Obama has been naive about Russia's "intentions and objectives," and that the president's "faulty judgment" on Russian President Vladimir Putin has made the current situation in Ukraine worse.

"The president's naivete with regards to Russia and his faulty judgment about Russia's intentions and objectives has led to a number of foreign policy challenges that we are facing," Romney told Bob Schieffer on CBS's "Face the Nation." "Unfortunately, not having anticipated Russia's intentions, the president wasn't able to shape the kind of events that may have been able to prevent the kinds of circumstances that you're seeing in the Ukraine.""

1:57 PM  
Blogger Val said...

Dr. B, it seems I haven't made my situation clear. Internet cafe? I usually don't have the price of a cup of coffee on me. I am experiencing what may be fairly described as hard-core poverty. Once this socially corrosive device I'm using goes offline, my blog participation will be a few-and-far-between thing. That's why it'll take a *huge* slice of good fortune to get me out of here, and I fear I may not make it.

Creatively I have many irons in the fire; but you've observed yourself how deeply appreciative of the fine arts most Americans are. Anticipating from them sufficient income to emigrate (other than in an unchartered government flight to a "black site") is sorta like counting on book sales of brilliantly insightful literature to buy a Tuscan villa.

BTW some financial bloggers such as Chris Martenson are anticipating another financial crash similar to '08 within the next year or so, with more dire consequences than before because the usual accounting tricks like quantitative easing won't work so well, being already played out. Truly this is the Land of Opportunity! There will be soup lines and street-sweeping jobs galore. The American Dream festers to its very core. But I would prefer to enjoy the spectacle of imperial decline from a safe distance, if I can manage to arrange it.

2:53 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Combat, or hustling. In the US, capitalism turns everything, romance included, into one or the other. Check this out:

A true American, this gal.


Wafers, w/one f. This gives the whole thing a slight flavor of transubstantiation. As for podcasts...hmm. I've been content with doing something new on the blog every month or so, but obviously it don' go viral. Which may be OK, I dunno.


2:55 PM  
Anonymous washington dc yuppie said...

Simplicity is for the rich. Whether it's being able to live w/o a car and phone (e.g. the life of leisure you are able to live), to dining and fashion that appear simple. For the poor, life is anything but simple. You really don't address the fact that the infrastructure laid out in America requires a car & phone. This is infrastructure we had no say in, yet, we have to live w/the consequences of the choices of the past generations.

We just happened to be unlucky to be born in the US. If I'd been brought up in rural Japan, I'm sure I would have ended up differently. I think it's more complex than "Americans are dumb". I'm not surprised your books have lost a following over the years, and I don't think it's because people aren't reading.

3:45 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I don't post Anons. Pls pick a handle, try again.


Man, you obviously haven't read my bks yrself; you literally haven't a clue. Nor is dumbness of Americans the only factor; just a big one (and make no mistake: Americans are *not* reading, unless it's a screen). And virtually all Americans own a cell fone, if not a car. Yr not a very sharp dude, dude. I'm beginning to understand why yr having problems.


Ever heard of the public library? They all have computers w/Internet access. Why not throw caution to the winds, give it a whirl?


4:15 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Just to set the record straight, although I live in Philadelphia, I was not the Joe Blow in your story. Just kidding.
Yes, I had the misfortune to spend an entire day in center city Philadelphia yesterday and nearly everyone was wired in some way. Rittenhouse Square which was once the greatest pick-up spot in the US is now nearly wholly peopled by techno-buffoons. For those of us who did not have plugs and wires hanging from our ears (so aesthetic, so aesthetic) we were forced to hear the wretched sounds of children playing, bluegrass bands, and that darn awful sound of blowing wind.
On another point,we can breathe a sigh of relief that the upcoming generation of women will be as bitchy as those lovely denizens we men encounter today. I recently attended a high school talent show. During intermission I went out to the lobby to buy some snacks. The high school girls were behind the various counters. One would at least think when you are trying to sell something you might want to be pleasant to the customer, right? Not these girls. I thus suppose that displaying a mean countenance is the new way to sell (We live in a hustling society, girls. Can't you even hustle correctly?). So men, rest assured that you will never have to encounter a pleasant smile or anything resembling genuine, non-distracting conversation with the next generation of American women.They will be just as odious and mean-spirited as their moms are today.

5:54 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I guess the question is whether this viciousness is inherited, or whether they are picking it up from their mothers by osmosis. We simply hafta solve this! (I wonder if Kim knows...)


Sorry, wasn't able to post it. We have an informal rule here: only one post every 24 hrs. That shd make yr library visits a lot easier, BTW. Anyway, check back with us tomorrow afternoon, thanks.


6:31 PM  
Blogger GregJS said...

Tim - The “appalled” reaction you get when you tell people you’re not into cell phones, texting, Tweeting and so on makes me think about that whole category of things that evoke similar reactions - like if you don’t follow pro baseball/basketball/football, if you’re not into drinking beer, if you don’t watch certain tv shows, if you don’t want to make as much money as possible, etc. It’s really crazy. For contrast - to underscore how nuts this social phenomenon really is - just imagine someone saying something like, “You’re not into drinking milk?!! Really?! Man, I love to pound down a few milks after work! How can you not be into that?” Nobody does that and it would seem totally bizarre if they did. If you don’t like milk, no one gives a damn - which is as it should be. But it seems normal to many people to talk hyper-enthusiastically about beer - even if it’s crappy piss water beer - and to care whether other people like it or not. (Not that there aren’t legit reasons to be enthusiastic about beer, sports, some tv shows, or even technology; but if you have legit reasons, you couldn’t care less if others don’t share your interest.)

In all of these cases, people either know or subconsciously suspect that their interest in whatever they’re into - cell phones, Tweeting, watching hours of big-business-sports while getting plastered, etc. - is unhealthy, obsessive, addictive, and/or psychotic. But of course they don’t want to admit that to themselves and acknowledge how empty their lives really are. No way. So instead, since so many people want confirmation from everyone around them that it’s totally normal to be caught up in these things, most people tacitly agree to participate in a cultural fiction that these things are “totally cool/hip/awesome!!!” Now, if you don’t express the requisite exaggerated interest and enthusiasm over these things, people can’t help hearing it as a criticism - as confirmation that they are indeed obsessed/addicted. So they want to make you out to be the “weird” one. Pure defensiveness, in other words.

6:40 PM  
Anonymous Michael in Oceania said...

Since American child-rearing practices have come up again on this blog, here is an interesting piece from The American Interest website:

The American Interest is the flagship website of Prof. Walter Russell Mead, former president of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Prof. Mead is a spear-carrier for Empire and even helps promote the hydrofracking scam on his website. All that makes the following Wafer-ish insight even more surprising:

"Yesterday’s larger families and autonomous childhoods have given way to small, carefully planned families with closely managed children. ... Having a child is so expensive that it is weighed against the lifestyle losses parenthood brings. These and other factors combine to make younger Americans treat children almost as consumer products or status symbols, the capstone to a successful career and marriage. Parents not only try to live through their children, but also seem to see them as a kind of lifestyle accoutrement. In turn, then, children come to exist more and more for the sake of the parents, and are anxiously watched and fretted over.

The author then calls for " a debate into the meaning of having children in the first place—weaning our elites away from treating children as consumer luxuries and instead bringing children into the world for their own sake."

12:19 AM  
Anonymous Capt. Spaulding said...

Dr. B. -- Normally I ignore the NY Post as simply a rag sheet, but I came across an interesting article that spoke to the tragic side of our current topic on degraded buffoonery. Starving artists aren't exactly a new phenomenon but the pursuit of success and a certain kind of privileged life seems to be bankrupting what's left of our so-called creative class. Despite what David Brooks says, you can't be both a bourgeois and a Bohemian.

- Capt.

1:46 AM  
Blogger Zosima said...

“You make me sick with your heroics. There’s a stench of death about you, you carry it in your pack like the plague. With you it’s just one thing or another, destroy a bridge or destroy yourself. This is just a game - this war. You and that Col Nicholson, crazy with courage - for what? How to die like a gentleman. How to die by the rules. When the only important thing is how to live like a human being.”

OK. What movie is this from? I would hope the over 50’s would guess it. Old Hollywood. Note the wonderful cadence and rhythm. Written by people who read good books. Change a few words and it applies to modern Americans. Killing themselves to play by capitalist rules. Destroying themselves and the world for what? Expensive toys, gadgets, and junk. Never considering what it really means to live like a human being. They’re sacrificing themselves, but it’s not heroic. It’s stupid and cowardly.

2:58 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Gd article! Shows what America's values really are, and how far we've got our heads embedded in our rumps.


A good indication of how capitalism manages to destroy even the most intimate of relationships. Marx: "Everything is dissolved in the icy waters of egotistical calculation" (from The Communist Manifesto).


3:23 AM  
Blogger Patrick D. Fitzgerald said...

@dc yuppie

MB actually wrote a chapter in Dark Ages America about the automobile, the rise of suburbs and the role of these in the degradation of the social fabric in the 20th Century, it is very informative and quite interesting. You should check it out.

As for simplicity being exclusively for the rich, maybe you just might need to strategize and get a little creative. On a poverty level income, I have managed to still have a savings account that only goes up without giving up most material comforts. The trick is to stop buying superfluous things. Of course they have to try harder and shed some of their American dispositions of consumptiveness, but to say that the poor don't have the ability to live simply isn't the case.

3:24 AM  
Anonymous Orenda said...

Thank you for the moral and intellectual support.
I moved to rural Germany about a year ago to give my dual citizen child a chance to absorb this culture. The high quality kindergartens, food, infrastructure, all the well-balanced non psychotic people made it seem like a reasonable choice.
But adjusting to being here -- the effort of communicating in a second language, of parenting in an unfamiliar place -- was harder than I’d imagined. It took 6 months to get used to not being constantly surrounded by heavily armed police. To relax.
It was a relief to hear (in your Judith Reagan interview) that your streak of productivity in Mexico began after a year of detox.
Recently, while visiting a nearby city, I met a gorgeous young man who offered to show me around. We ended up listening to music, picnicking, talking philosophy and making love all night long. We walked through the streets with open bottles of beer (which is no crime and bothered no one). Later, as he escorted me back to the train station, we snuggled and kissed in the street car. The people around us did not seem disturbed. There were others carrying on in the same way.
I am beginning to have some confidence in my decision to jump ship from America.
Thanks again.

6:33 AM  
Anonymous Edward said...

Capt. Spaulding, thanks for the article. Here is a quote from it:

"While the chasm between Scott’s marketed life and her actual life came as a shock, she was just one of countless New Yorkers who secretly fake their fabulous lives."

It is easy to blame all Americans for this kind of thing. I have always wanted to ask this question: where is the blame for teachers, professors, universities, and clergy in this country? They are part of the problem because they helped to produce the "educated" morons we see on the news on daily basis. A person without any education knows that income must be larger than spending to sustain one's life. Why is it that the educated elite in this country does not understand this simple truth? Go to the US Congress or to Wall Street or the university boards across the nation; you will behold educated idiots spending the money they do not have on useless things. I am beginning to think it has something to do with our education, from day one to PhD level.

9:14 AM  
Blogger Cj said...

Hi Professor, another great piece. You should be getting a commission from for the book I've ordered based upon your recommendations.


10:42 AM  
Anonymous Frankistan said...

Whether forced or not, whether suicide by choice or not, let their deaths continue – because they have caused to deaths of many innocent people around the world.

“Coroners in London are preparing to investigate two apparent suicides as unexpected deaths by finance workers around the world have raised concerns about mental health and stress levels in the industry.

The inquest into the death of William Broeksmit, 58, a retired Deutsche Bank AG (DBK) risk executive found dead in his London home in January, will start tomorrow. The inquest for Gabriel Magee, a 39-year-old vice president in technology operations at JPMorgan Chase (JPM) & Co., who died after falling from the firm’s 33-story London headquarters, is scheduled for late May.

The suicides were followed by others around the world, including at JPMorgan in Hong Kong, as well as Mike Dueker, the chief economist at Seattle-based Russell Investment Management Co.”

10:57 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Nice try, waking up the deaf and the blind. Our DC Yuppie is, I suspect, typical of a v. large % of Americans who are not very bright, and not very educated, but who think they are. As a result, getting thru to them is not a likely prospect. Given the choice between continuing to swagger and actually learning something, they almost always choose the former. We live in a Clint Eastwood culture, after all. But the upside of this obstinacy is the same as the constant use of cell phones: the trajectory of collapse is thereby accelerated. So while he's kind of a sad shmuck, he *is* fulfilling his historical role. Still, on an individual level, this always makes me sad, and I say this in all seriousness. These people come to the most important crossroads an American can come to, where one arrow says Wafer, and the other says Douchebag, and they ALWAYS choose Douchebag. Learning, after all, requires some degree of humility.


I confess, your post sounded like one of those letters to Penthouse. You know, the ones that begin, "You aren't going to believe this..." But I believe it, I believe it! And I'm really happy 4u, esp. since I think a happy life has shitloads of gd sex in it. Beyond's fascinating how Germany has become something like the US was, postwar--free and easy (at least on a social level; I'm leaving our foreign policy aside for now)--and how the US is becoming like Germany was, up to 1945: an armed camp. I still have a v. close friend in Berlin--my former landlady (I lived there when Die Mauer was coming down)--and she has an enjoyable life, not oppressed by American 'culture' and values (even tho Germany is a consumer society, like all of Europe; but check out Steven Hill, "Europe's Promise"). Anyway, yes, my dear, jump ship, asap, and make lots o' love.


The answer is that w/o becoming a Wafer, no one escapes the hustling culture; it's the American DNA. And as I have said repeatedly on this blog, stupidity is not merely a question of IQ. America is chock full of high-IQ morons. Think of Robt McNamara, for example--what a brilliant dummy.


10:59 AM  
Anonymous turnover said...

Ageism In Silicon Valley Is So Bad People In Their 20s Are Getting Cosmetic Surgery

Sure is uncomfortable being a high tech competitor.

11:44 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Stuff like this is evidence of the collapse we are going thru, but it also fuels the collapse. What a great way for people to spend their lives, eh?


Gd hearing from u. Bk? You mean the pb edn of WAF? This is gd, but remember, you need a copy for each rm in yr house. That way, you can be rdg it all the time. BTW, I once calculated what I had earned in royalties over the yrs vs. # of hrs I spent wrtg; it came to 2.5 cents/hr. No, not kidding. My mother told me to be a plumber, but did I listen? Oh no, I knew all the answers...


One wd hope these deaths are the result of a crisis of conscience, but it's probably just karoshi (overwork).


12:05 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and Wafers,


Yes, where are the teachers, professors, universities, and clergy?
My experiences are as follows:

1. Teachers: My neighbor is a high school English teacher. About six months ago, she revealed that she voted for McCain/Palin in 2008 because she believed Sarah was pro-choice.
2. Professors: I encounter many who believe teachers should be armed in the classroom.
3. Universities: Places where I thought I could find, as MB says, "kindred spirits." Turns out, the university is largely a place where a serious swindle is taking place. There's no "real" education going on in most of these institutions.
4. Clergy: God wants you to be rich and enjoy the American Dream!


Ausgezeichnet! A great story and congratulations. In many ways, your life and recent experiences remind me of the Richard Linklater film, "Before Sunrise."


Is it the Kubrick film, "Paths of Glory"?


In many ways you *are* a plumber. Plunging the shit outta shit- crammed heads is nasty business...


12:25 PM  
Blogger Cj said...

Hi Professor, shoulda been books....Just ordered a copy of the book you referenced in this piece.

My son has a plumbing, heating, and air conditioning business and he's really rolling in the cash...


12:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I couldn't agree more that the real problem is one of scale (and that the real solution is a vial of urine :). Moreover, about a year ago it occurred to me that what capitalism is and why it has outcompeted the other economic systems is because it is the most effective at performing so well on a large scale. To paraphrase Dmitry Orlov, the Soviet system didn't work as well because it's a lot more effective to get human beings to participate (and to win over their 'hearts and minds') if they are holding onto a ledge for dear life than it is to force participation by trying to nail their feet to the ledge. Capitalism is more subtle than the hierarchies we read about in the history books, and therein lies its genius. It doesn't force people directly, rather indirectly by creating conditions that limit people's options. Once those options are already limited, erase people's knowledge of history and tell them they are free to do what they want, and the uneducated masses will gladly participate out of an irrational sense of freedom. Of course, there are many other aspects to capitalism which has helped it stand the test of time. Such as how effectively it individualizes a society, which is necessary if a Power structure is to control a large population.

One of the most interesting patterns in human history is the constant struggle for freedom, community, local autonomy and the like. And a most interesting question is why has this persistently failed? Why has Power succeeded over and over again (until it eventually self-destructs), only for another Power structure to take it's place? If humans desire to be free, why have they become decreasingly so the world over for such a long time?

The roots of large-scale phenomenon go back to the birth of civilization. I hypothesize not that civilization caused this chain of events (as the anti-civ folks do), but that it itself was a consequence of emerging exogenous forces that gradually forced human societies down a new evolutionary path—one of 'greater scale'.

12:51 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


For the full picture, check out a bk I wrote called "Wandering God."


Ask him if he needs an apprentice. I cd move to S.D.; it may not be too late for me.


Given the trolfoons that show up on this blog, I do feel like a toilet plunger a lotta the time. However, I never seem to unclog them! Yes, I know: a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it, etc.


1:31 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Oops! Sorry Zosima, I just noticed that you provided the clip for the movie quote. As the saying goes, if my head wasn't attached to my neck...


Please excuse this 2nd post.


1:42 PM  
Anonymous James Allen said...

"My mother told me to be a plumber, but did I listen? Oh no, "

Still, I'm sure her breast swelled with pride when she introduced you to others as "My son, the Professor."


Maybe not "Meet my son, the Doctor," but you're hardly chopped liver, eh?

2:40 PM  
Anonymous tamara said...

In 2004, a business-owner fired me because he suspected that I was lying to him about not having a cellphone.

After I was hired (of course, I'd provided my landline number on my employment application), he asked me for my cellphone number ("in case of emergency"). I told him – truthfully – that I didn't have one. He looked at me askance, in complete disbelief. I remember laughing and saying, "Hey, I love being incommunicado at times!"

A few weeks later, we were hit by a category-four hurricane. Electricity and landlines were out (for some, for three weeks). Cellphone coverage was sporadic. A few of my friends and neighbors had Verizon, which was up, but not very useful if you can't recharge your phone.

I asked a neighbor if I might please use her phone to call my boss, the day after the storm. Her battery was dying, but she had a car-charger, so she was okay with it. He didn't answer. But I left him a message saying I hoped all fared well with him and his family, and that I would be contacting him again, as soon as I was able.

Fast-forward: he ended up firing me because he said I'd lied about not having a cellphone; that I wanted the ability to go incommunicado at my own will. Hahahaha! What a douche! ... Oh, and he disputed my unemployment claim, accusing me of "willful misconduct." I came to the hearing with bells and whistles. He never showed up. I won that round. :)

Hey, MB, what's the status of your tendonitis? I bounce in&out of here irregularly, only because I so love gardening, cooking, reading books, yoga, meditating, and communing with more palpable life-forms. ;) – But I seem to recall you had an issue with your ankle?? – Hope it's mended by now! I had an awful thing with my ankle; it was not getting better (or worse) after a year, so I went to a respected Qigong specialist, and fewer than six weeks later, my ankle was *completely* healed! (In contrast to a friend who had a similar situation and opted for western surgery; his ankle has never been the same, since.) Hope you're well and feeling super! :)

2:51 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Glad to hear you won yr case, tho I wish u could have peed on his shoes as well. An utter douche bag, clearly. My ankle is finally doing fine, thanks to a great phys. therapist. I'm back on the tennis courts, after 5 years w/o it. What a rush, I tell u; tho my forehand is a tad stiff. But I've already wired Andy Murray that there's a new sheriff in town.


Actually, she never introduced me to anyone. I think she wanted to say, "My son, the rich plumber." She did, however, make very gd chopped liver, I hafta admit.


3:13 PM  
Anonymous KarmaKing said...

When I read things like this, I ask myself, why are these people so mean to each other; why do these people not see any value in religion and spirituality?

"Unfortunately, she really had no promising options going forward. She couldn’t just start over. She couldn’t take a menial job and pretend like her status as a celebrity/VIP figure didn’t exist. And what’s worse, she couldn’t simply retire and focus on family life because her longtime boyfriend and his children reportedly weren’t letting her in. She seemingly had nowhere to turn to."

3:51 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Uhh...because they are Americans?


4:28 PM  
Anonymous AS said...

It seems MB jumped the gun on picking the paperback photo for WAF. This would've been perfect:

4:29 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


One comment on this was:

"this picture is why people fly planes into our buildings."

Foto will be cover of my next bk, however: Douche Bags on Parade.


5:26 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: And I don' care what anybody says, this guy is a cutting-edge intellect:

He may just save America!


5:58 PM  
Blogger Jason Tower said...


as further evidence of the USA's buffoonery, I offer this piece of evidence I found on a sports website. It shows who the highest paid public employee in each state is. In my home state (Oregon) it's a football coach. It's sad, but maybe it is better than giving the money to a politician.


6:58 PM  
Anonymous Phineas Ellsworth Lovejoy II said...

"I have even read of people who answer their phones during a funeral!"

Please don't tell me the corpse waa doing this, too. Can you imagine? "No, I'm dead... I said I'M DEAD!...Look, I'll call you later."

Here is a scene from a movie I fantasize abt making. In the scene, mourners at a funeral service are talking on their cell fones.... In the same shot, the camera slowly pans to reveal the open casket... in which the corpse is also yakking away on a fone. Everyone is oblivious to this and to everything else. Finish the shot on a big American flag waving in the wind.

7:35 PM  
Anonymous Bingo said...


Here's a breakthrough treatment of mentally ill patients. Please watch the whole video -- it's even more shocking toward the end:

And yes, it is covered under Obamacare.


9:21 PM  
Anonymous washington dc yuppie said...

We who are in debt from education/medical bills and have no ownership in anything are stuck in our position. My coworkers are constantly on iphones, but they too hate it, and we all talk about how we hate money. There is no walking away when you have no community, no ownership of land, and no job potential outside of whatever you were able to hold onto. As if we could quit and become artisans or farmers! Alternative experiments would be crushed in an instant in DC, and not because people don't want them to happen.

Also, talk of collapse is fairly common in DC. You said you spend a few days a year here, I'm in the most dense parts of the city, talking to low-wage workers, lawyers, and real estate folks daily. Your analysis just seems out of touch and based mostly on anecdotal junk from the internet.

I think having a book deal & dropping out to live in Mexico sounds like a dream to most people. It's a luxury, and we are stuck here while all the rich folks of means can do things like take vacations, live in Mexico, and have time to read. I'm at work 12 hours a day, and it's not because I'm hustling to buy myself an ipad. I don't have land, a car, a TV, or computer. I can't afford a family or really anything beyond a studio apartment and absolute basics of living in a city.

I'm typing this on company property that is constantly monitored, and sites like this are banned, though I'm risking it. I don't have freaking time for an internet café or the library, hours which are only within my work hours.

Get in touch w/reality beyond anecdotal evidence you read online, and the 2 days a year you're here. Would you expect I could form an analysis of Japan by taking a week long trip to Tokyo?

4:57 AM  
Anonymous J S RANK said...

"Degraded Buffoons" is unneccessary redundancy. They are natural buffoons that cannot be degraded.
IDK...'true' buffoons may relish their exquisite stupidity with clownish regalia and the sudden attention they receive from the 'normal' brain-dead mob.

The 'degraded' aspect is where there is no self recognition. These 'buffoons' consider themselves better than others by design, fiat, or tradition. They are more intelligent, privileged, entitled, SUPERIOR; to anything else by their own ego driven parameters. Their individuality, by itself, creates an aura of invincibility...invulnerability.

They're heroes to themselves.
They are given over to the concept of ultimate and absolute freedom.
And so, they are ultimate and absolute douchebags.

The brilliance of this dynamic, is that ALL of the 'degraded buffoons' think they are smarter and better than all of the other 'degraded buffoons'.
WAFer's need only to step aside ( and practice the discipline of silence ) when the cannibalistic feeding frenzy ensues.

5:43 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I fear yr the one who is out of touch. I'm in the US more than 3 days/yr, I lived there most of my life, and my research is heavily statistical, not based on 'junk from the Internet'. You haven't read a page I've written; this much is clear. I didn't come down to Mexico with a book deal--not at all--and the income I get from royalties is trivial; a joke, really. I get by on a nonextravagant lifestyle; I'm hardly wealthy. Your 'understanding' of me is a caricature, and attacking me personally will not change your life in the least, nor will it give you any understanding of the larger society and how it functions--an understanding you sorely lack.

I don't doubt that Americans are getting squeezed, tho I don't think it's just a simple matter of the 1% oppressing the 99%. Note that it is *your* 'evidence' that is subjective and anecdotal; you have no data at all. And BTW, pls note that I lived in DC for 8 years, and part of that time I worked in the inner city. Whom do you think yr talking to?

You have a certain personal experience, and I'm not disputing it; but that's abt it. A clear thinker, yr not. (Jesus, that comparison w/Japan was so stupid!--and you can't even understand why!)

In any case, yr welcome to participate in this dialogue, but personal attacks on myself or any other Wafer are not on; and in any case, the topic of this blog is the collapse of America, not me. If you insist on making it abt me, you won't be posting here much longer. Up 2u.


5:46 AM  
Blogger jml said...

to washington d.c. yuppie:
you are shooting the messenger. sounds like you are directing your anger in the wrong direction. you are angry for many of the same reasons wafers are angry. i'm sorry you feel stuck and constrained by current societal obligations, many of us feel that way, too. maurice isn't the bad guy, he's simply trying to explain how it got to be that way. the truth is a jagged pill.

7:22 AM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

Dr. B

I have been reading your exchange with Yuppie and I have read the essay that was written by Isaiah Berlin called "Two Concepts of Liberty." I think he may be onto something and that is one of the contradictions that exist in America today. America is touted as being a free nation and yes it is a freer than North Korea. With technology, it seems like years after a particular technology is invented and after it becomes integrated into society the use of a particular technology becomes an inherent requirement to be able to function in society. Now it seems like one is required to use social media to obtain employment because more employers are using Google to look at the contents of one's social media. Can one be employed without having a phone at all?

In Yuppie's mind his liberty is constricted to certain set parameters. If he is constrained to certain parameters dictated by people who require technological usage then I have to ask, how is he truthfully free? People are not constrained by any government or political process but by a social and economic process. What I mean by economic process in this case is that one’s choices can be constricted by external prices and one's finances. How does one leave if one has no money to leave?

This is one reason that made me conclude that you were right about America's collapse Dr. B. Part of having a viable and healthy society is to have strong foundations. If one of the foundations is weak especially the main one the whole thing has to eventually tumble down. One of the main virtues that people in America claim is liberty in the negative sense. This virtue is considered inalienable and absolute. This means certain private entities are allowed to grow so much that they have major control over how day to day life works. If one tried to point this out others would consider this person to be envious of those in charge or would consider this one person a communist. Hence, no discussion of the concept of liberty is possible. Orwell was right when he said “Freedom is slavery.”

9:20 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

I'm not sure if anyone posted this yet, but here is a scientific view of collapse:


"A new study sponsored by Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution."

Some of the comments are interesting too, such as a string about what "collapse" actually means for the elite vs. the hoi polloi. The fall of Rome vs. fall of the Maya ... etc.

9:40 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Actually, I believe Orwell said: "When fascism comes to the West, it will come in the name of freedom"--or something like that. The Berlin thing is something I don't think I've written abt, but I've addressed it in lectures: namely, that he was very focused on the down side of 'positive' freedom, but paid no attn to the down side of 'negative' freedom. (He also paid no attn to the up side of positive freedom.) And it has a very large down side--like getting trapped because of technological advances. In this sense, the Luddites were way ahead of him. It's possible that Yuppie has more choices than he claims: for example, DC is one of the most expensive cities in the world (as I well know). He'd be better off trying to find work in a smaller, more low-key place, altho I grant u that the employment situation everywhere in the US is pretty poor. In any case, if he cd get off the jag of Berman Is The Enemy, and actually read some of Berman's work, along with authors such as David Harvey, Matt Taibbi, Paul Craig Roberts, David Stockman, et al., he might have a better sense of the machinery in wh/he's caught. He narrowly believes that personal, anecdotal, and immediate impressions tell him all he needs to know in order to formulate some sort of cultural analysis, and I have a feeling he's going to cling to that position for a long time. Not much I can do to change his mind, I'm quite sure.

However, his situation is very instructive, because as you say, technological changes do suck people in and make life harder and harder--the cell phone being the latest embodiment of this. So Yuppie is fairly representative of a large segment of the population, caught in the jaws of our great techno-capitalist machine, and I'm grateful to him for describing how awful it is. The only problem, of course, is that he has no understanding of history, sociology, culture, or larger context. Americans love the American Dream, even when it is destroying them. They love the latest techno-toy, whatever it is (thinking it's choice, or neg. freedom a la Berlin). They abs. never think beyond the system they've inherited, and they certainly don't resent the upper 1%: they just wanna be part of it. (One reason why OWS never had a chance.) So he can rant all he wants, but the data are on my side. We are not dealing w/an intelligent European population that tries to fight back, organizes anti-austerity marches, explores alternative currency or energy systems, and the like. Instead, we're dealing w/a not-very-bright population that doesn't know what a Society is, is not interested in community or organization, and in which each atomized individual thinks his/her ship will eventually come in. So all Yuppie can do is get emotional, be angry at me, and shoot from the hip. He too is one of the not-very-bright, and the odds of getting someone who is NVB to *see* that they are NVB is pretty small. Still, I'm glad that he has been willing to give us a window onto his situation: capitalism is a cold, hard world, and I genuinely wish he (and so many others) weren't suffering from it.


10:51 AM  
Anonymous Pauli said...

washington dc yuppie did not have to say mean things about MB to get his the other important points across. Yes, I agree with him that some people are basically stuck and suffering in USA because of their income and job situations. They have to work to pay bills like electricity bill, apartment bill, water bill, and food and other things required daily to meet their physiological needs. If they miss one day of work, they may end up homeless. This is because the majority of these workers have no land, no pension, car, and no family members to help them. In most other cultures, people have lands and they do not need cars to survive. Without a car or car insurance in USA, your options are very limited – to go to work is not as easy as it is in some other cultures. Think about it for a moment: These people wake up daily and work! One little illness or mistake, they are dead!

Read more about why L'Wren Scott decided to commit suicide to understand how lack of money, too many bills to pay, and lack of family can weigh down heavily on a lot of people. This is a fact of life for millions in USA. To deny this is like hiding your head in the sand like an ostrich. I mean there is something wrong here, when a lot of people are suffering in silence like this. Maybe 90% of the American people should just end their lives like L'Wren Scott so that suffering will end for them and so that some tiny section of the population will have more wealth under their name.

11:51 AM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...


This exchange with DC Yuppie is very significant. It provides a look at somebody who is trapped in the american dream (or Joe B's Hologram). Working at a low pay meaningless job, caught under student loans and few options. What is central here is that he (she?) like millions of their ilk though educated 13 years in public schools mostly and then 4 (usually 5) years of college (for which they borrow heavily) do not know a effing thing. No sense of culture or histroy as you point out and interestingly no real free will. They are essentially domesticated serfs in mental outlook. I've met graduates from solid (or at one time) who do not know handwriting. See its all typed. I interviewed a polic sci graduate from U Chicago who did not know the functions of the senate and house of representatives, or the features of a parliamentary democracy. He however was very adept in social medial and "technology". He said he was a quant so I challenged him to solve problmes from a freshman stats text , he with his technology and me with a slide rule and pencil--guess who won? Hyperegalitarianism and indoctrination in schools coupled with a lifetime of screen time and junk food are all a heady mix to being a sort of pack animal.

What is plain is that DC. along with his fellows lacks personal agency. i.e. D.C. could forgo a studio and live in a shared house in Silver Spring or VA and save some dough instead of a studio. Instead of excuses he could find public libaries open on weekends (VA and MD ones certainly are as is the central D.C. one at 9th and G), U of MD also allows the public in to its fine library. He could as some suggest just leave or other creative solutions which require a bit of will and creativity all in short supply and not attainable by most.

12:35 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, L'Wren's situation was rather different than most, I fear: her goal was not survival, but to live a glitzy lifestyle, wh/was hardly a matter of necessity:

As for refs to me: not just mean things; *lies*. As for his own situation, and the economic squeeze you refer to: well covered by Barbara Ehrenreich in various (brilliant) bks, wh/I'm guessing Yuppie never read.


12:36 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yeah, it is pretty sad, and I do feel for him, on a # of levels; including the one of lack of any real education, wh/u pt out. I was esp. fascinated by the complete lack of logic/common sense. Consider his assertion that one cd not formulate an analysis of Japan based on a week in Tokyo, and comparing it to my analysis of the US. Wow! Here's the lowdown:

1. I spend more than one wk/yr in the US, but even w/o that, I spent decades living in the US, as compared to less than 3 mos. in Japan. Wdn't that make a difference for my ability to analyze the US?

2. I read English quite well; I read no Japanese. Wdn't that make a diff etc?

3. (His lack of any background info): The best bk ever written on Japan by an American is "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword," Ruth Benedict, 1946. She read no Japanese, and had never been to Japan. Yet the bk is still assigned as an undergrad text in Japan, and is quoted in high schl texts there. The Japanese themselves have some crits of it, of course, but the overall verdict has been: "She got us rt."

In terms of education, where does one begin w/someone like Yuppie? Like most Americans, he believes that if he's emoting, he's thinking; and that his own immediate, personal observations constitute analysis. Honestly, where does one begin? Because as u pt out, the System did its job on him extremely well: he's a very unintelligent serf w/no sense of personal agency at all--the perfect American. He's obviously the majority, amigo; not you or me. 40 yrs from now, he'll be saying much the same stuff.

I come back to the crucial Road Not Taken: one sign says Wafer, the other says Moron. Americans always choose the latter--always. It's the only thing they know. What future can such a country possibly have?


1:35 PM  
Anonymous Edward said...

Tell me more about silence and solitude:

2:11 PM  
Anonymous Golf Pro said...

If you titled the Kim K pic "il n'est pas un selfie" you would basically have a Magritte, wouldn't you?

3:22 PM  
Anonymous Ariel Ballesteros said...

Dr Berman et all,
I lived in the U.S. for abt. 6 yrs while going to college and I am still thankful (althoufh I do not know to whom) for having received that education. Tought abt staying to work after college (architecture) but soon I realized I better rush back to Mexico. Even 30 yrs ago and with no cell phones around I quickly realized that things up there were a lot to do with money and merchandise. Time has proven to my that that was the case. It comes to me as no surprise to hear expressions up in the U.S. like "I have no money to be free". As if fredoom was another merchandise. Later in life and in my own country I came to grasp the real meaning of fredoom. I have met a lot of people that do not care a lot about money or about lots of money and found them to be the happier and more independent people I have encountered. I still remember how at some point Dr Berman mentioned how he would lay down on his sofa and stare at the ceiling and think whatever he wanted to think about and not be outcast by society. Perfect normal thing to do down here. Please feel "free" to call it whatever you want.

3:38 PM  
Anonymous bartleby the Scribbler said...

Yuppie: "Sites like this are banned."


What is this you're saying? Sites with views outside those of mainstream corporate groupthink are banned where you work? Do you mean that visiting the NY Times and Washington Post websites are okay but you're risking your job (which monitors everything you do) by commenting on Dark Ages America? Perhaps a list of other sites which are banned?

Sorry, but I don't find what you've written all that credible. You work 12 hours a day? Where? Doing what?

Some of what you're writing is actually pretty funny. MB with his book deal living in luxury... no doubt tapping away at his latest best-seller under a palapa in Cancun while being served exotic cocktails and pastrami sandwiches by smooth-skinned native beauties.

We should all be so lucky! While I slave away at my low wage dead end job this s.o.b. has the gall to suggest I have any alternative!!?! All the while making a fortune selling this scheme to these other suckers! This huckster hasn't even been to America!!! It isn't remotely like what he's describing in the books that I haven't read!

Hmm... actually this next one he mentioned, Douche Bags on Parade, doesn't sound so bad just going by the title alone. Maybe this guy really is onto something!

4:19 PM  
Anonymous politically incorrect said...

after trying to play catch up to some of the latest posts I couldn't help but relay my experience when I went to the link:


I'm sure I've got something weird going on with my browser or my version of windows or some other problem may have conspired to not allow me to view the photo... as I must confess I don't have and refuse to sign up for a "Twitter" account in order to view "why people fly planes into our buildings"...

This being just another example of how we allow ourselves to be held hostage to technology... and it's not only this obscure reference... it's everywhere of course... which I suppose in and of itself is enough to convince some people with half a cranium filled with gray matter to fly a plane into a building (putting at least their sorry state to rest)...

To be honest this in no way is meant to criticize the person who posted the link nor their responsibility for my experience... it is just one of these things I witness on almost a daily basis where 'the monster' needs to be fed and will devour anyone in it's path if allowed to...

You know it wasn't that long ago that being "on-line" used to be considered a joke and now it's a daily if not minute by minute experience for most... and to what end - I have to remind myself? I suppose we can chock it up to necessity, like the telephone... (more like an addiction if you ask me) sifting through whatever stuff is "out there" ... but this thing is more insidious in it's manner of availability and the oftentimes not so subtle intrusions and demands it makes...

Anyway, I just thought it might be something for us to keep in mind... who knows at some point when the lights go out we or perhaps someone like us can get together around a campfire and sort all this out and wonder how we ever needed anything else...

In the meantime thanks for the blog... "Twitter" will have to wait though...

4:46 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


The link worked for me, but that was probably a techno-fluke. As for lights going out and ethernet going down: hopefully this link will open 4u:


I agree, our Yuppie is clearly living on Jupiter, and is not exactly the sharpest nail in the box; but if there's any way we can make that Cancun fantasy happen...sign me up! Erotic pastrami, delicious native beauties...cdn't happen to a nicer guy.


No, no! *Sitting* on my sofa. And I still do it! (While typing my next best-seller, "Douche Bags on Parade," for a promised $8 million-contract, and sipping margueritas served by smooth-skinned beauties, + chopped liver canapes, etc.)


Ceci n'est pas, actually; but yes, this plus the Vogue cover means the US has finally entered Surreality. "Voila une imbecile" wd also be on the mark.


Dumpster humping may be the next Big Thing!


5:43 PM  
Anonymous KarmaKing said...

Ahaaa, untrained, uneducated dogs and beasts would have done a better job than Bush and his cronies invading Saudi Arabia rather than invading Iraq. America, a country built on lies and delusions and violence!:

Donald Rumsfeld: 'A Trained Ape' Would Be Better At Foreign Policy Than Obama

7:18 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, it's probably true. After all, Obama had no foreign policy training at all. He might best be described as an untrained horse's ass. Still, he hasn't managed to push the Ukraine thing into a Suez Moment; very disappointing.


7:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Washington DC Yuppie:

You wrote:

"I don't have land, a car, a TV, or computer. I can't afford a family or really anything beyond a studio apartment and absolute basics of living in a city."

You're single (since you say you have no family) yet you work 12 hours a day with no spare time to have a personal life just to keep your head above water?
Either what you write is BS or you've made some life decisions that are so incredibly stupid that you deserve no forgiveness for having made them. First of all, if you were in such dire straits you wouldn't take ANY risk with your job, especially just to leave comments on some blog. My BS detector is sounding it's alarm. If you are single you can move anywhere without the burden that a family would put on you. No, it wouldn't be "easy", but it'd certainly be doable, at least to anyone whose mentality is above that of a lobotomized gerbil.

8:49 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


This is a wonderful phrase, lobotomized gerbil. We need to work it into our T-shirt series. Wafers are encouraged to come up with the appropriate slogans.

As for our poor Yuppie, it's hard to tell, tho I admit his profile does seem a tad askew. Perhaps he's a trolfoon. We'll probably never know, but that's the beauty, and the mystery, of The Greatest Blog on Earth.


9:15 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

MB, Wafers-

Last night, bout 3:20AM, I was visited by the ghost of Kurt Vonnegut. He told me that Obama's real name is "Papa" Monzano. And if we didn't all obey him, he'd put us all up on meat hooks. KV also said, in terms of the crisis in Ukraine, I was gettin' all worked up over nothing... Apparently, Putin has fallen in love with an Ukrainian midget dancer named Zinka. Who knew, eh?


9:20 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


OMG, not Zinka! It turns out she's a lobotomized gerbil! We can stop worrying abt the Ukraine; Putin ain' gonna do shit. You can't imagine what Zinka can do in bed...


9:27 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Regarding that NASA study on the collapse of civilization: how is it that they are only now catching up to me, and (amazingly enuf) don't cite me in the ftnotes? (Well, true, I didn't talk abt resource stress in the Twilight bk.) Anyway, the study says that while warnings of collapse are often seen to be dotty--i.e., the predictions of "fringe people"--the truth is that "the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history." Gee, do ya think? It goes on to say that cases of severe disruption due to "precipitous collapse--often lasting centuries--have been quite common." (Duh, No Shit Sherlock, Well I'll Be Hornswoggled, etc.) The crucial factors are resource stress and a very large gap between rich and poor, which have played "a central role in the character or in the process of the collapse" in all such cases over "the last 5000 yrs."

I tell u, we got a bunch of geniuses over at NASA; this much is clear. But sarcasm aside, they seem to be way ahead of the rest of America (= 315 million dunces). They point out that technology cannot prevent such a collapse (Oh no! Surely that can't be true! What about my cell phone?!!), and that under conditions "closely reflecting the reality of the world today...collapse is difficult to avoid."

Meanwhile, ruling elites are typically "oblivious to the catastrophic trajectory." The report concludes that collapse can be avoided if depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level, and if at the same time wealth is distributed more evenly. Well those things are certainly gonna happen, rt?

Many yrs ago, when I was living in Seattle, a complete stranger showed up at my front door wearing a sweatshirt that said: MAYBE MORRIS BERMAN WAS RIGHT. I'm telling u, I am not making this up. Time to run off a few 1000 T-shirts, Waferinos; clearly, we've got a hot item on our hands. (Along with I AM A FRINGE PERSON)


10:28 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

This is kinda sweet:

11:11 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

There's Just No Stopping My Creativity Dept.:

(With apologies to Rodgers and Hart)

You saw me blogging alone
Without an American Dream in my heart
Without a blog of my own
You know just what I was there for
You heard me downloading a link for
A blog partner I could really care for

And then there suddenly appeared before me
The only blogger my arms will hold
I heard somebody whisper please facebook me
And when I looked to the Moon it turned to dog-do

Now I’m no longer alone
Without a url in my heart
Without a blog of my own…(etc.)

11:36 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

I may be going a tad mental here, but once u start it's hard to stop:

“Why Do Trolfoons Fall in Love?”
(With apologies to Frankie Lymon)

Oo-wah, oo-wah
Oo-wah, oo-wah
Oo-wah, oo-wah
Why do trolfoons fall in love?

Why do birds sing so gay?
And lovers await the break of day
Why do they fall in love?

Why does the rain fall from up above?
Why do trolfoons fall in love?
Why do they fall in love?

Love is a losing game
Love can be a shame
I know of a trolfoon you see, for that trolfoon is me
Tell me why, tell me why?

Why do birds sing so gay? (etc.)

11:59 PM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

Dr. B and Capo

I think personality type is a factor as well.

Both of these personality types make up the majority of the population if the statistical sampling was done right.

Look at the breakout of those who were sampled. Assuming this statistical breakout is accurate this could be a factor as well.

What do you all think?

9:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just checked and Wandering God is in my library system! I'm really looking forward to this one. Nothing I've read on the subject has done it any justice.

1:31 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Talk abt miracles...


1:38 PM  
Anonymous Bingo said...


First, thanks for the laughs. Every time I read another sad personal story such as yours, I just laugh my ass off. You know why? Because that’s the Karma you deserve, bro! All you yuppies and trendies deserve just the kind of lives you describe. In other words: serves you right!

Speaking of evidence, you and your life are just that – hard, solid, irrefutable evidence that you live in a failed society, a failed culture, a failed economy, and a failed country. How’s that for hard science at work?

I appreciate your sharing your misery with us. Next, would you kindly supply further evidence about how awful your friends’ lives are? Like, how’s paying back those $100k+ student loans on McDonald’s jobs working out for them? And, tell us, how’s Obamacare tripling their health insurance premiums turning out?

Meanwhile, please listen to this over and over – I’m sure that’ll make you feel better.

After you listened to that at least 10 times, repeat after me: “USA! USA! USA!”
One more time: “USA! USA! USA!”
Keep repeating. Practice makes perfect!

Incidentally, like MB, I too ditched the US. But not because of lack of money, because I was earning well in America. I left the USA because of the principle. But to you everything seems to be judged through the money angle, so you probably don’t understand what I’m talking about. The irony is that people who obsess about money, like you do, usually never have enough of it to enjoy life.

I’d write more, but I’m afraid it’s time to go get me another cortado at the café by the beach, and enjoy life even more. Sending you my warm regards from southern Spain (where I’m sure you’ll never set foot).


PS -- Don’t forget: “USA! USA! USA!”

2:04 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Just so there's no confusion: I didn't leave the US because of lack of money. I left because spiritually and emotionally speaking, I just cdn't take it anymore.


2:31 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

Regarding George Kennan, I highly recommend his "Sketches from a Life" which are selections from his diaries and other commentary. He was a deeply cultured man and sensitive observer. The book provides remarkable insights into the countries he travelled and worked as U.S. ambassador.
He is best known for his service in the Soviet Union during the Cold War and appears to have been greatly respected by the Russians (he spoke the language fluently and had a love of Russian literature).

Equally, he has many insights into American attitudes and culture, but since he always felt as an outsider, he was continually disappointed by the actions of his countrymen. His writing is tinged with a slight melancholy, characteristic of someone who sees and feels too much.

As for him being "racist" that is absurd. I have not read his recently published complete diaries, but these are personal notes, and he may have made some non-PC remark at one time or another.
George Kennan represents the best qualities of an America that has now virtually disappeared. One can only read his work with a sense of sadness.


4:09 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...


Great lyric changes on some American classics...

Please consider this reworking of an old Smokey Robinson & the Miracles tune:

"You Really Got A Troll On Me"

I don't like you, but I wuv you
Seems that I'm always thinking of you
You treat me badly, I wuv you madly
You've really got a troll on me

(You really got a troll on me)
(You really got a troll on me)
(You really got a troll on me)

Baby, I don't want you, but I need you
Don't wanna delete you, but I need to
You do me wrong now, my wuv is strong now
You've really got a troll on me...

Baby, I wuv you and all I want you to do
Is troll me, troll me, troll me, troll me
Tighter, tighter...

Ohhh Yeahhh!


4:28 PM  
Anonymous Savantesimal said...

Christians are bewailing their persecution yet again. Well, the radical wingnut segment of Christians. Actually about 80 percent of the US is Christian in some sense or another. This time it's a movie about an aggressive atheist professor trying to force his student to admit God doesn't exist. Yeah, someone basically took up the urban legend and made it into a movie. It's in the top ten at the box office, though, which tells you how popular even the most blatant anti-intellectualism is these days.

WebProNews: Kevin Sorbo Plays Atheist Prof in “God’s Not Dead”

Huffington Post: Kevin Sorbo Has No Faith in Bill Maher

5:08 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Wow! Talk abt a knockout punch! This will completely change the Ukraine situation, w/Putin quaking in his boots. Way to go Ovomit!

7:00 PM  
Anonymous James Allen said...

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean--neither more nor less."

Through the Looking Glass, Chapter VI

Persecution of Christians. Well, we'll need to know what they mean when they use the word. Who knows, we might agree. Or not.

"If you would converse with me, define your terms."

Voltaire (1694-1778)

7:01 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


But how wd Voltaire have rendered 'trolfoon'? Trolfune? Trol de fune? Les trols de fune?


7:28 PM  
Anonymous Alphonse de Quabongue said...

Salut Wafeurs et Wafeuses:

Zut alors, comment dit-on les trolls d'internet qui sont aussi des bouffons?

Je ne sais pas, mais en France, le mot pour "stress" est "le stress."

Since mentioning other websites is a faux pas, I'll roundaboutly ask if "Degraded Buffoon Syndrome" has ever been the diagnosis for those who cannot accept responsibility for their progressive, hypocritical ways.

O&D, et c'est fini.

7:56 PM  
Anonymous Pauli said...

Enjoy this one - the woman talking is something:

8:02 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


She needs a ton of therapy.

Monsieur Al:

Vous etes une grande bongue, c'est clair. I don't know about DBS, but I can tell u something abt zut alors. Shows how old I am. An archaic time, when archaic usage was still just OK, in France. I gave a talk at the Sorbonne in 1972. There was a party for participants in the conference that evening. Like in a castle, or some goddamn place--tres riche. Someone there said (I can't remember the context): Flute alors! Can u imagine? Not zut, but flute. I never forgot it. As the years passed, I kept looking for an opportunity to exclaim, "Flute alors!" But it never came up. After that, my life was never the same; it just went downhill, as u might expect, and all that is left to me now is dealing with trolfoons on the Net. C'est pas une vie, mon cher; c'est pas une vie. Zut!


8:33 PM  
Anonymous Alphonse de Quabongue said...

Bonjour mon cher Maurice:

I know, I am violating ze 24-hour posting prohibition, mais zis is not ze occupation, and I should not expect an "oust!" from ze Gestapoons, n'est-ce pas?

But we love, and to love, and to live, we must sauté while we posté.

The flute alors you mentioned hearing at le Sorbonne (well done, sir) is not so, how you say, hors de la terre.

My beau-frère regularly uses the expressing "zut flûte." He is not even an aristocrat.

8:51 PM  
Anonymous washington dc yuppie said...

Whoa, not much compassion on the blog here, what happened to zen? I think only a sociopath would laugh at anyone struggling in America, because you say we deserve it. Most yuppies I know aren't able to afford much beyond an apartment and basics, so this idea that we're buying new cars and all type of wasteful consumer junk is just ignorant. Sure, if you're a high paid lawyer in DC, but if you're making $40k and have boat loads of student loans, you're not doing too well. Laugh at us for deciding at 17 college debt was a good idea, my mistake!

Most of us are struggling to pay debt and worried that we'll be laid off and have to go further in debt for rent/food/medical/transportation. It's hardly hustling to say this deal is total BS. I'd give all this up for a simpler life in a heartbeat, but it's not possible.

Thankfully this insanity can't last much longer, I give it 10 years at most before denial of collapse is totally impossible.

9:55 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Pls, stick to one post every 24 hrs--important. Meanwhile, I have to say that I find 'zut flute' completely demented. (Tho perhaps not as bad as flute zut.) Try as I might, I can't think of a single context in wh/I might say, 'zut flute'.


10:15 PM  
Blogger NearFar said...

Hi Wafers,

I just read something recently in a book called "System and Structure" by Anthony Wilden that I found to be interesting. At first I didn't think too much about this passage, but I was reminded of Wilden's comments again during the past week (ie., my 6 & 9 yr.-old nephews are having difficulty in school, new 'common core' standards this year, and my sister is "beside herself"). Anyhow, I thought I'd pass it on, just as MB prepares for his departure to Japan. Here in the passage I am citing below, Wilden is referring to a book by Paul Reps called "Square Sun, Square Moon" (Tokyo: C. E. Tuttle, 1967). Writes Wilden:

“There is an example of an experiment in education in rural Japan, called 'pillow education' (Reps, 1967: 17-19), which we could all learn something from. The children are taught to put all 'either/or' problems - personal, educational, or whatever - to a pillow. The child considers the problem by moving his hands in a relational sequence of four steps around the sides of the pillow. The sides are labeled (in the order of his meditation on the problem): (1) The statement is wrong, (2) The statement is right, (3) The statement is both wrong and right, (4) The statement is neither wrong nor right. The child summarizes his conclusion by cupping his hands in the center of the pillow - which is, as it were, nowhere - and then reverses the sequence, saying "Each of these steps is good". Reps' presentation ends on an unfortunate ideological note, I find, but I cannot think of a more subtle or effective way of teaching a child - in the analog - about the relations in and between logical types.”

1:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

washington dc yuppie,
The sociopaths are the Americans who allowed their own government to openly betray them decade after decade and not only did nothing about it, but actually defended and relected the traitorous politicians, thus placing themselves in the predicament they're in today.

Those who laugh at American sociopaths because they've gotten just what they deserve are not sociopaths also, but rather they're good people who enjoy seeing evil douchebags receive cosmic justice. Count me as one who enjoys laughing at Americans too. I look forward to more entertainment and doubtlessly you and your ilk will keep providing it.

5:19 AM  
Anonymous bartleby the Scribbler said...

yuppie says: "...what happened to zen? I think only a sociopath would laugh at anyone struggling in America.."

Yuppie, speaking just for myself, zen sociopathy is my chosen path. I will dispense to you a koan that you might find helpful as you strain toward enlightenment. This was handed down to me from a great master and now I bequest it to you. Put this koan on your mirror and meditate upon it through the day: I LIVE AMONG DOLTS. It's guaranteed to help relieve the pain of existence.

And speaking of sociopaths, check out our sociopath-in-chief straining mightily toward our Suez moment. We all wish him Godspeed:

and this:

8:28 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Senor Yuppie-

See, the problem is that the Wafers basically don't like or respect you. OK, Julian may have been a tad harsh, but this was probably the result of exasperation on his part. For in truth, there's very little you can add to the discussion at this pt, as far as I can see. What you've revealed abt yrself so far:

1. Yr not very bright. Yr arguments are not backed by real evidence, and are full of holes.
2. Yr not very courteous. Like most trolfoons who show up here, you are terribly insecure; so instead of presenting yr disagreements in a polite way, you attack me personally. Yr rude, in short.
3. You don't appear to be honest. As Augustin and bart have pted out, yr story doesn't add up; too many inconsistencies.

So you can continue to write in, but I can't see that you wd gain anything by doing so; and we surely won't. Perhaps there's a blog out there for dumb, dishonest, and rude people; that wd be the place 4u, I'm guessing.

One thing I always feel sorry abt, in cases such as yrs, is that you'll never, ever, be a Wafer; which means yr a douche bag, and yr life probably won't amount to very much as a result. The American population is currently at 317 million, and of that # 134 are registered Wafers. There is a teeny, tiny fraction, in short, who live in Waferdom--the highest state a human being can attain. You will forever be outside that Golden Circle, and that is nothing less, for you, than a tragedy. You had yr chance, and you blew it, and all that is now left 4u is Utter Darkness.

Not much more to say, Senor Yuppie, but: godspeed!


11:05 AM  
Blogger Jake said...

RE: DC Yuppie:
I don't dislike him.
@DC Yuppie: I don't dislike you.

I try to only dislike humans who actively attack me or cause me pain. I don't even perceive that he thinks he's attacking Prof. Berman. He may be lashing out because he feels misunderstood.

You see, I once also believed I was trapped, and had no choice. Now I realize that I had let myself be brainwashed into thinking I had no choice.

Even if things got really bad: I lost my job, lost my access to credit (the drug that keeps this zombieland going, even though it's spiritually and socially dead), I know I could survive. I could work for barter/cash, buy a houseboat, and live rent free on the water as I made my way to a place where the system had little sway.

I am actively investigating emigration, actually visiting foreign landing spots this summer.
But I well remember how I used to feel like DC Yuppie.
I guess I don't understand why he wants to live in the center of the cesspool of humanity, where the cloaca where all the worst dregs of the USA end up.

@DC Yuppie: do you really want us to believe that you have so few skills, ideas, resources, or initiative that you literally can't move anywhere else? Even in the USA, Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis have lower costs of living, and much better environments (for the USA). Come on! Stop with the victimology schtick. It gets old, and it's boring!

12:24 PM  
Anonymous Bob Tendinitis said...

I'm just going to leave this here.

12:53 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings all,

MB, Wafers-

Incontrovertible evidence of massive stupidity:

Good God! How in the world did the US wind up with so many stupid douche bags in it? A forth volume of your American Empire series is obligatory, MB. You could title it "Douche Bag Nation: A History of American Stupidity."


3:48 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Actually, this makes me feel gd, because the hope of any nation is its young people. Vol. 4: that's gd, altho I'm leaning toward "Bozos on Parade."


I suppose we cd take a poll as to who likes/dislikes the Yuppie, but by now, he strikes me as kinda boring. Time for us to move on, into the post-Yuppie age, eh?


6:21 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Moving's a fabulous film: "Cherry Blossoms" (Kirschblueten), by Doris Doerrie.
Don' miss it.

7:55 PM  
Anonymous KarmaKing said...

Jeff T, You said this: “Incontrovertible evidence of massive stupidity:”

I used to know. I do not care anymore because whether or not I know makes no difference because all members of the US Congress are millionaires bought and sold by the corporations. Look at Obama which excited a lot of young people to come out and participate in politics. What did he do after he got them excited and they elected him? He dashed their hope by selling out to the corporate masters! I will never blame any young person for not caring to know any idiot in the Whitehouse or Senate of House because knowing or not knowing means nothing. Such a piece of knowledge is useless to the young people, especially when the same politicians sleep with corporations to hike college tuition and to hook the young people on exorbitant amount of dollars in loans. Let’s be real here!

8:01 PM  
Anonymous Rufusteena Firefly said...

"Optimism is a political act. Those who benefit from the status quo are perfectly happy for us to think nothing is going to get any better. In fact, these days, cynicism is obedience." Alex Steffen, The Bright Green City.

This interested me a great deal. Has anyone read this book? If it is a book.

8:30 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


You may have missed the larger pt. I think Jeff was merely referring to *generic* ignorance; that it's abt senators is really neither here nor there. The problem is that American youth don't know anything abt anything, and college profs have assured me of this. Just a single example: there's a video floating around the net of some guy w/a clipboard standing outside the Women's Studies Center at UCSB, an upscale school with an intelligent student body (comparatively speaking). Yeah, real intelligent. As young women pass by the bldg, or come out of it, he asks them to sign a petition opposing "female suffrage." So here we have girls who have taken courses in women's history, presumably covering the whole suffragette movement, eager to sign the petition because they think that suffrage = suffering. Exactly what were they doing in their classes, beyond updating their Facebk profiles? The real issue is not senators, amigo; it's that the dunce level of American youth (male or female) is now thru the roof.


8:37 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I haven't read it, but I'm quite sure that optimism in a context in wh/it isn't warranted is a huge betrayal of the human spirit, a form of Oprah-ism, wh/is nothing less than criminal. Where it is warranted, different story. Hmm...Which of these 2 situations are we in? This is called a no-brainer.


8:51 PM  
Anonymous Jass May said...

Chris Hedges speaks about mind control in American schools:

The banning of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at Northeastern University in Boston on March 7, along with a university threat of disciplinary measures against some of its members, replicates sanctions being imposed against numerous student Palestinian rights groups across the country. The attacks, and the disturbingly similar forms of punishment, appear to be part of a coordinated effort by the Israeli government and the Israel lobby to blacklist all student groups that challenge the official Israeli narrative.

9:52 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


2 bks I wd strongly recommend:

Ilan Pappe, "The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine"

Max Blumenthal, "Goliath"

I won't comment, except to say that they are pretty devastating.


10:22 PM  
Blogger Jack Lattemann said...

Here's the link for the video on the petition to end women's suffrage, for those who enjoy watching displays of profound ignorance:

11:05 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Your female sufferage story reminds me of something. I like to tell so called feminists this riddle: A man and his son were in a car accident. The father died and the son was placed on the operating table. The doctor comes out, looks at the boy and says, "I can't operate. It's my son." The answer is that the doctor is the boy's mother. Nearly no one gets the right answer. The so called feminists nearly hide themselves in shame in fact. Try it, wafers. See just how deep feminism is in the USA-not very.

11:32 PM  
Blogger Dan Henry said...

More douchebag cops doing their jobs

1:37 AM  
Anonymous Bingo said...


My apologies. I know you left the US because it’s such a spiritual and emotional graveyard. That's why I left too.


I thought Yuppie means “young upward-mobile professional”. What happened to the “upward mobile” part?

Do you think Yodbfie might describe you better? As in “young onward and downward bound failure”.

But anyway, I suggest you jump ship. Do it while you still can. Look on craigslist for a job teaching English in China. Once in China, look for something in your field. Or come to Europe and marry a local and stay here. It can’t be worse than your current situation. Forget the student loans. But I doubt you’ve got what it takes to do it. You’re probably so brainwashed in the American Dream, you might as well stay there repeating “USA! USA! USA!” And don’t forget to vote for Hitlery in 2 years – I’m sure she’ll turn things around for you.


2:03 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Or perhaps Yuffie. I was in a cafe in British Columbia yrs ago when a scraggly looking, semi-demented guy in his 30s began haranguing me that he was a Yuffie. Wha? I asked him. "Young Urban Failure," he said. I thought that was kinda funny. We talked for 20 mins or so abt Yuffiedom, after that.

Anyway, as I said, I think we need to leave Yuppie behind, and move on to more interesting topics. Here's a possibility: as Wafers know, I am occasionally bombarded by trolfoons insisting that I change the nature of the blog to some pet topic of theirs, including 9/11 as an inside job, the blog itself, political correctness, and so on. My own feeling is that the blog needs to be divided in two: half on the collapse of the American empire, and half on The Life and Times of Gary Condit. Now there's a douchebag 4u. I wonder whatever happened to him...


3:10 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

I thought this was kinda neat. 2nd thoughts abt yr marriage? No problem! Just shove hubby off a cliff! Jesus, the poor guy.

4:29 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Dear MB and Wafers,

I thought the following quote on "Equality" is worth pondering on:

"The fullest development of every individual creates a society of equals. The present social struggle to bring about equality on the economic or some spiritual level has no meaning at all. Social-reforms aimed at establishing equality, breed other forms of antisocial activity; but with right education, there is no need to seek equality through social and other reforms, because envy with its comparison of capacities ceases. We must differentiate here between function and status. Status, with all its emotional and hierarchical prestige, arises only through the comparison of functions as the high and the low. When each individual is flowering to his fullest capacity, there is then no comparison of functions; there is only the expression of capacity as a teacher, or a prime minister, or a gardener, and so status loses its sting of envy."
- J Krishnamurti, Life Ahead Introduction

A question that arises in my mind is "What is right education?"
I would appreciate inputs from MB and Wafers.


6:59 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

A gd X-ray of the American 'mind':

10:37 AM  
Anonymous Mikbeth said...

I'm a regular listener to the Back Story History Podcast. They recently did a show on the historical accuracy in several of the movies that were up for Oscars. The discussion got real interesting about 35 minutes in when they discussed American Hustle and the Wolf of Wall Street. At one point one of the historian hosts asks the question -- Doesn't capitalism at its core include an element of hustling (my paraphrase). The answer was yes! What was truly fascinating is that it was a purely neutral discussion as if to say "Look at that. How interesting!" And they move on to the next thing.

12:03 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


As it turns out, I don't post Anons. Pls pick a handle and re-send yr message. I suggest Cranston Butterworth III or Hans Schmaltzkopf, Ph.D.


12:28 PM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

Positive and Negative Liberty:

I would like to go into Positive Liberty and Negative Liberty even more. Let's say you decide to buy a franchise of Canter's Deli. The water comes from a nearby river in one geographical location. Mr. Scrooge decides to buy a plot of land and build a factor which creates sludge that is poisonous. This sludge goes into the drinking and cooking water of your establishment. Your customers start getting hurt by the sludge. Mr. Scrooge owns a part of the river that he puts his sludge in. According to those who believe in Negative Liberty in the absolute sense including the Declaration of Independence one would not be allowed to infringe upon Mr. Scrooge. To treat some of our rights as inalienable meaning that they can't be taken away no matter the circumstance is flawed. The idea of our rights as being inalienable and absolute is flawed.

The personality type of INTP:

Because of my INTP personality type,, I live in the world of ideas and pay more attention to ideas than facts and empirical data. This personality type looks at possibilities and projective models of where ideas could lead. The end result of our inalienable rights is a capitalistic dictatorship in which the corporations maneuver their way of obtaining a good chunk of the resources bit by bit and eventually buy their way into government. After that, they become our government and these inalienable rights our founding fathers intended for us to have is superseded by the corporation's desire for profit. Without the empirical data and looking at any empirical data I see this as clear as day. To prevent this from happening certain positive liberties have to be accepted as inalienable as well and interjected in with the negative liberties. Our rights have to be inalienable but in a more flexible and non-absolute sense that needs examination from time to time.

1:48 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


No, the concept of negative liberty does not mean you can do abs. anything you want. There are limits, namely you can't do things detrimental to other people. The legalistics of the situation arise, of course, based on *how* detrimental it is, and what defines 'detrimental'. But neg. freedom is not a free-for-all, as Berlin defined it.


3:25 PM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...


I am certainly the first to note that my fellow economists have done a fair bit to contribute to the current mess. Alas, the several court historians (think say Schlesinger or Kearns Godwin et al) over the years have done a knock down job of making sure nobody knows anything except statist propaganda. Indeed, probably outside of physical sciences 90% of everything else we "know" or are taught is a pile of poo poo. This fellow, does a great job of dispensing with many myths

8:47 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

You nea sayers are off base. America is the best. Best military. Richest people. Freeist. Best food. (Chinese and Pizza, YUM! Smartest. Look at Eyenstine! Think positive and you'll b ok.

9:32 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yr kinda making my case for me: you can't even spell nay correctly. Now *that* is rich!

Anyway, I love it. Norman Peale, power of positive thinking and all that. Clearly, amigo, yr on the rt track. Jus' keep doin' what yr doin'.

Side note to Wafers: See? You *see* what I mean??! There are 317 million of him, and 134 of you. Think abt that!


9:46 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: Dominic: just wanted to say that we have an informal rule here of no more than one post every 24 hrs. Please don't let that put you off. I personally hope that yr contribution is not a 'hit and run', one-off deal. We need cutting intellects such as yrself to straighten us out, so pls stay w/us.

Thank you. I salute you.

Meanwhile, time to start a new post. Please catch up w/us on 218.


10:39 PM  
Anonymous Ken Smith said...


"Difficile est saturam non scribere."
-- Juvenal

Just a hunch, but maybe Dominic threw a bit of satire at you.

Sure, he spelled "nay" incorrectly -- or maybe that is just more Twitter-speak spelling. In that case, you also have a number of spelling errors -- e.g., "yr" should be spelled "your", "rt" I assume is "right", "pls" should be "please", and on and on.

11:08 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Ha ha. No, I think Dominic is on the level, actually. I, on the other hand, like to abbrvte, in case u hadn't noticed. Pls, amigo, don't be juvenal.


11:12 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Nazis are back and i'm lovin' every minute of it. This week is the state standard test in Pennsylvania. Here are some of the rules: No student is allowed to go to the bathroom during the test. Thus 3rd and 4th graders have to sit quietly from 9-11:15 without the bathroom. Allowing a student to use the bathroom is ILLEGAL and could result in loss of your teaching certificate.
Next, you cannot say to an individual student "Did you complete every problem?" No, you have to get in front of the class and say "Make sure you completed every problem." In other words, you cannot give a student individual attention. To do so could also result in loss of your teaching certificate or a heavy fine. Who thinks up this shit? Also, the students will never get this test back to check their mistakes. Thus the test has no diagnostic value.
On another point, the Philadelphia teachers union is under heavy attack so we called a city-wide emergency meeting which was highly charged as you can imagine. A member brought his teenage daughter to the meeting. I mean what a teachable moment and something she, in turn, could tell her children about someday. Instead, all she did throughout the meeting was play with her I-pad and look at Justin Beeber videos.

11:19 PM  
Anonymous Ken Smith said...

I suppose what I'm about to say is a general thank-you to all the bright people who comment on this blog. Quite often there are comments that I copy and paste to a notes file for later reading -- because I don't quite understand the comment on the first reading, but I know it's profound.

The good professor, Mauricio Berman, is often frustrating for me because he seems to not understand the importance of this blog and its comments. He sometimes seems to be pissing away opportunities to spread his ideas and, importantly, to sell his books. Yes, I'm a capitalist and a marketer. Why not use the tactics of Bernays to challenge the established order?

This is one of the few blogs and websites with comments that I read regularly. It is amazing that as the number of websites has grown to a billion or so, there is less and less to of importance to read.

Two or three years ago Berman posted a synopsis of the writings of the sociologist Pitirim Sorokin. Brilliant. I have dabbled in Sorokin's works for a half-century and I learned more in Berman's several hundred words than all the reading I've done.

What prompts this disjointed comment is something that Berman said on the previous blog post. That is, there are few people who can connect the microcosm with the macrocosm. I like to think to that I am one of those people, or at least that I'm moving in that direction.

Microcosmically, I was going to write about how America is not the center of the mobile phone world, how I helped a Mexican child cross that street that would have got me arrested in the USA, how Kim Kardashian's butt is boring and unimportant -- but I probably have just gone beyond the word limit.

12:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always disliked cell (now "smart", ha ha) phones, but a recent experience really made it hit home for me. Nothing significantly different from what Dr. Berman describes, but it was powerful for me.

I was at the Newark airport, having dinner in a Mexican restaurant that faced out over a food court where I could see probably a couple of hundred people sitting at tables eating "food" from the various surrounding fast food restaurants. I realized that at least 75% of the people were either talking on phones or staring into computer devices (smart phones, tablets, laptops). What's more, I could see tables of what appeared to be families, where all of the kids were using these devices (and often one or both parents too), not talking to each other.

What hope can there be for a society in which the majority prefer the company of a machine to that of their family members, much less that of their fellow citizens?

2:04 PM  

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