August 03, 2014

Love and Survival

When we have inner peace, we can be at peace with those around us.

-The Dalai Lama, Nobel acceptance speech, 1989

By late July, 2014, I couldn’t put it off any longer. I had been living in Mexico for almost eight years with Washington, D.C., license plates on my car, and if I wanted to apply for permanent resident status in Mexico, which I did, I would have to drive up to a Customs station at the border and “nationalize” my car, i.e., get Mexican plates. Frankly, I have never cared what passport I was carrying, or what driver’s license plates I had, as long as I could move around freely; but as I had no intention of returning to the U.S. except to visit, it seemed that the time was ripe for sorting things out with Mexico. The plates would enable me to become a permanent resident; or so my immigration adviser told me.

A little background info here: when I moved to Mexico in 2006, I was quickly “adopted” by a family in the town where I set up shop. It has been a very close relationship; I drop in on them at least once a week, and they would, and have, give(n) me their left arm if I needed it. I have already described (in A Question of Values) how they showed up in full force at the hospital, an hour away, where I had surgery in 2009, literally sleeping in my room to make sure the nurses were taking good care of me. Now, in the case of the placas (license plates), my “hermana” Raquel (not her real name) had a niece in the border town where the Customs office was located, whom (Raquel said) knew everyone and would be able to help me with the whole nationalization process. So, off I went.

Before continuing with this story, I need to say that just “coincidentally,” I was at the time reading a book by Dean Ornish called Love and Survival. It’s an intriguing study, arguing that there is much evidence to show that being immersed in a network of loving relationships significantly prolongs one’s life, strengthens one’s immune system, counteracts illness, and so on. It was first published in 1988; in the intervening years, I doubt Ornish’s data managed to impact the American medical profession in any serious way. As Ornish makes clear, this is not how the profession thinks. But let me review some of his stats and examples, in any case.

■The Roseto Study

This is an examination of an Italian-American town in eastern Pennsylvania that was found to have had a very low mortality rate for heart attacks during the first thirty years it was studied, as compared to two nearby towns. Citizens of all three towns smoked, ingested cholesterol, and in general exhibited the same physical behaviors that would be expected to impinge on human health, at roughly the same rates. But what Roseto had that the other two towns didn’t was close family ties and very cohesive community relations, including a host of traditional values and practices (religion included). However, in the late sixties and early seventies, all of this broke down. Roseto saw a loosening of family ties and a fragmentation of community relations. Concomitant with this was a substantial increase in death due to heart disease. The mortality rate rose to the same level as that of the two nearby towns.

■The Ni-Hon-San Study

This was an examination of 11,900 Japanese individuals who lived in Japan, as compared to those Japanese who had immigrated to Honolulu and San Francisco. Scientists found that the incidence of heart disease was lowest in Japan, intermediate in Hawaii, and highest in California. The closer they came to the American mainland, in other words, the sicker they became. None of this was related to differences in diet, blood pressure, smoking, cholesterol levels, and so on. The crucial factor was the degree to which each group retained a traditional Japanese culture. The Japanese-Americans who maintained family ties and community had a rate of heart disease as low as those living in Japan, whereas the most Westernized group had a three- to-fivefold increase in same.

■Ornish recounts several other studies with similar results, all indicating that beyond any physical factors, social and emotional factors—love, in a word—were No. 1 in promoting health and longevity. As an aside, I should mention a study conducted by William Vega of U.C. Berkeley that found that Mexicans living in the United States had twice the rate of mental illness as Mexicans living in Mexico:

It really comes down to the way we live.

This brings me back to my adventure with the license plates. I expected it to take two days; I wound up staying with the family of Raquel’s niece, “Brenda,” for nearly a week. The Mexican bureaucracy is something to behold, possibly worse than that of India. Just when you think you’ve got all your ducks in a row, one more obstacle pops up for you to deal with. Clearly, this was not going to be a two-day operation.

But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I don’t think I was quite prepared for what I was about to experience. Despite the fact that the family had Raquel’s word for it, that I was a fabulous guy (and who, really, could deny it?), I was a total stranger to these folks: we had never met. Yet from the moment I arrived at the front door, I was folded into the warmth of Brenda and her family as though I had been living next door to them for twenty years. It kind of took my breath away. The love that permeated this family was both dense and palpable, and I was suddenly part of it. They were literally kissing and hugging each other (and me) almost constantly. The small children related to me in the same way, not at all afraid of a strange adult, as is usually the case with American (i.e., U.S.) children. There was a coffee mug in the house that had the word “Family” printed on it (in English), with slogans like “celebrates together,” “eats together,” “laughs together,” “stays together”—a gigantic cliché, except that this family was living that cliché. If this were a U.S. sitcom, it would be regarded as a joke, a kind of satire. But this was no fantasy of some nonexistent loving community in New York, along the line of Friends. No, this was the real enchilada. (In fact, I suspect shows like Friends are popular because they depict what Americans badly want, but cannot have.)

It also turned out that family connections extended to the local bureaucracy. Without this, I could have wound up spending a month or so with Brenda & Co. (which would have been fine with them). But because business relations and official relations are not (as in the U.S.) contained in sharply different categories from family relations, Brenda was able to finesse the bureaucracy and get the job done. Within a week I had the plates, even though on the official level the obstacles were formidable. Once again, I was amazed at how the family went all out for me, ignoring their own schedules, schlepping me from one government office to another, and translating the bureaucratese into normal Spanish for me. Since they didn’t expect a peso for their efforts, I was beginning to wonder if I would ever be able to repay them. But they weren’t thinking in those terms, in any case.

A few vignettes may serve to drive home the point.

■Three doors down from Benda was a neighbor, “Elena,” who lost her daughter-in-law in a car crash fourteen months before I visited, and who (since her son was working full-time) took the two surviving grandchildren in, to raise by herself. As luck would have it, several months after that her husband of forty-one years died, and she was left alone with the two kids. Brenda’s family then swung into action, basically taking Elena and the children into their house. Elena came over several times a day, and often slept over with her grandchildren. I wish to emphasize that there was no blood relation between Elena and Brenda or her family. She was “merely” a neighbor. In the U.S., people typically don’t even know the names of the people living next door to them.

■While I was there, Brenda’s brother-in-law and his wife, who were currently living and working in China, were back in Mexico for a month’s holiday. After they came over, and after the usual flurry of hugging and kissing, “Emilio” gave each of Brenda’s kids 200 pesos. The next day, Brenda told me that “Ricky,” her seven-year-old, had wanted to give her the 200 pesos. “I don’t need it, Mami,” he said to her, “and I know you have to struggle a lot.” Brenda told me it was all she could do to keep from crying. I tried to imagine a U.S. child doing something similar, but I couldn’t. The data on the sharp decrease in empathy in America during the past three decades are well-established.

■Half an hour ago, while I was sitting in the living room writing this essay, Ricky came through, went to the kitchen, fetched himself a popsicle (bolis) out of the fridge, and then asked me if I wanted him to get me one. This to a foreigner sixty-three older than himself, whom he knew for all of three days.

■Emilio, his wife, and I had a long and interesting discussion about life in China. They were extremely intelligent and articulate; it was the kind of discussion that is generally hard to have in the United States anymore, because Americans are, by and large, not very articulate, not particularly interested in other nations, and given to “thinking” in slogans. On another occasion, Brenda’s husband, “Jorge,” said to me: “I mean no disrespect, but can you tell me why the United States always has to go to war with someone? And why it supports Israel, which is massacring women and children in Gaza?” Why indeed. Should I have replied, “Because we are a collection of ignorant, and quite violent, people, who are suffering for lack of the kind of family life you and Brenda have, and thus need to hurt other human beings as a result”? But of course, I respected his honest questions, and we had a good discussion of issues that most U.S.-persons don’t give a damn about.

Brenda told me that every time she goes to the U.S., she has the impression that Americans believe that Mexicans sit around under trees wearing sombreros and drinking cerveza all the time. But that’s only part of the stereotype, of course; overall, it’s that Mexicans are backward, inferior, living a million miles from the “progress” exhibited by the go-go capitalism of their northern neighbors. And yet, what is the family and social life of that “superior” civilization? A divorce rate of 50 percent; kids who are abandoned, both emotionally and literally; the highest number of single-person dwellings of any country in the world; the greatest amount of antidepressant use of any country in the world; and—as many studies have by now affirmed—a large population living lives of quiet desperation. In the occasional “world happiness studies” that appear from time to time, Mexico typically ranks in the top five, whereas the U.S. is much farther down the list.

All of this is not to suggest that life in Mexico is perfect. It’s not, by a long shot, and an annoying bureaucracy is a minor issue compared to the poverty, corruption, and racial bias that are depressingly rampant in Mexican society. But on the interpersonal level, the country has got things right. It does celebrate family, as that coffee mug says; its priorities are not ones of hustling, trying to make huge amounts of money, being “important,” or getting “ahead” (of what, exactly?). I have a saying I like to repeat, from time to time, that in Mexico nothing works and everything works out, whereas in the United States, everything works and nothing works out. That’s been my experience after eight years of living here.

So yes, dear reader, I got my plates. But that was the least of what I got. Gracias, Brenda; voy a regresar.

©Morris Berman, 2014


Blogger NearFar said...

Hi Wafers,

Welcome back MB. Congratulations on the big 7-"oh"... I'll be reading your newest essay as soon as I post this.

Today on truthdig's front page, two books are featured prominently & both come highly recommended:

1. "The Empire of Necessity," by Greg Gandin

2. "My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind," by Scott Stossel

There's a connection between these two books, suggested to me by George Scialabba in his review of Stossel's "My Age of Anxiety," :

BTW: Stossel, an editor at the "Atlantic" magazine, has been on many bestseller lists with this book (ie., #1 for many months on in the "Popular Psychology Pathologies" category). And although his review is positive, Scialabba is critical of Stossel in one specific aspect of the book's presentation, going so far as calling it a "failure of moral imagination." What is that failure? Well, judge for yourself, because I think it's better to draw your own conclusions. But Stossel's "failure" is not Greg Gandin's, apparently, judging by his insightful remarks with Alex Gourevitch (posted on truthdig & Jacobin).

Anyhow, in Gabriel Thompson's review of "My Age of Anxiety" (truthdig), he congratulates Stossel for "the personal courage he is able to muster and model." Of Stossel's courage I have no doubt. It's been confirmed again and again by *many* appreciative and grateful readers. But there's one more act of courage that Stossel could display: taking what Scialabba had to say *seriously* (that is, to heart) and then addressing the criticism directly (ie., in an "Afterword" to a future edition of the book, or in the pages of the "Atlantic.") Now *that* would be courageous. Will it happen? Mmm... has Lorenzo Riggins stopped eating at McDonald's?

9:02 PM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

Dr. B

Wow! Just Wow! I feel sad yet happy at the same time. I feel sad for what the USA has lost but I feel happy that I understand now. I know what I've been looking for.

Love is the answer. It is love that you've experienced. It is not math, nor logic, nor Cantor.

Love, pure and deep profound love and Chopped Liver of course.

Didn't you say your mother had a recipe. If you do, is there anyway I can have it?


What do you guys think of my fan fiction far? It is a work in progress. I'm only a beginner at writing.

11:24 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


She just told me that schmaltz (chicken fat), which is used to cement chopped liver, also holds the universe together. True love is family, but it is also schmaltz, chopped liver, and deli meats. Onward, to Canter's!


11:53 PM  
Blogger deflationista said...


This rant is right up your alley.

The author is clearly a Wafer.


1:43 AM  
Anonymous Dawgzy said...

I'm a nurse , almost exclusively in inpatient psychiatric settings. At county hospital where I worked for 17 years we evolved a "latino focus unit." It was different from any of the 5 or 6 other wards where I've worked through the years. Our patients were predominately Mexican and central american. All of the spanish speaking staff in the division worked there. The level of peer support and general conviviality among and between patients and staff was like nothing else I've experienced. Patients were kind to each other and very good to work with.

1:45 AM  
Blogger Kanye Cyrus said...

Thanks for the great link deflationista. It's hard to nail it down better than this guy has done it. Wow.

I'll contribute by posting a video from a wafer humorist out there you might have heard of - Lee Camp. This is a snippet but he has some other good stuff on youtube:


6:26 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Pls remember to capitalize Wafer. Also Waferdom, and Waferism. Keep in mind that we are the creme de la creme; no one else can match a Wafer for sheer brilliance or quality. We are the blog de la blog. Thank you.


8:50 AM  
Anonymous lack of coherence said...

> in Mexico nothing works and everything works out, whereas in the United States, everything works and nothing works out.

Sounds like my experience in the US. Everything is so efficient and clean, but for what? People are isolated, depressed, lonely, and will find any hobby, activity, religion, or job they can to deal with the emptiness.

I was just reading CTOS, and you suggested bringing up the topic of substitute satisfaction at work and see how that goes. I've come about it in indirect ways, and it's not gone over so well. I was laughed at by my bosses for spending so much time playing and listening to music with my friends, most of whom didn't care about money/work. I think it wasn't on the approved list of after work activities, and they definitely didn't approve of my friends.

I get this feeling that people in the US think you can't have too much of some things, like enjoying music, friends, etc. Everything has to have some goal or purpose, whether it's vacation or exercise. I've seen things like this insane rise in smart watches, so you can show off to all of your friends how well you're doing compared to them. I mean, we have an app for competitive walking now?

9:30 AM  
Blogger Cj said...

Hi Professor, great piece. If I didn't have kids and grand kids this side of the border I'd think about relocating to Mexico. As it is I'm sure there would be no consideration of moving to Mexico on their part. My politics and theirs are poles apart.

I've been going to Tijuana for dental work for the last year. I'm probably paying about a quarter to a third the price. My bill to have three teeth pulled, bone grafts, implants, and crowns came to about 5,200 dollars. I thin it would be close to 20,000 in the states. The biggest problem is the wait in line to get back in the US. I went several weeks ago and it took 3 hours on a hot muggy day. Very unpleasant. There are still problems and I'm trying to work up the nerve to drive across. If driving I can get a medical pass and only have a minimal wait.

Sounds like you have a life you enjoy there. You're a lucky man.


10:25 AM  
Anonymous Pleased To Beef You said...

This week there's a blog post titled "Dark Ages America" by John Michael Greer, and on the C-Realm podcast, they used the phrase "Reenchantment of The World."

Both the blog post/podcast are on the decline of America and what the future will look like.

You're on your way to becoming wildly popular!

12:03 PM  
Anonymous Savantesimal said...

And while you were "nationalizing" your car registration, the shootings have continued in the US. It's not just the low-wage, desperate types who resort to violence now. An executive at a major company got shot by another executive he was going to demote. It's amazing to go to Google news and just type "shooting" into the search box. There are multiple new incidents per day.

Chicago Tribune: 'Small improvements' reported for CEO in Loop shooting

A LaSalle Street CEO shot by a co-worker last week over a demotion is showing "some small improvements," according to a family spokeswoman who has been posting updates on a website.


1:40 PM  
Blogger Metagnathous said...

Simply beautiful. How it should be, really. The echoing loss of things here in the U.S.

And the saddest part being that people aren't all that tuned in to what they're missing in regards to human interrelations.

Those of us who do tend to gain a much higher pain threshold (just had a molar yanked the other day. Sometimes pain is relative.)

Anyway, I really loved this post. Thank you.

2:35 PM  
Anonymous SrVidaBuena said...

"I have a saying I like to repeat, from time to time, that in Mexico nothing works and everything works out, whereas in the United States, everything works and nothing works out. "

I like that saying. Heard similar things throughout my time living there. Although now I think it mis-states the case for the US. Traveling back and forth a couple times a year I began to notice things slightly better each time I arrived in Mexico, and slightly worse upon arrival in the US. At this point I don't think things even 'work' much better here than Mexico (to say nothing of working out). My own saying might be: Welcome to the US. Third world service at first world prices.

At the rate it's going eventually the two lines will cross. I hope the Mexicans say 'thanks for building that wall, now stay on your side'. I just hope I'm on that side of the border when it happens. I told that to an old lady from Texas I met in Mazatlán - thought she was going to stab me in the heart...

3:39 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yeah, famous except for the fact that these folks never mention their source, oddly enuf. Happens to me a lot. Not a lot of ethics in the alternative community, sad to say. Yrs ago someone put me into the Acknowledgments section of his book, and wrote: "Thanks to MB, who is famous (although no one knows it)." Bingo. Well, them's the breaks. But it bothers me that these alternative writers find it so hard to give credit to anyone; which is more of the same sort of society we have now: aggrandize everything, and establish yr own little empire. There really is no hope. The anti-hustlers become hustlers of anti-hustling.


There is a major (unconscious) competition in the US, as it turns out: who can be the biggest douche bag. As you seem to have noticed.

Anyway, thank you all for yr appreciation of my 'Family' essay; glad u enjoyed it. Keep on truckin', amigos...


3:41 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Hackenbush said...

Dr. Berman- I just read a book you must be aware of: "Everything Bad is Good for You." It's a defense of pop culture.

I find your critique to be deeper and more insightful, bringing in psychology, history and culture. However, within the narrow terms of his arguments, he makes pretty good points that I would be hard put to dispute.

For instance, he argues that TV and videogames have "complexified" (my word) in the last several decades, and that low-brow and middle-brow audiences, at least, get more of a mental workout than they used to. E.g., he compares "Dragnet" and "Three's Company" to "The Sopranos" and "Seinfeld."

I just wondered what you thought, or if you've commented on his work.

5:08 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and Wafers,

Holy Guacamole! Here's a douche bag:

President Obama hasta remind the rich that he's okay with how they're living...


For you:

Happy Birthday!


7:02 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Glad you had such a good experience in the border zone MB. Your story amazes me. Makes me think Mexico might be my kinda place.

I want to thank those who responded to my enquiry about places to escape to under the previous post. I'm taking all your comments under advisement, paid close heed to every word of all of them, and am accordingly doing my research homework.

I had an unpleasant social experience a couple of weeks ago, and am still wondering whether it was a specifically American type of incident or not. I was attending a weekly afternoon tea gathering of pagans-and-witches types. At one point I made a remark on the history of witch-burning, which may have been inaccurate or perhaps even clueless. A woman sitting in front of me turned around, glared in my eyes with great hostility for seven, eight, ten seconds - which is quite long time, if you try it - and then bellowed at me stentorously at point blank range: "YOU HAVE JUST SAID SOMETHING VERY, VERY DUMB!"

Apparently the subject is a hobbyhorse of hers, and perhaps my remark was uninformed, but I felt her response was vastly out of proportion to the situation, and unduly hostile. I experienced it as great psychological violence. But maybe I'm just too dumb to know when I deserve to be insulted.

So - is this kind of "conversation" normal, out there in the rest of the world, or is it chiefly an American thing? How likely would it be to happen in, say, Mexico or France? Maybe I'll avoid witchy-pagan gatherings in future, but that alone probably won't stop this sort of thing from recurring.

9:24 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I haven't read it, but I recall rdg reviews, and thinking it was silly. Big deal, really. If yr scope is that narrow, of course you can find improvements w/in the paradigm. But if you take TV as a whole, it isn't hard to demonstrate that it's pretty destructive. So we have a greater mental workout, but to what end? I'm sure there have been significant improvements in bowling during the same period (well, maybe), but why get worked up abt them? At the end of the day, it's still bowling; it's not ballet or tennis.

That being said, I personally enjoyed The Sopranos, Seinfeld, and House of Cards--fabulous indictments of American society (if unintentional).


9:29 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


In one way or another, this is how Americans relate to one another. I can't imagine such a scenario in Mexico, say, or Japan. We are social and psychological retards--degraded buffoons.


9:42 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

What? You visited someone's home and felt welcomed? People actually spoke to you? The children didn't give their little hello then run up to their room for the rest of the evening to play video games?
I can no longer count how many times I've been invited to someone's family get-together (usually a Jewish celebration, graduation party, a birthday) and literally no-one speaks to me, not even the person who invited me! The vibë I get is "Can't you see this is a family celebration? You're not a member of this family. What the fuck are you doing here?" So I wind up sitting in the dining room alone or in the basement alone. Finally, I can not longer take this shit so I tell the host I have to leave. If lucky, I get a kind of "Ah, do you have to?" "Yes," I want to reply. "I need to go home and cut myself."

5:39 AM  
Blogger semidemiurge said...

I have visited Mexico since 1982 and have a Casa in Quintana Roo for the last 11 years. My parents also retired to MX 8 years ago but have since moved back to the USA. I mention this as I think I have a reasonably good perspective on the two countries and their cultures.
I think you have overly romanticized the MX culture and equally discounted the US culture. To me and to many of my Mexican friends who also spend time in the USA, not to mention my employees who have made the move to the USA from Mexico, the USA is a very special place. Everything you mentioned about the special relationships you have developed in MX can be found here in the USA. One just needs to develop those types of relationships with people who feel the same way. That opposite can't be said for MX. Much of the great things about our country can't be found or had in MX. You have only scratched the surface and seen something you longed for in the USA. That you are so captivated by the simple and deep connections between family and close friends in MX says more about you than it does about the different cultures/societies between the two countries.

7:53 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


A beautiful article, one that brings back warm & lovely memories of childhood with my Italian immigrant grandparents & their community. My only regret is that I couldn't fully appreciate what I had then. Now my wife & I try to make our home as warm & welcoming place to our friends as possible despite being introverts.


I've come up against that utilitarian attitude all my life. As a late-budding collage artist, I've had work selected for a few local art shows. As a result, man y people have urged me to start a website & sell as much of my work as I can. The idea that I'm doing it because it nourishes my soul, and that I don't want to turn it into a commodity, baffles & even enrages many of them.

Dr. Hackenbush,

I wonder if the complexity of so much popular culture today isn't more surface than substance? Yes, TV looks better & has sharp dialogue & often subtle, nuanced acting ... but so many current TV shows, however outwardly sophisticated, seem to lack a beating heart. Not that every show of the past was a masterpiece by any means! But the best of them, however occasionally clunky, overly earnest, heavy-handed, were ultimately about something. Their writers drew from their own life experience, rather than from growing up watching other TV shows.

If Ralph Kramden isn't the essence of the temporarily embarrassed millionaire, constantly bragging & struggling in vain to become Someone Important, than who is? And allowing for network restraints then, shows like Naked City, Route 66, Twilight Zone, etc., were about people -- ordinary people, not insanely sculpted action heroes, facing existential crises. You don't much of that any more -- everything is dark, edgy, violent -- it all has an drearily ugly sameness to it. Which I suppose is an accurate reflection of current American life, of course!

8:14 AM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

"She just told me that schmaltz (chicken fat), which is used to cement chopped liver, also holds the universe together. True love is family, but it is also schmaltz, chopped liver, and deli meats. Onward, to Canter's!"

I'm game. Let's go. I would love to have a bite to eat at Canters and discuss various topics. I would probably get my usual Turkey Sandwich with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. I may try their chopped liver or Pastrami on Rye.

Are they going to have potato latkes and knishes in the way my grandmother use to make? I hope so.

I would like to add that in my Asperger forum a few of them went overseas to a non Angelo country and surprise surprise. They were able to function a lot better.

Why was this? It was because the natives helped integrate them in. They were considered family. Things were explained and the natives cared. It's not us that is the problem It is our soulless society in which our natives have their heads up their collective asses.

Our country has no soul. WAFerism truthfully is the crème da la crème.

Love and deli meats is what it is all about.

8:32 AM  
Anonymous Troutbum said...

Dr. MB and fellow Wafers,

Today I was stunned reading "", a website owned by the folks at the Wall Street Journal. In it, Paul Farrell writes an article titled,"300 million self-hating Americans need a new Dr. Freud Commentary: We need therapy for our self-destructive secrets". What's behind this self hating? Quoting "We hate ourselves. We hate America. Yes, Americans are consumed with self-hatred. Can’t face our demons. In denial, destroying our great nation....Hidden deepest: Our fear America has “peaked.” America is declining. To 1% GDP. Wars will accelerate. Do-nothing politics. Widening inequality. All hiding under the disappearing myth of the American Dream..... Gone. An illusion."
I nominate Mr. Farrell for honorary membership in Waferism.
It's all here :

8:49 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, I 1st started coming to Mex in 1979, and have been living here for the last 8 yrs. I suspect my take on the place is a lot more accurate than yours, esp. since the stats regarding community, empathy, family life and so on back me up. Sure, you can find gd things in the US and bad ones in Mex, but these are exceptions rather than rules; they hardly reflect the larger picture. Anyone familiar w/Latino culture knows this. Your problem is that you have romanticized the US, and what you say abt it says more abt you than about America. Your perspective is largely personal, very much off-base, and very, very American (i.e., US). In my own experience, getting US-persons to see this is pretty much a waste of time, as the brainwashing is simply too intense.


11:52 AM  
Anonymous Pilgrim said...

@Tim Lukeman
Bringint freedom & democracy to the world...

Indeed, The Kill Team is a terrific documentary. My wife and I volunteer at the Riverrun Film Festival here in North Carolina. I typically view around a dozen films each year during the event. The Kill Team was perhaps my favorite documentary this year. After arduous training, these soldiers were stoked for a fight. But the Taliban, shrewd enough to avoid firefights where the Americans have an overwhelming advantage, proved to be much more elusive. Frustrated by killings and maimings within their unit from IEDs, they fall under the influence of a sargeant who promises to produce "kills" by staging fake firefights. The first victim is a 15 year old Afgan boy. After they killed him in a fake firefight, they take photos of one another, smiling and laughing as they pose with his body. A story very complementary to what Nick Turse wrote about as happening in Viet Nam.

Riverrun's a nice little festival. Like most all other media sources, there's corporate sponsorship. Nonetheless, the "song" of humanity still manages to make itself heard through many of the films being presented. There's nothing explicitly attacking the foundations of Capitalism of course, but there's plenty of artistic expression devoted to disparity.

Below are some of my favorites this year, and the links to their trailers. I think the Gore Vidal documentary would especially appeal to WAFers...

The Kill Team

Gore Vidal

Gringo Trails


Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory

11:54 AM  
Anonymous lack of coherence said...

MB -

My family comes from Europe, and they say the quality of life in the US is low, but convenience is high, whereas in Europe they have a higher quality of life, but lower convenience. For most Americans, the existence of iPhones, Amazon Prime, and the most advanced hospitals are proof that America is great. I'm just shocked, I don't know how to respond to people who say things like that.

We've started to confuse convenience and iPhones with meaning in life. When I bring up the myth of progress, people say things like, "meaning in life can mean anything, and iPhones can help people have meaning in life." Any criticism is ignored by most people in the US.

I think your point on substitute satisfaction is spot on. It seems to be gaining more acceptance, like, you can join all these exercise groups, or play video games and meet online, and for many people, this is all their life is -- hobbies and toys.

12:04 PM  
Anonymous JWO said...

Teach your kids well!

12:19 PM  
Anonymous Levantine said...

Morris: … by Dean Ornish called Love and Survival. It’s an intriguing study, arguing that there is much evidence to show that being immersed in a network of loving relationships significantly prolongs one’s life, strengthens one’s immune system, counteracts illness, and so on. It was first published in 1988;......

Never heard of it, which is to say: 'never' until now :) . I'll look it up. In return...

.......Documented empirical facts and experimental results from the small but vibrant “hierarchy and health” mainstream medical research community (e.g., [3]) establish a dominant causal relationship between socioeconomic status and human health and mortality; which is not simply due to differences in resource allocation, access to medical care, life-style differences (smoking, drinking, diet, exercise, etc.), work accidents and other such relatively “incidental” whole-population factors but which instead is due to the direct impacts of dominance hierarchy on physiological functions........

Let me add a few references about that 'research community': Kate Pickett, Michael Marmot, Richard G. Wilkinson, "Stress: Portrait of a Killer" (this film is not as brutal as its title suggests).

Stay well,


1:55 PM  
Anonymous Biddly Spop said...

Some recent American anecdotes:

1.) I see a woman with her child in the local supermarket. As she talks to her child, her voice is totally cold, completely loveless, and devoid of empathy. It's clear that this is her predominant mindset, all day, every day.

2.) I go shopping at a Middle Eastern supermarket. There are three types of customers: Middle Easterners, Eastern Europeans, and Americans. The Middle Easterners and Eastern Europeans are going about their business, perhaps slightly frustrated at certain times, but otherwise content and ordinary. The Americans, of course, decided to bring small children with them; they threatened them loudly whenever they asked for a loaf of bread, a jar of pickles, or whatever. They each strutted around the store like they owned the place and everyone in it.

3.) My gf's college recently attempted to bill her a large sum of money for graduating, even though she hasn't graduated, and won't for at least another year. It was difficult for her to get them to rescind the bill.

4.) As I drive through a nearby town, I see a gangsta with his pants around his knees, holding his baby in one hand and a cell phone in another, reading messages and texting. He isn't paying any attention to his baby, who could slip from his hand at any time and fall to the ground, perhaps breaking a leg or a section of his skull. The gangsta gets my vote for Father Of The Year.

5.) I watched an episode of "Murder, She Wrote" from 1984. The police officer apologizes to the criminal (a murderess!) when he is forced to take her into custody; he is polite and dignified at all times. Then I remember an episode of "To Catch A Predator" from a few years ago. The policemen rush onto the scene with military-grade machine guns, brutally tackle the criminal, smash his face into the pavement, scream at him at the top of their lungs, and roughly throw him into the police car - all for a much less serious crime (although I am in no way condoning grown men pursuing sex with 14 year olds). It is clear the police officers are enjoying themselves immensely.

Anecdote #5 shows just how far America has fallen in just 30 years. It's almost enough to make nostalgia for the mythical virtuous America of the past totally forgivable.

3:55 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and Wafers,


Jesus, it now appears that *anything* you write about Mexican hospitality and the discovery (going on 35-36 yrs now) of actual human beings in Mexico, vis-a-vis totally aggressive American douche bags and morons, is considered "scratching the surface." Gimme a break! Why can't Americans just take in what you have to say, w/out taking a shot at you? After all, these are *your* observations. In terms of special American relationships in the US, I have a recent personal anecdote:

My neighbor, part of a large and loving Latino family, invited my wife and I, and a number of other neighbors, to his daughter's 1st Birthday Party; a very big deal w/ lots of people, great food, celebration, and fun.
Upon discovering that the B-day girl could not walk on her own, a neighbor (typical American, btw) loudly blurted out: "kinda strange, she should be walking w/out any help by now." I was appalled, as was a number of others. The family's response to this was, well, it's not a competition and every baby is different when it comes to attaining certain skills, or something like that. Still, my neighbor would *not* shut up. She continued to talk about what skills children should have by a given age. This conversation went on for several minutes, as people began to exit the patio and mingle with other folks. The rudeness of all this never, ever registered with my neighbor; not in the slightest way.


4:21 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Your list leads me to reflect on my experience of Americans, and basically, how awful they are. The conflict model of relationship always seems to be operating. I see it w/the gringos in this town, and you can also see it on sitcoms we've mentioned here, such as Seinfeld or Sopranos or Friends: the mode of conversation is that one-upsmanship, witty putdowns, and downrt insults, are the norm, like the air Americans breathe. How different this is from most other countries is quite striking.

There is a wide belief, esp. among trollfoons, that I won't tolerate dissent on this blog; but what they overlook is the pt that I won't tolerate *insulting* dissent. Those who disagree w/me or my writings are not content to just state the disagreement, and then provide some evidence for their pt of view (typically they provide *no* evidence); oh no--it has to be couched in sarcasm, peacock-like strutting, ad hominem remarks, and so on. This is really all Americans know how to do, if they disagree w/someone.Most Americans are intellectually feeble, but they are also remarkable for their lack of any *emotional* intelligence. They don't possess the most rudimentary knowledge of how to relate to another person, and people in other countries know this quite well. (Mexicans basically regard gringos as daft, and w/gd reason.)

Consider the post from 'Semi', above. He disagrees w/my essay on Mexico. No problem there. But he provides no data at all for the supposed superiority of the US to Mexico (beyond what he and his friends think), and then concludes by an attack on me personally: that what I wrote is purely subjective, being merely a romantic projection having nothing to do with reality, and a comment not abt Mexico but 'really' abt myself. This kind of personal attack and mindlessness is typical of Americans, of their entire relating style.

What cd the shmuck have done differently? Here's an example:

"I read your essay with some interest, tho I have to say your experience doesn't tally w/my own. In my own experience, blah blah [specific examples]. Furthermore, the data are on my side, I believe: blah blah [stats on friendship, trust, close communities, empathy, etc. that 'clearly' exist in the US; stats that these things are much weaker in Mexico, and so on]. If you could respond to this, I'd be very grateful."

Why is it so hard for Americans to do this? Why, exactly, do they always have to be assholes? Cd some Wafers pls enlighten me as to why we have a nation of 'Semis', i.e. rude and ignorant people who confuse argument w/opinion and emotion with reasoning and evidence?

In addition, some of these clowns think that even tho they behave this way, they are going to gain access to this blog. But my policy is: if you can't be courteous, you don't belong here. Disagreement, no problem; Attitude, problem. So they shoot themselves in the foot. Rather than make an apology, and then adopt a different m.o., they just run away. Since they forfeit their chance of becoming Wafers, they in effect commit spiritual suicide.

As for Semi, he reminds me of that old saying, You can take the man out of the country but you can't take the country out of the man. Que pendejo!


4:31 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, if someone wants to argue that my observations are not representative, and here's why-- [specific examples of personal experience that's different, statistics backing up their pt of view, etc. etc.]--that's OK; then we can have a discussion. But Americans can't do that. They basically are hurting, hate themselves, and so it's always nec for them to get personal, aggressive, try to prove their superiority (the real agenda of American discussions), and so on. Also, since they suspect, on a deep level, that America is actually an awful place, they become very defensive when it is attacked, need to keep beating the drum: "We're No. 1!" (Yes, in rudeness and stupidity)

The story of the American woman who needed to attack her Latino neighbor is pretty typical. It wd be interesting to sit down w/her and say: "Why did you do that? Were you intending to make these people feel inadequate? Why wd you want to do that?" Chances are, she doesn't even know herself. American viciousness is heavily unconscious, in my experience. You watch gringos interacting, and you observe that insulting each other is not actually perceived as insulting; it has no more negative aspect to it than 'pass the salt', in the American 'mind'. All of this is quite amazing. To be this awful, and this unaware of how awful you are--surely we need a Negative Nobel Prize for this behavior (wh/Americans wd win, year in and yr out). Were we all in the basement when God was handing out intelligence, decency, and elementary courtesy?


5:01 PM  
Blogger deflationista said...

We get sicker and sicker as each day goes by:

Not sure if everyone had a chance to read this rant. It is well worth your time:

6:54 PM  
Blogger Dan Henry said...


Thanks for the links. I got through half of the Gore Vidal piece. What I saw was very good. Unfortunately its not easily available. I had to rent it through at&t on my family's TV, and luck saw fit to walk my father into the room as Vidal laid out the case for Kennedy being less than saintly... my fathers trigger pulled, the rabid barrage of blind anger and repressed dissonance was ugly. Very ugly. Ill have to try to finish it late tonight.

9:29 PM  
OpenID atearinrain said...

Aaaaahhh, the great outdoors. I returned to the Midwest from a trip out West, and there's nothing like nine days of freedom from cell phones and the Internet. I came back feeling so unbelievably refreshed! I almost expected my return to Minneapolis to be painful, since I wasn't raised no big city slicker, but so far it's not so bad. Treks through the mountains and campfire eatin' has restored my vitality. (Of course, this feeling probably won't last forever—the only thing more persistent than nature is the soul-sucking nature of mainstream American culture.) I even made a new little friend! I was enjoying a great view from atop Yellowstone's Bunsen Peak, and this little critter (I think it was a woodchuck) plopped down comfortably and relaxed within arms reach. I would have been startled but he just sat there taking in the view, looking up at me occasionally with eyes that said, "Yep, this is home. Jealous?"

Even neater was this naturalist we met on the last day, in the Black Hills of South Dakota. At first he wanted nothing to do with us, figuring us to be "partyers," but later he invited us out on a hike. He was such a peaceful person—very silent but also imparting so much knowledge about the things we saw. At one point I mentioned Wikipedia, to which he responded, "What's that?" Turns out he's NEVER USED THE INTERNET! He's rarely ever used a computer, and only owns a cell phone because his elk antler art business pretty much requires him to. We talked about hunting for awhile, and he went into great detail about why he only uses bow and arrow. He talked very slowly and was very articulate, ate as slow and calmly as a Hindu cow. His behavior in general was just so graceful. And generous to boot, sharing delicious elk sausage and a bottle of honey whiskey with four strangers. I'm guessing people like him were not so uncommon before the days of hypertechnopower.

10:08 PM  
Anonymous DrCiber said...

Hi MB....I am a permanent resident here in sunny Mexico, and if you think the bureaucracy here is something to behold, you should have been around to try it in the early '70's like me on the first try. Compared to back then --which required retaining an "attorney" supplied with sufficient cash to keep the wheels greased, the current INM functions like a Swiss watch. These days you can even do it all yourself granted one is able to communicate in Spanish, and in my recent experience the staff are uniformly friendly (something INS in the States could use some intensive courses on) and striving successfully to be professional. Like you say, the place ain't perfect and there is still room for improvement, but they really have come a long, long way.

11:41 PM  
Anonymous David G. said...

Dr. B:

My 30-year old son remarked to me how much he enjoyed a three week vacation in Turkey last summer. He said he encountered nothing but polite, helpful, and friendly people there. He acknowledges that Turkey has some political problems, but he was so impressed with how nice the people were. The way he stated it made me think that what he encountered is not what he experiences here in the US. His comments sound very similar to yours about Mexico.

Just finished reading CTOS. Impressive synthesis of literature and very intriguing organizing theme.

David G. from Portland

11:49 PM  
Anonymous Transatlantic said...

"There really is no hope. The anti-hustlers become hustlers of anti-hustling."

MB, I cannot tell you how many times this thought has gone through my head.

7:50 AM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

Dr. B

I read Semi's post and it is typical to my experiences. In effect, what he was saying was that you were the one with the problem.

My own experience has been that if one questions the rubric of America itself then in the people's mind you're the one with the problem. If one has negative experiences then it is your fault no matter what occurred.

America, the culture and the majority whom believe in these ideas are never wrong. In America, you're the one who is always wrong.

Do you know what this reminds me of? It reminds me of a cult. America is a cult and is a religion. It is not like Christianity. It has no church or deity. It is like America is the church and the deity. I know of no other country who is like this in our history. If you look at the Statue of Liberty she is America who is a deity.

I know it seems crazy to you all but this is from my experience.

Here are the attributes of a cult.

9:54 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Check out the essay in QOV entitled "conspiracy vs. Conspiracy in American History," where I discuss Robt Bellah's concept of America as the "civil religion." One way folks like Semi are able to keep the "USA! USA!" mentality going is by living in expatriate enclaves, where they can talk English, do business in dollars, and interact only with other Americans. Semi mentioned he lived in Quintana Roo, and I'm guessing he's probably based in Cancun, which is about as American as you can get. The place is very similar to Miami, in fact. I've met lots of gringos like Semi, and getting them out of the 'cult', as you put it, is a lost cause. Folks like him just can't be defogged. On his deathbed, he'll be chanting, "USA! USA!"


I was in Turkey several yrs ago, for a while, and had the same experience. Glad u liked CTOS. I'm glad there are still a few copies available, tho I'm thinking I might hafta do a 4th edn b4 too long, just to keep it in circulation. BTW, I might be in Portland over New Yrs; we might think of organizing a Wafer Summit there, as was done in NYC last yr.


Sounds like a horror show. Really, every time I hafta deal w/Hacienda or Migracion, I can't understand the documents, and usually hafta have a Mexican friend go with me from office to office to tell me what the heck is going on--as was the case w/the license plate scenario. Unlike the US, everyone is friendly; it's just that the system is totally incomprehensible. I don't know what the suicide rate is in Mexico, but I'm guessing 75% of those who kill themselves do it because of trying to deal w/the bureaucracy. Adios, mundo cruel!


10:31 AM  
Anonymous Bingo said...

This is a good start. Yet, an AK-47 would have yielded better results.

"9 year old stabbed to death in Michigan playground... by 12 year old"

11:06 AM  
Anonymous al-Qa'bong said...

Hello Wafers:

In the "We are all doomed" department...

"Evil, vile Kardashian Hollywood tricked my 11 yr old into spending $120 in 2 days," wrote Waldman to her more than 12,600 followers on Twitter Saturday evening. "He's crying hysterically. Pox on those f***ers."

Waldman continued ranting, accusing the game's makers of "preying on children" and urging parents to disable or delete the app.

The premise of the game is to pay for things that increase one's status, or something. I don't think we can say that the Kardashians, vile as they may be, are the sole people responsible for this. What about the adults who play this game, or parents who let their kids play this?

11:14 AM  
Blogger Jack Lattemann said...

A New Year's Wafer summit in Portland? If it's Portland OR not Portland ME, then count me in, as I'm only a 2-hour drive to the north (though I might take the train).

11:24 AM  
Anonymous politically incorrect said...

Dr B

"why do they have to be assholes"

Why indeed... A guess would be ...because it 'feels good' to a lot of these people. This is of course a nation of BULLIES and though they may internally hate and NOT feel good about themselves they love lashing out at others... it's like a drug, it's euphoric... it may be detached from reality but what the heck it's in the constitution... 'my right to be an asshole' (1st amend.) along with with my right to back it up with weapons (2nd amend.). The notion that we supposedly "need to do something about "bullying" in schools and so forth is such a crock of political hot air... Bullying is everywhere... it is the national sport and why things will never change... it is part of the religion of 'me, myself and I' and screw you... it stepped off the boat at Plymouth, MA... with the attitude that the world (in their view) would be a better place if everyone believed as they (the Pilgrims) did...(ie intolerant Christianity) and all that land going 'to waste' with those 'savages' will be dealt with in due course... so here we are "America the beautiful" as in the words of George Carlin: "a transcontinental commercial cesspool". It's the allowing of that kind of thinking to 'take over' that I believe ruined the prospect of things ever changing in any meaningful way....

12:36 PM  
Anonymous Zeke said...

TV is pretty great, and has definitely been getting more cinematic and "high-brow" lately. But no matter how good the writing or acting on True Detective or House of Cards is, the role of tv in our society is still a narcotic. Those statistics about "the average American family watches X many hours of tv a day" are not lying. People really do just turn the thing on, plop down, and soak it all up. Someone mentioned Nebraska in the last thread - there are scenes in that film where the whole family just stares at the TV, not talking, not looking at eachother. Obviously not all Americans act this way but enough do that we can accurately call it "american culture".

I can't even count the number of times this past week I've wanted to yell at a family member "please look at or talk to me, you've already seen this shitty movie twice". Last time I suggested I'd prefer a meaningful conversation to accompany our (deeply fried and unhealthy) dinner instead of silently watching a horrible stoner comedy I was pretty harshly rebuffed.

And lets not forget how telling it is that TV, that defining pillar of American culture (which again, I love, I can binge watch with the best of them) is a commercial medium, where most of the airtime is dedicated to loud, obnoxious, but slickly produced advertisements for overpriced junk that you'll never need. That's what makes ME want to chuck this damn thing out the window - horrible little ads, where they try to confuse some emotional reaction they manipulate out of you with a product or service that in reality will never make you feel that way. My biggest pet peeve at the moment is "pro military" commercials, where you're supposed to feel all mushy because they show an army family with a dad in camo, which in turn convinces you to buy... insurance? A cell phone? A sandwich?

Anyways, I think TV is great, and with careful use can be a great part of family life. All it takes is a Netflix account, maybe HBO, and some good old self restraint. But the way it actually functions in America is really to buttress consumerism, and dull the masses.

12:52 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and Wafers,

MB, Wafers-

The rattlesnakes are beginning to commit suicide. Wasn't that line from a movie? I can't place it! Anyway, a few stories to brighten the day:




I particularly like #3. Andre Johnson is my *main* man. He's gonna run for president in 2016, don't cha know...



12:53 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Contact David G., maybe we can rustle up a few Wafers from the PNW. I'd guess it's 75% likely I'll be in town over New Yrs. Wherever Wafers meet, light streams in from all sides.


1:13 PM  
Anonymous James Allen said...

Under the heading "Nixon's the,One"*

WAFers who still own a television and still find reason to watch from time to time may find a new HBO documentary of interest: "Nixon on Nixon."

Just aired on the eve of the 40th anniversary of his 9 August 1974 resignation, the documentary should reinforce any residual feelings of dislike--de mortuis nil nisi bonum notwithstanding--that you may hold or have held toward him. And if you liked him for any reason, you may find your affection severely undermined.

The documentary will be repeated, and is also available through HBO's app HBO GO.

* One of Nixon's campaign slogans for the 1968 presidential campaign was "Nixon's the One."

4:09 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Hopefully this will get extended to drones and AK-47's:

6:35 PM  
Anonymous Biddly Spop said...

Speaking of gatherings, I live near NYC. I'm pretty sure there are a few of us near NYC; we could arrange something in the future.

Anyway, MB asked me "why do Americans always have to be assholes?" I think the answer is that they genuinely like hurting people. For a certain sort of person - namely, a sociopath or a narcissist - hurting others feels good.

Also, I don't think we can explain American behavior solely by the environment Americans grow up in. Choice and genes have to be involved as well. There's no way to explain American behavior, except to embrace the politically incorrect concept that some people are just born evil, and continue to choose evil, regardless of circumstance, because they love hurting people. I think that even if Americans were raised with love and compassion, there wouldn't be much difference in their behavior. I say this because in my experience, if you are sincerely kind to an American, chances are that that American will gleefully stab you in the back at the very moment when doing so would cause you the most damage.

7:55 PM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

Transatlantic said...
"There really is no hope. The anti-hustlers become hustlers of anti-hustling."

Yes, indeed...gone over 20 years ago, but Hicks had it pegged, eh?

Long even before that, a friend in Austin pointed out the bi-synchronous nature of the TV biz.
The products being sold to us, the viewers, are easy to see.
What isn't so obvious is that we, the viewers, are a commodity being sold to those seeking to sell us those products.

Two products for the price of one.
Sort of like DoubleMint gum...
but that's a whole 'nother Hicks routine...

P.S. But I do agree with Zeke...Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc...with a hefty dose of self restraint.

8:52 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Current US population is 318.6 million. Speaking very generously, let's say 0.6 million are intelligent, decent, and in possession of some integrity. I doubt it's that many, but let's assume that. It means that the country presently consists of 318 nasty, violent morons. It is also the case that even as we speak, OB-GYN wards across the country are cranking out future douche bags, dolts with abysmal personalities. Very little hasta be done to push the nation over the edge, into collapse; it's happening internally.

As for a NY Wafer Summit, it actually happened in the Village in Nov. 2013, and was an earthshaking event, as we sorted out all the problems of the world. Maybe it's time to hold another one, and this time publish a Wafer Manifesto. Problem is, I need some university to pay my airfare, and that's rather an extreme longshot. But no reason you guys can't meet w/o me, then write it up for the blog.


Yeah; it's disheartening to see the anti-imperialist folks creating little empires of their own, addicted to their fame and reputation. Slavoj Zizek said to OWS: don't fall in love w/yrselves. This is precisely what they proceeded to do. All of this ego is masked in terms of The Cause, but as Cicero rightly remarked: it all boils down to vanity. It seems to be the case that Americans can't *not* be hustlers; that everything, including 'progressive' agendas, gets filtered thru the hustling lens.

Richard Grossman, who founded the corporate charter revocation movement, wrote a letter to "Adbusters" in 1994 in which he referred to "our aping of the corporate form in our own organizations of resistance." Spot-on, that guy.


9:28 PM  
Anonymous Pilgrim said...

@Dan Henry

So glad you were able to find the Gore Vidal documentary. Sorry you couldn't finish it in peace. He certainly knows how to push buttons.

I would think the film would have made the art house circuit by now.

"Gore Vidal understands what America might be if it didn't betray its own ideals - the ideals we gave the world and then renounced in favor of corporate oligarchy and the perpetual war machine. ", from Erica Jong's interview with Vidal.

9:47 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


My 2 favorite Vidal quotes:

1. "America is a nation of morons."

2. "Americans never learn; it's part of our charm.


10:13 PM  
Blogger Dan Henry said...


I finished it today, thoroughly enjoyed it. My favorite quotes,

"We sell soap and presidents in the same fashion."

"There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party ... and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat. Republicans are a bit
stupider, more rigid, more doctrinaire in their laissez-faire capitalism
than the Democrats, who are cuter, prettier, a bit more corrupt—until recently ... and more willing than the Republicans to make small adjustments when the poor, the black, the anti-imperialists get out of
hand. But, essentially, there is no difference between the two parties."

I found this one while googling after watching the film, from an interview,

"I ask what he wants to do next. "My usual answer to ‘What am I proudest of?' is my novels, but really I am most proud that, despite enormous temptation, I have never killed anybody and you don't know how tempted I have been.""

11:06 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Here's another Vidal quote, that I recall distinctly from an essay of his on national drug policy:

"What a stupid country."

It always makes me feel good to read a strong, unambiguous factual statement concerning the true state of the union and its inhabitants.

I'm also gratified, MB, that you confirm my impression of one's fellow-countrymen who bellow insults with unnecessary loudness over the tea table as a substitute for intelligent discourse.

BTW, I'm of the opinion that the Archdruid has almost certainly not knowingly stolen your title. I've followed his blog since '08, and he often credits or otherwise mentions authors who have influenced him, and I don't have the impression that he's familiar with your work. More likely it's simply the case that when one is going to write about a dark age in America, certain phrases tend to crop up. I think he's more honest than to steal a title uncredited. I could be mistaken, but that seems most probable to me.

I have a fabulous idea for financing my escape from the Land of the Unfree and the Home of the Debt Slave, but for the sake of present brevity I'll let it wait a bit.

11:42 PM  
Anonymous David G. said...

Jack Lattemann: Yes, Portland, OR, not ME.

Dr. B, have you ever done a talk at Powell's Books? I wonder if they would host you for a talk there on your new Japan book while you were in town?

How many Wafers do you suppose are in Portland OR who would be available to get together over New Years? It would be interesting ...

David G.

12:05 AM  
Anonymous SrVidaBuena said...

>>>It seems to be the case that Americans can't *not* be hustlers; that everything, including 'progressive' agendas, gets filtered thru the hustling lens.

I recall Eric Hoffer writing: Up to now, America has not been a good milieu for the rise of a mass movement. What starts out here as a mass movement ends up as a racket, a cult, or a corporation.

(Often misquoted as: Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.)

Of course, my dad was a longshoreman in the mid-60's. He told me Hoffer used to show up at the hiring hall in a Rolls Royce, so there you go...

12:15 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


The publisher of SSIG, who is based in Portland, tried to get Powell's to host a gig for the bk last yr, but they weren't interested. Whether they'd be interested in the Japan bk (wh/she is also publishing), I have no idea; but in general, New Yrs is not the best time for bk rdgs or whatever, as lots of people are out of town or continuously drunk. Bkstores tend to leave Xmas week and after blank. But if by some miracle they'd be into me doing a shtick on the J-bk, I'd certainly be willing to oblige.

In terms of a Portland Wafer Summit, however, I suggested to Jack that you and he put yr heads together, see whom u can scare up. Seattle Wafers might be included as well. The NY Wafer Summit of Nov. 2013 was so successful that most New Yorkers are still talking abt it to this day as being a turning pt in their lives. (Staten Island will never be the same.) Anyway, I'm abt 75% sure I'm coming out there after Xmas, altho as I said, you can always hold it w/o me and then report back to the blog.


12:38 AM  
Anonymous dkhinkle said...

Dr. B, David G, I'm also in Portland, OR, and would very much enjoy getting together with you and other WAFers. A talk at Powell's would also be awesome, of course!

David H.

12:56 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


u.c.? Things are bldg tow'd another earth-shattering Wafer Summit, threatening to unhinge all of the PNW. One of u guys needs to post yr email address here, so that the 3 of you, plus the potential dozens of others, can start communicating among yrselves abt it and making all the nec arrangements. You'll need to rent a hall, get hold of some red carpet, hire a brass band for a trumpet fanfare, and arrange for Canter's to fly a huge pile of pastrami sandwiches up north. All of this gives me a frisson of joy.


4:20 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Meanwhile, here's an X-ray of the American soul:

8:34 AM  
Blogger Kanye Cyrus said...

Hi Morris,

Just started reading "Waste Makers" by Vance Packard and from the outset, this quote reminded me of WAF:

"If I can help it, there will be no villains in this book. A charge of rape cannot be sustained by any adult when consent or co-operation has been given."

Packard, Vance (2011-10-04). The Waste Makers (p. 23). Ig Publishing. Kindle Edition.

I look forward to reading the rest of it already!

9:02 AM  
Anonymous Pleased To Beef You said...

MB -

I posted the link for "Shooting victim ignored by passers-by" on /r/GunsAreCool. Thanks!

You really should follow the site, you'll get great headlines like this to start your mornings:

"Man, 21, kills himself trying to take gun selfie."


"Seven (seven!) people shot after somebody spills a drink on someone else. Really."


"Shooting in Chicago Loop--Gun owner gets demoted, shoots CEO, kills himself"

9:47 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thank you. This is the America I know and love.


Check out section on VP in WAF. He was far ahead of his time.


9:54 AM  
Blogger Cj said...

Hi Dr. B, highly recommending Ted Rall's blogs and comics.

The most recent one is titled "Obama’s Folksy History of the World".


10:00 AM  
Anonymous James Allen said...

[With apologies to and acknowledgment of the New York Times's feature, "Metropolitan Diary"]

Scene: A national-chain pancake house in a metropolitan suburb, mid-morning on August 7, the restaurant half-filled with diners

Dramatis personae: A grandmother and grandfather with grandson, who by behavior and appearance is mentally handicapped.

Child, obviously only slightly interested in eating, keeps up a running stream of questions to grandmother who is seated beside him.

Salient question from the child: "Grandma, why isn't anyone smiling?"

[To Kanye Cyrus]

When you finish The Waste Makers, I encourage you to take a look at his other books. Try The Hidden Peesuaders for his evaluation of how Madison Avenue helps keep the consumption engine turning over. Other books: The Status Seekers and The Ultra Rich: How Much Is Too Much.

[Corrigendum: The HBO documentary on Nixon is entitled "Nixon by Nixon" and not "Nixon ON Nixon." Apologies. Our editor has been duly admonished .]

11:04 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yeah, that's pretty gd. I have problems w/Rall because of his call to armed revolution, which doesn't have much chance of succeeding and will only kill a lot of "folks." Also, he himself is rather mild re: Obama. Where are the correct descriptive nouns?: Douche bag, war criminal, shill for Wall St. and the Pentagon, vacuous piece of trash, genocidal coward, etc.? I'm also a tad distressed that he isn't calling for hosing down O's Guccis w/urine.


12:00 PM  
Blogger Publius said...

@Prof. Morris: your first-hand account of the sense of family and community in Mexico versus the FSofA really hit home to me.

I am realizing, in an ex-post-facto nightmare, how non-supportive my own even nuclear family (let alone extended) really was and is.

My own mother and brother constantly hector me about everything: I am too lenient with my son, I don't force him to behave properly, I am too critical of the US, I am too cynical, too this, too that... on and on.

I hug my child all the time, which has gotten me looks or even being made fun of in the USA. What's up with that?

My brother also tells me what I should and should not use social media for: I am too negative, critical, non-fun, etc.
Here's a direct quote: "Keep in fun on the 'book."

Keep it fun on the 'book. Was there ever a better way to promote banality?

My response was that the Internet and social media is a tool that I am free to use for whatever I see fit. I don't criticize his narcissistic photos of himself doing athletic events bare-chested all the time. Why does he have to criticize me?

I recently posted articles that explained the reality of the plight of the Gazans, and he only robotically posted things like, "They are all barbaric terrorists, deserve it," etc.
He could only taunt me with repetitive slogans from the MSM, pure bullshit propaganda. When I called him out on it, I was called "mean-spirited."
It's like dealing with a bot, some kind of primitive AI that can only process input according to a limited, superficial algorithm.
I'm done. I've left all social media, which I was only on because of our Euro trip to research emigration.
Now, again, your blog and a few email correspondents are all I have. :(

12:19 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and Wafers,


Many thanks for the heads-up regarding "Nixon by Nixon." I'm pretty much obsessed with US history from the 1960s thru the Reagan era. Tricky Dick, of course, was a big part of that period. He so thoroughly discredited himself and the Republican *brand* with his crimes that by the late-1970s, the Republicans, out of downright desperation, came up with a political button campaign with the phrase: "Republicans Are People Too." Can you even imagine that? But it didn't hold. In fact, Ronnie Raygun set out to prove that Republicans were as cool as ever; a critical and crucial step toward our oblivion. Check out this review of a new work about this period by historian Rick Perlstein:

Also, for interested parties, here's a radio interview with Perlstein:

MB, Wafers-

Possible Wafer Summit in the PNW! Shit, this will be the biggest thing since Noodle Kugel and Lorenzo's forthcoming presidential bid.

I feel the earth move under my feet/ feel the sky tumblin' down!

We need a limited edition T-shirt to commemorate this event:



1:48 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


This blog is all you need, really; I mean, what else is there? As for your family: the bottom line is that Americans are awful human beings, and there's no reason yr family shd be an exception to this. They are a collection of douche bags, and the sooner you pee on their shoes and hit the rd, the happier you'll be. Keep in mind at all times that they have little more than dog poop in their heads.


2:04 PM  
Anonymous David Clausen said...

Money turns love into work. At least I think this may be the case. I'm going to try loving instead of working, give it a shot, anyway.

David Clausen, from Vancouver in lovely BuyoutBC

2:34 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Take a look at this:

I really like the cheetah-poodle comparison, it's pretty much on the mark; but how much better this thing wd have been if the picture had Ovomit holding a douche bag. Wafers, we need to write Putin a letter!


4:06 PM  
Anonymous The Dude said...

Nobody else has commented on that Josh Ellis essay, "Everyone I know is brokenhearted," that has been linked twice in this thread, so I will. Frankly, Mr. Ellis, whom I had never read before, described my feelings almost perfectly, except for right at the end where he provides an extremely unlikely solution for turning things around and says he still has hope. I finally gave up on hope about six months into Obama's abortion of a presidency.

Anyway, related to many of the comments in this thread, I was reading a story today about the latest military victory an accompanying atrocities against innocent civilians by ISIS over in Iraq. As the very first comment below the article, some pinhead actually wrote that he wouldn't mind seeing "that whole region," as he put it, get nuked.

This I took as yet another downward step on the ladder of American public discourse. Notwithstanding the fact that America in essence created ISIS by invading Iraq and by then funding the Syrian rebels, here is a comfortable living, self-centered American asshole who is apparently so tired of hearing negative stories about the Middle East that he would just prefer that everyone there be killed so he doesn't have to hear about it anymore.

And just when I thought I no longer had the capacity to be surprised at the depravity of my fellow citizens.

7:04 PM  
Blogger NearFar said...

Hi Wafers,

"Gimmee Shelter." *Get* me there (to the nearest shelter) rather than deal w/ the "semis" of this world. But thanks (in large measure) to the US's rogue behavior these last 70 yrs, not much in the way of human shelter left on this earth ('round, helpless belly') either. So what you do is adjust on the fly, take what you can find: so a book, or an idea, or a concept (well crafted) can hold you over for a time, until the next homestead. Meanwhile, people like 'semi' are ghosts:

They are ghosts that endanger

One’s soul. There is change
In an air
That smells stale, they will come to the end
Of an era
First of all peoples
And one may honorably keep

His distance
If he can.

(from George Oppen's poem, "Of Being Numerous." Oppen & his family lived in Mexico during the 1950s, to escape FBI harassment/communist witch-hunts during the McCarthy era:

Folks like "semi" (ie., presumably entrenched in various expatriate "American" enclaves abroad) showcase what MB is discussing in DAA when he writes that "Part of the process of Americanization, of course, is giving people the means to hide from the alienation that Americanization leaves in its wake." (Ch. 8, 'The State of the Union,' p. 287 in my copy). In the past, Capo would 'beat me to the punch' when it came to 'responding' to this kind of 'churlish,' behavior. And I could move on, dignity intact, and not respond. But I can deal w/ contradictions if you're itching for a fight: my Mexican girlfriend reluctantly sides with 'semi' on this. Leading to another bitter argument. I say 'reluctantly,' because she loves you MB, no kidding. But America has done a number on her too: but that's a whole 'nother' story.

7:42 PM  
Anonymous Lone Wolf said...

I have a fabulous story for you Morris.

"Oklahoma teacher, 49, is arrested after she turned up to school on her first day 'drunk and wearing no PANTS'

A new teacher in Wagoner, Oklahoma, was arrested on her first day after she showed up at the school both drunk and without pants.

School officials called Wagoner police around 9 a.m. on Monday morning to report that Lorie Ann Hill, 49, smelled of alcohol and was also missing the lower half of her clothing.

She was discovered slumped over the desk by two teachers in an empty classroom she was claiming was her own, Fox 23 reports.

8:20 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


A few yrs ago, a NYT poll taken of 10,000 Mexicans revealed that given the chance to immigrate to the US, 81% wd do it immediately. Ya hafta hand it to the US: the American Dream is the greatest story ever sold. Of course, once Mexicans make it to the US, they discover that there really is a difference between shit and shinola; but in the meantime, the US has managed to maintain its image of streets paved w/gold etc. And then for some, the Dream continues...there is a process of gringificacion that turns everyone, nationality notwithstanding, into an American; if only to survive in the US; altho the Wm Vega study wd indicate that it's making Mexicans who live in the US emotionally ill. I can't get much of an audience down here, truth be told, because Mexicans don't understand the true comparisons, and don't get how gd many of them really have it, in terms of human relations. They are just used to decency, so it doesn't stand out; it's just part of the fabric of Mexican life, background, and thus not noticed. As for Semi, he'll go to his grave chanting "We're No. 1!"; of that, I have no doubt.

A lot of this hinges on what is measurable vs. intangible; something I've argued for a long time, and wh/is a major theme of the Dean Ornish bk. How do you measure love? But $, that you can measure.


When it comes to understanding US foreign policy, Americans are little more than children. Plus, they are nasty.


8:21 PM  
Anonymous Rufusteena Firefly said...

Re: TV...I don't subscribe to any. I don't see the point of numbing my brain like that. I do have a tiny ancient table top model with built in VCR that plays the old movie video tapes I have from the stone age. As for the computer, I get my news from alternate sources. On it as well, I play "serious" (as opposed to pop) music and some movies from the 30s, 40s and early 50s which I have on CDs. Once or twice a day I check email. I read this blog daily and look up what people link to on it as well as some other blogs sometimes but don't do much of anything else. i mostly use it to journal and do other kinds of writing.

But now books? Books are my deepest love. I have, let's see, how about a couple thou? That doesn't count ebooks to save space...and some bucks. Also I live near the town library. It's not all that rich a trove but they have a set up by which if they don't have a book you want, they will buy it for you and it comes directly to your home. When you read it, you give it to the library. They basically are allowing the patrons to do some of the stocking. Neat, huh? The program just started. I plan to order your books for them soon, Dr. B. But I already have your books in my own stash so I can read them more than once and underline and look up something I want to reread when the library is closed and stuff like that. I'm kind of a bookworm. Have been since I was four—and that would be since two years before you were born, sir! Regards,

10:50 PM  
Anonymous Biddly Spop said...

The Dude,

I've heard countless Americans suggest that nuking various countries, or entire regions of the planet, is a virtuous/fun/exciting/brave course of action. I get enraged anytime I hear such a thing, but at this point, I'm hardly surprised. On the contrary, I expect such comments, and unfortunately, you'd do well to expect them as well. What a sad place we inhabit.

Everyone else,

What really struck me about Semi's comment is how he dismissed "simple and deep connections between family and friends" as something trifling in importance. He clearly thinks there are far more important cultural matters at stake. I'm guessing these things are I-phones, drone warfare, the freedom to be an asshole, the freedom to exploit others, and above all, wealth that is increasingly unfairly distributed and spent on things that ultimately benefit nobody.

When any culture dismisses human relationships as unimportant, you can be sure that that culture also dismisses human experience as unimportant, and tolerates (or perhaps even encourages) the most egregious kinds of abuse of human beings. China's a great example of this; so is America.

11:10 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


In that woman's face I see the face of America today. Incidentally, "Bad Teacher," w/Cameron Diaz, is a real hoot.


Semi is just one more nail in the American coffin, really; and there are so many nails around, these days. It's like the country is now cultivating douchebaggery as a career. Jesus, what a horse's ass. It continues to impress me, that there is abs. no way of waking these clowns up.


We shd get together, compare canes (the one I bought is the one used by "Dr. House," w/the flame motif) along w/operations, ailments, and medications. Whee!


1:34 AM  
Anonymous Pleased To Beef You said...

MB -

Why do you think Americans *love* movies showing a post-collapse America? What's surprising is that if you then talk to people about our social/environmental problems that are heading us in that direction, everyone is then defensive and optimistic about our situation. It just seems bizarre to me.

9:56 AM  
Anonymous Louisa May Apricot said...

MB and WAFers
Dr. Berman, the life experience you posted here was so touching. Such a beautiful reminder of just what's missing in the lives of WAFers and why our hearts are warmed once you greet us at the gates of Dark Ages America.
PS Here's a link to the site of a rebel who will be featured on 20/20 tonight (8/8).

11:13 AM  
Blogger Jack Lattemann said...

David G, DK and other Wafers and Waferettes in the Pacific NW,

Yes, let's coordinate a Wafer Summit in Portland around New Year's when MB visits. I live in Olympia, a couple of hours north, and could commit to a weekend or multiple days once dates are set.

To contact me, please make haste (but don't hustle) to your computer and send contact info to my personal email address:

11:32 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I dunno, really; but keep in mind that Americans are people who have their heads deeply embedded in their recta.


Clearly, we need an oasis of sanity in a culture of 317+ million violent, stupid people. I can't save this nation, and I don't want to save this nation (tho I *wd* like to save other nations from *us*!); but maybe, as you suggest, Wafers and Waferettes can warm a few hearts. There simply isn't any other blog worth paying attention to, as I have repeatedly said.

I lived in DC for many yrs, and I can tell u that the mode of relationship depicted on "House of Cards" is not only accurate for the political culture, but for everyday 'human' interactions as well, just diluted a bit. I remember a free-lance job I had for a company in Va., and how antagonistic the general atmosphere was. One day, very unexpectedly, a woman on staff did me a favor, on her own initiative. It was so unusual in that context that I was actually stunned. "Thanks," I said; "that was very kind." "Kindness is something that is completely nonexistent around here," was her reply; actually, it may have even been more bitter than that, I can't recall the exact words. But it summed up life in America, to a great extent. (You can't imagine how many stories of calculated manipulation, as daily fare, I cd reproduce here.) The culture is one that regards kindness as something for patsies, and other people as little more than obstacles in one's way (to where, exactly?).

That video (above) of a guy shooting someone in a store in the Bronx a few days ago, and other people just stepping over the body, is a true profile of late-empire America; again, in a slightly diluted form. If I had died in the lobby of the apt. complex where I lived in DC, the other residents wd have simply stepped over my corpse en route to their mailboxes. This is no exaggeration.


12:26 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Greetings all,


It really is bizarre. You know, the postmoderists have some things to say about it; check out Baudrillard's writings on simulation, implosion, and hyperreality. I think Americans intuitively know it's curtains for their society, tho they can't possibly admit it because Americans can't really think in those terms, nor do they live in reality. In addition, admitting that it's over would be the equivalent of betraying the American Dream and the belief that all problems can and should be solved by the US; pure fantasy, a con, in short. Unable to solve the world's problems, America resorts to blowing the fucking shit out of it. This is fundamentally a psychological issue that has to play out.

In terms of *why* Americans love the carnage in films: basically they are a collection of emotionally dead and violent dumbshits who get off on watching things blow up! This is a society that does not blink when it unleashes industrial slaughter on a massive scale in reality (on the other) or the movies (on ourselves and/or the other). Not to completely conflate the two, of course, but there's also an erotic fascination with all this violence and destruction. Proof of this will be revealed today when Wolf Blitzer's face contorts into an orgasmic strain when he giddily explains how American bombs are leveling active strains of ISIS in Iraq, or wherever. It should also be noted that we export this trash all over the world. Check out this article from Lewis Beale:


Good news. Very recent wisdom from Bunmi Laditan! Bunmi is worried about too much nipple exposure when breastfeeding in public among other crimes:


2:09 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Bunmi Laditan is one of our cutting-edge intellects, and I'm hoping she'll be running on the Lorenzo Riggins ticket in 2016. Here is a direct quote from her brilliant essay:

"Science has proven that breasts are basically large vaginas."

(I looked in vain for a ftnote.)

Anyway, this is cutting-edge stuff.

As for Wolf, Nicholas von Hoffman pegged him correctly, in the wake of the Gulf War of 1991, when he called Wolf and his ilk "war whores." I remember Wolf's erotic excitement as we butchered hundreds of thousands of people from the air. But hey, it made his career, and that's what life is all about.


2:49 PM  
Blogger Karl said...

from Village Voice advice column:

Hi Andrew,

I'm writing because I just can't deal with my father anymore. He's a 65-year-old super right-wing conservative who has basically turned into a total asshole intent on ruining our relationship and our planet with his politics. I'm more or less a liberal democrat with very progressive values and I know that people like my dad are going to destroy us all. I don't have any good times with him anymore. All we do is argue. When I try to spend time with him without talking politics or discussing any current events, there's still an underlying tension that makes it really uncomfortable. Don't get me wrong, I love him no matter what, but how do I explain to him that his politics are turning him into a monster, destroying the environment, and pushing away the people who care about him?

Thanks for your help,
Son of A Right-Winger

See also: Ask Andrew W.K.: My Boyfriend Treats Me Badly

Dear Son of A Right-Winger,

Go back and read the opening sentences of your letter. Read them again. Then read the rest of your letter. Then read it again. Try to find a single instance where you referred to your dad as a human being, a person, or a man. There isn't one. You've reduced your father -- the person who created you -- to a set of beliefs and political views and how it relates to you. And you don't consider your dad a person of his own standing -- he's just "your dad." You've also reduced yourself to a set of opposing views, and reduced your relationship with him to a fight between the two. The humanity has been reduced to nothingness and all that's left in its place is an argument that can never really be won. And even if one side did win, it probably wouldn't satisfy the deeper desire to be in a state of inflamed passionate conflict.

5:16 PM  
Anonymous Lover said...

My girlfriend and I are having a little spat: she favors the death arch of poetry, that it is slowly dying. I disagree, but she mocks my inability to acknowledge a poetic feat/publication noteworthy from the past year. Any WAFers or MB care to wager in w/ opinion or recommendation?

6:56 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well *that's* gonna help!


6:57 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thanks for insightful comments re: Dalai Lama. Problem is that there is a 1/2-page limit for posts on this blog, so I need u2 compress your lengthy message and re-send it. Thanks.


9:44 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

This is interesting:

10:24 AM  
Blogger Mister Roboto said...

I really think it's this very lack of family and community bonds that make people in this country seek comfort in believing outrageous lies that could never possibly be true in a million years. In the case of some people, the more outrageous the lie, the more eagerly it gets swallowed down. Of course, this only ends up adding to the problem because it makes trying to talk to other people into such a waste of time and effort. People from other countries must really be impressed with how bitter and cynical what few intelligent people who live in America are.

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Biddly Spop said...

Speaking of whores, we've forgotten to mention the lovable Thomas Friedman. He practically orgasms over globalization, debt slavery, wage slavery, war, torture, and the destruction of the ecosystem. He has no moral compass; he will say and do anything if the price is right. He is also the quintessential American; for him, he's willing to hustle the entire world into a state of destruction from which it may never recover. Money, and the satisfaction of his own sadistic drives, are the only things that matter to him.

And finally, let's not forget Oprah. For her, politics is about race and gender; actual political policies mean nothing to her. In her mind, Obama is the best president ever because he is black, while Hilary Clinton is the best secretary of state ever because she is a woman. Can one possibly be any dumber than this? Well, yes - Lorenzo Riggins. Speaking of him, I wonder if he's going to appear on talk shows and become an American celebrity. It would be very fitting for Riggins to be a political analyst for CNN or Fox News; he is America in miniature.

11:59 AM  
Blogger dg said...


my 2 cents

12:29 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


1st let me say that I adore Lorenzo Riggins, and were he to choose Latreasa Goodman or Bunmi Laditan as his running mate in 2016, I would move back to the US just to work (fervently) on his campaign.

As far as Friedman goes (may his name be blotted out!), check this out:

And regarding Oprah (may her name be blotted out!), have a look at:

2 bigger douche bags, it wd be hard to find.


12:33 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Pleased, Jeff -

You might appreciate this discussion between Bill Moyers & John Lithgow about King Lear & the flood of dystopian "entertainment" these days:

The comments section goes into that question a bit more.

I'm reminded of all the survivalist films & fiction that took hold during the Reagan years, and really has never let go since then. My gut feeling then & now is that a great many people long for such a collapse of civilization, because they themselves aren't civilized, and so they hate & fear it. Hence the enormous surge of anti-intellectualism in the past 4o-50 years. Genuine civilization requires empathy, vulnerability, compassion, humility -- all qualities to be avoided like death itself by most of America today.

One quote from Lithgow:

"I look around and 50 percent of the big-budget entertainment you are seeing these days is dystopian. This is the era of Hunger Games and blasted landscapes and The Walking Dead. The zombie is the new, sort of, archetype of our times."

1:13 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Hackenbush said...

Thanks Dr. Berman and those who commented on the value of watching (or not) TV.

Dr. B, I had sort of low expectations for Johnson's "Everything Bad is Good for You," as well; but I was pleasantly surprised and really do recommend the book to WAFers (granted that this blog is all they need, but still.) Even if one disagrees, Johnson will force you to examine some of your assumptions about pop culture.

One point his book brings out, to me, is that there actually is a lot of intellectual firepower in this country (sacrilege to say, I know!) Perhaps what is lacking is wisdom, or maybe even... humor.

Maybe if all those people feverishly unpacking complex symbolic sign systems could turn their attention to understanding the world as it really is, rather than entertainments, we would get somewhere.

I did not care much for the "rant," sorry. I guess it rubbed me wrong that he thinks gun control is a solution -- the shootings are a symptom of something else, not the guns, so it's illogical to focus on the guns. I personally suspect the psychiatric medications as the culprit (as well as spooks running psy-ops, and the breakdown of family, etc.)
I do second the recommendation to read Denis Rancourt's blog post about the scam of mainstream medicine. Very thought provoking. His thesis about the damaging effects of dominance-submission hierarchies seems to play into Dr. Berman's ideas on civilizational ills in "Wandering God."

5:36 PM  
Anonymous David Clausen said...

I'm hoping, on the night of the Ruddle Moon, to earn my love's consent to be my woman. Please wish me good luck, I may need it.

Hope to see some of you in Portland, got stuff to talk about. Walk in beauty.

Thanks, David Clausen

5:46 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


This is so annoying. Why didn't they just gun her down w/an AK-47?


7:08 PM  
Anonymous PleasedToBeefYou said...

MB -

I've posted your story to /r/Bad_Cop_No_Donut, since unfortunately, no gun was used. It is a disappointment, but you know how it is with all these liberals making a big stink about shooting people in their own homes, go they have to take it down a notch

10:17 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

One thing that's esp. nice abt not living in the US is that yr not surrounded by meaningless conversations. It all seems so gripping, from w/in the US; there's a 'story' every week, and everyone is excited abt it. But then there's another story the next wk, and everyone is excited abt *that*. But it's all dogshit, really. I was talking to an American friend today, and we agreed that as far as the US goes, there are only 2 conversations that are real at this pt (or perhaps, going back several decades, some wd argue):

1. What we are doing to other countries
2. The ongoing collapse of our own.

Once again, this is why this is the only blog worth yr time. Everything else is hot air.


11:47 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Once again, I'm annoyed at the police. Consider the last line of this story:

It says: "The spokesman didn't give the reason for the shooting."

Why in the world shd the cops hafta give a reason for shooting someone? This kid was an American citizen, he was walking down the street, and if the cops wanna blow him outta the water, they have every rt to do so, no? What's next, apologies? Jesus...


12:00 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

On the other hand, this I find particularly encouraging:

Imo, anyone putting up a solar panel needs to be gunned down like a dog. And please, no police explanations or apologies.


12:05 AM  
Anonymous lack of coherence said...

MB -

This is the *second* podcast in a row on the C-Realm podcast that John Michael Greer basically went through *Reenchantment* and has repeated much of what you've said:

* They discussed the study w/Gregory Bates on schizophrenia

* They talked about how Americans blame themselves for failure, rather than your situation

Last week, they used the phrase "reenchantment of the world", but didn't mention your name. It's hard to believe they're coming up w/all of this on their own, and not just repackaging what you've said 30 years ago.

John Michael Greer has a new book out:

7:52 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yeah, I have the impression he's using my titles and ideas, and clearly w/o attribution. He's hardly the only one. This is why I don't put much stock in the notion of a necessarily benevolent future. We have anti-imperialists creating their own little empires, and who believe that crediting other people somehow diminishes their own status (wh/is really the pt of the exercise, ultimately). Ego may finally be the determining factor in the contours of a future world. Depressing. (I'm happy to say I have no problem citing Greer and others, and have done so; it just doesn't get reciprocated!)


10:22 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Just another example of insatiable greed & shallowness attempting to "develop" (i.e., exploit & tear the living beating heart out of) something beautiful & irreplaceable in the name of profit:

Breathes there a man with soul so dead? Sadly, yes -- all too many of them.

Mister Roboto,

I think you're absolutely right. The only binding narrative & source of meaning in America is money -- and as MB has stated many times, if money is your only value, then you have no values, because money in itself can't be a value.

I see this desperate fear peering out from the eyes of the loudmouthed, the arrogant, the sneering & the shallow -- they believe in nothing, least of all their own lost humanity, so all that remains is the "I-gotta-get-MINE-at-all-costs!" mentality. As if that will save them.

12:27 PM  
Anonymous JM said...

I thought Wafers might appreciate Monbiot's latest:

1:55 PM  
Anonymous Red on the Head said...

Dr. MB,

“Ego may finally be the determining factor in the contours of a future world.”

If you have the time, or the energy, or the inclination to satisfy a random Wafer’s curiosity; would you be able to expand on your above quote? If not, then perhaps other Wafers can share how they interpret the statement. Thanks!

2:34 PM  
Anonymous Mark Fuller Dillon said...

Hello, everyone! This will not surprise you, but it does trouble me.

I use Facebook to put me in touch with people I respect, and I've noticed a trend: people in the UK, Australia, and (to a much lesser extent) Canada, are eager to post about political issues, and they are consistently critical of their governments and of neoliberalism.

By contrast, and with two exceptions I can think of, Americans on the whole never post items about political issues, neither domestic nor global. They post about film, TV shows, celebrities, media stuff... but they act as if politics were a foreign world of no concern to them.

What troubles me the most about this? These Americans are writers.

2:34 PM  
Anonymous Louisa May Apricot said...

MB and WAFers,
Yes, this is truly the only site worth visiting. The links WAFers and Dr. Berman post here absolutely prove WAF. Sometimes though, I wonder whether there might still be a glimmer of hope, goodness or mercy left in the soulless... *sigh* Then I read this and, well, NEVER MIND! I guess stupid will just devour stupid.

2:45 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Check out the quote from Richard Grossman, above: "our aping of the corporate form in our own organizations of resistance." Also my previous comment, that "The anti-hustlers become hustlers of anti-hustling." If yr bldg yr own little fiefdom, yr own little empire, based on anti-empire or declinism or progressivism or whatever, what yr really doing is reproducing what you claim to oppose. Too often, the tragedy of revolution is that it is merely a revolving door. If (e.g.) you can't credit the authors u.r. "borrowing" from, and hafta have all the honor for yrself, then this is just more of the same ol' shit. It doesn't matter what anyone says, finally; it's about how they actually behave. I'm hoping Levantine will resubmit his post (in shorter form) on the egomania of the Dalai Lama. (Talk about contradictions!) The Cause may be noble, but if the underlying agenda is "I am king of the dunghill," then so what? Comments from other Wafers are most welcome.


The crucial pt is that they are Americans, wh/means, superficial. This is not just Facebk, of course. The gringos I meet down here talk abt the weather, prices, their houses, and not much else. They aren't very interesting, because they aren't very interested in anything real. After 5 mins of conversation, u wish u had a .357 Magnum so you cd blow yr brains out, and not hafta keep listening.

Ms. Apricot-

At least for America, there is no hope. Dual Process (as I defined it earlier) is indeed going on, but this is a process of the long haul, and in any case, it's not very likely to gain any real traction in the US. What your link is actually depicting is douche bags living in douchebaggery. And what we can expect is more of the same, an orgy of douchebaggery until we attain some form of ecpyrosis.

O&D, amigos; O&D.


3:37 PM  
Anonymous Trolfoon Fool said...

About the Dalai Lama, there is an interesting on-line book called "The Shadow of the Dalai Lama", which is very informative ...

4:28 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I cd find only the German edn on Amazon, but the reviews are interesting. It's a question as to whether the charges against the Dalai Lama (and Levantine had a whole pile of 'em) are true, or b.s. concocted by pro-Chinese writers. I really don't know the answer. The Intro states that the crucial disease underlying despotism is "clinging to your own power." This is what I'm talking abt when I say that various progressives, declinists, and so on are constructing fiefdoms, or empires of their own, such that the real agenda is ego. Slavoj Zizek said to OWS, "Don't fall in love w/yrselves"--wh/of course is exactly what they wound up doing.

I shd say that I personally met the Dalai in Austria in 1983, and was singularly unimpressed. Not that he came off as a closet despot, but that his writings (which I looked over, a bit) and his lectures at that conference were cliche-ridden, fairly trivial. (It was moving to learn that he was in favor of peace, and opposed to war.) Nevertheless, I quoted him as the epigraph to this post because (a) what he said is rt, and (b) even a broken clock is accurate 2x/day. I was aware, however, at that conference, that the veneration of the guy had gotten way outta hand. No one shd get that much attn; it distorts yr perception.

On another subject, I think you might need a new handle. 1st, Trollfoon is spelled with two l's. 2nd, Fool is redundant: by definition, a Trollfoon is a fool. Finally, you strike me as being neither. So you might wanna sign in as Dolly Lama, or Anti-Dolly, or something like that (Hello Dolly! wd also be gd). Thanks, in any case, for the link.


ps: BTW, I discuss Nazi involvement in the occult, meditation, etc. in the ch. of CTOS entitled "The Twisted Cross."

5:15 PM  
Anonymous Iguanodon said...


this is my first post here.

Here's an article on how to put depression into "remission" by having ones face injected with Botox:

It's not hard to become a citizen of the UK. All you have to do is have a job here for five years and then you can apply. People are more easy going here. One time I got off the plane in Chicago after a long trip and some official greeter shouted in my face "Welcome back the the USA!!" Probably I looked annoyed with him or tired (which I was) and his facial expression instantly changed from friendliness to hate.

Dr Berman, I read Reenchantment of the World and Coming to Our Senses in the 80's and have read WAF more recently. I remember that towards the end of Reenchantment there was a sentence of two about how there was obviously a paradigm shift occurring in the world. At the time I wondered what was meant by that. Do you remember what was in your mind when you wrote that? I doubt you were predicting the fall of the USA back then.

5:27 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Pleased to Beef You---

I think Americans like dystopian movies not only for all the reasons already mentioned but also b/c it keeps dystopia firmly in the realm of make-believe. It's just a movie--people don't really run out of water, space, hope, options, protection---do they?!

I saw a Frontline episode Like Generation that I'd recommend watching. It's on social media and how it manipulates and seduces kids into doing its marketing for corporations, self-promoting individuals, etc. Many want to be famous simply for being "famous" with no talent or effort of their own.


I saw the interview with John Lithgow on his role in King Lear and it was great. A life well lived is what I thought at the end of it.

6:21 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Welcome to the blog, the only one in the entire blogosphere worth reading. May you contribute many more posts!

Your experience at O'Hare tells you just abt all you need to know abt Americans. Perfect metaphor, except it's not really a metaphor.

As for ROW: much I cd say abt it; if I were to rewrite it today, it wd be a very different bk, in a whole # of ways. But in one way, the notion of paradigm shift is taking place in the concrete form of what I've called (on this blog and elsewhere) Dual Process. The arc of capitalism is coming to a close, an eco-sustainable, no-growth way of life is struggling to be born. When I wrote ROW, I believed the paradigm shift wd occur in the US (among other places). Now, I just think it's going to bypass the US, because the US is basically passe: late-empire capitalism in self-destruct mode (it ain't pretty). Americans think the US is the center of the universe; in 20-30 yrs, if not sooner, it will be revealed as marginal to the rest of the world and its major players. Many already see it as a backward nation, fueled by a moribund ideology. They're rt.


8:11 PM  
Blogger Dan Henry said...

Wafers, Im looking for recommendations. I listen to a lot of traditional Celtic and folk music and I am looking for a change of pace. Jazz is tempting me, but I have next to no experience. Lay em on me.

9:59 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dan H.-

1. Miles Davis, "Kind of Blue"
2. John Coltrane, "The Gentle Side of Coltrane"
3. Claude Bolling Trio, "Jazz a la francaise"
4. Keith Jarrett, "The Koeln Concert"

That shd get u started.


12:00 AM  
Anonymous Biddly Spop said...

Yeah, I quickly get tired of people who say things like "Peace is good, war is bad...let's just all get along." Such statements are utterly lacking in context and depth. For instance, it's pretty clear that Palestine has a right to defend itself against the Israeli genocide with force of arms. Preaching peace to them is in effect telling them to commit suicide, as a nation and as a people. After 9/11, Richard Gere said "Let's all just be friends.", regarding the Muslim world. It's true that Americans are genocidal monsters, and thus reviled Gere, but his plea for peace is so utterly lacking in content that it deserves to be treated only with contempt.

For instance, why shouldn't we be at war with the Muslim world? Are they the aggressors, or are we? Is it accurate to stereotype 1.3 billion people based on the actions of 12 deranged men? Is war the only possible response? What are the merits of other responses? What historical context is all of this situated? Gere, and OWS, chose to ignore all of this, and as a result, even the few sane Americans don't take them seriously, not to speak of countries with sizable liberal populations.

12:15 AM  
Blogger Val said...

So here's my boffo idea for making the dosh to flee the Dungeon. I fancy most readers are probably familiar with the famous bronze sculptures of a bear and a bull down on Wall Street, self-evidently symbolizing the Bulls and Bears of the stock market. Well it's plain to me that Wall Street is a statue short. Where forsooth is its public statue of the ever-benignant Invisible Hand of the Market? Every neoliberal investor believes in it as implicitly as I do in the Tooth Fairy. So once I propose the notion to the competent authorities I'm confident it'll be a shoo-in. I figure they'll pony up at least 2.3 mil for the project. I mean, this is the Invisible Hand we're talking about!

The sculpture as I conceive it will consist of a huge bronze plinth with nothing on it except a plaque announcing the subject. I'll modestly sign it "Adam Smith." Billionaires will venerate and bow before it. Kim Kardashian and Lorenzo Riggins will be photographed with it. There'll be a feature article in Oprah magazine. I'll be the Lance Armstrong of American artists, and Jeff Koons will be livid with envy.

The only drawback is that I hate to waste a substantial part of my fee on expensive bronze. So what I think I'll do is make the plinth out of plywood and fake it up with bronze paint, with the plaque in plastic.

Now the really classy thing to do would be to make a *real* invisible hand - you know, something that's usually unseen but shows up as a watery hand-shaped bubble when it rains, or a cloudy manual hole in the fog, just like the Invisible Man in the story. But let's face it, that's probably not technically feasible no matter how good your software is, even if you have a direct line to the best people at MIT. So if my clients demand to see an invisible hand, I'll work up a lucite copy of the Glove character from that old Beatles flick "Yellow Submarine." That oughta be sinister enough to satisfy anyone.

I'll follow up this masterpiece with a maximally aggrandizing portrait of Ayn Rand. But comparative brevity demands that we let these glories wait for a later post. They are simply too great and wondrous to be spoken of all in one go.

12:58 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


You might consider a hologram, I dunno. But anything that includes Lorenzo Riggins gets my vote--as will he, in 2016. Really, it's his kind of cutting-edge intellect, along w/that of Bunmi Laditan's, that can take America into the future it most certainly deserves.


2:18 AM  
Blogger Nicholas Colloff said...

I was reminded of my first week in Switzerland in January. I am walking down the street to the bus stop. It is raining. A woman in her sixties stops her car and offers me a male, and complete stranger, a lift. I get in - we discuss where I am going, find out our workplaces are nearby, so she drives me into town! A simple act of kindness, and neighbourliness and one that has often been repeated since. Not quite the bonds of love but gentle courtesy.

8:26 AM  
Anonymous Mo Ronich said...

There is apparently a new book coming out next year I think will be of great interest to wafers. Pre order now.

9:57 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

TIM! Thanks for the link to the Grand Canyon article. Dammit, does everything on this planet have to be commodified? Now they are going to turn the place into another Smokey Mountains with the Gatlinburg monstrosity right outside the entrance.

Here is another story nature-based WAF-ers might find interesting:

while it isn't be best written piece on the planet, it is the first I've heard of the wi-fi controversy in Canada.

Both remind me of one my biggest pet-peeves, people out in nature with their damn headphones on. I'll spare y'all my many examples, but the canyon story, the wi-fi story and the headphone thing just bring home the comment that MB (and others) have made that Americans (especially) and others (hyper-connected Korean kids for example) cannot live with themselves in silence.

10:07 AM  
Blogger Patricia Lawler said...

From the "You can't make this shit up" department, this priceless nugget:
U.S. Bombing Own Weapons in Iraq

1:12 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and Wafers,

Dan H.-

1. "Kind of Blue" is glorious! An excellent first choice, MB. I'd also give "Sketches of Spain" by Miles a spin.

2. Grover Washington, Jr. "Inner City Blues" + "All the King's Horses"

3. Gabor Szabo, "Spellbinder"

4. Nancy Wilson, "Something Wonderful"

MB, Wafers-

Is it not a contradiction for president Obama to be so concerned with human rights violations committed by ISIS in Iraq, yet say nothing or do anything regarding the destruction of the Palestinian people in Gaza at the hands of Israel? Help me out here, Wafers.

Meanwhile, Andrew Bacevich weighs in on Iraq:


3:17 PM  
Anonymous PleasedToBeefYou said...

I found this interesting -

One of the largest sports tournaments in the world is now Dota 2. The tournament prize is about $11 million and the Chinese dominate.

It's amazing to see nerd culture become nearly as large as the super bowl, and in a very short time.

3:24 PM  
Anonymous James Allen said...

Jeff T, thanks for the referral to the Bacevich article.

I've been reading his commentaries and watching his lectures and interviews for some years now. Unfortunately, his ideas for what U.S. foreign policy should be and his general rejection of the "military option," apparently the school solution to most (all?) foreign policy problems, run counter to the prevailing views. More's the pity.

In a country as divided as the Untied States of America, it's amazing that agreement can be achieved about anything. Maybe on the general obnoxiousness of Justin Bieber or the desirability of courtesy flushes, but not much else.

In a world with countless things that are NOT-nails, we seem to possess only a hammer. And to believe that, like Basil Fawlty yelling at Manuel, "THEY" will understand us if we only shout more loudly.

5:33 PM  
Anonymous al-Qa'bong said...

Hello Wafers:
@Jeff T. - I have similar thoughts about Canada's Dear Leader, Stevie-boy Harper. He's sending military aid to Ukraine (the guy has a Napoleon complex or something), yet is the greatest international cheerleader for Israel's massacres in Gaza. One of these days John Ralston Saul is going to write Why Canada Failed.

Kind of Blue by Miles Davis is in there.

Is anyone else like me, and found that you discovered a lot of jazz via literature? When I was 19, back in 1980, I read "From Here to Eternity," wherein Django Reinhardt was mentioned. That prompted me to buy my first Django record.

A couple of years later I read about Dexter Gordon, Wardell Gray and Slim Gaillard in Kerouac's "On the Road." Slim Gaillard is now one of the main attractions on my radio show.

Speaking of Gaillard, his "Dunkin' Bagel" could be the official Wafer fight song:

Dunkin' bagel
Dunkin' bagel
Dunkin' bagel
Splash! In the coffee

Matzoh balls
Matzoh balls o-reeni
Gelfilte fish
Gelfilte fish o-vootie
Pickled herring
Pickled herring Mac-vouty
Lox o-rooni

6:29 PM  
Blogger Himanshu Tiwari said...

Dear MB,

I just wanted to share my experience speaking to John Michael Greer personally on two occasions. Both were at the Age of Limits conference. On the last occasion which was May 2013, I asked if he was familiar with any of your works? His reply was that after ROW he did not remember much. His body language seemed to suggest he did not seem to care and/or did not want to talk much about your works.

He came across to me as a person who likes to hear himself talk.He does have a following that exhibits behaviours which are sometimes a little dismissive (in a sort of knee-jerk manner) of views differing from theirs. All this seems to suggest that he has his "little empire".

On a different note I have been reading "CTOS" and thoroughly enjoying it. I have been reading it in parallel with two other books. One is "On the Teachings of Krishnamurti" by Dr. Allan Anderson. The insights offered in this book and CTOS have a lot in common. The third book is "The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse" by Louise Erdrich.

These are the kind of books that help keep me sane in the sick society that I live in (USA).

Best Wishes,

6:43 PM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

Jeff T and anyone else in a jazz mood...

Anything by Gary Burton or Steve Swallow...these picked on purpose from among Youtube clips.

Recent find recommended by a keyboardist friend...

7:00 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


That corresponds w/the scuttlebut I've heard as well. Not a great model for the post-capitalist society, I'm guessing. (Reminds me of Freud's line abt "the narcissism of minor differences.") Hey, what can ya do?

Meanwhile, here's a brilliant film: "Never Let Me Go," based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro.


8:28 PM  
Anonymous JM said...

"I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It's not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel all alone." Robin Williams

Another casualty of American culture. RIP

9:47 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I remember that quote, tho I've forgotten in wh/movie he said it. Captures the way I felt, living among Americans.

But this is abs horrible news. He was such a great talent, and so full of life. Maybe, he just felt too deeply, I dunno.


10:11 PM  
Anonymous Buck Bugock said...

I've experienced the same kind of warmth and kindness that you describe in the above article countless times in Latin American countries as well as in the Orient, and every time I've told Americans about how people are abroad they always dismiss me as exaggerating and being "anti-American".
Americans like to think that everybody is the same everywhere, and they use that pathetic belief as their most popular excuse to justify their sick, evil, vacuous, nihilistic "culture" of death.

10:28 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


The bottom line is that it's a nation of ignorant shmucks. There is simply no way to get around that, esp. if you've lived abroad for any length of time. It's also why I'm not all that impressed by political analyses that blame our woes on Wall St., the 1%, the Pentagon, or the president (douche bag tho he is). Yes, these all play a very negative role, but the truth is that a rotten culture generates rotten representatives and rotten policies. Kim's buttocks, cell phone use, and Walmart's are not unrelated to drones over Pakistan, a real poverty rate of something like 40%, and a completely ad hoc foreign policy. But just as Americans are an aggressive and antagonistic people w/o realizing it, so are they sociologically brain dead: they simply can't connect the dots, and aren't interested in doing so anyway. What future cd such a nation possibly have? Who wd want to live in it, except people who are in effect under water?


10:48 PM  
Anonymous The Dude said...

@JM - the very first thought that popped into my head when I heard about Robin Williams's suicide was Phillip Seymour Hoffman. True, he didn't directly kill himself, but with the amount of heroin he was shooting into his veins, especially at his age, he must have been extremely unhappy to the point of being completely unconcerned about possibly dying. What strikes me is that these were not two troubled young artists like Heath Ledger and Kurt Cobain, but two older men who had been on top of the heap in their professions for a long time and apparently came to the realization that even attaining those lofty heights is not spiritually fulfilling, especially if you're an American.

A few years ago, a good friend of my wife died of breast cancer at age 40. Towards the end, she elected to forego another debilitating round of chemo which was likely only going to extend her life by a few months anyway. Amazingly, at her wake one of her other "friends" expressed to my wife that the woman had been "selfish" in not "thinking of the effect on those around her" by making that decision. Not surprisingly, my wife's friend had expressed to her shortly before the end that with the state to which America has descended she was ready to die because she didn't want to live in it any longer.

I've thought about that a lot these past couple of years as I've fought my own so far successful battle against pancreatic cancer. While I totally understand where my wife's friend was coming from, I've taken the opposite view and have fought hard to survive in part because I'd really like to be around to see it all finally come flying apart as I believe it will sometime within what would normally be my expected natural lifespan (I'm 49).

12:08 AM  
Anonymous Biddly Spop said...

What's interesting to me is how Americans, even if they travel abroad and experience the kindness inherent in other cultures, still hate non-Americans just as much as they ever did. It's as if their experiences have no effect at all on their thinking process. It doesn't matter if every American they know is an asshole, and every foreigner they know is compassionate; reality has no effect on their ideas or reactions.

If a million Muslims treated a typical American with kindness and courtesy, he'd still think all Muslims are spawns of Satan. He'd be even more hateful toward them, deluding himself that all these people were conspiring to deceive him to get him to let down his guard, or worse, convert him to Islam. The same is true of socialists, Latinos, and probably even Asians of all stripes.

You have to be irredeemably megalomaniacal to be like this. You have to be so attached to your narcissistic ideas that you'd rather spend your entire life surrounded by people that hate you than confront reality and move to a place where you can have actual friends. That kind of darkness within is so deep and so dense that any country consumed by it is destined for destruction.

I also think that since America has no history of being anything other than this, it will *never* outgrow the poisonous, late-capitalistic way of life. Rather, as Hispanics become the majority and Spanish becomes the national language, "real Americans" will permanently sever all connection with reality, and become a cultish, technologically backward, despised minority, still chasing ludicrous dreams of infinite wealth while the rest of the world struggles to deal with climate change, overpopulation, and resource depletion.

12:12 AM  
Blogger Val said...

This is indeed awful news. We've lost a great talent and human being today.

A few posts back MB gave something like the following advice: if still resident in the USA, never forget that you are surrounded almost exclusively by morons; bear this in the forefront of your consciousness at all times, and you can't go wrong.

I have been consistently trying to follow this advice. I thought I was doing pretty well. But this evening I let my guard down and suffered the consequences. Just now, at the supermarket checkout, I happened to mention the bad news to the clerk, who said words to this effect: "Yes, that's very sad, but I don't condone suicide as a way to exit this world."

I really, really hate it when people say shit like this. Where the fuck does this moron get the moral standing to pass judgement on when or whether someone else - someone in this case probably a thousand times better than himself - decides to shuffle off this mortal coil?

I also hate it when people insist that committing suicide is just the most *selfish* thing a person could possibly do. Do these cretins have no conception of the mental anguish and despair that must motivate such a decision? Am I alone in thinking these twits lack basic empathy or the most rudimentary emotional intelligence? Having to live among them is enough to make you wanna snuff it!

Wafers, tell me truly - will I encounter this attitude outside the United States, or is it an American thing? Because it's something I'm praying I can leave behind!

12:43 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Bid, Val-

Another way of saying Americans are morons is to observe that their notion of 'thinking' is little more than emoting, or repeating things they've heard on TV. To be a moron is to think in terms of slogans, and that's what Americans do. What kind of conversation can one have w/such people? Wafers, who are something like .00001% of the population, are those who have found out.


4:42 AM  
Anonymous El Alamein said...

"It's also why I'm not all that impressed by political analyses that blame our woes on Wall St., the 1%, the Pentagon, or the president"

Come on now, I just think you need to give the good hard-workin' American people a shot once we get rid of all the good ol' boys in Washington.

At the root of it, there is less of a difference between Noam Chomsky and Sarah Palin than we might think.

9:48 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Desert Fox-

r.u. proposing a Chomsky-Palin ticket for 2016? After all, both Sarah and Noam believe in The American People, and The American Dream. I grant u, they come at the situation from very different angles, but the common ground really is there. Wafers are invited to imagine scenarios in which the two are pres and VP, and how that might play out.


10:14 AM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and Wafers,

MB, Wafers-

Chomsky: This place is gonna descend into an orgy of violence and destruction.

Sarah: I know, isn't it great!

Chomsky: Wha'?

Sarah: Then Jesus will return...

Chomsky: Are you talking about Israel?

Sarah: No; America.

Chomsky: Oy gevalt! This shiksa is shmendrik!


This is good news. Turns out that "The Lonely Crowd" has quickly morphed into America: the lonely bubble.


12:09 PM  
Blogger Publius said...

@Mark Fuller: It's worse than what you described: I am actively attacked by my own family for posting political posts on Facebook. Well, I was, which is why I have left that cesspool of banality and mutual-narcissism for good. My brother kept taunting me, as I described, for daring to oppose the war crime murders of innocent Palestinian children. Imagine if Arabs or Russians carpet bombed residential areas of Israel or America! There is literally no imaginative ability to put oneself in someone else's shoes in the USA, nor any ability to be objective and fair.

Anyway, in better news, I was "up north" on the North Shore of Lake Superior for many days with a friend and my son. Nature is a healing balm. Yesterday morning, a young man walking the Superior Hiking Trail saundered by. I offered him good tea. He accepted, and hung out for a good half hour, discussing his interest in ballroom dancing, anthropology (he's an anthro major in college), etc. Just a charming, nice guy. Pure pleasure. He seemed surprised at an offer of tea and conversation. Now we are new acquaintances, and possibly future friends... but the exceptions prove the rule. Still, the whole weekend was mystical, with the full moon over the misty lake. It was hard to differentiate between the water and the sky.

12:16 PM  
Blogger Jack Lattemann said...

A scenario on a Palin-Chomsky ticket in 2016:

After Palin dies from a shot to the foot during an ill-advised spring hunting trip in Alaska, Chomsky assumes the presidency. Immediately he draws mass Twitter and Facebook comments, which is enough for non-stop commentaries on FOX News over his initial pronouncements, which FOX terms "leftist rants". Meanwhile, Amy Goodman's show "Democracy Now" begins featuring Chomsky in weekly sofa chats that draw further vitriol from FOX over the threat of "leftist media." But a chance comment from Chomsky one week that slighted NASCAR was what triggered the final furor and did Chomsky in, after only three months in office. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, having had enough, declare a "national state of emergency" activating national guard units while Congress, unable to agree on anything else, passes an impeachment resolution that removes Chomsky and ushers in the Boehner presidency. Meanwhile, a reenergized Herman Cain, "The Godfather of Pizza," becomes the first announced candidate for the 2020 presidential campaign.

12:20 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Jeff, Jack-

V. gd, except I think we shd try to work Lorenzo Riggins into the scenario, somewhere. Meanwhile, Wafers might be interested in this:

Source: NYT Magazine, 4 Dec 83.


12:28 PM  
OpenID atearinrain said...


Forget the television, this blog is the best comedic entertainment around.


I finished Wandering God a few weeks ago and would like to mention how refreshing it was to read you concur with Mark Cohen's overpopulation theory on the origin of civilization. I'm certainly no expert on the subject, but from what I've read, nearly every mention of Cohen's work is denigrated as 'deterministic.' Not that I don't believe in the power of human will (re: your chapter on nomadism), but when it comes to the course of history it seems obvious that exogenous factors would play a primary role. To deny that is anthropocentric hubris.

I actually came to the same conclusion as Cohen several years ago, daydreaming after reading a National Geographic article about the journey our species made out of Africa to the rest of the globe. Thinking about that in combination with what I knew about the nearly simultaneous origin of civilization in disconnected regions of the world, it hit me that population growth was what likely drove our terrestrial expansion. After all, that's often times the way in which other species settle new areas. I wondered why this story of ancient humanity is not common, and figured I should write about it. I did spend several years on the project, but eventually gave up on it. In retrospect, I don't think I was the person for the job. You touch on a number of things that have occurred to me as well. Although WG's focus is primarily on spirituality and politics, whereas I've always thought of humanity's changing condition in terms of ecology and economics. There are a billion and one things I would like to say about it, but for now I'll just say the book is freaking fantastic. It weaves together many deep concepts, an intellectual theme park, offering a new story (dare I say paradigm?) for civilized people to tell themselves about who we are and where we came from. I highly recommend it to all Wafers.

4:59 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Glad u enjoyed it. I still think it's my best work.

As for entertainment: honestly, I can't understand why people bother rdg other blogs, when this is the only one they really need.


6:32 PM  
Anonymous Lone Wolf said...


The "Meaning of Celebrity" article is so terrifyingly prescient, that all I want to do is go into my bedroom, close the door, ball into the fetal position and cry. I'm emigrating as soon as I possibly can (a few things I need to take care of first).

6:46 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


And that was 1983, B.K. (Before Kim; I think everything hasta be dated now as B.K. or A.K.). Keep in mind that u.r. living in a puke country, but it is possible to become de-puked, i.e., hit the road, Jack.


6:58 PM  
Blogger Dan Henry said...

Speaking of the NSA... Snowden is such a perfect example of American opinion; he's not against empire, we just need some tweaks!

2:30 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yes...a soft, cuddly, *friendly* empire! That's the ticket.


2:32 PM  

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