December 12, 2016

My Russia

Wafers-

So I thought I'd post my most recent essay, which is included in the collection I mentioned above, Are We There Yet? It's in a section devoted to questions of identity, and I was thinking that maybe my own experience might stimulate others to think about their own issues in this regard. As follows:

Eat bread and salt and speak the truth.—Russian proverb

Identity reaches back to the earliest years of life.

A short while ago, a fragment of a song popped into my head, seemingly out of nowhere. "Vykhozhu odin ya na dorogu..." It was a tune that my grandfather used to sing to himself, late at night, when he was babysitting me at age five or so. "I set out on the road, alone." I transliterated the words in my memory into Roman characters, and plugged them into Google. Much to my amazement, the whole thing came up in Roman and Cyrillic. The line was the beginning of a poem by Mikhail Lermontov, who died in 1841. Twenty years later, Elizaveta Shashina set the words to music, and YouTube now provides various versions of it online. My favorite is the one by Anna German, who is Polish, but who knows Russian well enough. The melody is haunting, melancholy, the song of a man who walked the road of life by himself—like Lermontov. Or like my grandfather. Or perhaps, like me.

In any case, the incident sparked a realization that there was a very Russian part of my life, one that I hadn’t taken much notice of up to that point. But I believe my mother also sang Lermontov to me as a child, his Cossack lullaby called “Bayushki Bayu”; and although my grandfather wasn’t a communist, he taught me the Internationale, in later years, which I still remember. I’ve also had a Russian statuette on my bookshelf for many years, probably given to me by my mother, that has a Cossack theme. It consists of two figures. One is a woman, standing, wearing a colorful dress; the other is a man in a Cossack outfit, kneeling next to her on one leg, in a position one would take for dancing the kozotsky. This is the famous Cossack “kick dance,” which I had in fact seen performed at various Jewish weddings I was taken to as a child. The statuette always fascinated me; Cossacks had played a very dark part in my family’s history, yet there was something about peasant life that I found intriguing.

Then there was the music. I think the first classical piece I ever listened to, at around ten years of age, was Pictures at an Exhibition, by Mussorgsky. Maybe earlier. My parents had a collection of old 78s, and it included Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Prokofiev, and others. Shortly after, I developed an interest in fairy tales, and this included the wonderful illustrations of Ivan Bilibin, and stories such as that of Baba Yaga, the witch who lived in a hut that moved around on chicken legs. A bit later, I began studying Russian at Cornell University, having missed Vladimir Nabokov by only four years. (Later I read his novel Pnin, based on his time at Cornell, and loved it.) It was pretty rigorous: we read Pushkin, Chekhov, Lermontov, Gogol, Tolstoy, and Turgenev, and it all seemed oddly familiar to me, even though plowing through all that Cyrillic wasn’t easy. I had the same sense of “having been there” when, in later years, I read Orlando Figes’ fat tome, Natasha’s Dance: A Cultural History of Russia. This history was my history, or so it seemed, even though my parents’ first language was Yiddish, not Russian.

Despite the dark (ignorant, cruel, anti-Semitic) side of the Russian peasantry, there is something vibrant about that life as well; and like a number of other historians, Figes picks up on the theme of a dialectical tension between the Russian “mainstream” (heavily Europeanized) and the Russian “other” (Cossack, Mongol, and Asian heritage). This tension finally generated a galaxy of talent between 1820 and 1920, serving as the creative basis of the authors cited above, in addition to Diaghilev, Stravinsky, Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, and Marc Chagall. As Figes tells it, the tension never got resolved: Russian writers, artists, and musicians just lived with it, and the “alchemical” result is there for all to see. I had written about this particular style of creativity in a book I wrote some time ago, Coming to Our Senses, in which I said that the tension of holding polar opposites close together often issued out in brilliant creative work. But I didn’t, in that book, refer to the Russians, or see the dynamic as involving a peasant heritage. Reading Figes, I couldn’t help wondering how much this peasant heritage had unconsciously influenced my life—a kind of genetic memory, as it were.

As for Pictures at an Exhibition, for some reason I remember this work not in the form of a pile of 78s, but as a single vinyl LP. I was probably attracted by the jacket, which showed a painting consisting of brilliant colors. I listened to it many times, although at age ten it’s not likely that I had any real musical understanding of the work. Rather, it represented itself in my mind as a series of stories, which created a pictorial narrative in my head. (It was only decades later that I realized that this was something very difficult to do with purely Western music, such as a sonata by Mozart.) And so I imagined a dusty road in the Polish countryside, with cattle pulling a giant cart (“Bydło”), or a witch’s hut in the woods standing on chicken legs (“Baba Yaga”), or the gate of Kiev. Children like stories, and I was no exception.

Mussorgsky composed the work in 1874, died in 1881, and it was published in 1886. Serge Koussevitsky commissioned Maurice Ravel to do an arrangement of it in 1922, at which point it became very popular. The motivation for it was the death of Mussorgsky’s close friend Viktor Hartmann, an extremely talented architect and painter, in 1873, at the age of thirty-nine. Mussorgsky was devastated; his “career” as an alcoholic dates from this time. But his grief was mollified somewhat by the decision of the Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg to mount an exhibition of Hartmann’s work, which took place in 1874. Mussorgsky attended the show and was deeply moved by it; the pictures rendered musically in Pictures are from that exhibition (most of them are now lost).

Of course, it is very difficult to talk about the feelings generated by music; I can only urge the reader to buy the CD of Pictures and listen for him- or herself. But let me say this: Western polyphonic music, i.e. post-Gregorian chant, is characterized by harmonic lines or part-songs, and in general by a structure of tension and resolution. In its most basic form, you start with a melodic line, then go a few notes higher, then a few notes lower, and then return to the starting point (thereby resolving the tension). It’s very predictable, and what Western audiences have come to expect. Most of these audiences, for example, are not comfortable with, say, Schoenberg or even Bartok.

Well, Mussorgsky’s music doesn’t follow the classical Western symmetrical pattern. Rather, it is grounded in the melody and rhythm of Russian folk songs and oriental styles. The meter is asymmetrical; the music often lurches around unpredictably. In the piece called “Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuÿle” (a rich Jew and a poor one), Mussorgsky employs something similar to the Phrygian dominant scale, which is characteristic of Indian ragas and the music of the Near East; one also finds it in Hebrew prayers and in klezmer music. Part of “The Great Gate of Kiev” is based on a hymn of the Russian Orthodox Church (the chant of Znamenny). Hartmann was one of the first artists to include traditional Russian motifs and folklore in his work, and Mussorgsky picked up on this. Indeed, Orlando Figes writes that Pictures “created a new Russian language in music.” Shifting tones and uneven rhythms are the distinctive features of peasant chant, and this went on to characterize Russian music from Mussorgsky to Stravinsky.

The musicians seeking to break with the conventional Western pattern founded the Free Music School in 1862. They incorporated elements of village songs, Cossack and Caucasian dances, and the tolling of church bells—very different from the sound of Western bells, in that it contains a lot of counterpoint and dissonance. As Figes explains it, Russian folk music shifts keys and lacks a logical progression, thus generating “a feeling of elusiveness.” The Free Music School also employed the whole-tone scale invented by the composer Mikhail Glinka, which conveyed a feeling of spookiness (a technique adopted by Debussy and also, later on, by composers of scores for horror movies). There were other devices as well, all contributing to a loose structure that is quite apparent in Pictures. Mussorgsky, says Figes, “played the Holy Fool in relation to the West.” A raving alcoholic with almost no schooling in musical theory, Mussorgsky was interested in the “content” of music, its visual descriptions, not its formal laws. Pictures is not a theoretical work; rather, it reflects a direct approach to life. “At its heart,” writes Figes, “is the magic reach and power of the Russian folk imagination.” The closing sketch, “The Great Gate of Kiev,” is rooted in the sounds of Byzantium, and concludes with the glorious ringing of heavy church bells—“a picture of all of Russia drawn in sound.”

Glory and magic: these are things a child of ten can understand. To this day, I know this world—the world of the Cossacks and Lermontov and Chekhov and Mussorgsky and Tolstoy—in my bones.

Identity is the spine of our existence.

(c)Morris Berman, 2016

182 Comments:

Anonymous Bingo said...

MB,

Thank you for sharing these touching memories and thoughts with us. Brings back my own fond childhood memories from Eastern Europe – not Russian, but similar in many ways.

Here, north of the border, at the end of 2016, Russia is being simplified in the extreme, and Putin is set up once again as the ultimate bogeyman. Russia is now blamed for hacking the presidency for Trump, and the wonderful CIA is calling for a reelection. You know, the CIA, that same agency that told us all about Sadam’s WMDs, then tortured prisoners, and over the course of its existence overturned democratically elected governments in almost every country – yes, that CIA.

More so, right now, anybody who is not overtly anti-Russian and dares to disagree with the claims that Putin hacked the election is being accused of being a Russian spy. Any news outlets that do not line up with the corporate mainstream media lies are automatically labeled as “fake news” and – you guessed it – “Russian agents.” Very sad.

So this is where we are today. It will be a miracle if this country makes it through this “transition” without a civil war.

9:35 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Julian-

I dunno if the CIA is actually calling for a reelection, but this whole process does seem to show that we aren't that much different from a banana republic. The Establishment had decided, in advance, on a particular succession of power, which wd preserve the neoliberalized globalized post-Soviet Order that it had put into place nearly 3 decades ago. Along comes some peculiar accidental loudmouth/loose cannon who attracts a rt-wing populist following tired of being screwed by that Order and who unexpectedly punctures it. Uproar then ensues; we can't have *this*, so let's overturn the results. Progs get on the bandwagon, suddenly fans of the CIA and the neoliberal Order they previously detested. (These progs have no interest in understanding class oppression or what the Trumpites were trying to tell the rest of the country.) America has degenerated into a joke, it's 'democracy' revealed as "You're free to elect whom we tell you to". But Wafers can enjoy the show; it's all part of the collapse we've been expecting for yrs now. Onward, turkeys! Onward toward chaos and self-destruction!

mb

12:35 AM  
Blogger remo26 said...

I haven’t posted in some time, but I have been enjoying the discussions on and off. I liked Morris’ recent lectures in Germany and Guadalajara interview very much. I also recently read TMWQ which was a pleasant distillation of MB’s critiques into the back-and-forth thrashing of hapless rebels witnessing the decline from within – perhaps giving hope where there is little evidence that the ship can be righted.

Recently, I stumbled across this news banter. It seems that the hucksters in their decline have now settled in to debate which bubble is more blameworthy – the coastal elites or the rural hicks. The last speaker’s comment about the “Bigtop” is like exposing the whole charade as meta-hustling with the “front row at the freak show” mentality. The sad thing is that his context and tone is not to denounce it, but to basically say ‘this is who we are as Americans … it’s in our blood … therefore, we shouldn’t be making a big deal out of it … move on and get back to your everyday hustling – this metastuff is too big for your britches … leave the heavy lifting to the politicians.’ See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NsuNSDVbodk

Regarding MB’s comments on music, I always found the ‘dialectical schism’ (“… the tension of holding polar opposites close together often issued out in brilliant creative work.” – MB) described in CTOS (my favorite MB work along with ROTW and SCASO: TRI (probably one of few on this one)) to be truly compelling and overarching in many aspects of endeavor. The amalgam of dance and denouement – folk and resolution – by musical rulebreakers of codified schemes in the hipsters’ vernacular is fusion.

Like all innovators that face establishment backlash, it is interesting to see how deep some will stake out the divide for extraneous (or political) reasons. One example is Wagner’s assessment of Mendelssohn in which he said to Mendelssohn ‘do think that if you speak German, and converted to Christianity, that you are German? No, your songs are of a crybaby. Your music is not authentic, and you poison our culture because people think that this is German music. German music is filled with pride, and you can’t do that. You are merciful people. We are cruel people. You are the enemy of the German culture.’

If this was too long for posting, sorry I'm not the greatest at being brief, but it will be good enough for me if at least Morris reads it.

remo26

4:15 AM  
Blogger NeilW said...

ISTINA! I remember we had a reception on an orchestral tour of St Petersburg. We played a concert in the Winter Palace - I remember how intelligent and informed the audience, and the high school kids we met appeared. I played Chopin and Shostakovich's piano. My close friend, Chris Martin whom I believe played with Rachmaninoff said, ''This is the city of Heifetz and Rachmaninoff. And though Heifetz was a Jew and was excluded, this city has his music'', or something to that effect. Russian culture, Russian artistry, Jewish artistry, they were Heroes of their Day.

4:48 AM  
Blogger Marc L Bernstein said...


Mississippi John Hurt (on Pete Seeger's old tv show) - "You Got to Walk that Lonesome Valley" :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btN3gwf3waw

It's not "The great Gate at Kiev" but it is in a major key.

When I was a child I also heard "Pictures at an Exhibition". The first time I heard "The great Gate at Kiev" I literally had to get up from my seat and begin to march in honor. The music had a lot of power, at least for me.

Modest Mussorgsky: Great Gate of Kiev from Pictures at an Exhibition. Vancouver Symphony Orchestra :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8gs4TozJbQ

6:12 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Golf-

Gd comment, but cdn't post it due to 24-hr rule. Pls re-post 24 hrs after yr previous one.

Neil-

Wow! I mean: Wow! Istina, BTW, is Serbo-Croatian; Russian word is pravda (truth).

remo-

Very rich post, but yes, in future pls try to hold yrself down to half a page. (I know it's hard.) Just a word of translation here: ROTW = Reenchantment of the World, and SCASO = Social Change and Scientific Organization (my very 1st bk, 1978).

mb

6:49 AM  
Anonymous Pastrami and Coleslaw said...

Interesting timing, just a few weeks ago I met a Russian ballet dancer at the bar. Turns out he danced for the Bolshoi, but defected some time ago, I can't remember his name sadly. Anyway I saw he was reading Pravda on his phone and we chatted. His quote was "I never thought I would see the day the US would become a banana." Meaning banana republic I assume.

My favorite Russian quote: "The church is near but the road is icy, the tavern is far away but I will walk carefully."

10:49 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Pastrami-

Probably, but perhaps he meant an actual banana.

mb

11:03 AM  
Blogger Dave Clark said...

What did the good Dr. Berman say about monks and dark ages?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/12/13/scientists-are-frantically-copying-u-s-climate-data-fearing-it-might-vanish-under-trump

12:52 PM  
Anonymous Celery Tonic said...

Take from it what you will:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/13/jews-are-worlds-best-educated-religious-group-study-reveals

1:33 PM  
Blogger Ed-M said...

I haven't posted in quite a while, so here goes...

Thanks for sharing this part of yourself, Morris. Didn't know you were so intimately connected with Mother Russia (but should have figured it out). My life is not nearly as interesting.

1:45 PM  
Blogger Jack Lattemann said...

Hey Wafers, we haven't had any SWAT Team articles posted in the last 24 hours. Here's one from the Pacific Northwest that shows how SWAT teams have become America's prime response tool for dealing with mental health emergencies:

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/crime/burien-man-throws-eggs-at-neighbors-plants-fake-bomb-on-fence-and-sparks-standoff/

3:22 PM  
Blogger Frantisek Panuskova said...

MB,

Great post! I enjoyed reading it. I remember Pictures at an Exhibition, by Mussorgsky from my 12 or 13th grade 'Gymnasium' music class. Music theory and I never hit it off though. There was a test where we had to describe the pictures from the music... My results were underwhelming.

Until a couple of years ago, it was a tradition for my daughters and me to watch Sonntagsmärchen on the German TV channel KiKa. Once in a while there would be a Soviet area film dubbed in German. And sure enough Baba Yaga with her hen-legged house would make an appearance in some of them. Here is a scene from the original Золотые рога (1972) Полная версия, which will hopefully please your inner child:

https://youtu.be/NZp5HTQrTHM?t=1042

Fran

4:20 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Fran-

Hilarious! Spasibo.

mb

5:11 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings MB and Wafers,

MB-

Looking forward to publication of your "Are We There Yet?" essays. Also, it's nice to see WAF experiencing a rise in sales. Perhaps Trumpo is what was finally needed for WAF to find a home... A student of mine recently described WAF as potentially "revolutionary"; another likened it to being "unclogged" for the first time in her life. WTF, right?!!

MB, Wafers-

I think I'm falling in luv w/Trumpo. Each day is like a new revelation, a Born Again experience. Jeff, Wilbur, Ben, Steven, Betsy, Rex, Rick, Putz Puzder, and now Kanye. Don's made a believer outta me: all things are possible w/Trump, let me assure u. Perhaps Trump can fulfill JFK's long-lost wish: to smash the CIA into a thousand pieces, and scatter it to the winds. Imagine that? Stranger things have happened. Go, Don! Wafers are w/u 110%.

Miles

6:11 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Jeff-

Yeah, WAF = WTF? Who would have imagined it? Sales helped by Trumpo, but perhaps also by discussion of bk by David Masciotra in Salon, I'm not sure. Not huge sales, of course, but certainly interesting. Lots of people curious as to why we're in the toilet.

Trump is getting things all lined up, so as to do maximum damage to the US. I too am excited. He's gonna run capitalism into the end game, and the climate stuff--if it occurs--cd put us in a position of severe resource stress, also a threat to capitalist expansion. (Check out my brief discussion of Wolfgang Streeck in the Dual Process essay.) Meanwhile, in terms of basic political intelligence, the country is so fucked up it doesn't know whether it's coming or going. 322 million clowns who don't know what hit them (it's called karma, you morons). Add to that a potential fascist admin, and brother: it's game/set/match for the US of A. When I wrote in 2000 that we were essentially finished, I didn't know the details of how it wd play out, of course; all I knew was that we were finished. Now, Trumpi comes along and fills in the details. Go Don, you da man! We're in the toilet; you pull the chain! Give me a T! Give me an R! (etc.)

mb

8:17 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: I still am, however, a tad miffed that he didn't finger me for a top administrative post. Talk abt oversights.

8:29 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps2: No kidding dept.:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/13/putin-trump-election-hillary-clinton

9:13 PM  
Blogger NeilW said...

I think you've touched on a fundamental point, Dr Berman: the ''symmetry'' between chaos and order. I love Mussorgsky's work, so underrated. His work was, in many respects, revolutionary (Cf Boris Godunov)

In a Lapham Quarterly extract, Schopenhauer is printed saying music is, as you indicated, the search between tones for resolution, balance in midst of novelty. As you rightly point out, Americans can't get out of the prison of the intellect if they don't ever enter it! Goethe comes to mind: there is no art without discipline, even Mussorgsky's muzhik discipline.

In trying to learn music theory, there is something ineffable about the enterprise. I can reverse engineer a Schumann or Tschaikovsky piece or Bach chorale, but psychically, when I do it, it's hard to reproduce something similar.

HORIZONTAL CONSCIOUSNESS VS VERTICAL I thought about your interview earlier this year, and it seems to explain Bach. So logical, so exotic!

http://www.laphamsquarterly.org/home/castles-air

http://laphamsquarterly.org/communication/music-food-soul

https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/08/28/conversations-of-goethe-eckermann-creativity/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TuZY4t2BjmA; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNV9SoztdG4; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uc7GW5FoqpM; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNMYHy8B7KU

9:23 PM  
Anonymous David G. said...

Dr. B: Thank you for your extensive reply to my questions about progressives and resistance to Trump (previous post). This gives me a lot to think about. True, I can't change much, nor is there anything about mainstream US society and culture worth fighting for. But maybe I can help defend science (since I am a scientist), or I can try to exemplify truly "liberal" values ...

11:43 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

David-

Yes, that wd be NMI work, worth doing.

mb

2:46 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Let me add another ps.

If you go to prog web sites, they are all exercised by how they are going to oppose Trump, save American civilization, and so on. A declinist sees it differently. For one thing, s/he writes it (paraphrasing Gandhi) as American 'civilization', because what we have done in 400 yrs is spread a spiritually empty, hustling way of life across the globe, until we brought that globe, and that way of life, to a crisis pt--which is in fact embodied by Trump. To now say, "We've got to stop Trump" is therefore historically naïve: he showed up for a reason, namely, to finish the job. To oppose him is a bit like standing on the seashore and instructing the ocean to recede. The declinist says, "Hey, guy, come on in! Do what you hafta do!"

But then, there is the up (Positive) side of Dual Process, or the New Monastic Option. The monks of the 4C didn't wring their hands, and say, "Oh, we hafta stop Rome from collapsing!" Unlike today's progs, they weren't that stupid; they understood that the bell was tolling for Rome. So what did they do? They made a commitment to preserve what was valuable in Greco-Roman culture, for future generations. This was not, in other words, a confrontational movement, but a sideways, flanking movement--such as one does in the Asian martial arts. And eventually, they triumphed, tho it took a while.

This is what I was talking abt in the Twilight bk. NMI's don't get in the way of a tank that is going over a cliff; that's for progs. NMI's do things like download climate change data to a data base that will outflank Trump (if indeed he intends to destroy that data). NMI's try to preserve the spiritual legacy that the dominant culture ignored or destroyed: Mumford, Thoreau, Jimmy Carter, et al. They believe that in the fullness of time, the dominant culture will (and should) go under, and that the alternative tradition will finally have its day--a version of the meek inheriting the earth, I suppose. So if you want to preserve science, or those alternative spiritual values (I hate to call them 'liberal', tho obviously some of them are), then shit, man: go to it! My own hope lies in NMI activity, in Dual Process Positive activity (Negative=collapse of capitalism, which is what I think Trumpism may possibly accomplish), and personally--just my own way of being in the world--writing books that advocate those values and that activity. (I'm no Mumford or Thoreau, but I do what I can.) What you are seeking to do, it seems to me, is be on the 'right' side of history, and that's fine--more than fine. But keep in mind that Trump too is on the right side, because his role, potentially, is to push the system right over the edge. Progs cry, "This must stop!" But that's not how history works, as Toynbee and many others have pointed out. Civs rise, and they fall; that's the historical record, and we are no exception to this, much as we'd like to be.

So what you need for your bathrm mirror are 2 post-its:

1. PROGS ARE DOLTS
2. PRESERVE THE GOOD

Conclusion: walk tall, amigo, and do yr part in the unfolding drama. Yr a Wafer, after all--a member of the 170 Americans who don't have their heads energetically rammed up their buttocks. Clearly, something to celebrate.

mb

4:05 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps2: Where is the Roman Empire now?

"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings..."

4:10 AM  
Blogger Dave Clark said...

Dr. Berman;

I find the parallels you mention between the Roman Empire and America to be fascinating, especially the idea of the citizenry becoming less educated, and more interested in entertainment and superstition toward the end of the empire.

In a recent YouTube video I watched, in which you held a lecture with some Mexican university students, you mention that we actually have proof (I think that was your word) that this was the case with the Roman Empire.

Can you recommend any reading material elaborating on this? Perhaps citing actual evidence (writings etc) from Roman times?

Thanks in advance. Listened to Pictures At An Exhibition for the first time in decades, last night ... even better than I remembered.

1:46 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dave-

Evidence provided in my Twilight bk, but this is so well known that any decent history of Rome will give you what you need.

mb

2:42 PM  
Blogger Bezdomni said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3:31 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

David G,
I enjoyed your exchange with Dr. Berman on the decline and fall of the American Empire, and how to react to it. As a scientist and radical with lukewarm feelings toward liberalism, I would like to send you a couple of suggestions.

Liberalism and science are not things to be dismissed – far from it – but they do have their limitations.

For informed and thoughtful (IMO) discussions of both these topics, I heartily recommend the following two articles by ‘the Archdruid’, John Michael Greer:

“Scientific Education as a Cause of Political Stupidity” (July 13, 2016)

http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.mx/2016/07/scientific-education-as-cause-of.html

and:

“The Coming of the Postliberal Era” (September 28, 2016)

http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.mx/2016/09/the-coming-of-postliberal-era.html

Also, I’ve lived on five continents plus the Middle East, so I am less concerned about what happens to the American Empire itself than about what US neocons want to do to the rest of the peoples of the world.
O&D,
David Rosen

3:32 PM  
Blogger Bezdomni said...

Actually Istina is russian too. In
Russian class we were told that Pravda meant truth and Istina Truth. They may have borrowed the word from Old Church Slavonic.

3:50 PM  
Anonymous Birney Zouave said...

Dr. B:

I saw that our esteemed ambassador to the UN, Ms. Power, was today asking if the Syrians, Russians, and Iranians had no shame. I wonder if she senses the irony in her railings? Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! On another note- wouldn't it be something if DJT doesn't get the electoral votes he needs on Monday?

5:12 PM  
Blogger jjarden said...

How dare this factory worker do this! Now the consumers will not get their chocolates in time for Christmas and an entire batch has to be thrown away, which is a huge financial loss to the owners of this business!

http://metro.co.uk/2016/12/14/mother-dies-after-falling-into-huge-vat-of-melted-chocolate-6322755/

5:48 PM  
Anonymous Mike R. said...

Thank you WAFER jjarden.

Mme. Svetlana Rosina the 24yo mum who fell into the vat of Russian chocolate dropped her CELL PHONE into the molten chocolate. She died trying to recover it. Chocolate suffocation.

Foolishly attended a Christmas concert in the states---almost everyone was playing with a phone, taking pics of themselves, playing with texts, sexts, checking emails, whatever....forget the musak--forget Ravel, or Bartok--take a dick pic like many american pollies.

Weiner.

6:48 PM  
Blogger Frederick Froth said...

William Irwin Thompson has been mentioned on this site B4.
Check out chapter 1 of his book Coming Into Being. It is available via the Amazon review. It is titled Our Contemporary Predicament. It is a very Waferish essay.
Plus related material at www.williamirwinthompson.org/essays.html

8:14 PM  
Blogger Dan Henry said...

this lecture from Iain McGilchrist at the William Blake Society is excellent. the brain as a spigot on consciousness idea staggered me a bit

https://youtu.be/ijg3HTpEKMI

10:28 PM  
Anonymous James Allen said...

Another il/de lusion shattered. I've tended to imagine that the producers of generic drugs were little guys who, on our behalf as it were, strike a blow against the monsters of Big Pharma. Well, they may be little in comparison to the big companies, but they're apparently no more immune to the temptations of capital and profit. Like these two executives. And Justice Department expects more indictments to come aganst this firm's officials and against generic drug execs in other companies.

"The Justice Department charged former executives of a pharmaceutical firm with fixing generic drug prices, rigging bids, and conspiring to divvy up customers, according to court documents unsealed Wednesday."

http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/12/feds-begin-crackdown-on-generic-drug-price-fixing-nail-two-former-execs/

And in other news, I wait expectantly for the outcome of what seems to be shaping up as a dustup over Der Donald's electors. Defections? Refusals to play nice? Anything could happen in this verkakte country. Details at 11.

8:35 AM  
Anonymous Parker said...

@Dan

Ya his book The Master and it's emissary is fascinating and also has some great art interpretation

9:04 AM  
Blogger librarian@play said...

Dr. B,

Thank you for likening the New Monastic Option to martial arts. I study t'ai chi ch'uan, and I've always thought there was a kinship there. We are taught not to resist, not to insist; rather, connect, soften, receive, and deflect. The basic idea is that a fist that meets no resistance can't do damage and, in fact, often destroys itself as it finds emptiness and overshoots its mark. It looks simple and sounds simple, but it's anything but.... Deep study takes you into an exploration of the nature of fear and aggression and, ultimately, the pointlessness of both.

Cheers to NMIs everywhere.

12:31 PM  
Anonymous Travis said...

I knw we bring up Philip K Dickinson occasionally, has anyone caught the new amazon series based on TMITHC? Looks intriguing.

1:43 PM  
Anonymous Hero said...

Film/Video artist Bill Viola. VERY WAFer friendly, and personally I have always loved his work.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38nuEk4iSZ0

1:48 PM  
Blogger Grandma said...

Rimsky-Korsakov's Song of India transports me, not sure I can even describe how I feel when I listen to it. I play it on my piano, my own interpretation, emphasis on the haunted longing. Words fail me. It's been too long since I last played. Thanks, MB, for reminding me of what has great meaning for me. Now I know what I can do.

djf aka Grandma

1:59 PM  
Anonymous Marc said...

CC:: Morris Berman Dark Age America Blog

I'm a HS senior taking a couple community college courses, history and literature for now. I have a year long project that is almost the only required work, and I've burned about half way through. it is the American history class, so I have chosen my subject to be Jefferson. An older assistant teacher friend recommended a few cool reads: like American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson by Joseph Ellis and Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History
by Fawn Brodie. Both have been very interesting.

Right now I am into the bio of Jefferson writtenby the journalist Christopher Hitchens. Terrific writing. Strange accounts like Jefferson's fighting Muslim pirates in The Barbary Wars, his thoughts on Islam.

I'd lpve some of your community's thoughts on these texts, or any recommendations further.

2:02 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Marc-

Joyce Appleby, "Capitalism and a New Social Order" (passim)

Travis-

Dick

mb

4:22 PM  
Anonymous Swordfish said...

Wow, beautiful post. It was so good to read this, especially now, in the tiny heart of the Biggest Banana Republic.
I don't have a Russian background, nor a classical music one (my parents listened to Eddie Arnold, which gives you an idea). But the first time I heard Stravinsky, when I was about ten I think, it was like hearing something my body knew about already and was waiting for--it was ecstatic and wild and wonderful. Not being very articulate here, comments are not my strong suit!
Anyway, haven't posted in a while, but I'm still here, and still reading. Thank you Dr. Berman for this beautiful essay.

5:12 PM  
Anonymous Mike R. said...

Given WAFER interest in music --"Different Trains" by Steve Reich--typical minimalist counterpoint and repetitive rhythms for string quartet. Although the repetition is not as "sickening" as Philip Glass-whom is another cool composer.

Story is Reich used to visit his folks in LA via train from NY. As a Jew, he wondered that if he had been in Europe, he might very well be travelling in a Concentration Camp train. Hence, the 3 pieces for string quartet and tape (voices).

Also, "City Life" is another great piece in addition to "Eight Lines."

5:21 PM  
Anonymous AS said...

The blog Moon of Alabama has a break down of the emerging CIA/Clinton ploy to delegitimize the election, cast Trump as a Kremlin agent, and install either Clinton or Pence in his place:

http://www.moonofalabama.org/2016/12/elite-coup.html

Doubtless that some form of civil war would break out in the US, and the first initiative of the new Congress would surely be to declare open war on Russia to serve as distraction.

But whatever happens, exciting times lie ahead. No empire goes quietly.

5:39 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

AS-

Amen. Ya said a mouthful, kid.

Mike-

For meditation, I'd also recommend "Drumming," by Steve Reich.

Sword-

Yr welcome. I always did like swordfish(es).

mb

5:47 PM  
Blogger Esca Dreg said...

I had always suspected that Belman was a secret Russian agent. Now we have the proof in his pompous adulation of his fatherland. The "great seear" was the seeing eyes of the SVR. He was the lead operative of the long Soviet plan in a well cultivated sleeper-cell (including Asange n Snowden) to spring into action for the 2016 presidential election. Belman and his 173 coharts handpicked by the GSWH himself managed to convince millions of wise hardworking Americans to vote for Putin's accomplice Trump, aka orange hair Shiva -the destroyer of the douchebags. How did CIA miss this blog and blatant evidence of foulplay in plain sight? Innocent murikns were swayed by Belman's propaganda of botox use by the real legitimate anointed candidate but for which they voted against their own interest for the first time in their glorious history.

Just listen to the СВР-РФ coded lullaby programmed by his mother a long long time ago. Fascinating indeed.
https://youtu.be/QUzhydrxcoI

I hope Belman won't forget the service n sacrifice of us Wafers when he is invited by Putin for Герой Российской Федерации award.

6:12 PM  
Anonymous Frank said...

BEAUTIFUL FILM> A Matter of Life and Death (Powell & Pressburger, 1946) released 70 years ago today in the U.k> Later released in US as Stairway to Heaven.

There is a charming opening animation that has you whizzing across space and the empyrean!

The film also stands as a fine examination of the counter-intuitive states of our thoughts on afterlives, I found the film on Youtube too! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-t3Xv70vkY8

My city's university is screening it in their speaker's auditorium, it shall be a lovely evening.

6:34 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Esca-

Well, ya nailed it. Ya pulled me outta the closet. I, Belman, hacked into the voting machines from my office in Tashkent, and got my man, Trump Trumpovich, into the W.H. My finest hour. After which, Putin (dressing incognito) and I dined on Beluga caviar and borscht, washed down with vodka, at the Russian Tea Rm on W. 57th St. Nazdarovie!

Of course, I shall never forget my Wafer origins. BTW, GSWH translates, in Russian, into Geroy nashego vremeni (Lermontov: Герой нашего времени);--how I wish to be remembered (the man who secretly stitched Russia and America together; conflict is so tedious, vy ne dumayete?).

As for Bayushki bayu: thank you for this link. I must admit, I was fighting back tears as I listened to it. Last time was roughly 67 yrs ago.

Let me add a note abt politics: Trumpovich may just be the man to ease renewed Cold War tensions w/Russia. Hillary, SDBWH--Supreme Douche Bag of the Western Hemisphere--wanted to rattle sabers and have a bogey man for America to get exercised abt (Americans love to get worked up over dogshit). Trump seems to want to build bridges with Vlad instead. Shdn't we appreciate that?

до скорого, mal'chik-

mb

7:33 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings MB and Wafers,

AS-

Well, that cracks it wide open, no? Many thanks.

MB, Wafers-

Nina Simone's version of Moon of Alabama:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWRBl4SNEcQ

Pa-ka,

Miles

7:52 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

This American Life:

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-stinson-cop-shootings-20161215-story.html

What can be done? they ask. Wafers are encouraged to find a solution. My own: Equip every cop in the nation w/an AK-47, a drone, and a nuclear device.

mb

8:32 PM  
Anonymous Ram Gana said...

Just gotta say, today...

Back in 2000, the electoral process had me thinking I'd stepped into the twilight zone. Well that was nothing. That was a flimsy little heat-induced water mirage. What's going on now is almost mind-bending.

8:49 PM  
Blogger jjarden said...



Colorado School District to Allow Teachers to Arm Themselves

http://abcn.ws/2hmBGsA

I say they out to be equipped with FLAME THROWERS...while they teach they can wear the big tank on their back, with the nozzle sitting in a holster on their hip, and if anyone gets out of line, they can incinerate them.

9:04 PM  
Anonymous JRS said...

Thank you for this wonderful post to your blog Mr. Berman. I so enjoyed reading it. I went and listened to Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition on youtube and it brought back some great memories. Some I've heard before but not for some time. While I didn't have much access to culture because I grew up in the rural midwest, I do remember walking in on my grandmother who was a brilliant self taught pianist playing parts of this composition on the piano at different times: The Promenade mostly is what I remember. While I was young and had no idea who the composer was at the time, the music always stuck in my mind. I started playing piano at 6 years old but gave up at about 10 years old. I felt I had no talent at all but she encouraged my anyway. I went on into the visual arts instead. But thanks for memories! Love this site and what you have to say Mr. Berman. I come by and read it quite often and find it refreshingly honest and insightful. Thank you for that and all the wafers too.

11:56 PM  
Anonymous Tom Servo said...

Emmett Rensin has written a great piece on the titans of Silicon Valley. Rensin compares them to the robber barons of old complete with contempt for ordinary people and despicable and degrading labor practices.

https://theoutline.com/post/351/valley-of-the-dolts

1:42 AM  
Anonymous Vincent in Auvers said...

Dear Morris,

Your post on Russia brought to mind Kurosawa's Dersu Uzala, a potent antidote to the toxic racial situation the US is now dealing with. I was in San Francisco the other day and was sickened by what I saw: A sea of rich white people with their noses in the air and not two blocks away a ghetto filled with blacks who are being psychologically tortured, many literally having become schizophrenic. I mentioned this to my mother and was given a dirty look by a passerby, as though pointing out the obvious were some sort of transgression.

What the hell is wrong with this place? Kurosawa's film was so refreshing, not only in its depiction of the coming together of cultures but also in the humility, dignity and innocence of its characters. No bravado, no violence, no stereotypes, no masks, just human beings in their natural, vulnerable state. I am finishing up my studies here pretty soon and want nothing more than to start afresh somewhere else, but this appears to be a global disease now. Must one go to the Russian taiga for sanity?

Thanks for the introspective post. Hope to see more like it in the future.

1:58 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Neil-

Cdn't post it. We have a half-page-maximum rule here. Pls compress, re-send. Thanks.

Vincent-

How odd: I was just thinking abt that movie (from 1980) the other day, and how by the end, Derzu is sitting in a yurt watching an American sitcom on TV. Jesus, how awful. Reminds me of the Maori I saw in New Zealand, all of them on cell phones. Sanity is rapidly being destroyed, but you can probably do better than the tundra; to quote Dr. Gachet. And then, as you and Tom point out, we cd be sitting on a powder keg; which Trump will crush with tanks. And when I argued, in 2000, that America was finished--people laughed! Anyway, keep yr ear on.

JRS-

Glad you enjoyed it. Keep posting, mon ami...just always be sure to capitalize Wafers, who are the crème de la crème, the greatest people on earth. Alone in America, we deal in reality.

mb

2:50 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: Cd it be that when civilizations finally collapse, everyone is wearing yoga pants?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/12/15/yoga-pants-are-comfy-theyre-also-an-assault-on-manners-and-a-nihilistic-threat/?hpid=hp_hp-cards_hp-card-posteverything%3Ahomepage%2Fcard&utm_term=.766f970c22ef

3:11 AM  
Anonymous Bingo said...

I had an insight today about how this new NMO might take shape. It could resemble what I grew up with in Eastern Europe under communism, where an intellectual and news-related resistance took shape despite the state’s draconian censorship of everything. Those of us who sought the truth and the facts still got them, usually from outside sources, often on short wave radio. We didn’t protest in the streets, but we were well informed and we spoke to others about it (usually in a hushed voice).

Just yesterday Facebook (for the sake of accuracy, let’s just call it “Fakebook”) announced that it will start labeling what’s news and what’s fake news, and hired corporate/government established fake news outfits like the AP, ABC, BBC, CNN and others to decide what’s fake and what’s real news. This is equivalent Hitler’s book burning in the digital age.

I think this censorship will expand beyond Fakebook, and will gradually encompass everything, just like it did in Eastern Europe. But it will also take down the economy in the process, just like it did under communism. The process might outlive Trump, though. It was slow in Eastern Europe – it took almost 50 years for the full collapse to take place.

Meanwhile, we might have to look for alternative ways to get our news and to communicate with each other. I am seriously thinking of buying a short wave radio again.

Julian

6:33 AM  
Blogger NeilW said...

MIKE - I read Rainbow Pie, love Bageant’s work. Re Vance, agree. Russians and Scots-Irish show ‘common strain’ for independence?

ESCA – MacCarthyite witchhunt confirms Dr Berman’s work?

BEZDOMNI - ISTINA distinct from PRAVDA? ANU study suggests sociological construct for ISTINA: http://faculty.washington.edu/vaz2/Documents/AW_Russian_Cultural_Scripts_Wierzbicka.pdf https://www.coursera.org/learn/intercultural-communication-russians/lecture/T2rca/8-4-ten-centuries-of-russian-history-in-a-nutshell; (MOOC lecturer points historically to ‘’Important bifurcations’’ cf Dr Berman’s work)

A ’horseshoe on a flea’’:
- Russians’ functional approach to work=Russians value deep friendships/achievement not hustling https://understandrussia.com/perception-of-work/; -youth are ambivalent toward USSR; -American sportsmen are sore losers eg. 1972 basketball Olympic final

8:14 AM  
Anonymous DioGenes said...

http://nationalinterest.org/feature/donald-trump-should-embrace-realist-foreign-policy-18502

I was lucky to take a class with Mearsheimer many moons ago. This man has argued against the current paradigm in foreign policy for over 30 years right in the belly of the beast, an elite American institution. He has been advocating the Russian pivot that now seems inevitable for decades.

I looked him up again in light of recent events, and this was both very validating and depressing. What a complete indictment of the US intelligensia that they completely shut this guy out of the discussion, and that his reasonable, intelligent voice had to be expressed by somebody like Trump.

Check out a few more of these as well-

http://mearsheimer.uchicago.edu/recent.html

9:54 AM  
Anonymous Mike Kelly said...

Hi Wafers and Dr. Berman,

I ran across a book called I Hate the Internet by Jarett Kobek. I can't stop reading it. Here is a sample:

" The leaders of countries like America, who ran countries which possessed weapons capable of killing billions of people, disapproved of Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Whereas a conventional bomb, like the ones that America dropped on Iraq, would turn a family of illiterate peasants into into red mist and chunks of meat and then incinerate the chunks of meat, Weapons of Mass Destruction would poison entire families of illiterate peasants and cause them to choke to death. Weapons of Mass Destruction would cause entire families of illiterate peasants to blister and suffer chemical burns until they died.
The moral being: when obliterating illiterate peasants, there's a right way of doing things."

Every page of this book is filled with insights like this, and I highly recommend it to my fellow Wafers, even though I've only reached page 135. It is also incredibly funny at the same time. I would like to know if Wafers or Dr. B have read this book or another by the same author.

10:33 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dio-

Very gd article. This neoliberal strategy actually goes back to Paul Nitze in the early 50s, called something like defense peripheral strategy (I forget; see DAA), which meant that everyone's business was our own. Very stupid; just total up the wars we have waged since 1945. Why have alternatives, or Mearsheimer's voice, been ignored? This he doesn't seem to understand, but I made it clear in QOV: from earliest times, America has needed a Dark Enemy in order to function, psychologically speaking--whether it was the British or the Indians or the Mexicans or (etc.). We don't know how else to function, really, and it's a gd example of my assertion that smart Americans, such as the foreign policy establishment, are really stupid. Doesn't matter that the policy led to one disaster after another; oh no, let's not worry abt that. Hillary was just more continuation of that; Trump, I'm hoping (as I said earlier) may be more interested in bldg. bridges than rattling sabres. Like Obama, Hillary is weak and empty, so she had to adopt a 'strong' posture, not understanding the difference between force and strength. We can only hope that Trump is smarter than that (détente is not appeasement!). Altho his attempt to alter US foreign policy might be met w/great resistance, for reasons stated. In the meantime, if we want to rail against an enemy (this is a habit we shall never break), there's always the Ay-rabs. And once they stalemate us, we'll find someone else (never fear). Jesus, what a dumb country. It's all straight out of Orwell, and the "two minutes hate."

mb

10:47 AM  
Anonymous Detours said...

Another fine essay, thanks, and good luck with >>Are We There Yet?"<<. To bloggers and Wafers, thanks for the links and suggestions. Meanwhile, You all might find some of these commentaries food for thought; some not sure what they're getting at, all worth a glance imo:

http://www.versobooks.com/blogs/3001-the-year-in-review-verso-authors-reflect-on-2016

1:39 PM  
Anonymous SrVidaBuena said...

Great Steve Reich reference. I thought I'd lost the ability to feel moved by new (to me) music until I discovered his work a few years ago - Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ.

Also loved the link above from the Seattle Times about the egg-throwing fellow with mental health issues. I had to look and see if it was one of my client's! Not yet, anyway. The comments by the way were priceless - everything rotten and vile about this area.

I watched a newer film last night about 'Minimalism' - actually that's the title, I think. These guys seem like they're on the right track, at least. Hope they don't turn it into just another hustle. There's a clip of Jimmy Carter delivering what almost seemed like a Jeremiad against acquisitiveness. I was just a kid at the time and don't recall the impact. Hard to imagine Americans taking it well then, let alone now...

1:52 PM  
Anonymous John said...

Hey Wafers, wassuuuppp,

I lament spending Christmas here in the States. I am thankful for good health and family but driving past strip malls feeling the deep disease that is America today, I can only say that I miss Madrid. I was in Madrid last Christmas and the city was decorated beautifully and the festive mood in the air felt like Christmas. But here in Trumpland, I can feel the division and apprehension about the dark days to come.

Looking forward to Oaxacan beaches and strolling the beautiful zocalo in Puebla.

Happy Holidays !!!

2:32 PM  
Anonymous Turnover said...

I'm spending a few weeks in La Paz Baja California Mexico. The city is 200,000. Well kept. Has several universities, high standard of living. People are friendly, no pollution, fantastic fresh fish and great weather. There's a 5km walkway along the waterfront, a protected bike path. A delightful place.

5:16 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Aaron-

Sorry, cdn't post it. We have a half-page-maximum rule on this blog. Pls compress by 50% and resend. Thank you.

Vida-

Re: Jimmy's 1979 Annapolis speech: check out WAF for discussion.

mb

6:01 PM  
Blogger Neil 0421875644 said...

That Reich piece is extraordinarily beautiful and uplifting. As Ben Martin suggests here, most music and sociology? comes down to some mathematical principle? Symmetry - what the world esp. US lacks! http://www.benjamindmartin.com/radio-talks.html

8:28 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Ever I have lived among progs, and sometimes counted myself among them. Apparently we have now decided that the über-demonic Trumpenführer was selected as our President via the Machiavellian machinations of Vladimir Mephistopheles Putin. This Satanic actor has done down our beloved and saintly Hillary. As far as I can make out, the source of this information would appear to be the CIA.

For decades my fellow lefties have hold forth at great and sometimes tedious length on the evils of this organization. It is the subverter of democracies, the purveyor of torture and an inexhaustible fount of deception and lies. But now it has suddenly transformed, and become a source of truth and a defender of electoral integrity. How was this remarkable feat achieved? To witness the mental gymnastics involved is like watching Olga Korbut leap backwards on the uneven parallel bars in the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics.

Acabo de terminar mi primer año del estudio del español. Lo estudio por motivos prácticos, no académicos. Espero encontrarles un día en el mundo hispanohablante.

10:14 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

K-

I think you need to have a 'que' after 'espero', which then requires the subjunctive. ('Espero que les encuentre etc.') What are the 'les', in any case? The practical reasons? Your meaning is unclear. Also, I think in this case you need 'para', not 'por'; and 'algun dia' rather than 'un dia'. Finally, I think it shd be 'de espanol', not 'del espanol'. (If it were Italian, then you'd need the definite article: il mio spagnolo, e.g.) However, most of this is speculation on my part; after 10 yrs, my Spanish still remains a tad fuzzy. So if you wanna check w/a native speaker and get back to me, I'd be muy contento.

As for progs rallying behind the CIA: keep in mind that a great many of them have no integrity; if it's left, it's right, is the idea. Son tontos, amigo.

mb

12:07 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/16/opinion/now-america-you-know-how-chileans-felt.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-right-region&region=opinion-c-col-right-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-right-region

12:43 AM  
Anonymous Aaron said...

Sorry for my post being too long, I was shooting from the hip as I reached that part of your book :)

So, I got your book about Japan and am enjoying it tremendously, its an excellent and fascinating book! Since you mentioned you welcomed discussion of it, I figured I'd post here, even if its a bit off topic.

But I think your point about Zen being an empty bag that can accept anything to be a serious mistake. For one thing, it's emptiness as a deliberately chosen stance, so that any kind of "filling" is a betrayal of it (i.e, Japanese aggression can better be seen as a betrayal of emptiness).

For another, I think its a mistake to see emptiness and no-ego as not having ethical content. In fact, I think this is "the" ultimate ethical stance. If you have no ego, you don't act selfishly. If everything is empty, we don't grasp after it.

Christianity in fact evolved the notion of emptiness ("kenosis") and no-ego as the ultimate ethical stance. Zen has close affinities with Christianity, as noted by Thomas Merton, Suzuki, and other Christian writers, so I believe your friend Ryu is quite mistaken in his belief that Christianity, or something like it, would have been better for Japan.

The sad fact is that humans can distort anything if they wish to hate and kill, and a "positive" ethic of love would be just as liable to be pressed into the service of aggression, as I believe history shows.

In any event, it is a fine and enjoyable book and I have yet to finish it!

3:37 AM  
Blogger Marc L Bernstein said...


Jimmy Dore is a comedian with a radical streak akin to that of George Carlin. It seems ironic to me that comedians are among the most trustworthy sources of real news in the USA today. Here is a short video in which Dore mentions that the truth about Syria, the Assad government and Russia's role in Syria are virtually the opposite of what you get on mainstream news in the USA.

"Everything You See About Syria On TV Is Fake News" :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddNl-ehRc58

Speaking of Russia, Dmitry Orlov warns his readers not to laugh, but that invariably has the opposite effect. Dr. Berman has occasionally spoken of US citizens who have mashed potatoes where brains are usually located. This is in a similar vein :

http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2016/12/brain-parasite-gonna-eatcha.html

6:26 AM  
Blogger Kanye Cyrus said...

What a great country the US is isn't it?

http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2016/12/13/4-percent-americans-have-been-victims-revenge-porn-report-says.html

7:17 AM  
Blogger Sarasvati said...

Great post Dr. Berman – thank you!

On another note, here’s a paragraph from Bill Moyer’s latest:

“As we all know, The Washington Post and The New York Times recently reported just how deeply Russian hackers invaded the computers of the Democratic Party, a move intended to confuse voters with leaked excerpts of emails and other documents and thus throw a monkey wrench into the election. Now The Post reports that the CIA believes the Russian meddling was deliberately intended to help sway the vote in Trump’s favor. And NBC News says it was Putin himself who “personally directed” those leaks.”
http://billmoyers.com/story/trump-putin-white-house/

What can I say other than another one bites the dust?

7:40 AM  
Anonymous troutbum said...

Dr. MB and all Wafers worldwide:
I belatedly came across this article which brilliantly exposes the reason why progressives are worthless. Let me quote, :
".....the Trump protests have not abated, and now this smells of serious failure, the type of total and complete butt kicking that Republicans gave to the so-called Wisconsin Uprising. Almost six years after those massive protests against Governor Scott Walker over his disemboweling of the union movement in Wisconsin, after years of big protests with tens of thousands in the streets and a recall election attempt, the GOP is stronger than ever in the Badger State, with hegemonic control of the government in Uprising Central, Madison.
Perhaps you missed this news, because the progressive Democrat pundits, The Nation and Mother Jones crowd, are absolutely skilled at ballyhoo and PR for the Blue Revolution, but completely unable to admit failure and analyze why the progressive Left keeps getting its heads handed to them on a plate."

It's all here : http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/11/14/why-the-trump-protests-like-the-wisconsin-uprising-will-fail/

7:52 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Aaron-

The problem is that you haven't finished rdg the bk! Hence, shooting from the hip indeed. I suggest checking out Appendix III, among others.

mb

8:39 AM  
Anonymous Frankistan said...

Dr B, I enjoyed the essay on Russia.

Russia and Putin are on the news daily. Obama claims Putin engineered hacking and tampering of US elections both presidential and local. Even Hillary spoke on this yesterday, claiming that Putin hates her for her criticism of the election in Russia that propelled Putin as the president.

How can another nation develop the technical ability to meddle with elections in USA when USA develops the best technologies being used around the world?

8:44 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Typical American response: "Chile? What's a Chile?" Americans should only be so lucky to endure 17 years of nightmarish rule. Yes, I am kvelling non-pareil over the prospects of the incoming Thump administration. Karma it truly is and if Israel moves the capital to Jerusalem it too will not experience a single day of relative calm. He's our boy, doctor. The one we've all been waiting for.
Went to see the Pennsylvania Ballet perform the Nutcracker. Lackluster compared to the New York City Ballet, by the way. Middle and upper middle class parents brought their little girls dressed as princesses. Cute, but could there be a less unprepared generation for the shit storm these kids will truly endure when they mature? Though there were repeated announcements to turn off all electronic crap still I could see these kids playing video games as the ballet was on. God forbid the parents might exercise some control.

9:11 AM  
Blogger pg said...

Hola a todos, y con su permiso--
and, I don't know how to get the correct punctuation marks to work on this dumbphone--
MB-- yr comment/correction hits on something I've been grumbling abt fr yrs: the loss of the subjunctive, in thought & grammar. Loss of the imagination, too.
(On a tiny note, had a kid in frog Engl (basic comp) struggling. Sat down w/her, heard her out, then explained to her how her family ethnolect actually meant she had greater powers of perception, articulation, than fellow students stuck with English. I mapped out for her grammar she already knew. You should've seen the shift: she came in hard on herself, how her nose needed surgery-- she left, beginning to understand that what she had grown up with was/is a deep reservoir of strength. Not a chicano weakness. Jessica understands in her gut what most monolinguals never will.

1:16 PM  
Blogger Bill Hicks said...

That NYT essay from the Chilean exile demonstrates how Trump's election represents well deserved blowback for all the horrific meddling America has been doing in other countries for the past 70 years. It's just too bad that very few Americans, even those "sophisticates" who read the NYT, have any clue how blowback works despite the concept not being all that difficult to grasp. The blowback this time came from two directions, first from a former great power that was the victim of vicious American meddling as it lay prostate back in the 1990s, and second from a wide swath of the American electorate whose very real economic pain and suffering was completely ignored while our feckless "leaders" played their stupid empire games on the other side of the globe.

Marc L - I've become a big fan of Jimmy Dore recently, and even posted the video of his post-election takedown of Obama here a couple of threads back. He's one of the very few progs who is clear-eyed that Trump's election was every bit as much a failure of American liberalism as it was the conservatives. What that Canadian journalist is reporting about Aleppo pretty much jives with what's been reported all along by Moon of Alabama and other sites that were recently smeared by the Washington ComPost as Russian "propaganda" sites. Sadly, the truth has now become just as subversive to liberals as it has been to conservatives.

4:29 PM  
Anonymous Uncle-me said...

Techno-robber barons is true but it's corp state standard to treat surplus labor like hell for maximizing wealth extraction - ghettos are for controlling the pesky disposable surplus labor problem.

Anyway, profit or the business opportunity is always "right". I was removed from airbnb though I've never used it. Signed up as a host - out of the blue first client wanted a locked bedroom door which doesn't exist - so she wouldn't get raped as she put it. Maybe as a 50 year old whose lived and rented here for 17 years I particularly didn't appreciate the sentiment but I decided not to rent to paranoid inconsiderate people as I put it. She came back with her (political correctness out of context in my mind) how dare I question her right to inquire about her safety - and she got me kicked off for that.

Cesspool of douche people and companies - labotomized with greed and fear. Anti-discrimination is used in airb's uberized favor for profit to increase the customer base at the expense of quality of values. Of course no appeal and corp anonymity.

6:41 PM  
Blogger Dave Clark said...

Dr. Berman;

Have you seen Michael Moore's movie "Bowling for Columbine"? If so (and understanding your reservations about Mr. Moore's prog-like nature), what do you think about the concept expressed in this movie that fear was a definer of the early American experience?

That coupled with hustling/greed (as you point out) makes sense to me.

9:46 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dave-

Yes, I saw it many yrs ago. I'm not sure I wd put major emphasis on fear, but I'd hafta think abt it.

mb

10:28 PM  
Blogger NeilW said...

WHAT PROGS DON'T ''GET'' - Anger IS rational. In fact it's human. As Dr Berman's essay on Mussorgsky and Russian muzhik culture evinces, social life is complex. And, as Kant secretly suspected, any rational programme runs into human nature, messy as that nature is. Pankaj Mishra castigates the liberal elite for the ''sin'' that Dostoevsky so effectually recorded: Hubris, Pride, Insularity, Disbelief at human complexity: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/dec/08/welcome-age-anger-brexit-trump https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTU6NLovI_Q

10:40 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Neil-

Gd essay by Mishra. I can't help wondering if democracy is finally over, and that the alternative emerging formation might not be some variety of benevolent (or perhaps malevolent) dictatorship. But it is surely the case that the liberal/rational model of human behavior has always been off the mark. Only crit I have is that he didn't suggest holding David Brooks' head under water for 10 mins, and didn't pt out that Francis Fukuyama is an absolute moron. Jesus, even the making of the liberal/rational model of reality into a religion is a profoundly irrational act; why can't liberals see that?

mb

11:29 PM  
Blogger remo26 said...

Here are some really profound insights (I broke it into 2 parts, I’ll post part 2 tomorrow) into why America is already past its expiration date from an interview with historian Nancy Isenberg, author of White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America.
“I don’t believe Americans in general genuinely want to understand the notion of class, or the major notion that class is inherited in the United States. We have this idealized notion that America believes in the middle class, even if in U.S. history there has been more downward mobility than upward mobility.”
“British colonists promoted a dual agenda: one involved reducing poverty back in England, and the other called for transporting the idle and unproductive to the New World.”
She says that early on, the colonists had to sell the concept of the colonies to investors, who promoted the idea that America could be turned into fertile land, adding that “expandable people – waste people – would be unloaded from England; their labor would germinate a distant land. Harsh as it sounds, the idle poor, dregs of society, were to be sent thither to simply throw down manure and die in a vacuous muck.”
In 1619, King James I − angry about poor children roaming around near his palace − dispatched them to Virginia. Among the first colonists there were also “vagabonds, Irish rebels, prostitutes and a series of convicted criminals” whom the British wanted to get rid of.
She notes that attitude toward poor white people won’t change, since there is no serious discussion of class in the United States – in contrast to the discourse on race, which has preoccupied society since the 1960s.

... to be continued

remo26

2:23 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

So I guess my Spanish sucks so far. Now I'm afraid to try to speak - people will laugh at me; clearly a year isn't enough. At least they tell me my pronunciation isn't too bad.

Ho già studiato l'italiano. Ho passato un anno a Firenze, lungo fa, studiando la pittura; pero sfortunatamente quella citaccia non mi ha piaciuta. Le gente è terribile.

I think you must be right about the progs. Funny thing is, even people I've known for decades and whom I've always considered smart seem to have swallowed whole the CIA - NYT - WaPo narrative. One of them lived abroad for 20 years, and knows what other countries are like. How can they not see through this? Weird.

I neglected to join in the praises, very justified in my opinion, of the essay you've published herein above. It's evocative, has a feel of authenticity, and reminds me of my own first exposure to classical music, when my father played LPs (33 1/3 rpm - His Master's Voice!) of Rachmaninov and Palestrina on his hi-fi stereo.

2:23 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Kev-

If yr afraid to speak a language, you'll never learn it. Mexicans are actually quite tolerant of gringo errors, and they often help me with my bad grammar. I'll never speak it perfectly; I just stumble along. BTW, 'but' in Italian is not 'pero'; it's 'ma'. I don't know what will happen w/the electoral college, but what the progs, NYT, WashPost, and neoliberal establishment in general will probably manage to do, given the stupidity of the American public, is taint the Trump presidency as illegitimate, a function of Russia. This will fuel Cold War tendencies, and possibly weaken the new government. In terms of decline, however, these cd be gd things. Time will tell.

remo-

Again, Americans are very stupid. They basically just suffer thru poverty; but with regard to race, they get very self-righteous and excited--one reason these issues, as opposed to issues of class, are constantly in the news. The problem is that except for those directly affected, identity politics doesn't change the relations of power, and so isn't real politics. If Americans were self-righteous about class conflict and poverty, things wd be very different. But as Isenberg notes, this is not going to happen. Intelligence is not going to suddenly descend on this dim-witted continent.

Thank you for observing the half-page rule, and the 24-hr rule. It seems like I hafta remind someone abt these nearly every other day. :-(

Kev, remo-

There is finally only one way America might stave off collapse, and that's if on some given day, all 322 million Americans wake up, go to their bathroom mirror, and suddenly exclaim, "My god, I'm a douche bag!" After which, they stick a post-on on the mirror that says I DON'T KNOW SHIT. This would alter things significantly, I think; but this scenario seems to me to be just a tad unlikely. Wafers are invited to suggest other sayings for the post-it.

mb

6:29 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: Re: the supposed Russian influence, even SNL has gotten into the act. Not much chance they wd ridicule the progs and the CIA instead, I guess.

6:44 AM  
Anonymous Birney Zouave said...

Dr. B/Dave:

Fear in the antebellum South- excerpted from Bruce Catton's 1961 "The Coming Fury."

"Slavery rested finally on the ability to use unmeasured force, and every slave and master knew it. What had happened in San Domingo might conceivably happen on the Yazoo Delta or in the South Carolina rice fields, and John Brown had been so frightening precisely because no one could be entirely certain that his monstrous dream was impossible of attainment. Beneath the easy solidity of Southern life there was a haunting realization that the ice was very thin."

No slaves today, but those in poverty (or any other potential dissenters) know that the ability to use unmeasured force is still there.

8:37 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Progs in action:

http://www.commondreams.org/views/2016/12/14/daily-kos-founder-gleefully-celebrates-coal-miners-losing-health-insurance

10:37 AM  
Blogger comrade simba said...

My suggestion for the post-it note: "Sterilize Yourself".

I'm not sure if it's fortunate or unfortunate for us peoples of today to have been born in a world filled with middle class opportunity. At the end of this civ cycle it'll be back down to two groups... a tiny percentage of the ruling elite and the rest filthy masses cobbing up shit. A few will escape into unrulable tribal societies, and maybe a few monasteries for generating the party propaganda. But, at the end of the day it's turnips all around.

12:24 PM  
Anonymous BH said...

Dr. Berman,

I mentioned Dr. George Lakoff in a comment in your previous blog article.

He argues in his books that the reason the poor and middle class do not act in any self economic interest is because they believe it is immoral to do so. Most blue collar middle class and poor workers have a strong father morality that is heavy on self reliance and punishment. They extend this morality to the work world and see the rich and super rich as people who are extremely hardworking and disciplined (father figure), thus deserving of all their priviledges and special rights. They on the other hand hope to be like them (but are the children who need guidance and punishment at times) , if only they worked hard enough and be smart enough. It would be immoral and violate strong father morality with its heavy emphasis on punishing supposed losers by putting restrictions on the wealthy concerning their trade deals, rasing of taxes to help the poor and unemployed, ect. The extreme poor are at fault for being poor, they should have been smarter or worked harder but didn't so too bad. Not the rich person's responsibility.

What do you think about this?

1:29 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

BH-

I never read Lakoff, so it's hard for me to comment...but some of this sounds like projection, a fantasy. What the lower and middle classes say they want, when asked by pollsters, is money; and 24% of Americans say that it's OK to engage in violence if it furthers your goals. True, they don't resent the upper classes; they just want to join them. There is no indication I know of that they don't act out of economic self-interest, or regard it as immoral. I doubt morality plays much of a role for them in the context of a hustling economy: hustling is the approved cultural norm, it's just what everybody does and is supposed to be doing. But they--like all Americans--blame themselves, i.e. their individual selves--for failure, because the American Dream is supposedly available to all (just ask Oprah!). That the system is structured to work against them, that the A.D. is a con, is not part of their world view; most don't think in terms of 'system' or of sociology in general.

mb

2:04 PM  
Anonymous Charles said...

Professor, I am reading Coming to Our Senses, for the 1st time.

Head is spinning, for sure, currently in pretty deep in the section on Gnosticism, early CVhristianity, Judaism/Torah.

Outta Left Field Question: with your scholarship at hand, what are your thoughts on historical Jesus? Or is there any real evidence at all, that leans either way.|

Charles

4:39 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Charles-

I don't think a lot abt Jesus these days, I confess, but if I remember correctly, I do deal w/him to some extent in CTOS. Other than that, I tend to agree with David Friedrich Strauss (Das Leben Jesu), more or less.

Glad yr enjoying the bk!

mb

5:44 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Wafers-

This is from Jan Chozen Bays, "Mindful Eating": "One in eight American children goes to bed hungry, and one in six elderly people has an inadequate diet. Almost half of the mayors of American cities report that they cannot meet their most vulnerable citizens' needs for food."

mb

5:53 PM  
Anonymous Vincent in Auvers said...

BH,

Nietzsche would say that working-class morality is merely slave morality, a redefining of strength and power as evil owing to the their own lack of it. The weak in his conception have had their instinct for freedom made latent by those who are stronger (physically, temperamentally, or otherwise) and so are caught in a mire of resentment. Poor Americans might fit this definition, though their resentment has been channeled away from the strong back towards their own kind (immigrants, blacks, fellow poor whites). One can say that they've bought into the idea of the supremacy of aristocratic morality in their reverence for the rich without even being aware of it, whereas that small segment who recognizes their true oppressors merely uses slave morality as a rationalization since they haven't the capacity to change the situation.

Of course, Nietzsche's view of human existence being little more than one big power struggle is rather cynical. I am still trying to come to terms with it after reading some of his works last summer. Are there any philosophers who counter this dismal perspective on humanity? Who is the anti-Nietzsche, so to speak?

6:23 PM  
Blogger Bill Hicks said...

As that article about the douchebag Daily Kos founder shows, the left-right political continuum in American politics has been rendered utterly meaningless. The meaningful divide these days is between those who recognize that America is utterly unredeemable and headed for the trash bin of history and those who don't. I'd say the former represent the true 1%, but it is probably more like the 0.01%.

One longtime prog commentator who does finally seem to "get it" is Ian Welsh, who recently wrote the following:

"(I) realized that most people can’t reason; can’t separate morals from interests; can’t separate ethics from identity, and so on. Worse many couldn’t even separate their own interests in terms of health, money and staying alive from tribal identity. To put it simply, they were living in completely delusional fantasy worlds, so separate from any even vaguely objective reality that they might as well be living in a TV show (and, in effect, many are.) Yes, they were incapable of basic ethical and moral reasoning."

and

"People wanted to live in fantasyland, and so we are going deeper and deeper into hell."

http://www.ianwelsh.net/why-i-write/

6:43 PM  
Blogger pinkpearl said...

To add to the comment about food insecurity, I've noticed on https://www.reddit.com/r/Documentaries a steady flow of films about addiction in the USA. It's rampant, crossing all the lines - geography, class, race, gender, etc. The films usually take the addiction-is-a-disease approach (that's for when the victims are white, of course, when they are black or brown it is a crime, but anyway), but taken together it's like snuff film, for American society as a whole.

8:02 PM  
Anonymous Mike R. said...

The reason why the poor are poor is that they are not working hard enough. They just need to follow the 5 step Horatio Alger action plan, click their heels, and count to 3. Magic!

On the bathroom mirror-post it--I am an american and dumb as dog shit.

8:25 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Vince-

Marxism is a reasonable antidote; really, anything that shows that we are social creatures (which we are). Also check this out:

http://www.philosophicalsociety.com/archives/santayana's%20criticism%20of%20nietzsche.htm

Even Hegel would have argued against Nietzsche's concept of superman and individual will with his notion of the "world historical individual," one who is merely a lightning rod for the Zeitgeist (Luther, Napoleon, et al.).

pinkpearl-

Have you seen "Anesthesia"?

Bill-

Since I speak as a member of the true .01%, let me make some confessional comments at this point in our Great Dialogue (=Greatest Blog On Earth, or GBOE). This is pretty embarrassing, but it's probably time for truth in advertising. (see below)

9:13 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

(continued from above)

I have occasionally referred to my growing senility on this blog. I think it has finally caught up with me. It feels like my brain is upside down, or that I have scrambled eggs in my cranium. Here's some evidence.

1st, as I mentioned before, I completely mispredicted the election outcome. A few wiser folks on this blog got it right, but I was sure, for a number of reasons, that Hillary was going to win. One reason was that Trump was behaving like a vulgar boor, forever sticking his foot in his mouth with "ban all Muslims," "pussy grabbing," and the like. It seemed to me that this would alienate the voters. What I didn't understand, and he did, was that this behavior and language was *attracting* voters, not repelling them.

2nd, I wonder if I was completely off-base in hoping for a Hillary defeat. As a declinist, my reasoning was that we might as well get this farce (i.e., the US) over with asap, and that she would carry this assignment out much more slowly than Trump. Someone on the blog, perhaps quoting my buddy Jim Kunstler, said that it was just the reverse: *she* was the fast track to collapse, and Trump the slow one. Hell's bells, I'm beginning to wonder if that ain't right. It's not that Trump is going to make America great again; that's not possible at this point. But is it possible that he might make it a tad more sensible? Consider:

-We have already discussed, in the comments to this post, his detente approach to foreign policy as opposed to her warmongering approach. She would have been a continuation of the Bush-Obama presidency, and in general of the game plan of endless wars that we have been waging since 1945 (hot or cold)--perpetual war for perpetual peace, as Gore Vidal put it. These wars were pointless and immensely expensive, draining the country of both money and morale. Vietnam was an utter disaster, to take the worst example. Trump's detente approach might possibly cool off this nonsense. But if it's collapse we are seeking, that's not good; what's good is more stupid, self-destructive wars. If the nonsense is cooled off, it means our national suicide is slowed down. We surely don't want *that*!

-As for the domestic scene: Trump's base is folks who are white, uneducated (mostly), and--screwed by the system. People who have lost jobs and homes and have nothing to look forward to. But he has talked a lot about repairing our decaying infrastructure, and possibly investing upwards of $1 trillion to make that happen. What if he imitates FDR and puts all those people to work on various reconstruction projects? After the crash of 2008 Obama bailed out his rich friends by something like $19 trillion; the poor and middle class got zip. This contributed heavily to the national decline; I applaud it. But if Trump rejects that approach and gives people badly needed jobs and incomes, this would slow *down* the national decline, which us declinists definitely don't want to see happen.

In other words, in some significant ways, Trump may actually *help* this country. Botox-Face, on the other hand, would have hurt it on every level. And so I say:

Botox-Face, come back! All is forgiven! Trump looks like he might be avoiding disaster; you would have delivered it. I'm sorry I called you a douche bag and a zombie, and made fun of you in TMWQ. Come back, I implore you! I especially like your warm and engaging laugh.

-mb



9:14 PM  
Anonymous DioGenes said...

The thing about Trump is that he is pretty much on record of being on both sides of every issue. The foreign policy one being most clear- he wants to stop the senseless wars, along with bombing the hell out of people. Sometimes each side of an issue is held within a day or two of each other.

So while you can find stick save policies in his persona, they are at best a half of a fractal personality.

I think he accelerates this baby right down by leaving us in continual suspense with all kinds of erratic behavior. Forget policy, we are talking about basic international and domestic trust being fully eviserated with his mercurial sensibilities.

If he was going to save this ship, he would have abandoned Twitter, simply started to ignore the media, and acted like he was in control. But he seems much more interested in becoming a world class troll than actually seizing a policy initiative.

12:18 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

remo-

A bit too long. Try compressing by abt 25%. Thank you.

mb

3:27 AM  
Blogger Sarasvati said...

We had dinner recently with a friend who’s a retired forensic psychologist…spent a lot of time testifying in court. His, and it seems others in the field, evaluation (not diagnosis) of Trump is that not only is he a malignant narcissist, but also bi-polar. Personally I think The Donald is the perfect representative of the U.S.A. psyche.

7:16 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Sar-

Well, it sure sounds like a diagnosis, but what the heck. Ask your friend for a profile of Hillary, next time u.c. him. I just can't help wondering if Douche Bag is an official category in the DSM-V.

mb

7:49 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

See where the new US ambassador to Israel is in favor of formally annexing the West Bank? Although Israel has threatened to do exactly this, suddenly they are hesitant. So whether Trump intended this or not, it shows Israel's true face. Annexing the West Bank was basically an extortion racket; designed to procure more US financial support.

8:28 AM  
Anonymous John said...

¡Ánimo! amigo,

No te deseperes,

Trump's personal and professional history, his cabinet picks and the deep social malaise sickening the US (addiction, gun violence, racism, relentless greed, etc) almost ensure that on-going decline will not slow down.

I don't have a crystal ball but Trump's treatment of workers has been shoddy at best and he has expressed many comments of his aversion to workers or "losers" as he puts it, so I'm not expecting any FDR moves on his part.

As for the white working class, they demonstrate over and over that they are susceptible to the old bait-and-switch.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/12/09/trumps-chumps-victims-of-the-old-bait-and-switch/

One of my big worries is Trump's advisors' threat to privatize Indian reservations and quicken the environmental and civil liberties assault on our First Nations' brothers and sisters.

Enough of this racist Anglo settler mentality !!!

9:28 AM  
Blogger Patrick D. Fitzgerald said...

Kevin,

No need to be discouraged, your Spanish is fine! Soy maestro de español y si quieres practicar como penpal, me puedes contactar por pfitzger arroba gmail dot com. PROMO CODE "WAFER" jaja.


My wife, daughters and I (wife Ashley posts here once in a while) have just moved to Uruguay and I will say as I have said before for those considering the emigrate option, you just cannot underestimate the dignity gained in not residing in the U.S. I say this as many things have already gone awry and frustrations have been plenty in this move. I have recently met up here with a fellow wafer lurker, and though there is plenty of Trump analysis to engage in if you choose, mental secession and laughter have won out for the moment.

Seeing Exxon CEO as SOS was hysterical though and I can't help but think that the damage the next administration does globally will tilt towards ecological rather than military, but I also think the only thing to be assured of is that more surprises are on the way.

O & D, but how far downward?......





9:49 AM  
Anonymous Tom Servo said...

Here are two humorous reviews of Thomas Friedman’s latest book.

http://thebaffler.com/blog/friedman-dreams-electric-sheeple-johnson

http://inthesetimes.com/article/19663/thomas-friedman-thank-you-for-being-late-neoliberal-new-york-times

Interesting critique of the gig economy that argues that it is a new form of feudalism.

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2016/12/uber-gig-economy-the-brutality-of-the-system-is-being-lost-on-those-who-actually-use-these-apps.html

10:44 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Tom-

You can bet the neoliberal press will rave abt the bk. What a douche bag Friedman is; what an utter clown. If this guy can win Pulitzers, and Kissinger/Obama the Nobel Peace Prize, then exactly what do these awards amount to?

mb

11:08 AM  
Anonymous marianne said...

Wafers,

Important article not to be missed. A Spy Coup in America. Robert Perry Check it out at Consortiumnews.com

Marianne

11:44 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Marianne-

Gd article. Anyone who thinks America is a democracy at this pt is mentally defective.

mb

12:34 PM  
Anonymous James Allen said...

"You can fool some of the people all of the time, or all of the people some of the time. Which is just long enough to be US president."
Spike Milligan**

From the Guardian website today:

"Given how little content the 2016 presidential debates contained, how rarely specific policies or programs were outlined or even mentioned, it often seemed that the only thing left for journalists – and ordinary citizens – to do was tally the number of lies each candidate told. By some counts, Donald Trump told a lie every few minutes; Hillary Clinton’s distortions appear to have been fewer and less blatant. And when the bigger liar won the election, one conclusion to be drawn was that, for millions of Americans, honesty was not nearly so important as we might have wished or assumed. If we factor in the popular assumption that all politicians lie, perhaps all that mattered was what they lied about."

"...It’s dismaying to see how accurately George Orwell’s 1943 essay** on the Spanish civil war predicted the present moment. Orwell feared “that the concept of objective truth is fading out of the world … I am willing to believe that history is for the most part inaccurate and biased, but what is peculiar to our own age is the abandonment of the idea that history could be truthfully written. In the past people deliberately lied, or unconsciously colored what they wrote, or they struggled after the truth … but in each case they believed that ‘facts’ existed and were more or less discoverable."

Truth is evaporating before our eyes

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/19/truth-is-evaporating-before-our-eyes?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

1:14 PM  
Anonymous AS said...

I agree with some of the Wafers above; no need to fear a "slow down." When it comes to the economy, Don - like Hillary - is "just words." Don's cabinet picks promise a tremendously accelerated decline; one internet commenter put it well: 'Obama appointed the oligarchs' proxies, whereas Trump has simply installed the oligarchs themselves.' On the campaign Trump consistently advocated policies that would result in *fewer* jobs (Keystone as 1 example), and Trump's impending all-out attack on the environment will likely render large areas of the US uninhabitable (of course Hillary had similar ambitions, but running as a liberal, she would have to pay more mind to backlash from her base, whereas Trump is free to drill baby drill with no push-back from his).

I also believe it's misguided to cheer on a Clinton presidency as the 'fast route' to collapse: Hillary's major goal was to provoke wars not with small defenseless Mideast/African nations but with major nuclear powers. The Russian military has repeatedly stated that it will never again fight a war on its own territory, and it would not take much for Clinton's planned escalation in Ukraine (not to mention the South China Sea) to go nuclear.

I cheer on The Great Collapse as much as any Wafer, but I don't think cooking the planet alive in a thermonuclear holocaust is an effective means to an ends.

If Trump can blow apart the US with his drills & his bankers whilst avoiding military conflict with Russia & China, everyone wins... or so it seems to me.

2:03 PM  
Anonymous fruit woman said...

Hi Dr. Berman, Wafers-
Professor, you said, "I just can't help wondering if Douche Bag is an official category in the DSM-V." I just happen to have a copy of the DSM III-R, complete with easy to use adhesive tabs, taking you straight to the list of behaviors and thoughts that will define your mental state. Now I know it's out of date, people have really evolved since the 80s! Well, I do what I can for humanity, so I added a new tab called, Douche Bag, and included my best definition with a behavior list, examples and photos in order to secure a universally American application. Maybe the next step will be to get Wafers to submit an exhaustive list of observable traits so we can get the diagnosis recognized. In no time, the pharmaceutical companies will get the universities' socialized/free R&D cracking to come up with an effective medication... There's money to be made; I can feel it! - Fruit Lady

3:00 PM  
Anonymous Birney Zouave said...

"...the southward pressure of the capitalistic glacier..." -Bruce Catton, notes from his "The Coming Fury," 1961: Page 478, cf Charles and Mary Beard, "The Rise of American Civilization," Vol. II, 6-7, 1930, [excerpt:] "The amazing growth of northern industries, the rapid extension of railways, the swift expansion of foreign trade to the ends of the earth...the nationalistic drive of interstate commerce...and the southward pressure of the capitalistic glacier, all conspired to assure the ultimate triumph of what the orators were calling 'the free labor system.' This was a dynamic thrust far too powerful for planters operating in a limited territory with incompetent labor on soil of diminishing fertility." That glacier is still relentlessly flowing, swallowing everything in its path, kind of like the old Sherwin-Williams ad illustrating paint being dumped over a globe.

3:14 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Birn-

Sounds like WAF, ch. 4. Meanwhile, I agree w/Wolfgang Streeck when he says that it will be the very success of capitalism that will do it in.

Fruit Woman!-

It seems that every time you write in, I get just a little bit fruitier. Your idea of a Douche Bag Data Base (DBDB) is an excellent one. I suggest we start by taking notes on Hillary, and also Thomas Friedman.

mb

3:47 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: Add Bill. Here's wisdom from a sleazebag and a war criminal:

http://edition.cnn.com/2016/12/19/politics/bill-clinton-interview-trump/index.html

5:00 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps2: When Bush Sr. lost to Bill in 1992, not only did he not comment on his victorious opponent, but he left him a note on the desk in the Oval Office, giving him some advice and wishing him the best. I was never a fan of Bush Sr. (to put it mildly), but that's class. At the other end of the spectrum we have the Clintons trying to discredit the new president b4 he even takes office--sore losers, because Trump upended the neoliberal globalized politically correct establishment. Goal is to undermine his presidency--unprecedented, and quite shameful. And it never occurs to that establishment or to the progs to ask themselves what they had been doing wrong, to produce these election results. Oh no, let's just dig our heels in even deeper. It's always outside influence, of course.

5:34 PM  
Anonymous Mike R. said...

Have a former colleague (ivy league trained/educated/wealthy family etc...) who is a chief of a dept at a "prestigious" medical center--has a narcopathic social media thing--twattering political diarrhea constantly---claims that he's "well read" (Reads friedman, brooks, and all the nyt best sellers, etc...) and subscribes to numerous "news"papers that lean left, right, centre, etc....so and purports he's in the know.

He still believes there will be an evolution occurring to Trumpo, must oppose, he's a treat to american democracy, cannot believe what's happening to his country, blah, blather. Very funny to watch a person who can publish in fancy Journals, be so stupid. There's ZERO introspection, ZERO inward reflection.

As Dr. Berman state's, even high IQ, ivy league-schooled americans are brain-dead to reality.

P.S.: Thanks for the rec on Reich's "Drumming Music."

5:47 PM  
Blogger Bill Hicks said...

That Clinton interview demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt why his wife deserved to lose.

Speaking of which, as I write the electoral college vote has just been tallied, and the Trumpster is officially our new pres. Surprise, surprise, there were more "faithless" Hillary electors than there were for Trump--and several other Hillary electors also tried to be faithless, but their state laws automatically overturned their votes. So yet another massive liberal screaming fit--as with the idiotic recounts--amounts to absolutely nothing. Worse than nothing, really, as all the focus on the EC has detracted attention away from the collection of predatory capitalists and senior military goons Trump is putting into his cabinet. Great job, guys, now reload again and aim for your heads this time as you've run out of feet.

I totally agree that the establishment progs have repeatedly disgraced themselves over the past year. They seem not to comprehend that by undermining the election results, they have eroded confidence in the system that will boomerang on them should they manage to win in 2020. As for which candidate was better to bring on a faster crash, I believe it may ultimately have been a wash. The next market collapse is probably going to be the trigger that ultimately brings down the house, and either douchebag would have been utterly incapable of handling such a crisis.

6:51 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Bill-

I just got a letter from Common Dreams asking for $. "We are in a dark time," they write; "we must resist." Not a word of understanding as to why Trump won, or their role in his victory. Just keep doing the same damn thing, you shmucks. Once again, Gore Vidal: Americans never learn. I feel like sending these people $, but only to be used for their therapy.

mb

7:10 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Fruit Woman-

This might help w/yr investigation:

http://www.boston.com/news/tv/2016/12/18/watch-casey-afflecks-parody-of-a-real-dunkin-donuts-customer-on-saturday-night-live

Note the woman who is simply thrilled that she can order coffee on her smartfone. Also, Casey Affleck does say 'douche bag' at one point. This seems like a pretty gd portrait of America today. Dunkin' Donuts even has its own app; what cd be more cutting edge, more life-enhancing?

mb

9:41 PM  
Blogger comrade simba said...

Nah, MB, hillery's still a douchebag. Trumps just a different kind of asshole - the kind that really chaps my ass because they're right a lot of the time. I still stand by my reason for wanting trump to defeat hillary - the next four years will produce hilarious Idiocracy style soundbites vs the nausea Lizard Queen was sure to cause.

Sometimes ya just gotta be shallow. Even Wafers have an inner lowlife... it just doesn't rule the rest of them.

10:14 PM  
Blogger remo26 said...

Part 3 (final part) of insights from an interview with historian Nancy Isenberg, author of White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America.
Isenberg sees Trump as another politician who wore the costume of the hick white man on the campaign trail.

“Trump used a very tried and true method: he pretended to be ‘one of the people’ in the way he spoke – as everyone said − with raw honesty. Even his habit of giving people nicknames isn’t new, either: Politicians in 1800 used to come up with nicknames for their opposition.”

The red baseball cap that became Trump’s trademark wasn’t new either but was stolen from the previous "simple" hat-lover who was elected to the White House − Bill Clinton. “The key to Clinton’s run was discovering a positive Southern image.”

“In the beginning of his campaign, people were attacking him for not going to Vietnam, for smoking marijuana. So instead of identifying with the ’60s, he started identifying with the ’50s and evoking the ghost of Elvis − a very powerful symbol that allowed him to connect with Southern men.

“The irony is that we have an inherited class system, just like the one we rebelled against in England. The Republican Party is not going to change that. Trump is definitely not going to change that; he is a son of a rich man.”

- remo

1:21 AM  
Anonymous El Alamein said...

All these progs railing against the Exxon CEO as SoS, while seemingly forgetting that their official version of history exalts Kennedy for making the CEO of Ford Motor Company, with no policy experience whatsoever, the Secretary of Defense! Really nothing has changed.

If you want to see a parallel to the Trump phenomenon, look no further than Howard Hughes. The man was corrupt, born rich and borrowed heavily to take extreme risks, virtually ran his businesses into the ground while cavorting with Hollywood starlets, and openly bragged about buying politicians from both parties. When a congressional inquiry dare question his notorious war profiteering in WWII, he lambasted the government with "I'm just a poor millionaire fighting against corrupt crony capitalism!", and the people ate it up!

1:27 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

remo-

I don't think we ever got part 2. In any case, I doubt anyone associated Bill Clinton w/Elvis; I also doubt it was ever his strategy, altho he certainly is a hound dog, cryin' all the time.

Comrade-

Pls, don't attempt to speak for all Wafers! We actually shine like the sun. As for Hillary: OK, yes, an utter douche bag; no getting around that. The story about Bush Sr. leaving a note for Bill in the Oval Office in 1992 was one she told during one of the debates, adding that "this is what I love about democracy." And now, instead of showing her victorious opponent the same graciousness, she, Bill, and all the Dems and progs are out to scuttle his victory, taint his presidency--this in the name of democracy. This cd well be a 1st in American history, and I regard it as pretty shameful. Shit, folks, you *lost* (and for gd reasons, wh/you refuse to let into your feeble brains). So step aside and let the new guy have a chance, eh? (Hypocritically, in her concession speech, she asked her followers to keep an open mind.)

mb

2:09 AM  
Blogger remo26 said...

Part 2 of insights from Isenberg interview.

Bernie Sanders, who focused on class inequality during the election campaign, is too much a populist. “Bernie’s understanding of class is simplistic. Class isn’t just the One Percent. During the campaign, he said something along the lines of ‘White people don’t know what it’s like to be poor.’ That’s ridiculous – 42 percent of the people below the poverty line are white.”

The reason the attitude toward the poor won’t change is that the U.S. system of government is not really a democracy. “We don’t have a democracy, we have a democracy of manners where the politicians – all of them millionaires – pretend to be one of the people.”

Occasionally, this absurdity manifests itself − like when Hillary Clinton had trouble entering the New York subway because, contrary to what she had claimed, she hadn’t used public transportation for years.

The democracy of manners and the need to attract the poor grew among Southern Democrats, who turned the pretense into an art form. In addition to dressing like poor white folk, eating hotdogs and consuming alcohol, Southern politicians also had to demonstrate that Southern music was close to their hearts.

Lyndon Johnson initiated social reforms but, like other politicians who tried to depict themselves as part of the white underclass, that doesn’t mean he didn’t despise them. Johnson once said, “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket.”

- remo

6:53 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Then there's this:

http://edition.cnn.com/2016/12/12/opinions/trump-view-putin-stanley/index.html?iid=ob_article_footer_expansion

3:57 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Is there no way to stop the progs?:

http://www.commondreams.org/views/2016/12/20/urgent-progressives-stop-fueling-anti-russia-frenzy

7:15 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Also very gd:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/20/celebrity-corporate-machine-fame-big-business-donald-trump-kim-kardashian

7:19 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Jesus, what a turkey:

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/dec/20/mark-zuckerberg-facebook-jarvis-artificial-intelligence-video

7:23 PM  
Blogger Bill Hicks said...

This game being played with the Russians by the DC establishment is now getting quite dangerous. The contents of an Obama "red phone" conversation with Putin right before the election was leaked to NBC by a "senior intelligence official" who was unhappy that Obama didn't take a tougher line. Thus we have the spectacle of spook basically rendering useless the very mechanism designed to prevent the accidental launching of a nuclear holocaust. Apparently such a leak is actually a potential criminal offense, but I won't hold my breath waiting for the leaker to get prosecuted the way Obama imprisoned CIA torture program whistleblower John Kiriakou.

https://www.emptywheel.net/2016/12/20/now-the-spooks-are-leaking-criticism-of-obamas-sole-use-of-the-red-phone/

Idiots liberals are also getting all bent out of shape that Trump is creating his own private (and presumably fiercely loyal) security force to supplant some of the functions of the Secret Service. But given the insane level of hostility being shown towards him by the very agency known for it's propensity to depose and assassinate even democratically elected world leaders, Trump would have to be insane NOT to create such a protection force.

9:19 PM  
Blogger Dave Clark said...

There are big brains on this blog, lots of very interesting discussions which require understanding of cultural and political history, etc..

For me what defines the current American experience is simply the bleakness. Walking around and seeing the houses lit up only by the blue TV light; seeing the strip malls offering friend chicken and oil changes, the utility wires everywhere that exist because there's profit in their breaking, and even if not, who cares if they corrupt the sky? The alcohol and medications, the loneliness, the weapons, the fear.

We talk about it almost being over, but really, it's over. WAF ... F is past tense.

9:24 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dave-

Of course, past tense. As I've described it in various interviews, it's a postmortem of the US. And I think you've scored it: after centuries of hustling, this is what a culture finally looks like. It never had any real content, truth be told. Ask yrself why Americans even bother to get up in the morning at this pt. (When Kramer asked George this question, he replied, "I like to read the Daily News.")

Bill-

Now there's a scenario 4u: the Dems and their ilk, not content with tainting the Trump presidency and trying to invalidate it, finally decide to bump him off! This wd mean: Phase One of Rt-Wing Revolution: Election of Trump. Phase Two (after he's bumped off): Armed Insurrection (w/the Army unwilling to fire on the mob). But then,
I suppose any future scenario involves the unraveling of the nation; which has already happened, in spirit.

mb

10:02 PM  
Blogger jjarden said...

After reading a few books by Eric Hoffer, I've come to the conclusion that although he had some good insights, overall he was an Anti-Intellectual, a Hypocrite, a walking contradiction, and a Neoconservative Buffoon.

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/09/the-rights-working-class-philosopher/

11:49 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

jj-

That's fine; but pls tell us what you *really* think (don't hold back).

mb

11:56 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: Cdn't post yr 2nd message (24-hr rule).

12:18 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

remo-

Cdn't post it (24-hr rule).

mb

1:55 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Wafers-

Those of you who listened to my recent Guadalajara interview (see previous post) may recall that I said we were entering a post-American era, in which other nations won't see us as particularly important. Here we have the most recent example:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/20/world/middleeast/russia-iran-and-turkey-meet-for-syria-talks-excluding-us.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=a-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

The US didn't get invited to the table because the participants didn't care what the US thinks. As time goes on, I suspect we are going to see more and more of this. Of course, I'm sure that these 3 countries regard Obama as a lightweight, a silly little turkey--which he is. But this sidelining of the US will continue after the punk leaves office, because it's not particularly abt him, but abt the US in general, as increasingly becoming a minor player on the world stage. After all, the only thing the US seems to care to offer at this pt is its own self-interest. Whoopee!

mb

2:10 AM  
Anonymous DioGenes said...

If we want to talk post US world, it will be very interesting to see what the continental alternative movements end up meaning. The Anglo media is making a massive miscalculation in reading the continent the way it reads its own lame populist movements. After some chest-beating and petty chauvanism, and a financial realignment, Europe will opt for a stronger EU, precisely to repel Anglo trolls and their anti-culture. There will be another integrative phase. This cannot be said for the US and UK. We will morph into some kind of neo-feudalism, unless some kind of awakening snaps Anglo youth into a more continental value system.

I don't think Europe has the "tear it all down" mentality of the UKIP types. Europeans seem to have the same goals with different emphasis. Both the far left and right sees the economic and refugee crisis as the result of American destruction, and will support a stronger EU to make the US less relevant. Greece, a country on the verge of fascist revolt, still does not have a Farage-style "blame Brussels" campaign. They are much too intelligent for such red herrings.

So Europe, under greater stress, still has a clear purpose as a political body. Meanwhile, American factions proceed from completely contradictory sets of facts, and launch conspiracy theories against each other, and concieve of their own success in terms of frustrating the other.

In December 2016, the whole continent of Europe has more political coherence than the US. Incredible if you think of the situation in 1945.

Reports of the EU's demise are just attempts to gaslight you from that crushing realization. Today a German and a Frenchman have more common political understanding than a Texan and a Californian.

3:25 AM  
Blogger Kanye Cyrus said...

I was going to post that Monbiot article too but you beat me to it MB. "A survey of 16-year-olds in the UK revealed that 54% of them intend to become celebrities." Jesus.

The zuckerberg video is great too. What a douche!

Meanwhile, if Wafers have some spare cash to spend:
http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/just-half-million-bucks-you-can-kill-beautiful-wild-animals-trump-sons-or-get-photo-op

7:05 AM  
Anonymous Mike R. said...

Drive to work, drive back home the americans have radio imbeciles screaming and ranting about their love of america, its' greatness, its' amazingness, it's exceptional, you're great, I'm great, america's great, great great great, etc...We're great b/c we say so. Great.

Even referencing the Japanese who were thrown into internment camps and released knew it was for their own good and loved america even more. If Trumpo doesnt build the wall, eliminate ACA, lower taxes, "we" shall rise up like a tsunami and hold DC/Trumpo to the fire. We will love all immigrants if they love america.

You cannot make this shit up. It's a cesspool cult. The screaming, ranting, and emotionally charged articulations were something of mentally deranged individuals living in a collective echo chambre.

11:14 AM  
Blogger James Allen said...

Under the heading "If English was good enough for Jesus," a news item from the Guardian reporting that one Adam Saleh, a New York-based "YouTube star" (sic), was booted from his Delta flight from London Heathrow to JFK on Wednesday when passengers expressed concern after hearing him conversing with his mother by phone in Arabic before departure, and with his traveling companion post-phonecall. The plane's captain took this action after flight crew made him aware of the "situation."

This story combines xenophobia, langophobia, and phobophobia in one neat package. In a statement issued afterward, Delta Airlines--slogan "The World's Most Trusted Airline," patent protection applied for--said "We're conducting a full review to understand what transpired. We are taking allegations of discrimination very seriously; our culture requires treating others with respect."

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/21/adam-saleh-delta-flight-arabic?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

We can expect the airline to issue Mr. Saleh with an apology and perhaps even give him a complimentary ticket, while at the same time being unable to assure him that stupid shit like this won't befall him again on his next Delta flight.

12:28 PM  
Anonymous AS said...

MB -

Those Iran/Russia/Turkey talks are not as significant as they may appear. Those paying close attention will note that the policies being advocated by Putin (and now Iran) are moving closer - not further away - to the American plan for Syria (one-sided "ceasefires," incorporation of US proxies into the govt & perhaps eventual partition).

Though Putin occasionally likes to talk tough to cast himself as a no-nonsense nationalist (a PR effort aided by the US press), he has always been an aspiring US vassal (don't forget - it was Yeltsin who appointed him). The trouble for Putin has always been that despite his best efforts to ingratiate himself with the US, American identity (as we know) requires an enemy, and so Bush/Obama rebuffed his overtures. Trump's admiration for Putin & his apparent desire to restore relations with Russia may thus speed up Russia's decline.

I'm beginning to agree with MB that Trump may indeed slow down USA's collapse - especially if he does put forward some kind of 'New Deal.' The strategy - if Trump is smart - will be to pull Russia away from China & into the American orbit. China already heavily Americanized, Trump cld pursue a soft power approach & attempt to undermine it economically/culturally with sabotage & color revolution schemes while isolating it militarily/politically.

All of this will naturally depend on how crafty the Trump administration is, but I'd advise putting away the party hats for now.

4:45 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

AS-

You cd be rt, but all of this convoluted intrigue is giving me a headache. It's like we are now in the center of a gigantic crapshoot. I'm left w/only a few certainties these days:

1. Progs are absurd
2. Hillary is a douche bag
3. Obama is a turkey
4. Bill is a sleazebag
5. Trump is smarter than we all imagined

My mirror is filling up w/post-its...

mb

4:58 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Season's Greetings all,

Wishing MB and Wafers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Time to slice up some fruitcake and hang some tinsel on that mayberry bough. May Trumpo begin to purge America of nonsense and tackle some real problems! In any event, 2017 is gonna be a doozy, Wafers.

Miles

8:10 PM  
Blogger Bill Hicks said...

Here are four heartwarming stories of how Americans treat children just in time for the holidays--they should use these as after-school special plots:

http://www.rawstory.com/2016/12/five-malnourished-children-found-living-in-a-car-in-a-florida-walmart-parking-lot-police/comments/#disqus

http://www.rawstory.com/2016/12/road-raging-oregon-man-shoots-8-year-old-girl-after-nearly-causing-family-to-crash/

http://www.rawstory.com/2016/12/pastor-and-son-beat-12-year-old-with-an-electrical-cord-as-punishment-for-rejecting-faith-police/comments/#disqus

http://ktla.com/2016/12/19/arkansas-toddler-killed-in-arkansas-road-rage-shooting-idd-gunman-sought/

9:42 PM  
Blogger jjarden said...

Regarding my earlier comments on Eric Hoffer after reading his work and other works about him, I'm just feeling frustrated at the Anti-Intellectual Fervor sweeping this country by Trump and Right Wing Conservatives (including Eric Hoffer and his many attacks against Intellectuals). As Susan Jacoby wrote, we are in "The Age of American Un-Reason," and that ain't a good place to be.

How can American workers be so blind to their Capitalist plight that they would actually vote against their self-interest?

How can they be so proud of being poorly educated, ignorant, bigoted, racist, Xenophobic, homophobic, etc?

12:09 AM  
Blogger remo26 said...

In listening to MB’s interview on “Equal Time for Freethought,” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TuZY4t2BjmA) it was nice to hear a recent in-depth discussion on his first trilogy. I was personally struck with a question regarding my current homeostasis. That is, is it somewhat schizophrenic or at least unhealthy to alternate between vertical and horizontal modes of existence/awareness? For example, if one’s personal life (including personal public), surroundings, and community create an NM bubble (there’s that word again) which is dominated by a mode of horizontality, while one’s work life is ensconced in a mode of verticality, would this be the equivalent of living a lie, being hypocritical, or not making the jump in commitment? Or, would it reflect a nuanced understanding (aka an average Joe’s dual process) that you can’t have it all and survive in the real world, someone’s gotta pay the bills, the hustlers still run the game so play by their rules or lose, with a bit of dissonance reduction sprinkled in for good measure? For the latter, I see it as it’s not a matter of ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ but rather that flanking move (another horizontal reference) that was used as an analogy on the blog. In the market of ideas, it would mean waiting until the ‘product’ is perfected to meet a receptive consumer base – it clearly seems that such timing is not the current predominant way of thinking with nationalism on an upswing. Still, I wonder if I am contributing to delaying the last gasps to their endgame.

- rkm

12:59 AM  
Anonymous Vincent in Auvers said...

Dear Morris,

Thank you for that link to Santayana's rebuttal of Nietzsche. It looks like he reached much the same conclusion that I did, that Nietzsche's philosophy was ultimately rooted in his own thwarted will to power: A man in poor health and lacking in the qualities he so admired in the Greeks who, rather than look outward, turned into himself in the hope that he might attain that which he was denied here in the corporeal world. An idealist without a heart, or perhaps just the eternal struggle between Eros and Thanatos. Maybe that's why he ended up going mad.

I think the reason he has stuck with me is because I see the same struggle in myself, though I would probably fall under Nietzsche's notion of the ascetic priest--the weak man who is strong enough to console and lead other weaklings. I cannot seem to shake the urge to take off to some remote, undefiled location and start afresh with a small band of sensitive and humble people, people who have been discarded by this disgusting society but are still young and romantic enough not to have been destroyed by it. We'd build something akin to the peasant villages of old, something out of Tolstoy's "Cossacks." It's worth a try anyway.

1:33 AM  
Anonymous Teri Schooley said...

Dr. Berman,

Nah, Trump won't be an FDR. His infrastructure plan is entirely based on "public-private partnerships". It goes as follows: 1) Give some no-bid contracts to a couple of giant corporations so they will be in charge of projects that the government used to handle. The contracts give the corporations ownership of the projects afterwards. 2) Give them federal funds in the form of subsidies so as to offset their expenses (that's the "public" part of the partnership - the public's money), but place no limits on the profits they can demand from the finished projects. Unlike the government, corporations have to show a profit, and they will seek the highest profit margin available. 3) Allow the corporations to use their own protocols for hiring, pay structure, and timeliness of any projects thus contracted.

This, in essence, gives our entire infrastructure over to private companies to own and maintain forever.

What you will end up with is all the roads and bridges owned by Halliburton and all the water/sewer lines owned by Bechtel. They may or may not maintain these things in good working order, but they will be able to charge whatever they want for public access. I.e.; the roads might get re-paved, but they will all be toll roads. And the tolls will rise markedly each year. One can see how well it works with the example of Flint, Michigan, where the people pay the highest rate for water in the country, but the water is contaminated by lead, arsenic, etc. and no-one is doing much of anything to correct the issues. (Their water system was privatized by the unelected "city manager" some years ago.)

On another topic, in Missouri they just changed the law so that kids getting into school-yard fights can be charged with a felony rather than a misdemeanor. Gotta get 'em into jail as early as possible. I guess it spares them the false hope of achieving a normal adulthood where they can get a job and shit, since that felony record hangs with you forever.

https://thinkprogress.org/missouri-school-felonies-d840e8ec7242#.y0pb7jgdm

4:54 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Vincent-

Well, I think that syphilis probably had something to do w/Nietzsche going insane. There's actually a lot in Nietzsche's work to admire; one just hasta take the it w/a (large) grain of salt. As for hitting the rd w/like-minded folks: this is courage/intelligence, not weakness.

jj-

Actually, in voting for Trump, poor and middle-class whites *were* voting for their interests--or so they hoped--because neoliberal capitalism and globalization, represented by Obama, the Bushes, and Bill Clinton, had destroyed them economically and offered them no prospects for recovery. A vote for Hillary was a vote to continue this regime--a vote for suicide, in short. As Trump said in the debates: "If you want the Obama regime to continue, she's your man!" This was true, and it resonated deeply. He also said of her speeches and promises: "It's just words." Also true. It's not in one's interest to vote for someone who is completely full of shit, and who has no real interest in your plight.

In addition, their interests are not only economic; they are also psychological, and this is something the progs have never understood. These folks just want to be who they are. They don't want someone telling them, or forcing them, to be something different--which is how political correctness wd have it. I recall an article by Michael Moore several yrs ago, in which he told these unhappy Americans that things like socialized medicine wd benefit them personally. What he failed to understand was that these folks don't want it--health care, money, education, whatever--if it's imposed on them from above. They do not live in a world of "other people (or the govt) help other people"; they live in a Clint Eastwood world, in which it's every man for himself. This is in fact the American Way, or Dream, and they are religiously committed to it. (continued below)

7:31 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

(continued from above)

Thus my own belief is that what we saw in the last election was the triumph of the real America, asserting itself on a # of issues, including those of the post-Soviet global arrangements as well as political correctness. The left, the liberals, the Dems, are now mobilizing to fight Trump, block his plans, and discredit his presidency in any way they can. This reflects a profound failure of imagination, the failure to realize that these folks are tired of being screwed economically, and tired of being told to tolerate gay marriages or whatever, and that millions of Americans *are* racist, xenophobic, bitterly anti-intellectual (an extremely strong, and old, component of American culture), and etc. The real America is not a melting pot, and it never has been. It's basically provincial: small towns, church groups, Little League, and no subscriptions to the NYRB. In addition, Trump is the logical culmination of American history--400 yrs of hustling (see WAF); he's the ultimate hustler, and his followers approve of that, not of Social Security (which many of them badly need). All that liberal opposition will do is get them to dig their heels in even deeper, and it will hardly lead to things like the redistribution of wealth--an Occupy Wall St. fantasy. The mature response to Trump, and to the real America, is to leave it, because if your vision is different from that of the real America, you will only be miserable here. Your political agitation will amount to nothing, and you are trying to "save" a country that doesn't want your saving. The anthropology of the situation, so to speak, is contrary to your entire world view, so if you have half a brain, you hit the rd, and go in search of a situation more congruent to who you are. Trumpism is the dominant American tradition, what America truly is; and frankly, all your liberal efforts managed to do was to cause a backlash that put him in the W.H. Instead of blaming him, and mainstream America, why not look at yourselves, your incredible obtuseness? And finally, why not just let America be America, if he's "not my president" and it's not your country? It was the smart ones that got out, after Hitler rose to power, because they understood that this was not their Germany, and it was not likely that they were going to be able to turn things around.

mb

7:31 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: Let me give you a concrete example of the real America; this cd probably be multiplied millions of times. Many yrs ago, I had a teaching job at a university in Utah. One day, I wanted to read the NYT, so I went to the periodical/newspaper section of the university library, and asked if I cd see today's copy of it. The guy I was talking to was, I guess, the asst librarian, a man of about 50, and looked a bit like a cowboy. He said he had never heard of it, and he didn't think they had it. I guess my eyes must have involuntarily widened. "Is that a popular newspaper, where you come from?" he asked me (no sarcasm in his voice at all). I just nodded, and left. Keep in mind that this was a university library.

7:39 AM  
Anonymous Wile E Coyote said...

MB,
If you were looking for the NYT, perhaps you would have found it in the Fiction section...

8:32 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Wile-

Well, small-town America is not big on irony, as you might imagine. We are talking about Rotary and Kiwanis and Elk lodges. This is the real America. And even then, the readers of the Times don't realize that most of the 'reportage' and columns are basically propaganda--"All the news that fits our views." Just start rdg any major European newspaper, and you see the difference immediately. Most Americans live out their entire lives in a fictional bubble, progs included (or especially).

Speaking of Russia, when I was a student at Cornell we were encouraged to read the Soviet newspapers. By the end of my 1st yr there I cd read Pravda w/o a dictionary, but it was dull as dog turds: the headline every day was some variant of "Millions Enslaved by Capitalism." I think that the appropriate, corresponding headline for American newspapers should be "Millions Have Heads Wedged in Rumps."

mb

9:14 AM  
Blogger Dave Clark said...

Regarding recent discussions about Trump's effect on the speed of American decline ...

I doubt he'll initiate any major infrastructure projects. That's money that will more likely be directed towards military contractors. More campaign talk, like "draining the swamp" of corporate influence, which he obviously isn't going to do given his cabinet picks.

Even if infrastructure rebuilding occurs, it won't involve technology which can actually improve people's lives, e.g. public transit, "alternative" energy, strong cyber-security etc. It'll just be the act of pouring more resources into the rebuilding of a technically primitive, weak and inefficient infrastructure.

And again, given his cabinet picks, we already know that safety, labor and environment laws are going to suffer tremendously, leading to increased physical and mental suffering by the citizenry.

All of this spells out pretty rapid decline. And given his ignorance of history and government, and the bellicose attitudes of his cabinet, I don't know that foreign affairs will be much better than domestic.

9:55 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Wafers-

I'm enjoying the discussion of what Trump might possibly do. I still think he is 800% better than Botox Face in terms of foreign policy; but I'm encouraged by the possibility that he may inflict maximum damage on the country domestically. One can only hope that by the time he's finished w/the country, the country is finished. I'm still a bit miffed that he didn't appoint me Minister of Total Collapse, but hopefully his cabinet appointees will get rt on it.

mb

10:21 AM  
Anonymous shenjingbing said...

I had a hunch Mr T wouldn't be "draining the swamp" after he announced he had no plans to prosecute Hillary.

12:57 PM  
Anonymous Mike R. said...

Man--the more I read this blog, and former archived posts, the more I grow.

Thank you Dr. Berman and WAFERS. This truly IS the only american blog worth reading and critically examining.

Back to listening to Symphony #4 ("Heroes") by Glass and Bowie.

1:29 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Morris Berman
Mexico City, MX

Dear Dr. Berman:

Thank you for expressing interest in the Ministry of Total Collapse cabinet vacancy. The Trump Search Committee has completed its initial review of the candidates for this position and narrowed the selection to a short list of candidates for further consideration. This review has been unusually difficult because of the strong pool of candidates. In any event, you were one of those selected for an interview. We'd like to find out more about the skills you would bring to the job. Ideally, we'd like to meet with you January 5 or 6 at a time that works for you. You can expect to be here about 90 minutes total, with a short assessment of your work preferences followed by the interview.

Again, thank you for your interest in making America great again.

Sincerely,

Ivanka M. Trump

2:02 PM  
Anonymous Tom Servo said...


@DioGenes,

Great comment. I agree with you. From what I understand even most of the populist parties on the European continent basically accept the value system that has been dominant in Europe since 1945, even if they are unhappy with their establishment politicians.

I recently met some Italians in a bar and had a good conversation with them about their politics. None of them wanted to destroy the EU but they do want a different set of politicians in office who will find solutions to their problems besides more austerity. The Italians also didn’t seem to hate other Europeans, not even the Germans who some blame for austerity. Instead their ire was directed at politicians and the neoliberal ideology.

When I talk to Americans about politics it is like discussing high school rivalries. I have noticed that people will change their stances based on what is best for their team/party. So Republicans hated Putin and thought Obama was too weak to stand up to him, but now that Trump won the election they think Putin is a great leader. Some Democrats used to complain about corporations shipping jobs overseas but because Hillary was the pro-globalization candidate many Democrats now say that all those job losses were inevitable and working-class Americans just need to get with the program and stop being so lazy and stupid.

2:27 PM  
Blogger librarian@play said...

My New Year's gift to WAFers and Dr B's very Russian part: a recommendation to read Julian Barnes's The Noise of Time, which is a novelization of Dmitri Shostakovich's life. It is a poignant, lyrical depiction of quiet and resigned yet persistent and lively mind.

2:45 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dio-

Many Republicans are opposed to Putin, esp. since they think he influenced the election. Very few have said he is a great leader, and very few Dems have called American workers lazy and stupid--at least not in public.

Ivanka-

I'll be there with bells on. ps, yr a fox.

Mike-

I tell ya, whenever I hear of people rdg other blogs, I just don't get it. What cd they be thinking? All I can do is shake my head sadly and carry on.

shen-

Yeah, a real shame. He's being presidential, of course, tho she hardly deserves it. I was hoping he'd put her in a cage and wheel her around the red states, where Trumpites cd throw rotten fruit at her. Now *that* she definitely deserves.

Into the Pit!

mb

2:49 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Meanwhile, I want to wish all of you a great Xmas and New Yrs. It will be a remarkable yr, w/Trumpites ascending and progs sinking even deeper into colossal ignorance. This shd guarantee some great blog discussions, and I want to thank you all for your intelligence, for making 2016 a scintillating year on the greatest blog in the universe. Wafers Rule! No doubt abt it.

So I'm hoping you all have a fun time in the coming week. Myself, I'll be spending Xmas (wh/in Mexico we celebrate on the 24th) in Mexico City w/the family of my Mexican publisher, and then New Yrs w/2 friends of mine who run a BBQ joint one block down the st. from where I live (a few blocks from Trotsky). Wine will run like rivers, and the comida will be to die for. And at the end of the day, amigos, it's friends that really count, verdad? I love you all, and am grateful for what you have contributed to my life, and the lives of other Wafers.

mb

3:28 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

I can't help it, I think Americans are wonderful:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/12/22/tell-them-to-go-back-where-they-belong-j-c-penney-customers-racist-tirade-caught-on-video/?hpid=hp_hp-more-top-stories_jcpenney-830am%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.130b6b06770a

3:40 PM  
Anonymous Golf Pro said...

The mature response to Trump, and to the real America, is to leave it, because if your vision is different from that of the real America, you will only be miserable here. Your political agitation will amount to nothing, and you are trying to "save" a country that doesn't want your saving. The anthropology of the situation, so to speak, is contrary to your entire world view, so if you have half a brain, you hit the rd, and go in search of a situation more congruent to who you are. Trumpism is the dominant American tradition, what America truly is; and frankly, all your liberal efforts managed to do was to cause a backlash that put him in the W.H. Instead of blaming him, and mainstream America, why not look at yourselves, your incredible obtuseness? And finally, why not just let America be America, if he's "not my president" and it's not your country?

Dr.B,

When enunciating such righteous creeds, could you, as a favour, tell US liberals something along the lines of "and please, don't go to England. England is much worse than the US. England is the worst of us. England is responsible for all that is bad in the USA and everywhere else. England is the worst country in the world. Go to Germany, France, Russia, China instead. Anywhere but England. That country is truly vile."

Because the very last thing we need over here is even more self-righteous PC fucking liberals.

4:27 PM  
Anonymous Pastrami and Coleslaw said...

I'll admit to feeling a large amount of Schadenfreude this winter. Partly from making fun of all the shocked progs (a bumpersticker will fix everything! see: http://www.commondreams.org/resist) and partly from knowing that the "real Americans" that MB described above will finally get the president they deserve.

Don't worry if you don't get that Ministry of Total Collapse job MB, there will be plenty to go around soon. People are leaving DC in droves... there are more jobs open at the Smithsonian than I've ever seen!

Anyway, here is something interesting:

https://newrepublic.com/article/139364/donald-trumps-capitalist-christianity-old-roots

4:39 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Golf-

I thought that was a given, but perhaps yr rt. When I say hit the rd, I don't mean go to another Anglo country. Sure, some are better than others, but all are guided by this underlying ideology:

https://www.amazon.com/Political-Theory-Possessive-Individualism-Wynford/dp/0195444019/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1482443841&sr=1-1&keywords=c.b.+macpherson

and once that happens, true society (Margaret Thatcher said there was no such thing; and as far as Anglo nations go, that's true) is impossible, and life becomes one alienated drag. So when I encourage people rdg this blog to hit the rd, I mean places like Italy or Costa Rica or anywhere that still honors society, community, friendship, and all of those old-fashioned things. England or Canada won't alter yr situation very much.

mb

4:59 PM  
Anonymous Birney Zouave said...

News item from Central PA-

"Jewish family fears for safety after school cancels 'A Christmas Carol' show: Report"

http://www.pennlive.com/news/2016/12/school_says_cancelling_a_chris.html

5:00 PM  
Anonymous rop-joe said...

The honorable Joe Bagaent said it so well like so many:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9J-Dy0OcKw

Muckety com wikipedia shows the new cabinet to be a corp love-fest of oligarchic old blood-lined interests and connections - surprise surprise. Heart-warming sec of ed connection btw.

When surplus labor no longer becomes profitable - we're in danger.

From a kids get bored horses mouth oddly never mentioned:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZnkULuWFDg

5:08 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Wafers-

Stats for the New Yr:

US population just crossed over into 323 million

That's 323 million buffoons

# of registered Wafers: 170

Divide the 2nd # by the 1st # and you get the % of nonclueless individuals in America

Into the Pit!

mb

7:22 PM  
Blogger NeilW said...

Mike R, Librarian@play and Dr Berman et al, thank you so much for insightful comments/essays. I am astounded how much I've discovered from your musical choices! Glass/Heroes and Shostakovich book. I had no idea. As Mike R said, growth truly is infinite - inner growth that is! Beyond material. As Schumann is reported to have said, ''music terrifies me'' or thought. It seems to be Leibnitzian infinite: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRY7zrMGCi8; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSfcE3HH7dk

9:40 PM  
Blogger jjarden said...

"Trump rally could be like Coolidge's Roaring '20s before Depression, Nobel-winning economist warns"


https://www.google.com/amp/www.cnbc.com/amp/2016/12/21/trump-rally-could-be-like-coolidges-roaring-20s-before-depression-nobel-winning-economist-warns.html

12:10 AM  
Anonymous AS said...

Texas Teen Who Killed Self in Front of Parents Still Being Bullied

"Just days after an 18-year-old girl shot herself in front of her parents after being relentlessly cyberbullied, her family says the harassment started up again.

Brandy Vela’s family says cyberbullying pushed the 18-year-old over the edge, leading her to shoot herself in the chest at the family’s Texas City home as family members watched."

http://kxan.com/2016/12/16/texas-teen-who-killed-self-in-front-of-parents-still-being-bullied/


While we debate abt whether or not Trump will bring on a fast collapse, it seems the US public aren't taking any chances. I say give the progs what they've always wanted: get rid of the 1% & install a true govt of the proletariat. USA will be history by the end of the month.

12:27 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dio-

A bit too long. Pls make sure you stay w/in the half-page max limit, OK? Thanks.

mb

12:33 AM  
Blogger thucydides Neo said...

Thank you for sharing this with us, Dr. Berman. We sometimes forget how much a child could learn from the memories and knowledge of an extended family. People today rely on the school for the education of their children too much. Parents and grand parents don't assume the responsibility of educating young children anymore. No doubt we become more and more like robots.

6:43 PM  
Blogger Bezdomni said...

In VLADIMIR NABOKOV, A tribute, Hannah Green quotes VN as follows 'Russian truth is not a comfortable companion-not the every day Pravda but the immortal istina, which is the very soul of truth. When found istina
is the splendour of the creative imagination."

5:28 PM  

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