March 21, 2020

Is There Life Beyond Paradigm?


A few weeks ago I was asked by an anthropology institute connected with UNAM, the national university in Mexico City, to give a seminar on an anthropology topic of my choosing. Two faculty members and I had breakfast together to discuss it, and decided on May as the best time for the event. Nice guys. Then, of course, I never heard back from them, as the coronavirus descended and public gatherings were to be avoided. (The school may currently be in shutdown mode, for all I know.) In the meantime, I had written my little 'conferencita' as an introduction to the proposed seminar.

I'm posting it here, as a break from the virus, the collapse of America, the disintegration of capitalism, and all of our usual discussion material. What could be more unrelated to these topics than witchcraft? I'm guessing my colleagues won't mind, since (1)Who knows when UNAM will be back in action, and whether the seminar will still be on? (2)I was, of course, going to give this talk in Spanish; the text below is the original English version, and (3)This blog, although the greatest in the universe, remains completely off the radar screen, so very few people are going to see this post. I do hope that absolves me of 'leaking' the lecture in advance. Meanwhile, Wafers get a sneak preview. Here goes:

Most people like stories, so I thought that today I would tell you one. This story has the added advantage of being true. Many years ago, a British sociologist by the name of Max Marwick moved to Northern Rhodesia, or what we now call Zambia, whose tribal people, the Cewa, practiced a form of witchcraft. In keeping with academic criteria, Marwick didn't believe that these magical beliefs had any basis in objective physical reality. These criteria dictated that the anthropologist's job was to study these beliefs from the outside, as it were; to learn what the major beliefs or practices were and try to figure out why these tribespeople believed them. And so he rented or purchased--I can't recall exactly how it was arranged--a grass hut in the village, and settled in for a year of research, i.e., observation.

There was, however, just one particular problem with this arrangement: Marwick wasn't able to sleep. When he subsequently wrote this story up, he called it "The Case of the Dancing Owls." Every night a flock of owls would gather on the ceiling of his hut and hoot and jump around. In England, one would simply call an exterminator to remove the owls. But this was not England, and the Cewa certainly didn't have any exterminators. In addition, Marwick wanted to try a native solution, not a Western one, so he paid a visit to the local sorcerer. The suggested remedy was hardly one he expected. The sorcerer asked him if, prior to leaving England, there had been any disturbance in his family relations. It turned out that there was: Marwick had had a rather acrimonious argument with one of his uncles, which left him feeling depressed and guilty. The sorcerer recommended some medicines, to rub into his skin, and added that he should write his uncle and mend that relationship. "Then," he said, "the owls will leave you in peace." As you might imagine, Marwick did neither.

And here we come to the issue of conflicting epistemologies. Marwick regarded this advice as absurd. What possible relationship could there be, he thought, between his conflict with his uncle and the owls "dancing" on the ceiling? Rather than try the sorcerer's remedies, he chose to spend his entire time in the village living with noisy owls that wouldn't let him sleep. But if we switch out of a Western scientific epistemology, to that of African sorcery, a different picture emerges. African systems of causality place great emphasis on social relations, and the Cewa attribute negative events to disturbances in those relations. As with cats in 17th-century New England, owls are regarded as witches' "familiars"--animals with supernatural powers that do the work of sorcerers or malevolent agents. The sorcerer whom Marwick consulted believed that his uncle sent the owls to disturb his sleep, in retaliation for the bitter argument they had. Hence the logical remedy to the situation was to heal that relationship, after which the owls would depart. What was obvious to the Cewa was essentially crazy to the Western-trained sociologist.

So that's the end of the story, although it does raise some interesting questions:

1. Leaving the issue of the sorcerer's medicines aside, did Marwick not write his uncle because this suggested causal connection was ridiculous, in his view, or because it might actually work?

2. What would have happened if Marwick had written his uncle, repaired the relationship, and the owls disappeared?

3. Marwick saw himself as a social scientist, and the heart of science is empirical testing. But his reaction--a priori rejection of the theory--was hardly a demonstration of scientific experimentation. After all, he could have tested the theory, but instead he refused to do it. Not the best example of scientific procedure, or curiosity, it seems to me.

4. Note that Marwick was willing to cast an anthropological eye on the Cewa, but apparently had no interest in casting such an eye on his own culture. We Westerners have the truth, is the idea, so we observe and record the "strange" behavior of "primitive" cultures. It never occurs to us that, say, Australian aborigines probably regard white Anglo culture as weird, if not actually insane. (In fact, the deliberate ignoring of social relations might properly be regarded as toxic. Let me add that this is why I left the United States 13 years ago.) As one enlightened sociologist once quipped, "There is more sociology in a department of sociology than there is in the rest of the world."

Let me suggest that Western science, although it obviously contains much that is objectively true, also has holes in it. No paradigm is a perfect description of reality; that's just not possible. And once you insist that your own paradigm is perfect, you have entered the world of religion, i.e. of unquestioning belief. Science can be made into a religion like any other paradigm, and it was Marwick's. I suspect that if he had written his uncle and the owls then went away, he would have had a nervous breakdown. His world would no longer have made sense to him, and as a result he would have no way to orient himself in the world--and no way of knowing who he was, anymore. Mystery and miracles were just not part of his world view.

Personally, I don't find the uncle-owl connection all that mysterious, if we are willing to credit what we call "pre-science"--magic, witchcraft, alchemy, astrology, numerology, and so on--with some degree of validity. The medieval and Renaissance magical tradition was based on what was known as the Theory of Correspondences, which said that the world was interconnected: that everything was related to everything else. In fact, this theory has been resurrected in the field of holistic medicine and certain branches of environmental science, and it is also the ethical basis of Buddhism. Birds, for example, start to twitch, to behave differently just before an earthquake hits. This is well known, especially in rural communities. Similarly, they can probably detect disturbances in human beings. Marwick was emotionally miserable; he was walking around with a load of guilt because of his break with his uncle, and the owls picked up on this "vibration," this disturbed energy. I have no doubt that had he written his uncle and eased his soul, the owls would have flown away.

The Theory of Correspondences has another name: action-at-a-distance, and it is actually not that far removed from modern science. Isaac Newton's deepest intellectual attachment was to alchemy, and he wrote thousands of unpublished pages on the subject. The British economist John Maynard Keynes, who discovered these pages, declared that Sir Isaac was "the last of the magicians"; and it was alchemy that gave Newton the notion of action-at-a-distance, which became the basis of his Law of Universal Gravitation. Without alchemy, we could never have put a man on the moon. The Theory of Correspondences, like the Law of Universal Gravitation, is based on the notion of invisible influence, and this is why the sorcerer told Marwick to write his uncle. But Marwick couldn't do it, because a positive result would have blown his mental categories. Had he regarded modern science as one possible view of reality, this would not have happened. But for him, science was IT--was religion--and thus he was trapped. Better noisy owls and insomnia than a reasonable belief in invisible forces. To quote the British poet W.H. Auden, "We would rather be ruined than changed." Depressing thought.

Two points I'd like to make in conclusion, and to open the floor to a general discussion:

1. I don't know if it's true, but someone told me that the most often quoted phrase on the Internet is from my book Coming to Our Senses: "An idea is something you have; an ideology is something that has you." Is it not possible to cultivate some distance--say, 2 millimeters--between who we are and what we believe? This could be the beginning of world peace, when you think about it.

2. The reason that we turn ideas into ideologies, which is to say into mythologies and religions, is that we are afraid of the outside world. And there is, of course, much to be afraid of. So we latch on to various belief-systems, whether sacred or secular, to give ourselves the illusion of security. But as all paradigms--including modern science--are necessarily incomplete, this ultimately will not work. There is, however, a way out: to accept insecurity and incompleteness as inescapable; as central to the human condition.

Easier said than done.

(c)Morris Berman, 2020


Blogger Kanye Cyrus said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:52 AM  
Anonymous Lucas said...

Great lecture! Beautiful imagery w/ the owl familiars!

I heard the author of "Station Eleven" on the bbc earlier explaining the book's pandemic premise. Very prescient fictional book I first heard about here!

Current reading:
“Bigness is pervasive in America as nowhere else in the world.” — Human Scale Revisited, by Kirkpatrick Sale

12:45 PM  
Anonymous Pompeian said... Op-Ed

“This civilization will not learn anything from this virus.”


by Paul Kingsnorth

In the time of this great, strange plague, Paul Kingsnorth returns to the Celtic tale of Finnegas, the woodland hermit who devoted his life to catching and eating the salmon that contained the wisdom of the world.

God doesn't need to come down upon a mountain, for the mountain itself is the revelation. We only have to look at it and we will know how we should live.

—John Moriarty

1:42 PM  
Anonymous Seth Wolfgram said...

"The Bernie Sanders campaign has stopped actively raising money for his candidacy- but instead used his vast online donor network to raise cash for five different charities. In the last 48 hours Sanders has raised $2 million for groups hit hard by the Coronavirus crisis."

I dont give him much credit but big kudos to Bernie for this.

3:31 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


At least he's spending his $ where it can do some gd, and not on a turkey presidential campaign that was doomed b4 it began. The 1st person is Bernie, and the 2nd is Schmernie.


3:44 PM  
Blogger jjarden said...

Settling into the corner of my couch with my hot green tea and two Balzac novels from his “Human Comedy.” (Apropos)

Pere Goriot

Eugenie Grandet

4:14 PM  
Anonymous Bells said...

JJ - now you're talkin !

Outgrowing growth: why quality of life, not GDP, should be our measure of success

5:25 PM  
Anonymous Malleus Maleficarum said...

Wonderful, beautiful and poetic article about the huge shortcomings of "Western" science. May I suggest a mention of Carl Jung, his writings about "synchronicity," his deep interest in astrology and the ancient Chinese divination method of "I Ching" wouldn't have gone amiss?

And perhaps, some humble food for thought, if we're willing to accept that witchcraft is not absolute nonsense, is it too far-fetched to consider that it can also be used for evil (think African or Caribbean voodoo) and, therefore, the witch hunters of the late medieval age/beginning of Renaissance were on to something? (Just playing devil's advocate, let us question everything...)

5:41 PM  
Anonymous Tom said...

"Simply said, we have imposed on wild animals, their habitats and their diseases in ways we have never done before as a species."

Globalization seems to have been an agency for infectious diseases right from its beginnings. The moment urban conglomerations began linking to each other across the span of Eurasia, the pool of germs began diversifying along with everything else.

6:52 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


On Jung etc. check out my Reenchantment bk.


7:11 PM  
Anonymous Muffly Merkin said...

Some people astutely recognize the crucial ecological aspects of this corona pandemic:
Covid-19 is “about the way we’re pushing into the last wild spaces on our planet ... as long as we keep making our remote places less remote, the outbreaks are going to keep coming.” - Alanna Shaikh – Global Health Researcher (4:28-6:00)

Covid 19 most likely skipped from animals into people at a wild animal market in Wuhan, China. [skip] This is not the last major outbreak we’re ever going to see. There’s going to be more outbreaks and there’s going to be more epidemics. That’s not a maybe, that’s a given. And that’s a result of the way we as humans are interacting with our planet. Human choices are driving us into a position where we are going to see more outbreaks. Part of that is climate change and the way a warming planet makes it more hospitable for viruses and bacteria. But it’s also about the way we’re pushing into the last wild spaces on our planet. When we burn and plow the Amazon rainforest so we can have cheap land for ranching, when the last of the African bush gets converted to farms, when wild animals are hunted to extinction, human being come into contact with wildlife populations that they’ve never come into contact with before. And those populations have new kinds of diseases—bacteria, viruses, stuff we’re not ready for. Bats in particular have a knack for hosting illnesses that can infect people, but there’re not the only animals that do it. So, as long as we keep making our remote places less remote, the outbreaks are going to keep coming.

Alanna Shaikh – Global Health Researcher

March 11, 2020, TEDxSMU – Full video:

7:23 PM  
Blogger comrade simba said...

Thanks, professor... I have been trying to look at the world more from the periphery rather than stare into the face of doom from this god damn virus and our idiot politicians' lack of responsible leadership. I definitely need those two millimeters.

A Garrison Keillor quote - "You get old and you realize there are no answers, only stories." I suppose we're just in a particularly large story at this time.

8:03 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Wafers: Gd portrait of the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish in NYRB Feb. 27.

10:05 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Sorry, I don't post Anons.


3:29 AM  
Blogger flanagle said...

@ Marc l Bernstein:

That article really got me working on a good old-fashion limerick. And a big shout-out to the happy island of Nantucket, that has through the years, (for some reason or other), got many a limerick off to a good start.

There was a young gal from Nantucket,
Who thought it was time to just chuck it
So with spring break in Dade,
She was sure to get laid
And as for corona? Well, ---- it!

(O, that mysterious penultimate word...)

10:22 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


2nd line from version I heard: Who stuck her head in a bucket
Last line: better scanning with: Well, it can go fuck it.

Meanwhile, Trumpi trumps again!:

I tell ya, the guy continues to defy gravity. Let's hope this continues into November, with the crushing defeat of Schmiden.


10:33 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: Some of you may remember that Tulsi released her workout tape for her (adoring) fans. I think Schmiden might do something similar, except that his tape wd consist of his banging his head against a wall, just to clear his mind so he cd think straight. As for Schmernie: when will the poor deluded shmuck quit, already?

10:36 AM  
Blogger Joe McIlnen said...

Dr. Berman and Wafers,
I saw something very funny on Facebook ( Sorry, I'm not able to copy and paste it) that perhaps can be fodder for future American hustling. It goes as follows:

Commercials in 2030:
Were you or someone you know overly exposed to hand sanitizer, Lysol, or bleach during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic? You may be eligible for compensation.

10:51 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Apparently some Americans have been drinking bleach, thinking it wd prevent the virus.


I'll be able to run yr post if you cd compress it down to half a pg. Thanks.


11:10 AM  
Blogger Ordinary Indian said...

Hi MB,

Thank you so much for allowing us a sneak preview. A few things come to mind.

First, it reminds me of my uncle's death. He died early. He was ~64, of great health and physique. When the news came from the hospital, we were shocked. The dog in the house started behaving strangely right away. It stopped eating, started running around in a confused manner, started howling, scratching the walls and so on. I think this makes the point. Animals have a way of feeling human emotions give it whatever name you wish. Growing up in a pre- or semi-industrial culture, this was reality for us. The whole world is one, connected being being.

Second, modern science, claiming itself to be THE TRUTH, brands any possibility outside its domain of explanation/experience/experimentation as superstitious. You have dealt with this in detail in your re-enchantment bk. With its obsession for quantitative explanation science completely brushes aside qualitative experience of another culture.

Third, can you pl share some original resources for psycho-kinesis experiments you discussed in renchmnt bk?

Hope is, this virus will force us to see life for what it is, to value life over career or profit. Fingers crossed.

12:04 PM  
Anonymous Tom Servo said...

@Tom and Muffly Merkin,

Yes, the coronavirus is definitely an environmental issue. There is also some evidence that melting permafrost might release many ancient diseases. Another terrible result of global warming.

I am afraid that the environmental aspect of the crisis will be lost on most of the public. My guess is the main point of contention will be partisan politics, like whether Trump handled the crisis well or not. While not insignificant, Trump is not the heart of the matter. It seems to me that we humans are putting a large amount of pressure on the environment, including animals, and we are now facing blowback.

12:30 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings MB and Wafers,

A brave and exemplary medical corps is heading to the coronavirus frontline. Didn't Biden try to red-bait Bernie in the last debate because Bernie had the temerity to suggest that Cuba's revolution produced some major social advances?:

Fear and economic catastrophe are the soils in which fascism grows, and we currently have an epidemic of both in this nation. With the specter of covid looming over America, don't be surprised when someone comes forward w/the 'courage' to make 'tough' decisions:


12:59 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I was writing the Reenchantment bk ca. 45 yrs ago, and haven't read it since. So there's very little I can remember, regarding psychokinesis or whatever. Sorry.


1:02 PM  
Anonymous Abdel said...

This + the politeness and mindfulness in their daily culture seems to have mostly saved the Japanese thus far.

Another attribute for their being an interesting post-capitalist model

3:40 PM  
Blogger Himanshu said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

In these days of Covid19 "social distancing" in the US should be relatively easy to accomplish yet many Americans feel its an infringement on their freedoms (whatever that word means?). As you understand better than I do American culture is fundamentally (at its foundations) alienating ( Eg: I got mine,fuck you; whats in it for me? etc.) so why is this "social distancing " thing a problem for Americans? This should be a walk in the park for the dominant culture in the US.

Best Wishes,

4:20 PM  
Blogger jjarden said...

Of Course He Did!!!! The history of the world has NEVER SEEN such an INSECURE person holding the office of President!

5:02 PM  
Anonymous trying to stay sane said...

Patrami and Encomia - if the virus lasts into May, thousands of small businesses will suffer to such an extent that they will be absorbed, like small fish, by bigger fish. Big national chain stores will move in to replace them - a Walmart on every corner.

Who benefits? The giant international corporations that control the neoliberal world order will not be affected. They will survive simply because they are big while small businesses will die of supply chain problems and disruptions in cash flow.

Capitalism is adept at profiting from crises. The stronger get stronger and the weak die off.

5:51 PM  
Blogger Hallvard N. Jørgensen said...

Thanks for an interesting and benign article on an important subject.

Personally, I would think that any "healthy" religion/philosophy should acknowledge that at the end of the day reality is a mystery that cannot fully be grasped, even with access to purported "revelations". We see "through a glass, darkly". However, we may hopefully find ways of living in tune with our own nature, and nature around us - as delivered to us by our own experience, our communities, our traditions, practices and so on.

In that vein, this comes across as rather disconcerting and sobering:

Knowing, then, that this destroying of the ecosystems is driven by modern ideologies that are very deep-seated all over the globe :-s Hartmut Rosa comes to mind; in his "Social Acceleration", he states that the end of modern acceleration and frenzy is some kind of burnout.

5:57 PM  
Anonymous Turan said...

Check out one of my favorite films since I was young, linked here in full, called A Matter of Life and Death. The Wafer-ish philosopher John Gray thinks highly of it too:

'The power of A Matter of Life and Death comes from the questions it poses about what human beings truly want from an afterlife.'

6:23 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Another gd film: "Knives Out".


For 'benign' substitute 'aggressively challenging'. As for Rosa, Zygmunt Bauman already said it years ago, and probably better.


6:37 PM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

This guy sure didn't!

7:20 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


What bothers me abt this is that the guy cd have turned everything around if he had gone to the 2nd Ave Deli and had a plate of chopped liver. This is how you enjoy life. What a shmuck.


8:57 PM  
Anonymous Terri D Bradshaw said...

Camus on the Coronavirus
He reminds us that suffering is random, and that is the kindest thing one can say about it.

I was reading "The Plague" has been selling out as of late. Invest in Camus!

9:51 PM  
Anonymous Air said...

Rand Paul going to the gym while waiting to find out his Covid test result is pretty much the working definition of libertarianism.
Here's how Ayn Rand put it: "I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man." - Bill Mckibben

Not a bad point

10:28 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


From time to time, I just sit and meditate on the stupidity of Americans. It isn't too extreme to say that a great many of them are absurd. 38% won't drink Corona beer; they think it's connected to the virus. The Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas had to close in Dec. 2001 (after being open for only a few mos.) because Americans decided it must be connected to Islamic terrorism. Many refused to shake Philip Roth's hand, following the publication of "Portnoy's Complaint," because they thought he himself must be Alexander Portnoy (masturbating all the time). Etc.

I recall some young woman writing in to this blog shortly after I published "The Man Without Qualities," a few yrs ago, which uses Woody Allen and a few other celebs as props in the story, saying that I was a pretentious name-dropper. You can actually live in the US and never know that there is a difference between fact and fiction. Obviously, if you mention Woody etc. in a novel, you aren't claiming that you actually know these folks. What cd I tell this poor, pathetic girl? I doubted she wd get it, if I tried to explain it. So I just said, "Sorry you didn't like the bk; clearly, it's not for everyone," and left it at that. But what a bozo (bozette). And America is chock full of these nut jobs.

I thought of all this today because I re-screened part of "The Americans" series, that I'm sure you all have seen. At the end of Season 3, Paige tells Pastor Tim that her parents are Soviet agents. Then I was reading some online interviews w/the cast, about their feelings abt the series now that it's over, and Holly Taylor (Paige) said that after that particular episode, people wd come up to her on the street in NJ (where she lives) and scream things like "I hate you!" and "How could you do that?" Are Americans human beings, or just jokes, dressed up to look like human beings?

There was an episode on "Friends" where some woman (played by Brook Shields) falls in love with a TV character, Dr. Drake Ramore (played by Joey Tribbiani, played by Matt Leblanc), and stalks him (i.e., Joey). In this very funny vignette, she is portrayed as outright psychotic--which would be correct, if happening in real life. Shdn't that describe the folks yelling at Holly Taylor in the street, who think Holly is actually Paige Jennings? Maybe half of them are walking jokes, and half are psychotic. Damned if I know. But I do know this: the whole country is one, or the other, or both.


11:13 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Check it out:

11:41 PM  
Anonymous Bruce Scofield said...

Thanks in part to your classes back at Rutgers I have no problem operating with little attachment to any paradigm (though my friends have problems with this). Believe and yet not believe is what Carlos said, and this detachment has made my life better. It's obvious to me that we simply can't know everything, so why get bent out of shape over it and put your mind in a uniform? Some paradigms may overlap, but mechanism and organicism appear to be mutually exclusive and that's an ongoing problem in history as you have made clear. For me, studying the behavior and evolution of self-organizing systems, using a combination of modern and antique tools, does seem to be something of a bridge, however.

10:03 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Blast from the past! Gd to hear from you, amigo. I trust everything is going well.


10:22 AM  
Anonymous mifalco said...

Turan, good recommendation i loved the aura of that film. Morris Berman, I will view "Knives Out" tonight it looks like a lot of fun!

i'll recommend the film "The Death of Stalin" -- dark dystopic humor.

10:30 AM  
Blogger Joe McIlnen said...

Dr. Berman,
I got a very good laugh when you mentioned that actress Holly Taylor was being verbally harassed by dumb people who think she actually is in real life a fictional character she played. As a comparison, I often laughingly think of Madison Avenue jumping at a similar opportunity with its “Most Interesting Man in the World” featuring actor Jonathan Goldsmith in beer commercials. Many people ( mostly men who thought they'd score with women since each commercial ended with him having two gorgeous women side by side) actually thought he existed in real life. One man's child wanted to be him when he grew up. LOL. And of course Dos Equis beer sales skyrocked after this advertising gimmick. As you said in one of your interviews regarding Americans, “They are sooo stupid.”

11:00 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I doubt there has been a dumber collection of people in the history of the world. Just when you think they can't get any dumber--they do! As the country collapses, they focus their attention on Meghan Markle, and her hats.


Death of Stalin v. funny, indeed.


12:19 PM  
Blogger Kanye Cyrus said...


Seems like you're not the only "prophet" surprised by what's happening despite predicting it...

p.s. I deleted my first comment earlier this week as it was inappropriate for a blog comment. Spending time in confinement tends to make you think computers can replace real interaction, but they definitely don't.


1:13 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Hate to ruin your day or maybe brighten it, but there is the idea floating that Biden will drop out at the convention ("Doctors say my mental faculties are fading") and ask deligates to support Hillary. Apparently, both the Clintons and the Obamas had been working ferociously behind the scenes to get Biden the nomination for this purpose; for example, telling Buttplug and Klobacher to drop out and support Biden. I'm sure Warren will well. Of course, the Deep State would like Hillary in power as she has repeatedly stated her desire to "obliterate" Iran and probably wage war against China and/or Russia.

2:21 PM  
Anonymous Muffly Merkin said...
“The global system is currently on the brink of multiple simultaneous crises. Intersecting energy, economic and environmental crises have formed destabilizing amplifying feedback loops with social, political and cultural systems.”
“‘Plagues are not only part of our culture; they are caused by it’—which, in this context, means our culture of reducing every facet of life to objects of the predatory gaze of capital, valued only to the extent that they serve the diktats of private accumulation and profit-making.”

Both pieces knit together the ecological/social/political strands of this virus and our responses/accountabilities to/for it

Lately I’ve been thinking (unusual for me, some would say). The three most important things I have ever personally ever done/accomplished - and, I believe, the most important things at least 99% of Americans, Europeans, Japanese, Chinese and all the rest of the world’s industrial growthers ad nauseam could do - are:
1. Don’t breed (the world can get along just fine without a mini-me or 2 or 3 running around)
2. Stop eating animals (call it a reification of Albert Schweitzer’s ‘reverence for life’)
3. Plant a garden (literally getting in touch with the earth)

Endless population growth and economic expansion are, as Edward Abbey succinctly put it, the ideology of the cancer cell

2:45 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Schmiden is basically a male version of Botox Face, altho w/a whole lotta senility added to the mix. I guess the real question now is what are Trumpi's chances vs. either of these 2 clowns. The virus has thrown a joker into the pack, and everything is uncertain; altho Trumpola's favorable rating has gone up, not down, since the appearance of it:

Keep yr fingers crossed!


2:53 PM  
Anonymous Malleus Maleficarum said...

This is it. It really is. Coronavirus and 2020 is it. This is when the US disintegrates in a gruesome manner. I feel it. And I don't even know what to make of it. I have friends in the US and I am really sad on one hand. On the other hand, I think of the uncountable horrors the US has visited on so many countries and, since I believe in karma, I wonder how it took so long.

4:27 PM  
Anonymous Liv said...

I believe this Covid19 will end America as we know it. You need an extremely strong community to overcome this pandemic and Americans are lacking in this. The hoarding, fear-buying guns will make the situation even worse. The moron Trump and the whole Fed Gov is a joke. The martial law shall begin soon:
And my recently published article:
The change is coming and nobody is prepared. It will be very interesting to see. It happened faster than expected. Thanks got I emigrated 2 years ago.
Here in Spain, Andalucia I feel safe.
Wafers stay safe.

5:22 PM  
Anonymous trying to stay sane said...

MB - I'm sure you know this, but it's been proven by anthropologists, especially Frans De Waal, that animals do have emotions and regularly emphasize with humans. See especially "Mama's Last Hug" De Waal's latest. The conventional wisdom had been to the contrary - a belief held and defended fervently by anthropologists certain of their conclusions.

Not aware of any studies proving the point, but it seems as evident to me that Americans are unable to separate reality from fiction. That at least seems obvious by their favorite TV shows. Called "reality shows", all are scripted (Survivor, Naked and Afraid, etc) but try to convince a typical American of that. Or, if you don't mind putting your life at risk, try telling a pro wrestling fan that it's all a big joke on him.

Your thoughts on the use of science to answer all questions for all time reminded me of the book "Gods of the Upper Air" and Boas' insistence that theories emerge only after careful observation and that cultures cannot be ranked but are entities unto themselves,each with its own internal wisdom and logic.

Finally, it may be that Trumpi and his most fervent supporters suffer from the Dunning-Kruger effect - a psychological theory that explains his inability to admit error.

5:43 PM  
Anonymous Shapiro said...

"Lockdown, Manhattan style: an incredibly grim photo of all the Caviar delivery guys waiting to pick up orders of $70 veal parm at Carbone"

we live in dystopia

5:45 PM  
Blogger Christian Schulzke said...

Dr B, this is one of your best posts. It ranks up there with your post on post-modernism.

6:33 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Not sure 'surprised' is really relevant here. Of course, I never imagined the virus; but more important, I'm still not convinced it's the end of the rd. It may be, but there are a lot of dissenting voices on that score--the jury is still out. For one thing, the death rate of those infected is very low; and for those infected, the remedy is the same as any old flu: stay in bed, drink lots of fluids, take Tylenol, etc. This may be over in 2 wks, for all we know (or not). As for the economy, it's taking a serious hit, but it may just bounce back, or slowly recover. One Nobel laureate (scroll back) said the real problem is the hysteria over the disease, not the disease. As for the implosion of capitalism, I'm not sure what role an extraneous agent, like the virus, is going to play in that. I'm more convinced by internal contradictions.


7:58 PM  
Anonymous Flyingspaghettimonstr said...

End of days declinist poem by moi

One crisp day, Old Man History looked upon the tombs of fallen empires

that perished due to the dysfunctions in which they were mired.

He saw one in particular that insisted it was fine, though was destined for failure on account of its very design.

Old Man History gave a quick snort, and offered a witty retort

"You fools are too blind to see
that a frivolous place was all you were meant to be."

In this late hour, you're now on the ground, with misery, despair & wretchedness abound.

You cannot arise now, though try as you may, for the murky abyss is really the only way!"

12:07 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


"My name is Ozymandias..."


12:15 AM  
Blogger Kanye Cyrus said...


I think you're right. It's definitely not the end of the world as we know it, but things are certainly not going to get back to "normal". Even if hustling, technodouchebaggery, and Prog Delirium will eventually resume, there'll be a bitter after taste to it. I don't know about the US, but in France at least, no one will believe in this BS anymore. You talked in Twilight about the erosion of the "central idea" holding an empire together and this virus is making a big dent in the ship. THIS is the true Suez Moment we've been waiting for.


4:09 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Not sure that it is. By Suez Moment I meant a turning pt in foreign relations, as actually did happen in 1956 re: England. Will other countries regard the US as essentially finished? We'll hafta see, but I don't think that will nec. be the case.


5:01 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: However:

(Has the Post been rdg my blog?)

5:14 AM  
Anonymous Frederick Froth said...

I see that John Steppling features a quote from and a recommendation for Morris in his new essay which as usual is very interesting too.

5:16 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


A link wd be nice.


6:00 AM  
Blogger Himanshu said...

Dear Dr. Berman, Kanye,

I posted the article below a few days ago. While Covid19 has an impact on the US(and elsewhere) it is the power of the petrodollar that keeps the US Empire going. This was dealt a major blow as the article below argues on March 6th 2020 ( The Ides of March arrived a week early) when Putin refused to extend the OPEC deal (I am posting a second one written earlier by the same author). The US shale companies will be collateral damage. They were already going bankrupt. The US will need to start importing more oil soon.


6:52 AM  
Anonymous Matt Cardin said...

Love the essay/talk, Morris. It couldn't be more timely, and I appreciate your sharing it. To my mind, it intersects nicely with the philosophical tack that Kunstler has pursued in his World Made by Hand novels related to the dissolution not only of political and socioeconomic systems in a post-collapse world but of dominant philosophical paradigms as well. His speculations in those books about the subtle return in such a scenario to mainstream awareness and acceptance of certain phenomena traditionally dubbed supernatural or paranormal dovetails with the theme you've broached here. And it makes perfect (and insightful) sense.

FWIW and YMMV, if you aren't already familiar with it, you might enjoy browsing through back issues of Paranthropology: Journal of Academic Approaches to the Paranormal, a serious journal (with an amazing editorial board) edited by my friend/acquaintance/colleague Dr. Jack Hunter from 2010 to 2017. (Actually, I don't know for sure that the project has been formally announced as over and done with, but the last issue came out three years ago.) Its entire run is available for free at Its stated focus and aim was/is "the promotion of social-scientific approaches to the study of paranormal experiences, beliefs and phenomena in all of their varied guises. The journal aims to foster an interdisciplinary dialogue on issues of the paranormal, so as to move beyond the sceptic vs. advocate impasse which has settled over the current debate, and to open new avenues for enquiry and understanding....Paranthropology is devoted to an open-minded and exploratory perspective on a wide range of experiences, beliefs and phenomena often called paranormal, supernatural or anomalous." There's some pretty savvy stuff in there, and Jack's occasional introductory essays/editorials line up nicely with your essay here in their advocacy of a truly scientific attitude that willingly and deliberately sees, allows for, and encompasses the very real experiences, phenomena, and other data that aren't compatible with the kneejerk fundamentalist scientism that has characterized what counts as the mainstream of Western academic and scientific work and thought for a long time.

8:35 AM  
Anonymous Jeome J said...

Dear Dr. Berman and Wafers:

All hope that all are well in these very strange times. Here is a link to the John Steppling piece that Frederick mentioned, in which Steppling quotes Dr. Berman.

9:12 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Many thanks.


Meanwhile, I'm not sure how apocalyptic we shd get at this pt. Is this the collapse I've been predicting all along? Will we soon have martial law, food riots, mass migrations, and the whole 9 yards? I can't quite believe it, just yet, for a variety of reasons. I think things will get worse b4 they get better, but I have no crystal ball to give me a time scale.


10:04 AM  
Anonymous Ibsen said...

I want to add, check out Steppling's new podcast:

Personally I kind of enjoy the corona break. I work online already, so no big change. I spend more time walking in the woods, watching films (some great old ones you all should watch: "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner", "Accattone", "The Rise to Power of Louis XIV") etc. A holiday from the stress of capitalism is good, though I know many people are less fortunate than me and worry about losing their jobs for good now.

But I am worried about where this will end, if we end up losing a lot of democratic rights and freedoms, the next step in a development where it already doesn't matter much who you vote for. The conservative Englishman Peter Hitchens (a man I normally don't agree with) writes about this:

And this (many people write off non-mainstream sources right away, which is a shame. There are crazy conspiracy theories out there, but normally "conspiracy theory" today just means healthy skepticism):

10:20 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


10:28 AM  
Blogger Ordinary Indian said...

This is fantastic, this is brilliant. MB, Dan beats you hands down. It took you three bks and many more articles and lectures to argue that America is all about hustling. This fellow does it in just a few sentences. Wow... be smart like Dan...

“My message: let’s get back to work, let’s get back to living, let’s be smart about it, and those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves,” Lt Gov Dan Patrick, a 69-year-old Republican, told Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Monday night.

“We’re going to be in a total collapse, recession, depression, collapse in our society if this goes on for another several months,” Patrick said. “As the president said, the mortality rate is so low. Do we have to shut down the entire country for this? I think we can get back to work.”

10:49 AM  
Blogger Mike Kelly said...

Hello Dr. B and Wafers,

Dr. B: I really enjoyed reading your lecture and am sorry you could not deliver it to the intended audience. Thank you for sharing with us. A couple of interesting things happened to me after reading your lecture on Sunday morning.I walked downtown on the deserted streets to have a look around. On the way, a hawk landed on a handrail not six feet away from me. He looked at me and I looked back for about a minute. Then he flew across the street to a tree and continued to watch me. Remembering your lecture, I went home and Googled "hawk staring". This is what Google found:

Yesterday I saw a rabbit that has lived in our backyard since last year. He survived the winter and managed to grow larger since I saw him last fall. I talked softly to him and he did not run away. Our friendship is going to strengthen as long as he does not eat my lettuce this spring. Then, I saw two robins, who we think of as a sign of spring. Unfortunately, last night it snowed three inches so the robins are going to have a rough time for a couple of days until the snow melts. I'm going to run out of space if I tell you about the crows in my neighborhood, but they are very interesting to watch, also. Thank you for opening my eyes to the animal world.

Meanwhile, Trump keeps right on with his dismantling project, just as many Wafers would expect:

11:21 AM  
Blogger Michael Burgess said...

Hi Dr. Berman and Wafers:

James Howard Kunstler certainly has some interesting comments about what seems to be happening which dovetail with his own predictions.

12:01 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

I remember you quoting previously a presentation saying that by around this time we were going to experience another recession regardless of this pandemic which would lead to a total wipeout by the year 2025. I've been seeing a number of people in other parts of the world saying that that we have unnecessarily crashed our own economies to deal with this problem and that the virus is not as dangerous as is being reported in the mainstream right now. good article by Peter Hitchens on this in the Mail on Sunday:

I have mixed feelings about the "over the top" response so far as I have an elderly parent who is a smoker. But I do think this is one of those classic panics that they used to talk about a couple centuries ago whenever there was a downturn in the economy. Nevertheless, although I agree this will not be the collapse we have been anticipating, this will indeed mark a turning point where the West will be even more weakened and the US set up for that final breakdown years down the road with China strengthened and poised to take over. Meanwhile:

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Alias said...

If they can just keep him hidden, letting the imaginal Joe Biden they've created suffice
until Nov. . . . hoping Trump will self-destruct in the meanwhile.
Then pick the best ventriloquist they can find for Vice-president.
Remember Dick Cheney - you could hardly tell his lips were moving.

12:58 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Only 1 post every 24 hrs, thanks.


It's possible that as a result of the virus, China will eclipse the US in power and prestige, which wd constitute a foreign Suez Moment. My only concern is that other nations will focus on Trumpi as the issue, when the real issue is the American people and their destructive way of life. Trumpo is merely an icon.


Great stories! Keep us informed.


1:29 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

MB and Wafers

For those into the math and trying to provide a more
realistic presentation to CFR the link may be useful.
It maybe one of the metrics being used to identify
if a downward trend of exposures has appeared
in a country thus helping to determine
a time line of action.

1:29 PM  
Anonymous Tom Servo said...

@ Ordinary Indian,

Your story reminds me of my uncle’s dog. When my uncle had a heart attack his dog would not eat and she would barely move or bark. If she was a human I would say that she was depressed. She only recovered when my uncle returned from the hospital. That left an impression on me.

Perhaps dogs and certain other animals don’t feel love in exactly the same way that humans do but there are some unusual stories that make me think that they might feel something like love.

Here are a few examples:

1:47 PM  
Anonymous trying to stay sane said...

Most anthropologist now accept without doubt that animals have emotions and feelings and the ability to regulate them. Primates, dogs and other mammals smile and laugh and show empathy and sympathy to others of their species and others. The most emphatic, according to Frans Da Waal in his new book "Mama's Last Hug" are the bonobos, who also defuse conflict with sex, regardless of the genders involved. Of course, primates can also be vicious killers of their own kind. Especially the males who are in constant competition for status.

Just a few decades ago, arguing that mammals have emotions and feelings was discounted by conventional wisdom. Almost all anthropologist accepted as certain that only humans could feel and express emotions. Thankfully, Da Waal and others relied on observation rather than conjecture removed from reality and allowed themselves to consider that the "certainty" was anything but.

6:11 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Check it out:

6:39 PM  
Blogger Krakhed said...

Enjoyed the lecture, and appreciate you sharing it here.

Also enjoying the discussion. I can't help but think that our 'Suez' moment is going to be considered Trump's election because of the backslide in power and authority of the USA. Go Trumpi! There's so much more to destroy!

I am kinda amazed at how the coronavirus has halted business as usual. Makes the whole system feel very fragile.

7:18 PM  
Blogger alex carter said...

Great photos of Brittany. The great French Tour de France winner Barnard Hinault is a Breton and retired to raise chickens - at the time I heard of this I thought, how silly! But it makes a ton of sense. His nickname is "Blaireau" or "Badger" and he'll be fine.

The street bums here stayed scarce for a while but now they're coming out. Got my 30 days of canned fish/meat and a year's worth of pasta (that I rescued from a dumpster a while back) and will have to practice sound/light/smells discipline. I'll need to go out only around midday, as the street bums *really* own the streets after midday hours now. Military types will know the term: time to get "strac"

7:44 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Maybe Trumpi was rt, not to take the virus so seriously...Just thinking out loud here. The media does its thing, but as I've noted a few times, there are a # of respectable dissenting voices that argue against apocalypse. I doubt that Easter is a safe date to return to biz as usual, but maybe a month...? Too much up in the air at the present time to be sure abt anything.


7:47 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Not strac! Anything but strac!


8:48 PM  
Blogger Joe McIlnen said...

“Where do you think our leaders come from? Mars? “ -George Carlin
M.B. And Wafers,
Here is one of our distinguished leaders explaining the cause of COVID-19.

11:37 PM  
Anonymous Cyrano said...

The myopia of Western society goes far beyond scientific ideology. We also see it in the dismissal of anything foreign and any criticism of insularity as “political correctness.” Westerners are firmly ensconced in a worldview at which they are the center. It taints not only much of academia and what passes for “research” in Western institutions but also everyday life. There is much consternation over “identity politics” among many now in the West, yet most of them fail to see they are the biggest players in the identity politics game, because to their warped thinking, that is something which only applies to non-Westerners who try to assert themselves. It’s laughable, really. I believe there is a very tiny percentage of people in all cultures who are more interested in truth or at least the pursuit of such rather than these silly games. They immerse themselves in the cultural output of many cultures, speak many languages, travel frequently. Most would rather bury their heads in the sand of some nebulous notion of national identity rather than recognize our shared humanity.

11:53 PM  
Blogger Kanye Cyrus said...

This virus is definitely not Armageddon, but from an ontological perspective I think it's going to change the game, at least in Europe. The US is another piece altogether. What I meant by "Suez Moment", was not so much a reshuffling of international relations, but a change in people's belief in the unconscious "programming" they follow every day. Already with Brexit, Gilets Jaunes and all the strikes that took place in the past year in France, Progs took a big hit (don't forget that Macron is at his core a Prog), but this is the final nail in their coffin. Nobody will take their identity politics, greenwashing and technodouchebagery seriously after being confined at home for 2 months, not being able to order their organic food on an "app" and arguing non-stop with their families. A lot of people are *seeing through*, maybe for the first time in their lives, all the BS foundations their lives are built on. Hustling WILL eventually return, but Progs won't be able to impose their ideology on the people with the smugness with which they did before.


5:01 AM  
Anonymous Flyingspaghettimonstr said...

A modern take on the Pledge:

I pledge allegiance to the cult
Of the Divided States of Amerikkka

And to the myths on which it stands

One experiment, under hypnosis, in despair, with misery & Prozac 4 all!

6:39 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

MB and Wafers

An interesting read in the New Yorker on pandemics

6:57 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Somehow, I just don't think that's gonna happen!


7:11 AM  
Blogger Himanshu said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Interesting column on BBC titled "Coronavirus: What this crisis reveals about US - and its president"
Excerpt: "The institutional decline of government that led so many Americans to pin their faith in an individual, Donald Trump, is again plain to see, whether in the shortage of masks and protective gowns or the dearth of early testing.Consequently, America's claim to global pre-eminence looks less convincing by the day. While in previous crises, the world's most powerful superpower might have mobilised a global response, nobody expects that of the United States anymore. The neo-isolationism of three years of America Firstism has created a geopolitical form of social distancing, and this crisis has reminded us of the oceanic divide that has opened up even with Washington's closest allies. Take the European travel ban, which Trump announced during his Oval Office address to the nation without warning the countries affected. The European Union complained, in an unusually robust public statement, the decision was "taken unilaterally and without consultation".

Nor has the United States offered a model for how to deal with this crisis. South Korea, with its massive testing programme, and Japan have been exemplars. China, too, has shown the advantages of its authoritarianism system in enforcing a strict lockdown, which is especially worrying when the western liberal order looks so wobbly. "


10:57 AM  
Blogger Michael Burgess said...

Hi Dr. Berman and Wafers,

Umair Haque really getting bitter about America's capitalistic response to the coronavirus. Little does he seem to realize that hyper-individualism does not allow for real connection with others or the environment, that the elite's attitude towards the great mass of people is SHARED by most of that great mass. This quote sums it up:

There’s really only one possible answer to that question. It goes like this. In a capitalist society, you aren’t seen as deserving of those things. Those are things which must be “earned.” But that also means: nobody has intrinsic or inherent worth. Because, of course, the definition of “inherent or intrinsic worth” is that I have a basic human right to things like housing and healthcare and medicine and so on.

11:30 AM  
Blogger Lobster Goldmine said...

The story in your lecture illustrates typical western colonial supremacy over earth based folkloric cosmo vision and wisdom culture. A good reminder for balance in understanding. Thank you for sharing :)

12:32 PM  
Anonymous Pete Christen said...

MB and Wafers:
In her recent book on surveillance capitalism, Shoshana Zuboff describes Americans as people who live in Skinner boxes of their own making. Good review here:

1:10 PM  
Anonymous S Caldwell said...

"We are worlding our waste." Good piece by Gabrielle Hecht

1:39 PM  
Anonymous Malleus Maleficarum said...

Apologies for breaking the 24-hour rule. I guess I got carried away. It is clear that only time will tell how big the impact of the pandemic is, so no need to post so often :-)

I found curious, though, that AMLO, Trump and Bolsonaro seem to have a similar approach to the virus:

So taking the virus seriously (or not) doesn't seem related to left/right politics but geography. While in Asia almost everybody takes it very seriously, in America (North and South) people don't worry as much...

1:53 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

Well, speaking about that American way of life, this virus has been certainly exposing to the entire world how broken this society is and the scary thing is that it is just beginning. While China, Russia et al offer material help to anyone in need, the US just insists in playing up old geopolitical rivalries and trying to push through its waning hegemony wherever there's not enough mass consumption of its goods. To that effect, just check a couple of small anecdotes on the American people during this crisis:

"With the shores wide open for randy fun, a widely-watched video circulated on Twitter showing a sun-burned bro gawking at a bikini-clad woman slurping a Bud Light through the rear end of a bent-over co-ed and exclaiming, “Nobody gives a fuck about coronavirus here!” -

An Arizona husband and wife, both in their 60s, took an additive called chloroquine phosphate used to clean fish tanks, to try to prevent coronavirus. He died. She's in critical care.

1:58 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Often on this blog, I have emphasized the macro/micro mirroring: what happens on the indiv. level also happens on the political level, and vice versa. The US gov't is one big joke; indiv. Americans are little jokes, of the same kind. Both are self-destructive buffoons. I don't think the virus will amount to the collapse I have been predicting, but it will probably serve to move the country faster along a downward trajectory.


Don't get carried away. Just don't do it, to paraphrase Nike.


2:06 PM  
Anonymous Birney Zouave said...

Dr. B:

I enjoyed reading the BBC article referenced at 10:57 above. The article's author makes some excellent points, although, at least one of the commenters on the author's Twitter feed said that they "threw up in their mouth a little" [while reading the article.] Perhaps it was this quote that put them over the edge-

"Many Americans are yearning for precisely the kind of empathy and personal warmth that Biden offers. Even before the coronavirus took hold, he had made recovery his theme, a narrative in accord with his life story. Many also want a presidency they could have on in the background. A less histrionic figure in the Oval Office. Soft jazz rather than heavy metal. A return to some kind of normalcy."

2:09 PM  
Blogger jjarden said...

These people are INSANE LUNATICS, and at the very seat of power!

2:53 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Cdn't run it (24 hr rule).


Look at that face. A true American!


3:31 PM  
Anonymous Matt Fortey said...

Dear world: sorry. Love, Americans. According to Der Spiegel, the G7 foreign ministers haven't been able to agree on a joint statement because of Pompeo's insistence it refer to coronavirus as the "Wuhan virus". Pompeo did not deny that this morning - said G7 don't agree on everything

4:37 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Most of Trump's appointees, like Pompeo, are jackasses. One can only hope that once reelected, Trumpi will appoint many more such people. The collapse of a society can only be accelerated by having morons in positions of power.


4:46 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Aim for a 30-hr lapse. That way, you'll be safe.



6:52 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: A turkette says something intelligent:

Now we need to hear from Kim, and Meghan.

7:07 PM  
Blogger ZeeLawyer said...

An absolutely superb lecture, Dr. Berman. Please stay safe and well--the world needs you!

7:22 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Beyond the hard data of the US being in a state of ongoing disintegration, there are certain symbolic events that stand out as icons of a nation that is not merely in slo-mo collapse, but that has become surreal. Tulsi's bid for the presidency--a shmuckette w/abs. no qualifications for the office--is one example of this; let alone her sending out a tape of her doing a gym workout, as apparent(?) evidence of her (physical?) fitness for the White House. Can this seriously be happening? many of you have asked yrselves. Or are we now on a different planet?

The same might be said abt Sarah Palin's tape of her singing "Baby Got Back" while dancing in a bear costume. Wha?? As I said earlier abt this, what cd be a more exact icon of America today? We are in completely surreal territory here, even granted that the woman is probably brain damaged.

When the Roman Empire collapsed, one can say at least this: Rome was a lot of things, but it definitely wasn't absurd.


7:32 PM  
Anonymous Liv said...

In Spain despite strict lockdown the pandemic is spreading. The US will be in chaos in 2 weeks or less. And we see how the America is handling it will be beyond catastrophe.
But I have a question. Dr. Berman can you describe how NMI can live through this time?

8:05 PM  
Blogger Sarasvati said...

Maybe Trump is a bipolar narcissist, Dunning-Kruger practitioner, Adderall addict, and dyslexic demented moron. To use a metaphor describing porn, he has no social redeeming value. IOW, a perfect reflection of the American psyche.

Tom: everything I know about unconditional love I learned from my dogs.

Dr. Berman/Wafers: we exist in a very tiny frequency band and are functionally blind. Speaking from personal experience, here, in Maya’s Palace of Delusion, absolutely nothing is as we think it is. The problem with scientists is that they stick to their limiting beliefs and bury any anomalies, like physic phenomenon, which challenge their point of view. A great book is Wonderful Life by Stephen Jay Gould.

BTW, anytime an unusual animal shows up in my life I always check out its message. My favorite book for this is Animal Speak by Ted Andrews.

8:08 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Actually, it shdn't be that hard. Isolation might serve to support NMI tendencies. The activity of an NMI is to preserve the best of Western Civ. There are various ways to do this, but one is to read in these areas, and communicate w/other Wafers abt them. I guess that's what I do most of the time. Rt now, like yrself, I'm rather trapped in a small town. But I do go out every day, for a short while, either to forage for food, or else just to walk around. As for rdg material, I never know what I'm going to write abt next; these things tend to fall in my lap. But as of late, I've become interested in the Parisian intellectual circle of postwar Paris, the folks around Sartre who hung out at the cafes on St.-Germain-des-Pres: Boris Vian (whom I love), Juliette Greco, and that whole world. Which overlaps with Existentialism a lot, of course; see bk by Sarah Bakewell. That whole subculture had a great impact on how everyone in the West came to see things, even tho Existentialism has a lot of things wrong w/it (both politically and psychologically). But after all, one has to live as tho one has free will, or else there isn't much pt in living.

On Vian, his very funny novel (and sendup of Sartre), L'ecume des jours, has been translated 2x into English.

Anyway, one characteristic (among many) of an NMI is a restless mind, always searching for what is deep, transformative, and of course--funny.

As for the virus, epidemics usually follow a rising curve, peak, and then taper off. This has been estimated by some as 3 more wks in the US. One thing you can do is invent other names for it. I believe that if we had a more upbeat name than coronavirus, there wd be less hysteria abt it. For example, we cd relabel it the Hot Juicy Virus. Or, since most Americans have positive feelings abt LeBron James, we cd call it the LeBron James Virus. Or even the Fatty Arbuckle Virus. You get the idea.


8:48 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Shithouse said...

Dear Dr.Berman, Boris Vian is fantastic. If you’re into jazz, he composed quite a bit in addition to his literary contributions. Many French students read him. Americans students »rend » Hustler. Juliette Greco —gorgeous voice too.

Jacques Brel (Belge) is wonderful too; poet-singer about life-meaning.

It’s definitely no usa trash—« baby got back. »

9:01 PM  
Anonymous Mike R. said...

THD: Tom Hanks Disease?

9:02 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


That'll work. Or perhaps the Herbert Hoover Virus.


9:26 PM  
Blogger SpeedBump said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I have enjoyed (if that is the right word) several of your books about the coming collapse of America due mainly to internal factors. But there is also a huge external factor that I did not appreciate until I watched this video: entitled Trump's Biggest Failure.

I would be interested to know what you think about it. The whole video is good, but Trump is mentioned specifically near the end.

9:32 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, 9/11 was an external factor that did us worlds of damage, and I haven't been silent abt that. But I also haven't been silent abt China as the next hegemon; I've predicted it a # of times. So I don't have much to quarrel abt w/this video. We are collapsing, and leaving a vacuum in our wake. Of course, China will fill it. The Chinese are very smart; they think in terms of 50 years. Americans are very stupid; they think in terms of 5 yrs. Who's gonna win?


9:48 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: Some yrs ago, WAF was translated into Mandarin, and I did a Preface for the Chinese edn. I think you can find it online. Also, I believe I did an essay on China in QOV, but can't remember the title.

9:50 PM  
Blogger Gunnar said...

USA! is like a smooth rock skipping off a pond, first skip savings and loan melt down, then 2008, now 2020 (printing press @ fed reserve is in full tilt). If this isn't the end it'll due til the end gets here.

Life here was surreal, now it's a graphic novel.

11:06 PM  
Blogger Jack Lattemann said...

Actually, MB, you addressed China in two essays in QOV, "Rope-a-Dope: The Chump Factor in U.S. Foreign Policy" and "The Asian Road to Victory." I have to say, QOV was published in 2010, and QOV has aged very well over the past decade. I must have purchased half a dozen copies to send to friends with Wafer tendencies. Some of your best writing!

12:25 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Sorry, I don't post Unknowns. You need a real handle. For example, Roland B. Schmeisstuchus.


Many thanks. Once I finish a bk, I never re-read it, so that (plus my growing senility) makes it hard for me to remember what the heck I wrote. I'm glad it has worn well, in any case.


12:44 AM  
Anonymous Roland B. said...

How about Beer Virus?

3:42 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Too close to Corona.


5:27 AM  
Blogger Kanye Cyrus said...


If your next book is about French postwar intellectuals, you cannot publish it unless you commit to organizing a Wafer summit in France. Le Summit des Wafères ;-)Macron will have transformed from a Prog to a Wafer by the end of this crisis, so he'll definitely join us.


6:15 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, probably not. Just thinking abt it for now, is all. Plus, a Parisian Wafer Summit is not likely to draw too many of us across the Atlantic. Flut alors!


8:25 AM  
Anonymous Northern Johnny said...

Hi Dr. and WAFERS:

A perceptive analysis by the Guardian's Arwa Mahdawi of Trump:

A choice quote: "Having realised he can’t just bluster coronavirus away, Trump has rewritten the past, adopted a newly sombre tone and reinvented himself as a 'wartime' president ... Trump has managed to turn himself from Nero to hero in a week." A poll released last Friday showed 55% of American approve of Trump's response to the crisis. I will note though that her criticisms of the Democrats are under-developed and tepid.

For a point comparison with the USA, here is what the federal government in Canada is doing to address the crisis ( ) and what the provincial government of Ontario, Canada (where I live) is doing to address the same ( ).

Note that Ontario Premier Ford had just finished imposing radical austerity on health care in Ontario before the crisis hit. After tearing it apart he’s now injected $1 billion in emergency funds. Health care worker collective agreements have been overridden and the government is begging private industry to start producing health items for hospitals. There aren't even enough masks to go around for doctors and nurses. Ford, by the way, is the late Rob Ford’s brother and is generally regarded as the would-be Trump of the North, though he does this without making offensive racial or gendered comments.

-Northern Johnny

8:52 AM  
Anonymous al-Qa'bong said...

Hello Wafers:

Paris, Schmaris. There's a town in the Pays de Retz, near Nantes, that would be a perfect setting for a Wafer summit: Brains.

While Tulsi and Sarah Barracuda are this month's buffoons-du-jour, we mustn't forget Ronald Reagan, the Ur-buffoon.

10:02 AM  
Anonymous Lack of Coherence said...

"Suicide hotline calls soar as coronavirus spreads. ‘There is a flood coming’"

10:18 AM  
Blogger k_pgh said...

QOV even MSNBC!? Talk about surreal.

Paraphrasing Dr. Bruce Aylward of the World Health Organization: What’s remarkable is how the people of Asian countries responded. They were driven by a sense of collective responsibility for their elderly and their population. The big difference is the nature of their people. For them, it’s not about me as an individual. Rather, it’s about all of us.

Graph: Country By Country: how COVID-19 case trajectories compare (Linear Time on X, Logarithmic Cumulative Confirmed Cases on Y) USA #1!

Source Article: Coronavirus tracked: the latest figures as the pandemic spreads (Currently Last Updated on March 26th)

11:00 AM  
Blogger Michael Burgess said...

Hi Dr. Berman and Wafers:

An interesting video giving some detail to the Netherlands' approach to dealing with coronavirus - developing herd immunity to the virus. Of course it helps that the Netherlands has perhaps the best healthcare system in the EU (according the video).

Contrast this with some Americans' approach to coronavirus, for me, not unexpected or surprising.

11:11 AM  
Blogger jjarden said...

Of Course They DID!! Because this is what Americans DO!!

Morris, as you always correctly point out...Just LOOK at that FACE!!!

11:40 AM  
Blogger Mike Kelly said...

Hi MB and Wafers:

Last post I referred to crows as smart creatures. We have a lot of them here in Northern New York and I love watching them go about their daily lives. Before sunup each day they all fly off together to start their days' work. Some people swear crows know the city's garbage pickup schedule and report to the right neighborhoods each day for maximum productivity. At the end of their workday, they fly home. Like humans, they have rush hour. They stay in the same groves for a few days and then they move on to new locales. I know you like links, Dr. B, so I found one. It's a little shaky, but it sums up my personal feelings about crows:

Elsewhere on the animal front, yesterday we had a moose wander into town. In twenty-five years living up here on the frozen tundra, I've only witnessed this happening two previous times. I have a theory that since the cars and people are sequestered at home for the coronavirus, the animals are having a field day. I say more power to them!

12:51 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


50 yrs from now, when China has occupied the area of the former US, 2 Chinese historians will be sifting thru the rubble of the NY Public Library, and come across my (dust covered) bks. "This guy Belman," one of them will say; "he had it rt: the US collapsed because Americans were just a giant collection of douche bags."

My friends, that day is coming!


12:57 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Wait 24 hrs, then post. Thank you.


1:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

MB and Wafers

I am surprised Trump has not announced his cure for corona.
It is so obvious. Purchase a red MAGA hat, pop it on your
noodle and off you go. Easter would come early and it
would eliminate the need for masks,gowns,sanitizer etc.

At say $50.00 a pop for the hat it would be cheaper than a vaccine
which of course is no longer needed and the other important
result is it would keep the American hustle tradition in good
standing. Purchase of said hat would come from coronavirus
relief package of course and would not be shut down as it would be
an essential service. Such a lack of leadership. It is
not too late.

Just trying to lighten up which is of course a very, very
serious situation. Morris if you consider post in poor taste
please don't post. Thks

1:07 PM  
Anonymous trying to stay sane said...

MB - OK. Thanks.

What Tulsi and Sarah represent, symbolically, it seems to me. is a total lack of depth. Their actions are superficial, frivolous, and meant to entertain. . Nothing there. IF it's weird, popular, and gets lots of hits on YouTube, it's a success. Who needs deeper meaning when your video goes virile? Possibly another symbolic event is the absence of Sleepy Joe (I don't usually repeat Trump's nick-names, but this one is so right - he always looks like he is about to fall asleep). Where is he? Has he given up already?

1:42 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...




1:59 PM  
Blogger Alogon said...

Dr. Berman,

Your story resonates with two scientists who have pointed out how unscientific their colleagues can be.

One is Rupert Sheldrake. His book _The Science Delusion_ (entitled in America _Science Set Free_) questions ten statements that scientists are wont to consider axiomatic, proposing that these statements themselves are subject to empirical testing with the scientific method, and adducing evidence that should challenge taking them for granted.

Another is the late astronomer Halton Arp, with sterling academic credentials and the author of a standard reference source in the field. Then he reported some observations inconsistent with the regnant big-bang theory and ran into trouble. Suddenly he was shunned as a crackpot and deprived of the telescope time that would enable him to continue his research, until at last he found refuge at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Germany. His book _Seeing Red_ provides details.

2:30 PM  
Anonymous Anjin-san said...

For a good analysis of what he stimulus bill will really accomplish watch Dylan Ratigan being interviewed by Jimmy Dore.

Most telling the comment at roughly the nine-minute mark that the United States has revealed itself to be " a rapacious and destructive oligarchy that is funded by the taxpayer at the expense of the taxpayer. And it calls itself a democracy."


3:20 PM  
Anonymous Glans Butterworth, III said...

Curious as to why the article refers to the US empire as a "country?" It was a college of corporations.

What will happen to the custodians and cafeteria workers post 30d? Healthcare?

5:01 PM  
Anonymous Malleus Maleficarum said...

The fat cats in the US are so in-your-face that at some level you gotta admire their chutzpah:

Dick Kovacevich, who ran Wells Fargo & Co. until 2007, wants to see healthy workers below about 55 or so to return to work late next month if the outbreak is under control. “We’ll gradually bring those people back and see what happens. Some of them will get sick, some may even die, I don’t know,” said Kovacevich, who was also the bank’s chairman until 2009.

...“and I don’t care,” he was surely thinking.

5:16 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I have a feeling this guy might be rt. And what if all of this endless Trump-bashing backfires, and the progs are defeated, as a result?


6:41 PM  
Blogger Joe McIlnen said...

Dr. Berman & Wafers,
As fate would have it, someone made a social distance request of me at the supermarket today. It was at the checkout counter where keeping a 6 foot distance is virtually impossible. As I put my groceries on the counter while wearing my plastic surgical gloves, an older than I ( I'm 66 but don't look it) overweight talkative man wearing a U.S. Navy hat asked me kindly to “please keep my distance.” He had been talking to the cashier who was, at the most, 2 feet away from him! Seeing at the time no one was in line in back of me, I promptly without replying to him turned my back to him, left the groceries there, and walked at least 10 feet away from him. I then stood with my arms crossed at the front of a grocery aisle. He said, “I didn't mean to be rude, etc.,” I still didn't reply, kept my arms crossed, and refused to look his way. He obviously got the message, kindly informed another customer who quickly had joined the line ( without admonishing him to keep a safe distance) that I was next, and then walked out of the store. Has America become totally paranoid?

7:13 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Shithouse said...


Tom Hanks Disease and Trump: a winning combo!

7:20 PM  
Anonymous J-B Lully said...

Greetings Wafers,

We are ruled by Dollar Store Despots:

Dr. Fauci is also a hustler. He has had to hustle for every research dollar. Instead of dismissing the idea that there would be any efficacy to the drug touted by Trump he hedged his bets and said the information about the drug was “anecdotal “

Only the most neurotic of Progs can find comfort in his presence at televised readings of the daily palace handout.

9:56 PM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

Update on the NY suicider: neighbors think its 2 do with self-isolation. As if amerikkkans weren't isolated anyway

10:55 PM  
Blogger meangenekaz said...

Hola a los Waferes,

@ Mike Kelly Thanks for the great conversation @ 6ANYWSM and sorry I did not go through Plattsburg either going to or returning from Northern New Hampshire. And thanks for the post and links on crows. I always think back to Don Juan and his crows as omen birds. For me, especially on my last trip to Southeastern Alaska in 2017, but going back to multiple working visits there in the 1990's, it will always be the common raven for me. Here are three good links: /overview

11:09 PM  
Blogger Ordinary Indian said...

Thanks Tom.

Mike, I'm happy you have learnt to observe animal/birds. I grew up in a small semi-urban area, live in a small community outside a relatively small city [till the other day, it's growing :( ] Have grown up watching/observing nature, till do that. Winter meant flocks of parrots coming to my uncle's garden to feed on the sunflower seeds. Watched ducks in the pond for hrs. Followed ants on their trails :)

Now we have bulbuls (nightingales?) and woodpeckers hatching in our garden. On the trees and in the garden we see parrots, robins, barbets, babblers, hoopoes, peacocks, blackhead orioles and many other birds. And of course there are crows. Remember, crows are revengeful.

Enjoy nature. That's the best way to relieve stress and to be happy.

3:46 AM  
Anonymous Portia said...

‘As Hobbes knew, to exercise political rule is to have the power of life and death over citizens. The only reason we would possibly give anyone that power is because we believe it is the price we pay for our collective safety.’ David Runciman
Coronavirus has not suspended politics – it has revealed the nature of power


11:16 AM  
Anonymous cormorant said...

DR Berman,

I think that your comments about this epidemic being overblown need to be addressed.I've noticed a number of voices claiming that this covid 19 outbreak is overblown, and things will die down back to 'normal' soon enough, but they are quite simply wrong. Their claims are feeding into the quite frankly lunatic ideological worldview that has led the likes of Trump, Bolsonaro, and Johnson in the UKU to ignore this virus, dismiss concerns about it as "hysteria" or push the "herd immunity" BS. Many will die because of the actions of these men.
Your contention that the virus has a lifespan of three weeks is also wrong:

"Italy was the first western country to introduce swingeing restrictions on movement after uncovering the outbreak five weeks ago. It has progressively tightened the curbs, banning all non-essential activities until at least next Friday, according to Reuters."

12:28 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I'm not sure anyone knows anything definitively, but the % of the infected who die is on the order of 3 or 4%, and the infected recover in relatively short times. Treatment is typically the same as for a normal flu. It wd probably be a mistake to try to return to normal on Easter, as Trump has suggested, but maybe in 2 or 3 mos...? The problem is that some of the folks who point to the relatively short curve of epidemics are not just Trumpites; they include experts. So you cd be rt, but maybe not. Conflicting assessments are what we currently have, and I doubt we'll know anything w/certainty until the dust settles.


2:36 PM  
Blogger Himanshu said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

The experience of other countries (China, Italy, etc) shows that there is no way that things will be back to normal by Easter in the US. But, in a perverse sort of way Trump might be right about many in the dominant culture committing suicide if the shutdown lasts a few months. After all, the dominant culture does not have an inner life, is not interested in one, cannot stand being in the same room with family members in many cases, owns a lot of guns, etc.


3:49 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I agree, Easter wd be too early. But 2 mos. might be reasonable. Meanwhile, I think the progs hate-Trump campaign can only boost his chances in Nov.


3:56 PM  
Blogger Kanye Cyrus said...


You're wrong. Death rate in France is officially 6%, not 3 or 4%. Stats available below:



4:47 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Am I? Current US stats: infected = 100,392; deaths = 1543; which is 1.5%

World stats: infected = 576,267; deaths = 26,413; which is 4.5%

Who's wrong, exactly?


5:00 PM  
Blogger Sarasvati said...

Here’s a very interesting presentation/discussion AUTONOMY CFR Coronavirus Briefing by Daniel McCarthy:

At 23 min. there’s a reference to the coronavirus being a Suez moment.

Tragedy and Hope:


5:01 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


If you check back, someone referenced an article in the Wash Post that brought up the Suez Moment idea. An idea that I've talked abt for yrs now. And now we have this 2nd reference. I can't help wondering if these folks are rdg this blog. Anyway, no matter. With or w/o a Suez Moment, China is very likely to replace us as the world's hegemon. Virus or no virus, the geopolitical configuration is going to look very different by 2030.


5:52 PM  
Blogger k_pgh said...

Chris Hedges fired along with the rest of the Truthdig staff. Truthdig LLC is being dissolved. Sounds ugly and very American.

7:44 PM  
Blogger Ajay Singh said...

Morris! Many thanks for the fascinating, insightful post. I have to wonder, though, in light of the subject matter and your brief but masterful elucidation of it, why you stopped just short of flat-out saying that the Covid-19 mess unfolding in Merka is the greatest Made-in-China karmic gift to the Empire!

Among the many silver linings of the tragedy is the refreshing revival of socialism in the land of hypercapitalism. It's hilarious to see the most muscular capitalists standing in line for toilet paper—or driving to Mexico to buy it. (Nobody pauses to ask how hard it could be to wipe arses without cutting trees.) It's also a great time to show compassion: News just came in that the EPA (counterintuitively founded by Richard Nixon), citing Saint Corona, announced a sweeping relaxation of pollution rules. It's as if the skies over New York and Los Angeles have suddenly become too serene, causing polluters to suffer.

8:06 PM  
Anonymous Tom Servo said...

Michael Lind has an interesting article on how the coronavirus exposed critical weaknesses of the United States.

8:25 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well...I've said it on a # of occasions, that progs are simply no better than the folks they hope to replace. In the Machiavelli chapter of my bk "Genio", I argue that for Mach, the real categories of political life were not left vs. rt, but ego vs. decency. In my own dealings with a few prog big shots, I discovered that they weren't decent at all; it was all abt ego for them. Lying, backstabbing: hey, no big deal! Truthdig is a gd example of this, apparently.


8:37 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: Why didn't Robt Scheer sign this?

8:42 PM  
Anonymous Francois said...

Truthdig is no more. Now Chris Hedges can dedicate more time to his revolution;)

9:10 PM  
Anonymous door said...

I just wanted to add some facts about the 1918 Flu.Normal flu has a death rate of .1 of one percent.The 1918 flu had a death rate of 2.5 percent 25 times the normal rate.Normal flu deaths are concentrated in very young and very old a v shaped pattern.The 1918 flu had a W pattern very young,people 20 to 40,and old people.The 1918 flu came in two waves one in spring and one in fall.The one in spring was a normal flu 3 days of fever and a one week hangover.The one in fall was the killer which had a very high death rate.The 1918 flu was very contagious you showed signs of the flu within 2 days of exposure.I got this info from Flu by Gina Kolata.Thanks

9:23 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thanks. Always provide a link:


Make no mistake abt it: true to his numerous essays, ol' Chris will rouse the masses, and be on the barricades in no time. This is a guy who walks his talk.


9:37 PM  
Anonymous Jersey said...

Door/Mr Berman

My wife is an epidemiologist who pointed this book out to me just before the virus reached its zenith in the media. Frightening stuff, even if this pandemic ends up being just a tremor -- now we know how ill-equipped we are for the quake.

10:16 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Schmiden marginalized:

10:33 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


How to avoid shaking hands w/people? I suggest preparing a business card, which you then extend to them when they hold out their hand:


[followed by yr fone #]

When they call, wanting to know what you mean, just tell them that you cannot, and will not, tolerate horse manure.



10:39 PM  
Blogger Gunnar said...

God knows what happens when this virus meets refugees, does it mutate and come back in the fall? Not to diminish the deaths but if the majority recover after mild symptoms doesn’t that mean a whole bunch of people will be immune? This alll seems like a dry run for climate action, “We beat the virus now let’s beat climate change!” Who knows where that leads. Disrupt supply chain interfere with internet more Americans will do shit like this (havta admit I’d be tempted)

11:21 PM  
Blogger meangenekaz said...

Hola a los Waferes

Quoth the Raven, Nevermore! Raven, known far and wide as one of the natural world's great tricksters.

You don't see them around Oil City. Out of it's preferred range and too polluted to boot. Being here in Texas does provide a telling backdrop to the comments in this 30-minute podcast of the Houston native, sheltering in NYC with his grandson, a history and political science major : "Dan Rather Believes in the Good Sense of the American People"

4:17 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Then there's this:

7:58 AM  
Blogger Kanye Cyrus said...


Bear in mind though that the US is only at the beginning of the outbreak, and that death rates increase significantly once hospitals are overloaded with patients, therefore not being able to incubate every critically ill patient (what's happening in Italy and Spain right now). Considering you don't have Universal Healthcare in the US unlike in Europe, I suspect that in one month's time, you will also get to 6/7%, potentially more.

Anyway, my point was not to enter into a contest with you over Coronavirus death rates, but to back @Cormorant's point that, even though there are still a lot of unknowns and a lot of missing data, there's enough information to say that it ain't a mere "flu".


8:15 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


It certainly sounded like a contest. Declaring that I'm wrong makes it a contest. In fact, *you* are wrong; the data support my argument, not yours. Impt 4u 2 own up to that, rather than speculate and futurize. As for what's going to happen in the future: you don't know any better than I do, or than anyone does. "I suspect" is not an argument. As for an ordinary flu: apparently, a small % die; most have flu-like symptoms for a wk or so, and the recommended remedy rt now is bed rest, lots of fluids, and Tylenol--what one does when one has an ordinary flu. But sure, in an ordinary flu, no one dies; I'll grant u that. Certainly, this *is* a pandemic.


9:29 AM  
Blogger Ordinary Indian said...

Crises have a way of accelerating social transformation. Once the dust settles on the covid issue, we will be living in a very different world. What will it be like? Many possibilities. Some seem given.

Xi becomes stronger, and china the new hegemon. USofA becomes even more irrelevant. Europe, the remaining bastion of the liberal order, declines, and has less influence on world affairs.

Some areas of uncertainty.
Does the Euro-zone survive? Does Putin become stronger or weaker? Does the far-right capture power in more European states, or do they lose popular appeal? Can a new left re-group? What happens to the international cooperation, the institution of the UN?

Harari has his take on some of these:

In the meantime, Jacon Puliyel, a paediatrician in Delhi, writes this rather sane piece on the hullabaloo around covid-19:
It is really time to wind down the rhetoric.

Your take, wafers?

9:30 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Very impt article, the one by Puliyel. Thank you.


9:49 AM  
Anonymous Malleus Maleficarum said...

Esteemed Dr Berman, absolutely everybody can make mistakes. You're right that we can't possibly know now how serious the pandemic will be, and we won't fully know until the pandemic is over or even after that, if we want to include deaths caused by the economic consequences.

However, about the numerical data you cited, I think it is methodologically flawed:

Am I? Current US stats: infected = 100,392; deaths = 1543; which is 1.5%

World stats: infected = 576,267; deaths = 26,413; which is 4.5%

The problem is that deaths occur a number of days or weeks after people are infected. Therefore the number of deaths today should be divided by the number of infections N days ago (with N still not reliably known), giving a potentially much higher fatality rate, as the growth is exponential at the moment. On the other hand under-reporting of infections could mean the fatality rate is much lower. Again, we don't really know. We know, however, that panic can only make thing worse, but also, that not taking the risk seriously can end up in the heart rending scenes we're seeing in Italy or Spain.

12:04 PM  
Anonymous Nikolas said...

Last June, I went to dinner w/ a friend of a friend with some other buddies. There were 5 of us total. Sometime during the evening, she remarked about how dining w/ friends was "the most fun she'd had all wk"; a statement I found quite sad.

Why are Amerikkkans unhappy? They've got it all, don't they? They have ALL the creature comforts, & so why are they miserable, suicidal, & stressed? Not to mention a nation of addicts.

2:09 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Gee, I can't imagine!


Sorry, I don't accept yr analysis; it is both nebulous and unreliable. All we can really go by are the current stats, and they support my percentages. But we can play the #s game ad nauseam; by now, kinda boring. Bottom line: % of deaths is small, end of story. What it will be next wk, no one knows. I think we have exhausted this discussion.


2:21 PM  
Anonymous cormorant said...

Anyway: a good analysis to the US response to the virus in contrast to S Korea:

3:06 PM  
Anonymous Anjin-san said...

Another fine example of the caring compassion of America's Healthcare System.

3:56 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Only 1 post every 24 hrs, thanks. However, I'm tired of this argument, as already indicated; it really can't have any positive outcome at this pt. Plus, I don't respect yr attempt to weasel out of a simple acknowledgment: you were wrong. What you now want to do is engage in a kind of slippery word-magic, or game-playing, to save face. It's just point-blank dishonest, and rather cowardly.


6:42 PM  
Anonymous rliesky said...

Hey isn't cool the federal govt can just cancel tribes bc they feel like it.

Secretary Of Interior Orders Mashpee Wampanoag Reservation 'Disestablished,' Tribe Says

9:33 PM  
Anonymous Leslye Mckay said...

Apologies I 1st posted this on the last blog entry.

1st things 1st: This is a wonderul lecture, Professor.

To "contribute" to the debate on the virus, it seems like a consensus on this blog is in agreement w/ this essays general tenets:

"Is the Coronavirus as Deadly as They Say?
Current estimates about the Covid-19 fatality rate may be too high by orders of magnitude."

I'm a retired microbiologist, this is my humble take:

No decent virologist or epidemiologist would think all cases (or all deaths) have been identified. No one with sense divides observed deaths by observed cases.

The idea that Covid is parallel or even less severe than seasonal flu is inconsistent with data and with the fact that an epidemic just gathering steam can overwhelm ICU capacity in a rich country like Italy or China. Or Trump's own very intelligent infectious disease specialist Dr Faucci, who just yesterday morning spoke of Covid being "more serious" than the flu. Real criticism of science most welcome. But read it first and don’t assume that all deaths are known and that tiny unrepresentative samples extrapolate.

10:15 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


You cd be rt; but then again, maybe not. Too many variables here for me to be convinced by your observations; and then I've posted the reactions of reputable scientists who disagree w/you. Whom to believe? All indications are that % of deaths is quite low, but how things will play out remains to be seen. In any case, this discussion seems to be endless, and to have infected the blog. I'm hoping we can move on to topics that are less boring, quite honestly. ps: in future, pls make sure yr posts do not exceed the half-pg limit. Thank you.


10:35 PM  
Anonymous Isobel said...

Are we the first wealthy failed state?

11:55 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Sorry, I'm not entertaining any more posts on the virus. Enough, already.


11:59 PM  
Blogger Mike Kelly said...

@meangenekaz and @OrdinaryIndian,

Thank you for your comments re: animal wisdom. I'm going fishing today and I hope I don't catch anything, but it gives me a reason to go outside and stand by a stream watching the water go by.

@Miles and spouse, @meangenekanz, @Dan, @MB I enjoyed 6ANYWSM so much! It was the first time in my life I was able to sit with like-minded people and not be criticized, ostracized or vilified for what I believe. New York in April was absolutely beautiful, and I wandered down to Washington Square Park after the summit and watched the people enjoying that fine spring day. Maybe we can extend our time together next time by spending some time outdoors next summit. Wafers, plan for 7ANYWSM! MB, thanks for keeping this community together. There's no place like it on the whole Internet!

8:58 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Amazing all the oxymorons this thing has produced with hardly anyone seeing the irony; for example, social distancing and distant learning. I visited a friend yesterday and we gave each other a big hug when I left. I suddenly felt human again. Even if and when this ends those in the west will still keep a distance. This is one and perhaps the main reason I intend to move to SE Asia at some point. To paraphrase the song, "Ask a Thai or Cambodian to keep a distance is just impossible." Then what are Gates, Bezos and the other multi-billionaires doing with their loot when minimum wage hospital workers are risking their lives to save their ilk? A Philadelphia billionaire sports owner wanted to cut staff salaries 20% until the sports radio stations campaigned against it. Still, the owner of the Boston Bruins is going ahead cutting salaries. As Freud noted, a person's true personality is revealed through crisis and this pandemic certainly shows the rot in the American soul.

10:04 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Never my claim. If you bothered to read, you'll see that I cite scientists who do have that expertise. I guess you got a doctorate in being a jackass, rt? Or perhaps in being a bitter asshole. Must feel great, eh?


Yeah, that was a nice time. And yr rt, maybe extending the lunch into the whole afternoon, walking down to Washington Square Park or whatever, might be a gd idea. We can figure that out a yr from now, when we start planning for 7ANYWSM. As for this blog, we are now coming up on our 14th anniversary. It seems hard to believe. But together, we established an oasis of folks who are spiritual refugees from a very deluded culture. It took me a long time to realize that the major problem w/America was--Americans! I had lunch yesterday w/another ex-pat who has also been here 13+ years and who wdn't go back for all the tea in China. It was so refreshing to be able to talk to another 'oddball' American who was *not* clueless, not brainwashed, and who saw that the US had no real future. Who are the real oddballs? one wd hafta ask. 329 million people living in a fog.


11:25 AM  
Blogger The Wanderer said...

I am an expat of 10 years living in Ecuador, which is now under medical martial law, so I chose to be stranded in paradise in Oaxaca, Mexico. I remain so grateful for this blog and this virtual community. had me at "I had become a dirty lotus in a cesspool"

1:08 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


You need to know how this blog works. 1st, always write to most recent post; no one reads the older stuff. 2nd, I don't post Unknowns. You need a real handle, e.g. Furnival J. Kakapants.


Oaxaca: a great state. Enjoy. As for this blog: there is none other in the entire blogosphere. Why anyone wd go to another blog is completely beyond me. We are so evolved, that when we shit it comes out marshmallows. We have 171 registered Wafers, and yet last month, something like 80,000 hits. The sheer genius of this blog is slowly beginning to penetrate the American cerebral density (consisting of goose fat).


1:47 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Hustling: that's all there is, really. Think of all the scams that are being generated rt now, organized around the virus, and the fear of it.

Who said that America consisted of degraded buffoons? Oh, me.


2:16 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

MB, Wafers and Lurkers

I hesitate to broach the subject around Truthdig's demise and Chris H but a loss of a channel that provides quality independent journalistic thought is not good. Thankfully the site will stay up and archive material available.

To be clear Chris H's tool kit of ministerial and journalistic
experience have provided the skill to dissect and report many
of the atrocities and hypocrisies around the world including
the USA. He is a well read author. His analysis on certain subjects have been referred to in early archives on this site.
HIs delusional solutions to the crises in The USA is what has caused his fall from grace; a sellout or compromise of integrity
just so future books may be sold perhaps. A hope/solution chapter in a book seem almost mandatory if the subject material
is controversial. No hope/solution chapter no book sales of any great numbers. Perhaps Dr Berman might agree.

I just felt perhaps a baby and bathwater scenario might be at work when considering what Chris has provided in analysis.
I dare say i HOPE he finds a way to put his thoughts out their
going forward and I will skip the solution part.
However Chris may decide take an Elmer Gantry exit:"(1 Corinthians 13:11), "When I was a child, I understood as a child and spoke as a child. When I became a man, I put away childish things." His valise in one hand, Bible in the other, and a smile on his face, Gantry strides away.)

The movie Elmer Gantry might not be a bad fit in these
times if you can find it.

3:17 PM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

Dr. B I loved your story about the sorcerer. For me, even if something makes no sense to me I like to imagine how something could be possible within the framework I currently understand.
One possibility: Supposedly in Quantum physics one particle can have influence over another one across the entire universe. The human body including the brain is made of these subatomic particles. What if an emotional state of a human being has certain configurations of these particles. And, these particles when a person feels something (anger, sadness, happiness, positivity, negativity) has influence over other particles in other areas of existence, universe, the world or whatever. Maybe in a weird way one can put negativity out into the universe. I have no proof, nor am I a scientist. It's just a weird and crazy speculation on my part. And, maybe if the scientist made amends all of these configurations would change. You can call me crazy if you want.

3:28 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I'm sure Hedges will find another venue for his (immoral, imo) repeated call for revolution--this while he sits in a cushy apt. in Manhattan. And also for his plagiarism, well documented several yrs ago by Chris Ketcham. The guy is what he is, and shows no willingness to do any real soul-searching, altho another of his repeated messages is how moral he is(!). But yes, once in a while he generated incisive critiques of American life, and it will be useful to have them archived, so that people (who? the Chinese?) can get some sense of why America failed.

However, there is a larger issue here than the comings and goings of Mr. Hedges, namely, that from a declinist pt of view, Bad Is Gd. Of course, if yr a prog, then the loss of independent journalism is a very bad thing. But if yr a declinist, just the opposite is true; in the same way that having a jackass for a president is a positive thing. The crushing of truth and freedom can only accelerate our collapse, and as it is inevitable anyway, we might as well just get on w/it. I also enjoy the fact that progs, such as Truthdig, behave just as nastily as the folks they claim to oppose; this too will contribute to our national demise.

As you can see, we are coming at events like these from very different places. If it's any consolation 2u, I don't think we have heard the last of Chris Hedges. Altho let's face it: Burt Lancaster he's not.


It's my honest belief that on a quantum level, pastrami calls out to cole slaw with Russian dressing and dill pickles, and a side of chopped liver. See the article by Arkady Durak in the most recent issue of "Atomnaya Energia," entitled "Tolstoy i Pastrami: pervaya lyubov" (Tolstoy and Pastrami: First Love). The quantum data, which include documentation of the vibrations at the 2nd Ave Deli, are irrefutable.


4:06 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Egypt, Sumer, Rome...(check out Toynbee).


4:09 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: Tim: my favorite Burt Lancaster film of all time is "Local Hero." An absolute gem.

4:12 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Nice poem. I too like Larkin. But what does it have to do with the collapse of the American empire (the subject of this blog)?

Dan B.-

Sorry, cdn't run it. We have a half-pg-max rule on this blog.


4:39 PM  

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