January 07, 2020

Project X

Waferinos-

As I mentioned earlier, I have been working on a collection of short stories. I have 14 of them now, for a total of about 135 pages. Probably, when I have 50 pages more, I can start approaching publishers. But I work very slowly, so it may take several months before that day arrives. There is much to think about, and edit. The following story is not the best of the 14, but I enjoyed writing it, as in the case of "The Wire Cage Experiment." Hopefully it might give you guys a few laughs.

At age forty-four, with an IQ of 182, Sonia Butterworth was director of the most prestigious neurological institute in America, the Cerebral Investigations Unit (CIU), which was physically housed in the Sam Houston Institute of Technology (SHIT). Sonia was of medium height, fairly attractive, with dark hair and gray-green eyes. She was married to a US senator, Felix J. Butterworth, who was also chair of the Committee on Domestic Intelligence (CDI). At the moment of this writing, she is sitting in her office and staring at the blinking cursor on her computer. The cursor is located next to a top secret research file that Sonia had originally labeled "Project X," but which she now wished to rename and hide in her computer, so that only she had access to it. She finally decided on "Horvath Index," which sounded both boring and innocuous, locked it, and created a password for it: KAKA2020. But in her mind, it would always be Project X.

It must also be stated that the funds available to the CIU were enormous, on the order of a billion dollars. The reason for this was extremely well-hidden: Felix held the purse strings of the CDI and could allocate funding at his discretion. Hence, Project X was awash in money. It was conceived at some point in the late nineties. Data began coming in regarding the intelligence level of the American public that were hard to believe. Something like 20 percent of the population thought the sun revolved around the earth; another 9 percent said they had no idea which revolved around which. 45 percent believed the earth had been visited by extra-terrestrials during the past year; 72 percent rejected the theory of evolution. 86 percent were not able to locate Iraq on a world map, although they were perfectly happy to have the government send troops there to take over and destroy the country. And so on.

There was also anecdotal evidence, such as collected by Jay Leno and other comedians. A man in his early twenties claimed that a tree, located twenty feet away, was a mile away. Female students emerging from classes at the Women's Studies Center at UC Santa Barbara, asked by a man with a clipboard if they would sign a petition opposed to "women's suffrage," were only too happy to oblige. People of all ages had no idea as to the significance of they year 1776; some said we had gained our independence from China. Others identified the Civil War as having occurred in the 1960s. Watching all this, Sonia couldn't figure out if she was looking at stupidity or ignorance; but when Donald Trump, a horse's ass of the first order, was elected president in 2016, she decided to launch Project X. With a billion dollars at her disposal, she figured she could do whatever she wanted.

The project was so extreme, so radical, that it required lots of hush money to keep it under wraps. Between December of 2016 and Trump's reelection in November of 2020, Sonia hired dozens of thugs to kidnap people--just scoop them up off the street at random--and bring them to her lab. These guinea pigs covered the entire spectrum of age, color, race, religion, socioeconomic group, etc. Once in her lab, the victim would be subjected to an fMRI plus a brain biopsy; and during the period in question, Sonia performed these operations on exactly 10,000 Americans. The results were absolutely astounding, though they went a long way toward explaining how a young woman might sit through a class at UCSB on the suffragettes and then sign a petition protesting "women's suffrage," thinking that suffrage meant suffering. Or how a young man might think that twenty feet was equal to a mile.

It turned out that to varying degrees, the 10,000 subjects had excrement in their heads--actual excrement. There was gray matter as well, of course, but in terms of fecal content, the lowest amount was 15 percent, and the highest 65 percent. And if this were true of all 10,000 subjects, what would be the point of going on to victim #10,001? If the sun rises in the East 10,000 days in a row, what do you think it's going to do on day #10,001?

If the US government had no idea what it was doing in Viet Nam, or Afghanistan, or in any of its misguided, self-destructive wars, how could such a population have the resources to evaluate this, let alone protest it? If the water supply of Flint, Michigan, was poisoned, who was going to care? How else could Kim Kardashian, or Donald Trump, be loved and respected by millions, unless the American population had shit for brains? The Horvath Index was a volcano, and Sonia Butterworth was sitting on top of it. And she was, at this point, the only person in the world who knew the contents of this file.

What should she do with it? Should she tell her husband? As Americans go, the shit content of his brain was probably lower than most. But what about the other senators, who voted to acquit Trump? Or the NSA, the FBI, the CIA? The crap content of these people, given their historical and political records, was undoubtedly high. The media? The New York Times was little more than a joke (just read the columns of David Brooks or Thomas Friedman, she thought to herself). How do you take a database showing that the country consisted of buffoons and present it to those very buffoons?

Maybe, she thought, she should leak the file to the Guardian, or Le Monde. But then it would be dismissed as a foreign plot to smear the US. No, the only way was to start with Felix: present the evidence to him, and get his opinion on how she should proceed. That evening, after dinner, she took out the file, which she had printed off of her computer, and handed it to him.

"Felix," she said, "I'm sitting on a land mine, and I don't know what to do about it. Take a look at this file, and tell me what you think." The senator took the file, put on his reading glasses, and slowly read through the data. When he finished, he looked up at his wife. "Jesus," he exclaimed, "this certainly explains a lot. How do you think all that shit got there?"

"I have no idea," Sonia replied, "but I'm not sure that's the most important issue we need to address right now. The crucial issue is, What do I do with this information? With all that shit in their heads, I doubt most Americans would even be able to understand it. What's the point of your taking this info to your colleagues on the CDI if they are basically a bunch of shitheads?"

"Sonia, this is the most explosive bit of data to hit the United States in its entire history. I doubt a Martian invasion, à la H.G. Wells, would be more earth-shaking than this. Maybe we should just bury it."

"Let's take twenty-four hours to think about it," she decided. "By then, we might have some idea as to how to proceed."

* * * * *
The next evening, Sonia announced what she had come up with. "Let 'er rip!" she declared. "Let's e-mail the file to the editor-in-chief of the New York Times, and see what happens. I'd also like to append a note, that if anyone wants a brain biopsy to determine the shit content of his or her cerebrum, they should just show up at my clinic and I'll do the operation free of charge." Felix agreed, so she sent the file the next morning, and waited for the reaction. Would this be included in "All the news that's fit to print?"

Twenty minutes later the phone rang. "Dr. Butterworth? This is Hotair J. Blowhard of the New York Times. Is this file you sent me your idea of a joke?"

"Not at all," she assured him. "What you have in your hand is the result of four years of careful scientific research. In fact, if you want to fly down to Texas and visit my lab, I can show you precisely how these results were obtained."

"I just might do that," said Blowhard. "The more important issue at hand--assuming these data are really real--is what the impact would be on the American public if this material were released."

"You're the media expert," Sonia replied; "you certainly know more about that topic than I do. But I will say this: the most outstanding characteristic of the American people is apathy. We can wage a useless war in Afghanistan for twenty years, have the Washington Post expose it as a complete farce, and the American people don't give a damn. And the excrement content of their brains explains why. So it's an even bet that if this file were made public, there would be no reaction at all."

"Hmm," said Blowhard; "you make a good point. In which case, there really is no risk in releasing the file. For the American public, the news is little more than entertainment--something your data also explain. And I can't imagine too many people showing up at your clinic asking for a free biopsy. But there's another thing that's been on my mind--I suppose I should say, 'shit-filled mind'."

"Yes," interrupted Sonia; "that would be accurate."

"Here it is: have you given any thought as to how to remove excrement from a brain? That could solve a lot of our problems."

"I did, Mr. Blowhard. The problem is that the do-do is not confined to a single place. If it were, we could just remove it with a straw; though I'd hate to be the one sucking on it. But since the poop is randomly dispersed, the straw method would result in extracting gray matter as well; in which case the individual would be just as stupid after the operation as before it."

"So America is doomed, then, is what you're basically saying," said Blowhard.

"Oh, Mr. Blowhard," she responded; "you can't imagine how off-base the 'progressive' New York Times is. To put it bluntly, your entire staff is full of shit. Brooks? Friedman? Give me a break! There is only a tiny handful of writers and political analysts who have been saying, for years now, that the American experiment is over. Why, Andrew Hacker said it in 1970; C. Vann Woodward suggested it in 1953. But they and these other writers have been completely ignored, and my data explain why that is the case. And if the Times began citing their work, or publishing articles as to how and why the game is up, the paper's circulation would drop to zero."

"Well, what the heck," Blowhard exclaimed. "If we're totally screwed, I might as well publish the file. Thank you for your time, Dr. Butterworth. You are probably one of the few courageous scientists left in this country."

"Thank you," replied Sonia, "and have a nice day."

* * * * *
Blowhard put the file, and its depressing conclusions, on the front page of the paper the very next day. Much to his surprise, and Sonia's, the article did not pass unnoticed, as they thought it would. In fact, for the first time in decades, the American people began to show faint signs if intelligence. They flooded the streets, and the most common cry was, "Of course I'm a dummy! I have shit in my head!" Thousands lined up outside Sonia's clinic for biopsies, and she had her staff working around the clock. When the dust finally settled, the Times ran a banner headline:

AMERICA FACES SHITTY FUTURE
The article explained why the excrement could not be removed from people's heads, and that there was, as a result, no way of reversing the downward spiral the US had been on since the greatest shithead in American history, Ronald Reagan, had been elected president. People subsequently went into mourning, but instead of wearing sackcloth and ashes, they hung signs around their necks saying I AM A SHITHEAD. Hard to believe, but the people were finally facing up to the fact that the nation was finished. Progress, of a sort.

The foreign media were delighted. A NATION IN THE TOILET, blared the London Telegraph. MERDE, MERDE, ET MERDE declared Le Monde. TOTAL SCHEISS AUF AMERIKA! exclaimed Die Zeit. And newspapers in China, India, the Arab nations, and actually most of the world, came out with variants of GOOD RIDDANCE! It seems that America hadn't made a whole lot of friends in its relatively short history--the price of exploiting everybody else for your own ends.

The president, of course, denounced the report as "fake news," and ordered a full investigation into its sources of funding; which ended its sources of funding. Much to his surprise, however, the American people rose up as a whole and demanded that Sonia be allowed to continue her work. As one Iowa farmer put it, "For many years I knew I was an idiot, but I never knew why. Now I have a rational explanation for it. The New York Times expose also led to my looking into why the United States is going down the drain, and I've been reading Morris Berman's trilogy on the American empire with great interest. I can't believe how I was running around wearing a MAGA hat, declaring that we must make America great again. The country is finished, and just as well. I'm thinking of moving my entire family to Bulgaria."

One unexpected visitor who showed up at the CIU for a brain biopsy was Sarah Palin. It was no surprise, of course, that the shit content of her brain was over 90 percent. This woke her up. As a result, she and Sonia toured the country together, explaining the results of Sonia's research and telling the crowds that America was at an end. Mass emigration followed in their wake, as millions of Americans left for Canada, Mexico, and the Canary Islands. Hotair J. Blowhard fired David Brooks and Thomas Friedman, instructed Paul Krugman to stop trying to save capitalism, and then left for Antarctica, where, dressed in a tuxedo, he joined a colony of penguins.

Basically, the US imploded. Native Americans, who (it turned out) had almost no excrement in their heads, took over the administration of the country, declaring that there would have to be a complete change of values, from hustling and ignorance to cooperation and intelligence. Eventually, as the country emptied out, it was restored to its pre-Plymouth Rock days. The deposed president was guillotined, and his remains buried at Wounded Knee; although there was a rumor that his head was kept behind, for use as a bowling ball. Sitting Bull's great-great-grandson was elected president; his inaugural address was very short: "If instead of the pilgrims landing on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock had landed on them, America would have turned out much better." He ordered a complete reconstitution of the country along Native American lines.

Felix J. Butterworth, along with all of the other senators and congressmen, was rounded up and shipped out to Sri Lanka, where they were incarcerated and forced to break rocks all day long. (These were life sentences without possibility of parole.) As for Sonia, she took a vow of silence and entered a monastery in Tibet. Shanti was the last word she ever spoke.

* * * * *
(c)Morris Berman, 2020

December 20, 2019

The Real Beneath the Real

Waferinos-

I want to follow up on the article posted by Tia at the end of the last thread, an article called "Marcuse Today," by Ronald Aronson, publ. in 2014. It raises some very important issues regarding what would constitute real social change. Let me, however, begin with an anecdote. In May of 1968 students had taken over the Sorbonne, and public debate went on for two months. A friend of mine, a prof. of French, arrived outside of Paris by plane in May, and went directly to the Sorbonne, where he remained until the student movement collapsed in June. What he told me was this: that for two months he listened to debates about the nature of man, what real change was about, and existential questions of a sort that could never be discussed by Americans because Americans are clueless; they couldn't begin to understand these types of concepts. I call these issues "the real beneath the real."

http://bostonreview.net/books-ideas/ronald-aronson-herbert-marcuse-one-dimensional-man-

The Aronson article makes it clear that Marcuse alone, during the sixties (One-Dimensional Man, 1964), in terms of sociopolitical analysis, was going for the whole ball of wax. He regarded the US as totalitarian because it had colonized the minds of every American. This, writes Aronson, "is wholly compatible with civil rights, a free press, and free elections." My own critique of the Occupy movement (which Aronson, oddly enough, regards somewhat favorably) was that its goal was the redistribution of wealth (hence 1% vs. 99%), rather than the core issue, namely the relations of power. I never saw a single article from the movement on the latter subject. But Aronson sees a deeper layer, even than that, in the Marcusean outlook. As in the case of Aldous Huxley, he is pointing to the "comfortable oppression" under which we "happily" live in a Brave New World. This reality is one that is so global, that the citizenry is unable to think in terms of alternatives, or to even be aware that alternatives might be necessary. Thus the core issue is not civil rights, or a free press, or free elections, or the distribution of wealth, or the relations of power, but the consumer society in which we are all immersed. "The pleasures of consumption," writes Aronson, "absorb political opposition." He doesn't, however, take a stand on the issue of false consciousness vs. Americans eagerly buying into the system, a la the Janis Joplin song--a weakness in the essay. But he emphasizes that there is, today, "no significant opposition to the system as a whole and its way of life." It is this that both Marcuse and Huxley targeted (along with Allen Ginsberg). Radical change, says Aronson, is not merely about alternative politics, but about creating a different sensibility and different values.

But if that is the case, then we have to talk about the consciousness of individual Americans, and how to change that. "How can a movement break with this all-absorbing world to demand and create a better one...And in the name of what?" Aronson asks. But this is where we hit a brick wall, because Americans are not Frenchmen. They can no more hold a May-June debate at the Sorbonne than sprout wings and fly. In political terms, they lack awareness of literally everything. In a word, they are children.

E.M. Forster raised the issue of individual consciousness in his essay "What I Believe," which I discuss in the Twilight book. One can regard the essay as an early manifesto of Waferism, I suppose. Marcuse had no idea of how systemic change might occur; Huxley provided an early reference to the New Monastic Option in suggesting that the dominant culture would remain as is, and that a handful of the alienated would live on the margins of this culture--like Native Americans on reservations (who have different values to this day). I also confront this issue in the chapter on Machiavelli in Genio. My argument is that his biographers all got him wrong, making him one of the most misunderstood individuals in the history of political theory. The bottom line for Machiavelli, the real beneath the real, was our actual day-to-day behavior amd values. Either they were about ego, or about decency; but like Forster, or Marcuse, or Huxley, he had to pose this mental breakthrough as an ideal, because he had no idea as to how a society might get there. Wafers have to live with the fact that decency is its own reward, and that as the whole constellation of capitalism collapses, there might be a different possibility on the other side. In that sense, he, along with these other writers, are utopians to a greater or lesser degree. But what else is there? C. Wright Mills called our present system "crackpot realism," which is where we are today.

Machiavelli died disappointed, but I hardly think his was a wasted life. Might as well go for broke, don't you think?

-mb

December 03, 2019

The Wire Cage Experiment

Wafers-

I've recently been working on a collection of short stories. I've written 5 so far, amounting to about 60 pages. The problem is that to publish them in book form, I need at least 160 pages. Since I write only when I'm inspired, and since I can never predict when inspiration will strike, it could be another year before I pitch the book to a publisher.

I occasionally feel guilty that I don't provide enough entertainment for you guys. Granted, watching the US go down the tubes in the gauchest and most vulgar manner possible, or ridiculing turkeys like Tulsi Gabbard, is very entertaining, but it's of a rather noir variety. So what I'm going to do today is post one of these stories. It's not the best of the lot, and it's also a bit noir, but it has a nice demented flavor to it that I think you guys might enjoy. Here goes:

As a salesman of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, George Walraven enjoyed his job, but in the digital age he was fighting an uphill battle. He liked going door-to-door, talking to people about their lives, and the importance of being well-informed. But most of them didn't want to by the encyclopedia, because they said they could get whatever information they needed online. George immediately pointed out that Britannica had an online paywall; this pitch worked some of the time, but mostly not. Still, he loved the job and didn't want to give it up.

In terms of developing new sales strategies, George was inspired by an episode of Friends, in which an encyclopedia salesman comes to Joey Tribbiani's apartment and tries to sell him a set of encyclopedias. He asks Joey if he ever feels out of it, sitting around with his friends, who are discussing something he knows nothing about. Joey admits this is a frequent occurrence, but says he just can't afford to buy these books. So the salesman asks him how much cash he has on him at the moment; it turns out to be $50. "For $50," he tells Joe, "I can sell you a single volume. What letter would you prefer?" For some reason, Joey picks V. Then follows a rather silly scene in which Joey, sitting around with the Friends, keeps trying to steer the conversation to subjects such as Volcanos, Viet Nam, Vivasection, and other V's.

George loved that episode, and it gave him an idea. In these days of economic hardship, he reasoned, most people simply can't shell out $1,200 for the entire set. But like the salesman on Friends, he could probably get them to buy a single volume. Once he had sold all of the volumes, from A to Z, he figured he might be able to throw an "encyclopedia party," in which each person in attendance represented one letter of the alphabet. And then what? Some kind of party games? He wasn't sure. But he was convinced there was an angle here, one that would enable him to sell more books.

George's wife, a rather attractive blond ten years his junior, was keen on the whole idea, even thinking that if George could sell two sets of A to Z, it might be possible to organize a public competition between the two teams and run it on network TV. It took a few months to make this happen, but finally the show took place: "From A to Z: The War of the Books." Prizes ran from $1,000 to $10,000. First up were the 2 A's. Each person had a buzzer; George's job was to name an A entry, and the person who buzzed first then had to explain the item, say what it was. The two A's were a housewife from Cincinnati, and an insurance salesman from Topeka. The winner would be the first to give ten correct answers.

"What is the Aeneid?" George asked them. Brittany, the housewife, was quick on the draw. "Long poem by Virgil providing a foundation myth for Roman civilization," she said. "Right you are!" exclaimed George. "Next, what is abalone?" Lorenzo, the insurance salesman, pressed the buzzer and declared, "A type of processed meat." The audience was convulsed with laughter. "No," said George; "you're thinking of baloney, which would be a B question. Brittany?" "A type of sea snail, or mollusc," she responded. "OK," said George; "the score is now 2 to 0."

George proceeded to run through Aardvark, Aeolian harp, All Hallows Eve, and so on, until Brittany was the victor with a score of 10-5, racking up winnings of $1,000 (so far). The audience applauded, and she and Lorenzo retired from the stage. The B's were up next, but before that contest could take place, someone in the audience stood up. "Is this game rigged?" he called out.

"Wha?" George exclaimed. "Of course not." "Abalone is processed meat?" said the man. "Are you shitting me? Remember the show Twenty-One, the big scandal? Contestants were fed the correct answers, including Charles Van Doren, a professor at Columbia. People will do anything for money."

"Sir," said George, "you need to sit down. This game is not rigged, and you are completely out of order."

"But that denial is exactly what that earlier generation of execs at NBC said!" he cried. At this point, Security was called in, but the man had apparently come with a bucket of rotten vegetables, which he skillfully deployed against the officers. Somehow, this triggered a mob psychology response, with people choosing up sides: rigged or not rigged. A total melee ensued. Out of nowhere, a man in a Tarzan outfit swung through on a rope, and a woman thrust a Boston cream pie in George's face. "Criminals!" she screamed. "Thugs!"

All hell broke loose. The mob was able to overwhelm the Security guards, in some cases banging their heads against the floor. People picked up on the cry of "Criminals!" and "Thugs!", tore up the seats of the studio, attacked the contestants, and threw volumes of the encyclopedia at each other. The madness lasted for over an hour, at which point everyone stopped, as if on cue, dusted themselves off, and left the building.

"This may not have been such a good idea," George said to his wife, through gobs of Boston cream pie.

Of course, most of the melee was caught by various people on their cell phones, and the footage was used on the late-night news report. The anchor said something like, "A riot was unexpectedly triggered this evening at the opening of an NBC quiz show called 'From A to Z' by a defrocked priest, the Rev. Pierson J. Flanksteak. Rev. Flanksteak, without any evidence, accused the network of rigging the show, which resulted in an outbreak of mob violence. The audience went wild, and the riot went on for over an hour. When later questioned by the police as to why he made the accusation. Rev. Flanksteak said he was out to demonstrate Freud's theory that civilization was but a thin veneer over a massive 'iceberg' of barbarism."

"From A to Z" was subsequently cancelled; instead, all of the networks hosted panel discussions of Freud's theory, what had happened, whether Flanksteak (now sitting in jail) was a lunatic or a genius, and so on. It was all hot air; most of the TV audience, and the media, correctly concluded that these "experts" were fools. George quit his job with Britannica and went on to write a best-selling book, From A to Z: The Riot at NBC. The promotional flyer contained the following passages:

"The Rev. Flanksteak set out to validate Freud's notion that civilization was a shaky cover on top of raw, irrational emotions. He had no evidence that the program was rigged, and in fact, it wasn't. What he actually demonstrated was that the public can be made to go crazy by the use of certain charged words--'rigged' being one of them. 'Post-modern' is another. My own theory is that Americans are badly squeezed by the inexorable disintegration of their way of life, such that when these words are uttered, huge amounts of energy are suddenly released. This is important information for us to have about the fragile condition of the American people. Flanksteak now sits in jail, whereas I think he more correctly deserves to receive the Presidential Medal of Honor.

"I don't think, as a nation, that we can afford to be conducting our daily affairs while sitting on a kind of semantic volcano. What I propose is that we set up controlled experiments on the release of energy. I have consulted with Senator Riggins about this, and we are going to arrange for such an experiment two weeks from today. For this, we need 1,000 volunteers. Interested parties should sign up at the NBC studios as soon as possible."

The signup sheets filled up very quickly. NBC constructed a huge wire cage to house the participants. On the appointed day, they were all frisked for weapons and then locked inside the cage. George stood outside of it with a megaphone. "Is everyone ready?" he called out. "Ready!" came the response. "OK," he said; "here goes:"

FEMINISM!

The people inside the cage went nuts. They began to scream, tear their hair, bite each other, and beat each other up. Many got down on all fours and barked like dogs. It went on for thirty-five minutes, until they ran out of steam. Exhausted, most of them were lying on the floor. Some were bleeding.

"Well done," George called out on the megaphone. "Now let's try another phrase:"

POLITICALLY INCORRECT!

Again, this set off a massive reaction of rage and violence, but since most of these folks were rather tired from the first round, it lasted only twenty minutes this time.

RACISM!
MUSLIMS!
ISRAEL!
DIVERSITY!

George bombarded them with these charged words until there wasn't a person left standing. The medical teams and ambulances that were parked outside now hauled most of the mangled participants off to local hospitals, where hundreds of them spent a week or more in recovery.

As would be expected, George was in high demand on the TV talk shows. The typical first question he was met with was, "Given the disaster of the wire cage experiment, what do you plan to do next?" George's answer was always the same:

"Bob [or Freddie, or Chrystal], this was no disaster. As a pilot project, it was a great success. It revealed the depths of negative energy stored in the American psyche--energy we are going to have to drain, if this country has any future. You know, we are constantly hearing about the need to 'get America back on track'. Well, this is how to do it. Think of it as draining the pus of an infection. If a bunch of words can push the American public right over the edge, then it's safe to say that we are dealing with a whole lotta pus--metaphorical pus, infecting the body politic. Myself, I'm looking forward to Wire Cage Experiment No. 2."

And the rest is history. As the "pus" was drained from the American people, a certain (limited) restoration of sanity settled over the land. "I think it's safe to say," George finally announced, "That we have made America great again."

(c)Morris Berman, 2019

November 19, 2019

Fanny Trollope

Some time ago someone asked if the US was always as bad as it is today, or whether the contemporary condition is something new. An answer comes from Fanny (Frances) Trollope, mother of great English novelist, Anthony Trollope, who visited the US during 1927-31. Her book, Domestic Manners of the Americans, was publ. 1832. She basically regarded the nation as a collection of hustlers and boors, profoundly nasty, and self-deluded. A sample:

"every bee in the hive is actively employed in search of...money; neither art, science, learning, nor pleasure can seduce them from its pursuit."

"there is no charm, no grace in their conversation."

"however meritorious the American character may be, it is not amiable."

"I never saw a population so totally divested of gaiety; there is no trace of this feeling from one end of the Union to the other."

"rude indifference...is so remarkably prevalent in the manners of American children."

"they never have the air of leisure or repose."

"they never amuse themselves--no; and their hearts are not warm...and they have no ease, no forgetfulness of business and of care--no, not for a moment."

"The want of warmth, of interest, of feeling, upon all subjects which do not immediately touch their own concerns, is universal, and has a most paralyzing effect upon conversation."

"The poor of great Britain, whom distress, or a spirit of enterprise tempt to try another land, ought, for many reasons, to repair to Canada; there they would meet co-operation and sympathy, instead of malice, hatred, and all uncharitableness."

[On the American obsession with money:] "This sordid object, for ever before their eyes, must inevitably produce a sordid tone of mind, and worse still, it produces a seared and blunted conscience on all questions of probity."

"[Americans] believe themselves in all sincerity to have surpassed, to be surpassing, and to be about to surpass, the whole earth in the intellectual race. I am aware that not a single word can be said, hinting a different opinion, which will not bring down a transatlantic anathema on my head."

"...what I consider as one of the most remarkable traits in the national character of Americans: namely, their exquisite sensitiveness and soreness respecting everything said or written concerning them....these feelings, if carried to excess, produce a weakness which amounts to imbecility....they wince if a breeze blows over them, unless it be tempered with adulation....The extraordinary features of [this is] the excess of rage into which they lash themselves [if criticized]."

-mb

November 09, 2019

The Chicken Lady Revisited

Well, we never did find out the name of the Chicken Lady, who recently smashed up her car at a Popeye's Restaurant in LA, in an attempt to force her way into the line of more-or-less nutso Americans who have gone into a frenzy over a chicken sandwich across the land. Here's the article, and the video, which might be titled "Douche Bag in Action":

https://la.eater.com/2019/11/7/20953728/woman-destroys-car-drive-thru-popeyes-chicken-sandwich-los-angeles

On one level, this is hustling taken to an extreme; but on another level, it's about a very sad country with very sad, empty people in it, who were betrayed by the American Dream. Chicken Lady really is the US in microcosm. She's just a little crazier. After all, the chicken sandwich frenzy is a national phenomenon, similar to Wal-Mart sales where customers trample each other to death. What I am most aware of is how very different is the America of today from the one of my youth, or even, really, the one of, say, 20 years ago. As the empire collapses, so do the minds of its citizens. In so many of these crazy cases that we have reported on this blog--people calling 911 because of a cheeseburger error at McDonald's or whatever--I would love to interview these folks, along the lines of "What were you thinking?" But I imagine that the reply would be just to stare at me. If there is one country on the planet suffering from an epidemic of brain death, you know which one it is. In the Twilightbook, written nearly 20 years ago, I identified "spiritual death" and severe dumbing down as two factors that were taking the US down the drain. But I never imagined anything like the Chicken Lady, or the kind of demented behavior that has been extensively documented on this blog since it began in 2006. It's like we've entered an alternate reality that has become some sort of norm.

With that in mind, what can it matter if Trumpi is impeached, or even thrown out of office? Or if Biden (Schmiden) or Bernie (Schmernie) get elected? The Chicken Lady is rock-bottom America, and no political administration can possibly fix that. I would suggest that Chicken Lady's smashed up car replace Washington on the $1 bill, so the entire country can see what we're up against; but I don't think that's going to happen.

Poor Chicken Lady.

-mb

October 31, 2019

Cortinas de humo

"When a society is collapsing, all it can really do is beat off"--Horace J. Hardmember IV

It means smokescreens, which is what politics in the US and UK now boil down to. America beat off for 2 years with the Mueller Report--which came to nothing--and is now jerking off with impeachment, which will give us another year of meaningless distraction. It's little more than theater: party lines are so hard these days, that there is abs. no chance Trumpi will be convicted by the Senate (which requires a 2/3 vote). In addition, the impeachment--which probably will happen--can only serve to energize Trumpo's base, and win him the election for a second term. From the viewpoint of a declinist, what could be better? Trumpaloni has done a huge amount of damage since January 2017, and I believe we can look forward to even greater damage during his 2nd term. And then, god willing, he'll cancel the 2024 election and declare himself president for life. OK by me, amigos. So there's nothing to worry about, and only one thing to remember: Brexit, Schmexit. Also: Opa!

-mb