October 17, 2019

Hind Swaraj


For some time now, I have been thinking about doing a book as a follow-up to my "Dual Process" essay (the last one in AWTY), exploring non-socialist alternatives to capitalism, which I see as coming to an end by 2100. My specific interest is in the models proposed by John Ruskin, William Morris, and Mahatma Gandhi--a rather daunting task, in view of the literature available on these three individuals, not to mention the accumulated works on post-industrial society. In addition, I may have been partly scooped by a recent work by John Blewitt:


So who knows? Perhaps I'll do a biography of Tulsi Gabbard instead (source material in her case is a lot more manageable, for some reason). In the meantime, I wanted to share some thoughts on the subject (i.e. Ruskin et al., not Tulsi) as discussed as far back as 1996 by Patrick Brantlinger (Prof. Emeritus at Indiana University). The title of his article is "A Postindustrial Prelude to Postcolonialism." (I hope you all can access it; my own route was via JSTOR, which is available via academic institutions.) His focus, oddly enough, is on Ruskin, Morris, and Gandhi. After working his way through their critiques of industrial society as a horror show, and the alternative models they proposed, he asks whether these models were ever realistic alternatives to more and bigger industrialization, "with its attendant scourges of economic exploitation and environmental degradation." Gandhism, for example, still survives in India, but it was clearly Nehru who carried the day (after Gandhi's death in 1948), with centralization and big technology. Ruskin, Morris, and Gandhi are typically dismissed as utopian thinkers (cf. Morris' novel, News from Nowhere), although this accusation always reminds me of C. Wright Mills' famous characterization of our current economic system as "crackpot realism." In any case, Brantlinger has this to say about the subject:

"No doubt the Utopian imagination has limitations; perhaps it is always romantic, nostalgic, backward-looking. But, as Andre Gorz contends, 'those who propose a fundamentally different society can no longer be condemned in the name of realism. On the contrary, realism now consists of acknowledging that "industrialism" has reached a stage where it can go no further, blocked by obstacles of its own making.' Another perspective on Gandhian anti-industrialism...might ask whether a renewal of pre- or postindustrial village culture may not be a viable economic alternative, and not just for India--an alternative that modernizing nation-states around the globe have buried in the ruins of their relentless pursuit of 'the mirage of modernization.' The idea of such an alternative path--the nonindustrial, nonviolent, decentralized, democratic, communitarian, and economically and ecologically sustainable path that Morris imagined and that Gandhi wanted to follow--may turn out to be the only rational blueprint for survival." {Refs: Andre Gorz, Paths to Paradise, 1985; Boris Kagarlitsky, The Mirage of Modernization, 1995}

We still need Gandhi, Brantlinger goes on to say; we still need Morris and Ruskin. All of them understood "that the most important product of industrialism isn't progress, but the destruction of civilization--that is, the destruction of the very possibility of a social formation in which both justice and beauty prevail."

As one student of sustainability recently put it, "The choice is a sustainable society or no society at all."


September 28, 2019

Dance of the Turkeys

Or maybe I should have titled this post "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." What do we have these days? The Gretification of our egos via T-shirts, coffee mugs, and handkerchiefs; a ton of impeachment crap that will ultimately result in nothing (you know it); some scandal stuff around Biden-Schmiden; more presidential debates, featuring Tulsi Gabbard and Bernie-Schmernie, that will amount to fuck all; and the usual round of massacres, McDonald's shootings, opioid data, and god knows what else; and underneath all of the apparent frenzy a huge sense of ennui, that this is nothing more than theater--a dance of turkeys. All this frenetic activity hides a terrible Void, and it is deeper and deeper into that abyss that we are sliding, slowly but surely, on a daily basis.

But who knows this? Current US population = 329.5 million, and it's not likely that more than 0.5 million understand that the whole show is meaningless; that we are like a ship without a rudder, drifting away into oblivion. For appearance is not reality, as Plato told us millennia ago, and yet 329 million Americans or more take the shadows on the walls of the cave to be real. Should Wafers go door to door, informing the citizenry that what they are witnessing is a crock? Will Mr. John Q. Public rub his chin and say, "Gee, I never thought of that. I'm going to have to rethink my whole life"? Would that be a prudent use of our time? Will Mr. Public make a revolution, or leave the country, or even throw his TV out? Clearly, mass enlightenment is right around the corner.

To arms, Wafers! To arms!


September 19, 2019

Interview with Pacifica Radio, KPFT, Houston


Here's the link. When you get to it, click on Sept. 19 under the list of Past Shows:




September 17, 2019


Kavanaugh, Netanyahu, Bolti...the dreck mounts like a tidal wave. Wafers, the truly great among us, are called upon to monitor the mass suicide. In this thread, we shall see that they are up to the task.


September 07, 2019


One of the most iconic American films is Shane, starring Alan Ladd, which came out in 1953. I remember seeing it around that time, or maybe shortly after, although I cannot now recall what I thought of it at my tender age. Oddly enough, I ran across a copy of the book on which it is based in a cafe in Mexico City a few days ago, and read the text for the first time. I don't know how faithfully the film follows the novel--66 years later it's hard for me to remember much of the details--but I think the basic narrative is the same: a quiet, rugged, handsome cowboy comes into town, rids it of the bad guys, and then rides off into the sunset.

I call the story "iconic" because it seems to encapsulate key elements of the American value system. First, the basic plot line--the story of America, as it were: Good Conquers Evil. There is no complexity here, no character development; most of the dramatis personae are cardboard figures, and indeed, the tale is told from the viewpoint of a young boy.

Second, Shane is the ultimate loner. Nothing is revealed of his past, and nothing is said about who he actually is. He is self-contained and silent: the rock. He comes out of nowhere, does what he has to do, and then disappears into nowhere. He has no family or community ties, and doesn't really want any. He offers support to the boy's parents, but he himself depends on no one. He is described in almost animal terms: alert, powerful, always ready for action. Shane represents the radical individualism of the American West, the ultimate self-made man.

Third, no one in the story has any intellectual interests whatsoever. No one reads, no one owns a book, and no one has any interest in the world around them beyond their immediate physical environment.

What the narrative tells the American reader or filmgoer is that this is what a true hero consists of. The boy is starstruck by Shane; he wants to grow up to be just like him. I imagine films with John Wayne or Clint Eastwood have had a similar impact on the American psyche. But exactly what is it that is being idealized? Shane might as well have landed from the moon. He is a one-dimensional character, bereft of all human ties. His horse and his gun are apparently the only serious attachments in his life. He's a kind of atom, floating in interstellar space--an ideal millions of Americans aspire to. From inside the narrative, Shaneworld is dignified, heroic (and very masculine). Looking at if from the outside, however, it comes off as a species of insanity--alienation taken to its logical conclusion.

Joe Bageant used to say that Americans lived in a kind of hologram. I have, on a number of occasions, likened American life to a sphere lined with mirrors, such that American values are constantly reflected back, and where no light (or air) from the outside ever gets in. Shaneworld is very much like that, and in the end it can only suffocate, and implode (which is what is going on today). For this America--our America--is a mythological construct, and very few of its citizens manage to get beyond the myth, which is essentially a form of (very successful) indoctrination. Shane is probably the myth in its purest form.

"Don't go, Shane, don't go!" the boy cries at the end of the film. But Shane goes. He has, in effect, been apotheosized as a god. To stay, after all, would have been human.

(c)Morris Berman, 2019

September 06, 2019


We are imploding on a daily basis. It actually has more to do with what America is, than with Trumpaloney. Altho I love Trumpaloney, and want him to keep doing what he's doing. Other than that, let's all remember that this is the only blog that deals with Reality. Everything else is a thick syrup of warm dog poopy.