April 06, 2006

Selected quotes from Morris Berman and
DARK AGES AMERICA: The Final Phase of Empire

On the American people:
“All in all, the great mass of our countrymen talk, act, and ‘reason’ as though their crania contained chopped liver rather than gray matter.” (p. 295)

On American democracy:
“We retain the rhetoric of liberal democracy, but in concrete terms this supposed democracy gets enacted as the commodity culture, in which freedom of choice really means Wendy’s versus Burger King.” (p. 73)

On George W. Bush:
“His excitement over being able to wield power, to kill people, as a substitute for dealing with his considerable ‘inner demons’ is quite palpable.” (p. 298)

On daily American life:
“...a society whose real motto is not ‘In God We Trust’ but rather...‘What’s in It for Me?”
(p. 239)

“The truth is that things are so far gone now that we don’t even have a public language for...the life of craft and commitment, for the long-lost world of civic responsibility.”
(p. 75)

On 9/11:
“9/11 was a wake-up call that was not understood and that went unheeded. It was America’s last chance to try to pull away from (or, at least, decelerate) a downward trajectory, a chance that was completely blown. A scenario of steady decline is probably all that is left to us at this point; we will not get another chance.” (p. 82)

“The damage of September 11 is nothing compared to the damage we did and are currently doing to ourselves as a result of our reaction to that event. In a bizarre kind of way, Rumsfeld, Perle, Abrams, Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rice, Feith, and their ilk are bin Laden’s comrades in arms.”

On the “Clash of Civilizations”:
“If the United States is not intentionally the enemy of Islamic civilization, it is doing a pretty good job of imitating a nation that is.” (p. 187)

On the “shock and awe” strategy for invading Iraq:
“This kind of sadism always has an odd sexual feel to it; I couldn’t help thinking how the politics of empire had finally rotted out the American soul. When a civilization finally hollows itself out, there is nothing much left for it to do except...get off on the cruelty you can visit on the powerless.” (p. 213)

On terrorism:
“...one could argue that the terrorists are already winning, in that they have managed to push us further along the downward trajectory we were already on.” (p. 10)

On the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank:
This...is where the Jews have wound up, after five thousand years of persecution? All I can feel is a sense of sadness and shame.” (p. 198)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. 2021 Berman, Morris. DARK AGES AMERICA The Final Phase of Empire. New York: Norton, 2006, hardcover with dust jacket, 385pp, new. As my regular customers know I'm a huge fan of Morris Berman. I can honestly say I have read all his books multiple times (except his first book), so rich they are that one reading is not nearly enough. In my estimation he is one of the great thinkers in America and I trust his research more than most. How many people have written pioneering books on Hermeticism, Paganism, the mind-body, and now politics? After stints at Cornell, Rutgers, and Johns Hopkins, Berman has written a book that makes it clear--contrary to the belief of the average American--that this country is in its "final phase" of dissolution, decline, and death, yes death--close at hand--of the American empire and "culture." I didn't need to read this book to know that but I have been regarded as a pessimist by most of my friends and colleagues, those who think industrialism, ipods and the internet are good things. Its un-American to doubt our invincibility, and Berman is being derided and ignored, and the few wimpy quotes from other authors on the dust jacket is testament to the cold shoulder the book is getting. Michael Krasny (that pathetic NPR voice of reason, balance and optimism) was obviously unhappy with the prospect of interviewing such a radical, and the reading I went to at a local book store was sparsely attended, and Berman appeared to be tired and frustrated by this apathy and disbelief. Global warming, nuclear build-ups, (US has 7,000 warheads at last count), the "sixth great die-off " of species according to most scientists, growing illiteracy rates, a pro-war anti-peace media, this is real, but hey, we can make it cause we're Americans and we're "inventive" and "resilient." I say tell that to the homeless kids I work with, who have diabetes and mysterious neurological syndromes, tell that to the polar bears that are drowning in the Arctic and the last red wolf in North America, tell that to the families of the tens of thousands of dead Iraqi women & children, tell that to the future generations (if any) who will have to clean up our filthy mess. Oh yeah, I love Amerika. But unlike my ranting catalog entry here, Berman's book is a careful analysis of the facts (the most detailed to date to my knowledge), and for this the book serves both as a shot in the arm to those who've already figured this out, and a valuable presentation of modern history (starting with Rome, of which Berman makes stellar use) for those who are unclear about what is really going on. $25.95

2. 3938 Berman, Morris. THE TWILIGHT OF AMERICAN CULTURE. NY: Norton, 2000, hardcover, dj, 205pp, new copies. There is culture, and there is Culture. Most people have no idea of either, a small number of thinking souls have culture in their lives, but these people, comfortable in their ignorance, usually have no idea of Culture (Thomas Friedman comes to mind). Here, in one of the most stimulating books I have ever read, Berman makes clear “.. the rubbish that passses for wisdom…” He is one of our greatest living thinkers, author of three of the most brilliant books of our time: The Reenchantment of the World, still one of the single best modern books on alchemy in English, comparable only to Eliade’s and Burckhardt’s; Coming to Our Senses, Body and Spirit in the Hidden History of the West, (how living always in our head permits fascism and ecological apocalypse, with homage to Reich), and Wandering God, a total revision of our understanding or religion, bringing us back to our true roots in nomadism. Of all the books I’ve sold in the last year, it is Twilight that I wish my customers would read. But many will not want to face the truth as so stunningly presented here, that short of a miracle our civilization is dying, but that like the Irish monks that saved civilization last time around, we too can have some small amount of influence and hope by preserving knowledge and wisdom. $23.95

3. 7330 Berman, Morris . WANDERING GOD A Study in Nomadic Spirituality. SUNY 2000, glossy boards, sewn binding, 349pp, a few new copies for the brave, in print at $84.50. This is a landmark book and one of the most challenging and interesting books I've read in the last few years. I've read all Berman's books (including his rather dull first book Social Change and Scientific Organization). This constitutes the third part of his trilogy on the evolution of human consciousness (after The Reenchantment of the World, and Coming to Our Senses). It is a very detailed well thought out historical examination of our cultural roots in nomadic spirituality and the price we have paid for ignoring them. He demolishes some highly cherished fantasies such as a proto-matriarchal "goddess" age and the new-age-isms of Joseph Campbell, with extended examinations of Julian Jaynes, Gimbutas and other major thinkers. $59.95

4. 7336 Berman, Morris. THE REENCHANTMENT OF THE WORLD. Cornell University Press, 1981, cloth & dj, 353pp, 20 B&W plates and 14 figures, notes, and index, fine copy. One of the very best attempts to put onto paper a full meaning of alchemy, rivaling those by Eliade, Burckhardt, Taylor, Read, Evola, Jung, and Fabricius. It is a meaning and understanding that bridges Jungian, laboratory and traditionalist camps and then goes beyond to the realm of "practical mysticism". His researches into medieval mysticism are astounding. The last section, on Batesonian metaphysics are among Berman's most enigmatic writings. Issued simultaneously in paper and cloth by Cornell, the cloth editions are rare, while the paperback is still in print. $150.00

1:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where have you been, Mr Berman? I got the book and enjoyed the ride, but it was like diet coke. Tasted good but less filling on other but related subjects. Americans never did wake up and have a good day unless one were a major investor like landlords and farmers that are the Founders. Behind the curtain that is America is the stench of dead slaves, Indians, scandal and the reign of vice.

Take a look at the concept of the modern corporation. It insults common sense and Christian sense and sensibility. The pope would argue that only humans are in the image of God, have a soul, and are capable of making moral choices. Americans made corporations people. That tells you then and there how we under value Joe Smith and how much more we value Exxon.

The same thing goes for those who rent and those who own property. Follow the connection and you also understand how the race/class game is played out in America from cradle to grave as to who gets what and why.

You see, Mr Berman the real landlords of America never did think much of slaves, women and ordinary Americans and today they still do not. Sure they keep them amused, but who wants them too smart that they revolt or too rich that they refuse to take out the trash. The governing class know that the sheep that is the masses can be managed by fear and a credit card (it gives them the feeling of wealth). Sheep when managed well will vote against their own self interest and will keep other sheep in line if they bahhh.


5:04 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

As another Morris Berman fan, I am so happy to find your blog. I am also a fan of many other writers: Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges, Norman Finkelstein, Jeremy Scahill, Naomi Kline. The difference between these scholars and Morris Berman is that he accounts for culture while it is largely ignored by other authors. This blindness to cultures prevents them from seeing what Berman sees so clearly is that the taken-for-granted interpretive frameworks prevent the "individualism" that the liberal tradition theorizes.

9:56 PM  

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