June 01, 2008

Let's Get Real

Dear Friends,

I don't usually post other people's work on this website, but I thought this article by John Pilger, the British journalist, on Barack Obama was too important to pass up, especially in view of the fact that most Americans have not read "Dark Ages America" and would hate it if they did. (I encourage you to cut, paste, and circulate this essay.) For those of you who did read it, you may remember I said that it was virtually impossible to get elected president if you did not support corporate America's agenda and the national security state. The following essay strikes me as being an important antidote to the naive belief that Mr. Obama somehow represents a radical alternative to the status quo, or that the November election represents some sort of watershed in American history.

Published on Saturday, May 31, 2008 by The New Statesman (UK)

After Bobby Kennedy (There Was Barack Obama)
by John Pilger

In this season of 1968 nostalgia, one anniversary illuminates today. It is the rise and fall of Robert Kennedy, who would have been elected president of the United States had he not been assassinated in June 1968. Having travelled with Kennedy up to the moment of his shooting at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on 5 June, I heard The Speech many times. He would “return government to the people” and bestow “dignity and justice” on the oppressed. “As Bernard Shaw once said,” he would say, “‘Most men look at things as they are and wonder why. I dream of things that never were and ask: Why not?’” That was the signal to run back to the bus. It was fun until a hail of bullets passed over our shoulders.

Kennedy’s campaign is a model for Barack Obama. Like Obama, he was a senator with no achievements to his name. Like Obama, he raised the expectations of young people and minorities. Like Obama, he promised to end an unpopular war, not because he opposed the war’s conquest of other people’s land and resources, but because it was “unwinnable”.

Should Obama beat John McCain to the White House in November, it will be liberalism’s last fling. In the United States and Britain, liberalism as a war-making, divisive ideology is once again being used to destroy liberalism as a reality. A great many people understand this, as the hatred of Blair and new Labour attest, but many are disoriented and eager for “leadership” and basic social democracy. In the US, where unrelenting propaganda about American democratic uniqueness disguises a corporate system based on extremes of wealth and privilege, liberalism as expressed through the Democratic Party has played a crucial, compliant role.

In 1968, Robert Kennedy sought to rescue the party and his own ambitions from the threat of real change that came from an alliance of the civil rights campaign and the anti-war movement then commanding the streets of the main cities, and which Martin Luther King had drawn together until he was assassinated in April that year. Kennedy had supported the war in Vietnam and continued to support it in private, but this was skilfully suppressed as he competed against the maverick Eugene McCarthy, whose surprise win in the New Hampshire primary on an anti-war ticket had forced President Lyndon Johnson to abandon the idea of another term. Using the memory of his martyred brother, Kennedy assiduously exploited the electoral power of delusion among people hungry for politics that represented them, not the rich.

“These people love you,” I said to him as we left Calexico, California, where the immigrant population lived in abject poverty and people came like a great wave and swept him out of his car, his hands fastened to their lips.

“Yes, yes, sure they love me,” he replied. “I love them!” I asked him how exactly he would lift them out of poverty: just what was his political philosophy? “Philosophy? Well, it’s based on a faith in this country and I believe that many Americans have lost this faith and I want to give it back to them, because we are the last and the best hope of the world, as Thomas Jefferson said.”

“That’s what you say in your speech. Surely the question is: How?”

“How . . . by charting a new direction for America.”

The vacuities are familiar. Obama is his echo. Like Kennedy, Obama may well “chart a new direction for America” in specious, media-honed language, but in reality he will secure, like every president, the best damned democracy money can buy.

Embarrassing Truth

As their contest for the White House draws closer, watch how, regardless of the inevitable personal smears, Obama and McCain draw nearer to each other. They already concur on America’s divine right to control all before it. “We lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good,” said Obama. “We must lead by building a 21st-century military . . . to advance the security of all people [emphasis added].” McCain agrees. Obama says in pursuing “terrorists” he would attack Pakistan. McCain wouldn’t quarrel.

Both candidates have paid ritual obeisance to the regime in Tel Aviv, unquestioning support for which defines all presidential ambition. In opposing a UN Security Council resolution implying criticism of Israel’s starvation of the people of Gaza, Obama was ahead of both McCain and Hillary Clinton. In January, pressured by the Israel lobby, he massaged a statement that “nobody has suffered more than the Palestinian people” to now read: “Nobody has suffered more than the Palestinian people from the failure of the Palestinian leadership to recognise Israel [emphasis added].” Such is his concern for the victims of the longest, illegal military occupation of modern times. Like all the candidates, Obama has furthered Israeli/Bush fictions about Iran, whose regime, he says absurdly, “is a threat to all of us”.

On the war in Iraq, Obama the dove and McCain the hawk are almost united. McCain now says he wants US troops to leave in five years (instead of “100 years”, his earlier option). Obama has now “reserved the right” to change his pledge to get troops out next year. “I will listen to our commanders on the ground,” he now says, echoing Bush. His adviser on Iraq, Colin Kahl, says the US should maintain up to 80,000 troops in Iraq until 2010. Like McCain, Obama has voted repeatedly in the Senate to support Bush’s demands for funding of the occupation of Iraq; and he has called for more troops to be sent to Afghanistan. His senior advisers embrace McCain’s proposal for an aggressive “league of democracies”, led by the United States, to circumvent the United Nations.

Amusingly, both have denounced their “preachers” for speaking out. Whereas McCain’s man of God praised Hitler, in the fashion of lunatic white holy-rollers, Obama’s man, Jeremiah Wright, spoke an embarrassing truth. He said that the attacks of 11 September 2001 had taken place as a consequence of the violence of US power across the world. The media demanded that Obama disown Wright and swear an oath of loyalty to the Bush lie that “terrorists attacked America because they hate our freedoms”. So he did. The conflict in the Middle East, said Obama, was rooted not “primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel”, but in “the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam”. Journalists applauded. Islamophobia is a liberal speciality.

The American media love both Obama and McCain. Reminiscent of mating calls by Guardian writers to Blair more than a decade ago, Jann Wenner, founder of the liberal Rolling Stone, wrote: “There is a sense of dignity, even majesty, about him, and underneath that ease lies a resolute discipline . . . Like Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama challenges America to rise up, to do what so many of us long to do: to summon ‘the better angels of our nature’.” At the liberal New Republic, Charles Lane confessed: “I know it shouldn’t be happening, but it is. I’m falling for John McCain.” His colleague Michael Lewis had gone further. His feelings for McCain, he wrote, were like “the war that must occur inside a 14-year-old boy who discovers he is more sexually attracted to boys than to girls”.

The objects of these uncontrollable passions are as one in their support for America’s true deity, its corporate oligarchs. Despite claiming that his campaign wealth comes from small individual donors, Obama is backed by the biggest Wall Street firms: Goldman Sachs, UBS AG, Lehman Brothers, J P Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse, as well as the huge hedge fund Citadel Investment Group. “Seven of the Obama campaign’s top 14 donors,” wrote the investigator Pam Martens, “consisted of officers and employees of the same Wall Street firms charged time and again with looting the public and newly implicated in originating and/or bundling fraudulently made mortgages.” A report by United for a Fair Economy, a non-profit group, estimates the total loss to poor Americans of colour who took out sub-prime loans as being between $164bn and $213bn: the greatest loss of wealth ever recorded for people of colour in the United States. “Washington lobbyists haven’t funded my campaign,” said Obama in January, “they won’t run my White House and they will not drown out the voices of working Americans when I am president.” According to files held by the Centre for Responsive Politics, the top five contributors to the Obama campaign are registered corporate lobbyists.

What is Obama’s attraction to big business? Precisely the same as Robert Kennedy’s. By offering a “new”, young and apparently progressive face of the Democratic Party - with the bonus of being a member of the black elite - he can blunt and divert real opposition. That was Colin Powell’s role as Bush’s secretary of state. An Obama victory will bring intense pressure on the US anti-war and social justice movements to accept a Democratic administration for all its faults. If that happens, domestic resistance to rapacious America will fall silent.

Piracies and Dangers

America’s war on Iran has already begun. In December, Bush secretly authorised support for two guerrilla armies inside Iran, one of which, the military arm of Mujahedin-e Khalq, is described by the state department as terrorist. The US is also engaged in attacks or subversion against Somalia, Lebanon, Syria, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Bolivia and Venezuela. A new military command, Africom, is being set up to fight proxy wars for control of Africa’s oil and other riches. With US missiles soon to be stationed provocatively on Russia’s borders, the Cold War is back. None of these piracies and dangers has raised a whisper in the presidential campaign, not least from its great liberal hope.

Moreover, none of the candidates represents so-called mainstream America. In poll after poll, voters make clear that they want the normal decencies of jobs, proper housing and health care. They want their troops out of Iraq and the Israelis to live in peace with their Palestinian neighbours. This is a remarkable testimony, given the daily brainwashing of ordinary Americans in almost everything they watch and read.

On this side of the Atlantic, a deeply cynical electorate watches British liberalism’s equivalent last fling. Most of the “philosophy” of new Labour was borrowed wholesale from the US. Bill Clinton and Tony Blair were interchangeable. Both were hostile to traditionalists in their parties who might question the corporate-speak of their class-based economic policies and their relish for colonial conquests. Now the British find themselves spectators to the rise of new Tory, distinguishable from Blair’s new Labour only in the personality of its leader, a former corporate public relations man who presents himself as Tonier than thou. We all deserve better.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sorry that this is not in response to this article. I just saw the PBS program, "Declining by Degrees." I felt sick to my stomach after the program. Of course I knew about college basketball coaches getting paid more than the professors, but it just makes everything sink in more. This country is really gone. The president of one large college ordered his professors not to flunk anyone. He wanted them to have high retention rates. Higher retention = higher money. This is all so corrupt over here. Higher education in America is just a scandal. It's all about money and the students as customers. I just feel shell shocked right now, and I just had to share this with all of you. This really is the story of the century, but PBS has a limited audience, unfortunately. All of you must see this show. Mr. Berman, were you aware of how far gone our college system is? Yuck!
Europe, or even Canada is looking better by the minute, the second..Better to be a cab driver in a healthy culture than a rich man in a dying one.


11:36 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Anon.,

That rings a bell...I seem to remember something about that program just a few years ago. John Merrow interviewed me for the Twilight book a few years before that, incidentally, and really took issue with what I was arguing. Guess reality finally brought him around.

I tell you, I get a steady trickle of e-mail messages from high school teachers and college profs, telling me how useless their lives are, how incredibly ignorant their students are (e.g. they don't know words such as "hierarchy"), and how anti-intellectual these young people are (e.g., they get angry at you for using "big words" like "hierarchy"). How do you tell these kids that the American corporate agenda has turned them into little more than clowns? Universities are now like the Church in the Middle Ages--selling indulgences. Saving souls is certainly out of the question.

And this is another reason why it doesn't matter who gets elected in November: the next president will be a funeral director, presiding over the death of the nation; nothing more. All 3 candidates are in bed with huge corporate sponsors, and it is their agenda that must be honored. Can any of them bail out an economy that is going down the tubes, or an educational system that already has? Not likely.

Thank you for writing.


12:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elections in the US have turned into a farce. For the last several months all three of them have shown amazing talent for never saying a discouraging word to any special interest group. When they speak to Jewish-Americans they love everything about Isreal and it's policies, when they talk to Cuban-Americans they hate everything about Cuba and their policies, when they talk to AARP voters they reassure them SS will never crash and they can have all the free, expensive drugs they want (a four trillion dollar debt to our children and a BIG payday to pharmacueticals)when they talk to NRA they agree that they should be able to shoot at will, and on and on and on. Of course, that's all worked in inbetween kissing up to the really big money to finance ridiculously expensive campaigns. A candidate apparently can't even get the nomination if they won't play a starring role espousing everyone's agenda. Imagine the shriek if even one of them had voiced a few sobering realities--well, I guess you can imagine what that shriek sounds like. You heard it when DAA was published. I don't think the problem is if Obama or Kennedy are (or were) sincere in their desire to make life better for the poorest Americans---the problem seems to me to be if they can take the heat to confront corporations, special interests and all the rest to make decisions that will be unpopular to some but be in the best interest of the country. Personally, I don't think it's possible and I wish it was.

9:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Berman,

You were right about America. The show, "Declining by Degrees" was apocalyptic. No one watching that show can deny that we aren't going down. If John Merrow attacked you for "Twilight", he sure has changed. He knows that China and India will knock us out. In fact he says something like that at the end. I urge all of you to see that show. If the head is dead, the body will follow. It is sad. America just can't compete in the era of globalization. Our beloved "Killer Capitalism" will gobble us up as well. We don't do anything that other countries can't do better. Being a good b.s'er and having a fake smile will only get you so far. How can Obama change a whole faulty culture? How can he make kids want to work and do their homework? "Change!" Mr. Berman, thank you for confirming what many of us had been feeling and sensing for years. For a lot of us isolated in the wilderness, this blog and your books have been a sense of comfort, a flame in the darkness.

John in Chicago

9:05 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Just want to thank you guys for writing in again. I think it was Gregory Bateson, years ago, who said that although it was not possible to stop lemmings from running off a cliff, it was perhaps valuable (how, he never specified) to have just a (very)few lemmings stand on the sidelines, wonder amazingly at the mass stupidity, and point and say, "Look, look what they're doing!"

Onward and Downward!


10:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whether it's Declining by Degrees or collapsing in stages, lots of us see it happening around us (and a few of us within us). Young people sense that the world they will experience will have few of the lingering advantages those of us in middle age and beyond have enjoyed, whether they be standard of living, cohesive community, or merely someone to talk to who gets it. So it's no surprise that many are wondering "why bother?" to learn, to earn, to contribute, to strive. Diatribes and condemnation don't supply motivation; they're disincentives. So even if we recognize and admit that the U.S. will succumb soon to an awful, violent collapse, what sort of ethical response (as opposed to continued hand wringing) is there to the question "why bother?"

11:33 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Et tu, Brute?

Well, you make a good point, but keep in mind that Rome wasn't built in a day and didn't collapse in one either. I think the disintegration of the US--with the possible exception of an economic crash at some pt during the next decade--will proceed on a daily basis; which is what we are seeing around us. As in the case of Rome (or England, for that matter), one day was pretty much like the next. It's only after enough time passes that the nation can look back and say, Wow, we really are finished! Personally, I think that time is now, but others may feel like they need more "handwriting on the wall."

"Why bother?" can be an ethical response in the sense of throwing our situation into stark relief. I'm personally proud of DAA for not pulling a rabbit out of a hat at the last minute and promising my readers that things will improve. Many books do that, these days, and I understand why; but it amounts to little more than praying for the tooth fairy. In the case of young people who write and ask me about their lives, what they should do, my honest response, and what I feel is ethical at this point in history, is to tell them to emigrate. The US isn't suddenly going to become smart again, with an engaged and vibrant middle class; it will stop buying hummers only because of gas prices, not because of their vulgarity, or out of environmental concern; it cannot stave off the erosion of the dollar; it will not reject the national security state, and the corporate agenda that runs everything; it isn't willing to provide any sort of social safety net, and the days of Social Security and Medicare are clearly numbered--etc. It will obey the laws of history: an empire on its last legs, a sad and violent war machine. "Meaning" has left us, in the Hegelian sense; I think young people would do well to seek their fortunes elsewhere. No particular individual can alter this trajectory, and as John Pilger documents very well, Obama is little more than an image, an empty promise. Sad end to a great experiment, when you reflect on the last 230 years.


8:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Berman,

I have long been a fan of your work. Used "Coming to Our Senses" in my undergraduate thesis work in fact in the early 90's. Have enjoyed all you have produced since and believe you present us with some hardy and chewy intellectual brain gum over the state of America. While I tend to agree with you as to the general direction some part of me, delusional or otherwise, does hold out some smattering of hope.

I am not quite so negative on an Obama candidacy or administration simply on the fact of what he could potentially represent symbolically - which is really outside of his hands. This is equally true of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Kennedy, Reagan, etc. Figures such as these have a mythos created around them that is not so easily controlled and can be seen as unleashing subteranean forces in the culture which springs them. Maybe these can be co-opted, maybe not.

I do hold out some hope for a generational sea change that might blunt this downward spiral. I am reminded of an old Japanese samurai story saying that stated: "Everyone says that no masters of the arts will appear as the world comes to an end. This is something that I cannot claim to understand. Plants such as peonies, azaleas and camellias will be able to produce beautiful flowers, end of the world or not. If men would give some thought to this fact, they would understand. And if people took notice of the masters of even these times, they would be able to say that there are masters in the various arts. But people become imbued with the idea that the world has come to an end and no longer put forth any effort. This is a shame. There is no fault in the times."

Perhaps their are those in this younger generation who can ride the forces that create this groundswell of support that an Obama figure stirs and put forth some effort to get us back to our constitutional principles regardless of the flaws of whoever sits on top.

Brian D.

11:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

re: Obama. Did I vote for him/well vote for him? Yes. Do I think he's a breath of fresh air? Yeah, esp given what we're used to. Do I think he's the messiah and really going to turn things around? Nah.

All this stuff as written in the article is in a lot of ways, not a huge suprise (not to mention yesterdays 'we support Iseral' etc etc). Why? Because he might actually become president. What 'change' really amounts to here is simply just an adjustment of the narrow status quo. I mean, he'll be better than Bush by far and I would say better than Hillary or McCain, and he might make certian things better. But there are things that he as president cannot change and plenty he will not change.

The same consumeristic/asinine 'culture' we have well still be here, so well coperate power, so well the homocide and just the everyday insanity of life in modern America. No matter who wins, I'm still getting the hell out of here, because so much well remain the same.

The canidates that always intrigued me the most were the ones with the least chance...by far the least. People like Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel and even Ron Paul. Were they to become president, America could essentially become a different country overnight...the paradox is however, we would essentially have to be that different country already for canidates like those to even get elected in the first place. The vast majority of Americans do not for example, have the least desire to get rid of America-as-a-superpower(empire). Again when it comes to "change" politcally/socially in the US, it's more about an adjustment in the status quo than anything.

As far as college/uni here...yeah it's a rip off. A huge RIP OFF esp when one see's how it works in other countries. I'm getting set up to do the rest of my Uni in the UK where it isn't such a huge %$@& over and their a bit more humane about paying for it all.

And yes, the kids are getting dumber. One girl in my geo class was going to report the prof to the dean because "she was so negative...I mean we live in the freest country in the world and people have fought for that...and shes always finding something to complain about?".

Really, I just give up.


10:28 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Gavin,

I would say, "Don't just give up; move on!"--but you seem to have figured that out already. You also seem to have noticed that if you just look around at "normal" behavior in the US, it's hard not to conclude there's an awful lot of brain damage that has taken place.

Some radio host--not hostile, I hasten to add--asked me a few months ago what I would do if I were president. I told him, "probably get assassinated within 48 hrs of being sworn in."

Thanks again for writing, and good luck in the UK.


12:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mister Morris Berman,

I must say, lately I've been given quite a wake up call. I bought your book, Twilight of American Culture, quite some time ago, but I only recently got around to picking it up and reading it. Once I started, I just could not stop. I read it within 24 hours, which just doesn't happen for me.

The truth is that I, like so many other Americans, do not read very often. I am trying to remedy this but it is difficult; sometimes I start to believe that I'm just as stupid as the rest of America. The last book I read took me some time and I didn’t really get it. I'm young, which could explain it, but I am smarter than a lot of the people I run into. I just graduated high school, and let me tell you, that was unpleasant. It was a private school so the teachers there cared about teaching more than the teachers at public would, and one in particular helped me to think more rationally about life in America. My economics teacher would often talk about many of the things I read in your book. The fall of Rome comparison was one topic of which he often talked.

Around the time I read your book, the media had been brought to my attention. A comment about how television execs are trying to get people to tune in to their programming and mentally “tune out” was actually spoken aloud on a television program I occasionally watch. My friends and I talked about how commercials were always ten times louder than the program itself. And a film on Edward R. Murrow, in which he speaks of the dangers of television at the RTNDA Convention. And I’m starting to realize that television is a big problem. I do enjoy some programs but my life is not dependant upon it. Your book also pointed out something that I had thought about a year ago. The parallels between modern life and the book Fahrenheit 451, which I read last year, was the subject of many discussions between my brother and myself, citing reality television as a prime example: American Idols and Gladiators.

Another thing about your book that really got me thinking was your evaluation of universities. I am going on to college, and now I’m starting to wonder if it’s even worth it if the teachers don’t teach, when what I crave is learning. I can’t give up because there is so much to learn, but I’m just worried that I won’t get around to learning it.

And if that’s not enough, this year I have the opportunity to choose the next president. For a while, I supported Obama; I was caught up in the fervor of hope. Then my brother and I found another candidate who offered the truth. I was lucky to be able to caucus for him before he dropped out with 2% of the Iowa vote; we scrounged up a whole delegate. He was telling the people what they needed to hear; they were not very interested. But then I threw my support from Biden to Obama because it seemed like the logical thing to do. And this article is just something that I didn’t expect, but it’s not surprising.

I know that change is impossible; I know that America (and maybe the whole world) is doomed. I’m basically hoping it’s not too late for me.

~The Lunatic

7:16 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Alone,

Well, I guess it's time for you to read the sequel, "Dark Ages America." That will polish you off totally!

Actually, if you are wondering if you are as stupid as the rest of America, you probably aren't. But walking around in a sea of half-wits can't be a whole lot of fun, I know.

As for Murrow, keep in mind his remark of nearly 60 yrs ago: "A nation of sheep creates a government of wolves." As I point out in the Dark Ages book, the wolves are the supporters of the national security state, and their corporate affiliates. Anyone who believes Obama doesn't know where his bread is buttered is completely delusional; which means at least 98% of the population. Your candidate of choice was probably someone like Dennis Kucinich: tell the truth, and you'll receive .00001% of the vote.

Now let's talk about college. Any chance you could study in Europe? Not that there aren't a few good schools, and good profs, left in the US; but because of a whole series of historical factors involving the corporatization of the university, and the commodification of education, that's about it--i.e., a few. If there's anyway you can study abroad, I strongly suggest you do it. Chances are, it will also give you some perspective on the US. Yes, you are correct: the US is doomed. But not the rest of the world, and you don't have to be part of the American collapse. There's a whole world out there, my friend; the US is less than 5% of the world's population, and is becoming less and less important on the world stage every day. Honestly, the best advice I can give you is to broaden your horizons, and hit the road. I very much doubt you'll regret it.

No, it's not too late for you. Just make sure to take your life seriously (it's the only one you have), and listen to your gut.

Thanks again for writing-


8:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Declining by Degrees" was spot-on. I wasted my money and time at a large state university with a respected name. There were a few rigorous programs (professional programs--big surprise!) but everything else was a total wash (my course of study included.) I actually cried when I saw the students interacting in the small class at Amherst.

Pilger is right too. We'll see hope be a lot less audacious next January. I noticed that BO is already advocating another round of economic stimulus checks. If his idea of hope is a government check in every mailbox, it's high time for me to look for a new place to live. Any suggestions as to where a couple of ex-pats might raise a couple of decent kids?


11:08 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Outta,

Glad to hear you're hitting the road. As for where, the whole world beckons. Depends on your familiarity with languages, or the one you might wish to learn. Europe, South America--lots of interesting places to learn, grow, and at least get partly free of the US corporate-commercial ethos. Life should be about craft and meaning, and there are still ways to make that happen--abroad. Go for it!

And let me know how it turns out-


3:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you alredy have a bacholors degree, have you ever thought of teaching english as a second language (TEFL)? Thats what I intend to do, and it seems like a good way to be able to find a way and means of living almost anywhere in the world (and not having to compete with the locals as they often look for native englisch speakers in this case).

From what I understand, you can have a bacholors degree in almost anything and still go for this, you just have to sign up with a program that teaches you how to teach englisch etc etc.

I would say look into it.


10:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the by, forgot to mention...look into New Zealand, Austrailia or Canada also. From what I understand, they have a situation of more jobs than people, so they may be a bit easier to get into than the EU.

Also, the book Getting Out by Mark Ehrman is a basic but good primer to give you ideas and tips.


10:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check out Ben Steins video-lecture below: "How not to ruin your life" (http://fora.tv):


This nice guy is really a prime example of the inability that most americans have with connecting the dots. Even the more educated apparently.

He starts of by heavily downplaying any problems that faces US. Then about 17 minutes into the lecture is shifts 180 degrees, and now talks about "the really giant problems; economically and morally" - giving several soberingly provoking examples. After that hes talking about his god relations with his father for a while - and in the Q/A-section, he finally wraps it all up by, again; downplaying any serious problems with hes country and culture.

Infact its an "amazing country", "A gift from God", "everybody lives better in America"; "Its paradise", and so on.

4:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your responses.

My parents were back-to-the-landers who sought a better quality of life by fleeing to the hills. When people find where I grew up they often ask "What did you do [for fun] out there?" And my answer is usually "We talked to each other." I'd like my kids to grow up in a place where people talk to each other, but without the isolation of my childhood.

I speak a little Spanish, so SA is definitely on my radar. The expense of Europe scares me off a little (I don't want to trade one rat-race for another.) I look forward to planning my escape.

I actually volunteer teaching new immigrants ESL, so I guess I am ahead of the game there. My spouse lived in Australia for a while and loves it, but I think it's a little too much like the US for my tastes. Montreal and NZ are definitely on our shortlist though. Thanks for the book suggestion, I can't wait to check it out!


2:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"As for where, the whole world beckons."

I'm thinking of checking out this region of Italy (By the way, I'm not a Christian, but McCarraher writes from the interesting and bizarre perspective of a socialist Catholic):

"The probability that even those sympathetic to this vision may consider it quixotic is a sign of how effectively the Work Ethic has clouded our horizon of possibility. But as the Emilia-Romagna region of northeastern Italy demonstrates, the prospect is by no means utopian. Known as "the Red Belt" for its doggedly Left politics, the Emilia-Romagna features an economy dominated by cooperatives and worker-controlled industries, whose artigianti work fewer hours than Americans and maintain some of the highest standards of craftsmanship in the world. (If you must know, their "productivity" as measured by gdp is among the highest in the European Union—which is to say, in the world.) The political culture—a judicious combination of Catholic subsidiarity and socialist universalism—enables an abundant and exquisite provision of education, health, and other social services, while the culture of labor allows workers to emulate the artisan and the epicure.

This genuinely leisured state resulted from a prolonged struggle, not only over the means of production but also over the ends of production. Americans have engaged in that sort of debate only briefly and sporadically—during the 1930s and the 1960s—but the time may well have arrived when the very meaning of labor itself needs to be posed as a political, moral, and religious issue. I daresay that the labor movement will reverse its present march toward extinction only if, pointing to the success of places like the Emilia-Romagna, it can offer a bold alternative to the current regime of post-industrial toil."


3:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MB: "Yes, you are correct: the US is doomed. But not the rest of the world, and you don't have to be part of the American collapse."

In response to above, google-search below two articles:

"Are Rich Americans Leaving The Country?"
"Why the Well-to-Do Are Escaping America”

Quote: "The Zogby results are shocking – especially compared to the entire U.S. population (now about 303,116,000). The numbers below are for households, not individuals.

1.6 million U.S. households already decided to move offshore and are headed in that direction. Another 1.8 million households are seriously considering moving and are likely to do it. Many have taken preliminary steps. 7.7 million households are “somewhat seriously” considering moving and “may” do it. Nearly 3 million households are seriously considering buying a vacation home or other property outside the United States. Another 10 million are “somewhat” seriously considering it.

This means that almost 10% of U.S. households are considering leaving the country. Another 10% are considering living outside the country part-time. Most analysts are ignoring this silent massive emigration. [...] In total, they represent hundreds of billions of dollars leaving the U.S. economy each year.

One eye-opening fact: These emigrants include younger Americans. In fact, the single largest group that already made the decision to relocate offshore is households where the adults are 25 to 34 years old."

4:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go to Denmark. It is consistently ranked as "the happiest place on earth." Copenhagen is amazing, believe me. Health care is free as is university studies. Everyone has a very good sense of humor. Everyone speaks excellent English. Check it out. Italy is not very happy anymore, and not many people have children. Immigration is out of control, etc. The old Italy was wonderful. Italy 2008, you can forget it. If I could do it over, I would have taught English in Denmark. I would have rode my bike to work, etc. Denmark is the closest thing that the world has to a Utopian society. Think about it. Denmark is also very homogeneous, which like or not, may also be a big part of the answer. If I were Mr. Berman, I would go to Scandinavia. It represents the fairest system on earth. Mexico is a hideously unfair society. It is an Aztec pyramid of wealth where only the select few have all of the wealth. Scandinavian Socialism, in my opinion, is the best form of government on earth, and you need to experience it first hand. You will have better conversations (in English) with the average taxi driver in Denmark than you could have with average CEO in America. Believe me. If you spend any kind of time in a Scandinavian country, it will be very hard to come back to a "sick" one like the US. You will feel like a stranger in a strange land.

Good luck und Bon Voyage!

9:03 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Melker,

Your stat of 10% of the population considering departure confirms my (highly impressionistic) estimate of the Moron Index (or MI, as we in the data business call it) being at about 90%. Thinking about leaving is, ipso facto, a sign of intelligence. Staying in the hope of "turning the system around" is not necessarily a sign of stupidity, though it is certainly delusional; and applies to less than 1% of the population, if the phrase is taken seriously. Staying in the hope that "things will eventually get better" has to reflect an I.Q. of less than 90.

Thanks for the info-

1:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Morris, Im John from Melbourne in the land of Oz (Australia).

I quite like this wise assessment of the candidates and what they represent.


At least Barack offers the possibility of something new emerging.

12:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Italy is not very happy anymore, and not many people have children."

Sounds like the perfect place for me since I'm not fond of children and I strongly dislike the child worship culture of the US.

1:41 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Anon,

Bill Thompson certainly means well, but in general his political analysis derives from the idea of consciousness as the crucial determinant in history--"magical mentality." Problem is, that it is rarely the overriding factor, being more a product of circumstances than a cause. JFK may have had charisma, but he was a cold warrior, and had he lived, I think our assessment of that presidency would be very different. Hitler's magical mentality "worked" because the timing, in terms of socioeconomic circumstances, was perfect. This is simply not true of Obama. He comes forth speaking Hope at a time when the country is dying; hence, as John Pilger says (comparing him to RFK), it's really smoke and mirrors, esp. when you do a little research on the guy's corporate connections. I can't say it enough: we are in the process of electing a funeral director, and it doesn't matter if this person is young, charismatic, and talks "poetry" rather than prose. I like poetry; I even write it. But it's not going to save us.

Thanks for writing-


10:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrew D. Blechmans new book "Leisureville - adventures in Americas retirement utopias" (www.andrewblechman.com) might give some chilling food for thought on the subject "society in decline".

As an appetizer, go for below 38 minute long book-interview:


3:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Berman,

I have to thank you for your work. Dark Ages America was the most enjoyable book I've read in a long time. It showed me how the spiritual and intellectual emptiness of this country had been gnawing at me. I also enjoyed Twilight of American Culture and am now reading Wandering God.

I have two questions. (Sorry that neither is really related to your post.) The first is about where to emigrate, if one were to choose to do so. I know you have already addressed this question from a cultural perspective, but I am trying to work within the additional constraint of (how to phrase it?) long-term survivability. A widespread economic collapse is on the horizon, and I worry that the subsequent availability of food, water, and political stability can't be taken for granted. Most if not all of Asia, Africa, and South America could become risky places to be, and even Europe has drawbacks (population density, lack of energy resources). Apart from the culture, the U.S. starts to look like a paradise by comparison. (It's not that I think the U.S. won't crash hard, just that others will crash harder.) My question for you, as someone who has emigrated, is whether you think this conclusion is sound. Did these factors weigh on your mind when you were deciding to emigrate? Would you agree that the U.S. is one of the safer places to be in the face of economic collapse and dwindling oil?

My other comment/question is about quiet public (or semi-public) places in American cities. There don't seem to be any! The libraries at my undergraduate university were quiet, but I can say with some confidence that this was a quirk of that particular university. I have not found a quiet place to work since then. The other day I was in a major public library. I watched a woman walk into a room full of people reading and ask a librarian for help (on behalf of her son, who was clearly old enough to do it himself), while her toddler stood by and screamed for 20 minutes. The librarian seemed just fine with this. The rudeness is annoying, but what troubles me more is that nobody but me seems annoyed. If we are products of our culture, shouldn't I have adapted to current standards the way everyone else has? I'm only in my 20s, and so I don't understand how my definition of rude could be so conservative in comparison to that of most older adults. Anyway, the absence of places to think is surely the inevitable result in a culture allergic to thought and contemptuous of public space. But is it a uniquely American phenomenon? Is it a recent one? Or is it just a fact of urban life that I was shielded from in my youth?

Anyway, sorry that post was so long. It didn't look that long when I was writing it!


4:37 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Sean,

As far as where to move, it's hard to say. I'm not myself sure that the US will be better off than the rest of the world, but I don't think that at your age you should plan your life around safety. I'd suggest doing the research in terms of things like schooling, available scholarships, marketable skills and so on; but most important, pick a place you really love, or think you might. What was that old bumper sticker? "Better libraries without money than money without libraries."

As for your second question, Americans are basically brain damaged, esp. with respect to issue of public space; but as the me-first mentality spreads like a cancer throughout the world, you see the effects: Mexicans take cell phone calls in movies and public lectures, for example. George Steiner once wrote that the modern world was a conspiracy to suppress silence, and I guess he was right.


5:58 PM  
Blogger steven rix said...

@ Sean: don't get out of the US thinking that the country is going to collapse, it is a bad attitude, rather get out of the US because you want to explore new horizons, because you are interested in different values and perspectives for any particular country.
There is no perfect country to tell you the truth, I went all over the world, and I tend to take what I need in a culture and I forget about the rest. There are things that are certainly acceptable at a national level while I'll tend to differ on a private level.

Europe is very reliable in energy, because they don't depend on the middle eastern countries, they import everything from Russia and other northern european countries. Besides they don't burn coal in Europe, they run everything on nuclear plants (esp. France that relies on 77% for this type energy). That said gas price is more expensive than in the US, but you have lots of choices in public transportations (highspeed train, bus, ...etc)

If you go to an anglo-saxon country, it will always be the individualist type mentality, all the rest of the world lives in a collective society. There are also different levels of collective societies (the asian countries are more collective than Europe).

It all depends on what you want to do. For a fact I know that Europe is a completely different society compared to the USA. I even question if we still have alot in common and I think there is no more viable link.

At the European level, you have different types of societies. There are conservative countries (we call them "liberal" in french because we are not situated in the same economist thought). If you want free health care, free rent, and free everything, then it's France. If you want a socialist country with western mentality, then it's Scandinavia or France. If you want a society with no social barrier then it's the Netherlands....etc There are too many criterias in fact. There is also the European Dream in opposition of the American Dream. In Europe we don't run after money, instead of that, we use our free time to cultivate ourselves and enjoy and think about the meaning of life.

The american expats live all over the world, and sometimes there are some fashioned trends, like living in Costa Rica or South Africa. You just need to go where you feel you want to be. You still can go in a foreign country, and keep your options opened: if you don't like it then you can move to another country. It's easier in Europe because once you have the european nationality then you can travel all over Europe freely, but their anti-immigration laws are as worse as the ones of the US. I think it's still possible to apply for the nationality while you work without work permit, otherwise, fall inlove, and get married. That's how I've done it, and I've done it for love only; I never really wanted to stay in the US, and 8 years later, I still think about going back to Europe (Spain or France).
PS: the scandinavian countries are not that bad, but it's freezing over there (as bad as Canada), and they are so close from the North Pole that during winter times there is a very short daylight (only a few hours).

10:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. Berman: Thank you for your work. I've read all of your books, and recommend you to my friends as one of the most astute observers of our times. (For what it's worth, when I play the game Hearts on my computer, I renamed the three default opponents as you, Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins. Previously, I named them after porn stars so I could curse them when I lost. That wasn't at all satisfying, so I renamed them after my favorite intellectuals, which has made me a much more civil person, I think. But I digress...) As I read through the responses to "Let's Get Real," I wonder about people discussing relocating out of the U.S. Certainly, most other cultural pastures are greener than the American wasteland, but what about climate change? If we are indeed at or near the "tipping point," as James Hanson of NASA's Goddard Center contends, beyond which climate change spins out of control, wouldn't it be most prudent to emigrate not only where there are better political and social systmes, but also where the impacts of climate change may be most survivable?

7:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not agree with everyone emigrating to another country. Mexico is corrupt and the police will put a gun to your head and demand money. Just look at all of the dead girls (over 400) in Juarez. It is sickening. My friend as a young girl in Brazil was raped by the police, and there was nothing they could do about it. I would never live in any country south of the border where there is no rule of law. There are a lot worse places to be than in America. My grandfather came to this country from Germany as a day laborer and he built a very successful business/life. If you are a bit clever, then it is not hard to succeed here with so many dummies. Yes there are good aspects to living in Europe,(cafes, more scenic towns, relaxed life) but Germany/France, and even Scandinavia have real problems. I think the over intellectual life isn't always so great either, and many Germans and French in particular are not very chatty or friendly with strangers. It is also not so easy to advance your station in life in Europe, and that is why many of us came here. Yes, people came here for a better life, and for millions of Americans (the clever ones/ones with a work ethic) the dream worked out. My German relatives succeeded here because they came from the German culture of a good work ethic and value of education. We see this with the Chinese and Indian students in school. Not many kids are coming from Northern Europe anymore. Life is great over there now. If you have some money, America can be a very comfortable, easy way of life.

6:31 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Anon,

I fear your view of Mexico is pretty much a cliche, though I would be the 1st to say that it is hardly a perfect society. But I can't tell you how courteous the police have been to me, including once when they pulled me over for speeding. Has a cop in the US ever started out by shaking your hand, and calling you "Sir", in such a situation? (Or any situation?) My experience of US police is basically hostility, barely controlled anger, or some demo of how important they are.

The American work ethic worked out, in the past, in an expanding market, not because some people are clever. It's certainly not working out today, and even in the past left many millions behind, people who were hardly dummies. As for the nature of our culture, try this for a reality check: Paul Stiles, "Is the American Dream Killing You?"--highly recommended.


7:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Berman,

I do agree with you that there was more opportunity in the past to get ahead. I am personally torn here. Do I want to share my money with those members of our society that are lazy, perhaps criminal?, no! Is hard work plus a value on education still the formula for success in America? I think so. It all comes down to human nature. It was in Germany, imagine that, that I discovered that people were not naturally/intrinsically kind and nice. If you are too smiley or kind in Germany or anywhere in central Europe you will get trampled on. Human nature is all about status and getting ahead, having more than your neighbor, etc. This is a "truth" to me based on a lifetime of observing human beings on several continents. This is also the truth in "Heart of Darkness", "Lord of the Flies" and several other works.. This is true of any human group,not just the Germans. I personally think the French and Germans are just being more honest in how they feel. With that truth in mind then we live in the most "natural" system, don't we? Survival of the fittest. It may not be kind or fair, but life for humans never has been. According to this law of human nature, why should I share my wealth (no matter how large or small) with my neighbor who may be lazy, stupid, or both? This is my fundamental problem with Socialism. Socialism works/worked in Denmark because Danish people hate to be unemployed. They all want to work. Now, add other culture to the mix, and the system is breaking quickly. I agree with you that this mindless materialism and always working is ludicrous. However, this striving for status (women, etc.) seems to be built into the DNA. Should government systems reinforce this human nature, or should they try to tame its nastier aspects? That is the question. Communism failed because it wasn't in tune with human nature. Capitalism succeeded because people are selfish and greedy and status seeking. What is the answer? The whole world is involved in this killer Capitalism and it is only a matter of time until Europe and the more humane versions are forced to be barbaric like we, isn't that true? What are your thoughts about human nature and how human nature influences our systems of government?

11:27 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Anon,

Well, if you read only one type of literature (Wm Golding, etc.) you can only come to one type of conclusion. Capitalism, and even vertical politics, have been with us for only a very short time, considering the presence of Homo sapiens on the planet; hunter-gatherers certainly had a very different ethos than the one you describe and regard as innate. It just may be that "human nature" is a lot more complex and malleable than you suspect. There is a lot you can read on the subject, if you are interested; try my "Wandering God," esp. the chapter on social inequality. Reaganism is not the sum total of political theory...


9:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ano: "According to this law of human nature, why should I share my wealth (no matter how large or small) with my neighbor who may be lazy, stupid, or both?"

Well, one could argue that any billionaire still only can contribute a maximal of 80-100 work-hours per week, of his life, to the surrounding world-community. If those 80-100 contributed hours, nevertheless rewards him with a weekly spending-power of goods and services that have costed, for example 100 times as many human work-hours for the surrounding world-community to assemby/make available for his private enjoyment - then I would argue theres something other then just "work-ethics", that contributes to such a favourably slanted exchange-process.

The trick (above a certain level) is to let your profession (= you work) contribute less and less, in favour of your assets/capital (= other people works for you) contributing more and more.

In below 18 minute long "Secrets of the rich" google-video, the rich how-to-get-ahead guru/prophet Robert Kiyosaki smugly explains the basic nuts-and-bolts of how this exploitation-process actually works. Just go http://video.google.com and do a search for "Robert Kiyosaki Secrets of the rich", and you find it.

4:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Berman,

I do have to disagree with Mr. Berman (respectfully). Human nature has evolved over thousands of years and is unchanging as far as our lifetimes are concerned. Genetic change in human nature takes thousands of years. Evolutionary Psychology has really opened my eyes and just reaffirmed what I had observed about people all my life. "The Moral Animal" by Robert Wright is highly recommended. It is the "red pill." Human behavior, on the other hand, can be directed, not human nature. I don't have to teach my one year old son to hit or take what he wants. That is his nature and is "natural" to a boy. I have to teach him to "share" and "play nice", which are artificial, cultural norms (the veil of civilization). My old boxing coach told me that he didn't have to teach anyone to be aggressive. That was just human nature. True hunter gatherer tribes went to war, raped, captured slaves. I have researched this. They weren't friendly to strangers. Most strangers were probably killed or at least viewed with extreme suspicion kind of like Germany today (ha). My son has stranger anxiety. He is afraid of males he doesn't know. This is in his DNA code. In the ancient times, a strange male would have killed the existing children just as lions do. This is why step fathers kill their adopted kids at much higher rates. The dominant male in the tribe had access to the majority of females, etc. My belief is that every system that runs counter to this deep seeded human impulse for status is bound to fail in the long run (see communism). I am not a fan of Reaganomics, but I do believe that capitalism best mimicks our ancestral environment. The system isn't fair, and probably no system known to man was every very fair because human natue isn't fair.

6:57 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Anon,

Well, you may have done a lot of research, but it sounds like research of all the same kind; in which case, your conclusions are inevitable. In fact, there was aggression in the Paleolithic, but evidence of war (organized aggression) doesn't show up until the Late Paleo. Some things in human nature may be constant, but environment plays a huge role in the deployment of those things; and the brain is a lot more plastic than many of us realize. Keep in mind that evolutionary psychology is not biblical revelation; it is a theory, and has some very astute critics. Evidence from your son, or your boxing coach, doesn't prove very much, because this is evidence from individuals raised in a very particular, 20th century, and some would say warped, environment. If you try reading a different type of literature, chances are you might come to very different conclusions. On the other hand, all of us tend to read the stuff that confirms our prejudices, which makes fundamental shifts in outlook rather unlikely. You can find confirmation for your social darwinism in capitalism (a very popular pursuit since the days of Herbert Spencer), and then use "human nature" to validate capitalism, but it does have the structure of a vicious circle, and it's rather mesmerizing--hard to break out of.


8:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Berman,

Thank you for your response. I do respect what you have to say, and I will take a look at the books you have recommended. I admit that I do buy into Evolutionary Psychology for the most part, and I do dismiss what doesn't fit. I am not a logical debater, and I admit that I go with things on a “gut” level. People, myself included, are like that. Evol. Psy. just feels right to me and explained everything to why the cheerleader dated the cool jerk during high school up until why Spitzer slept with hookers. It is a depressing outlook. Just as evolution shaped us physically, it also shaped our desires, and feelings. Doesn’t that make sense to you? David M. Buss is also an outstanding leader in this field. I do think that societies should try to tame the nastier aspects of human nature. Nevertheless, no matter what you or I think, capitalism is destined to run its course, be it good or bad, and I do think that pure capitalism is bad. I can't help but think that if human beings were destined to live in a more equitable world, they why didn't communism/socialism sweep the world? People decided that killer capitalism is what they wanted, didn’t they? Why are human beings on this course from America to China with Europe included? If capitalism is so unfair and terrible, which I admit it is in America, then why is everyone playing this game? Sweden or Denmark during the 1980s would have been my favorite time/place to be, and I was there as a young man. People didn’t act so aggressive or animalistic over there at that time. Perhaps after capitalism has run its course, then some more humane system will take its place. What do you think? I think that capitalism will run on much longer than you, I, my boxing coach, or my son will be alive. Analyzing a pre verbal baby does give you many insights as to how human beings have lived for thousands of years. The baby is not a “blank slate”, but comes pre programmed with responses, atavistic fears, behaviors that give us an idea about who we really are.

10:52 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Anon,

Well, it's great to have a philosophy that wraps it all up, I know. Jacob Heilbrunn recently did a book on the neocons, admitting that the whole world view was comforting to him because it gave him a simplistic analysis of how things functioned. Older and wiser, he now says it was basically a crock.

Capitalism, in the form of globalization, is on its last legs. It is both destructive and self-destructive--the opposite of human nature, in many ways. You might want to check out the works of the world systems analysts, such as Immanuel Wallerstein, on this score. I also think Naomi Klein's book, "The Shock Doctrine," might get you off the capitalism-as-human-nature track. As for what will succeed it: hard to say, and I worry abt it, because population pressure is probably going to be a major factor in that, and the stats aren't lookin' good. But check out "Utopistics," by Wallerstein, and "Black Mass," by John Gray (a dark but realistic picture).

As for observing your kid: nice, but it ain't science. If you were observing him 20,000 years ago, you might see different things.


11:35 PM  
Blogger Auvery Eva said...

to leap back to the begining off topic and "Universities are now like the Church in the Middle Ages--selling indulgences."

I am sorry to disillusion, but many institutions in Britain are like this. I think the older universities (unfortuately all the institutes are called universities - because of couse we all have to be equal, which seems to mean homogenous)are not that bad yet. It is extremly difficult to fail a student. I used to teach contextual studies in an art college until ill health forced a break, I will not go back. When I give a fail mark and it gets turned into a pass with no discussion or even feedback to me I know it's all gone horribly wrong, and is about money not education.

And to the essay - uncovering politicians in the USA and UK is a disappointing miserable affair, but if we pull the wool over our eyes and let them pull some more we will be a disappointment to ourselves, and look somewhat silly!

And other places to live...I was really impressed with Quebec, the only part of Canada that I've visited. Education, health care and the arts seemed to be in better shape than the UK.

5:13 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Auvery,

I don't really regard the UK as very different from the US, truth be told. I lived there 1969 and 1972-73, part of 74, and those were different times. The Thatcher Revolution changed a lot, clearly, and the US (tragically) became a kind of model of "progress." England is an Anglo-Saxon country, and much more "part of" the US than it is of Europe, as far as I can make out. They've rejected the euro, Blair hitched his star to a sadistic and vacuous president, etc. etc. So I probably have fewer illusions than you may think.


6:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Berman,
I watched the FISA (FISA being, in this reference, the latest bill offering further powers to the government in intercepting communications of citizens abroad and immunity to the telecoms for illegal wire-tapping) vote in the Senate on C-Span a couple of weeks ago and was struck by two things: one, all the senators who spoke prior to the vote being taken very casually mentioned that Bush had broken the law. There were comments such as "The telecoms shouldn't have to suffer for the fact that Bush has been illegally wire-tapping Americans for years" and "This new bill will ensure that Bush' warrantless, illegal wire-tapping program will not be repeated", etc. Not one of these guys seemed disturbed by the idea that right there on the Senate floor, in a televised event, they were admitting that Bush broke the law. No comment was made regarding impeachable offenses and no-one seemed embarrassed or seemed even to grasp the implications of what he was saying. The second thing that struck me followed in the next few days. Obama had voted FOR telecom immunity despite his supposed stance on such Constitutional issues and came under fire from some of his supporters for this turn-around. The media immediately began referring to these supporters as "radical left-wing extremists", just as though defense of the Constitution as written were some wingnut far-left idea.
The experience made me wonder if perhaps Taylor Caldwell had not been correct in her assessment of our government and its ability to manipulate the public. She wrote in the foreword to her 1972 book "Captains and the Kings", "This is probably the last hour for mankind as a rational species, before it becomes the slave of a 'planned society'".
While McCain is looking a wee bit senile (how embarrassing for the die-hard Republicans, one can only imagine, but it makes him most malleable), Obama looks *planned*, in a way. He is now, in his "Call to Volunteer" plan, asking for 92,000 new Army and Marine recruits. Their purpose is not stated, but given the rhetoric on Iran he used in his AIPAC speech and the latest full speed ahead in Afghanistan huzzah, I suspect America isn't quite done with its global domination impulses no matter who wins the election.
I just have to wonder what the purpose of all this is; except it seems fairly obvious to *me*, simpleton that I am, that the livelihood and wellbeing of the average American (or Iranian or Haitian, for that matter) is simply of no consequence whatsoever.
Yet it nags me that somehow this is planned this way. That the wealthiest corporations are now somehow running the show and that the show is going to be globalization. And not in the "we are family" sense, either. More in the "everyone works for peanuts for Exxon, who decides who among us gets to eat and who doesn't" sense.
Fareed Zakaria now has a show on CNN. I have not yet read his book, "Living in a Post-America World", but I understand his view to be pro-globalization from the comments I have heard him make in interviews. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, as is Dick Cheney (which automatically means the group is up to no good, IMHO.) I believe it is understood that this is the group Taylor Caldwell calls the "committee for foreign studies" in her aforementioned book. I realize I sound a bit like a conspiracy theorist here, but I gotta say, things are falling apart a tad too quickly here in the USA, and all the governmental and financial agencies seem to be clueless. If this wasn't engineered by the big corporations behind the scenes, we have the DUMBEST public servants EVER in the history of hominids. What is your take on the Council on Foreign Relations, if any? Do they mean anything as a group?
Just thought I'd ask; it really hardly matters at this point, I guess. I suppose my reason for asking is that if someone is going to be standing on my back, I'd just as soon know who they are, and why.
Teri Schooley

4:32 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Teri,

Well, what difference one specific organization, the CFR, will make at this point is unclear. The crucial thing is the larger picture that you describe: that freedom has become the enemy, and that Obama is plastic--which very few can see. Who gets elected now is irrelevant, because the country is dying; it all boils down to matters of style. In any case, Obama is no Jimmy Carter, and matters of principle are for him slogans to help him get ahead. He's smooth, he's savvy, and he's going to win; and he'll be Bill Clinton revisited. Here's the point, which was recently stated by someone on truthout.org, and which is a major point of DAA: "No one who is a presidential candidate can proceed to overcome corporate power or the warfare state. The pervasive and huge problems that have proved to be so destructive are deep, structural and embedded in the political economy."

Thanks for writing-


6:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Berman,
Thanks for answering. Yeah, it doesn't matter. I was talking to my brother, a mortgage broker, a couple of years ago, about the rapid spurt in societal ills; murders, beatings, police and governmental corruption,dumbing down of schools, etc. and he said then, 'just wait until what the banking industry is doing hits the bricks - then see how fast it accelerates.' His group was trying to do traditional brokering while the rest of the herd had started this mortgage bundling trash. He was calling a warning, unheeded in the industry, of a potential crash. Which, as we see, has happened.
And then, more recently, I said 'dumb public servants' to my Dad, who responded that I could take the word 'servants' out of the sentence. The servants are not: the officials who represent us simply sell their vote to the nearest lobbyists and call it done. The public is pretty much brain-dead, as near as I can tell.
I have to stay here, as my folks are getting older and will need me around (hell, *I'm* getting older and I do not have the job skills to find work in a foreign country), but I am encouraging my children to leave.
My discussion with Dad detoured into his reminiscing about the Great Depression, during which he was born, and one of his earliest memories - a group of men, armed with sticks and shovels, marching toward the town's single factory. The men had all been laid off,could no longer feed their families, and wanted to exact vengeance on somebody, anybody. At some point, someone was able to calm the mob and they dispersed, but as Dad points out, everyone now has guns and no moral compunction.
It's going to be frightening, I think.
On Obama, who started as the topic of this thread (that's the right word? My computerese is limited.) I remember looking at the field of candidates way back when and thinking, "This is it? This is the best of the lot?" I liked Kucinich, but in a melancholy way; one knew he hadn't a whisper of a chance. Obama speaks well, but I prefer to read his words rather than listen. He *is* charismatic and the crowds get swept up; if one reads his words, however, one can see how carefully he builds an exit door into any promise and because he is cautious with his phrasing as regular practice, perhaps as a result of his legal training, I would have to assume he means everything he says. Therefore, when he says "build back up America's military", "Iran's nuclear threat", "spread the flower of democracy", and "protect our interests in the Middle East", I have no doubt he means exactly that. Business as usual.
Hey, but won't he be pretty on a stamp?

6:42 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Teri,

I just sent the following, which I took off cnn.com, to a friend of mine, with the caption "So much for new directions." This is the real Obama, as far as I'm concerned:

Netanyahu told reporters after his meeting that their talks focused on "the need to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons." "The senator and I agree that the primacy of preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power is clear," he said. "This should guide our mutual policies."

In the afternoon, Obama was due to meet with Palestinian leaders, including President Mahmoud Abbas, in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
He was then expected to fly by helicopter to Sderot, a southern Israeli town that has come under rocket attack from Palestinian militants in Gaza. He will tour a home damaged in an attack.

"He'll have the opportunity to see the pain and challenges posed to Israel's people by living in such dangerous proximity to Hamas rockets," Susan Rice said, referring to the Palestinian militant group. Obama's visit came a day after a Palestinian man went on a rampage in Jerusalem, ramming a construction vehicle into cars and buses before he was shot and killed near the hotel where the politician was due to stay. Speaking in Jordan shortly afterwards, Obama condemned the attack, saying it was "a reminder of what Israelis have courageously lived with on a daily basis for far too long." [end of excerpt]

So, apparently no tour of a home in Gaza damaged by an Israeli attack, no opportunity to see the pain and challenges posed to the Palestinians, and no reminder of what the Palestinians have courageously lived with, etc etc.
And hence, no real possibility of resolving things in the Middle East; but Obama's posture plays very well back home. This is about illusion, not reality.


9:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Teri that the future looks disturbing. My grandmother lived through the Depression, and she said that people helped each other and shared. Can you see this playing out in most of America, outside of the Amish and Mormon communities? Even though I can't stand organized religion, it did give people morality and a belief in something better at the end. Today's internet/porn generation will be out there cutting throats both literally and figuratively. My father has a friend in Florida where people are siphoning gas from your car in the driveway. It is going to get ugly. Already people crawl all over each other to get "rich" or "famous". You can even buy paparazzis to photograph you and your friends and pretend to be famous here in Chicago. All the news is about Angelina Jolie and her twins with the little wimp Brad Pitt. What a sad, sick, little culture we have now.

8:10 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Anon.,

Consider the fact that a poll/survey of about 3 years ago found that 24% of Americans answered yes to the question, "Do you think it is OK to use violence in the pursuit of your goals?"

38 states have capital punishment, with heavy citizen approval, while Europe regards the practice as barbaric. And when you match up their homicide stats with ours...man, there is no comparison.

I can't remember the exact quote, but I think it was MLK who said that when you combine violence with stupidity, you are in real trouble. As you pt out, this is only the beginning.

Thanx for writing-


9:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Berman,

That statistic of 24% seems high but doesn't surprise me. 1 in 25 Americans is a sociopath, so ...On another note, I don't like religious fanatics of any sort, but I recently met a Mormon gentleman who really opened my eyes to other ways of living. Instead of living as a monk among hilljacks maybe the better option would be to live among the Amish or Mormon communities. They have a strong sense of community and honesty. They help and support one another. They are "nice", and act considerate. Who cares what motivates this behavior. I am seriously considering entering one of these sub cultures. It is either that or suburban isolation and spiritual death. I am tired of going through the fake motions with my neighbors who obviously don't care. Another option would be to have a very large family and keep everyone living locally and build your own sub culture of like minded people. Think of the support, love and understanding. Just as in Iraq blood and tribal ties are always the strongest. Mr. Berman, what are your thoughts on joining one of these subcultures or forming one via family, etc. in our lonely times?

9:51 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Anon,

The figure of 24% is for the year 2000, and comes from a study cited by Michael Adams in "Fire and Ice" (Penguin, 2003), p. 54.

Keep in mind that when I wrote about the "New Monastic Individual" in the Twilight book, I wasn't talking about literal monasticism or heading for the hills. The examples of NMI's I give are all very active in political or cultural ways (Michael Moore, e.g.).

As for the Amish: much to admire there, but if you step outta line, yer shunned in short order (check out the film "Witness"). They've also had problems in recent years with kids and drugs, apparently.

But everyone has to find their own path. I'm not a religious person, so I'd have problems with Mormons etc.; I just can't buy the pitch, is what it comes down to, and then, as I said, these groups can be pretty claustrophobic.

Trying to create community in the US is like trying to keep snowballs intact in hell, really. What about a small group of friends, living in some common arrangement? There was lots of experimentation with this in the
60s, but for the most part it didn't last. Still, what are your choices? When I think back to my days in an apt bldg in Washington DC, it's hard to imagine a worse fate (short of living in a war zone; which in a sense, it was).

Best option: move to a country that has a history of community tradition, learn the language, and start making friends. Will do wonders for yer state of mind, amigo--I guarantee it.

Let me know how it turns out-


10:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is a fascinating essay i found on Joe Bageant's site. It speaks of the topic of this post from a unique prespective.

Life in the Post Political Age

Every now and then I am fortunate enough to communicate with someone who has near complete insight into our political process, why things happen and where it seems likely to be headed. Recently I received this analysis from a high powered political consultant whose name is withheld for obvious reasons. He/she has to live and work in the political world and for either party. In any case, I found it breathtaking in its fundamental analysis and its clarity -- clarity being no easy thing to accomplish in the swamp of media-consumerism-politics. Here it is:
-- Joe Bageant

By an anonymous political consultant

Much has been written by political pundits in their attempt to explain the unexpected victory of Senator Barack Obama over Senator Hillary Clinton in this year's Democratic Presidential Primary. When looking at the results of this race, none of the conventional political math that would help one handicap the outcome would make one conclude that Senator Obama would win this contest.

Inside a Democratic Party primary there is no demographic or political reason that a male first term African American senator from Illinois with an unorthodox name should come any where close to beating a white female senator, who happens to be the wife of the last Democratic President whose approval ratings are still above 70% with Democratic voters and who also happened to earn the endorsements of the substantial parts of the Democratic Party establishment.

The conventional analysis focused on the poor quality of the campaign run by Senator Clinton, her vote in support of the Iraq war and her advocacy of the cynical center-right triangulation policies of her husband, which soured her campaign to many primary voters and especially to Democratic Party activists. Senator Obama's on the other hand was credited with running an innovative and inspiring campaign that excited primary voters and brought many new and especially younger voters into the electoral process.

There is some truth to this analysis, but as a whole it misses the underlying social change in society that had already laid the groundwork for a possible Obama victory. To get a clearer understanding of the results, we must better understand what this social change is and how its impact is far more significant than the dynamics of the two respective campaigns.

The underlying social change that led to the Obama victory is the unprecedented extent to which the narrative of popular consumer culture, and the media that drives it, has become the dominant influence on how Americans think, formulate their ideas and understand the world around them.

The most important result of this process has been the steady and consistent depoliticization of American society, to an extent that we can make the case that we are living at the dawn of the post political age.

The two primary features of the post political age are a politics completely drained of all its contents and ability or willingness to be used as an agent of change in social or economic policy, and its full integrations into the world of American popular, consumer and entertainment culture. To such an extent that there exists today a seamless web between our political, economic, media and consumer cultures wherein the modes and values of one are completely integrated and compatible with the others.

It should not come as a surprise that the dominant ideas and mores of popular culture have become the dominant ideas of our society. Popular culture is the breaker of customs, prejudice, tradition and relevant historical knowledge.

It is a result of this dynamic that the two consistent winners in American politics over the last 30 years have been the cultural left and the economic right. Despite the massive organizing drive of the religious right over the past three decades, they are further away from reversing the cultural liberalization of American society than when they started. On others side of the ledger, organized labor outside of a few urban pockets and industries is no longer a relevant force in American life. The ever greater electoral activism of both of these groups is generally misunderstood as a show of strength; in fact, it is the exact opposite. It is the desperate fight of the losing side of the American economic, cultural and political scene.

In essence the same forces that make it possible for the rapid acceptance of ideas such as gay marriage are the same force which can create a society that will accept massive social inequalities.

In the post political world the candidates who can best thrive in it have tremendous appeal to the economic elites; these candidates thrive in a system that does not dwell on issues and will never ask the question, "who has power and why", but simultaneously creates a social and media environment of stupefying distractions while destroying traditional social mores (under-credited as a source of much social solidarity). This can only benefit their continued rule of that society.

In such a setting our political choices like our consumer choices, regardless of the product, are primarily about what makes us more fulfilled and feel better about ourselves.

Senator Obama's campaign understood much better the impact of these changes on our electoral system than any of his opponents' campaigns. In the post political world, the campaign that is less political and less issue-based but is savvier in using new modes of communication technology will be the campaign to win the greatest market share of the electorate. The candidate in this case, Obama, was not a political entity but, in essence a product, an ornament that made his supporters feel better about themselves.

One of the most telling facts about the Obama's constituency outside of African Americans (whose support needs no explanation) is that it is a coalition of people who need or demand the least amount of social benefit from our government. They are the under politicized younger voters and upper middle class whites. The two groups, coincidently, are the ones most influenced by trends in consumer popular culture and have the greatest of ease using the latest technologies.

In commercial advertising it is the poor commercial that lists the seventeen functions of the product being marketed. The best commercials are based on image associations entirely unrelated to the functions of the actual product. In the post political world, when the same principle is applied to the political realm, it makes complete sense how Barack Obama no longer is a black man with a strange name but the iPod to Hillary Clinton's cell phone. In the world of toys it is the one that stands out the most is the most marketable.

The reality of the post political period is best highlighted in the failed themes and ideas of Barack Obama's two primary opponents. The Clinton campaign was based on pushing two concurrent ideas: the inevitability factor of her candidacy and the other was her supposed experience. The only thing inevitable in the post political period is ceaseless change, which she could hardly offer while running against the candidate of "Change". How valuable of an asset can experience be in a culture where knowledge, wisdom and history are frowned upon?

John Edwards campaign on the other hand was dead on arrival. His theme and emphasis was America's ever widening class differences, a platform as truthful as it was irrelevant. The use of the word "class" will end any political career in America. That truth violates the primary narrative that our elite use to justify their legitimacy, which is the supposed meritocratic nature of America society. While the post political constituencies have absolutely no interest in class, whose very acknowledgment are the bases of all real politics and whose acknowledgement would only lead to an existential crisis in its ranks. In the post political period the only differences allowed can be in style and modes of consumption.

Given all this as the background, what are we to make of the campaign of the candidate of hope, audacity and change? The answer lies in understanding Senator Obama's appeal to the brighter sections of the economic and political elite, and more importantly in the lack of any organized opposition against him, of the kind that within a matter of days destroyed Howard Dean's campaign in 2004.

At the precise moment that the intellectual underpinnings of conservative free market ideas that have dominated politics for the past 30 years are crumbling across the globe. Obama calls for a post ideological and partisan world.

At the time when the American military industrial complex is despised around the world, he is a front man out of central casting which will buy it more goodwill and new room to maneuver in the first 15 minutes after being sworn in that John McCain could in the next 100 years.

His very presence, the color of his skin, the very strangeness of his name is the best guarantee of his betrayal of the expectations of the constituencies that will vote to elect him. Barack Obama is in short order a far more reassuring prospect for the continued dominance of the financial elite than another four years of neo-conservative rule which in an almost historically unique combination of greed, ill will, incompetence and stupidity have brought the country to the edge of disaster.

Audacity yes, change hardly.

8:57 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Anon,

Many thanks for the Baigent essay, which strikes me as being right on target. Coming at Obama from a different angle is a recent interview with Gareth Porter, which Gareth just sent me. I include the link, and my reply:


Dear Gareth: This is great stuff; I read both the French and the English. Toward the end of both, the issue of the "demos" as a controlling factor on the direction of US foreign policy finally comes up, which to me is the crucial pt: to quote Edw R Murrow, "a nation of sheep creates a gov't of wolves." I believe I sent you the article that appeared in the Wash Post re: lack of understanding of basic political issues on the part of American voters, the result of a recent study that echoed the results of a similar study ca. 1950. (I expect the next "breakthru" Post article will be the discovery that the Pope is Catholic.) I call this The Meathead Factor, and it means that anything outside of the narrow bandwidth of American ideology will be viewed as "radical extremism." (When I say that Harvard needs to set up a Center for Dolt Studies, I am NOT kidding!) Hence, Dennis Kucinich, the only putative (ex-)candidate saying anything sensible, garners .0001% of the vote. Hence Obama goes to the Middle East and visits sites in Israel destroyed by Hamas, but not ones in Gaza destroyed by the Israelis (with US materiel); and of course never points out who the occupying power is. (This not entirely because of worries abt the Jewish vote in the US, but even more because this is what the American public expects as a matter of course. The phrase "Israeli terrorism" makes no sense to it; it's just an oxymoron.) As you pt out, any perception of reality outside the mainstream has no chance of a real hearing; but in my view, a dumbed-down population is absolutely crucial to that state of affairs. At the end of the French text, the real irony is presented: in the US system, democracy is actually the best instrument available to that system to keep things at status quo (classic De Tocqueville). At the end of the English text, you refer to the 35-45% nutjob factor, but imo need to point a finger more directly at "the bias in US culture." As you began moving in that direction, I found myself saying, "Warm...warm...warmer..." but I don't think you ever got to "hot." This, to me, is the blind spot of the American left, because they fear an "elitist" label, and because if they looked The Meathead Factor squarely in the face, they'd have to conclude that any "progressive" plan for social change is a mirage. Directly or indirectly, for example, you can hear praise for The American People--that mystical entity!--in the books, lectures, and films of Chomsky and Michael Moore: the notion that the people somehow know better, but have had the wool pulled over their eyes by the gov't and corporate establishments. This is of course partly true, but that level of analysis obscures something deeper about American identity going back at least to 1945, and of which Eisenhower's victory over Stevenson was iconic. Not an accident that Obama avoids anything intellectual or even specific in his campaign speeches, and talks a vague emotive language of "hope" and "change". (And I hafta tell you, all this is not merely a metaphor on my part; studies have started to emerge showing that actual brain functioning is negatively affected by screens--TV, Internet, blackberries, etc.--although the causative factors are much more extensive than post-WW2 technologies.) Well, keep on trucking, amigo.--mb

5:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Berman,
Re: the "Meathead factor" (love that!), three polls to share. I see anecdotes and polls as little snapshots of particular places at particular times; I know they don't tell the whole truth, but they are interesting. So, for what it's worth, I thought I'd pass these on. They do, in the limited way of polls I just mentioned, seem to support the notion that the public is either being brain-washed successfully or is re-e-e-eally stupid.
CNN did 2 polls not long ago on the question of torture. In the first, the question was "Should the method called 'water-boarding' be considered torture?"
68% said yes. Which means almost 1/3 (32%) of Americans think it is not.
The second question was, "Should the US be allowed to use 'water-boarding' as a means to extract confessions from detainees?" 42% said yes. So, presumably, some of the people -10% - who regard water-boarding as torture still feel, nonetheless, that it should be allowed as an interrogation method.
The third poll requires a little background. It recently came to light that the State Police in my state had, during an 18-month period in '05-'06, been conducting surveillance, infiltration, and spying on some anti-war groups and death penalty opposition groups. None of the groups - one of the targeted groups was Amnesty International - had been involved in or accused of violence or breaking the law, the state police just decided to keep an eye on them for the sake of "national security". The groups were infiltrated by undercover cops and their subsequent reports, including group e-mail lists, were shared with the NSA. (Guess who's going to be on the 'no-fly suspected terrorist' list now, huh?)
The local paper serving our area posted a survey associated with the article. Bear in mind that the article made it very clear, several times, that the groups in question had no prior history of violence, had not been accused of any wrong-doing, and that the state police took it upon themselves to investigate and spy on them despite those facts. The question was, "Should police be allowed to spy on peace and anti-death penalty groups?"
49% said yes.
This means half my neighbors are content to allow this sort of thing. Perhaps we're not so much losing our rights as handing them over.
I don't know why (maybe because it was answered by people I might actually know), but this last poll just creeps me out.
No reason to respond to this; just passing on a little bit of quirky American opinion.
Teri S.

8:23 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Teri,

That *is* pretty creepy. The problem is that it probably includes people with high IQ's. Genuine intelligence is no barrier to being really stupid, if you've been brainwashed. "We're No. 1" is a slogan that affects a good deal of American life, even beyond the educational system.

As an undergraduate, I chose Russian for my foreign-language requirement (such requirements barely exist anymore, of course), and the program was so intense that after a year I was able to read Pravda without a dictionary. It was pretty funny, in a way: every day, the "headline" was something along the lines of "Millions Enslaved by Capitalism." Which is true, of course (esp. if you consider US-backed right-wing regimes in the Third World), but then the newspaper never bothered to say that millions were enslaved by communism as well. Also, the editors of the rag never bothered to think that this headline was (after 3 days) a bit boring. I can't help wondering what it would be like, however, if the NY or LA Times ran a daily headline like "Millions of Americans Don't Know Ass From Elbow," or something along those lines ("Meathead Factor Exceeds 90%"--etc.). I'm not sure it would be quite as boring...In June of 2007 Gore Vidal did an interview in Toronto in which he said the US was "a nation of morons"...and then he added: "Stupidity excites me"--! Now *there's* a great line!

Thanx again,

ps: As for the no-fly list, you may have read recently in some newspapers that it includes something like 44,000 people, and has the 13 dead 9/11 hijackers on it, along with the president of Bolivia. What to say, eh?

10:35 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Just one more ps: You live in Maryland, right?


5:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Berman,
Yes, Maryland.
Grew up in Montgomery County - Dad was a physicist with NBS - which now has such a diverse population that PTA meetings are conducted in 5 languages. I left Mont. Co. some years ago and now live up north, where it is very beautiful and relatively quiet. Turns out, however, that it's sometimes rather "Southern" in mentality. Some of the people here still refer to the Civil War as "The War of Northern Aggression", they just recognized Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday in the school systems a few years ago, and the KKK apparently still exists, albeit in subdued fashion. (They held a "rally" at Antietam Battlefield - not sure they got the irony of that - two years ago; the 8 members of the KKK milled around behind police barriers for about ten minutes, measured up the thousand or so protesters, got on their bus and left. But they exist, is my point.)
I'm sure you've read about the Supreme Court decision on the DC gun ban; my Mom actually cried over that. After all those years of going to the concerts, museums, and yes, peace rallies, no-one in my family goes to DC any more.
My outlook on things is no doubt colored by my relative proximity to DC, and PG and Balt. Counties: I'm not sure people in other parts of the country hear what amounts to body counts on a nightly basis when they watch the news.

5:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to admit I thought you were pretty unfair to Obama when I first read the original post. I know all of them are shameless panderers so I made some allowance for that. But after the recent FISA vote you proved, once again, to have seen beyond the illusion to the reality. I can't tell you how much I wanted him to be the person he presented himself to be. I grew up mainly in the deep south and can still remember water fountains marked "white" and "colored" and how black kids had to go out back at the local hamburger joint to pay and pick up their food even tho they paid the same price I did. I knew then it was wrong and was excited to see a black man (well educated, sophisticated, well spoken) get the nomination of a major political party. May he simply be smoking crack again and come to his senses, find his courage and integrity and run the rest of his campaign and presidency (and he'll probably be elected) with this in mind.

7:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Teri,

Yes, American big cities are awful including D.C.! Most Americans don't realize this, but if you have been to Europe, you come back a little sadder. Yes, there are some fancy restaurants, good museums, etc., but there aren't families living there like years ago. Is it worth getting shot for a better pizza? The nice neighborhoods of the past are gone. Young singles live there until their first child is born and then off to the suburbs. Or else the child is locked in his yard and goes to private schools. London is also starting to go this way with increased stabbings, etc. I do blame multiculturalism for this. It is an experiment that has never worked anywhere at any time. Banning guns won't do much. These people don't exactly live by the code of law. Some predict that big cities may gentrify and push the undesirables off into the distant suburbs (like in Paris). This is how it should be, but the opposite happened here in the U.S. with cheap gas. America has already Balkanized to a large extent. I wouldn't be upset about it. I suggest finding an area around people like you and where you feel comfortable. There is no helping the lawless ghettos believe me. I don't care if you are talking about L.A., Chicago, Atlanta, or D.C. Same story. People will continue to go through the motions, but it isn't really possible to "force" people to get an education. The darker truth is that human beings don't want to be around those who are different. This goes for ethnicity, education level, language, etc. Human beings are tribal by nature and we all tend to stick to our own tribe at least on a subconcious level. Living in a jungle with many diverse species may be exciting, but it is also dangerous/anxiety provoking. Look at how Iraq and Africa break down to the tribe/blood lines very quickly when things get bad. If America does collapse, I wouldn't want to be sitting in one of America's large cities unless that is where your tribe is.

11:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Anon.,
I agree that humans are tribal by nature. That is why there are different countries, forms of government, and wars. In an environment where all else is equal, say in an all-girls Catholic high school, one will still see the evidence of tribalism emerge. The girls will divide themselves into the "popular 'in' group" and the "unpopular wanna-be girls", based on some nebulous criteria such as family income or looks. So I do see that tribalism is a human trait. It is also a trait of the animal world and even, believe it or not, the floral kingdom. There are certain species of trees which send out pheromones to other trees in that area, encouraging the production of poisons when the grove is in danger of being over-grazed by giraffes or other mammals. Tribal warfare of the greens versus the hoofed, so to speak.
That being said, I think it is too simple to say that "they" don't want to be educated or that "they" will kill "us" and each other regardless. To isolate minorities, whether they be minorities of color, race, or income, seems to me to be a *causative* factor of tribal unrest, not an answer *to* it. The children in PG county may or may not want an education; the fact is that the schools are literally falling apart and poorly funded. The tax base in that area is very low-income, meaning that there is no money coming from within the community to change the educational system through either the private contributions of the citizens or through the lobbying (meaning paying off) of the local politicians. Do the people stay there because they like it this way? I doubt it. I think they get stuck there through financial handicaps, which weren't really of their own creation in the first place. But to simply wall off the ghetto and leave them to fight it out seems only a way of making sure they will more frequently be driven to view the world as "us versus them". In the event there is no hope of attacking the "them" successfully, the enclosed group then sub-divides and creates its own "them"; such as the rival gangs we see forming in places like PG county. And to then liberally sprinkle the crowd with firearms is just throwing a match on the whole thing.
I think over-population, both in the big cities and globally, also plays a certain role. If you crowd too many people (or rats, or bacterium) in a small space, you get angst and discord and anger.
The competition is just too fierce.
Here in the US, we were, at one point, at least headed in the right direction. Here's an example, silly as it is, of what I mean: the year I graduated high school, mid-70's, from a suburban Maryland public school, our "prom king and queen" was a black couple. Our school fit the national average statistically; 75% white, 25% black. The idea of having a black prom couple not only wasn't radical to our thinking - we didn't even *think* about it at all.
They were cute, they were well-liked, and they were smart. That was as much as anyone thought about it. Somehow we've gone back to huge racial tensions. I don't know all the reasons things have changed for the worse, but they have. Aside from population density and income disparity, I do think it has something to do with massive greed on the corporate front, massive stupidity of the populace due to political indifference to the school systems, and a craven disregard for the public weal on the part of those few in power.
And maybe humans are just destined to fail as a species. We don't seem to have evolved too far beyond the other mammals, after all.
By the way, I don't live in DC. and never did. We used to live close enough for a Sunday afternoon to be pleasantly spent there, but I'm much further away now, geographically speaking. There is no getting away from the stupidity and anger anywhere any more; at least where I currently live, I have some close friends and family to be of help should (when?) things get too much worse in America.
Our own little tribe, hunkering down together. Ironically, (yes, yes, I do get that!), we are forming our own "us" as there is no hope of overcoming the "them" of corporate politics.

9:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Teri,

I don't think funding has anything to do with it. I had a friend from Nigeria who told me about 50 kids to a classroom, very little school supplies, but the kids were motivated to learn. It is about effort, culture, and motivation. What came first the chicken or the egg? Lack of jobs =disintegration of families= children growing up on streets= more children. Who knows? It is way too late now, and I just want to be away from those groups: gangbangers, white red necks, relgious fundamentalists, you name it. It isn't about race only. The cab drivers in Chicago are the most intelligent people in the city. Many of them are engineers and professors from other economically failed countries. Imagine what they think driving around drunk yuppies who don't know a thing. It makes them sick, and I enjoy talking to them. All the wealthy friends that I grew up with are wealthy. How? They had connections or inherited large sums of money. They weren't that bright, but they are educated enough. They knew the right people. Cronyism. Who are the new Hollywood stars? Most of the time they are the sons and daughters of the current stars, disgusting. It makes me ill. Mr. Berman could have written an encyclopedia of America and corruption at every level. Every night watching t.v. I ask my wife? Did you just hear what they said? Did you just see that show? America is turning into a freak show. Everything is becoming so grotesque in its strangeness. The problem is that no one even recognizes how strange our society is. Except for a few oddballs like we are. We are just a little whisper in the hurricane. My grandfather would roll over if he knew what was happening here. In fact he stopped watching t.v. during the 1980s. Our country is going down, and it doesn't take an intellectual like Mr. Berman to see it. People are feeling it on a subliminal level now. It is all about the economy either. People pretend that politics matter when most Americans don't even vote. Believe me you don't want most Americans voting. I am really getting depressed about this culture. There isn't much out there that I can say, "Wow that is interesting." I actually find myself cringing and blushing in embarassment many times. I have to turn it off. Look at these shows on t.v."So you think you can dance?,,,America's got Talent, etc.." Is this bread and circus time or am I dreaming? Mr. Berman have you seen American t.v. lately? It is really becoming bizarre up here.

9:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just finished reading the book.
I am amazed at the breadth of material you integrate into your thesis regarding the impending collapse of the US as a global power. Your book resonates in a haunting melody. I have been intrigued and perplexed by the gullibility of so many people in the last 2 elections. Thank you for writing this book!
Robert Durrenberger

11:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

More on the posted topic from the Joe Bageant site.

Moving to the Center of Elite Consensus

Dear friends,

Our popular masked political consultant just rode back into town "on his white horse Mescalero" to again scrawl insight on our village walls. This time the subject is elite consensus and how it affects our lives.


By an anonymous political consultant

Over the last many weeks we have all been subjected to endless news stories about Senator Obama's campaign "Move to the Center". Leaving aside the political illiteracy which underlines this phrase, the use of it reveals important clues about the rhetoric of electoral campaigns, whom they target and what they are trying to communicate.

Put simply, what "Moving to the Center," means is: moving towards power and money.

"Moving to the Center" is not a move to where the center of public opinion is, but it is a move to the center of where elite consensus is. Once the boundaries of that elite consensus are understood, then we can comprehend the limits of our public choices and more importantly what will be allowed within the confines of our electoral system.

It is important to understand that elite consensus itself is not static and can shift in moderate degrees, but it has definitive boundaries of which you can not cross and still be a viable player within the electoral system. These boundaries exist to the left and right within that consensus, but the institutional bias of the system is much harsher towards any moves to the left. This is because in its essence elite opinion is anti-populist and primarily concerned with protecting the fundamentals of the established economic order.

Every national campaign is in fact a dual conversation, one targeting voters while the other is directed towards the political, media, and economic elites. The purpose of the message targeting the first group is to win votes. The messages to the latter group is designed to form elite consensus, first for it not to correlate against you and secondly to have it help you win and eventually govern.

Surviving the contradictions of these dual dialogues is the primary element that makes a successful national campaign.

Let's examine the primary public policy issues and areas of discussion, and examine what the boundaries of elite opinion are on how they contradict or mirror public opinion.

Economics Trade and Globalization

The elite consensus on these issues is solidly to the right of public opinion. This is especially the case on the issues of trade and globalization. Support for supposed free markets, free trade and globalization are almost universal and unquestioned within elite circles.

This is the establishment issue, all else can be argued and debated but to question the system of privatized profit and socialized cost is the fastest road to political oblivion for any candidate for national office.

Within the confines of elite consensus no cost is ever too exorbitant in "reassuring" Wall Street and "calming the financial markets". No better example of this than the prompt and generous response of the Federal Reserve and the Congress to the recent financial crisis in the housing markets. With hardly any opposition the United States Government nationalized the losses which resulted from the bursting of the housing bubble. There where no calls of prosecution, lectures on personal responsibility, fears of creeping socialism or demands for conditional structural adjustments from bankers and investment houses. The scandal in fact is not the crime in this case, which is to be expected, but in the silence of the public and the political class to this public thievery.

It is precisely because of the iron grip of this consensus, that even if we have a new Democratic President and an enhanced Democratic majorities in the Congress, there will be no legislation signed into law to make it easier to organize workers, provide universal health care or deal with our ever widening class and income divide in the United States.

Social Issues

Elite consensus on the issues of race, sex and role of faith in public life are to the left of public opinion, the only area in which this is the case. Elite opinion is overwhelmingly secular, pro-choice, supportive of gay rights and hostile to overt displays of racism.

Tolerance and liberalism on this front is a very useful tool, since it buys political space to be more conservative on the more important money issues. It also enjoys the advantage of making the right enemies, after all who wants to be on Pat Robertson's side during weekend dinner parties at the Hamptons.

When social conservative complain about the "Liberal Media" they are not wrong, but only in regard to their issues. The contempt of the American elite for the religious right is quite real. What social conservatives misunderstand is that the hostility against them is not because the threat their ideas represent but only a display of the traditional contempt that the merciless strong have for people they consider to be the feeble minded weak.

The significance of the religious right in our politics is only in the wonderful diversions their issues create. Issues that feed a war between urban educated middle classes against the more numerous, the ever more frustrated lower income fundamentalists on issues that are unsolvable in nature.

Foreign Policy

Elite consensus on this issue is center to right, discussion are allowed on the mechanics of running the empire and the management of the military industrial complex, but never regarding the reality of its existence, its necessity or usefulness to most Americans.

Within this narrow context there are always code words and phrases used to differentiate one candidate from another. Words and phrases like "all options are on the table", "realism", "toughness" and "experience" are simply a sliding scale on the willingness to kill in order to defend the interests of our ownership and governing class. This is an especially critical issue for Senator Obama, considering that most victims of our killing are non-whites. His vulnerability to the charges of dual loyalty on this issue, almost certainly means no end to wars, expansions of foreign military bases and occupations of third world countries under his watch.

The made up charges of having a radical minister, or being a Muslim, a Palestinian sympathizer or being married to a black nationalist was meant to limit his room to maneuver on these issues even if there was never any indication he was ever serious about moving in a bold progressive direction.

With his "weakness" defined as his associations with progressive movements, ideas or individuals, he can do nothing but run to the other direction for the next four years if he ascends to the office of President. This is the genius of McCarthyism at work, fifty years after its namesake split hell wide open.

The politics of Personal Responsibility

Personal responsibility is a legitimate issue when discussed in the context of family and personal lives. When dragged into the political arena it is an issue that is entirely an elite construct. The actual positions of the elite are not particularly relevant. What is important is that the issues get discussed not what results from that discussion. The relevance of this issue is not in what it illuminates but in what it hides.

The recent enthusiastic embrace of Senator Obama of the call for "responsibility" from inner city black fathers is a prime example of this issue. What he is really saying is, "I will never blame the owners of the country for the social problems caused by their economic policies." Senator Obama knows better than anyone that you can eliminate most of the problems of inner city fathers in a generation with a decent educational system and living wage jobs.

But all systems of power need a convincing and unlikable enemy, which can bury the contradictions of the system. In our case incoherent, undereducated black urban males fit the bill perfectly. They are being attacked not because they are a threat to the power structure, but precisely because they are not.

What voters are expected to believe is that after a 30-year class war against the bottom 90% of income earners, the source of their troubles are black rappers and inner city fathers and not criminality on Wall Street or a corrupt political system. The road to the White House over the past 30 years has been paved by pretending to believe the absurdity that the individuals who pull the levers of power over people's lives are named Willie Horton, Sister Souljah and Ludicrous, and not Robert Rubin, Phil Gramm and Hank Paulson.

If as a society we are prepared to believe this, then we have lost the stuff that makes free men.

12:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Berman,
I'm not even going to pretend I'm offering lofty thoughts and deep ruminations with this - it's just a little personal tidbit from my household I wanted to pass along.
Last night, my 23-year-old son entered my bedroom in time to hear, on the T.V., some female news anchor gushing over how tough Sarah Palin is. "Why, she even recently gave a speech in Texas *after* her water broke. She finished that speech and then got on a plane and flew back to Alaska where she was delivered of her 5th child! Now that's tough," said the news woman.
My son, visibly angered, said, "Oh, my God, just turn it off. I knew America's politics were a cartoon, but now this is just a freak show."
That about sums it all up.

7:35 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Teri,

I believe that she is a staunch anti-abortion rights person, and a believer in creationism (or "intelligent design") as well. Add to that virtually no political experience, and we've got ourselves one hell of a successor to the pres. I tell you, in terms of getting on with the collapse of American civ, I'm beginning to think it might be just as well if McCain were to win. In the late Roman empire, with the exception of Constantine, the emperors were clowns or dummies. With McCain-Palin in charge, we can have both!

Thanx for writing-

10:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Berman,
Don't know if you read salon.com, but I have become a regular reader of Glenn Greenwald's column. If you've time, take a glance at his article today, titled, "Massive police raids on suspected protesters in Minneapolis".

2:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Berman,
David Simon, the creator of the excellent show on HBO, "The Wire" is giving speeches about the decline of the American Empire. Do you know much about Mr. Simon? He seems to echo a lot of what you say, and he knows, as well as anyone that has moved around a large American city, that things are getting worse no matter how many areas "gentrify." I like to walk around Chicago and look at the old run down architecture. You can see the marks of the European craftsmen who built those buildings 80 years ago. You can go to the cemetary and look at the names on the headstones. Their descendants are probably living in a suburb, overweight, screaming at Cubs games with no thought or concern for anyone else. Something is wrong. David Simon said what I believe to be true in that Europe will follow us down. He does state that although European society is trying to be more attentive to the underclass, their ultimate fate of gated communities and mass poor is unavoidable. At least Europe tries to do the right things while America just abandons working class people. They also, interestingly enough, cited the "Wire" as Obama's favorite show. Maybe Obama does really get it. Do you think that if Obama does really gets it, that he could do something to slow down, stall, or even resurrect something akin to the American Dream? Is there a chance for hope? Or is this process controlled by a system (Capitalism) and world system (globalization) that no leader, even another Lincoln could undo? I am a cynic, so this question is going out on a limb for me.

John in Chicagoland

11:05 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear John,

I not only don't get HBO; I don't even have a TV. So I fear I'm not familiar with David Simon. But I can tell you this: Obama is fully tied into defending the national security state, the framework of war and corporations that is bringing the US down. No one can be elected pres unless they are pledged to defend these institutions (Jimmy Carter, briefly, being the only exception to this; and he came to be regarded as a national joke). Obama's talk of "change" is a mirage. He appointed a big Wal-Mart defender as his economic adviser, and Madeleine Albright (a war criminal, in my view) as his foreign policy adviser. The list goes on and on. Don't put your faith in popular fantasies, mon cher; the real differences between Obama and McCain are ones of style.

Stay cynical (i.e., real)-


9:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The real problem with having the dummies and clowns run our country is that Mc Cain with his volatile personality and GI Joe mentality would have his hand on the switch of nuclear weapons....and backed up by (as Bill Maher call her) The Stewardess. God help us. I know you're not an Obama fan but I do think there's a very critical difference between the candidates and it's more than just style. Both Obama and Biden are intelligent men who have the capacity, willingness and see the necessity in thinking issues through and not making "gut decisions". Rome could implode without taking life with it but we no longer have that luxury.

10:30 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Susan,

You could be right, but presidents have a tendency to get a lot more "sober" once they are in office. I don't think there's that much to worry about, from that angle. And here's a possible argument for voting for McCain: the US is doing so much damage in the world, causing so much misery and pain, that the sooner it is disabled, and reduced to an England-type status, the better off everybody will be. While I don't think who's in the White House is actually that important (they all have to serve the corporate warfare state, don't kid yourself), it seems likely that the GOP will deliver more of the same, including the imperial overstretch that is bleeding us badly. In short, the Dems will buy us a little bit of time, the GOP will accelerate the decline. Maybe we should do everybody a favor and just get it over with, no?

In terms of resisting the US, BTW, you might enjoy Mohsin Hamid's recent novel, "The Reluctant Fundamentalist"--a view of us from the outside, as it were.

Thanks again for writing.


12:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would be poetic justice if the Republicans won and had to deal with the mess they've made (with the help of the Democrats to be fair). But I want to slow down this free-fall with health care for everyone and reestablishing diplomatic ties and treaties. Surely they can accomplish THAT much in four years. And those two things don't even appear to be on the agenda for McCain. I honestly couldn't tell you what they do plan on doing except making corporate tax cuts permanent. I'm worried McCain will try to relive the defeat in Vietnam by trying to force a "win" in Iraq----no matter what the cost. In watching the Republican convention, it's obvious a great deal of his selfworth and identity is invested in being the noble war hero, ageless top gun pilot and daring "maverick/rebel." People can do stupid and reckless things that harm others trying to justify their illusions. The British can go to doctors when they need to and go to real neighborhood pubs and tearooms to socialize. What do we have? The ER, walk-in, pay-as-you-go clinics and chain resturants. So even if (or when) we're on the same level with the Britian diplomatically it will be a worse situation for us I'm afraid.

8:29 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Susan,

Well, that GOP convention was *so* blatantly stupid that it has to tell you something significant about the American people that the current polls have McCain and Obama just about neck and neck. But I still believe anything the Dems will do, if they are in power, will be fairly cosmetic in nature. Bill Burton, Obama's campaign adviser, recently said that O's goal is to unite the country around fighting Al Qaeda; O himself, on the O'Reilly show, said we have to take on Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the "network of enemies" that threatens the US. Absolutely nothing about the history of US foreign policy in the Middle East; in fact, O has said that his model for US fp is the Truman-Acheson one--the folks who brought you "containment" and the Cold War (which wound up costing us $8 trillion). Words like "empire," "colonialism," "blowback," and "soul-searching" are not part of his vocabulary. He's no Jimmy Carter, in short. Nor can he be, if he wants to get elected: 99% of the American public has abs. zero knowledge of the history of US fp in the Middle East (or anywhere else). O may, in fact, know better--I mean, he's certainly no dummy--but you have to play the empire game in order to get elected, and you have to continue playing it in order to retain the respect of the public--which is itself so out of it that it is as though they were drugged.

You remember Plato's parable of the cave in The Republic, yes? 99% of the population sit in a cave, taking the shadows playing on the wall for reality; 1% has figured out that it is the light that is real, not the shadows. Nothing, but nothing, is going to turn around those ratios. To believe that is to believe in the tooth fairy.

To continue the end-of-empire scenario, in any case: McCain wins, then suddenly dies on January
21. Sarah, whose knowledge of anything may actually be less than that of G.W. Bush, is now at the helm. Continuing the pattern of the last 8 yrs, she makes the worst, most self-destructive decision in every facet of government. Within a year, if not less, not a single country in the world takes us seriously. The dollar is devalued by 25%, national debt and trade debt are in the trillions, we attack Iran and Syria simultaneously, and lose both wars within 3 mos. Hugo Chavez returns to the UN and calls the president a payaso, and gets a standing ovation. Etc.

Keep in mind that in the late-empire period in Rome, the only emperor who was not a meathead was Constantine. Reagan was merely the beginning of this trend. Let the show go on!


10:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

McCain probably won't have to have a coronary for the end of empire senario you outlined to take effect. It sounds like something he could manage all by himself. I doubt, too, that either of them are so reckless as to actually start a nuclear war but he and The Stewardess would probably think attacking Iran and Pakistan a good idea. I simply stand on principle that fools should not have nuclear codes. I watched BBC news last night and they showed brief interviews with 3 of the Republican delegates after Palin's speech----we can only pray this was not broadcast in Europe. One said "she didn't use big words in her speech and I liked that" and another (in a huge hat with pink feathers) said "Alaska is between Russia and Canada and no one can tell me she doesn't have foreign experience." The shadows on the wall seem to have increased and accelerated in the last 30 years and the shadows alot of people are watching are on Fox News and the like. America is in decline but I am hoping (probably foolishly) that if Obama is elected people could at the very least begin a discussion of the real problems facing America without being accused of treason or being "unAmerican." I don't think the warfare state or powerful lobbies will evaporate quietly or quickly but if it could even be ackowledged that would be the first step in addressing some of our problems. If our horrendous national debt and the declining health of our citizens is not addressed with real policies within the next four years, I really do give up all hope. Thanks, as always, for your response. I know you're busy and this blog takes time.

12:20 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Susan,

Not to worry abt being broadcast in Europe; most Europeans have already concluded that we aren't very bright. As for an Obama election leading to intelligent public discussion: the day I believe in that, I'll believe in the tooth fairy.


5:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel more the desperation of hope (maybe similar to what a cancer pt feels)rather than the audacity. The polls are split now which means, too, that half the people see disaster in the McCain/Palin ticket and recognize we would have had a very different country if Gore had been President in 2000. I know a tooth fairy is not on the way to rescue America in any guise. I think the half that want to clean up our enviornmental mess, educate and insure our citizens, etc. deserve better than this. But there were probably many people in Roman empire who deserved better than what they eventually got.

8:21 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Susan,

We can't have a different country, not under any president. Our problems are structural, and go back a very long ways. Gore in 2000 would have delayed the inevitable, but believe me, he too is a proponent of the warfare-corporate state. Sooner or later, as the empire died, it was going to show its fangs: if not Bush, someone else. This is what dying empires do.

In any case, there is some hope for a Palin scenario. Polls now have the 2 candidates neck and neck. Since most voting is by computer, and the machines are manufactured by rt-wing co's such as Diebold, the possibilities for rigging the election in swing states are very good. (This may have happened in Fla in 2000 and in Ohio in 2004, in fact.) With a McCain victory, we then only have to wait for him to keel over, and finally, the US can showcase the dumbest president in its history, worse even than GW Bush or Millard Fillmore. A creationist, Sarah may actually believe the earth is 6000 yrs old. It's doubtful she has anything more than fried rice in her head. And there she'll be, at the helm, leading us into a Bright Future. Whee!

Did you ever read Kosinski's "Being There," BTW, or see the Peter Sellers film?


12:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I saw Being There years ago and it was a masterpiece and, apparently, prophetic. Watching the news uproar over the last week I thought I'd share this with you and your blog readers. It's on target and funny---from Tom Robbins' Wild Ducks Flying Backwards:

"The military-industrial complex first seized and then cemented total control of the US government, a coup d'etat that would have failed without the active assistance of a rapidly growing population of fearful, non-thinking dupes, "true believers" dumbed down and almost comically manipulated by their media, their church, and their state. So be it. Freedom has long proven too heady an elixir for America's masses, weakened and confused as they are by conflicting commitments to puritanical morality and salacious greed. In the wake of the recent takeover, our prevailing national madness has been ratcheting steadily skyward, the pious semi-literates in the conservative camp tremble and crow, the educated martyrs in the progressive sector writhe and fume. It's a grand show, from a cosmic perspective, though enjoyment of the spectacle is blunted by the havoc wreaked on nature and by the developmental abuse inflicted on children. We must bear in mind, however, that the central dynamic of our race has never been a conflict between good and evil but rather between enlightenment and ignorance. Ignorance makes the headlines, wins the medals, doles out the punishment, jingles the coin, yet in its clandestine cubbyholes (and occasionally on the public stage) enlightenment continues to quietly sparkle, its radiance outshining the entire disco ball of history. Its day may or may not come, but no matter. The world as it is! Life as it is! Enlightenment is its own reward."

6:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Berman,
I see that the public is quite satisfied that a visit to the U.N. will give Palin some foreign policy experience. What to say?
I just wish these people would hurry the hell up and Rapture already.

6:34 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Teri,

My idea of the Rapture is that McCain wins on Nov. 4, and then croaks on Jan. 21. President Palin, who has little more than fried rice in her head, takes the helm. The downward course we have been following since the early 70s then goes into high gear. Every time she makes some ridiculous pronouncement, at least half the country hails it as wisdom. Economy crashes; she sends more troops to Iraq. Darwinism outlawed in schools; non-Christians all have to wear yellow stars. Etc. Keep in mind that w/exception of Constantine, all of the emperors in the late Roman period were dunces.

Sarah, she's my gal.


10:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Professor Berman,

There are so many things I want to say...I think I'm going to have to forego any detailed exegesis of what I've taken from your work, and instead express a simple sentiment.

One of my great sorrows is that it seems clear I shall never have the opportunity to engage you in direct conversation; it would be an amazing thing. In the broadest terms I can see two possible outcomes. Either I would show you a new route to hope, or you would demolish finally the one I am now following.

In any event, I thank you for your work. You are my ultimate recourse for anyone around me taking politics too seriously. ("The day I hear any politician answer Morris Berman, that is the day I will take politics seriously.")


1:01 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Skip,

Well, ya never know. Although I rarely get invited to speak in the US any more, I'm doing a gig at Bellarmine U. in Louisville on Oct. 8. Long shot, of course; I'm guessing you don't live in KY.

And also, don't be so binary regarding our possible conversation. After all, I could come away feeling just a tad brighter, and you just a tad more depressed. Clearly, I would be getting the better deal.

Thanks for writing, my friend-


6:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Professor Berman,

Trust me, few people as me are as aware of, or as wary of, the false dichotomy. It's just that I find in your writings, as well as in those of the likes of Chomsky and Vidal, a certain blind spot when it comes to appreciating how the nadir of science comprises a core "background" value wholly at odds with the instincts of healthy life. Nietzsche had a handle on this, for whatever that's worth; he dubbed it "the religion of comfortableness." Crichton makes a truly amazing statement about it in his novel Jurassic Park.

This, truth be told, is the conversation I would love to have. I just don't see it happening in any meaningful way on a blog. It would have to be a genuine Socratic dialogue.

Ah, maybe someday... :)



8:08 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Skip,

Am a bit puzzled by your 'accusation'...this so-called 'blind spot' you refer to is in fact the focal point of the trilogy I wrote on the evolution of human consciousness!

Happy reading,

9:46 AM  
Blogger Karen van Hoek said...

Thanks for the rapid reply! Since I wrote those two comments, though, I thought about the topic further and arrived at much the same conclusion you stated: too many laptops make cafes feel like little offices, places of business rather than places to relax and connect with other people. I'm going to leave the laptop behind in future.

I do disagree with your point that it doesn't matter what I do, though, for two reasons: one is that I'm more optimistic than you are about the value of swimming against the current and encouraging others to think about what's going on (I've read enough of your work to know that optimism is not something I should expect to find in it); the other is that for the enhancement of my own life and the lives of those I come in contact with, I want to be aware of ways that I'm mindlessly "going with the current" and do my best to wake up. Even before I had read your work, I had a sense that something like what you call the Monastic Option was probably going to be necessary and that I would no doubt be one of the people on that path. And if you're going to take a stand for the lost values of civilization, it's reasonable to be thoughtful and vigilant in guarding against the creeping advance of "the Matrix" in one's own life.

By the way, here's a recent article about a cafe that's banished laptops and why -- and the surprisingly positive reactions of some patrons.


6:16 PM  

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