November 23, 2010

Taking It Up a Notch

Journalist Ted Rall recently published a remarkable book, The Anti-American Manifesto. It is not remarkable for its all-too-familiar argument that the US is a violent nation, by now almost totally dysfunctional and in the hands of a plutocracy. Anyone familiar with my work, or (much more likely) that of Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges, Chalmers Johnson et al. will not be shocked by this argument. What distinguishes Rall’s work is the explicit call for violent overthrow of the American government as the only serious way of addressing our situation. It is, thus, a courageous book; he worries that he could wind up in jail, or at the very least see his career destroyed, which is hardly a far-fetched scenario (informal censorship is very powerful in the US). But he is committed to putting the case before the American people (or more realistically, a tiny fraction thereof), that there is simply no reforming the system; that it is simply beyond repair, and needs to be replaced by something completely different.

Rall’s documentation of how violent we are and have been, and of our present decay and corruption, is quite elaborate, and certainly worth reading even if you already know the score. Thus on pp. 72-81 he compiles a table of wars the United States has been involved in over the period 1798-2007. It’s quite breathtaking, and would seem to confirm the argument I’ve made elsewhere that the country derives its identity via opposition, i.e. the creation and pursuit of enemies. (Cf. Walter Hixson’s thesis that war is at the center of American identity, as he presents it in The Myth of American Diplomacy.) The data of our dysfunction are supplied more or less randomly throughout the text: Americans live shorter lives than the citizens of almost every other developed country, ranking 42nd in terms of life expectancy; the top 10% of wage earners receive nearly 50% of all national income, and hold 80% of the nation’s wealth; a murder is committed every 31 minutes in the United States, and a rape every 5.8 minutes; more than 47 million of us live in poverty (with the definition of the term very conservatively drawn); more than 3% of the adult population is in jail, on probation, or on parole (actually, 1 out of every 31 people--!); 1 out of 5 of us is unemployed, with little prospect of altering our situation for years to come; the national debt is off the charts (see the previous post on this blog); and so on. His first conclusion, that we are in a state of advanced collapse, is by now a truism, though most of the country is in denial about this, or just simply blind to it.

Rall’s second conclusion is that there is no real political left to speak of, in the sense that it is, at best, a collection of wimps. Radical groups spend time selling newspapers on college campuses; organizations such as Democracy Now! or Common Dreams threaten no one, as the US government well knows. American college students do not call for replacing that government with something better, and if you go to the website of the CPUSA (American Communist Party), it says that it is not, and never was, “a supporter of violent revolution”—“as though impotence was something to brag about,” Rall wryly remarks. As for Michael Moore, an “agent non-provocateur,” “the best the official Left has to offer,” Rall regards the man as little more than a joke. Moore declares that the system is “fundamentally corrupt and undemocratic,” but keeps on rooting for Obama to rectify the situation. When one interviewer asked Moore, apropos of his film Capitalism: A Love Story, “Short of revolution, what can people do?”, Moore lamely replied that the purpose of the film was to open the audience to new ideas. He never questioned the interviewer’s premise, writes Rall, that a solution should fall short of revolution. “He thinks he’s dangerous,” Rall comments sarcastically.

This brings him to his third, and major, conclusion, that we must forsake the pseudo-left, start amassing an arsenal, and take over the government by means of violent uprising. This is how history works, he tells us, and of course he’s right (Gandhi excepted, I suppose). The problem I have with this, and which haunts the book, is the inability to say, precisely, who “we” is. This is the Achilles heel in the whole argument, an argument that Rall himself undercuts quite decisively at various points. For “we” seems to be basically, “the good guys”—folks like Rall, or the ones he calls “people of good will.” His definitions are as follows:

We: “Hard-working, underpaid, put upon, thoughtful, freedom-loving, disenfranchised, ordinary people”

They (i.e., the enemy): “Reactionary, stupid, overpaid, greedy, shortsighted, exploitative, power-mad, abusive politicians and corporate executives.”

And this is where things fall apart, because the stats don’t bear Rall out. By and large, Americans are not thoughtful and freedom-loving; instead, they are reactionary, stupid, greedy, shortsighted, and given a chance would like to be corporate executives raking in $50 million a year. They don’t vote for Nader or Kucinich; 99% of the electorate just wants the American Way of Life, which is stupid, greedy, shortsighted, etc., to continue. There is no interest in rebellion here: as Rall himself notes, the public collectively shrugged after the Supreme Court stole the election for the GOP in 2000, and didn’t care all that much that no WMD’s were found in Iraq three years later. Contrary to all common sense, 91% of Americans regard themselves as middle class (this from a 2008 Pew Charitable Trust poll). Americans, says Rall, believe that they are better than everyone else and so deserving of more than anyone else, and this is their religion—what he calls “the Cult of the Asshole.” So in 2009 CNN found that 50% approve of the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” including waterboarding—torture apparently being an effective way to ensure the continuation of our Asshole way of life. Rall writes that “we” have to educate people about what is wrong with the country, and teach them how to think—“propaganda comes first,” he says—but adds that “the ability to absorb it intelligently is required before propaganda can become effective.” Meanwhile, he admits that a large fraction of the American public is illiterate, and that (CBS News poll, 2004) 55% of Americans don’t believe that man evolved (actually, I think it’s closer to 67%). “How does one reason [with them]?”, he rightly asks. Hence, “The number of truly independent-minded Americans willing and able to commit to what can and should and must be done at this time is a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent.”

Then what, Mr. Rall, are we talking about? There is an endless call in this book for the reader to “stand up and act.” Again, who is We? And what is it We should do? We and whose army? A revolution requires having the military on your side, or at least remaining neutral during the uprising, and the American military is generally conservative and committed to following the government’s orders. Rall’s prescription for action is that “we” form cells and cadres—talk to a friend, spread the word, develop a decentralized revolutionary network. Meanwhile, he again undercuts his argument by observing that it is the right wing in this country that is armed and ready to take action, not the (nonexistent) left. Anger, he admits, exists on the political right; the rest of the populace is docile. It is the right that is opening camps in rural areas, accumulating weapons, training new recruits, etc. They are, he points out, preparing for war, exchanging information about these weapons and stockpiles and discussing various strategies. Rush Limbaugh, it turns out, has actually endorsed such activity, whereas there is no influential figure on the left crazy enough to publicly endorse a similar left-wing mobilization. Nor is there any popular interest in it; that strikes me as being too obvious to warrant comment.

Rall’s description of the state of disintegration and decay of the United States is right on the money. Given the stupidity and docility of the American public that he himself documents, the most likely scenario is further disintegration and decay, until, like Rome or England, we drift away to nothing. That process is, in fact, well underway. And yet, Rall persists in the fantasy that American rage will boil over into left-wing revolution; that the segment of the population that is “in the know” will obtain guns and learn how to use them; that they will take out “the idiotic, incompetent, greedy, evil, and stupid people who are ruining our lives,” even if they have to work with racist skinheads in Idaho to accomplish their goals (which Rall says might be necessary). “Unless you choose to lay down and die,” he tells the reader, “there is no other choice.” Don’t worry, he concludes: millions will be with you.

Where these millions are going to come from, of course, is not clear, for this “Rall Call” ultimately has no basis in reality, and this by the author’s own admission. The author is honest in recognizing that there can be no substantive social change in this country short of revolution; and that no matter whom we elect, no matter how many books Noam Chomsky publishes or movies Michael Moore makes, none of it redistributes power, none of it makes any difference for how business and government are actually conducted. His strange, even bizarre, error is to think that this sad and stupefied population will somehow transform itself from sheep into (left-wing) wolves. When pigs fly, is the only thing I can say in response.

©Morris Berman, 2010


Blogger WCS Minor Circuit said...

An interesting thing to think about is even if "We" was to overpower the American government, what would "We" replace it with? History has shown us that even when a country's way of governing is changed--by whatever means--the new government eventually becomes just a shadow of the old one. The changes are just superficial at most. People carry on with their fundamental ways of thinking. With America specifically, if "We" started a revolution, I'm sure the New America would still break into factions, rich people would still hold the power, and the people would still rather live in ignorance than learn about the outside world.

3:37 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yeah...I guess one wd hafta take it case by case. Allende's Chile had a lot going for it, for example. But when one looks at the USSR, the truth is that Russia was always autocratic, going back 1000 yrs; the Bolsheviks hardly had a monopoly on that. And now, of course, we have a KGB-style tyranny under Putin and his successors. Each country tends to have a characteristic 'fingerprint' that it always maintains. As I argue in my next bk, following Walter McDougall, ours was hustling, and this led to a shallow, not very bright population. The raw material we have to work with in the US, in short, is not of very high quality, and this wd remain as true after any purported revolution than before it. Rall's asides about the nature of the populace thus tend to belie his optimism about a violent overthrow of the current regime. Clueless before, clueless after, is the most likely scenario (assuming revol'n were possible, which it's not).


4:14 PM  
Anonymous Nocti said...

I have gotten a load of cr*p from others elsewhere when I've mentioned what follows, and maybe I'll be on the receiving end of still more of it here, too, but I have always believed the following:

In our over-populated, co-opted, rich and spoiled Western world, with power so completely and utterly consolidated in corporate hands (for reasons well explicated by the Frankfurt School and contemporary commentators, such as G. William Domhoff), the only opportunity for meaningful revolutionary socio-political change lies in the occurrence of disasters, diseases, plagues, world war, and myriad catastrophes that significantly de-populate the planet and throw it into utter chaos. Then, and only then, will the field of play be open to radical change, in the literal sense of the word radical.

Of course, the problem of "quality raw materials" out of which to build a new and better society remains, but perhaps colonies of NMIs could form out of the de-centralized ruins of the old world (assuming that anyone survives).

At any rate, even if I am right, that is irrelevant, as it's unlikely that anyone who is currently alive will live to see such "interesting times", and they may never even occur, at all.

7:48 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, I for one agree w/u. The Rallian Revolution is not a likely scenario; more likely is that change will be forced upon us, both environmentally and economically. This is something I've suggested in past essays, in fact. And I think it's likely to open the door to secessionist movements, which already exist. Pretty much what happened in the former USSR, when u think abt it; but that was more political than anything else (tho brought on by econ. collapse). I'm guessing these changes will take another 30 years or so to really take effect, but it's hard to say...things are so speeded up these days. But certain things seem rather obvious:

1. The present system is no longer viable;
2. Neither the American people nor those in control are willing to do anything to arrest the deteriorating status quo;
3. System breaks, such as 9/11 or Oct. 2008, are likely to multiply;
4. Solutions will come about as faites accomplis, whether organic (we grow into new social and political formations) or catastrophic;
5. (This is just a guess) For the most part, 'the future' will be elsewhere; it will pass the US by.


8:53 PM  
Anonymous Paul said...

Funny how the term "We" is frequently used in the context to mean someone else...

8:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How many left-wing militias are there in the USA? People on the left are generally not into the "culture" of guns.

I would also say that there are lots of gun-toting right wing crazies just itching to "cleanse" the USA body politic of the cancer of ant-American leftism and relativism.

Sad to say but you Morris would be an obvious target

I remember hearing an interview with someone on the left of USA politics who in his early life attended a right-wing military academy in California. He mentioned that when John Kennedy was assassinated there was unanimous jubilation/celebration at the academy.

He also mentioned that at the time powerful forces on the right were seriously preparing to engineer a coup against Kennedy.

The Australian interviewer also mentioned that some elements of the USA embassy in Melbourne also had a party celebrating Kennedy's murder.

9:11 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

The vast majority of Americans are living Satchel Paige's advice with a vengeance: "Don't look back, something might be gaining on you." And that something is Inevitability.

Nocti is quite right. It's going to take a disaster too big to ignore to make people recognize what's happened. The social fabric is threadbare & tattered at best; the economy is an illusion; and there's a huge, raw, gaping hole where a soul ought to be for nearly everyone.

Add to that the coming devastation of climate change, the continuing evolution of new super-viruses & diseases, the end of cheap power, the increasing level of free-floating violence & fear ... well, it ain't too promising, is it?

And fantasies of leftist uprising are just that: fantasies. We were a lot closer to that possibility in the 1960s, and even then it was still 99.99% idealistic, wishful thinking. And most of that remaining .01% was self-indulgent posturing, alas.

I see an American future of gigantic plasma TVs with blank screens, Hummers & SUVs with no gas sitting in driveways, houses with no lights or heat most of the time, and stunned, empty-headed people bereft of their technological opiates ...

I'm glad I won't be around to see it.

7:58 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

"Rall Call," good one, Morris!


The America you describe is already here. Yippie, Transition Park, here we come!


Another problem with Rall's characterization of the people who will throw over the system and those who want to shore it up is that it's manichaean, the same problem with Toffler's 70s best-seller. Who's ever had all the good on their side except deluded religionists?

11:20 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Derrick Jensen is another leftie who endorses (violent) resistance. But his examples of such resistance are maverick individuals like the woman who left Jensen an anonymous note explaining her activity of (illegally) dismantling small damns, another small group of cyber-punks who want to use their knowledge to bring down the system by creating strategically placed computer viruses.

Jensen himself says that this stuff scares him and that he has yet to take the plunge and cautions his readers what is at stake: post 9-11 stringency in imprisoning treasonous terrorists most certainly accompanied by enhanced interrogation.

Still, he points out that all the reality and fictional cop shows want to induce people into thinking that the arm of the law is made out of rubber and is infinitely extendable into the private corners of our lives. But that's just more advertising. The cops are really keystoned; dynamite post-9-11, free for the taking, is still left lying about casually by construction companies.

But Jensen's description of these resisters proves how sparse actual resistance is, limited to usually young, quixotic, and brave (or fool-hardy) persons -- tree huggers, etc.

Contrast this with the violent and wide-spread resistance of the indigenous forest dwellers of India who are fighting to save their land and way of life from international coroporations angling for the vast reserves of boxite in these regions, as described by David Barsamian. The Indian government denounces these resisters as terrorists and thus curries favor with the U.S. as being a shining example of democracy in the third world.

11:59 AM  
Anonymous Art said...


It's heartbreaking, isn't it? But cheer up: in the future, Americans will still have their guns and religion to fill the void.

For the first time, Sears department stores will be open Thanksgiving day. No need to wait until Black Friday to go trampling, I mean shopping, this year.

I suggest taking an afternoon nap instead.

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since he is mentioned in this piece, I will inquire as to whether you are aware that Chalmers Johnson passed away last weekend?

3:25 PM  
Blogger Neb said...

I see rt wing groups as threatening to others except the US govt. They dont have the stuff made for sustained revolution any more than the left despite their guns and multiple wives. They're angry & confused but their shit can't stick cuz in the end it's posturing.

3:39 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, perhaps their strategy is to wait until the gov't is weak and ineffectual. Which is abt the same time line as that of any potential success of secessionist groups. But there may come a time when the gov't is unable to enforce anything, in which case, all bets are off. I mean, I really can't be sure; Aryan Nation has not made me privy to any of their paramilitary plans, for some odd reason (tho I'm guessing it's connected to my devotion to chopped liver).


4:03 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

You language-loving bloggers, for you I trot out ill-remembered [New Testament] Greek to be inscribed on your bathroom mirrors (excuse the approximate transliteration; no access to Greek font):

ego phone boontos en te eremo...

I [am] a voice shouting in the desert...

John 1:20-23

from eremo [desert] comes "hermit." Thus "desert hermit" is etymologically pleonastic.

KJV: "a voice crying in the wilderness"

I'm afraid that that is the real response to the Rall Call in the United States.

4:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For me these concerns over the inevitable failure of violent revolutions go even further then a lack of faith in basic American values. The roots of our current crisis Can be found repeatedly throughout history, as Mr. Berman has pointed out in the past. The difference this time around is that our inability to accurately judge risk, much less the basic nature of the universe has put in danger much more then we ever thought was at stake. Indeed, the future of life on earth is in danger in ways it hasn't been in hundreds of millions of years.

For me, there is no answer that presents itself. Those who advocate change through political or other means seem almost entirely not to grasp the scale of the problem. Not only is it highly unlikely that these issues will ever be taken seriously, it is difficult to imagine what the appropriate response would be.

6:46 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

"Actions begun in anger end in shame"--Mr. Rall might want to ponder that and read War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning while he's at it. Thugs and criminals often become the new generals in uprisings the type he's looking forward to and promoting. And Pasternak made the point at the end of Dr. Zhivago that it only took one generation after the revolution to reduce the children of the educated and cultured to factory workers; Zhivago and Lara's daughter didn't study medicine or poetry. The valuable and good are destroyed right along with everything else and recreating the conditions they can flourish in doesn't appear to be all that simple. I'm not saying we should all just give up but violence seems to create as many problems as it attempts to solve. I see no way to address the mess we're in other than the one you presented in TAC as preserving what we can of our own humanity and helping others, as much as possible, to do the same.

On Bill Moyers last broadcast he said if he could recommend only one book it would be Chalmer Johnson's Nemesis. So while all you Sarah Palin supporters flock to the bookstores to get her newest masterpiece, might want to pick up a copy of this one too.

8:05 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Hi Susan-

Rall admits as much, as it turns out. He says that the immediate aftermath of a revolution is usually worse than before, but that history is never neat and clean, and that rev. is nevertheless necessary to alter the status quo. The Russian example is of course the great exception, in the sense that 'immediate aftermath' became a permanent condition; altho as I said earlier, I think it's more about an autocratic history than Bolshevism. The French Rev is a different story; despite the Terror (which is a big 'despite'), it finally led to the end of the Middle Ages in France, and to modern parliamentary democracy. Here again, of course, the 'thumbprint' remained, which in France's case is rule by aristocracy--it just became a different aristocracy in charge (graduates of les grandes ecoles), altho still perhaps tied to the hereditary families. In any case, I'm guessing most historians would vote No on Russia, Yes on France.

As for the US: Rall undercuts his own case, more or less admitting that it would be a right-wing Christian tyrannical class that would take over--or that that's the threat, and that the left would have to be prepared to fight them. But then he says that the right has weapons and is organized, and the left is w/o any real political strength. If the pattern of origins holds (e.g. autocracy in Russia, aristocracy in France), in the US it would be hustling and consumerism--which is exactly why the New Left of the sixties was so easily coopted into a chic form of commercialism (the revolution of the boutiques, as some observers called it). This pattern is too deep in our DNA to change, and so I suspect revolution in the US wd simply be a revolving door. Not that I think anybody really has to worry about it, which is why you can say or write more or less what you want in this country; it finally doesn't make any difference, and the gov't isn't quaking in its boots over Noam Chomsky or anybody else.

In any case, I think increasing disintegration, dysfunction, and entropy--nemesis, in Chalmers J's word--are on the agenda for us, and in that sense, his book and Sarah's form a logical pair: he predicted it, and she wd be the perfect agent to accelerate the process further. I mean, if Bush was an embarrassment, what label could we possibly attach to *her*?
Granted, it's not going to be pretty, but I do think it might be funny!


9:04 AM  
Anonymous Robert Mitchell said...

Back in the early '90s in California I was a veteran-activist giving anti-recruitment talks in the local high schools in protest to the Gulf War but, at the same time, I was advocating an open revolution of the same sort that Rall envisions led by disenfranchised Vietnam Veterans. Now, 20 years on, they, too, have become too passive.
I wrote my book on a different type of revolution, one that involved how we raise and teach our children. Nurturing the Souls of our Children: Education and the Culture of Democracy was published in 2005 but it, too, fell victim to informal censorship and was not commercially successful.
Still, I believe that the most important revolution is internal. Change yourself and pass it on to the children.

11:29 AM  
Blogger Neb said...

Derrick Jensen, a revolutionary of sorts, says the problem with the left is that it doesn't know what it wants. The ruling class and rt wingrs knows what it wants w/o confusion: More.

The revolution I see that's required is the revolution of first thought then behavior. Revolution on concept of More. There will always be a ruling class of some form (the elected, the elders, the talented, whatever). A functional society has one that is duty bound to SERVING the people. The people would have the capability, the duty and the will to act when the ruling class is adrift. e.g., If some ruling class member suddenly makes more than X times the lowest member in society then some trip wire goes off in the environment that causes the people to feel the effects immediately. Thus immediate corrective action is likely. This is a revolution concerning the cultivation of mind and behavior on the masses to create social norms and constructs that engenders respect of community, life and the limited resources on this planet.

Not gonna happen here. Parts of S.America may get the chance.

Anything short of this is just repetition.

12:01 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thank you for writing in. The type of 'revolution' u advocate is gd as far as it goes, but it really is 'the revolution of a 1000 years'. We haven't got that sort of time, quite obviously; on a personal level, I think that the NMI solution I talk abt in Twilight is probably the best any individual can do, tho it's not going to change things in a structural sense. What will do the latter is collapse, which is now in process, and which, when it gets advanced enuf, will force change upon us. I'm guessing we'll limp along w/'crisis management' for another 20 yrs, and finally that won't work anymore. Then you'll see secessionist movements having more clout, w/the gov't unable to stand in their way. In an odd way, the South will rise again (sans slavery, of course), and the US will, I predict, be a lot more decentralized 40 yrs from now than it is today. I see it, in short, more as an historic-organic process than anything else. I also envision a time when people from the new independent sections of the country (Republic of Vermont, etc.) will take field trips to Wash DC, now converted into a museum of folly, with kids looking at the displays and saying things like, "They really believed *that*??!" But meanwhile, we need to roll up our sleeves and get on with the job of nemesis that Chalmers Johnson wrote about: PALIN IN 2012! I tell u, if (self) destruction is our ultimate salvation, she's our gal. (Although I personally am willing to vote for Lindsay Lohan or a tuna fish for president as well. The fish would sit on the desk in the Oval Office, in a large bowl of water, and the Pentagon, Wall St., and various diplomats wd come in and consult it for advice, like an oracle. Has no one written this up as a novel yet?)


1:37 PM  
Blogger Gary A-- said...

There are few things more comforting than knowing that you are not alone in thinking and feeling the way you do, which this blog has done for me during some very dark times in my life. Thank you, Mr. Berman, and thanks to everybody else. First I wanted to say re Robert Mitchell's comment, "Change yourself and pass it on to the children," that there's a great statement, which I think of often, having a 4-year-old (who hates TV!!!), by the American psychologist Arthur Janov, that goes something like, "It's not so much what a parent does or doesn't do that matters. It's often just the way you are that drives your child crazy."
Linking that (sort of) to various other comments, it seems to me that crazy, stupid people live to infect others with their craziness and stupidity, like alkies love to shove a drink in your hand.
Which makes me think of a line from Rumi,which goes something like (horribly paraphrased). If the eye could look at itself, it would see God.
Jeez, is this the only place on the web where the above wouldn't sound completely deranged?

3:33 PM  
Anonymous Paul said...

Speaking of secessionist movements - I was thinking how somethng like that might evolve over time. Considering the increases in travel restrictions - not only air travel but regional and local checkpoints. (Much of which is already in place with biometrics) Everyday being more subjected to an increase in security measures wherever you go. Surely it's going to be less and less desirable to want to travel by air if one has to go through a grope session with the TSA and if that type of activity escalates in other areas of travel or interchange. How far do you think people are willing to go to get their necessities...let alone toys? to put up with scanners in malls?...body cavity searches?

At what point is enough, enough?

4:02 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


The thing is that Americans are terribly lonely people, and that includes TSA personnel. I'm thinking that eventually these body pat-downs cd turn into make-out and grope sessions, mutually agreed upon, and finally officially legalized...which might be the most positive thing the US gov't has done re: terrorist security during the last 10 yrs. People wd start flying off to Oshkosh or wherever just to get a little lovin', and the TSA folks wd be all smiles, all day long. "All u need is love" wd be piped in in every airport, and the American Renaissance wd be underway. Sarah! Have my children! We'll make love in the snow, among the meese!


Yer welcome; glad I cd be of some help. I think Meister Eckhart said something similar abt the eye.


4:52 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Revolution in the US? Right. I just attended a traditional high school football game today and of the 3-4,000 spectators I would guess no more than 5 ever had a conceptual thought in their entire life and probably discarded such thinking therafter since it wasn't a commercially viable exercise to engage in. How then to propel such morons to political action? They are hopelessly reactionary, racist, and borderline retarded. Truly, the American people deserve to be served (to use a recent colloquialism). If the US fought 10 full scale wars they still wouldn't make the connection between defense spending and collapsing bridges and might even justify collapsing bridges and the price we must pay to fight the terrorists.
So let the whole fuckin' system disintegrate. Hey, it doesn't even need a push. I saw an interview with Dr. Gabor Mate' on Democracy Now who says that half of all American adolescents meet some criteria for a mental health disorder. Quite a future this country has to look forward too.

1:16 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


A couple of yrs ago I read a statistic that at any given time, 25% of the American pop. was mentally ill. Granted, the definition of this condition has broadened exponentially over the last 20 yrs or so (see the DSM IV); but frankly, when I read this I thought there was a typo, and that the real figure was 75%, which seemed a lot more likely. Sad to say, there have been no comparable studies of the Dolt and Buffoon Index, but as a number of pundits have been saying as of late, a Palin presidency is hardly beyond the scope of probability at this pt.

Sarah! Have my babies! We will honeymoon in Alaska, and make love in the snow, amidst the meese! Be my valentine! Oops, sorry, I meant to say, Be my turkey!


3:23 AM  
Anonymous teri schooley said...

Dear Dr. Berman,
I just wanted you to know, in case you haven't seen it, that Nomi Prins has written a very thoughtful and positive review of your latest book. The review appears on truthdig and may be read here:


P.S. Much as I hate to encourage your Failin' with Palin campaign, I note that we were deprived of her annual Slaughtering of the Turkeys festivities this year. Who's slipping - Sarah or the press?

8:20 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Many thanks. See my next post.


8:47 AM  
Anonymous gene schulman said...

It is hard not to be moved by Rall's call for revolution. He is certainly correct that all the books and movies written and made by the Chomskys, Naders, Moores, will accomplish nothing. Nor will so-called leftists in the MSM, like Krugman, vanden Huevel and their ilk still sucking up to Obama have any effect in changing the system. I agree with Berman that such change will come about when pigs fly, even that revolution proposed by Rall.

Given this situation, I would suggest that those who are able, to get the hell out of the country. Others, unable to take such drastic action , should just go on strike: stop paying taxes, remove savings from the banks, demonstrate peacefully, don't use public transport (especially airplanes), spend money only on essentials, don't show up for work. In other words, stay at home until the system grinds to a halt and just shuts down! I know, this sounds impractical and can cause much hardship. But it's like the old saying, what if they have a war and nobody showed up? No need to be violent. Ghandism can work.

8:55 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

As the good doctor recently pointed out, who in the US knows anything about Ghandi or even where India is on a map? Parenthetically, I had every intention of moving to a certain country in about 2-3 years and now the exchange rate makes it almost impossible to do so. Think the US is trying to pre-empt such moves?
Finally, during the football game I attended a few players had a scuffle on the field. Immediately, about 20 police, some with tasers, came on the field to break it up reminding me of Orwell's line in 1984: If you want to have a vision of the future, imagine a boot stomping on your face forever. I actually think that that is a good description of marriage in the US but I may be digressing.

9:07 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

When we're required to, um, "get a little lovin'" with the TSA personnel my traveling days will be over forever unless I can walk, drive or swim to my destination. The ones in Mexico must be a lot cuter than the ones here in Texas.

But, on a more serious note, the reason the definition of mental illness has expanded is directly linked to the drug industry. Medicine must be justified within the criteria of the diagnosis so the insurance company will pay the doctor, hospital or pharmacy. Since people are often prescribed this medicine for years there's a tremendous amount of money to be made---it's a racket. Some medicine is necessary and useful but plenty isn't. Children as young as 6 are given powerful antipsychotic meds with absolutely no regard to the effect on a developing brain. Nowhere is the corruption in our country more evident than in the medical field, particularly in regard to the treatment of children. That's why you hear stats that one in two kids are mentally ill rather than one in 100; they can prescribe more kids medicine. Read the diagnostic criteria for ADD--it's simply a definition of childhood (poor attention span, can't sit still, won't follow directions,etc.).

Gary A--

"it's often the way you are that drives your kids crazy" is absolutely right. If you haven't read To Have or To Be by Eric Fromm, it's a great book and he has a quote from Eckert along the same lines:

"People should not consider so much what they are to do as what they are." Our being is the spirit that moves us, the character that impels our behavior; in contrast, the deeds or opinions that are separated from our dynamic core have no reality.

9:59 AM  
Anonymous Mr.D said...

Apropos of the idea of disintegration and decay, I recently read NN Taleb's estimation of what's fragile and what's not. Also interesting to me because it was in The Economist, which reader's wouldn't be expected to receive this kind of opinion well.

12:54 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, I'm not sure Gandhism can work in the US. For one thing, Americans are desperate for work (1 in 5 is unemployed), so the chances that those w/jobs will not show up strikes me as being kinda small. Civil disobedience requires a critical mass; we just don't have it. But I have for a few yrs now encouraged those who can, young people esp., to get the hell outta Dodge, because there's very little worthwhile waiting for them in old age: not economic security, certainly, and not any sense of a larger purpose in life.


4:23 PM  
Blogger shep said...

It is nice, indeed, to be able to read other like minded individuals. All comments seem to me to be rational and well above my intellectual capacity, which lifts me up. Thank you all.

9:29 AM  
Anonymous Jari Chevalier said...

Was moved by this discussion and my response got so long I posted it to the blog page for the Living Hero podcast.

"Answer to Morris Berman on Ted Rall and Violent Revolution in America"

There's also a career-spanning Living Hero interview there with MB from June 2008, in case you missed it back then. "Interview with Morris Berman"

You're an amazing group. I've enjoyed reading your comments.

10:15 AM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

re: Jari Chevalier's "Answer to Morris Berman..."

"We, the big collective we; we, as in the presently living human beings, could at any time experience and witness a profound change in view. May or may not happen."

I know you're not a futurist; so from a historical perspective, when is it more likely that the time is ripe for such a profound change in view? If ever we needed this experience, it is surely now.

1:21 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I have the impression (cd be wrong) that Jari believes consciousness determines existence. While it does to some extent, I think Marx was more on target in arguing that existence determined consciousness. In this particular case, he's obviously correct: our existence will have to change radically for there to be a corresponding change in consciousness; by which time, it will clearly be too late. Regarding the environment and global warming, see the dvd "The Age of Stupidity," I think it's called. The premise of the movie is that it is simply too late now to reverse anything; and many scientists have argued this. The crash of 2008 illustrates how screwed up Americans are in particular: as Paul Krugman has written, we continue to pursue zombie economics even after Reaganism failed miserably. In other words, in the case of our countrymen, it's not enuf to be right on the edge of the abyss to decide maybe you were wrong; you actually hafta be *in* the abyss. Then a (very) small % of the population will be able to say, "We told you, douche bags"--cold comfort indeed.


3:39 PM  
Anonymous Jari Chevalier said...

Re: existence and consciousness

It's the old "where the river meets the sea" situation. Existence (sea) determines consciousness. Consciousness (river) determines existence (sea). Swap them, doesn't matter, because you've got a confluent brackish mix, part of a whole, mutually determinate system.

But, what is water? Nobody knows. One part hydrogen and two parts oxygen. Yeah, and what are they? Silence across the sands of time. Nobody, nobody knows.

I am saying that to get to that humility and to just let our hearts beat in that mystery is a good and healthy place from which to really meet and talk with one another; whether or not we think it is too late in terms of climate catastrophe and whether or not it is, in fact, too late.

It is not too late for us to exist as expansive consciousness, and why should we miss out on that (on knowing ourselves as the water, so to speak); that is a move from fantasy to reality--we are consciousness/existence, but we don't have the capacity to figure out what we are with thought and we limit and waste our precious lives and pollute the inner and outer water in thinking we can.

If we (not everyone, just us) can be brave and awake to the ever-present and deep unknowns of existence and consciousness (if we work on not being terrified of truth and of ourselves), we will be inspired, awe-struck and moved . . . then the smaller unknowns like leaving toxic jobs or relationships or ways of living become much less of a challenge and we may do right by consciousness and existence yet.

Sartre said something like we're not even a self until we die, because until the last breath there is still the opportunity to say, realize, do something that changes everything about what came before and changes us and our legacy. So even if the game is over, we're still alive now and it's not too late for us.

10:17 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Then a (very) small % of the population will be able to say, "We told you, douche bags"--cold comfort indeed.

Not only that, but everyone else will turn on that "(very small % of the population" for being right all along, and momentarily assauge their horror & guilt by happily tearing them to bloodstained little pieces. Ah, scapegoats! What would the public do without them?

8:07 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, that's a little too cosmic for me, personally, but if it turns yer crank, don' let me stand in yer way. I also believe that that kind of thinking very easily slides into New Age narcissism, tho I'm not accusing you of that. The fact is that to recognize that existence determines (I wd prefer to say, heavily influences) consciousness is to live in a very different world than the world in which one believes the reverse. A powerful illustration of that is Janice Peck's book, "The Age of Oprah," which I would strongly recommend to you. She shows how the whole Oprah pitch of 'law of attraction' and 'nonvictimization' etc. was the perfect ideological counterpart to the Reaganite economy (very skillful Marxist analysis, in short). Finally, being 'stoned on life', nice as it is, just ain't gonna get the job done.

Enjoy yer retreat, ma chere-


9:53 AM  
Blogger ChrisS said...

There are very few examples of successful revolutions. And while natural/unnatural disasters do bring about chaos, in a country as large are the US that chaos would soon be assimilated into the national conscience. That is, those events soon become media events that do not really affect the everyday American.

No, history shows that invasion by a foreign power (either physically or economically) represents the final act of a decaying empire.

Because of America's military and nuclear strength, this may not happen for some time. But, in the end, America WILL fall. So we better get ready for a rough rough ride.

11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Things are getting scarier in the USA though day by day. I am a dual citizen living in Canada temporarily right now and wanted to go back to see family in the USA. I find myself actually being a prisoner of sorts due to some complications with my husband's visa (he is a native American but the last stupid customs agent stamped his passport with a visa which is complicating things for him now). So, I am an American who is exiled, but not by choice. I've come to the conclusion that it appears certain factions of the USA gov, especially Homeland Security, TSA, and any other entities relating to such (customs, border agents, etc.) are all working together to make it more difficult for people to more around and travel. It seems very intentional to me. I consider myself intelligent and intuitive and can clearly see that something is up. I think that the government knows that the economic situation of the USA will be getting much worse in the next years to come. I cannot assume that people in government are also just dumb and greedy like the rest of the population. Well, they ARE greedy, but not dumb. I think most people in government are either sociopathic, or, as a famous author Guggenbuhl-Craig once said, those in all destructive regimes, including Mao's and Hitler's and their henchmen, were all mostly comprised of compensated sociopaths. So we've got really dumb Americans who make up the majority of the population, and then really evil people at the top. It's no wonder the oppressed don't fight back. Being dumb also means not being able to know when and how to defend one's self. I equate such people as being borderline retarded (please excuse the wording, don't mean to sound rude). Naturally, the crueler elements at the top will take advantage of these poor idiots. In the end, I do not assume that the people at the top are really just greedy and stupid, they are in fact, very cunning, and I'm sure they already have their plans drawn out years ahead in advance. Not to sound like a conspiracy theorist or anything.

7:45 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Please, be rude. I encourage you. This is the dumbest population in the history of the world. To call them dolts is practically a compliment at this pt. As for evil at the top: one can never be sure, but I suspect it's more incompetence than deliberate policy. They may (or may not) have high IQ's, but in their cases as well, the bulbs are rather dim.

Vote Palin, get it over with.


8:59 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

My soon-to-be mother-in-law is staying with my fiancee and I. It is her first time in the US, and she has been here for abt 3 mnths now. It is very interesting to witness how she reacts to what she sees here and how other people react to her. She asked me today why Americans are so ugly to each other. She was at a store and she stopped to read something on a magazine cover and someone shouted at her to get the hell out of the way or something like that.

She finds things like self-checkout lines, the lack of people gathering in the city to talk or eat together, the amount of people who drive instead of walk, and people trampling each other in walmart to save money on a television to be very puzzling.

Another interesting piece is how other people ask me things about her...just today, a woman who is a colleague asked me why she is so nice and why she "goes to hug" people when they leave. She asked if my mother-in-law was somehow mentally incapacitated because "no one can be that nice and content".

What a sick, rotting mass we are a part of. I wish to go back to her home with her and stay next month. In time, I guess. Then I can be among those who the average American would find mentally incapacitated because of my niceness and (hopefully) contentment, and I can enjoy the company of others who treat their fellows with dignity and respect.

2:25 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thanks. It's precisely this type of thing Americans can't see, because they are in it all the time. As a result, they are unaware not only of their own near-the-edge anger, but also their anxiety, which propels a lot of their rage, and which comes out of a sytem that insists you are on your own and can sink or swim. There is a norm here that is simply pathology, and it does become clear in cases of cross-cultural comparison. I run into behavior every day in Mexico that is gracious to a fault, and which would be regarded as bizarre in the US. Anecdotal evidence? The problem is that given enuf anecdotes, and it all becomes--data. God, Americans are such shmucks.


7:51 AM  
Anonymous Morocco Bama said...

Does anyone else find it just a wee bit ironic that the proposed answer to a "violent nation" is more violence?

You don't engage the Beast on its terms. You deny it any terms at all. You starve it of sustenance and respect.

I do agree that to make a cake you need the right ingredients, and those ingredients are increasingly scarce......and practically non-existent in the U.S. In the U.S., the tin soldiers dutifully serve the Beast.....feeding it their mind, body and metaphoric soul. The majority of U.S. citizens do not possess the capacity for critical thought, let alone any kind Beast starvation campaign.

6:33 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Love yer name. I think the pres might wanna change his to Moron O'Bama, has a nice ring to it.

I guess it's time for me to come out of the closet, so to speak. Yrs ago I worked for the CIA on their UFO project. Remember all of the 'abductions' during the 70s? Well, in actual fact we (of the CIA) were randomly kidnapping Americans and doing biopsies on their brains. In order to disguise this, we planted the notion that they had been abducted by extra-terrestrials; which all of them still believe. But in fact, we were just sampling what was inside their crania. The result? Food matter, in every case. Fried rice, chopped liver, chicken enchiladas. Not a single one of the 10,000 we 'abducted' had gray matter. That shd tell u something.

-mb, lt.-col., ex-cia

8:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Morocco:

But is it really a violent nation? I personally don't see anything violent about it. Corruption, of course that is there, but the general populace is not violent. They may like their games and movies violent, but I don't see anyone rising up.

I have been also writing about these issues for ages in my own journals and blogs and even facebook and no one cares. No one. There might be another odd one out there who does, but very infrequent to be sure.

I do agree with Berman that the USA will just eventually fade away. Those of us who see the signs now wonder how others can possibly not see it. I guess I also agree with Berman that they must be stupid. This isn't to elevate my own self, but at this point, it does seem likely there is, as you said, a lack of ability to think critically.

I just read that once again Congress has delayed unemployment benefits for millions for two months and they are still going to "decide" on it. Hah! What? I was one of those by the way, who lost a job and had to move out of the country to survive for the time being. Same with my husband.

And yet, here I am, still seeing the same things repeating, and next to the articles on HuffPost about benefits, you see something about a celebrity or something else as distraction.


Wow, is all I can say. It really does feel to me like we are in the last stages and going down fast, and that's not just because of my situation, but because of others I know are also going through the same exact thing.

Those people who thought things would "be okay" and the economy would improve are now also scrambling and finding out they will not be "okay" anymore.

But no one will do anything.

8:44 PM  
Anonymous Morocco Bama said...

Anonymous, that's an excellent point, and if you notice, I was using Rall's words, hence the quotes. I don't think U.S. citizens, at the individual level, are monolithic in all things. I do believe the perpetually disseminated propaganda about the American Dream and the Shining City On The Hill treats U.S. citizens as monolithic in all things, and for obvious reasons.

However, that being said, apathy can be considered indirect violence, IMO. One has to look at how the system works to determine the insidious effect of apathy, indifference and self-absorption. Responsibility cannot, and should not, be deferred, and yet in this diabolical system, that's exactly what happens every moment of every day.

Here's an excellent espose of how that works. It's a must read and segues rather nicely with the sentiment of Morris' vocational dialectic.

Virtually all corporations and government bureaucracies are dictatorships in which autocratic managers quickly punish any underling who begins to demand an ethical basis for work and production. Each of us is caught, therefore, in a kind of job blackmail. By allowing ourselves to become numbed by inhuman, meaningless work and to become fully distanced from what we actually produce, we forsake responsibility for the consequences of our production system. We sell our moral birthright in order to “pay the bills.” In this way we each experience our own “pilot’s dilemma.” The distancing endemic to our huge technological system and the massive private and public technocracies that run this system have turned workers, the vast majority of us, into ethical eunuchs and even unintentional criminals.

7:04 AM  
Anonymous Tyler said...

God I hate having shit left for my generation to take care of. I'm not up for risking my neck against a bunch of wackjob, neo-conservative hillbillies, and global warming isn't fast enough(sadly my dad works on this for the Dep.of Agriculture and would tear his hair out at the Country's inability to change, if he had any left). Either the idiots will wipe themselves out; or I'm starting a commune somewhere in the Arctic circle, feel free to join, there will be a selective immigration policy based on IQ, and it will be governed by a legislative body randomly selected from the populace.

9:32 PM  

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