February 11, 2011

A Farce Called Hillary

I had forgotten that Hillary was scheduled to make an appearance in town the last week of January, even though a friend of mine had mentioned it to me. So, fool that I was, I drove into the town center, planning to withdraw some pesos from the ATM connected to my bank. I parked, walked about a hundred yards, and suddenly was surrounded by a fleet of SUVs, black and gray, and Mexican army regulars sporting machine guns. WTF? “What is all this?,” I asked a news vendor. “Hillary,” he sort of grunted. “She needs all these cars?” I asked him. He gave me a half smile. You poor dumb gringo, he seemed to be saying.

It was quite a show, and the worst possible one to put on in a Latin American country. But this is how the American Empire makes its appearance, namely with a display of violence and arrogance. Look how mighty we are, is the message—designed to endear us to any of our southern neighbors. I recall a few years ago William Lederer, the author of The Ugly American (1958), was interviewed by phone at his rural home in Vermont (he is now 99 years old), and told the reporter that absolutely nothing had changed since he described the stupidity of American “diplomacy” and the moronic behavior of the diplomatic corps. “It’s as if I had never written the book,” he remarked.

Hillary proceeded to give a talk that was both boring and vapid. I support President Calderón, she said. We have to fight the drug lords, and that’s what he has been doing. We need more of the same, until the cartels are destroyed. This is the only solution, she told her audience—a “solution,” BTW, that Calderón has been pursuing for more than four years now, and the result has been the death of tens of thousands of people and what seems like an actual increase in drug trafficking. What was the definition of insanity, once again?

“What pomposity!” a Mexican friend remarked to me the next day. “She said nothing she couldn’t have communicated in a diplomatic cable, or in a statement to the press in Washington. And we’ve heard it all before, after all; why did she have to come here to say it? This was about appearances, nada más.” Here are a few things Hillary did not say, which I and perhaps a small handful of Americans (and a large percentage of the Mexican population, I suspect) would like to have heard:

1. The American demand for drugs is the inevitable result of a virulent form of cowboy capitalism that we practice in the United States, and which has turned our society into a war of all against all. In addition, the American Dream has not worked out, and Americans are now leading empty lives. Actually, they always were, but now they are more or less aware of it. The same could be said of me, sadly enough, although my drug of choice is power. I can’t get enough of it.

2. In a US diplomatic memo that appeared in Wikileaks recently, dating from 2009, the official who drew up the report concluded that Calderón’s intelligence-gathering services were not very competent; haphazard and ineffectual, in fact.

3. As has been widely reported, in a few Mexican states some of the police are in cahoots with the drug dealers.

4. Also in a few cases, the drug cartels apparently provide services for the local population that neither the local or federal governments seem willing to bother with: schools, hospitals, pensions for widows, taking care of the poor, and the like. In short, they enjoy popular support, due to some of their more benevolent behavior. More on this can be found in William Finnegan’s article, “Silver or Lead,” which appeared in The New Yorker, issue of 31 May 2010.

5. There is a widespread belief down here that your own president may be leading a double life. Apparently, a lot of Mexicans believe he is “comprado”—bought—i.e., in the pay of the drug lords. I’m not saying this is true; I have no idea whether it is, and I certainly hope it’s not. But obviously, if it is true, the whole war on drugs is a sham. Which it is anyway.

6. As Carlos Fuentes and many others have pointed out, the only solution is not to do more of the same—which would be a colossal waste of time—but to legalize the stuff. After all, after the repeal of Prohibition (1933) crime dropped off significantly in the United States, because there was no longer a payoff in trafficking in (former) contraband material.

7. However, there are probably business interests in both countries that would oppose such a move. I trust I don’t have to spell this out.

8. I myself am little more than a pawn in a game of international chess. My real purpose in coming down here is to polish my career portfolio, and prepare for the Democratic nomination of 2016; in fact, possibly 2012, since Mr. Obama has been as about effective a leader as Millard Fillmore. The truth is that I care about myself and my career; beyond Mexico serving as a market for our consumer goods, and as a source of cheap labor for the United States, I don’t give two shits about the place. I suspect you all know this.

9. I appreciate, however, the fact that Mexicans are cynical about the whole drug and crime situation, and that they are savvy: they know that nothing will be done about it, in the end. As for my own countrymen, “savvy” isn’t quite the word; “clueless” is closer to the mark. Even if they did understand what was going on down here, they wouldn’t give a damn anyway. They don’t really care about much of anything beyond their own immediate situation—like me, if the truth be told.

10. Morris Berman lives in this town, as it turns out, and he can tell you that I’m so full of shit I don’t know whether I’m coming or going. When my husband was president he got the UN to maintain sanctions against Iraq, which led to the death of 500,000 Iraqi children from starvation and malnutrition. To this, I made no objection at all. In addition, for my presidential campaign of 2008 I hired Mark Penn as my campaign manager, the man who heads a PR firm (Burson-Marsteller) that served as adviser to the junta in Argentina, and which, at the request of the Argentine military, organized a campaign against human rights organizations. I’m also not bothered by the fact that he represented Blackwater Worldwide, the military contractor blamed for numerous civilian deaths in Iraq. I say this so you know who it is that stands before you; who I am.

11. What I really need to do is resign my position as secretary of state, and enroll in a 12-step program to get me off my addiction to power and bullshit. I may look impressive, but the truth is that I’m a walking tragedy. I’m no more a force for good in the world than is the American Empire, whose agenda I serve. Rather than being a force, I am a farce—a fact that haunts me every waking day of my life.

12. I shouldn’t have come here, and I apologize for wasting your time.


Clearly, it would have been a marvelous speech. As for me, I never did get to the bank.

©Morris Berman, 2011


Blogger Neb said...

And for her next act, a hat trick called Democracy in Egypt! It's worked astonishing well in the US so let's get those pro-US candidates out there with tons of cash and slick marketing (Egypt 1st!) and diminish the grass root candidates. In other words "swift-boat" 'em. If those people still want the grass-roots guy/gal, that extended military governance thing will just have to be extended... you know, those people are just so ungovernable.

8:05 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

It has been quite a while since I last commented, but I am a regular reader. Thanks very much for maintaining this blog, which is one of the few consistently sane forums for ideas about the current state of things that I have been able to find on the web (or anywhere). Your current post reminds me of the John Cage quote you published several months ago admonishing the U.S to learn to see itself as others see it, which is not likely to happen.

By the way, it occurred to me a while back that when you see Sarah Palin you might recommend the Bob Dylan song "Idiot Wind" for use in her upcoming presidential campaign. I would love to see her smiling and waving to the crowd framed by the lyrics, "we are idiots babe, it's a wonder we can even feed ourselves."


6:01 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hello Morris -
Hillary will never give such a speech because that would require honesty and character. These "diplomats" have a playbook and they never veer from it. They still believe that it works well to further our "national interests" regardless of the cost to the people. Iraq is a tragic example.
I remember seeing a photo of her and Bill back in their law school days. They looked so young and idealistic. Bill with his beard and she with her long hair. Look what they both turned into - a couple of empire apparatchiks who will do and say just about anything to advance their careers and the interests of the elites they serve.
As to Egypt I read recently that Hillary referred to Mubarak as a "family friend"! Imagine calling a brutal dictator who has created a police state in his own country and siphoned off 10s of billions of dollars from the economy for himself such a thing. But, he was so useful in our ongoing kowtowing to the rogue state of Israel so just look the other way and don't listen to the cries of the oppressed.
Yes, Hillary REALLY wants to be President of the U.S. She is part of that sickening dynasty thing we have going here in our "democracy" in which certain families regard high office as their entitlement. I heard that Jeb Bush is making noises about running as well. It just goes on and on. Hillary undoubtedly thought of Secy. of State as a means to keep herself in the public eye and wrangle a nomination in 2016 or maybe sooner.
In the meantime, she will be jetted and SUVed around the planet telling everybody why the U.S. is so exceptional.

7:21 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Hillary is truly one of the more wretched personalities on the world sceen. I was once told that when she was First Lady no one on the White House staff was allowed to look at her. And there is ample documentation that she and Bill were running a virtual Murder Inc. when he was governor of Arkansas.Then during the 2008 primary season she said in a debate with that other fraud ( I literally get down on my hands begging forgiveness to anyone I encouraged to vote for Obama)that she would "obliterate" Iran. Finally, though there is no finally with this woman, a few months ago she fetted Kissinger at the State Department though she had been a protestor during the Vietnam war which only proves again that power corrupts. I am sure if the political price were right she's say that Hitler may have had his faults but he did build the autobaun.
Doctor, I think a Suez moment recently past but of course it was not carried by the major media outlets. George W. had to cancel his trip to Switzerland for fear of being arrested for war crimes. This would have been unthinkable even 5 years ago indicating that the world is getting very tired of taking our crap.

8:25 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Don't be a stranger! Meanwhile, I also think the song "American Idiot," by Green Day, wd be similarly effective. I might even bring their CD along w/Sarah and me on our honeymoon on the ice floe, amongst the (soon-to-be-extinct) polar bears, and the meese. (Perhaps Ed Meese might come along as well.)


9:14 AM  
Anonymous Jim said...

Wait, MB, regarding legalizing drugs, you say "there are probably business interests in both countries that would oppose such a move. I trust I don’t have to spell this out."

Please spell it out!!!

My 25-year-old eyes, ears and mind need a rehashing to improve my fluency (as a learner of Spanish, you must know how important repetition and reminder are in the gradual march to some stage of fluency)

11:09 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Sectors of the economy don't operate in watertight compartments, in real life. As a huge black market flourishes due to the illegalization of alcohol (1920-33) or drugs, and large amounts of cash start to float around as a result, the lucrative possibilities attract so-called legitimate businesses in various ways. Historically speaking, there has been a lot of overlap, for example, among police, the Mafia, and regular business enterprises (check out John Rumbarger, "Profits, Power and Prohibition," e.g.). Legalization dries up that source of income, which can then affect the 'legitimate' enterprises that were involved. As a result, they have a stake in things staying illegal. I shd say that I don't have any evidence for this in the case of the US-Mexico drug situation, as this is not my area of research or expertise; I'm just appealing here to a common historical pattern, that of overlap. People meet on the golf course, they talk, they do deals--etc.


1:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

has anyone read James Scott's The Art of Not Being Governed? It is an interesting bridge btwn to MB's anthropological and political writings. Basically it's an analysis of stateless hill cultures (in SE Asia but the model is global) and how they work. Not quite the monastic model MB posits but an interesting look at how people exist amongst crumbling empires.

4:02 PM  
Anonymous Lorien said...

Ha, you need to hire yourself out as a translator! Berman's Bullshit to English dictionary is a must have for those of us who just can't listen to American politicians without that familiar feeling of hitting head against wall numbness.

Yeah, to echo Neb, I'm wondering about the US's next move re: Egypt...

6:13 PM  
Anonymous Lorien said...

PS. about legalizing drugs, I remember reading, a while back, that Portugal had decriminalized heroin, pot and several other drugs, with a corresponding drop in the amount of overdoses, new HIV cases and drug offenders in jail, although the data on new drug use, I think, suggested that more people *try* drugs. I know decrim is a dift deal than legalizing, but many call the Portugal policy a success. The key there, I think, was that along with decriminalization, they instituted treatment (instead of incarceration). (try THAT in the US without a lot of people screaming about tax dollars going to fund drug addicts).

The issue with legalizing is, as MB points out, that you take the serious money out of selling drugs. To my mind, when you are talking about crime, taking the money out of it seems a no brainer. So the huge push against it seems to me to only be understood in terms of huge amounts of money passing hands, which means powerful interests that don't want legalization.

6:30 PM  
Blogger Crimson Wife said...

My home state of California just had a referendum on the legalization of marijuana a few months ago, and it was defeated 54% to 46%. If legalizing a "soft" drug like pot can't even pass in CA, I suspect the issue of decriminalizing all narcotics nationwide is dead in the water.

Interesting blog! I found it today because I just finished The Twilight of American Culture and wanted to see what you had been up to since its publication.

7:56 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Crimson-

Just to complete the bibiography: "A Question of Values" available on Amazon, publ. last Oct.; "Dark Ages America," sequel to "Twilight," publ. 2006; and "The Roots of American Failure," sequel to DAA, being released this August. A novel and a vol. of poetry abt to appear (stay tuned).

Meanwhile: it may not be that hard to legalize drugs in Mexico, since it doesn't have the severe Puritan history of the US. However, the US remains the crucial problem, because that's the major market for drugs originating in Mexico, Colombia, etc.


Jus' keep in mind that more than 99% of the stuff uttered by US political figures is kaka, and yer at least halfway there. The other half is to ask yerself, "What's the real agenda here?" (Hint: money, power, career, etc.) A couple of examples: "My concern is for the American people." Translation: "My concern is for myself." "The US Gov't urges Egypt to install a democratic regime." Translation: "We don't give a shit about the Egyptian form of gov't so long as it maintains US interests in the Middle East, including a guarantee of Israeli dominance. We haven't been pouring $1.5 billion per year into Egyptian coffers for nothing, so those clowns had damn well better make good on our investment." Etc.


9:11 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: Other hot items in the news (Make My Day Dept.):

1. Jennifer Aniston says she's happy (whew! I was really sweating that one out)

2. Lindsay Lohan may not go to jail (clearly, there is no god)

There's just no doubt that CNN is keeping Americans up to date...

9:20 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

"A Farse Called Hillary" is great Morris, as usual. Thanks. Chris Hedges

9:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lorien, re: decriminalization. Very good progress on reduction in crime and health problems associated with drugs out of Vancouver, Canada. I believe they modeled it after the Portugal program - sorry I don't have links but it is a current news story (well, not in the US!) maybe in Al-jazeera, I can't recall. If the States actually gave a crap, even on just a cost basis, we'd have major drug reform, decriminalization etc..

El Juero

9:57 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Eunice,

Thanks. Are you Chris Hedges? Eunice seems like an odd pseudonym...


10:01 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

As you stated in your post, Americans live empty lives and we will therefore always provide drug cartels/dealer/producers with a more-than-ample demand for drugs. I read that as a result of our "war" in Afghanistan, the worldwide opium trade has flourished immensely. Perfect, isn't i? 99.9% of Americans are so empy and devoid of tranquility that they cannot possibly draw any sort of pleasure or meaning from within, so they seek to find fulfillment from without..power, drugs, porn, gambling, self-worship. And yet the news media makes it seem like the Mexican "drug war" is due to the evil cartels who push their wares on their clients. There would be no supply without a demand, and we are the largest consumer of illegal drugs.

Maybe Sarah will return to prohibition and even make fatty, salty, cured meats illegal. You still think you should take her as a bride if that is part of her agenda?

10:15 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I confess that Sarah and I have not as yet discussed her position on corned beef, pastrami, and chopped liver. Despite my lust for her body, and my adoration of her mind (perhaps, in the 20th C, second only to that of Martin Heidegger in depth and ontological Wesensgeschichtlicheputzfrau-entfremdenscheissgekaktspaziergang-verdammt), this wd be a deal-breaker: No Deli, No Bermo. I might even put that on a bumper sticker.

"No Deli, No Bermo"--a motto for our time.


10:35 PM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

Sarah can only take my fatty cured meat when she pries it from my cold dead hands after she chases me into my smokehouse.

And I think that's covered under the second and a half ammendment.

10:57 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I think there may be a dadaist or surrealist dimension here we need to pursue. For example, imagine that it's 2012, and Sarah is the GOP nominee. The DAA42 follow her around the country on the campaign trail, and every time she gives a speech they stand at the back with signs and chant, "No Deli, No Bermo." They also refuse to explain themselves or give interviews to the press. But it catches on, and as the campaign progresses, so do the 'protesters' standing at the back: thousands chanting "No Deli, No Bermo." Where will it lead? Will it be another Egypt? Will Sarah be forced to eat a corned beef sandwich on national TV? The possibilities are endless...


11:34 PM  
Blogger madame o said...

Just happened to be scanning the book store's "American Culture" section to find one of Pollard's food books and happened to notice your "The Twilight of American Culture." The title drew me in as
I loathe most mainstream culture in the US. Then reading the back cover mention of "corporate Mass Mind culture" and corruption in politics, etc. prompted me to read inside the book. Once inside, I was
enthralled. And, I bought the book though it was new (prefer to buy used). Dr. Berman, I'm not sure I can quite articulate just how affected I am by your writing in the book. Like "Crimson Wife" said in the comments, after reading it, I had to check the net for more of your writing etc. This piece on HRC (always reminds me of "HRH" so maybe I should just go with Hillary too)is funny and all too true. Your book---just the few chapters I read so far----caused tears in my eyes: tears of relief and recognition and hope. You stated you were writing for the oddballs and that is how I've classed myself for some time living in the US and feeling at odds. For the longest time, I've struggled with what seems to be like two tectonic plates within me grating against each other: living a materialistic life and all that entails or living life more thoughtfully and with a conscious. Your writing is helping me define the problem and to see even more clearly the real price I pay for buying into the current corpo-culture. Your "Monastic Option" appeals to me and provides peace, hope and direction. You have no doubt had a great influence on hundreds (hundreds of thousands I hope and even millions) of people and I count myself one of them. Thank you for this brilliantly written book. For the first time since college, I feel like I can try to do something as it is infinitely better than doing nothing (doing nothing which I equate with living numb and dumb ala the American Corporate Culture way). In short, thank you so much.

12:46 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Madame O,

Once in a while I get a letter from someone that makes it all seem worthwhile. Yours is one of those letters. But it also comes as a shock as well, because quite honestly, I can't imagine I've affected more than a few hundred people in the entire country. (This is also true for my trilogy on the evolution of human consciousness; the best book I ever wrote, "Wandering God," sold all of 2000 copies in a nation of 300 million, which speaks volumes.) Basically, I just assume I'm talking to the 42 people who read this blog, but I guess you never know.

I do have to say, however, that when I have gotten personal correspondence regarding some book of mine, it is often a variant on the theme of, "Gee, I no longer feel like a freak." This was true from my 2nd bk ("Reenchantment," 1981), and even if it was the reaction of a very few, it made me believe I was on the right track. It's my belief that 99.99% of this country constitute the real freaks, from a human pt of view, and a tiny handful constitute the sane. Our whole value system is upside down, people are dying from it on a daily basis (literally and spiritually), and they defend it to their last breath. In fact, they never found out what oxygen actually is. In the 3rd volume of my American Empire trilogy, which is due out this August, I comment at the end that it is unlikely that more than 200,000 Americans could understand what I am saying in this book. Of course, I very much doubt that sales will go beyond 10 or 20,000 at the very most, and my estimate of 200,000 is probably a generous overestimate. (In fact, the book was early on rejected by one major NY publisher, with the senior editor commenting that she "couldn't make head or tail out of it." And I believe her. It's amazing how stupid even the very intelligent are, in the US.) But I do believe, after ten books and 30+ years of writing, that it was worth it just to reach those very few readers who understand that what they see in front of them on a daily basis is an illusion, and a destructive illusion at that. It's also why I'm hoping for a Palin presidency: a stupid and violent nation shd have a stupid and violent leader, if it is to be a true, representative democracy (Bush Jr. was perfect in this regard, and Sarah might possibly outdo him). Time to take the gloves off and just be done with it, in short.

One thing I wd recommend at this pt is that you find a few other oddballs, if you can, and start a rdg group. You can buy my work used off of Amazon, to save money, or take out library copies and pass them around the group. After you finish rdg some of my stuff, read some of the authors cited in my ftnotes. This might be part of your own Monastic Option, creating a community of like-minded souls for dark times. (Just a thought)

Anyway, what else can I say? *Thank you*, and keep reading and writing in.


9:07 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Could I add #13 to Hillary's comments?

13. Even as I stand here in my tasteful pants suit hypocritically declaring my support for a "war on drugs" I know pharmaceutical companies (that give me lots and lots of money) are cranking out literally millions of pills far more dangerous than pot or cocaine. Ever seen anyone detox from oxycontin,methadone,xanax,norco,soma or experience withdrawal from the multitude of anti-depressants, dangerous side effects from antipsychotics? No? Some of these powerful drugs are given to children as young as four years old and no one in the US in a position to do something about it utters a peep. So if anyone suggests we legalize mind altering drugs in the US I can honestly say we have.

Madame O--

Reading TAC about 5 years ago opened my eyes and helped me understand what I intuitively felt but couldn't articulate. Then I started reading other books by similar authors--Chris Hedges, Joe Bageant, Chalmers Johnson. All have very different styles of writing and cover different topics and you might be interested in them too.

10:25 AM  
Blogger madame o said...

Consider me your 43rd blog reader (I don't particularly like that number since it reminds me of the 43rd US president...but then again, the 44th president wouldn't
be a better correlating number in my estimate either). Good idea about the reading group if only I had time. I don't as currently I work as part of corporate America and I'm exhausted in my "free time." Still, I can muster reading your books (which are worthwhile buying new so I can increase your sales by 1) as I recline. The corporate culture IS a killer. I work on my computer reading all day and answering phone calls (everything is monitored, audited, checked and "feedback" is always given). In the past 5 years I've put on 50#. A person has to be an actor to deal with working in big American business if they have a soul but want to survive. You have to act positive and flexible and like a machine too. Granted, others have it worse. I'm glad to have a job and income. But I need to stop the consuming that feeds into the cycle of being able to withstand the position itself: buying things because "I deserve them" or "to benefit the economy" or to polish my image and make my home a showpiece, ever changing with the seasons, eating pre-packed processed foods because they are fast and easy. Now I have an alternative by consuming your written words (it's easier than me trying to formulate original ideas and action plans so to speak----not that I put my intellect and ability to do so on your level, in any way).

Also, I've never had a personal response to a comment I've made on line before and I appreciate yours.

Here's to a Palin Presidency!

11:15 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


A while back David Kelly wrote the script for a "Boston Legal" show that had James Spader saying all of that and more. It was quite stunning, and quite courageous. Of course, it didn't chg a damn thing--nothing can at this pt--but it was great to watch.


11:15 AM  
Blogger madame o said...

Susan W. I'm a bit late in getting out of my stupor---I was surprised the book was written some time ago with an updated preface from five years ago. Certainly, I will check out these authors you list. Thank you for posting. A sleeping midget is awakening.

11:26 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

O: As we like to say on this blog:


(You might try yelling it as loud as u can; it's very effective in clearing the nostrils.)

11:41 AM  
Blogger madame o said...


That thrills, baby, thrills!

11:47 AM  
Blogger Crimson Wife said...

Don't be so quick to write off all Americans. Some of us just need time to wake up from the intellectual stupor induced by growing up in modern society. I wouldn't have appreciated TAC when it was first published, even assuming that I had read it (which I wouldn't have as at the time I was a go-go corporate climber whose reading consisted of The Economist once per week and the occasional "chick lit" novel on vacation). I had to be at the right place in my life where the message would've resonated. For me personally, it was becoming a mother and realizing that mainstream American culture is not at all what I want for my kids. So now I'm a TV-less homeschooler with plenty of time to devote to reading "serious" books.

It's funny that you mention Chris Hedges as his Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Illusion is another book I recently read and enjoyed.

1:33 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


U seriously think yer typical? That more than .01% wake up? If there's any evidence for that, I have yet to see it...


1:38 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dr. Berman,

Chris Hedges is married to the actress Eunice Wong.

2:22 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Chris (or Eunice),

A thousand apologies; Art straightened me out, as u can see. Anyway, glad u liked the piece. I'm still waiting for Hillary's response.


2:36 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: Chris: I sent a copy of "Question of Values" to yer Princeton address; hope u got it.

2:41 PM  
Anonymous Lorien said...

Madame O, sorry, I think I was the 43rd reader. So you have to be 44.

MB -- not to jump on Madame O's bandwagon, but I just finished WG (and I *bought* it even...) and was completely amazed by it. Haven't read Reenchantment yet, but I read CTOS a while back, which was what led me to this blog, and DDA and now AQOV. I'm just not quite as articulate an adulator as Madame O, but, hey, for what it's worth you've clarified a whole lot of things for me (like why I have moved every 2 years for the past 15.. haha).
And I think more people read you than you think. For example I bought CTOS after it was mentioned in an article by Taimie L. Bryant, a professor of Animal Law at UCLA. Ok that's not a mainstream connection, but it does show that a lot more people are reading you than you think.

3:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Berman
(I've been forgetting my salutations of late - my apologies):

I remember during my brief time as a radio talk show host asking the question: "could someone tell me why, in the greatest country God ever created, why we lead the planet in pill poppers? Why would anyone want to take mind altering drugs in such a paradise?"

It was these and other quips that eventually led to my inevitable sacking.

By the way, has anyone noticed that as HRC ages, she looks more and more like some kind of soulless,depraved American gorgon? I wouldn't want to look her in the eyes anymore either.

3:55 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Poor Hillary – her dirty little savages won’t obey her. And after all she’s done for them!

Listening to her reminds me of an Irish song called “Whack Fol the Diddle” which includes the following:

“When we were savage, fierce and wild
She came like a mother to her child.
She gently raised us from the slime
Kept our hands from hellish crime,
And sent us to Heaven in her own good time.”

“Now Irishmen, forget the past!
And think of the time that's coming fast.
When we shall all be civilized,
Neat and clean and well-advised.
And won't Mother England be surprised?”

Poor Mother Hillary.

David Rosen

6:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got interested in the consciousness trilogy early on and followed naturally enough with the soon-to-be-complete American empire trilogy. Fascinating books! However, the thing I've been waiting for you to say (maybe you have and I missed it) amongst the discussion of impending American collapse is that we're in the midst of a phase of rapid reconfiguration of how consciousness works for most people. So all the talk about a return to the Dark Ages (figuratively, i.e., mentally), American stupidity (or outright insanity), obliviousness to reality beyond our cocoons, or for a few, waking up and struggling to see things how they really are (rotating everything Hillary says 180 degrees to gain accuracy is a start) skirts the edges of the problem. One might argue that it's not a problem if it's normative, but I have difficulty contemplating the sandblasted minds of our countrymen except in terms of loss.

Meanwhile, the gallows humor about joining Palin to complete the job and the closing of ranks as we few monastic individuals regale each other (count now up to 45!) creates a shard of community. I definitely laugh, but it feels somehow corrupt. I wish I knew what precisely to do with such heretical, hard-won knowledge and understanding beyond wringing my hands a little tighter with each passing revelation.

7:12 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

OK, so we may hafta start talking in terms of the DAA45. It's so great that this blog is growing exponentially.


Glad u enjoyed WG, and that Prof. Bryant cited my work. I hope he didn't call me an animal; I might hafta bite his leg.

Keith (Anon)-

You may know that the country that has ca. 4.5% of the world's population accounts for ca. 67% of the market sales of antidepressant drugs. As for Hillary, let's face it: she's not merely a (colossal) douche bag; she's grotesque.


See above, message to Keith.

Et tu, Brute? (Sorry, I cdn't resist)-

Hey, no need to wring yer hands. Here are the guaranteed steps to health and happiness:

EMIGRATE, fer chrissakes. You think it's gonna get better here as u get older? Think again, chico! There will be no social safety net, we'll be making war on Ghana or some other godforsaken hell-hole for no earthly reason, millions will be roaming the streets w/o jobs, looking for scapegoats, and the president (whoever she is) will have an IQ of around 65. Plus, all conversations will be held in corporate-speak. However, if that's not immediately feasible:

1. Read the Twilight book.
2. Resolve to become an NMI.
3. Form a study group w/other NMI's. Read Berman bks (can get them used off of Amazon, or there's always the libe--unless it closed down for lack of funds or literacy), also read bks Berman refers to in ftnotes. Discuss the upcoming Berman-Palin wedding, the ice floes, the meese, and also Ed Meese. Send Sarah a list of suggestions for hors d'oeuvres (chopped liver canapes are particularly fashionable these days).
4. Think up some other NMI activity for yerself.
5. Remember, the purpose of 1-4 is enjoyment and enlightenment. If u think any of this will change the country, or even the mind of yer next-door neighbor, yer IQ is below that of Sarah's.
6. Keep in mind two DAA45 events coming up this summer:
a) Deli party at Art's place in Florida
b) Group venture to the W.H., to collectively pee on Mr. Obama's shoes; assuming we can get past the front door. Pls bring yer own 6-pack of Bud Lite. (The party at Art's will be called a be-in, and that at the W.H. a pee-in--obviously. The love-in will take place at the Berman-Palin wedding reception.)

I trust I have made my position clear.


8:32 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Meanwhile, the following is from George Steiner's biography of Heidegger (I know, he was a Nazi, but even Steiner admires him):

Heidegger's diagnosis [of alienation] relates, to be sure, to Engels' perception of the dehumanization of the individual in a mass society and to Durkheim's analysis of anomie, both of which, in turn, point back to the Rousseauist and Hegelian concepts of alienation. But what Heidegger has to say possesses a particular moral-psychological bite and prophetic shrewdness. Distance from being, averageness, the leveling downward of sentiment and expression in a consumer society [quoting Heidegger directly here] "constitute what we know as 'publicness.' Every kind of spiritual spiritual priority is smoothly suppressed. Overnight, everything that is primordial is glossed over as something that has long been well known...Every secret loses its force."

[The cure for this is Sorge, i.e. care. Compare this to the discussion of Albert Borgmann and "focal practice" in DAA. Steiner continues:]

...care for the ready-to-hand, for the tools and materials of our practice; a concern for others which can be defined as "solicitude." But principally...Sorge is a concern with, a caring for, an answerability to, the presentness and mystery of Being itself, of Being as it transfigures beings. And it is from this existential ethic of concernedness that derives Heidegger's subsquent definition of man as the shepherd and custodian of Being....Care and genuine "self-hood" are indivisible.

8:55 PM  
Blogger the nomad said...

What about on how the CIA & Co. bring in the drugs? (Remember the CIA plane that crashed full of cocaine?). I was actually talking to a Mexican last night about this, and it is a somewhat common perception.

Clinton recently flat out admitted there's too much money in drugs to legalize, I'm sure she gets a cut.

I told my students over a year ago they would be seeing increased violence leading to the stepping in of US troops, which is now being announced. They came running to the tell me the news the other week. All part of the plan for North American integration, which has been mentioned as far back as 1980 when Bilderberg discussed the formation of a North American community or bloc.

Now take the biometric id program in Mexico and the proposed REAL ID in the US...yeah, connect the dots.

I never thought things would be go south so fast when I decided to come here, now they're lobbing grenades all over my town and torching vehicles. Ah well, at least it makes me feel alive!

11:28 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Uh...where r.u., exactly?

And: I don't think Hillary ever said such a thing. Give us the reference, yes?

11:35 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Dear Doctor Berman, I would like to dovetail Susan and add #14 to Hillary's speech.
No matter that the US trade deficit is now 500 billion $ (a 32.8% increase from 2009),that manufacturing constitutes only 11.5% of economic output (it was 28% in 1959),that China is the #1 exporter of high tech products, that only 7 million jobs were created from 2000 to 2010, that since 2001 42,000 factories were closed for good in the US, and that not one cell phone is made in the US, I will continue to give my wholehearted support to the national security state with its over 700 military bases worldwide because as we know there are many countries that are jealous of our way of life though pardon me if I can't think of one thing anyone needs to be jealous of.

11:45 PM  
Anonymous Ray said...

Quote from Crimson wife:

"Don't be so quick to write off all Americans. Some of us just need time to wake up from the intellectual stupor induced by growing up in modern society."

We talked about this possibility a while back, that NMI consciousness could be massified and sold as the latest fashionable enlightened mental product to millions for mischief and profit, pop-up ads for nmi.com disfiguring your screen every 1.2 secs, etc.

Thats the trouble with our particular hell, its very good at marketing dissent back onto millions to make them FEEL enlightened and somehow "not one of the deluded." There's a particularly horrible quality to these mass market vulgarizations of once vibrant and critically needed ideas, the kind you see gather dust on posters in a million office cubicles...or rather, the illustrations of "clever" posters hanging in cubicles portrayed in the Dilbert posters hanging in the real cubicles.

There's nothing more pathetic than the twisted caricatures of good ideas that wind up spouted by the self-important millions who smugly proclaim themselves as out of the box thinkers.

1:05 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...


Jose Ortega y Gassett, the Spanish philosopher whose most famous book is *The Revolt of the Masses* amplified on the Latin word for care, "cura," in interesting ways that remind me of Heidegger's. (I think some critics say that Heidegger took from Ortega.) The discourse might be in Ortega's *Some Lesson's in Metaphysics*, a think (and thin in number of pages) book whose mantra, if I remember correctly, was "I am myself and my circumstances." (Did I really forget my mantra?) Can't think of what happenned to that book; probably traded it for a dime bag. My pusher was a philosopher.

Enough book chat. Back to work on a new surrealist manifesto (to replace Breton's) the title of which will be "No Deli, No Bermo, No Bama Gonna Tell Me What to Do!" that will be dropped from polk-a-dotted helicopters onto Palin's soap box.

1:36 AM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

Brutus and Madame O, welcome to the DAA 40s. Salud. No Deli, No Bermo!

2:14 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


Expanding on the good doctor's point #4, regarding other NMI activity -- what are the things you dearly love, the things you always wanted time to do but somehow never quite got around to doing? For me they include reading great literature, discovering whole genres of music I'd ignored when younger, and pursuing my own desire to create art of some kind.

My advice? If at all possible, make time! Even if it's just an hour or two at the end of the week, set aside all the gnawing, nagging demands of the mainstream & do something that nourishes both mind & soul. I'm willing to bet you'll find you're not alone. There are other people like us, still living those lives of quiet desperation, looking for something better.

And don't think of it as self-indulgence or an afterthought. Think of it as something vital & necessary -- because it is, believe me! Are antibiotics self-indulgent when you've caught some awful disease? Of course not -- in fact, it's precisely what the doctor ordered!

("Br. Berman, calling Dr. Berman. Please report to the emergency room, several more victims of mainstream cultural poisoning desperately in need of immediate attention.")

Madame O,

If we're freaks, then let our freak flag fly!

Thoughtful people have been aware of the destructive, soul-devouring essence of the consumerist society for some time now. For example, check out the 1930s film Holiday, with Cary Grant & Katherine Hepburn, and see just how contemporary it is. Note how Kate's rich & politically nasty cousins sound exactly like the most overtly feudal-fascist politicians & pundits of the present day ...

8:19 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Clearly, we're on a roll here.

Tim & Joe: Please keep in mind that whenever we address Brutus directly, it has to be Brute, because that's the vocative singular. Which is why Caesar said, 'Et tu, Brute' when his ol' pal stuck the knife in. Brutus' response is unrecorded, tho he might have said: "I'm sick of all yer imperial horseshit, J.C." I'm thinking of doing a Roman month, during which all communication on this blog hasta be in Latin. Well, OK, maybe just an hour. Salve Sarah, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis!

Ray: This was a major theme of Herbert Marcuse, also picked up by Thos Frank in "Commodify Your Dissent." "Vital kitsch," I called it in the Twilight book (or a variety thereof). Meanwhile, "The Roots of American Failure," the
3rd in my American Empire series, will be out in August, and I'm looking forward to T-shirts that say, "Yet Another American Failure." Actually, that might be kinda groovy.

Dan: Things to be jealous of abt America and Americans: our obvious intelligence; our graciousness, esp. to one another; our modesty and humility; our collective wisdom and maturity; our legendary sense of humor; and of course, our deep sense of inner security.

No Deli, No Bermo! (another T-shirt, clearly)

8:47 AM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

For Ray, who worries about the skill of American marketers to commodify any good idea, I suggest a read of Thomas Frank's "The Conquest of Cool". Been goin' on for awhile.

For the others, including Dr. Berman, who need something beyond a reading of The Twilight of American Culture, people need to start behaving like monks (Buddhist, Catholic, or otherwise: BTW if you want to observe monkish behavior I suggest the film "Into Great Silence"). And by this, I mean acting with mindfulness. I mean how do the marketers conquer cool? It's a two way street. So the first step, is to stop buying crap you don't need and stop absorbing the idiotic cheerleading about American freedom. Second, cultivate some mindful practices to help you with #1. Here are two:

1. Eat dinner with your family every day. Sounds simple? You would be surprised at how this one thing can make up for a world of stupid shit. It helps to do the cooking from scratch and you must turn off the cell phones, the tee-vee, and other distractions and talk to each other. Also, (obviously) listen to each other. If you don't have a family, then do it with your partner. No partner? Invite a neighbor. Start acting like human beings in the most basic way. Stop acting like consumers. But be gentle to yourself, it takes awhile to really deprogram.

2. Cultivate a garden. The gardeners on this site will I know what I mean. Those of you who have never grown anything, fear not: start with an herb garden. The dirty secret for these is that they are basically weeds and can be grown with almost no care. More ambitious? Grow you own food, or some of it. Caring for plants requires thought, action, and time. Planting, weeding, and harvesting are my zen time. There is almost no end to the mindfulness this activity can create. What crops? What varieties? How many? How to train? How to prune? Save seeds or not? When to harvest? When to cull plants that are too old? Plus, any extra produce can be given away, automatically increasing your goodwill. Frankly, I'd be happy help those of you who needed help and I'd even send you some seed.

So, how about a discussion of what to do after the book discussion for those of us who decide not to emmigrate?

1:00 PM  
Anonymous Ray said...


Trade ya Herbert Marcuse and Thomas Frank for H.L. Mencken and Sinclair Lewis.

Marcuse gives the self-absorbed and the self-important too much gravitas. Lewis captures better the ridiculous small-mindedness of the self-regarding Babbits who believe themselves "awakened."

Thomas Frank is alright, but even HE thinks of himself as a latter-day echo of Mencken.

4:05 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...


If you're really Salmon Rushdie then you must be good friends with Chrisopher Hitchens. I read his memoirs, *Hitch 22*, and still find him engaging, eloquent, a craftsman of fine writing (I'd still be afraid to get into an argument with him though, in spite of his "slowing down" because of cancer). But how do you explain what Gore Vidal refers to as his "sea change?" In his memoirs he practically says that the whole idea of invading Iraq was his, that he drummed up support for the idea, and indeed there's a photograph of him and Wolfowitz disembarking from a helicopter onto Iraqui soil--the helicopter was not polka-dotted. His own justification for the change is that he knew the line had been crossed when the Ayatollah declared a fatwa on you, causing you to go into hiding. (That would be an interesting topic for a future post). He thought it outrageous that the Ayatollah's reach was such that a major author in the West was effectively silenced and even more outraged at the left's silence in the matter (Christopher Hitchens is a master of the art of indignation). Here is where he and the conservative philosopher, Roger Scruton, find common ground, although Scruton's argument is more complex and not dripping with indignation.

Anyway, your take on the matter will be appreciated.

9:18 PM  
Anonymous Ray said...

For Ray, who worries about the skill of American marketers to commodify any good idea, I suggest a read of Thomas Frank's "The Conquest of Cool". Been goin' on for awhile.

Thanks for the tip, although his Commodify Your Dissent, as Morris reminds us, was more to the point. I really ought to be more diligent about name- and influence- dropping, although shout-outs really aren't my style, but they serve a purpose and cut down on the back and forth. Re: Frank - as you might put it Bis, I've "been readin' him for a while."

Since we're shouting (or shoutin') out here,....a Mencken quote, and a call to a certain kind of action from the essay "Libido for the Ugly"(1927)

"...Here is something that the psychologists have so far neglected: the love of ugliness for its own sake, the lust to make the world intolerable. Its habitat is the United States. Out of the melting pot emerges a race which hates beauty as it hates truth. The etiology of this madness deserves a great deal more study than it has got. There must be causes behind it; it arises and flourishes in obedience to biological laws, and not as a mere act of God. What, precisely, are the terms of those laws? And why do they run stronger in America than else where? Let some honest Privat Dozent in pathological sociology apply himself to the problem...."

He foresaw Morris.

Berman-Mencken...with the 42 or 45 or whatever it is now fielding questions/self-serving comments...THAT would have been an evening roundtable to remember.

9:41 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Over and over again I asked CH not to use me as an excuse for his own political neurosis, but he just wdn't listen.

Hitchens is a very sad case, of someone who betrayed himself and his politics, largely--as far as I can make out--to be able to play with the Big Boys, and be in the limelight. Folks who know him personally have told me he drinks quite heavily these days (well, this was a few yrs ago, when I was still living in DC). Two items may be of some help, tho I can't give u exact refs because I don't care much about CH and so don't follow his life or work. One was a profile in the New Yorker a couple of yrs back, that portrayed him as someone who never really *was* left-wing, but just needed, psychologically, to be oppositional. Once that wore out, all he cd do was to switch sides and oppose the opposition. In a sense, then, he's animated by childhood anger, not by a truly moral position. The other article was a review of the autobiography (I think it was) in The Nation, which also pointed out that he was one sad dude, who betrayed his friends and himself.


9:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Years ago, I saw a very interesting talk by Jonathan Raban (Author of My Holy War:Dispatches from the Homefront). It was an important read in the post 9-11 era.

I can't recall whether it was part of that book or just the talk but he was asked about Hitchens who he had known for years and his strange turn to the right. Raban told the crowd he stopped getting responses from CH and he was totally mystified by his positions. As Dr. B says, a very sad case.

El Juero

10:05 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Maybe it's the Heidegger I've been rdg lately, but I couldn't understand a word u were saying; and yet I found it oddly enlightening! What can I say? Don't translate it into English for me, however; you have some sort of talent w/language, there's no need to tone it down. It has a Dylan Thomas-esque quality...wish I cd do it myself...


11:07 PM  
Anonymous Ray said...


When we deal with the unspeakable, language breaks down. The Delphic oracle was incoherent but enlightenting, in retrospect. I am no oracle, just so disgusted with the unspeakable things around us these days that...what you are trying to describe in your kind reaction is the look of my apoplectic sputtering on the printed page.

The Apollonian side can only process so much...the Dionysian in you is resonating with the Dionysian in my language...thank you for the openness and the compliment.

If language becomes completely lucid, it ceases to be language, and degenerates into technology.

11:28 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


This last message was far too clear; I understood it, which depressed me. I ask you to please return to your Delphic mode--opaque, oracular, and incomprehensible. Only by means of a full bloviation of the canonical conundrums will we attain the Einzbesorgenheit of the modular distaff. (Coronary truncations to the contrary)

Sunt lacrimae rerum,

12:04 AM  
Anonymous eponymous said...

Dr. Berman,

Been lurking for almost a year or so. Just wanted to let you know that I've read all of your books (sans "A Question of Values" which I expect to purchase and read sometime before the summer) and have enjoyed them thoroughly. First read Re-Enchantment over 25 years ago (while in the military, no less) and it definitely opened my eyes to things I hadn't previously thought about. Been a fan of your work ever since (you can count me as one of the 2000 who bought Wandering God - my personal favorite).

DAA and Decline were also quite good, but I was left with a sense of frustration (and depression) on my part. Since I now teach at a community college, I feel as if I'm swimming against a tidal wave that I know is coming but feel powerless to stop. I know it's futile, but I do want to hold onto those things that make my job (and my life) worthwhile.

Not so much the material things (the one thing I have cultivated over the ensuing years since reading Re-Enchantment is a personal library - the only material possessions I truly value), but the little things, like personal relationships with students or the respect and admiration of my colleagues, friends, and family.

I don't expect that what I do will make any major difference (although it is gratifying that I do occasionally reach a student and make some incremental improvement), but I do hold out the hope that by focusing on the little things that I can keep my integrity (and sanity).

Being able to visit your blog and share my comments with like-minded individuals should help, I hope, towards focusing on those little things.

All the best...

12:37 AM  
Anonymous Paul Emmons said...

I wouldn't be surprised if the biggest proponents of our "war on drugs" turned out to be the drug lords themselves. It keeps prices up. They can get away with adulterating their products with even more dangerous additives for an extra kick. All aspiring dealers and other minions can cut their teeth in the marijuana business before moving onwards and upwards to serious money. They can turn life upside down in less fortunate countries. And they have plenty of resources to buy all the necessary politicians into supporting a ridiculous program. Who else could manage such a trick?

12:52 AM  
Anonymous Ray said...

Entartete Kunst bleibt doch Kunst.

Delphic or meta-Delphic?

12:57 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Ja, gewiss. My own preference wd be for ueber-Delphic, altho I wd not be totally opposed to transdolphinic (or Leberkaese; or even la vache qui rit).


Wow...u kinda blew me away there, kid. Welcome to the blog, and don't stop now. We like to call it the
DAA42, but as of late it seems more like 48. Today the blog, tomorrow the world, what can I tell u. Anyway, you sound like a true NMI. BTW, as far as summer reading goes, the sequel to Twilight and DAA will be out in August; u might "enjoy" that as well. Regarding your situation: well...unless you emigrate, what else can u do? "The truth,” said Woodrow Wilson in 1912, “is that we are all caught in a great economic system which is heartless." And of course not just the economic system; the social one as well. This makes it much worse, as there is literally no one to talk to. Probably every one of my books wd strike the avg American as insane. It's not a great feeling. But as u say, if u can fish a very few people out of the drink, it may be worth your while. Stay with us...


6:01 AM  
Anonymous eponymous said...

Dr. Berman,

Will definitely keep an eye out for your new book this coming summer. And I'll continue to drop by here as often as I can.

10:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dimity Orlov on U.S. collapse from the current series on same at The Nation:

“Well the power vacuum that was left when the Soviet Empire collapsed was not a complete vacuum. There was a lot of black market economics active within the Soviet Union, there was a lot of what would be called corruption, but really they were workable ways of circumventing an unworkable system. There is some of that in this country as well. Strangely enough, the people who are the best positioned to start a full-blown black market economy in the United States are the narco-cartels. So they’re the next aristocracy as far as the Americans are concerned. They will be the ones moving in and replacing the power vacuum. You already see it happening in certain parts of the country close to the Mexican border. You can see that the local police and law enforcement are in no position to oppose them. They’re much better organized and armed. So this is what we can look forward to…” (approx. 14 min mark)

If you’re looking for a broader economic narrative, see Catherine Austin Fitts’s “Narco Dollars for Beginners:” http://solari.com/old-articles/scoop_narco_dummies.htm

For anyone interested in the Hitchen’s phenomenon, this is an interesting podcast where Dennis Perrin (someone who classed Hitchen’s as a “mentor”) discusses Hitchen’s changes: http://dietsoap.podomatic.com/entry/2011-01-20T09_02_19-08_00


11:24 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Sounds gd. U shd know that there's been some talk on this blog of forming our very own narco-cartel, and then donating the resulting billions in profits to the Palin campaign.

Onward and downward!


1:56 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Dr. Berman and friends,

Several recent comments have been about materialism, consumerism, etc. I try not to buy crap, but find that I'm a very good consumer, nevertheless. I collect books and CDs, and have purchased the necessary bookcases and stereo equipment as well. Same with food and drink; like most everyone else, I get my pastrami from a deli. I value what civilization offers, while hating what its done to me. Truth be told, I'm not much better at "just being" (in a Zen/Heidegger sense) than I am at self-sufficiency. So, I spend most of my time caught in-between mindfulness and American unconsciousness. In other words: alienated, worried, even useless. Anyone else feel this way?

3:47 PM  
Anonymous Mr. D said...

Gee, I'm surprised that "Wandering God" didn't sell more copies. I bought 2 myself. I was a staff illustrator in an Anthro department at the time it appeared, and although I could see how it wouldn't affect the agenda within that peculiar context, I considered it to be important scholarship. I kind of assumed that there was some intellectual hunger out there for that kind of explanation. Color me naive.

I also think it was your best work so far, although I haven't read the latest yet.

5:45 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,


There is no consumerist trap I have not fallen into (or jumped) but the value of this, I believe from my own experience, is humility at how really suseptable we all are. When Dr. Berman and others on the blog talk about the the dolts in America they could be talking about me and most of my family. It's good to remember people are trying really hard just to live and there are some very powerful forces allied against them and very few examples of sanity to model their lives on. I can honestly tell you I fight it every day and, on many days, I lose sight of what I want to be and plug back into what I'm told I should be--or, worse yet--the image I want to project. Please remember too simply living a normal life in the society you find yourself in is not a terrible crime. There's no need to feel guilty b/c you want to read books and listen to music and get a sandwich from the local deli.

Madame O--

While I know many people would rather have their eyes gouged out than read a self-help book, I'm not above it. One that helped me and might help you (and I admit it's pretty hokey) is Choosing Simplicity by Linda Breen Price. I gave it to a friend of mine and her 24 yr old daughter read it, quit her job and moved to Costa Rica for a year. Good luck planning your jail break from the cubicle.

6:44 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Mr. D-

It had 2 big strikes against it. One, I'm not a professional anthropologist, and the 'club' just doesn't take well to outsiders, esp. ones who have the chutzpah to offer a large, integrated synthesis. Two, the bk runs against the conventional anthro wisdom, that hunter-gatherers were religious. W/the exception of Australia, there is no real evidence for this (religious interp. of cave art is quite forced), and I provided what I believed (on the basis of scientific rule of parsimony) a better explanation of the archeological evidence. The book did get favorably reviewed in the American Anthropologist, but for the most part the professional journals ignored the book, and of course the popular press wasn't interested, as the thing is quite dense. So--end of story. Ironic that it's the book I am most proud of. (In general, friends tell me I'll be discovered posthumously, but [a] I doubt it, and [b] so what?)


6:48 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

"I couldn't afford to learn it," said the Mock Turtle with a sigh. "I only took ther regular course."
"What was that?" enquired Alice.
"Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with," the Mock Turtle replied; "and then the different branches of Arithmetic--Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision."

--Lewis Carroll

10:41 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


When I left the US 5 yrs ago I literally tossed my TV out: went to a public garbage dump in DC and left it there. This felt wonderful. The only time I get re-addicted is when I'm visiting the US, or am in a hotel somewhere that has cable channels from the US. I tell u, not having that endless commercial crap in my head has been extremely liberating. The key is to get out of the corporate commercial context as much as you can, because it really does colonize the mind, and is hard to resist.

(Do u remember that song from 20+ yrs ago, "Look What They Done To My Brain, Ma"? I loved it. "Well they wrapped it up in a plastic bag, and turned it upside down, Ma; look what they done to my brain!")

One other thing that might help is to construct a project for yourself, something you can dedicate yourself to, that might help other people (this is why I kept pushing u to think abt a food blog). Don't tell me you can't do this, because I know you can; and it really does clear the mind. Even starting a study group can help--it doesn't hafta be grandiose. In my case, I've spent abt 35 yrs now writing bks trying to open a different sort of door for people; to say, Hey, there's a better way to live and u can live it; Why dwell in kaka when u can have reality? This has been the driving force of my life, really. (In my own mind, rightly or wrongly, it's some combo of love and truth.) You know, I once added up (as best I cd estimate) all the royalties I earned over the yrs, and all the hrs I spent researching and writing those bks, and my 'income' came to 2.5 cents an hr--no shit. We return to John Ruskin: "There is no wealth but life." (And Sartre is also relevant here, with his idea of 'engagement': commit your life, take a chance--gamble it away on something, WTF. Are you saving your life for your old age?)


ps: Bks and music don't count as consumer enslavement, more like soul food (as long as they don't turn into obsessions). Plus, u know how I feel abt pastrami. Everyone hasta define the simple life themselves, of course, but what it looks like for me is: I almost never buy new clothes (I have one suit, 10 yrs old, maybe more) or furniture; I drive a beat-up old Chevy, w/lots of scrapes and dents in it; and I have no expensive tastes--weekends in Paris, yachts, original Renoirs on the wall, etc. $ goes for physical therapy, when I need it (inflamed tendon in ankle rt now); classes in Tai Chi and yoga and gym membership; scarfing the occasional enchilada, or cappuccino; lots spent on paper, printers' cartridges, the bus to Mexico City (where I stay with friends and occasionally take them out to dinner), the phone;--you get the idea. This is just me, but the point is that I don't need anything terribly 'excessive' because I'm happy to get up in the morning and start the day. I'm going to Europe this June on freq flyer miles, and staying with friends in England and France. Obviously, I can't do that too often, but once in a long while is gd enuf for me.

11:02 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...


Re: CH

Yes, I had that uneasy unconcious discomfort which your forthrightness has made conscious for me. But I'd be dishonest to say that his writing hasn't entertained me--it has and still does. But now I understand why he became a citizen of the U.S.--self-definition through opposition with a concomitant core of emptiness: our national identity.

But enough of CH. He'll remain my private pleasure, although I appreciated your formidable dispatch of the subject.

11:03 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

I have thoroughly enjoyed this post and the comments that followed. It's good to see new the DAA gang growing. I do not have anything of value to add today, but felt compelled to write in and say thank you, Dr. Berman, and everyone who takes the time to post thoughtful, genuine messages from the heart. Sometimes the ugliness of our culture and the brutal and aggressive way Americans treat each other really wears me out. I should say it always wears me out, but sometimes it really gets saddening. I had my fair share of experiences with my countrymen over the past few days (as always) that left me scratching my head (at best). I continue to be in awe of a society that requires its members to acquire such survival skills as anger, aggressiveness, bluntness, narcissism, and materialism. I am working on an escape plan, and may take a bit of time, but I realize that emigrating is the best option for me.

At any rate, thanks for providing me a place to feel safe and respected. It is truly an oasis, this blog.

12:21 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

"commit your life, take a chance--gamble it away on something, WTF. Are you saving your life for your old age?)"

Ah, although meant for Art, that really hit home, Maury. Ouch!

12:31 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

"Truth be told, I'm not much better at "just being" (in a Zen/Heidegger sense) than I am at self-sufficiency. So, I spend most of my time caught in-between mindfulness and American unconsciousness. In other words: alienated, worried, even useless. Anyone else feel this way?"

Art, I groove to your sincerity and feel that anything I might add would be useless (ha!). But yes, I too feel “alienated (since childhood), worried (haven’t had a job since 2006), and useless (can’t find like-minded people save on this blog—but then I’m reclusive because deeply hurt and assaulted (recently) by “petty tyrants” (Castaneda’s phrase). I confess, morbid frame of mind I admit, but I was most moved by Maury Berman’s take on Louis Malle’s film *Damage* in QOV. I sometimes feel like Jeremy Irons at the end of the film. But, strangely enough, I think that's a good thing. I just regret that I'm not in Venice--an appropriate setting for my frame of mind--I too am sinking into a lagoon. But must content myself with an abridged version of Ruskin's *Stones of Venice*.

1:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Certainly the consumer impulse/addiction is a problem for most people and I think it's often tied in with technology at this point.

I really appreciate the interest in the subject because it is one of the primary ways I think we're robbed of life.

TV - I dont' own a tv. Occasionally watch in a hotel.
Radio - occassionally for some background music.
Cell - I leave it home and treat it like an old landline.

Don't have an Ipod/Ipad etc.. I leave my ears and eyes open so I'm actually present in public.
I have a cheap netbook and may downsize to only computing off of a USB stick for cafe or library use.

I rarely buy something w/o selling or getting rid of something else first. Books included. Keeps you focused. Weird but it works.

I agree w/ Dr. Berman on the arts - the best refuge really.

Take up an instrument seriously - serious cooking, old craft, a language or art. Vastly cheaper than electronica or common consumer pursuits.

I'd be curious to hear what others do or think about the subject.

El Juero

1:25 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Well, looks like we really stirred the pot here. Not too much more to add.

Joe: good move, amigo. What the US needs rt now is not merely a brain-drain, but a heart-drain. Leave the place to the yahoos (Sarah & Co.) and the oh-so-chic (Obama & Co.), all of whom want us to be more competitive, more aggressive, more empty. Who give $19 trillion to Wall St. bankers while 20% of the nation is unemployed; who think that a faster Internet or high-speed rail system is going to save us. Who are not so much people as presentations, selling "the brand named you." Who genuinely think that hustling is the meaning of life, and never once stop to think: What the hell am I doing? And yet, who know in their heart of hearts (what's left of it) that they really are douche bags, and that this is why they can't stop running.

3:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think one thing tied to the issue of taking a chance on life outside of the states is the very issue of consumerism and having too much "stuff".
I think the stuff American's possess and therefore must finance, haul and shelter is a big part of the problem and distracts from what's valuable.

Dr. Berman's beat up old car is fine in Mexico and costs far less than what Americans pay because Mexicans value other things. There's no social cost to owning it as there might be in the states.
In many parts of the world you won't need a big living room to house the big tv you had to read reviews on so you can finance it with the bank that's screwing you on interest rates etc.. Walk outside and have a conversation instead.
If you can't leave the States now you could also really involve yourself in an immigrant community that you feel drawn to. Learn the language. Immigrant communities have a wealth of info we probabably overlook but they know how to help one another and work the system, find informal vs. formal ways of dealing w/ issues etc..
Not surprisingly, they are the community the US public at large is most suspcicious of.....go figure!

4:28 AM  
Anonymous A Savage Salmon said...

Christopher Hitchens is way less interesting than his younger, paleo-conservative brother Peter, who still lives in the UK and takes an interesting line in anti-consumerist, anti-dumbing-down thought while supporting old conservative causes such as religion, selection in education etc.


Obviously a lot of what he says will appal many of you, but also a a lot of what he says is good sense. Also, he's pretty consistant as to what he thinks.

Anyway, here's his opinion on national anthems:

"Never mind, Christina... it’s only an old boozing song

I’m not surprised that poor Christina Aguilera messed up the American national anthem. It’s actually rather hard to sing. This dubious anti-British hymn is beset with many problems.

The tune is that of an old English 18th Century boozing song, supposed to be accompanied by the loud banging of mugs on tables. The grandiose lyrics describe a Royal Navy assault on Baltimore in the days when we still admitted we were rivals, before they invented the ‘Special Relationship’.

There seems to be a rule that the most troubled countries have the best anthems. Germany vies with Russia for the most moving. While God Save The Queen (thank heaven) is as dumpy and uncharismatic as the monarch it celebrates."

6:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The NYT's today is interesting in techno/human terms.

One main story is how Egyptians were cut off from the internet in their successful efforts at overthrowing the government. The irony is the internet (technology) was cut off while the story credits the technology . Was there no interest that maybe the revolution was successful because the toys were turned off (as opposed to internet connected Iran)? Just more technology worship. The first 50 or so comments is just the expected comments about government role, need for more tech, blah, blah.

The other piece is about the new version of Monopoly being released. Worth watching the video for the "laughs".

"The Tower" tells players what to do and you play using an ATM card. No counting or deal making is necessary. In fact, looks like they've been able to scrub the game of most human interaction or thinking.

What an f'n country I tell ya!

El Juero

8:45 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

El J-

I scoured the NYT for the real truth abt Egypt, but no luck. Instead, it was all abt how the Egyptians want Amer-style democracy, and how Facebook brought Hosni down. (I was also annoyed that no one did a column called 'Hosni Got Hosed,' but that's another story.) Nowhere was there any mention of the fact that Hosni's dictatorship (tho at least Cheney came out saying he was our friend and ally for many yrs) was maintained by us to the tune of $1.5 billion/yr, the 2nd-largest foreign aid package supplied by the US (Israel, of course, is No. 1). No mention of Egypt as our 'ally' in the process of extraordinary rendition (launched by Bill Clinton in 1995), whereby they torture folks for us. And no discussion of Malcolm Gladwell's recent articles (New Yorker) on political organizing owing very little to the Internet. Somehow, the French managed 1789 w/o Facebook, as he pts out; the tech of communication is nothing as compared to the content of it, and the actual social contact. Also that the reasons for a revolution are far more important than the means. (I wd also add that how revolutionary this 'revolution' really is remains to be seen. The military in Egypt, as in the case of the corporations in the US, are not interested in anything more popular than a 'managed' democracy, to use Sheldon Wolin's expression. Let Facebook take that one on.) But Americans can be expected, as usual, to behave like robots: give them words like 'technology' and 'democracy' and that's all they need to hear, they are off and running with a sloganed interpretation of events.


9:28 AM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

Dear MB & All,

In re-reading Bertrand Russell's autobiography, I came across a letter he wrote to an American author for whom he had composed an introduction to her book.

His observations on an aspect of the American character (1936):

"...I think America is very worrying. There is something incredibly wrong with human relations in your country. We have a number of American children at our school, and I am not amused at their mothers' instinctive incompetence. The fount of affection seems to have dried up. I suppose all Western civilization is going to go the same way, and I expect all our Western races to die out, with the possible exception of the Spaniards and Portugese. Alternatively the State may take to breeding the necessary citizens and educating them as Janissaries without family ties. Read John B. Watson on mothers. I used to think him mad; now I only think him American; that is to say, the mothers that he has known have been American mothers. The result of this physical aloofness is that the child grows up filled with hatred against the world and anxious to distinguish himself as a criminal, like Leopold and Loeb."

Mark N.

9:31 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

I find that a look at the daily advice columns offers a stark picture of the state of America's soul. From today:

DEAR ABBY: This is difficult to write. My sister reads her children's text messages after they're asleep. She bragged to me about how popular her daughter "Naomi" -- my 14-year-old niece -- is because she's giving oral sex to the boys.

My sister claims Naomi isn't "having sex," so she thinks it's OK! I am shocked by her ignorance and terrified knowing that Naomi is putting herself at risk for STDs. My husband says if I confront Naomi it will drive her away, but I can't remain silent and watch my niece ruin her life. What's the point of reading your children's text messages if you're unwilling to stand up and be a parent? What can I do? -- TERRIFIED FOR MY NIECE IN THE SOUTHWEST


Dear Annie: My son showed me the Facebook page of a 20-year-old acquaintance who is expecting a baby with her boyfriend. An ultrasound showed that the baby was seriously brain damaged and would likely die at birth.

This gal named her unborn baby and created a website journal of her pregnancy. Some of the entries were about her doctor appointments and shopping for a funeral home. Others were rants about fights with her boyfriend and his forays with other women. Her page includes professionally taken photographs of her lifting her shirt to expose her very pregnant belly.

I was appalled at the publicizing of such a heart-wrenching, private situation. Am I just old-fashioned? — A Private Person

What do these letters reveal?

People frantically, hungrily desperate to be recognized as existing, no matter what it takes? People who don't feel real on their own, who don't have any interior life? Frightening & unbearably sad, especially when multiplied God knows how many times across the country.


MB is right -- books & music & art are indeed soul food. Even better is making your own! For instance, I can't begin to explain how satisfying it is to create a collage that works, that has some real evocative & emotional power to it. There's a sense of wholeness, of being grounded in something deep & true, as if you've momentarily touched Meaning.

I'll take that over an SUV or swimming pool any day!

9:42 AM  
Anonymous Art said...

What a great way to start the day, with so many caring and thoughtful comments from the DAA community. Thank you!

MB, I have a few projects in mind that I could put my energy into; all I need is to overcome laziness and remember the quote attributed to Goethe: "Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it."

RE: technology vs. craft
I'd like to recommend a film (though I haven't seen it yet) called "Being In The World: A Celebration of Being Human in a Technological Age". The website is intriguing: beingintheworldmovie.com

What a way *not* to start the day: I opened the morning newspaper to read that the Dalai Lama's nephew was killed while walking along State Road A1A (just north of where I live) during a planned 300-mile "Walk for Tibet". Meanwhile, this Sunday (just south of where I live) the Daytona 500, a celebration of speed (not to mention stupidity and violence) will go on as scheduled. What a f'n country indeed.

9:49 AM  
Blogger the nomad said...

I got the Hillary quote from here:


I'm in Guadalajara.

GDL has been seeing violence now over the past few weeks, with narcos tossing grenades and clubs, the shooting of a bus driver and the torching of his bus, a few civilians, etc.

GDL is supposed to be a "family" town and in this sense, untouchable. This is where a lot of them have their families, heck, I probably teach some of their kids.

I firmly believe North American integration is underway.

4:34 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


You quoted Hillary out of context; she was hardly allying herself with drug cartels, or saying the drug business was in cahoots with corporations or big business. On the contrary, the article by Jacob Sullum makes it quite clear that she doesn't know *what* she's saying, and is terribly confused about the economics of the situation. He writes: "Clinton evidently does not understand that there is so much money to be made by selling illegal drugs precisely because they are illegal." She's a dummy, in other words. Which is bad, esp. in a secretary of state, but it's not quite as bad as endorsing prohibition for the sake of corporate profits.


4:54 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...


Call me gullible [thank's Herman]. I paid the membership fee for AARP only to find that in return I get insurance advertising delivered to my mail box. Even so, I read a wise article in the latest edition of the magazine by Andrew Reiner who teaches writing at Towson University.

Concerning his students:
"When I peer into the cocksure eyes of this free-spending, techno-savvy, effortlessly self-promotional generation, I fear I'm being rendered obolete."

No wonder. Many mid-life job seekers don't have Facebook accounts and hiring managers have taken to reading social networking sites instead of paper resumes to determine potential employees's digital relevance.

One image guru suggested "Projective Execises" where you image yourself as an animal or inanimate object. Reiner wryly projected himself as a sleepy beagle.

And finally the "source" of this branding? "Management luminary" Tom Peters [ueber douche bag] who said: "We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc."

5:43 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

If the Dark Ages aren't here now, they surely will be in 2013 when at that time the Repubs will have gained the presidency and the 2 houses. An interview with the head of Planned Parenthood today on Democracy Now seems to suggest that not only are the Repubs intent on making abortion illegal but seem to have a hidden agenda to make any sex not within the bonds of matrimony and not for the sole purpose of procreation illegal as well! They want to severely restrict the use of birth control, make killing an abortion doctor justifiable homocide and only prosecute those rapes where the woman made a strong attempt to resist.
Then Obama whose mother once needed food stamps, wants to cut in half the program that allows the poor to pay their heating bills as well as cut the Pell grants that so many college students depend upon.
Finally, I read Newsweek and their is a story , "The Demise of the Dictators" about all the recently overthrown dictators like Mubarak. The list includes Marcos,Suharto, Pinochet, Ceausescu, and "Baby Doc" Duvalier without once mentioning that each was robustly supported by the U.S.
Thus I think now I should take the advice of a comedian from years back who said that he read that cigarettes were harmful. As a result, he gave up reading.

8:21 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I confess I'm personally excited abt these new developments, esp. w/Sarah at the helm. We have been playing w/cultural suicide; the time has come to take the gloves off and go for it, tout court. Lukewarm decline is a yawn, and Obama a crashing bore. I look forward to Total Uninhibited Decline (TUD). A nation of nasty, narcissistic, and not-too-bright people shd demand nothing less. Meanwhile, I plan to be bringing out a T-shirt collection:


It's all so exciting.


9:46 PM  
Blogger the nomad said...

Well, I would highly doubt any Clinton is as dumb or naive as they seem. I think she's playing the fool.

The rest of what she says:

"..They can’t be given an even easier road to take, because they will then find it in their interest to addict even more young people. Mexico didn’t have much of a drug problem before the last 10 years, and you want to keep it that way. So you don’t want to give any excuse to the drug traffickers to be able legally to addict young people."

I was just reading billionaire Doug Casey's newsletter and came upon this link where he mentioned the same quote:


Call it crazy, call it conspiracy theory, I'll leave it at that.

12:03 AM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

No, no! It's Total Uninhibited Rapid Decline (TURD).

David Rosen

1:12 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

From Reuters - "Mexico Risks Losing Large Areas to Drug Cartels"


10:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Art said, "I spend most of my time caught in-between mindfulness and American unconsciousness. In other words: alienated, worried, even useless. Anyone else feel this way?" I definitely feel like I'm doing the Hokey Pokey, always one foot in and one foot out. Complete disentanglement would be quite a feat. Others have admitted feeling caught between the horns of consumerist pleasures and guilt. I can also relate to that. I didn't buy my first couch until my mid-40s and have been sleeping on the same futon for almost 25 years, but I find that despite my efforts to avoid collecting unnecessary stuff, I've amassed an excess of CDs, shoes, bicycles, and bottles of wine and bourbon.

As to books, music, and other arts feeding the soul, I'm a performing musician, teacher, arranger, and publisher (though not an especially successful one). It's been a lifeline for me, allowing me to feel authentically human rather than a zombie. But at the same time, it's kept me tethered to cities at a time when a quiet, pastoral life seems more advisable. And as Prof. Berman advocates, I've actively sought to emigrate as a musician (flirted with Iceland, Singapore, Mexico, Germany, and New Zealand) but was thwarted in all those attempts (insofar as emigration was tied to a job offer). So I continue my musical activities such as I may, but the cliche that the artist is nourished solely by his art should be recognized as such.

3:35 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

More on Hillary as a farce: She was giving a speech on how the US protects freedom of speech and the rt to dissent, when Ray McGovern stood up and turned his back to her; security forces dragged him away and roughed him up as a result, with Hillary continuing w/her hypocritical speech as tho nothing was going on. How is this better than the Bush Jr admin? These people are absolute dogs, lower than pond scum; I can't imagine it wd bother them to arrest and torture any one of us, if it served their purposes (disguised as "the national interest," of course). Check out http://www.presstv.ir/usdetail/165718.html, or just plug "ray mcgovern arrest clinton speech" into google. Hard not to vomit from this.

5:37 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...


Those of you contemplating emigration or approaching retirement might find potentially useful information at www.retirementwave.com, a site run by Bob Adams who has an interesting take on baby boomers and social responsibility. His ideas apply to emigrating to any country but Panama is his chief focus since he lives there.

I was born and raised in Panama (the former Canal Zone) and have friends and family who live there. Maury Berman and this blog are firming up my resolve to get the hell outta dodge!

9:57 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


There are a lot of expatriate websites that can be of help w/this, such as expatexchange.com. Good luck, and don't drag yer feet.


10:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To: Brutus & Art or anyone re: consumer culture and feeling stuck in it.

I hear what you're saying and it's a very real struggle to see past just buying crap in the US. It's practically in our DNA as a culture. You'll get very little support for living a simplified life from other Americans. It's different and that's enough to leave many confused and then feeling even a bit hostile about it. As the culture is so utterly distracted by the latest electronic thing or corporate prouduced drama people will have no idea why your reduced consumerism bothers them. It's quite a feedback loop really.
Just my opinion of course, but I also think we need to not be too harsh on ourselves as we extricate. You're really going against the grain often on a subconcious level in the States.

El Juero

10:51 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

Dr. Berman,

you're right, that article about Ray McGovern almost did make me vomit. He was dragged out and beaten for a silent protest, and Clinton watch him being dragged out, for a fucking silent protest of our unending wars...we cannot even silently protest war and wish for peace? Sickening. And she continued with her speech. I'm in the twilight zone. An appalling act that undermines liberty of any sort, and you can't find the article in mainstream news outlets. Sad. I guess as long as you tell Americans it's for their own good, they are ok with it.

12:04 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...


Thank you for the reference. I was surprised at the statistics that Bob Adams presents at his site on the number of Americans emigrating. Maybe the U.S. will just quietly vanish because everyone left. But I won't hold my breath.

2:28 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


The only trouble w/that scenario is that the gringos then go on to reproduce mini-Americas in the countries they "invade"--same values and behavior that they supposedly left behind. Ex-pat communities in Mexico are grotesque; almost parodies of themselves.


It was a pretty Orwellian scenario, that's for sure. When wd it be reasonable to declare that we have slipped over the edge, into a de facto police state? And as for the public and the press: "conspiracy of silence" comes to mind...


5:12 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Hillary's message is basically that of Bush before her: "We're Number One because we have so many freedoms! (Now let's not cause trouble by actually trying to make use of any of them.)"

It's another example of the American idea that simply saying something makes it so. The (so-called) reality is in uttering the words, not in living them out. Everything is essentially advertising -- we know on some level that it's empty bullshit, but it sounds so damn good & makes us feel so good about ourselves!

Speaking of which, during this orgy of deification for Reagan's 100th birthday, I note that nearly every comment or statement glorifying him usually claims his greatest achievement as being, "He made us feel good about ourselves again!" That's the ultimate counter-argument to the horrible facts of what Reagan actually did -- but as the Gipper said, "Facts are stupid things."

Is it just a pop cultural coincidence that vampire chic began in the Reagan 80s? An elite of undead parasites pretending to be deathless sophisticate, feeding on the lifeblood of the masses?

And once the gloss is off, it's zombie chic, with mindless hordes constantly hungry & devouring the intelligent.

It's twilight in America!

8:46 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Per the Reagan years, I always tell people "it was mourning in America - they just left out the 'u.'"

11:05 AM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

For the folks wondering about what to do to cleanse yourself of your culturally-induced predilection for consumerism, see my earlier post on eating with your family and gardening. It works!

For those for whom that's not your style, there's always your very own Project Mayhem. I find myself envying people who might actually have the balls to feed the pigeons at a BMW dealership causing them to to shit all over the cars, or cut loose a big piece of corporate art and cause it to crash into a Starbucks. Other people have their own ideas and actually act out on tehm (and please pardon the source, although it is in some ways entirely fitting): http://www.mediaite.com/tv/fox-news-reports-on-the-food-activists-who-kidnapped-and-beheaded-a-ronald-mcdonald-statue/

Which one of you did this? I know you must be lurking here. A hearty huzzah!

So, any other ideas? Maybe you'll inspire somebody. I guess what we need is more propaganda of the deed, 21st century style.


4:40 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I do like the pigeon thing; nice image. Mayhem was known yrs ago as ecotage; see works of Ed Abbey. Throwing platters of chopped liver at Goldman Sachs execs on Wall St. might be another creative way to express oneself. Plus peeing on Obama's shoes, projectile vomiting on Hillary, etc. Only problem is that in the US, these people are like hydra's heads: chop 'em off, and 20 more appear. America contains millions of people who wd like to become Obamas, Hillarys, and Lloyd Blankfeins. In fact, I suspect most wd.


5:35 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

And while were on the subject of New Monastic Individuals:


My kinda guy...

6:08 PM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

Hey folks,

American life got ya down? Tired of the serial mugging that is the daily life we all lead here in the good old U S of A?

Well, I had the house to myself tonight and indulged myself in a little film that I'd been wanting to see for some time (available on Netflix if yinz get it).

Do yourself a big favor and see "Rivers and Tides", a film about the work of sculptor Andy Goldsworthy. This dude rocks. I won't spoil it for you. But I can sure say it put me in best mood I've been in for a long time. Even makes up for Hillary. And that sure is saying something.

And then go off and do the same.... Project MiniMayhem. Make some art that you like and that others won't expect. Where they won't expect it in a way that they won't expect either. Short circuit their little neurons.

Finish off your day of mayhem with some Quincy Jones and some homemade lemoncello (recipe available upon request)....

Damn! Life can still be good.

10:56 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...


Yes, I think I know what you mean about the grotesqueness of American expat communities when I came across a Youtube video called "Gringos in Panama." They are insular and can't get enough of each others company. Furthermore, they want to be envied for how cheaply yet comfortably they're living--Let's make a deal!

In a sense, the Canal Zone was an expat community par excellence started by Theodore Roosevelt. Later, army bases were added--I grew up on three of them--for jungle training for Vietnam and strategic "defense" of Central and South America. . I was looking over old copies of The Spillway, the news organ of the Panama Canal Company, and noticed how the paper was divided into an English section with photos of mostly white folk and a Spanish section with photos of mostly brown and black folk. This was after desegregation.

Former Zonians run a nostalgia web site called appropriately Zonian Brats. They feel nostalgic for the life in which they had Panamanian maids, among other perks (manicured golf courses, swimming pools).

Although I feel nostalgic for the C.Z (my first 18 years of life), I remember the dissonant feelings evoked by such epithets like "panahoochie," a C.Z. term of derogation applied to Panamanians and sometimes to me by kids who know that my mother is Panamanian. For me, it has a sting similar to the n-word.

1:57 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

I should add that it was President Jimmy Carter, the hero of DAA, who ended the American occupation of Panama, a slight retraction of our far-flung empire. I'm not sure if he is unique, but ending the occupation seems consonant with other things that you point out that he was telling Americans

2:07 AM  
Blogger HansfromDK said...

El Juero et al.

Of course the craftsman sees the world in another way than the consumer, and tools - in the broadest sense of the word - are not neutral mediators between man and the world. A six-shooter f.i., this arch American symbol, has its own purpose built into it - you all know that, and I excuse for the cliches. More to come: A faster internet will not save the Planet, and the net is largely used for disseminating junk. (Does anybody know an internet mail portal which will not bombard you with gossip from Hollywood, videos titled "What you missed on TV last night" - they are dead right by the way, since I do not own a TV - and sports results? Please tell me!) Finally the role of the internet during the resent events in Egypt remains to be investigated.
BUT: This blog only exists because of the net. Could electronic communication have some beneficial aspects? I do not think the answer is obvious.

Best to all of you

3:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Hans,
Interesting points.

It does occur to me that we may be the last generation or so to question it even.

I seriously doubt anyone under the age of 30 questions cell phones or texting etc. at this point?

I've certainly connected to a number of different and worthwhile things on the internet. I've also wasted an incaluable amount of time, walked less, decreased my attention span and so on - and I'm not that heavy a user.

It's funny, I actually found out about Dr. Berman's work in, ya ready for this? A conversation with a friend!! It's also crosses my mind that a lot of the information we "find" on the internet might have been discovered in conversation, books, radio or just thinking about things.

I always notice when someone notable mentions not using a computer or less technology. Wendell Berry of course. Cornell West mentioned once he only uses a computer when in his office at school. Joni Mitchell doesn't own a computer, cell phone or even an answering machine. A simple land line in. I'm sure there are others.

El Juero

10:00 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Hans, El J:

I do an historical overview of American worship of technology as America's hidden religion in my forthcoming bk, the title of which has now been changed one more time (they are driving me crazy) to "Why America Failed: The Roots of Imperial Decline" (shd be out in August). Re: Facebook and the illusion that it caused the Egyptian ouster of Hosni, see the recent Malcolm Gladwell articles (New Yorker) and also this from today's Washington Post:



10:49 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Wow. This latest blog has brought a bubble of new blood, and some passionate observations, referencing many prior social critics and philosophers. For sure, time to retire "42" as a commentary on the minuscule size of this group of individuals awakening to the seismic rumblings.

The no-joking wish for a Palin presidency enlivens an unjustified optimism in me, namely that a quicker fall to rock-bottom is preferable to an imperceptible (to most) decline.

At the current rate of warming of water in the pot, the frog will remain heavy-lidded until he is cooked. But with a sudden increase, he might jump out while his motor reflexes are still functional.

Either way, references to the co-opting of any awakening are well-heeded. The worst thing that can happening to any movement to enlighten the masses on a subject is that it gets picked up on the radar, identified, and then packaged, or rather, the concept of it is packaged and sold to people who feel pleased that they are now part of the solution.

New Monastics must not become chic, or even searchable, or it will spell the end of the viability of such endeavors.

In the end, it is not about the end, but as always, about the moment, which is always now.

Heidegger's "publicness" in which we tend to co-opt ourselves in order to relate to others, reveals the only thing we can do. "Sorge" or caring, reminds me of the Buddhist solution, which is to have compassion with the "other being" in front of oneself; we share a predicament, and the only difference we can make is one-on-one. Politicizing it, even in the name of religion, tends to create ritualizing the genuine thing, and a movement would kill it altogether.

MB, thanks for the recommendation on Safranski's Heidegger bio; as soon a my wife finishes devouring it, I will plunge into it.

5:43 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Per the question of the "value" of the internet as a "community" medium - seems like some good (e.g. ability to find interesting thought/perspectives, (some) information at your fingertips) offset by the same co-option that occurs with all technology. In any case:

1) Numerous commentators (e.g. Greer) have noted the incredible energy drain of the system - not sustainable in energy descent (i.e. we're at "peak internet" too)

2) Douglas Rushkoff, a media analyst by way of McLuhan and McKenna, seems to have a good read on the system. http://rushkoff.com/
(I also highly recommend his book "Life, Inc.")

6:24 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Well, what to say.

I think Paul (dharmaguerilla) is rt: we have graduated beyond the
DAA42. I'm just going to take an intuitive leap here: from now on, we shall refer to ourselves as the DAA55. It has a nice ring to it.

As for commenting on other stuff: maybe I shd just do another post.

9:44 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Yesterday I reread the essay on your visit to a monastery in Mexico. I plan to get the book What We May Be also. I ran across a quote from a book by Kingsolver similar to the quote in the essay:

"In my own worst seasons I've come back from the colorless world of despair by forcing myself to look hard, for a long time, at a single glorious thing: a flame of red geranium outside my bedroom window. And then another: my daughter in a yellow dress. And another: the perfect outline of a full, dark sphere behind the crescent moon. Until I learned to be in love with my life again. Like a stroke victim retraining new parts of the brain to grasp lost skills, I have taught myself joy, over and over again."

Thank you for hosting this blog, recommending books and making it possible for people with a similar world view to share stories and opinions--even if we don't agree all the time.

9:38 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Hi Susan-

Yer welcome. Truth be told, I hafta keep learning that lesson, of buddhist mindfulness, over and over again--literally on an hourly basis. How am I sitting? (slumped?) How am I eating? (rushed?) How am I working? (driven?) Etc. I can be mindful in a yoga class, for example; the problem lies in taking this into the rest of the day. Any enlightenment I might achieve is clearly far in the distance; but then, I'm doing a bit better today than I was a yr ago--I think.

Re: diversity of opinion: there has been some confusion on this pt among a number of folks writing in. I personally think it's a gd thing. The problem is the American mind-set, which is by nature hurt, angry, and aggressive. So esp. at the beginning, and from time to time even now, I get critiques of what I have written larded w/tons of belligerence and attitude. The agenda, in short, is often not abt the content, but abt personal display and acting out. What shd I do? I have no interest in becoming an online therapist, and I'm sure it wdn't work anyway. So I don't post those angry/sarcastic submissions anymore, and the individual concludes that I'm only interested in total consensus. The notion that "the tone makes the music," as my grandfather usta say, never enters their heads. I tell ya, everybody oughta try running a blog: u begin to see how much pain and rage is lying 1 mm. below the surface of so many Americans. It's often depressing; but then, we do have the DAA55, and the occasional--rare--courteous dissent. But in general, I guess critique is a lost art. When I taught university, I would assign a text and tell my students: Here is what I want u to write up:

1. Author's thesis
2. Author's evidence for it
3. Your assessment of whether the evidence does in fact support the thesis--and leave the attitude out.
4. Recap and summary.

Very few can do this anymore.

Thanks again,

10:10 AM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Susan W. and Dr. Berman

Henry Miller once said: "The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself."

I have this quote inscribed at the beginning of my copy of Ray Bradbury's "Dandelion Wine."

Also, Dr. Berman -- thank you very much for your books, and for your blog.

David Rosen

10:42 AM  
Blogger Ron said...

What a incisive look at Hillary. I had to laugh out loud at some of it. We all need a bit of humor in these dark days. Personally, whenever I hear Hillary, I'm somehow reminded of Lady MacBeth.


3:58 PM  

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