April 11, 2011

Deepening the Self-Destruction

We are at a point in American history where, to paraphrase Blake, Bad is Good. This is why I’m rooting for a Palin presidency: if anyone can deepen our self-destruction, it’s Sarah. Meanwhile, two articles just appeared documenting the process even further, so I’d like to share them with you. The first is by my hero and yours, Chris Hedges: “Why the United States Is Destroying Its Education System,” which he posted yesterday on truthdig.com. The second is by Nobel laureate Joe Stiglitz, titled “Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%,” which you can find at vanityfair.com.

To start w/Chris, then: He points out that the American educational system “celebrates rote vocational training and the singular, amoral skill of making money. It churns out stunted human products, lacking the capacity and vocabulary to challenge the assumptions and structures of the corporate state.”

[What we have in this country by now, of course, are nearly 310 million stunted human products. Not exactly the best raw material for turning the system around, I’m guessing.]

Talking about the NYC school system, Chris goes on: “In the past 10 years we’ve had the emergence of both Mike Bloomberg’s Leadership Academy and Eli Broad’s Superintendents Academy, both created exclusively to produce instant principals [without principles, one might note] and superintendents who model themselves after CEOs.” The problem, he says, is that “To truly teach is to instill the values and knowledge which promote the common good and protect a society from the folly of historical amnesia. The utilitarian, corporate ideology embraced by the system of standardized tests and leadership academies has no time for the nuances and moral ambiguities inherent in a liberal arts education. Corporatism is about the cult of the self. It is about personal enrichment and profit as the sole aim of human existence.” [Sound like any country you know of?]

But there’s more: “The truly educated become conscious. They become self-aware. They do not lie to themselves. They do not pretend that fraud is moral or that corporate greed is good. They do not claim that the demands of the marketplace can morally justify the hunger of children or denial of medical care to the sick. They do not throw 6 million families from their homes as the cost of doing business.” And they know that “moral independence is the only protection from the radical evil that results from collective unconsciousness.” For “Once justice perishes…life loses all meaning.” As Hannah Arendt put it, “The greatest evil perpetrated is the evil committed by nobodies, that is, by human beings who refuse to be persons.”

“Unconscious civilizations,” Chris concludes, “become totalitarian wastelands.”

Of course, with 310 million nobodies (stunted human products), what other future is there for the US? Rhetorical question. Let’s turn to Joe Stiglitz.

The data: the upper 1% of the American population is now taking in nearly 25% of the nation’s entire income every year. In terms of wealth, they control 40% of it. Over the past decade, their incomes rose by 18%; those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall. All growth in recent decades, and more, has gone to this upper 1%. “In terms of income equality,” he tells us, “America lags behind any country in the old, ossified Europe that President George W. Bush used to deride.” Joe goes on:

“The corporate executives who helped bring on the recession of the past three years—whose contribution to our society, and to their own companies, has been massively negative—went on to receive large bonuses. In some cases, companies were so embarrassed about calling such rewards ‘performance bonuses’ that they felt compelled to change the name to ‘retention bonuses’ (even if the only thing being retained was bad performance)…. Some people look at income inequality and shrug their shoulders. So what if this person gains and that person loses? What matters, they argue, is not how the pie is divided but the size of the pie. That argument is fundamentally wrong. An economy in which most citizens are doing worse year after year—an economy like America’s—is not likely to do well over the long haul.”

“With youth unemployment in America at around 20 percent,” writes Stiglitz (and in some locations, twice that); “with one out of six Americans desiring a full-time job and not able to get one; with one out of seven Americans on food stamps (and about the same number suffering from ‘food insecurity’)—given all this, there is ample evidence that something has blocked the vaunted ‘trickling down’ from the top 1 percent to everyone else.”

An additional problem here, he says, is that while “Trickle-down economics may be a chimera…trickle-down behaviorism is very real.” In other words, the rest of the country wishes to live like the top 1%, but they can’t; so they live beyond their means.

With this, it seems to me, we come to the crucial point. Joe writes that “Of all the costs imposed on our society by the top 1 percent, perhaps the greatest is…the erosion of our sense of identity, in which fair play, equality of opportunity, and a sense of community are so important.” But frankly, except as an abstraction, I find this dubious. Americans may pay lip service to these ideals, but if, as Joe says, the goal of our fellow-countrymen is to live like the top 1%, then there is no getting around the fact that they have no larger vision than making a lot of money. ("In the United States," wrote John Steinbeck, "the poor consider themselves temporarily embarrassed millionaires.") They are not enraged that they live in a system in which one person, Bill Gates, can accumulate $50 billion--not at all. Rather, they just want to accumulate $50 billion themselves. Which brings us back to Chris’ notion of a system that turns out “stunted human products,” Arendt’s “nobodies…who refuse to be persons.” Dummies, in a word; moral and intellectual dummies. The goal of these 310 million nobodies is hardly fair play or a more equitable distribution of wealth or a sense of community (let alone, community); no, it’s getting a larger cut of the pie, period. The vision is empty, and the people are empty. And thus, so is the American future.

Stiglitz was, of course, paraphrasing the Gettysburg Address with his title. Lincoln’s concluding words were: “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Tomorrow is the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, and obviously a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then. So perhaps we need to complete Joe’s thought, and paraphrase Lincoln’s conclusion a bit differently (pardon the verbiage—or “verbage,” as Sarah Palin calls it): “government of the stunted human products, by the stunted human products, for the stunted human products; which thus cannot help but perish from the earth.”

(c)Morris Berman, 2011


Blogger Cj said...

Hi Dr. Berman, you may find of interest John Taylor Gatto's website with an alternative history of the American school system:




5:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Berman,

The Economist has an interesting rebuttal to Dr. Stiglitz's article at:


11:17 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

I accompanied my mother and her Yorkie to the vet. As we were checking out, a friendly young woman took an interest in the dog. A peculiar conversation followed:

Me: (Jokingly in front of a scale) I should weigh her (the dog) because she's getting overwieght.

She: (Addressing dog): Ah, you're not overweight. You're just a cute little thing. What a mean thing to say.

Me: (Addressing her): Well, the vet says she needs to lose a few pounds.

She: (Addressing dog): What a mean thing to say! Why, you're cute just the way you are.

At that point, I realized that she preferred to converse with the dog than me (no doubt, a wise decision on her part).

Before this, an elderly couple chatted pleasantly with me even though the conversation did unearth an unsavory detail of hemoglobin in their canine's feces.

These vet visits seem fraught with social hazards! Or, only in America?

12:32 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I can't imagine an interaction like that happening in Mexico, or too many other places outside of the US. What incredible rudeness, aggressiveness. This is what I tell Americans over and over: the rest of the world doesn't behave like we do, and we aren't even conscious of it; it's just coin of the realm.


8:46 AM  
Blogger Bahayla said...

Campaign slogan for next year:

Palin/Trump 2012: An intellectual black hole from which not a single thought will ever escape.

9:20 AM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

Dear M B,
I despair as many do of public education in this country, and was thankful to teach abroad for a number of years in the Third World where palpable hardships often made a life of the mind, formal or informal, at any level, a rigorous art; whereas in American schools, or at least middle income ones, snazzy infrastructure and special effects technology, and "feel good" pedagogy, disguise an appalling lack of substance, not to mention common sense.

But I can agree only in part with Chris Hedge's critique. He does correctly identify the corporatist folly of Bloomberg's "fast food" administrative franchise, and the threat that this thinking poses to public education. However he does not mention how Schools of Education, who are largely responsible for molding the administrators and teachers that spend their waking hours in public schools, have also degraded the notion of schooling and of pedagogy, producing several generations of kids wallowing in "self esteem." Many with "learning disorders" are given the best medication that "educationism" can supply, with the "best of intentions," of course. To believe in the Enlightenment principle of public education should not give one license to ignore how sloppily that principle has been interpreted in America over the past forty years.

I don't think there will be a renaissance of education fostered by either left or right idealogies. Idealogy, which is an oversimplification of thought, is part of the problem. For example, it isn't "Which is better: Standardized testing or what is called "outcomes based" pedagogy?" The issue is that the standardized testing offered is shabby and shallow, and that the so-called "natural" pedagogy is mindless and vacuous. The surfeit of digital technology in the classroom wraps both balonies in a fancy skin.

American public education is a twin engine failure, and the airship is going into a tailspin, accelerated downwards by the gravity of general ignorance, increasing every day.

9:48 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yer rt, but I suspect that the commodification of education, brought on by the corporate-consumer model, may have been responsible for the things yer talking abt.


10:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If anyone wants to read yet another anecdote of social violence in America; A public bus driver asks a young man to put out his cigarette when he is attacked by 4 riders, causing the bus to crash. As the assailant is taken into the ambulance he is shouting. “You’re lucky. You’re lucky. . . . I was going to kill you.” http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2011/04/12/mbta_bus_operator_attacked_on_route/?p1=Local_Links

~Sarah P.

12:25 PM  
Blogger Mike Cifone said...

Dear Maury,
I think Stiglitz simply fails to see that, in essence, what we're dealing with is a structural problem, as you've documented yourself now with three decades of research/writing.

The evidence is clear: from the womb to the tomb, we grow up in the "amoral" universe of dollar-ueber-alles, with an amoral language/vocabulary/conceptual scheme that, without a willful Enlightenment in Kant's sense (throwing off one's "tutelage"; "man's emergence from his self-imposed immaturity"), will keep us "stunted human products" -- inhuman "nobodies". Through the mechanism of our early childhood development we acculturate to the dominant way of life of our culture (a business, as McDougall documents so compellingly), so that its structure becomes our own. Or, in hermetic terms: the macrocosm mirros the microcosm. And if we prefer Marx: it's society that determines consciousness.

I'm one of those looking for full-time work, but can't find it, and I also happen to be one of those educators that are being weeded out, in Hedges' terms: I am opposed to the "bubble test" mentality, the CEO model of the Admin elites trying to determine my teaching "form", the cult(ure) of teaching evals & customer is always right, the dumbing-down of the curriculum (that's the real function of many "textbooks"), etc.

Recently, I was interviewed by a nearby Black college's religion & phil department, and I was told that, as an adjunct or even a non-tenured hire, if my "numbers" aren't good, then the Dean won't want me to be hired back. Of course, the question as to whether teaching evals are a good measure of teaching wasn't even mentionable (if I did, I don't think I'd get the job).

What am I supposed to do with highly "educated" dept. chairpeople and staff who, maybe abstractly, disagree with their deans, etc., but who tote the party line nonetheless (in order to make "the bottom line")?

12:37 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Thank you, Maury. I think you're right to call it what it was: rude, aggressive. Actually, the "conversation" was longer; I shortened it for the blog. I was curious to see how long she'd keep up the strange interaction. She kept it up until she received her cat. Not once did she speak to me. And then she left without saying good bye to either my mother or me. I can't remember if she bid our dog farewell.

12:56 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

I now stay clear of all educatonal institutions in the U.S. They've made it aggressively clear that they don't want a "non-traditional" (read troll) hanging around whose only reason for being there is to learn something as useless as Greek or Latin. Of course, by law the institutions must pay lip service to adult education, but they know where the bucks are: the young with their lap tops.

Furthermore, in Texas students in higher ed. are given financial incentives to complete their degrees within a minimum number of hours that satisfy the requirements. This is to free up seats for more young people with lap tops (YPWLPs?), and to bring in more bucks--Taylorism efficiency and production line planning. Of course, higher ed. is a prerequisite for getting a job in any service industry, hence its popularity.

Around a year ago I was a student receiving financial aid. But to receive my aid, I was required to get a credit card sponsored by the university. Some douche bag banker figured out a way to fleece students of money with the university's endorsement (and the Fed's too). The credit card came with emailed coupons to buy crap aimed at YPWLPs (Yuppie Whelps?).

Finally, a Congressional committee has been appointed to hear testimony about universities' financial aid corruptions that victimize students, saddling them with life-long debt.

1:22 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


This has me thinking about something you mentioned in The Twilight of American Culture. Just going from memory, you wrote of Dark Ages scholars who quite simply did not know how to think about the Greek & Roman material they studied. They appeared incapable of delving into any complexity or levels of thought & meaning above the most obvious ones.

When I originally read that, I was a bit dubious. How could people, especially educated people, not know how to think?

But in the years since, I've seen it happening all around me. I'll discuss films or books with people & suddenly realize they don't grasp the concept of metaphor, or symbol, or allegory, much less multiple layers of meaning. Even when I explain it, it doesn't seem to register. And I'm a college dropout, mind you, a solid middlebrow at best, a good B student some 40 years ago.

There's a certain terrible literalism, a demand for some simplistic "realism," that afflicts a growing number of people. It goes hand-in-hand with a demand for spoon-feeding, for having everything laid out in bullet points & sound bites. And it's accompanied by a weird sense of entitlement, a feeling that they shouldn't have to work at thinking in the first place.

Yet at the same time, there's an ever-growing capacity for brain-dead tripe, magic solutions, slogans as analytical thought. It's as if their senses or minds (or both) are filtering out everything that's subtle, nuanced, paradoxical, complex. It's the cognitive equivalent of hysterical blindness.

That's why you can't get through to so many of them. They literally do not hear or understand what you're saying. If anything, raising irrefutable facts only increases their defensiveness & refusal to understand. (Wasn't there a recent study to this effect?)

1:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Ayn Rand's 1,000 page screed on capitalists as the persecuted benefactors of mankind has been made into a movie. Come to think of it, Atlas Shrugged does seem to be exactly in line with the Tea Party ideology. The dufus quotient continues to rise...

3:30 PM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

Dear M B,

Poet Robert Bly once said, more than fifteen years ago or so, that part of the problem with American public schools is that in the Sixties everyone went from reading in the classroom to making sandals.
The public school industry, if you will, saw a great opportunity to trivialize itself, or to speed up the pace of trivialization it was already on. Part of the accumulated cost of this has been the American right's counter idealogy equally damaging and naive.

I don't know if it possible to do any real thinking about problems in the U.S.--everything is rapidly politicized one way or another, and to quote the poet Ezra Pound, one cannot "confess wrong without losing what is right." Idealogy forces people in corners, which are well defined, quickly accessed, and convenient, just what people "on the go" need. The country largely runs on McThink. And you know, if you really want to change your diet for the better, you can, but you find the crowd you are in getting smaller and smaller.

Hedges doesn't seem to understand, although he quotes well Kant and Hannah Arendt, that the overwhelming majority of those coming out of schools of ed have probably never read, nor heard of either, not to mention other luminaries from the Western or indeed, global canon. "Rote corporatism" is just as pernicious as "rote educationism" and Americans think that these two represent real choices. "Normal" is not where problems begin, and we haven't been there for a long time.

3:43 PM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

Offered as a little bit of confirmatory data on Dr. Berman's title of deepening self-destruction:


I can't do it as well so I won't try.


3:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert) has an opinion column at the WSJ and a follow-up at his blog arguing for practical-skills education for anyone but top students (who invariably study technical subjects). He has complete disdain for history and other humanities. Adams has real talent for well-turned phrases and jokes but absolutely no credibility as an educational theorist. However, his goofy thinking is repeated ad nauseum throughout the population and transformed into educational practice. I suspect there is no convincing anyone of the value of a liberal education other than those who have one.

4:22 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Thank you all for your stories. Funny thing abt anecdotes: you get enuf of them, and it's called "data". In addition, anecdotes are useful for "convergence" onto a general pattern, which finally becomes obvious; and in this case, what is obvious is that we are now living in a Dark Age, an anti-civilization. It really is, finally, pretty vile.

Kel: Re: girl at the vet's: I barf on her shoes.

4:46 PM  
Anonymous Golf Pro said...

Ha! Data.

Well, here's mine.

I was in Stockholm with a group of friends of mine (a mixed group of English and Irish people).

We went for a tour of the old town, and myself and my friend Dennis decided to seperate and look around the old government buildings. I'm English and he's Irish.

We meet a pair of retired Americans. We chat politely and the husband ( well into his 60's) tells us he'd like to visit both England and Ireland. He then immediately qualifies this by saying "mainly Ireland though. I hate the English."

My Irish friend almost falls over laughing. I stand there thinking "do I hit this guy?", not quite believing what I've heard.

I mean, I'm not overly sensitive on this matter (we English being well deserving of criticism), but when someone does it on first meeting you, while sober, in broad daylight.....

5:27 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Pro,

I've said it roughly 10 million times on this blog, but it bears constant repeating: Americans are douche bags. They don't know how to behave in social situations, and they don't know this because in the US, everybody is behaving this way. When they go abroad, it really stands out; I see it here all the time.

Thus I usually cringe when I get a call from some gringo visiting this town, wanting to get together. I know how the evening is going to play out, beforehand: I'll be polite, they'll be douche bags, and when we part I'll be praying I never lay eyes on them again. It never fails. Which is why I try to avoid getting together.

So recently this woman calls me, she's a friend of a former agent of mine, could we meet for dinner or whatever. She's w/a friend. Because of the agent connection, I feel I can't get out of it. As it turned out, she was fairly decent; even had a sense of humor, which is almost unheard of among Americans--a grim, sad people, gritting their teeth as they "get thru" life. But her friend, whom I'll call Douche Bag Woman, was a trip and a half. Man, they don't come more American than this. She spent the entire evening attacking me and nearly everything I said, and it sort of came to a frenzied climax toward the end of the night. It was indeed a sight to behold. (If it were up to me, I'd have her face on the $1 bill instead of George's.) Here I had spent several hours driving these gals around, and Douche Bag Woman was totally unconscious of how she was behaving. (BTW, when she wasn't attacking me, she was name dropping.) It was hard to hold back the projectile vomit as we parted, but somehow I managed. I went home, shaking my head, thinking: Why do I do this to myself? I *know* who these people are. As I said, this was no isolated incident--I cd give u story after story in this vein.


6:58 PM  
Anonymous Golf Pro said...

Ah well, Dr. Berman,

I guess I was relatively lucky then.

Thanks for the context.

7:29 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Believe me, that was nothing. Yer dealing w/major horses' asses here.

Another story, told to me by a couple of wks ago by another gringo who lives here: He met some American who was passing thru. They got to talking. W/in 5 mins., this clown was attacking my friend for all kinds of things unrelated to anything that he (my friend) was. Finally my friend said, "Hey, shmuck, you don't even know me"; and got up and left. You can't imagine how typical this sort of behavior is. From a Mexican pt of view (but not just), Americans are completely daft. Socially, the most clueless people on the face of the planet...which then shows up in our foreign policy (other people aren't really real, let's give 'em Shock and Awe, kick their ass and take their gas, etc. etc.). Don't think for a minute that there's not a connection between microcosm and macrocosm.


8:43 PM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

Anon: "The Fountainhead" was already made into a movie, sadly featuring Gary Cooper whom I actually kind of like ("High Noon" and "Sergeant York" are enjoyable, if hoakey). Anyway, here is the 5 second (!) version of that "film" (and I'm guessing you could do the same with the upcoming feature):


Brutus: Scott Adams is a well-known creationist which speaks volumes for his educational cred. Still, he manages to be pretty spot on for the business and managerial world. I have a comic of his discussing the "Lifesuck 2000) used to, well, suck the life out of employees that I could swear was used on me.

Dr. B. I have been resisting mightily the end times talk here, but I'm beginning to cave. My recent behavior shows it: hoarding books, saving seed from the garden, melting down old wheel weights for bullets (I'm not shitting you: ca. 100 lbs of alloy in a 5 gallon bucket, but I digress. Inveterate leftneck behavior)...... Jees............ Hurts to write this.

I'd be happy for some suggestions on how to do this gracefully.

PS Even though old Joe Bageant has passed (and hopefully gotten off the wheel this time: I'd gladly pass along some of my piddling supply of Karma if it would help him), his blog meanders on. Some good tributes there, worth the read.

10:12 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Part of what we are doing here is critique; another part is rejecting, quite earnestly, the wrong set of values and the wrong way of life; and yet another part is talking about NMI options. They all fit together, as far as I am concerned, and for me at least constitute a fairly rich tapestry. The emptiness of the dominant culture, and of its representatives--Obama, Blankfein, Oprah, Trump and their ilk--adds up to a big fat zero. True, nearly 310 million Americans want that life, but I'm still convinced that the "Nader-Kucinich Vote" (less than 1%) can and will carve out a better life for themselves amidst the ruins. Agreed, it's not a solution for what's ailing America, but still worth doing nonetheless. Face it: If the US cd be changed in any fundamental way (the New Deal came the closest to this, and it failed), it wd have already happened. Let us, then, not occupy ourselves w/fairy tales. The options are two: (1) Leave the country (highly recommended); (2) Live your life on the margin as best u can; preserve what is worthwhile; stand up for depth, difficulty, real understanding, and certainly--moving against the grain.

So...sure, melt down yer wheel wts, if u think that's worthwhile; jus' don' ferget to read the "Four Quartets" (Eliot) (or whatever).

Good luck.


10:47 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I really liked your last answer to Bis. In fact, it pretty much summarized a workable blueprint for life as we find it today. One of my favorite poems of Rumi is along those lines:

"Keep walking,
Though there's no place to get to.
Don't try to see through the distances.
That's not for human beings.
Move within, but don't move the way fear makes you move.
Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened. Don't open the door to the study and begin reading.
Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground."

Where this festival of insanity is going and how it will someday end, I don't know. I tend to think it will be a steady unraveling and the US will be a banana republic in ten years with the majority of young people eager to join the military just to have some type of employment, health care and shelter. But there will always be a small percentage of people willing to risk short term comfort and security for freedom from a "group think" kind of life.

9:29 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

You'll get plenty of anecdotal evidence while driving. First of all, nearly everyone has a cellphone glued to his/her ear -- I'm tellin' ya, they won't be happy until they can have them surgically implanted! Either that, or staring into their laps & texting in traffic.

Just in the past 2 weeks, I've had angry honks, gestures, and curses flung my way several times for actually stopping at the stop line in a busy intersection, rather than creeping out 1 or 2 car lengths into traffic in order to beat the changing light.

I've also had people zoom up the right turn lane to pull ahead of me (or others in front of me), just to get to the mall half a second sooner; I've nearly been hit a couple of times. And they glare & curse at me for being in their way!

I've even had people follow me into a parking lot just to yell at me for not trying to beat the traffic light. Usually it's the same old curses & "Why don't you learn how to drive?" But my favorite was a spluttering woman who struggled to find something adequately scathing to say & finally settled on, "Go back to Afghanistan!"

Interestingly enough, my wife & I keep track of these things, and have concluded that 99.9% of these people drive (a) SUVs, (b) high-end luxury cars, or (c) high-end luxury SUVs. You could cut the sense of outraged, self-centered entitlement with a chainsaw!

9:46 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

You don't have to embrace Ayn Rand's "philosophy" to enjoy "The Fountainhead." It's probably the best late work by King Vidor.

To rebute personal expectations based on folks other lives, check out Reagan as an actor (not great but not a bad scion of the '40s studio system either) in Don Siegel's excellent "The Killers."

10:23 AM  
Anonymous Bisley said...


I get the cultural critique. I think you may be making some assumptions about my offhand wheel weight comment that maybe infers some things I didn't mean to convey. So let me clarify in a roundabout way and offer a little cultural critique of my own.

One place I think American culture shows obvious signs of self-destruction is its attitude toward food. I am certainly not the first person to suggest this. The nation is obese, people eat large portions of crap, etc., which is sadly different than say, Italy, where you can even get a good meal at the roadside gas stations (I actually had a guy make pasta from scratch for me at what amounted to a 7-11).

Americans don't understand anything about their food. The mechanics of how it is grown/raised for starters. The film "Food Inc." covers this ground nicely, describing how we are poisoning ourselves in the way we produce food (literal self-destruction).

But even beyond even that, we have lost any sense of being familiar with our food since too few people grow their own food or either raise animals or hunt them. How many people understand that cucumbers have prickles on them straight off the vine and aren't covered in wax? Or that you frequently have to take the old blossoms off of your zucchinis when you pick them? Does anybody actually go to the butcher and ask for a particular cut of meat and understand what part of the animal it came from or do they just settle for what's under the plastic?

And that's where the wheel weights come in. I grew up hunting in Missouri and still hunt here in Pennsylvania. If you hunt you need to practice, and practice costs money, hence a need for reloading hence a need for bullets hence a need for material for bullets. I hunt/fish year round, butcher my own kills (which even many hunters don't do anymore), and the family eats a lot of game and fish. Everybody knows where the food came from. No mysteries. I can't do better for insight into this ancient NMI activity than point you the chapter on rural gun culture in Bageant's "Deer Hunting With Jesus". Not everybody who hunts owns an AR-15 and has cases of .223 ammo buried in the back yard or has a loaded 9mm on the nightstand.

That was kind of rambling but you get the picture. You gotta find your NMI stuff where you can. I would hope crafts and skills count too, even if they aren't citified. Indulge a leftneck once in awhile.

11:11 AM  
Blogger Mike Cifone said...

Dear Prof. B --

Going back to your TAC is like reading a a blueprint for what has come abt recently. You basically said, "I'm betting on x, y and z" and, well, x is here, y is emerging, and the probability of z is high. For an example, revisit what you wrote in ch. 1 ("Collapse or Transformation"), pp. 32-34, where you basically correctly bet that what you termed a "structural crunch" seems "likely sometime in the twenty-first century". You wrote this abt a year before 9/11 and almost a decade b/f the '08 blowout. Pretty damn gd for somebody who isn't an economist (gotta wonder whether econ "science" is basically like what we're reading Taylor-ism really amounts to finally: snake-oil bullshit).

I was up 'till 4 AM re-reading this "guidebook of sorts" (p. 13), zeroing in precisely on the monastic option, esp. its frustratingly "dialectical" quality. Now, in the 5th -- 6th cents., you saw the rise of dozens, if not hundreds of monasteries ... perhaps this is a bellwether: I keep running into friends and young wet-behind-the-ears students who come up to me, pull me aside, and confide that they want to escape; many are choosing the ashram route, rather than a Christian thing. I wonder if there is an explosion of monastic or semi-monastic communities of the Asian sort rgt now in the US, comparable to the figures for 5th -- 6th cent. Europe, and I wonder -- and expect, having met some of these types -- how "dialectical" they'll be (this might well come with the monastic, i.e., renunciate, territory)?

I've noticed that a lot of these ashram types are ok with science, but treat it as comporting in some way with Asian spiritual thought (a thesis I'm somewhat sympathetic to). This insistence on Asian-Western comportment might just be the encasing that allows science & critical thought to make it through (let's not forget the tradition of critical redaction in Asia) ... hell, we mgt even see another Aquinas -- a Dumb (American) Ox -- rise out of this chaos of commodified information to construct some kind of synthesis (such a thing is often the topic of Western Sci & Asian spirituality books, conferences, etc.).

I'd pay some real karam-points to be just an intelligent fly-on-the-wall in the coming centuries.

12:03 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Of course craft and skills count; in fact, this is the subject of my next bk (after Why America Failed). I certainly have no problem with leftnecks, altho u shd be aware that the pro-craft crowd is often libertarian-conservative (e.g. Matthew Crawford). Very often, unfortunately.


Be sure to look at that post-it on the mirror every morning: the best guide to what u.c. around u.


7:58 PM  
Blogger Sarasvati said...

Hi Dr. B,

First I want to thank everyone on this blog for their comments…I especially enjoy going to the various suggested links.

Re your comment about anecdotes: I was reminded of a comment made by Rupert Sheldrake in his book “The Sense of Being Stared At…and Other Aspects of the Extended Mind” “….Some fields of research – for example medicine – rely heavily on anecdotes; but when the stories are published they literally cease to be anecdotes; they are promoted to the ranks of case histories.”

My husband and I live in a well-to-do, highly educated area of Connecticut. When we first moved up here I joked that it was the closest I’d ever come to a near death experience. There’s a big difference between being uneducated and being ignorant. Someone can be intelligent, educated, successful, well-respected and rich, and still have it all wrong.

I received two “warnings” in my life. When it happened the first time I was so clueless that I headed in entirely the wrong direction. When it happened again more than 20 years later, I had enough experience to know that some big changes were long overdue. One thing that helps keep me grounded is knowing that I could have been born as anyone.

8:23 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

"moral and intellectual dummies" indeed, Maestro. I truly appreciate this blog and everyone's anecdotes after this post. I'd like to share one of my own, especially for Golf Pro, who mentioned the interaction with the insulting, clueless, douchebag American.

I was in the Philippines for the second time about a year ago, I'm not sure if anyone remembers me discussing my trips there several posts ago, but it was the most amazing experience of my life. I had never travelled and it gave me hope to be in a country where human beings treated each other with care, dignity, and graciousness.

Anyhow, I cringed when a (fellow) American approached me in a market and wanted to talk. I paid him the respect of listening to him for a few minutes with small talk, and when I told him how much I loved the Philippines, he went on a rant about how disgusting, stinky, dirty and backwards the country was and how he couldn't wait to get home. He was only there on business, apparently. He aggressively informed me that he sought me out because he figured I'd agree with him about how awful this God-forsaken country was, and yet I told him I loved it. I also informed him that my fiancee is filipino, but that did little to dissaude him from inflicting further injury.

I wanted to rip the guy's tongue out and stomp on it, but that would've been awfully American of me, so I told him I was sorry he had to endure such horror, and wished him a safe and speedy return to greatest country on Earth. And after thinking about it, I'm glad, because it's one less asshole American that I will have to run into when I emigrate there (hopefully in a few short years).

10:53 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

From "Data" to "Dada" (Dark Age Dolt Anecdote): "Story after story in this vein" might make for a bestseller, if not a real eye-opener for Kindle readers.


I've loved that Rumi poem for quite some time. "Let the beauty we love be what we do." Thanks for the reminder.


If you liked "Food, Inc" check out the documentary, "King Corn". It goes deeper into the nutritional aspects. More importantly, is there such a thing as deer pastrami?

1:49 AM  
Blogger Gregory Jerome said...

Education can never be meaningful, or a catalyst of a lifetime of intellectual development, if it is designed to hide the truth, and fails to make any sense out of our lives and culture. Al Capone wasn't going to alert the press to his next criminal venture. Count Dracula wasn't going to tell his snacks that they'd better run, get a cross or wear garlic. We are stupid to expect our vampire goons want their marks to understand the con either. Education, like network news, is by design, meaningless or worse.

2:23 AM  
Blogger ryan kloostra said...

The following story happened last night. While driving home, I told my wife that I couldn't wait to share the story with the DAA4?, though it was almost too perfect to be true. Anyway, here it is...

We went to a local sporting goods chain to buy badminton equipment for my PE class. I greeted the young lady who was working the door area and noticed that she had some handwritten school notes in her hand. "Studying?" "Yeah, this sucks, PolSci." Mind you, she's at work, in the most visible position in the store. So I engage her, and ask her what she's studying. Her response, "Congress...or how to kill myself." I laughed and bid her good luck on the test tomorrow.

After getting my badminton birdies, I proceeded to check out. I noticed that there was a GIANT (10'x 20') picture of kids playing little league baseball behind the cashier and joked about how it was kind of creepy. He replied by saying, "Yeah, especially b/c I just finished reading 1986." "Apparently you didn't read it very well, it's 1984," I replied, my wife giggling. He replied that it was b/c it was late, and we parted ways.

We laughed the whole way home. Girl "studying," while "working." Guy can't figure out, after just reading the book, what the title is. Amazing

9:19 AM  
Anonymous Lola said...

Dear friends,

My third-grade son came home from school yesterday with an assignment “in conjunction with the school’s Consumer Economics class” to design a money-making business. He is supposed to create an “eye-catching” picture, and a one-paragraph description of why he is the perfect person for the job. To do that he is encouraged to use “embellishments” and in instructions he was given examples of how to add non-existent experiences and skills to the narrative, e.g. “I walked my own dog since I was six, I will supply my own treats, exercise toys to help your dog burn off that excess energy.” He is supposed to think about what he is going to charge for his performance, and parents are expected to “help, encourage and praise”. My son is going to one of the top public schools in Illinois, situated in a wealthy neighborhood, and we are talking about 8 and 9 year-olds.

Of all the things in the world that kids that age could be doing and thinking about in school, here, in the US, they are encouraged to think about lying to others about themselves in order to sell themselves and get as much $$ as possible. I would appreciate suggestions from you: how to respond to this shit.

Mr. Berman, I love your books. Greetings from the DAA!

10:02 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Well, thank u all for writing in. I'm currently en route to Guatemala for a couple of wks, so probably can't do extended replies. But pls keep the stories coming.


Contact Gloria DeGaetano at gloriadegaetano.com, tell her yer story, ask her what she wd recommend. Tell her I sent u. What a tragic, representative story of "education" in the US.


Well, girl was rt abt the choices: Congress, or how to kill yerself.


Pls write Stage Deli, 7th Ave betw 52 and 53, re: immediate need for deer pastrami (with cole slaw and Russian dressing). Name for this dish: The Joe Bageant.


You might wanna speed up the emigration process. I did write the U.S. Mint some time ago, suggesting that the motto on legal tender be changed from "In God We Trust" to "Heads Rammed In Shit," but haven't heard back from them as yet.


High IQ doesn't mean truly intelligent. Consider Robt McNamara and Dick Cheney, both dumb as a stick (and war criminals to boot).


10:34 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...


Your driving experience sounds nightmarish. So far I haven't encountered the abuse you have. But I feel (more likely imagine) it when I come to a full stop at a sign or light. I usually have my rear view mirror at an angle that leaches out the scowl or middle finger of the driver behind me. But then I don't look too carefully, just enough to register that there's some kind of vehicle behind me. I've trained myself with much effort not to respond in kind. You never know if one of them may be carrying a gun.

In Texas, the highways are punctuated with signs that say "Drive Friendly." Good advice if you don't want to perish as a victim of road rage.

10:38 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...


I'm a member of Bob Adams's Retirement Wave web site where he promotes Panama as a great place to live. He ended his recent report on Panama, 2011 this way:

I will make this short and I am directing it to a small minority of the membership. You will know if you are part of that small minority.

Do not come down and call us "corrupt", "Third World", "ignorant", "backward", and other insults. You clean up your own mess back home and then maybe you will have some real wisdom to share with us and perhaps your criticisms will be heard more kindly. For the moment, we will be polite and try to ignore you as best we can. We have better things to do than argue with you, but it does get more than a little irritating to be constantly and insultingly lectured by people whose home nations are in big trouble, move here to get away from that, then dump on us. Practice what you preach, before you preach. Thank you.

11:09 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

I attended a screening yesterday of "Inside Job" with the director, Charles Ferguson, speaking afterward.

One aspect of the film that's probably received too little press is that it implicates the structure of the academy in the recent (and ongoing) financial swindle. Numerous examples but probably the best is this section where John Campbell, chair of the Harvard Econ Dept., is asked about a simple conflict of interest analogy:


Stunning to watch "one of the best brains that money can buy" (literally) just freeze up - someone with all those academic credentials simply unable to think! (Or fully able to and realizing they're living a lie.)

While I was waiting to talk to Mr. Ferguson at the reception, I spoke with two econ professors from the college hosting the event. I noted that, while the film's focus on the conflict of interest aspect of their profession was certainly on target, I also thought there was a deeper academic complicity in the very theories promulgated (e.g. efficient markets hypothesis, financial engineering models accepted as fact (after all, they were created by physics Ph.D.s - how could they be wrong?)). One largely agreed and started telling me how hard it was to make any progress with "unorthodox" ideas. I said this wasn't surprising given the corporatization of the academy (along with everything else - see Rushkoff's "Life, Inc.")...not sure what they thought of that.

11:32 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Last post kinda long...if u cd compress by abt 50%, I'll be glad to post it. Thanx.


5:21 PM  
Anonymous Bisley said...


Yes, deer pastrami is a reality. I made one last year and was pretty good. If you want to try it yourself, I'll fix you up with a simple recipe, but you have to find a deer roast first (ca. 3 lbs).


Interesting to hear you are working on some craft ideas vis NMI. Spending any time doing anything with the hands is a zen activity, even if it's just putting laundry on the clothesline. Honestly, one of the curses of American life is the perceived need to "save time". To do what else, exactly? I mean, I'm grateful I don't have to wash my clothes by beating them on a rock in the stream or go 2 miles to fetch water, but lots of things don't get better by rushing them. I'm willing to bet the time savings ends up by watching the teevee or stuck in traffic, two activities guaranteed to turn a person into a douchebag.

And finally, what kind of country is it where the best political and economic reporting is to be found in what is mainly a magazine devoted to music? I am, of course, referring to Matt Taibi's articles in Rolling Stone, another of which is out now (http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-real-housewives-of-wall-street-look-whos-cashing-in-on-the-bailout-20110411). I don't really need an answer to this question, it's just a sign of the times.

7:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man, they don't come more American than this. She spent the entire evening attacking me and nearly everything I said, and it sort of came to a frenzied climax toward the end of the night. It was indeed a sight to behold.

MB, you're too humble and missed the obvious signs. This woman clearly wanted to get in your pants. This is how "American" women do it these days. They play the role of uppity Contrarian in the hopes of stimulating your libido and focusing it in their direction.

Obviously, she failed miserably. She probably spent the night crying in her hotel room without getting a lick of sleep. I bet you feel terrible now, don't you?

8:58 AM  
Blogger Mike Cifone said...

Dear DAA55,

Notes from the Badlands ...

I was helping my aunt (my age) last night with her college paper, and we were going through some very common academic locutions like. We came to 'et al', which I corrected: there is a period after the 'l' and I asked if she knew what it stood for. Just learning the stuff, she was a little uncertain (interestingly, she knew how to *use* it); but it turns out that the instructor didn't know either! A student, my aunt said, tried to correct: "it means 'and all'". Close, I replied, but no cigar: it's Latin for 'et alii' and means 'and others'. The 'al.' is thus an abbreviation; hence the period. We also went through 'i.e.' (id est) and other such locutions, all of which it seems the instructor herself had no clue abt.

More chronicles to come ...

10:32 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Ay, I hope yer wrong! But if yer rt, I don't feel terrible; I feel scared. What if she tries to contact me? Excuse me now while I go and hide...


4:17 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Roger Ebert's latest blog entry asks whether anyone wants to be considered "well-read" these days:


A short, sad entry, with many thoughtful comments from readers. Let me quote from one of them:

Sometimes, I dont feel like I even speak the same language as people anymore. Nowadays, whenever I try to talk to a person off the street about an analogy I see between life and a work of fiction, they just kind of look at me and grunt, "huh?"


I am finding more and more, I have to truncate my words and my thoughts just to get through to people. Especially the average person on the streets. I can only imagine this will get worse as people spend more and more time on Facebook, Twitter, and thinking and words in communications are necessarily simplified into one-liners, to match the new forms of media. These new forms of media require it.

The bad thing is that complex thoughts, and reasoning and logic itself really need paragraphs, not just sentences. Not just quips like, 'wher u at', 'wat u doin,' 'chillin,' chit-chat that many people engage in nowadays. For better or worse, a new form of thinking is emerging. When our words change our brains change right along with them as our words are just representations of what's going on in our brain states and brain cells, and vice versa.

10:02 AM  
Anonymous Charles H. Holmes said...

I think Hannah Arendt had it backwards. The greatest evil is perpetrated by persons who refuse to be human beings.

4:58 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

Tim, good post...re: the last comment, that's a good philisophical causality dilemma...which came first, shit for brains, or shit for words? I'm thinking that brains turning to shit has been occuring for a long time, and the words are just a representation of it. I would agree with the poster inasmuch as the moronic, abbreviated "texting" language is part of the cycle...we write dumb, think dumb, and are dumb. To your point, I read a book last year about the dumbing down of American language, and how much more eloquently the average person spoke (and wrote) a hundred years ago.

Speaking of social media, btw, did anyone read the story about the woman, Shannon Johnson, whose infant drowned while she was checking her facebook page? If anyone has the stomach for the article, here's the link.


what do you think, Dr. B...if we have a Sarah Palin/LaTressa Goodman ticket in '12, this Shannon Johnson woman belongs somewhere in that cabinet, no? Secretary of education, perhaps? Only in America.

6:31 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

you sit so far away and judge. it must make you feel good to be so right. The best thing about being so right is that you don't have to do anything since it is all so hopeless. If it all so hopeless why do you blog on and on about america? Why don't you write poetry or cookbooks? Or just fade into that tequila haze? You just can't take your eyes off the snake.

9:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi all,
I am a high school teacher in the Chicago area, and I don't know if you are aware, but the unions just threw us under the bus with new teacher reform in Illinois. No longer will seniority matter with firing decisions, but teachers will be rated by "performance". In two years teachers in Illinois will be graded 50% on how well their students do on standardized tests. Yes, this is horrible. This isn't fair at all, as if we can choose the kids we get, whether they study, or test well, give a damn about education (most don't). "Stand for Children" a group pushed by big business interests started throwing its money around and bye bye job security. It is just so typical. Now most school districts can get rid of those pesky, old-school teachers who actually have standards etc. We are too expensive anyway, and make problems with parents. I didn't want to work for corporate America when I entered teaching, but here I am. Sad day... Chris Hedges hit it right on the head.

10:10 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Jesus, Mike, what a sharp guy you are! As it turns out, I *do* write poetry, and fiction as well. If you'd like to read the novel I did, plug "morris berman destiny" into Amazon, and you'll have it. As for the poetry book, entitled "Counting Blessings," it'll be out next month, being published by a small literary press in Boston. Enjoy! Meanwhile, keep writing in; we need folks with your kind of overall awareness, and penetrating insight.


I'm thinking something to do with public health, for Shannon...?


12:03 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


Perhaps we can have a Secretary of Dumbening?

Seriously, I had missed that story. Sickening but unsurprising at this point. More & more, I feel like Gulliver among the Yahoos ...


I take it you're looking for hope & "dynamic solutions" of some kind. Well, I wouldn't mind some of that myself. But I just don't see it happening, much as I'd prefer it. I do have hope for some individuals, but not much for the culture & country as a whole, not when each day brings new stories of idiocy & ignorance from our so-called leaders & their followers.

Here's an honest question for you: How do you assess the current state of the culture & country? What do you think can or should be done to save them?


Oh, you hit it on the head with your comment about "saving time" in America! Yes, saving it for what? I also hear a lot about "being productive" & "not wasting time" -- again, for what?

There's a line by Ray Davies of the Kinks, circa 1971 or so:

"All life we work, but work is a bore / If life's for livin', what's livin' for?"

What IS it for? Making more money to buy more things that require more money to replace them with more things? And then what?

1:38 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

More Ray (and where has this insight gotten us 40 years later?):

Once upon a time
In a faraway land
Lived a villain called Flash
He was such a wicked man
He terrorized the people
He broke arms and crushed hands
He ruled with a fist and he purchased all the land

Then he plowed up the fields and cut down the trees
For property speculation
And he did it all for a pot of gold
And for his own preservation

The people were scared
They didn't know where to turn
They couldn't see any salvation
From the hoods and the spivs
And the crooked politicians
Who were cheating and lying to the nation

Save the fields and the trees
And give them back to the nation
Bring the government down
A new leader must be found
For the sake of preservation

He said he did it to help us all
And did it for the good of the nation
But he did it for a pot of gold
And for his own preservation

When money is evil
And power is corrupt
The devil moves in and takes over
Mr. Flash broke his word
And now he's got to pay
For his crimes and his lies and his evil ways

And it's gonna get rough
And it's gonna get rough
It's a crime and a sin that no one can win
In a story of self preservation

4:35 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Greetings from Panama where people here still retain their infinitely gracious attitudes in spite of a century of American heavy handedness.I truly feel your basic Panamanian has no idea how to be calculating or deceitful. Anyway, it was told to me that the president here had plans to give over 40% of the country to international mining interests. The people here protested vehemently and the plan was rescinded, far cry from the brow beaten sheep AKA the American people.
Had a chance to read most of Destiny on this mini-vacation and loved the scene with George and Ophra. I only wished you had Oprah saying¨Who is he?´´when you quote Adlai Stevenson.
Mike, of course, is your typical American moron. Perhaps he´s the same fool who challenged you on the C-span book review show. Right, you don´t have to do anything...except write the best book of 2006.

8:47 PM  
Blogger Athos said...

I sent a rather lengthy post which never showed up. Perhaps it was too long or violated some guidelines. If so, my apologies. But I did want to reply to "Deepening the Destruction" so here is a much shorter response.

“An additional problem here, he says, is that while “Trickle-down economics may be a chimera…trickle-down behaviorism is very real.”

In other words, the rest of the country wishes to live like the top 1%, but they can’t; so they live beyond their means…”

This is credit card debt slavery promoted by the “values” of fear and consumption. It would explain the middle class Tea-Party people defending lack of Federal govt regulation, free (predatory and rapacious) markets, and the selling of “trickle-down” (more like “trickle-out”)

John Steinbeck's "In the U.S. the poor consider themselves temporarily embarassed millionaires" puts it best.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yeah, it's a gd bet that Oprah has no idea who Adlai Stevenson was. After all, what's in her head besides fried rice?

As for Mike: I love it when clowns like Mike write in to the blog, and make my case for me, as to how rude and out of it the American people are. He parachutes in with no knowledge of context, and instead of constructing a dialogue with me he just delivers an ad hominem argument, and thinks that's smart! Obviously, if you don't like the message, attack the messenger, of course! What can be done abt the sheer number of buffoons in this country?? Zip!


11:52 AM  
Blogger Mike Cifone said...

Dear Friends,

Such interesting repartee; thanks to you all.

Finishing Twilight again has reinvigorated me, and reminded me of the (painful) details of the landscape of our Dark Age.

Just returned from DC, where I used to live; still the same old collection of hermetically sealed "well-educated" and "well-read" technophilic zombies, and disaffected minorities trying to hold it together. Went to the National Gallery and saw a Buddhist statuary exhibition; the decapitated Buddhas offer an ironic commentary ...

I had a somewhat painful experience with a friend, whom I consider pretty awake, but noboby seems immune: all now are fully and totally married to the cell phone. The second a conversation beyond "oh isn't that funny" or "isn't that interesting" got rolling, I could see eyes glaze over, and the phone would come out ... gotta check an email, or write a text, and so on, ad infinitum.
No point it seems in saying "beaware what's happening"; it hurts to bear witness to the daily reality of this profound cognitive dispersion. Nothing seems to hold its center; conversations are now usually desultory, etc.

I feel like I'm slowly loosing friends & becoming more distant and "eccentric" (or whatever) to them. I look upon them with wonder and amazement: how can so many well-meaning people be so captivated by so much ephemera (i.e., bullshit)?

Then I recall the Lemming thing...

9:22 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Friends,

And from Ray Davies' ex-girlfriend, Chrissie Hynde, we have this gem by The Pretenders: "Back on the Chain Gang"...

"The powers that be
That force us to live like we do
Bring me to my knees
When I see what they've done to you
But I'll die as I stand here today
Knowing that deep in my heart
They'll fall to ruin one day
For making us part"

The harmonies at the end of that last line almost always send shivers up my spine. We often recommend books, and occasionally movies, to each other; seldom do we mention music (other than lyrics). So I wonder: what is the soundtrack for the NMI? From the West African kora to Russian liturgical choirs; from Franz Schubert to the Grateful Dead--so much sings to us to be preserved (and celebrated)!

4:33 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

This American Life:

From my own state of NJ, one man stabs another to death. Reason? Argument over which one makes more money:


I heard about this in passing on the morning news, but it took me awhile to find it online. Why? Too many stories from across the country about fatal stabbings over ridiculous arguments - a broken window, a tattoo, etc.

And this charmer, in which a 14-year old cancer survivor discovers that a vicious cyberbully is her best friend:


Last night we watched My Dinner With Andre again, and I was especially struck by Andre's comment about the man who believes New Yorkers have built their own prison & are so proud of their accomplishment that they can't ever leave it -- only it's the entire country, isn't it?

My invitation to miked to return & engage in discussion was genuine -- but I honestly don't expect it to happen. As MB notes, discussion & exchange of ideas is the LAST thing many people want. Scoring points by hitting & running is far more important, as we see in the political news every day.

8:30 AM  
Blogger diana said...

Is it just me or is the planet getting pretty pissed off? I live in Raleigh, NC and last Saturday afternoon, we had 3 tornadoes touch down. 4 kids killed, parts of downtown torn up and entire streets in ruins. Spooky as hell. Makes me think that the earth may shake our sorry asses off before we destroy her.

6:24 PM  
Blogger Mike Cifone said...

Tim --

That, I think, is one of four crucial moments in My Dinner With Andre; the others are the (living) burial & "resurrection" of Andre; the electric blanket sequence; and the end scene, as Wally wistfully ruminates on the whole dinner itself, with the touching piano poem, Gymnopodies, gracing his cab trip through town, through his memory, really ... through his life.

I am thinking about death and resurrection (Easter; coming back from the dead, but in the *flesh* -- think about how radical this is/was: a renewal of spirit *through the body*), and reading the Stoics and Epicureans for balance.

Came across this by Marcus Aurelius. Advice for our distracted times --

"Are you distracted by outward cares? Then allow yourself a space of quiet, wherein you can add to your knowledge of the Good and learn to curb your restlessness. Guard also against another kind of error: the folly of those who weary their days in much business, but lack any aim on which their whole effort, nay, their whole thought, is focused" (Meditations, Bk. II, par. 7).

and then

"Remembering always what the World-Nature is, and what my own nature is, and how the one stands in respect to the other -- so small a fraction of so vast a Whole -- bear in mind that no man can hinder you from conforming each word and deed to that Nature of which you are a part" (ibid., par. 9).

12:06 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


A lovely & reflective post, as I've come to expect from you.

That place of silence & peaceful stillness ... that's what so many fear these days, isn't it? I think many people require a constant stream of outside distractions to keep them from acknowledging the lack of very much inside. The notion of an interior life, rich in memories & thoughts, wonder & doubt, questions & yearning -- that absolutely terrifies them.


You've got me thinking about that NMI soundtrack! Remember when the lyrics to songs were actually important, and more often than not were well-crafted & poetic?

I wonder if there's lyric-writing software in the works, or already available? After all, there's script-writing software & novel-writing software, so ...

Perhaps a downloadable app for the meaning of life is next!

1:27 PM  
Blogger Mike Cifone said...

Dear Tim and friends,

Happy Easter to you! How hidden to us is its real meaning -- the life of spirit in the flesh. Reading De Rerum Natura, an Epicurean work by the great Lucretius, we are reminded of the true meaning of this philosophy called "hedonism": the pleasure is the pleasure of freedom, freedom from the torments of desire and the "passions"; to be a coherent center of knowledge of the true nature of things amidst confusions and the vicissitudes of Nature; and to die as one knowing that from Death, New Life, and from this New Life, Death again. Your humanness is a poem of the Cosmos (this Lucretius endeavored to preserve), and the knowledge of how things go is the knowledge of what you are, and how you go. In this knowledge is your freedom; "pleasure" indeed.

Tim, perhaps it is fear; but as I look upon the landscape of strip malls and happy motorists, it is not fear, it seems to me -- what could they fear? Take their toys and motoring away and then we will see.

Today there is a vague perception at time of some kind of pain -- a yawning emptiness -- but lack of language, terms, with which the vagueness can be brought to clear understanding. I see not fear or terror on their faces, in their lumbering gait, or ensconced in their motor bubbles; I see confusion, painful waiting, profound boredom, going from one empty lot to another in a gigantic procession of Void, an anonymous tragedy. But they are an expression of the listlessness of their own internalized wants, digested since birth: get this, get that, go there, do this, ....

They stare at themselves like Narcissus; they stare at their kids in the video cameras, themselves caught in the business, look into their toys, looking, searching ... you-tube, you-me-we-tubed. Maury talks about a "mirrored sphere".

What else is there; what else is there is fear? I have everything, and can get it all. Their fear is only in between the acts, hidden from them.

2:42 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Hi Dr. Berman,

Here is what Chris Hedges has to say in "The Corporate State Wins Again" on truthdig.com today.

"Do not expect (the corporate elite) to take care of us when it starts to unravel. We will have to take care of ourselves. We will have to create small, monastic communities where we can sustain and feed ourselves. It will be up to us to keep alive the intellectual, moral and culture values the corporate state has attempted to snuff out. It is either that or become drones and serfs in a global, corporate dystopia. It is not much of a choice. But at least we still have one."

Well, it looks as though Chris has finally caught up with you -- after all these years.

I once heard Joe Bageant say that he had been warned by a publisher not to be a mile ahead of the public, and that you only need to be a quarter of an inch ahead. I hope that many more people will now be ready for "Why America Failed". My guess is that it will still probably be more than a quarter of an inch ahead, however.

David Rosen

12:36 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, it wd be nice if Chris mentioned my work in this regard, but a lot of these ideas are absorbed unconsciously, I suppose. As far as recognition and publisher's advice, when I published "Coming to Our Senses" in 1989, a friend told me it was at least 30 yrs ahead of the American public, but not to worry, I wd be recognized posthumously. U know how to make a guy feel gd, I told him.


7:11 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

Dr. B

After reading the Hedges article, it would be really nice if he'd cite your seminal works on these topics, or you as someone to read regarding them, considering you've been writing about them for years. Don't get me wrong, I like the guy's stuff to an extent, and most of what he says has great value, but come on, Chris.

"Empires die over such long stretches of time that the exact moment when terminal decline becomes irreversible is probably impossible to document. That we are at the end, however, is beyond dispute"

That's an understatement. Although I think the exact moment that terminal decline began was the same moment that our culture began...it's trajectory was always the same and it could only point one way, that being (of course) onward and downward. A society founded on the principles of gain and exploitation could only really lead us to where we are now. In fact, our current state of being gets closer and closer to a perfect expression of our core values (to use the term loosely) as a society. Corporations have ultimate control because the brain dead populace merely wants to be given immediate gratification. Human interaction is kept to superficial minimum, and everything is a cliche. It's near-perfect American capitalism.

That's why it's so hopeless. Nearly all Americans couldn't be any more proud or their stupidity, jingoism, or our nation's place as an imperial bully.

10:22 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Just back from a splendid week in Panama. What a change from the states! Not only are the Panamanian people infinitely gracious and friendly, but their faces are so much more expressive than that deadening corporate look most Americans seem to gladly exhibit. Furthermore, I took a local flight where I did not have to take my shoes off, I had a half full bottle of water in my carry-on that I did not have to discard, and of course I did not have my balls fondled by the airline staff. Moreover, a tourist agency actually directed me to a competing agency where I could get a better deal on a trekking jaunt. And throughout the entire week I did not experience the "do us a favor and drop dead" look I get almost the moment I go outside my apartment each morning back home. I did make the mistake of smiling to a stranger today outside Target. I must be more careful about that. Such a look can easily get me killed here.

10:56 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


Yes, there's this sense of lostness that permeates the lives of so many people ... perhaps the fear is of acknowledging that lostness, and admitting that they've sold their birthright for a mess of cheap, tawdry pottage? But rather than do that, I think they'd prefer to kill the messenger & continue to deny the truth.

Last night we watched a powerful & depressing documentary, Manufactured Landscapes. It examines the landscapes, both physical & pyshcological, that galloping consumerism & "progress" create around the world. The focus is on China here, but the mindset is all too familiar.

There's a sequence with a successful realtor in China, a fahionable & wealthy woman, very Westernized, glossy to the point of hardness -- she might be encased in the carapace of a flesh-eating beetle as she strides from room to spacious room, commenting on her efforts to buy up old neightborhoods, move the people out, and "develop" them.

At one point she complains about one old woman who refused to move, even after her neighbors were gone, because it was where she had been born & lived all her life. The complaint was about one selfish person holding up the entire project, which would make millions.

There are interviews with older people in similarly threatened neighborhoods -- poor, run-down, but on a human scale, where everyone knows everyone. These are compared to vast models of the new cities to be built on their property: faceless skyscrapers, lots of neon, steel & glass.

And the sequences of strip mining, endless factories filled with dull-faced workers, toxic dumps ... well, it's clearly the face of the consumerist future (and present).

8:30 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Let's face it: if u live by the dollar, u die by the dollar.


11:16 AM  
Blogger Jimi Jones said...

Greetings. I'm a long-time lurker on this site and haven't posted in a long time. I live in Washington, DC (which I think of a Blade-Runner-esque hellhole) and am planning a trip to Finland later this week to visit my wife who is doing an artist's residency outside Tampere. I'll be flying into Helsinki so I took a look through the Helsinki airport's website to familiarize myself with the place. I was charmed and amused to see that the home page for their website says, among other friendly things, "we like you." Now can you imagine anyone in any American airport saying that to anyone else for any reason? Neither can I. I am SO looking forward to spending a week there. The only downside is that I'll have to come back to what I consider to be the worst place I've ever lived.

2:53 PM  
Blogger Mike Cifone said...

Tim -- our taste in film is so very consonant: I love Manufactured Landscapes; saw it a couple years ago. Haunting, beautiful, perceptive, quiet, saddening -- just as you say. By the way, one a more allegorical note, you should see Werkmeister's Harmonies by Bela Tar (Hungarian director). If ML captures the crushing uniformity & economic brutalization of modern landscapes, WH laments how fragmented or disconnected it all is, and looks for a new harmony.

Haven't quite unraveled the flick, but I'm having to read about Andreas Werckmeister and the whole business about equal vs. unequal systems of musical "temperament", and what you lost with the equal, and more "rational", system. Watch it and revisit Bach's Das Wohltempiererte Klavier, with a good harpsichord recording (I have Kenneth Gilbert's on a restored Ruckers). I think this film has a lot to it, and worth the struggle. Maury covers a bit of this ground in the consciousness trilogy, and so I'm curious to see what one can come up with here (and with Bela Tar's stuff generally).

Maury: if you notice a (slight) jump in your book sales, it might be my students having to purchase some of your books for my philosophy classes. Not to make you feel bad, but, the minute I assigned more than a single book (they're having to work with -- gasp -- five), my class size more than halved, almost overnight. But I still have a few students, and, if the course isn't folded, you might have a couple more bucks in the bank.

9:23 PM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

Sign of the times:

The Coast Guard sets standards for the weight ferries can safely carry, and thus assigns an average weight per passenger to determine the maximum number of passengers per ferry. For the past ca. 50 years, it has used a 160 lb/person standard. It has now raised that to 185 lbs/person


How awesome is that?


11:42 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, I lived for 8 yrs in DC, and personally feel that "vile" doesn't even begin to describe it. I recall running into a British woman from Oxford a couple of yrs ago, who told me abt a 3-mo. internship she did at some museum there, perhaps the Smithsonian (she was a museum curator back home). She said she had never lived in such a soulless place in her entire life.


11:51 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


This past weekend our local PBS station was running a marathon of "An American Family," and one of the first things we noticed was just how slim everyone was in 1973! And even the most vapid teen talk was more articulate & had a richer vocabulary.


Thanks for the recommendation! you've already sent me in search of that old copy of Marcus Aurelius' Meditations.


"Soulless" is the word, if I had to pick just one, for what we see happening today. Sometimes I feel that many of the people around me, and the world in which they move, are husks that would shrivel up & blow away if I touched them. That the soul has indeed been sucked out of them, or else withered away, leaving only an empty shell desperate to fill the void within, without ever admitting that it's there.

At such times I remember feeling like an alien anthropologist as a teenager, observing this very strange & bizarre place with bewilderment & sometimes repulsion. No wonder the Surrealists appealed to me at an early age & continue to inspire me!

And if I feel I'm being too harsh in thinking that way, I just have to read something like, oh, David Brooks' columns, and realize that my judgment was quite correct.

1:16 PM  
Blogger Neb said...

Some shocking stuff above. Especially the elementary kid salesman.

My contribution; this one from a while ago that stayed with me...

Me: So Mayor Bloomberg is running for office again?
Other: Bloomberg is the CEO of New York!
Me: You work for a mayor [in a public works dept]. You vote for a mayor. It's a public office. Why did you say that?
Other: Bloomberg is the CEO. NYC makes money because we have him as our CEO. Isn't NY a business? Yes it is.
Me: Are you serious? NYC government is not private business, their goals are diffferent.
Other: You can say whatever you want, he's the CEO.

and another...
Other: Private Manning? What did he do?
Me: He's accused of leaking video to wikileaks of the military killing civilians from a helo.
Other: He should be put in the electric chair.

Other: With what I'm making, I'll be able to retire in a few years.
Me: How'd the conversation go from tent cities and poverty in Camden to this?
Other: Those people have nothing to do with me.

8:34 PM  
Blogger Tim Lukeman said...

I was joking about this in a previous post, but here's the website for something called Masterwriter Software:


Their claim:

Masterwriter is simply the most powerful collection of writing tools ever assembled in one program. Whether you’re writing a song, a poem, or a novel, MasterWriter will unlock all the English language has to offer, to help you express yourself in a more unique and meaningful way.

Exactly how much "more unique," I wonder? 47% more unique? 73%? And if they can actually say "more unique" with a straight face, just how helpful is their software, anyway?

Of course this is just one more example of outsourcing the imagination & intellect. Why bother having a rich vocabulary, when you can simply pick a recommended word from a list? Why bother learning anything, in fact?

Just another indicator of why we're in the mess we're in ...

9:02 AM  
Blogger Tim Lukeman said...

I've been wondering what to call the anecdotal evidence we discuss here -- Leading Idiotic Indicators, perhaps? LIDs, for short?

Here's one for today, a link to a comics message board, where fans from all around the world angrily talk about the decision to have Superman renounce his American citizenship in a recent anniversary issue (so as to be a citizen of the world & not represent American foreign policy):


It really displays blind American exceptionalism at its purest, most visceral level. The vehemence & outrage over the actions of a fictional, comic book character astounds me. But it demonstrates how that mindset works -- and sadly, in far more serious arenas than in the pages of Action Comics.

1:03 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

from Obama's speech on the death of bin Laden:

"America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history; whether it's the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality of all our citizens, our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place. Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are..."

Outside the White House, people gathered to sing "We Are the Champions".

1:06 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Meanwhile, someone just wrote me abt an incident that recently occurred on the NY subway system. Some guy was abt to light a cigarette; woman next to him asked him not to do it. So he rammed a pen into her face.

Onward and Downward!

3:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

About the subway pen stabbing.


- Sarah P.

5:46 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Try again...break the url into parts, maybe.


5:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


1:41 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...


A story I thought the DAA would appreciate. In America we cannot even label anyone anymore. We spell the labels incorrectly.

11:50 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Try again, breaking the url into segments. Somehow, full lines always get cut off.

Meanwhile, I recently saw the trailer of a film from 2010 called "Unstoppable," about an unmanned train that is going at full tilt and destroying urban areas. The train's controls have defaulted to full throttle, and it is speeding out of control on the main line. I cdn't help wondering: Why wd a film like this be made at this pt in time? Did the writer unconsciously see the train as a metaphor for the US? I.e. having no one in charge, and speeding out of control, destroying everything in its path? Of course, in the movie a hero stops the train, otherwise there wd be no movie. But in the case of the US, I doubt there are any magic solutions; even the "assassination" of Osama won't make any difference.


12:38 AM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...


Dr. B,

See if that one works better. You guys have to read this story. Think of The Scarlet Letter, and consider that if we did that today, people would have to think long and hard what letter different words start with.

11:33 PM  
Blogger Tim Lukeman said...

It's been morbidly fascinating (and sickening) to follow the bin Laden post-mortem this past week. Aside from the fact that it's being played in the media as the equivalent of James Bond killing Blofeld, there's the complete & utter refusal to examine the forces that led to the making of bin Laden.

And of course no one wants to deal with the fact that bin Laden basically won. He even got the death he probably would have preferred. The self-inflicted damage he helped America do to itself can't & won't be undone. Already there are calls for more military interventions, more erosion of civil liberties, more cutting of social services in favor of funding war.

All of this is just as MB & others predicted, of course. It's all surface & no substance, stirring up the primal emotions while shutting down rational thought. And if you try to mention any of this, discuss it in any depth, you're simply supporting bin Laden & terrorism & you hate America.

Meanwhile applications for unemployment continue to rise, education funding is ruthlessly slashed, cities & townships privatize or abolish basic services, libraries shut down ... well, we all know the drill.

But we're NUMBER ONE!!!

8:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just finished Dark Ages America. A phenomenal book and if you're just checking into this blog - a must read.

I won't reiterate all of the points in the book here as it speaks for itself so well and others have already commented on it.

After six weeks of being back in the States I can hardly wait to evacuate this soul sucking zone. Maryland & Florida were nothing more than a perpetual suburban/urban drag race interrupted by constant electronic devices. People seemed to have retreated into bizarre religious thinking or TV in attempt to feel better. The vast majority of people I reconnected with have either lost substantial wealth in the RE/Wall Street scandal, recently got screwed out of wages or now have shaky or non-existent pension/retirement situations. A sad situation for many.

If you're going to stay in the states you should be thinking of how to do as much as possible "underground" or "informally", or off the books etc..

In the meanwhile, I'll be going through Guadalajara to go to visit Leon/Guanajuato if anyone's in the area for a beer or dinner. I could use a little advice on a few things local there if anyone's around.

To reach me: tideout@gmail.com

El Juero

8:56 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Hi Tim,

Yes, indeed, it's been a propaganda fest on TV since the Bin Laden assassination. The "History" channel, or some such joke, has programs about Navy Seals and covert operations, all of which is to stir up further aggression and scoundrel patriotism in the citizens. I walk around my neighborhood and see more flags than usual, even a gazebo festooned with patriotic red, white, and blue crepe as if Obama [Bin Laden] were about to deliver an inaugural.

Derrick Jensen and Noam Chomsky have both made the point that U.S. aggression (eg. invasion of sovereign nations, supporting of repressive dictatorships, etc.) is national security but the blow back from our foreign "policy" is terrorism. Aggression is legitimate (for any number of reasons since the powerful write history) if it flows from the powerful to the weak. Reverse that, viz. aggression from the weak to the powerful, and you have terrorism.

As a precaution, I will state that I am opposed to terrorism because I do not think civilians should be victims of violence; that's what armies are for, i.e., cannon fodder, among other reasons, of course.

But because we live in the United States of Amnesia, no one is interested in the history that might clarify why they hate us. Maury did this in DAA, but most people here don't know that background that Maury brilliantly exposed. But, I suspect, even if they did...

10:33 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Everybody be sure to read Noam Chomsky's comment on the Osama assassination posted on commondreams.org, May 7. Rt on the money.

Meanwhile, this assassination seems fishy, in the following sense: Why now? There are conflicting reports, but apparently the US knew of O's location months ago. All that was in the house was an aging guy, suffering from kidney failure, and his wife. For this, we need Navy Seals and helicopters? And also: Why even bother? Osama was no big deal in the Islamic world anymore, and certainly no threat to us. So this hit was about (1) generating a US-propaganda fest, to get the masses worked up, and (related to this) (2) launching the Obama re-election campaign ("see, I'm tuf on terrorism!"). No public evaluation of our role in bringing on Islamic blowback, of course; our meddling in the Middle East since 1953. No, let's stay blind, ram our heads even deeper into the shit, and make sure that the blowback will continue (see Chris Hedges today on truthdig, on how we teach American personnel to hate Muslims).

Onward and Downward!


11:50 AM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

Regarding Dr. Berman's idea that the timing of the Osama "operation" was tied to reelection: last week I got my first Re-elect Obama money request, complete with "Obama 2012" bumper sticker.

Just sayin'

1:51 PM  
Anonymous Lorien said...

Kelvin said "it's been a propaganda fest on TV since the Bin Laden assassination." Yep. Last Friday, the PBS NewsHour interviewed a couple of former Navy Seals. Fine and good, the interviews were interesting although not terribly informative. What was creepy though, was to see the commentary of Mark Shields and David Brooks, which came on immediately after the interviews. Both S & B basically salivated over the former seals, citing their humility, and selfless commitment to a cause, and on and on.

Half of my family is military, I have a hard time putting down people who either choose (or have chosen for them) that world. But that's not the point. The way Shields and Brooks were talking made me realize that something was being sold to me here... the "heroism" and "patriotism" and "selfless sacrifice" of assassinating Bin Laden (those words in quotes are mine, I don't remember the actual words Shields & Brooks used, just the gist). I'm not articulating this well, but it was, as I say, creepy.

Chris Hedge's article on truthdig today, about tax dollars funding hate speech against Muslims, was eye-opening as well. I will read the Noam Chomsky article too. It's at least comforting (not sure if that's the right word, exactly!) that I can read stuff like this, as well as MB, and don't have to rely on the current patriotic media frenzy, which seems to be happening on what gets called the "left," as well as the right. (I can't often tell the difference here in America, anyway)

3:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear MB,

Thanks for the links to Chomsky & Hedges articles.

One of my politically astute friends recently told me he's stopped talking with most people here (the US) about things. In short, it's too difficult to get anywhere in the conversation. I know others have mentioned the same here. I should listen better.

Today I was told by an old friend that I was "making it tough on people who do choose to live in the US" by mentioning any different perspective ie.DAA.

This is a person with a Masters Degree, who has lost $200K out of $240K in home value due to the 2008 bank swindles and spent their retirement funds for health care for a clearly disabled partner.

Sorry I f'd up an otherwise perfectly good system!!

But seriously folks - the potential for projecting problems onto others in this spiral of poop could get ugly. Immigrants, Arabic looking folks or people with even mildly different views should be on their toes.

I can't quite put a description on it but I do sense a retreat into what I can only call a religiousness - sometimes covered in layers of self help ideology or new age thinking. Issues seemed to get "therapized" or narrowed to "positive" or "negative" outlooks. I guess in the Oprah age it shouldn't be too surprising.

El Juero

4:15 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Bristol Palin just got her own reality TV show.

What more is there to say?

6:07 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Kelvin & Lorien,

Check out "A guide to the media's Navy SEALs porn" here:


While the article is illuminating in itself, the real eye-openers are in the comments section, where the majority are both hilarious (in a sick way) & horrific in their shrill, almost Pavlovian lust for & idolatry of the American genius for killing.

MB, not only is Bristol getting her own reality show, so are the "stars" of Jersey Shore,, each to his or her own reality show.

Over the weekend I picked up some old magazines at a yard sale, such as a 1963 issue of The Ladies' Home Journal. It includes such items as a newly-discovered short story by Chekov, another short story by Romain Gary, an article by Philip Wylie calling for the return of solitary contemplation, a lengthy letter to the editor requesting more in-depth articles about political & social issues of the day ...

It's been a downward slide from then until now.

7:00 PM  
Anonymous Dr L. said...

While looking for Chomsky article on Google news today, all I could find were various articles attacking him for what he wrote, but no original article! The machine is on.

I found the article later on commondreams, as you suggested... thanks!

7:49 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Also on commondreams.org is Glenn Greenwald's account of the less publicized Obama-led attempt on the life of a U.S. citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric, who was nearly killed by a drone strike in Yemen a few days after the bin Laden assassination. The article mentions that "at least four American citizens had been approved for assassinations." As Greenwald observes, this violates the U.S. Constitution's Fifth Ammendment, "no person shall be deprived of life without due process of law." Chomsky, in the article that Maury cited, says that the U.S. had no evidence that bin Laden was responsible for the attacks of 11 September 2001. Some say that he should have been taken alive for intelligence reasons. But I suppose that alternative would not have generated sufficient political capital to ensure Obama's reelection. I sense that the populace wants blood. Wanted dead, not alive.

7:53 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


The collapse of the American mind, and the excitement over things like killing bin Laden, are probably directly proportional.

Dumb Dumb Dumb!
Rage Rage Rage!

O&D! (my new T-shirt logo: Onward & Downward!)


9:13 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

I read Kurt Vonnegut writing somewhere about how, back in the 50's, he used to be able to make a living writing short stories for magazines like the ones you picked up at a yard sale. By the mid-60's that had been wiped out by TV dreck. We've been on the road to "Fahrenheit 451" ever since.
David Rosen

9:34 PM  
Blogger HansfromDK said...

Dear Dr. Berman & DAA55-group

Am currently in Santiago de Chile - any of you around here?

Yesterday I visited the historical museum and overheard a conversation by two American tourists in their twenties (slight overweight, baseball caps and all). They found the museum boring. Now, the history of Chile is anything but boring, as I am sure many of you know. But the exhibition is traditional, with no interactive gadgets and all explanatory texts are in Spanish.

27 years ago I became a BA in informatics, and I clearly remember our vivid discussions concerning possible negative side effects of computer based communication. And they all came through...

Greetings to all of you

9:57 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

For today, an article about English classes & those who can't comprehend or gain anything from them:


As always, the comments posted in response are required reading. Quite a few reports from the trenches in this batch!

9:18 AM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...


It goes far beyond what is being taught, and how it is being taught.

I think I've said this, but I'll say it again. If a teacher visits the homes of his/her students, and taking a 'ten-cent tour' of the house doesn't see any books, you can bet that the situation is pretty hopeless.

And it's not just the parents; it's the whole society. Our isolated nuclear families just don't cut it. Too many kids grow up around adults who have been cretinized by years of mindless work and a million hours of TV. Then, at an early age, they are no longer socialized by adults, but by each other – hardly a path to maturity. (Thanks to whoever put me onto Dr. Gabor Maté and his book, "Hold onto Your Kids.")

David Rosen

1:27 PM  
Anonymous joyce said...

Dr. Berman,
You give voice to what I think but cannot say, because it is dark and not in tune with our "culture of optimism" as Barbara Ehrenreich outlined in her book "Brightsided."

It seems you are comfortable with disengaging, and leaving the country.

As a parent, it has been hard to offer advice to my 2 self-aware daughters. They are both multilingual and have lived much of their lives in other countries--yet I fear that they will not have the security of family if they remain, and conditions turn terribly wrong.

Do you have such concerns, or are you so totally integrated into the Mexican culture that it is not an issue? Both girls have a hard time adjusting when they do return. It is sad to watch.

Sometimes the only way I can handle watching current events is what I call "watching from the moon"--my way of disengaging, so I can empathize.

9:07 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Joyce,

I don't know if you are aware of the work of the Parent Coaching Institute in Seattle, led by Gloria DeGaetano (www.gloriadegaetano.com). Gloria is a kind of modern saint, imo; or at the very least, the best example I know of of an NMI (see Twilight bk). Check out the website, write her, tell her yer concerns (I'm giving the PCI a workshop on Nov. 4, BTW).

As far as moving to Mexico 5 yrs ago, what I tell people is that I'm sorry I didn't do it 20 yrs ago. Once u live outside the US, you become aware of how soul-destroying the culture is. When I occasionally visit the US there are things that I enjoy, of course, but watching how people interact, and the culture in general, is for me like being an anthropologist on the lunar surface. I'd say: save your daughters now; you won't be making a mistake. As far as things "turning terribly wrong": they already *have*, right here at home, and there is absolutely no possibility that they will turn right again--you can be sure of that.

Just my 2 cents, in any case. Talk to Gloria, my dear, and: good luck.


9:28 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

The Osama affair truly tells me that it's hopeless in the USA.If Americans cannot see how inconsistant and contradictory the official narrative is then it's proof enough that critical thinking here has gone the way of the Dodo bird. Now the US has a new boogey man, the American born cleric, who the military just recently tried to kill with drones. What kind of foreign policy is this? Advancing American interests by killing individual people-great statesmanship.
Yes, I read the piece about high school writing. I am in elementary school and the writing is horrific so I'm not surprised. How can anyone learn to write if most of the year is spent preparing students to take state tests which are mostly multiple choice? I wish I could say more but I'm getting a terror alert on my cell phone from my president. Obama's no fool. He knows fear is a better campaign strategy than hope and change. I can't wait for your book, Dr. Berman.

11:14 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

I couldn't believe my ears! Representative Ron Paul of Texas was interviewed by Anderson Cooper about his reaction to the bin Laden assassination photographs. Paul took the opportunity to say that, no, bin Laden's death does not make the U.S. safer and that we should pull out of Afghanistan, cease the collateral killing of innocent Muslims in foreign countries by our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that the whole enterprise ("War on Terror," he probably means) has been terribly expensive in lives and financial cost and has merely fed the military-industrial complex when we could use the money to fix things here at home, "we're in a financial mess."

I was surprised to hear this on mainstream TV and it was worth it just to see the look of utter bewilderment and surprise on Anderson Cooper's face.

What happenned? Was Ron Paul channeling Maury!? It was like the Oprah moment in *Destiny*!

Paul, however, said "and I think the American people are on my side." I hope so but...

11:54 PM  
Blogger RS said...


A song about the incredible rise in the price of gold.

Also check out
if you like the music

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Hi Tim,

Let's make lotsa money and ride the Navy SEAL porn rage before it crests. Here's the idea: Sarah Palin and some Navy Seals, picked for their hunkiness, can do an exercise video! Sarah, of course, will be at the front of the pack leading the routines. However, I guess we run the risk of making Maury jealous. Maybe he could supplement the video with some Tai Chi? That way he can keep an eye on Sarah to make sure she doesn't get up to any hanky-panky on the ice floes with a Seal (or seal, for that matter).

The money would be used to buy a villa for Maury in Tuscany and another one nearby to serve as headquarters for the new elite force known as the DAA SEALS whose mission would be to ensure that the angle of declination of the O&D of the U.S. is ever steeper.

10:55 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


You may have seen articles about the Koch brothers essentially buying professors:


As a counterpoint, an article reminding us why libraries matter:


And as always, the comments posted in response really say it all.

Clearly there's a concerted effort to shut down or privatize all sources of knowledge, learning, and critical thinking. In their place, mass-produced infotainment & distraction for the lowest common denominator. How far are we from Huxley's "feelies" at this point? The public would eat that up!

Time to reread Amusing Ourselves To Death, I think ...

11:20 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I like the way yer mind works. Actually, I wdn't be too upset if Sarah copulates with a Seal; but if she does it with a seal, our nuptials are off, period. I don't have much sympathy for interspecies sex; altho if Donald Trump attempted it with a venus fly-trap, I might make an exception.


2:11 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Tim (again),

(This is a reply to Tim's posting that seems to have been lost.)

I can't understand why the Koch brothers have to waste their hard earned money paying academic whores when there seem to be so many academics out there doing it for free. And especially in an Economics Department! Is there more than one out of a hundred of these guys who is anything other than a cheerleader for capitalism?

Oh yes, many of them will say that giant corporations should be required to filter out a few of the worst toxins they're dumping into our drinking water -- remember the old Phil Ochs song, "Love Me, I'm a Liberal". So, we've reached the stage where even that is too much!

I remember entering the main chemistry building at Iowa State University back in the 70's, and seeing a large bronze plaque listing all the corporations which had given grants to the Chemistry Department. One was Union Carbide. They were bragging about it.

In the Agronomy and Animal Sciences Departments I can't recall ever hearing anything resembling an academic lecture -- everything was a blatant sales pitch for agribiz.

I thought back then that we were one step away from 1984, and now I guess we are really taking that last step.

David Rosen

1:38 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


I wish Phil could be with us now. The past 25 years would have given him plenty to write & sing about, to put it mildly. Looking forward to the DVD release of the documentary about him & his work, There But For Fortune, in July ... though the people who most need to see it, will probably never even hear of it.

Did anyone see some of the news footage of oil company CEOs being questioned in Congress? They came right out & said that if their taxes were raised, oil prices would go up. I don't know how much more naked a threat (or promise) they could make. Not that more than a handful in Congress will even make a token effort to oppose them.

The sheer amount of DUMB is like some ever-thickening cloud of smog descending upon the nation, isn't it? The Rude Pundit has cheerfully been running through the main enemies of education this past week at:


I love reading his happily foul-mouthed reportage; I just wish it had a chance of making a difference.

7:02 PM  
Anonymous Colin W. said...

My problem with Stiglitz is that, similar to other Keynesians like Robert Skidelsky, he sees inequality as primarily a consequence of the economic malaise, rather than a central cause. So while I certainly appreciate his worries about political and social instability, I think his analysis ought to go deeper.

The essential problem is the unequal accumulation of profit. It's always present in any economic upswing, and is the death knell for prosperity, particularly if it's in a neo-liberal economy so reliant on consumer spending - like the USA.

Of the mainstream American economists I've been reading, Robert Reich probably comes closest to recognizing this fact. Nevertheless, the best analysis, in my opinion, comes from the CUNY professor, David Harvey. Have you read this? It's a very cogent distillation of his books:


Anyway, enjoyed your post, Maury... as always!

12:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tim Lukeman,
I totally agree with the driving and cell phone bs. I am 54 and I don't even recognize this country anymore. No one cares about anything but themselves. It truely is scary to me.

11:15 PM  
Blogger EditNetwork said...

In case this is off your radar, here is an outstanding essay summarizing our civilized dilemma. Please rock on, sir!

1:37 PM  
Blogger Aldo Aspilcueta said...

Dear Mr Berman,
I have read "Body and Spirit in the Hidden History of the West", and I am currently reading "Dark Ages America" with some alarm because the country I live (Chile, southamerica) has long time ago chosen a local version of american model and values (so we could be developing the same diseases that you describe so in detail).
I found an social capital index (Legatum prosperity index, a global assessment of wealth and wellbeing, http://www.prosperity.com/) and I observed USA is world ranked 12th an d mexico 39th...
The ranking also says:
"The United States has a very high level of social cohesion. Many people help others in society, with 60%* of the population making donations to charity and 40%* volunteering their time. The United States ranks in the top 30* in terms of social trust, while over nine-in-10* Americans feel they have someone to rely on in times of need. Many Americans help strangers and two-thirds* of respondents claim to have done so in a month previous to a 2009 survey".... etc
can be such thing true?
I visited other ranking (http://www.cauxroundtable.org/) and the positions are more or less the same.

Why these quantitative studies are so different from the obvious observations and conclusions you state? Or are there other more accurate comparative studies that shows quantitatively the decline in social capital?
By the way Chile is very low in social capital (same ranking), we are a distrust/shy society, even more in last years. In my experience we trust more in institutions than neighbors, and always thought that american way was an example about creating wealth by trusting others. May be I was wrong.

Best regards and thank you for your writings,

12:53 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Try posting to the current post; nobody reads the old ones.

I've been to Chile twice, agree with your assessment of the place.

However, your data abt the US puzzles me. I've done a ton of research on the subject, and all of the studies I've read show a very different picture. You might check out the footnotes to my book "Why America Failed" when it comes out in November.

Keep writing in, in any case-


2:34 PM  

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