June 05, 2011

At Last, The Poems

Dear Friends:

It took more than two years, but my volume of poetry, Counting Blessings, has finally rolled off the press. You can order it direct from the publisher at cervenabarvapress.com; it should also get posted on Amazon before too long. Here is the description from the back cover, in any case:

Counting Blessings is an expression of gratitude for a life lived away from the madding crowd. This poetry collection was penned about a year after Berman moved to a small town in Mexico. With the frenzy of American life receding into the background, he was able to sink into the stillness of his new surroundings, allowing long-dormant creative energies to surface. In addition to Counting Blessings, he also wrote a novel and a collection of essays questioning the values of American society, roughly during the same time.

As it turns out, only a few of these poems are about life in Mexico per se. For the most part, Mexico provided the backdrop, the peaceful context in which the author’s unconscious processes were free to roam over the inner landscape, explore its contours and fine details. What emerged were vibrant memories of childhood and adolescence, of times lived abroad, of people who have come and gone. These lyrical poems capture the extraordinary essence of ordinary lived experience, and in doing so represent the true content of our lives, the simple core of what makes us human.

The poet Paul Christensen wrote of this work:

“The[se] poems are a kind of sketch pad for how one regains a life little by little from a culture that had wrapped its tentacles about you and squeezed out your breath. There is the slow process of putting oneself back together again, far from the screeching music of the television, the hard sell of the radio, the hysterical momentum of consumption as a stay against loneliness. All that abates as the exile sits in his [courtyard] with a good book, a quiet heart. The reader who pores over these memories and observations will feel the ache to slip away to one’s own courtyard in a foreign country, to sit and let the mind idle over its thoughts, to float back to the quiet and calm and, as Berman says, to count one’s blessings.”

Meanwhile, ten of the poems are available via audio link, from a reading I did in Berkeley in 2009: go to www.juliollosa.com, click on my name on the left hand side of the page, and then on "Audio Interviews"; and then scroll down and click on "Poetry Reading at Moe's Books."


Anonymous Dovidel said...

Dr. Berman,

Mazl’ tov on your new book; I just ordered a copy.

Gregg, (from the previous posting – Rainbow Pie)

I know that the fact that your father was a fundamentalist gave you a lot to overcome. I think you probably did receive a valuable gift from him, however. That is, you grew up with somebody who was interested in more than just himself and his own little world, which seems to have become rare in today’s America. That alone may be a blessing for you to count.

I would say that American fundamentalists are reacting to the American dark-age we (on this blog) have become aware of, but they are doing it in an 'unskillful' way.

David Rosen

11:59 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

To the DAA65: I've been in Paris 36hrs now, so time to give u guys a report; beyond the fact that it is sweltering here.

1. Sheer info overload and sensual bombardment is far too intense. A great place to visit, not to live. Last time I was here was abt 20 yrs ago, to do a TV interview. Place is basically the same, just multiplied in intensity by a factor of 10 (maybe 100). Cultural density is very high; one is aware of how trivial US "culture" is by comparison. Pick up a copy of Le Nouvel observateur, for example, which is simply a news magazine, and one finds page after page of book revs--and I'm not talking Danielle Steel. This is, unlike the US, a nation of adults.

2. That being said, techno-buffoonery has hit the place like a cyclone. At any given time half the people on the street have a cell phone hanging out of every possible orifice. It's sorta like Blade Runner outta control. On a scale from 1 to 10, the BOP index (Buffoons On Phones) is 11.5.

3. French news is actually news, tho mostly domestic, with too many in-jokes. But the papers here make the NY Times look pathetic. The editors and reporters actually think abt things, and not in simplistic terms.

4. The food is superb; orgasmic, in fact. It's also outrageously expensive. I have written to the Minister of Culinary Affairs that all cafes need to post a sign outside, saying:

a) You are abt to get humped beyond belief. Pls just hand over your wallet upon entering; it will make things a lot easier.

b) You will leave this establishment wishing u had never entered.

c) We thank u for your patronage.

4. On the plus side, I find Parisians to be a bit less snooty, and more helpful, than in the past.

5. Even better, the cliche abt the French and sex seems to be correct.
The women dress like they enjoy sex and are interested in having it. Today I had lunch at Deux Magots, Sartre's favorite cafe. (A pity that I left my black turtleneck and pack of Gaulois Bleu at home, tho I did drop a few existentialist phrases to try to impress the waiter: "I'm engaged, I feel nauseous, it's all about choices," etc.). Next to me was a couple in their late thirties. He looked like a hip journalist. She looked like she was poured into her jeans. Wish I cd post a video of her body language, which said (for 30 mins, nonstop): Wd it be OK if I took my jeans off? I thought this was wonderful; my (admittedly limited) experience of American women is that of sexual confusion (simultaneously wanting it and not wanting it). French women are not confused.

Anyway, more to come (perhaps). Be sure to bring a large suitcase full of money if u plan to visit.


1:02 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...


Greetings from Iowa, and good luck with the mademoiselle from Armentieres. The question everyone is asking is, "How are you going to keep Morris Berman down on la hacienda, now that he's seen Paree?" (The answer may be that you can still get eleven and a half pesos for a dollar.)

David Rosen

5:46 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Not to worry. One more wk of this and I'll be completely broke.


4:28 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Wonderful news about the book of poems, Maury! I'll be ordering mine this week.

By the way, everyone, Why America Failed is already available for pre-order at Amazon. I ordered my copy last week.

Love the report from Paris, though it makes me envious beyond belief. Our greedy neighbor is renewing his efforts to take our property, so it looks like litigation time -- man, Paris sounds especially good right now! Far better than having to deal with a non-dimensional American glutton.

Still, it's possible to find a better way of living even in the midst of consumerist decadence. My wife & I spent Friday evening at a reception for a local artist, hold at a community college, and thoroughly enjoyed her work. We then tried a nearby restaurant, where service was just slow enough for a relaxed conversation about art, music, what we want from life, and so forth. In short, quite civilized!

Maury, I believe that somewhere you quote from E. M. Forster's essay What I Believe:

I believe in aristocracy, though -- if that is the right word, and if a democrat may use it. Not an aristocracy of power, based upon rank and influence, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate and the plucky. Its members are to be found in all nations and classes, and all through the ages, and there is a secreat understanding between them when they meet. They represent the true human tradition, the one permanent victory of our queer race over cruelty and chaos. Thousands of them perish in obscurity, a few are great names. They are sensitive for others as well as themselves, they are considerate without being fussy, their pluck is not swankiness but power to endure, and they can take a joke.

For all the DAA65+, Forster's entire essay is worth reading:


8:35 AM  
Anonymous neunder said...

Would like to hear more of your observations on French society while you're there. Please keep them coming if you can. Interesting!

12:36 PM  
Anonymous Jason said...

My favorite place in Paris, at least for beer and reasonable food is Academie de la Biere (88-bis Boulevard De Port-Royal). Though, there may be too many American Beer Geeks there for your taste...

9:07 AM  
Blogger HansfromDK said...

Dear DAA65ers

I am worried about and disappointed with our mutual friend Dr. Berman. Show him a French pucelle poured into her pants, and puff goes every project concerning Sarah Palin! I consider myself tolerant, so I will not use the word "pathetic".

Best to all - et a bientôt docteur Berman!

PS. Good to read that France is still a country, where intellectuals are respected.

11:32 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Dear Maury,

French cuisine is a form of prostitution: orgasmic but exorbitant. Your account of Paris is fascinating and hilarious. I am deeply surprised (and envious) of the intellectual life of the city (and culture?) that you describe. It may be the case that French cuisine as brain food may play a role in the intellectual life of Parisians; the food is anti-bozonic and may be anti-oxidant as well.

I've gone to the Cervena Barva Press website and have admired the beautiful photo cover of your poetry book as well as the lovely excerpted poem. I'll be ordering my copy soon. I'm looking forward to reading the poem that you suggested in response to my post of way back about the royal blue butterflies of my childhood!

12:44 PM  
Blogger kate59 said...

Ooo la la. I'm envious. On several levels. Including often wishing I were a French woman! And poured into my jeans! Helas!

4:46 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I agree with Kelvin about the book cover: a visual poem that reminds me of courtyards I've peered into, on the side-streets of Santa Barbara and Saint Augustine. Sure beats the suburban lawn!

Forget about the antioxidants, though; you'd likely have to drink enough red wine to destroy your liver, in order to get any real benefit from the Resveratrol. More bang for your buck: foie gras, especially if you visit the Gascony region. And be sure to let us know how it compares to chopped liver. (not *your* liver, of course)

4:55 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

Dr. Berman,

Congratulations and thanks for the new poetry book, I will be ordering a copy presently. I, too, am jealous of your Parisian excursion. I, like Tim, and mired in the muck with difficult neighbors, aggressive buffoons, and the zombie horde. Kinda all rolled into one. Tim, by the way, always enjoy your posts. your neighbor could never understand what a decent human being you are because he sounds too blinded by his own fat and self-interest.

11:31 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Continuing the French report:

I had forgotten how small everything is here. The bathrms are tiny, the elevators hold 2 people, one is constantly twisting and turning. Last nite I got up to pee, and managed to fall flat on my face. Stanching the blood in the dark, I located my tube of aloe gel. But I do look grotesque. C'est la vie.

There's an old joke abt how the UN commissioned a study of the elephant, and appted 3 scholars for the task. After 1 yr the British scholar submitted a double-spaced manuscript, 250 pp. long, comprehensively descriptive, entitled: The Elephant.

A second yr went by and the American scholar turned in a power pt presentation: Commercial Advantages of Elephant Investment.

After 3 yrs the French scholar presented a slim but elegant volume: La vie sexuelle d'elephant.

This seems basically correct. France is easy to decifer when you understand that everything is actually abt sex. Sex is, of course, abt sex. But then u look in the window of a patisserie, at the incredible cakes, dripping with glaze and fruit, and u realize: this is just sex in the form of sugar. U peruse the bookshops, glutted with terrific titles, and u say to yerself: this is just sex in the form of culture.
You go to the Musee d'Orsay, which leaves u dizzy after 2 hrs, and u think: this is sex in the form of art. You get the idea.

Have to go ice my face now. Stay tuned.

10:42 AM  
Blogger HansfromDK said...

Dear Dr. Berman & DAA65ers

In a version of the old story abour the elephant study there are two more scholars. A German who submitted three heavy volumes with the title: Grundrisse einer Systematik der Elefanten. And a Norvegian submitting the illustrated book: Norway and we Norwegians. (The last may only seem funny to Scandinavians - but there could be two or three around in this blog).

Best to all of you

11:27 AM  
Blogger kate59 said...

Dr. Berman: When you fell in the night was it "micturition syncopy" ("pee-fainting"). Just curious...that happened once to my husband but he was knocked unconscious by the fall, went to hospital, etc. It took a while to come up with the correct (and in retrospect, obvious) diagnosis. It happens to men more often than one would think.
Just curious.

11:51 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I thought the German one was Einfuehrung zum Elefant, but I cd be wrong. Then there is the Israeli version: The Elephant and the Jewish Question.


I think it was a combo of severe jet lag plus no rm to move. On the other hand, maybe I'm just getting old and decrepit. In any case, I don't look pretty. Little children laugh and point at me in the street.

More on France...
I think this is the fourth time I've been here, I'm not sure. Last time was 20 yrs ago for an interview with ARTE, French television. Anyway, after 5 days here this time, I can offer the following observations (forgive me if I repeat myself):
1. The women dress in such a way as to suggest that (a) They enjoy sex; (b) They are having a lot of sex; (c) They wd have no objection to having *more* sex. I find this inspiring.
2. Whereas the French get high on sex, food, art, and culture, Americans get high on war and money. You see the result.
3. It was 20 yrs since I visited the Musee d'Orsay. Do u know what it's like to see the originals of the paintings that you've mostly seen in books? Coquelicot, by Monet, or Le Pie (also Monet)? It was hard not to pee in my pants (to repeat a theme from above).
4. The penchant here for cell fones borders on lunacy. There is now a bill before the French Senate that wd require babies to have cell phones installed in their rear ends upon birth. It will probably pass, as there is nationwide support for the idea. (I guess one learns to text message via sphincter control.)

Not much else to say...

4:49 PM  
Anonymous Ray said...

"..2. Whereas the French get high on sex, food, art, and culture, Americans get high on war and money. You see the result."

The thing is Morris, the French still also do money and war (somewhat) respectably along with la vie douce. Meanwhile over here general access to decent food, sex, art, and culture have become casualties of war and money.

5:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess the high cost of French living is about sex too.... Sex gets rather expensive.

7:48 PM  
Blogger ijcd said...

Dear Prof. Berman,

Congratulations! It looks like Mexico is treating you well, you have published three books in two years! A question about France: When people around you learn that you are an American, what do they ask you about the most? And which are the most popular topics nowadays? I suppose they may ask good questions, since they seem to be more intellectually active and curious than my surrounding Miami inhabitants, including the "professionals" and "college professors" here.

Dear DAA(n+1),

Here are some links some of you may find informative, didactic, entertaining (?), and perhaps frightening:

1- From Alternet, by David Sirota, "Has America Become a Corporate Police State?":

2- A December, 2010, article by Joe Bageant, "AMERICA: Y UR PEEPS B SO DUM?:

3- A Democracy Now! page with several interviews of Canadian doctor Gabor Mate: http://tinyurl.com/3hmzkyd

4- Also from Alternet, some scary signs of my looming slavery existence: "S.W.A.T. Team Breaks Down Doors Looking For Student Loan Defaulters"

Enjoy and "enjoy"!


Ivo the Cuban

8:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr Berman,

Keep the posts coming. It's good to live vicariously!

I am having daydreams of Juliette Binoche, which makes me grateful to be alive. But like other posters, I do worry about your fidelity to the Blessed Sarah. Oh well, no worries about her finding you on a map.

Vive la France!


10:57 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

I'm currently rdg a bk from 1994 by the sociologist Denis Duclos, "Le complexe du loup-garou: La fascination de la violence dans la culture americaine" (The werewolf complex: The fascination with violence in American culture). It's quite grim, and pessimistic. The bk is dedicated "to all those who prefer life" (to death, that is; in which category he is apparently not including Americans). His arg is that Americans have, because of a fragile identity, always needed to have a bogey man in order to function. This changes content over time--the returned VN vet who goes on a rampage, the high schl kid who shoots up all his classmates, etc.--but the form of a dark, irrational enemy remains the same. The ideal of a perfect society, he writes, and the other extreme of savagery, support a hidden connection, "a secret and natural connivance." The horrifying images that fill American fiction [movies, much more] "are the symptoms of a more global despair, tied to the consequences of a universal project," namely the codification of all of life.

There is an epilogue that Duclos wrote for the 2005 edition of the bk, in which he says that the latest incarnation of the werewolf is the Arab, bin Laden, the man in a turban.

"This curious society," he calls the US. Americans have always had a fear of emptiness, and at the same time have been attracted to it. They have no real rootedness to place, and so are anxious abt not existing, abt not having a clear identity. This anxiety then takes the form of a bogey man. The final result is a society under siege, like ancient Rome, and the danger of a populism that looks a lot like fascism. This American fear, he concludes, winds up isolating the US "in a kind of collective psychosis which can only contribute to international instability." He doesn't think there is any way the US can get out of this trap.

I found this chillingly accurate: a militarized plutocracy, closed in on itse

1:42 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Just ran outta time...u get the idea.

1:43 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

I think that one of the differences Maury is noting is that American culture is awash in sex, but only from a perpetually adolescent perspective, one geared to excitement & sensation & immediate gratification. There's very little real sexuality in America, much less anything like sensuality or the genuinely erotic. Sex is purely commodity & drug here, useful for manipulating people, marketing to them, and keeping them eagerly obedient & focused on the superficial. It's actually a more effective way of neutering actual sexuality than Big Brother's Anti-Sex League, as it offers an empty facsimile of the real thing & convinces you that it IS the real thing. Really no different than those experiments where lab rats had electrodes embedded in their brains & eventually starved to death because they kept on pressing the button for more stimulation, rather than attend to the needs of living.

And as they say, even if you win the rat race, you're still a rat. And still caught in a rat trap.

1:43 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Maury, your latest post immediately made me think of Erich Fromm's necrophiliacs, as described in his book The Heart of Man.

1:45 PM  
Blogger James said...

If there is no exit from the role we play in modern society, isn't it better to not be awake. If we were all to escape incarceration in our factories and offices, the mechanical economies of scale fed by fossil fuels would cease to exist and the structure of our civilization would deteriorate. If incarceration without mental development is the fate of most people, why not obscure the fact with cheap entertainments and pleasures, also made available by the same factories in which they toil. An annual vacation, a case of beer on the weekend, and an occasional ball game should keep them working.

Most will never know freedom. Slavery was never abolished, it just changed form. Does the average person know they must also pay for the banker's house when borrowing for their own dwelling, even though the banker has done little more than assemble the loan documents. Like the children with perfect attendance records at school, adults slavishly and proudly pay for years and are awarded with a perfect credit score. Stupid slave.

For Dr. Berman, being an American in Paris is nice, but I would rather be a Parisian in Papeete. I wonder if they have the same cell phone addiction in the Society Islands?

2:21 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

"Counting Blessings" arrived in the mail today; expensive little book, but beautifully designed and produced. I can't slow down enough right now to actually read the poems...but that's something poetry excels at: slowing us down.

Thanks for the Democracy Now! Gabor Mate link: "When the Body Says No: Understanding the Stress-Disease Connection"

Dr. Mate says that "...how we see the world, whether the world is a hostile or friendly place, whether we have to always do for ourselves and look after others or whether we can actually expect and receive help from the world..." affects our health. He was talking about how childhood experiences shape our stress physiology, but I think that America's lack of a social safety net applies here as well.

7:12 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Very sorry, I had no role in deciding the price of the bk; totally the publisher's decision. But I hope u enjoy it anyway. In any case, tomorrow I head for the Jewish quarter, in search of the perfect (French) corned beef sandwich (boeuf fumee?). Stay tuned.


5:45 AM  
Anonymous JohnBurns said...

I am not sure how I ended up on your blogg, but then I remembered that I had read a book by you about a decade ago. And liked it. You were talking about the coming dark age and preserving some culture. Ireland in America. I enjoyed you recent writings on the blogg. In America positive thinking has gotten out of hand. So a lot of people bring that up to block the dark stuff. Myself I find the dark stuff cheers me up strangely and operates like fuel for inspiration. Nothing worse than being surrounded by positive thinking people who don't feel good at all. They certainly don't want to go into the dark wood now.
I was in Paris last in 1964. I suppose if I had a good deal of money I would move to France. But then later on I would find that France was a mess also. In 1964 I wanted to be a writer but did not write much or believe I had much to write about. I enjoyed Paris but mostly because I had a German woman friend who spoke French very well and was deep and kind.
I don't have a cell phone. I suppose being solitary in Paris would be a fine achievement. Have you ever read the Cartesian Meditations by Husserl? They are a bit demanding but his idea of objects of consciousness is very useful. And the transcendental ego. One could sit in a cafe in Paris and treat everything as an object of consciousness whose ontological status was left indeterminate. And one would know that one was creating these objects as experienced. Even the woman poured into her jeans!
Well, I hope you are finding your excursion inspiring. Thanks for the fine writings.

3:03 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


In future pls post on most recent blog; no one reads the old ones. But glad to hear things are hopping in Xela, and give my regards to Kev. Also to Andy, who seems to be streaking across the sky like a night comet.


Sooner or later, everyone ends up on this blog; it's the end of the road (Joplin). Am now in So of France, staying w/friends. A real gout du miel...and the cheese, mon cher, the cheese...


7:57 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

French chopped liver report:

2 days ago I walked thru the Marais, very medieval part of town. In 17C, it was poor Jewish working class. Today, very upscale, heavily gay. I walked down the Rue des Rosiers, in search of the perfect deli, and instead came across the world's greatest felafel stand. I bought one, gorged on it in public in a disgusting and debauched manner. A little boy pointed at me, but his mother said, "Ne regarde pas, Jacques; il est malade!" Then I came across the deli, which had a sign for Polish chopped liver. I'm sorry to report it was just OK, nothing like the Stage Deli in NY. The next day I took the TGV, bullet train, south, and am now in a tiny town in Provence. One could do worse, mes amis; I can't begin to describe how beautiful the French countryside is, how quiet, relaxed, expensive, and filled with cheese to die for.

Of my wk in Paris I can say: it was gd to learn that in the French mind, the US does not loom very large. They don't really see us as very significant, more like an annoying, not very bright, adolescent waving a bazooka around and largely doing himself in. This seems pretty accurate. Also, when u immerse yerself in Europe, u realize how non-US-oriented the world is, how complex, and how simplistic and self-destructive the US project of Americanizing the world really is (and totally futile). Clearly, Europe and Asia will be around long after that project has failed, and after the US is just a memory. The presidency of Mr. Obama will help with that, of course, and certainly that of Rom Mittney. The European direction is not so much to oppose the US as to ignore it, and let it go its own foolish way.

I need to write a bk on French cheese (not chopped liver).

9:46 AM  
Blogger James said...

Religion has done a disservice to humanity by substituting a loving God for a reality that takes no prisoners. There is little understanding of the predicaments we have created for ourselves and the solutions are anathema to the self-interested core of our brains. As the United States sinks beneath the waves, our last gasp will be used to gurgle "hallelujah" before the collective neurological phantasm takes a back seat to reality induced panic.

Here's a link to “The Response”, a stadium-sized meetin with Texas Governor Rick Perry to address the problems of modern civilization.


8:00 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

France, cont'd...

Went to vespers service at the Abbaye de Senanque today. 12C monastery, abs. fabulous. Had a reaction slightly similar to what I described in "Spheres of Influence" (see "A Question of Values"). Very moving, listening to the monks chanting in the high vault of the Romanesque apse. Then lady in front of me checks her cell phone. I realized if there is a cosmic war going on between God and multitasking, the latter wins hands down.

2:33 PM  
Blogger Mike Cifone said...

Maury --

Thanks for your travelogue; brings me back ...

My best sexual experiences which go beyond "getting laid", were in Europe. Indeed, I had one similar to what you described in QoV. It lasted for hours and it was more akin to body work than sex as we usually think of it -- lots of touching, smelling, kissing ... in short: little of the "getting laid" bullshit. It WAS about withholding, subtlety, not-too-much all at once; not about "getting your rocks off", etc. Climax in this situation is such a let down (!) ...

If there is anything like genetic memory, then the southern Europeans have it regarding knowledge of the potentials of the human body, of touch, caressing, holding, sensing with the hands -- the substance of pure sexuality.

Re the cell phone thing: funny, I was in NYC at the IFC center watching Godard's Film Socialisme (a masterpiece if you ask me), which is about the frailty and fragmentation of social bonds, esp. in Europe, and the guy in front of me (smart and interesting, turns out) started checking his damn email on his blackberry! The irony is just too much to bear (esp. if you see the film and get the point -- the "together" of society is sucked out, and it's all just juxtaposition: no I, thou, we, and so on. No reviewer that I have read has understands this basic idea of the film).

10:08 AM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

Off topic, but funny in a sad kind of way:


Once again, thanks to whomever is writing this stuff. You're paying attention.


6:30 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

A few related threads, woven together ...

I read The Twilight of American Culture again this past weekend, and realized how much of what Maury wrote then has come to pass already. And it's come far more swiftly than I would have expected back then.

Immediately after that, we watched the animated film The Secret of Kells, which I highly recommend to everyone here. Not only is it a visual feast, but its story of Irish monks attempting to preserve knowledge & beauty & imagination against the ruthless forces of greed & destruction is all too contemporary. Of special interest is the young protagonist's uncle, so determined to build walls to stop the Vikings that he regards the ongoing work on the Book of Kells to be useless & irrelevant -- security is all, while the values it's supposed to safeguard are suddenly unimportant. Of course the walls fail, and the book survives to make the difference to the future.

And at the same time, a ridiculous article at Salon suggests that it's time to kill the liberal arts degree:


Read the comments in response, which for the most part refute the short-sighted author's argument passionately & intelligently.


The ONLY obligation MOST four-year colleges (especially liberal-arts) should have toward their students is in making sure that their ability to think and critically reason has been honed; that they have read the classics; that they can write a persuasive document; that they develop an appreciation for cultures and languages other than their own; that they have learned what it means to be an intellectual versus a mere consumer in a society forever looking to quantify the ends in order to justify the means. Fuck that. We need thinkers -- not just believers.

Like health care, an education has no place being judged in the market place of capitalism. A well rounded education is its own reward, with its benefits reaching far beyond which boss might be willing to pay for them. That we would even consider abandoning the liberal arts degree because it no longer serves the interests of capital tells me we may need these degrees all the more.

9:19 AM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

A bit of good news from an unlikely source: the brand new Miss USA stated, in public, that she accepts the fact that evolution is real and believes that it should be taught in public schools. She was one of two (out of 51) contestants to answer correctly.

Well, hell can freeze over now. Still, I am grateful for this tiny sliver of light.

10:21 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Latest figs I read have it that only 28% of the American public believes evolution is a fact. We are an international joke.

Meanwhile, I'm now in London, watching my life savings evaporate. Today I went to Selfridge's to buy tea, a pound of keemun. The salesgirl said: "Instead of charging u any fixed price, why don't you just empty out your bank account?" She laughed in a demented, maniacal way, but she wasn't far off. To recover, I decided I needed a corned beef sandwich. As I got to the cash register, this salesgirl said: "Why not just empty out the contents of yer wallet?" Again, a high-pitched cackle. I left the place a much poorer man.

Lots of BOP's here (Buffoons on Phones), but it follows class lines. I'm staying in a poor part of town, with an ex-student of mine from Germany. When u ride the metro here, passengers yell into their cell phones in unrecognizable languages (save Russian). In the posh parts of town, they just sit quietly; maybe 1 out of 10 reads a bk.

Stay tuned...

2:26 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Do they "serve" corned beef at Wimbledon?

9:49 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Only strawberries and cream, I'm afraid. The "salt beef" was in Selfridge's dept. store. I didn't see any chopped liver, however.


12:42 PM  
Blogger Stone said...

Dear Morris Berman,

I discovered your work some months ago.

I have now read "A Question of Values" and "The Twilight of American Culture," and I am reading "Dark Ages America."

I am very impressed by, and have learned much from your writing. "Dark Ages" is my favorite so far. It is very rewarding, indeed.

I am looking forward to your next work.

This is a short note meant primarily to express my gratitude and appreciation.

I also wanted to recommend an article, which, I am sure, will be of interest to you, namely, "The Anguish in the American Dream," by Robert Jensen, posted today (6/23)at www.CommonDreams.org. It is very much worth reading.

New Paltz, NY

1:51 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Stone,

Thank u 4 your support, much appreciated. I look forward to reading the Jensen article.


4:24 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


Thank you for the link to the Jensen article, which is indeed well worth reading. This early paragraph jumped out at me:

I believe that to be fully alive today is to live with anguish, not for one’s own condition in the world but for the condition of a broken world. My anguish flows not from the realization that it is getting harder for people to live the American Dream, but from the recognition that the American Dream has made it harder to hold together the living world.

Each day it becomes more evident that we're living in the ruins of America. Oh, they're covered up to some extent by a glossy digital facade, an American Dream that's spun from desperation & denial & threadbare illusion -- but anyone who just looks at reality directly can see the shattered scaffolding, the jury-rigged repairs that are failing, the seething mass of darkness & despair & howling terror just waiting to erupt.

Recommended reading: Stanislaw Lem's The Futurological Congress, in which the populace of the dystopian future is drenched with drugs that make everything seem far better than it actually is; only when our protagonist is weaned from those drugs does he see how utterly horrible the world is beneath the glittering hallucination.

We've got those drugs right now: American Idol, millionaire lotteries, superhero movies, SUVs, the Kardashians, Facebook, iPhone apps, etc., etc., etc.

All the more reason to pursue the NMI life as we live among the barbarians, each of us creating our own individual Book of Kells by our quiet actions & civilized inner world.

9:24 AM  
Anonymous St. Abyssal said...

What is this NMI stuff everyone keeps talking about?

4:20 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Saint-

Welcome! We don't have too many saints on this blog, so it's a pleasure to have u join us. As for NMI--New Monastic Individual--pls read "The Twilight of American Culture." U can get it off Amazon for ten cents, I think; maybe less.



5:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a random thought. American society was better when men went to work and women stayed home and raised children. In my suburban community, growing up in the 1970s, all the women were home and children played all over the streets. Ironically, you still see this in the ghetto. Now, the streets of my town are silent, even on weekends. No one knows the neighbors. You may know your next door neighbor, when we used to know all the streets around us. The kids are stashed in some daycare, or are forced to stay at an after school program until 6 pm. It is sickening. I was hoping, in a strange way, that this economic depression would force women back to raising their own children again (imagine that), but it did the opposite. Now men are home and more women are employed. Lots of gender confusion, divorce, etc. This is the reason, in my opinion, for much of the loneliness, lack of community, caring, etc...etc. People make choices and most American women choose to have someone else raise their children. I often engage the nannies in conversation in my area, and they talk about how sick and backward this is. This lack of mothers raising their own children is a profound historical cultural shift. I don't know the rate of this in Europe, but it must be similar. Perhaps this lack of bond with the mother is producing nihilistic youth. It must be studied further.

11:25 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I've enjoyed your dispatches from France and hope you'll do a long post on it. The quality of life in nations that provide basic, affordable services to its citizens makes a difference in the overall atmosphere. I've always found the people in Europe to be friendly and helpful for the most part--but their dislike of Americans is becoming more obvious too.


Thank you for the excellent article by Jensen. It seems more intellectuals are embracing your original idea for NMIs, Dr. Berman, as the waves close in on our ship of state. He calls them "cadres" but it sounded very similar.


In a perfect world, children would be reared within their families and their primary care giver (at least for the first couple of years) could be their mom. Both of my daughters had to do time in day care as I've been a single mom at various times and had no choice but to work. Your point is well taken that the spontenaity of childhood has been limited and their natural curiosity to roam at will (and in safety), compromised. Plenty of people would like to turn back the clock to those days of less stuff to take care of, less traffic to worry about, more time to read and just hang out with no set agenda.

11:34 AM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Anonymous – re: "when men went to work and women stayed home"

That women should stay home and raise children sounds like a 'conservative' idea; but is it? It reminds me of what Paul and Percival Goodman wrote many years ago about people's reactions to city planning.

They said, "People are right to be conservative, but what is conservative? In planning, as elsewhere in our society, we can observe the paradox that the wildest anarchists are generally affirming the most ancient values, of space, sun, and trees, and beauty, human dignity, and forthright means, as if they lived in Neolithic times or the Middle Ages, whereas the so-called conservatives are generally arguing for policies and prejudices that date back only four administrations."

It seems to me that our 'nuclear' family, with men going out to work and women staying home with children, is a relative modern development that came in with the industrial revolution. I certainly wouldn't argue for going back to that! Prior the development of factories (along with schools, hospitals, insane asylums, and prisons), most work, by both men and women was done at home.

In spite of its association with Hillary Clinton, I like the African saying, "It takes a village to raise a child." I would look for solutions in that direction.

David Rosen

1:30 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Still in London, my friends, returning to Mexico in 2 days.

A couple of years ago Michael Greenberg (I think his name was) had a reg. column in the Times Lit. Supplement, and in one issue commented on being on the tube and listening to 4-5 businessmen on the way to work discussing, in depth, the nominees for the Man Booker Prize. He commented on how unlikely such a scene wd be on the NY subway line. Indeed, I'd hafta add that most Americans, businessmen included, probably have no idea of what the nominees for the National Bk Award are, in any given yr; in fact, most probably don't even know that there *is* a National Bk Award!

Anyway, on Sat. I was reading the Guardian, and they had a list of "best-sellers at the Guardian online bkstore," the top 10. I had a hard time believing it. No. 5 was "Finnish Grammar"(!!!!!). All of the rest were intelligent bks. Then yesterday, the Observer had a list of the top 10 for all of England, and at least 7 were actually difficult, intelligent bks. No Danielle Steel or "I Had a Religious Experience" or whatever. There are still indep. bkstores in London; people still read challenging stuff.

Then a British friend gave me a pile of back copies of RSA, the magazine of the Royal Society of Arts, and so many of the articles were abt building better community, how destructive unrestrained capitalism is, etc. I finally had to conclude that despite similarities of language and Anglo-Saxon heritage, I was in a very different country than the US. As I said earlier from France, viewed at a distance, and from the outside, the US seems--actually bizarre, a cultural and political formation that ran off the rails and doesn't really have a lot going for it. It's "fierce" debates actually exist w/in a very narrow spectrum, with both sides basically agreeing that money, power, and the market are what life is abt. Once again I have the impression of a nation imploding, being sucked into its own vortex, w/the rest of the world not so much in opposition as ignoring us and going their own way.

The Observer had an article about some TV show that was a hit in Pakistan, I forget the name, but it was a kind of Jon Stewart guy making fun of the gov't and Pakistani politics. The show had even pioneered some nutty song, to the tune of Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman," called "Burka Woman," with a line about her sexy feet (that being all that was showing): "Burka woman/Walking down the street/Burka woman/Kind I'd like to meet"--etc. What you learn abt Pakistan in the NY Times, of course, is a far cry from this. All in all, I felt once again that Americans are living in a stupefied, simplistic, dumbed-down, cardboard kind of world, w/o a clue as to what other lives are abt, or even--what their own lives are abt.

It also made me a bit sad abt Mexico, my adopted country, because it too is somewhat out of it, being heavily oriented to the US as a cultural and economic model. As Porfirio Diaz famously remarked of the nation, it's too far from god, and too close to the US. Too true.

2:28 AM  
Anonymous Golf Pro said...

Dr. Berman,

I think the thing about the UK that most of us increasingly realise is that we need to get rid of Rupert Murdoch, who is the main conduit for dumbness over here.

You should check out the BBC's iplayer for Adam Curtis's documentary "All Looked Over By Machines Of Loving Grace" if you get the opportunity.

6:08 AM  
Anonymous Jason said...

MB said "--pls read "The Twilight of American Culture." U can get it off Amazon for ten cents, I think; maybe less"

This reminds me of something, I occasionally see Twilight and AQoV in my rounds of used book stores in MN, but the interesting thing is that they are never there longer than a week.

8:46 AM  
Blogger Stone said...

From MB's immediately preceding post:

"It's [sic] "fierce" debates actually exist w/in a very narrow spectrum, with both sides basically agreeing that money, power, and the market are what life is abt."

Of course, the range of what is permitted as a matter for debate is extremely narrow. However, there is nore, and the quotation marks around 'fierce' are probably meant to indicate that: the spectrum is not only artificially narrow (a type of censorship reigns), but the debates are often little more than theatrics charged with clichés and hype, not unlike the theater that passes as our national political life in the capital.

11:08 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

All in all, I felt once again that Americans are living in a stupefied, simplistic, dumbed-down, cardboard kind of world, w/o a clue as to what other lives are abt, or even--what their own lives are abt.

Once in awhile, I'll ask someone what he or she wants from life, and the answer is almost invariably specific material things, as prescribed/programmed by the Consumer Party Line. If I persist & ask, "No, beyond the basics of food & shelter & a certain baseline security, what do you want your life to BE? What is the actual meaning of your life? What do you want it to amount to in the end?"

I usually get puzzled, uncomprehending looks, or a reiteration of all the consumer goods they want ... or else I'm told not to waste their time with "that college philosophizing bullshit" (actual quote).

(Interesting phrase, "consumer GOODS," by the way. Quite telling.)

A couple of times I've persisted a bit more, asking, "How will all that material stuff help you if you develop a terminal illness, or someone close to you suddenly dies, or your life is totally disrupted & shattered by outside forces? What about your inner life?"

I actually had someone reply, quite proudly, "I don't have an inner life!"

12:54 PM  
Blogger James said...

“Civilization and Its Discontents” came in the mail today. I was going to read it concurrently with DAA but it's not very long, and I finished it first. I'm familiar with Freud's friends “oceanic” state of mind, described by Freud as a retrogression to a mental state existing prior to ego development. My experience was just as described, being unable to differentiate the outside from the inside, a non-ego state of being. Not religious, just a fleeting state of mind.

Freud discusses man's aggression and man is certainly a transiently aggressive animal. How else could a predator be successful without the enjoyment of killing? Where else is man going to get his chopped liver? At sporting events I hear, “Kill them, kill them,” coming from the demons in the crowd.. We're really no different than we've always been. As Freud believed, the human components of society may be unable to withstand the anxieties created by their new social arrangement. I certainly detest the arrangement and will eventually withdraw to live beyond the reach of small minds with crusading super-egos.

As for father figures, one is enough. Not fond of chiefs, potentates, governments or Gods.

7:57 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...


I may have mentioned this work before, but Irvine's "A Guide to the Good Life" (don't let the title fool you; it's not some Oprah book club self-help junk) discusses your point abt people lacking a "philosophy of life". He talks about it in the first chapter. The book is about practicing stoic philosophy in the modern world, and he makes the point that in our culture there really is no purpose, and people are dumbfounded when asked about what they want out of life...or as you said, what they want their lives to be. Most people in our culture can easily answer what they want, but have no philosphy of life. It is interesting to read about ancient philosophers and realize their purpose was to contemplate how to live a better life; not just to contemplate. NMI life comes to mind; perhaps that's one of the reasons I'm so drawn to Dr. Berman's work. Most social critics end with some fantastical ways that we can continue to live empty lives but effect some vast change. Not happening.

10:37 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


I'll be getting a copy of that book, based on your recommendation -- thank you!

When I was a teenager in the late 1960s, developing a philosophy of life was a question of major importance. To be sure, many of us (i.e., myself in particular) were overly earnest & stumbling in the dark -- but the question stayed with us, even if it sometimes got misplaced in the years that followed.

It's on my mind again for many reason, which we've discussed here -- all the more since seeing The Tree of Life yesterday. The people in front of us complained it was the worst film they ever saw as they exited, but it had a powerful effect on me.

For one, its depiction of childhood brought back a flood of my own childhood memories, and the emotions that went with them. I especially remembered my late father in so many tiny details, and the strength & compassion he embodied for me.

All those details, shot in deeply beautiful images, also reminded me of just how wondrous the everyday world is, or can be, for those who actually stop & look at it. For this you do need a philosophy of life, something beyond buying & owning & consuming, something beyond a digital façade of reality. My recent reading of Guy Debord's Society of the Spectacle resonated strongly -- even more true today in its dissection of the ways we accept a false & inflated image of reality of the world, while rejecting the actual world.

There's a line from the old Bill Moyers Power of Myth series where he asks how people without any invisible means of support manage when their lives go wrong. That's what's going on today, isn't it -- so many people have no inner means of support, no philosophy of life, no model of what their lives could or should be -- and what will they do when the illusion inevitably fails?


Unsettling food for thought, but I can't disagree with it. The big difference today is that the restraints of civilized life have become terribly threadbare, and threaten to tear apart at any moment. After that, the blood-dimmed tide, I fear.

10:15 AM  
Anonymous Jason said...

Well Mr. Berman, I am from Minnesota and a State Employee so this morning I find myself sitting at the library contemplating all the things I can do without a paycheck since well, the state is shutdown. I can tell you that is sucks, it really, really sucks and I am afraid (but not surprised) that this is only the first of many states and possibly the nation to go through a shutdown ... a sign of the end of America? I hope so.

10:30 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Not to worry; it'll all get sorted out when Michelle is president.

Onward and Downward!


8:35 PM  
Anonymous St. Abyssal said...

Questions to liven the lull:

1.) If the United States as we know it ended tomorrow, how would that process occur and would the remains look like? States being relatively unchanges but living as independant countries? Dictatorship by a right-wing demagogue or military figure? The Chinese collecting their debts by force?

2.) If that occurred, what would the wisest course of action for a DAA65er or NMI to survive and help bring back some level of culture and sanity?

3.) What would you do personally?

4.) How do you feel personally about the concept of the United States not just changing or going through a crisis, but actually ending as an entity?

11:12 PM  
Anonymous Ray said...

St. Ab,

The most recent high-profile models are perhaps those of Dmitry Orlov (Soviet-Union-collapse-analogies-unfavorable-to-us-with-lots-of-dark-humor-schadenfreude-over-fat-people-sitting-around-waiting-to-be-fed-and-supplied-in-collapsing-suburbs-being-stripped-for-raw-materials-while-the-farsighted-cultivate-friendships-with-local-criminals-and-ex-cops etc. etc. etc. kind of stuff.

and James Howard Kunstler (much of the above-PLUS-angry-guntoting-southern-micro-theocracies-meet-overidealized-New-England-back-to-the-land-sustainable-walking-communities-MINUS-Soviet-analogies-unfavorable-to-us kind of stuff.

5:26 PM  
Anonymous Mary UK said...

I found my way here via Gary Corseri's review of your Counting Blessings on Dissident Voice today.
I am so glad to have found your blog and look forward to getting your books and to reading them.

5:05 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

I love your poems. You really are a amazing artist. You inspire me to improve my own art.

2:19 PM  

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