July 03, 2011

Fork in the Road

There is a theory that the real cause of the collapse of Rome was purely chemical: the Romans manufactured their utensils from lead, the lead slowly leaked into their food through repeated use, and from there the lead entered the bloodstream and finally the brain, which thus deteriorated over time. Most historians don’t put much stock in this, correctly seeing it as one-dimensional and purely material in nature, and dismissive of the social and economic factors (along with Rome’s “imperial overstretch”) that clearly did the ancient empire in. But one wonders if there may be some truth to the theory, even if only a small one. Maybe it was a factor in the overall drama, part of the synergistic forces that led to the empire’s decline. It’s an interesting thought.

I was thinking about this in the context of mounting evidence that in a mechanical-material way, Americans may also be destroying their brains. It now turns out that constant cell phone use may be a cause of tumors in the brain, although the evidence is not definitive at this point. More definitive is the neurological fallout from the use of screens—TV, Internet, e-books, text messaging—along with the phenomenon of multitasking that typically accompanies this. Here the pile-up of data is quite large, collected in articles that have appeared over the last decade in journals such as Harper’s, Atlantic Monthly, the New Yorker, and the New Atlantis, and discussed at length in Nicholas Carr’s book The Shallows. (In particular see studies by Walter Kirn, Christine Rosen, and Maryanne Wolf of Tufts University.) Persistent staring into screens, it turns out, changes the brain, and not in positive directions. Constant screen use seems to have an effect similar to constant marijuana use. It should thus not be too much of a surprise that concomitant with the so-called information revolution has been a dumbing down of the American population, although obviously there are other factors involved (the commodification of education, e.g.). But unlike the Roman fork, which is highly debatable, this material factor is quite certain.

Equally interesting (or horrific, in my view) is what appears to have happened to the American brain as a result of the shift in psychiatry from therapy to drugs. Three comprehensive and very well documented studies have just appeared, arguing that the model of mental illness being caused by brain chemistry is full of holes: The Emperor’s New Drugs, by Irving Kirsch (psychologist at the University of Hull in England); Anatomy of an Epidemic, by Robert Whitaker (author of a 2001 study of the history of the treatment of mental illness); and Unhinged, by Daniel Carlat (a Boston psychiatrist). All three of these men are highly respected in their fields, and their conclusions, along with a discussion of the bible of psychiatry, the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, about to go into its fifth edition), are presented in two recent articles by Marcia Angell in the New York Review of Books. The overall picture is quite grim.

First, the stats: between 1987 and 2007, the number of those so disabled by mental disorders that they qualified for Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance increased 2.5 times, so that 1 out of 76 Americans now falls into this category (what an amazing statistic). For children, the increase is 35 times during the same time period, and mental illness is now the leading cause of disability among this population. A survey of American adults conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health, 2001-3, found that 46% of them met the criteria of the American Psychiatric Association for being mentally ill at some point in their lives. Ten percent of Americans over the age of six now take antidepressants, and I read elsewhere that in terms of the global market (i.e. in dollars, in sales), American consumption of these drugs amounts to 2/3 of the entire world’s—this for a country that has less than 5% of the planetary population. Even so, as Ethan Watters documents in Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche, “the virus is us: As we introduce Americanized ways of treating mental illnesses, we are in fact spreading the diseases.”

As Ms. Angell points out, much of this spread (at home and abroad) has been economically driven, because once you say that mental illness is the result of an imbalance in brain chemistry, then the obvious “solution” is a pill that will rebalance the brain; and Eli Lilly, Pfizer and the rest are right there to market Prozac, Zoloft, Risperdal, and etc., and make fortunes from the lot. These companies, she writes, “through various forms of marketing, both legal and illegal, and what many people would describe as bribery—have come to determine what constitutes a mental illness and how the disorders should be diagnosed and treated.” But the brain chemistry argument, as all three of her authors point out, involves a great leap in logic. It was found that psychoactive drugs affect neurotransmitter levels in the brain, and from this it was concluded that “the cause of mental illness is an abnormality in the brain’s concentration of these chemicals that is specifically countered by the use of the appropriate drug.” As Daniel Carlat notes, by the same logic one could argue that the cause of all pain is a deficiency of opiates, or that headaches are caused by having too little aspirin in one’s system. The logic, in short, is upside down; and as far as the empirical evidence goes—there is none. Decades of research have demonstrated that neurotransmitter function is normal in people with mental illness before treatment. (One has to wonder about the whole cholesterol industry as well. I read one study that indicated that half of Americans who have heart attacks also have low cholesterol. But that’s another story.)

This type of research tends not to make it into the public eye, however, because negative results on drug efficiency “often languish unseen within the FDA….This practice greatly biases the medical literature, medical education, and treatment decisions.” Positive studies by drug companies get extensively publicized; negative ones get suppressed. And there is a lot of evidence to show that it is the drugs that cause the mental illness. Schizophrenia and depression used to be episodic, interspersed with long periods of normalcy. Now, they are chronic and lifelong. The results of long-term use of psychoactive drugs, says Steve Hyman (a former director of the NIMH and former provost of Harvard), are “substantial and long-lasting alterations in neural function.” The brain begins to function in a different way, in other words, even after only a few weeks of drug use. Complex chain reactions ensue, ones that require additional drugs to combat the side effects of the original drugs. One researcher, Nancy Andreasen, has published evidence that the use of antipsychotic drugs is associated with shrinkage of the brain—atrophy of the prefrontal cortex. (This did make it into the public domain, specifically the New York Times, 15 September 2008.)

Angell’s discussion of the DSM is equally chilling. It turns out that a lot of the decisions regarding what to include as a mental illness have been arbitrary, even whimsical. George Vaillant, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, wrote in 1984 that the book represented “a bold series of choices based on guess, taste, prejudice, and hope.” In fact, there are no citations of scientific studies in the DSM to support its decisions--! The actual “science” of the book is thus dubious. Coming back to the economic factor, it turns out that drug companies lavish huge attention and largesse on psychiatrists—gifts, free samples, meals, plane tickets to conferences, and jobs as consultants and speakers. Of the 170contributors to the current version of the book, the DSM-IV-TR, 95 of them have financial ties to drug companies, including all of the contributors to the sections on mood disorders and schizophrenia. What these folks do is expand diagnostic boundaries or create new diagnoses, new “illnesses,” which meshes pretty well with the financial goals of the companies who employ them. David Kupfer, the head of the task force currently working on the fifth edition of the DSM, was (prior to his appointment in this capacity) a consultant for Eli Lilly, Forest Pharmaceuticals, Solvay/Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson, and Servier and Lundbeck. What a shock, that the already large list of mental disorders will be even larger in the new edition. So much for “science.”

Apparently, then, we have our own leaden forks, to the extent that lead may have attacked the Roman nervous system. It’s the result of a number of factors, including the American worship of technology, the search for simple (and individualistic) answers, and a lust for profits that is so huge that Lilly and all the rest couldn’t care less as to whether they are harming the American public. Nor is it very likely that any of the literature on cell phone cancer, neurological damage from screen usage, iatrogenic mental illness (i.e. illness that is doctor-generated, or Big Pharma-generated), will make any difference at all. For the fork in the road occurred decades ago, in psychiatry as well as telecommunications, and a reversal of any of this seems virtually impossible at this point. And as the American brain goes, so goes the empire. I can't help wondering if any of this will make it into the history books, on our decline and fall.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

From my long ago school days, I remember our Latin teacher telling the class about the lead problem (not from forks, but from urns).

A year or so later when I listed that as one of the reasons for the decline of the Roman Empire on a History test, my History teacher refused to give credit for the answer as it wasn't in any of his text books.

It all comes down to who writes the books about our history.

1:56 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Not quite. It depends on the general consensus in the profession (in this case, historians of the Roman empire), their assessment based on the evidence in those bks, and on their reputation as historians. That's what journals and reviews are for; it's not really that arbitrary.


2:01 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

You understand the pervasive drug/psychiatry corruption far better than many people who have worked in it for years. It's becoming something of holy writ that a pill will take care of every symptom and is the answer to every problem. I've worked with the mentally ill for almost two decades and with drug and alcohol addicted patients who all leave the hospital with a hand full of prescriptions. Our medical system is insane and most particularly, this branch. Where I currently work part time we test new drugs too---on the homeless and unemployed since they're all "volunteers" and this may be their only source of income or a roof over their heads. Think about that, America, next time you pop a prozac down the hatch. On Alternet today is an article by Kristen Gwyne on oxycontin and I can tell you from seeing hundreds of people detox from this and other pain meds how really awful this stuff is. There's so much money in these drugs they'll never, ever be taken off the market; in fact, every opportunity is used to expand their use.

When will your book of poetry be available on Amazon? I tried several times to order it from the website you listed but it wouldn't accept my cc and I have no problems on Amazon.

4:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you familiar with a book called "The Age of Insanity: Modernity and Mental Health" by John F. Schumaker. In it the author writes that since the 1950's the rates of deppression have increased by a factor of 10. Also, the rates of suicide and anxiety have also skyrocketed. What this suggests is that these people are not crazy, but the society in which they live in is crazy. Some of the characteristics that the author lists as causing this are "commodification, consumerism, social marginality, technological encroachment, amplified organizational power, homogenized drives and tastes, deregulation of volition and emotion, ambiguity, fragmentation, impaired social memory, banality, the replacement of reality by images and fantasy, incapacity for emotional commitment and empathy, detachment from the past and present, affectional allegiance to technology, material ambitions that take precedence over social and environmental concerns, a commercial view of justice, hypercompetition, compulsive buying, boredom, narcissism, conformity, corporate domination of culture, dumbing down of media and culture, dehumanization, anomie, ecological sociopathy, radical individualism, meaninglessness, etc. Reading this book confirmed for me much of what I sort of intuitively felt but was unable to articulate in my mind in precise terms. I highly recommend it.

4:36 PM  
Blogger Russ said...

The fall of Rome is a simple matter; they lacked Sarah Palin to save them. If only you could have known about her before writing Twilight.

4:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the one hand, the Romans really did poison themselves with lead. Lead acetate. Sugar cane was unknown in the Roman Empire, as were sugar beets and most other moden sources of sweetening. Other than honey, which was fairly rare and expensive for them, they favored a sweetener called defrutum (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defrutum) made by boiling down grape juice in lead pots. It was very important NOT to use copper or other metals. These made the syrup taste metallic and unpleasant. (Stainless steel was beyond the Romans, and apparently ceramic pots were impractical.) Only a lead pot produced the desired sweet tasting syrup. Lead acetate itself actually has a sweet taste. The alchemists called it "sugar of lead". The poisonous effects of lead being unknown, the Romans thought they had a 'scientific breakthrough' as we would say today. This lead-laced sweetened was used to sweeten all sorts of foods, and even helped them preserve their wines longer, saving time and money. (Which as just as important to the Roman ruling class as to the American ruling class...) Read the note in the wiki article about incredible lead levels in a historically reproduced batch of defrutum. That must have contributed in some way to the over-all decline of the Roman Empire.

But as the title post notes, there were plenty of other social and economic reasons for the decline.

6:37 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Sort of like Sweet n Low, I guess...


Yeah, poor Sarah. She streaked across the sky like a comet, and now, for some reason, has faded into nothingness. I guess I'll hafta shift my erotic/political attachment to Michelle, who is also wonderfully stupid. Well, at least I won't hafta have sex on an ice floe, among the meese.


AACKK! I can't believe u cdn't order my bk from the website. I just wrote the publisher, asking her WTF was going on, and will let u know as soon as I hear back. I also asked her, a month ago, to post the thing on Amazon; but thus far, she hasn't done it. I know there is a conspiracy out there to render my work invisible, but poetry? Give me a break. Meanwhile, re: Big Pharma: check out a film called "Love and Other Drugs," which exposes the industry pretty well, even tho that's not the express purpose. It even mentions selling off-label (which is illegal, and done all the time). There is no stopping this juggernaut, and it's killing all of us, so that a tiny handful can be billionaires.


7:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Medical personnel are always astounded when they request my "medication list" and I hand them a piece of paper with exactly one medicaion listed (I use a steroid inhaler for respiratory allergies). Apparently, for a 48 year-old American woman, this is unheard of. What a sad commentary on the health of the American people and the practice of medicine.
But now you have me spooked about computer screen use--my job requires me to be parked in front of a computer for hours daily.

10:03 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


In general, America is the disease. Leaving it is the cure.


10:16 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

Excellent essay...as a traditional "talk therapist" with no MD and therefore no prescriptive power, I am often referred clients who are either already heavily medicated or who are med seeking. the other day I had a new client come in, woman in her 20s, and the first thing she did when I asked her what I could do for her was produce a list of medications she is "interested in trying". when I informed her that as a counselor I do not prescribe, she said "what exactly do you do then?". I asked what she would like me to do to help her and she said "get me some pills". she had no interest in inner life, exploring her problems, being heard and empathized with, etc. She said "I was told I was going to see a mental health professional".

anyhow, I have many anecdotes I could share. There are two pscyhiatrists at the practice where I work and both will send me notes telling me to change a diagnosis so they can bill a certain way, justify a certain medication, etc. When I recently refused (because I had spent 3 hours with the young man and the psychiatrist had spent 5 minutes), my job was threatened.

I've read of the DSM panels that whoever shouted the loudest got his or her diagnoses in the book. A big mess. I wanted to be a therapist because I was so intrigued by the opportunity to do talk therapy with people, and "med management" is so entrenched that they view me as some sort of charlatan. Anyhow, I trust you had a safe return to Mexico, Dr. B. Glad to be back?

10:43 PM  
Blogger 2bsirius said...

Could it be that the only way out of this slow electronically induced mental decline--and its accompanying attention disintegration--is to revert to a kind of "Luddite thinking" for at least part of every day?

Today my Luddite thinking session will be spent in the park with my Springer Spaniel and Chris Hedges' new book, "The World as It Is." If he's right, the myth of progress has reached its terminus, so it might make sense to try to find a viable collective fate that is not dependent on it, but that will not be easy.

As my attention slowly begins to recover from an overdose of living in what Nicholas Carr aptly called the shallows, I have to admit that what I'm seeing is frightening apathy and a lot of flaccid thinking.

The corporate and banking kleptocracy is destroying our democratic infrastructure and pillaging what little is left of our natural resources for quick profit while most of us sit like contented sheep, mindlessly staring at computer terminals or iphones screens, checking on the latest celebrity gossip or our favourite team's latest scores.

Yup, I'm off to the park and I won't be packing anything that will keep me plugged into the 'information grid,' so I'll be free to just sit and think and read for a few hours.

My next read is going to be "A Question of Value." I had to order it from America, so I'll be doing my Luddite thinking about that next week.

6:49 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear 2b:

Thank u for writing in. Yes, I think that any respectable NMI wd devote part of every day to some neo-Luddite behavior. This culture has become The Matrix, a corporate-commercial wrap-around that looks vibrant and alive, but is actually Death in electronic form. When George Steiner wrote that "modernity is the systematic suppression of silence," several decades ago, he had no idea what was coming down the pike. We now live in an ever-accelerating vortex of shit, with 99% of the American public thinking it's groovy. I tell u, if this were some sort of dystopian sci-fi novel, no reasonable person wd believe it.


8:50 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Thanks for checking into the book and I'll watch your blog for an update.


Over the years I've worked with therapists and psychiatrists and seen exactly what you described. Five minutes of a laundry list of questions and they're ready to put them on a boat load of medications, including antipsychotics for anxiety that are advertised on TV! The premise that we're poisoning ourselves with drugs and technology is accurate as far as I can tell. I saw on the news about a year ago that a current study estimated teenagers spent about 6 hours/day texting or on the phone or on the internet. What a strange reality we've created for ourselves and kids.

8:51 AM  
Anonymous Rowdy said...

Anti-depressants also lead to killing sprees. Eric Harris at Columbine in 1999 is described as having been ‘depressed’ and ‘on medication’.

Here is a partial list of other incidents (there are several more, including some where it is likely, but not proven, anti-depressants were involved) which must surely suggest that this possible link badly needs investigating.

Patrick Purdy, culprit of the 1989 Cleveland School massacre in Stockton, California, had been on anti-depressants. Jeff Weise, perpetrator of the March 2005 Red Lake High School massacre, was on anti-depressants.

Anti-depressants were found in the cabin of the ‘Unabomber’ Ted Kaczynski. Michael McDermott, culprit of the 2000 ‘Wakefield massacre’ in Massachusetts, was on anti-depressants.

Kip Kinkel, culprit of a 1998 murder spree in Oregon, was on anti-depressants.

John Hinckley, who tried to kill Ronald Reagan in 1981, was on anti-depressants.

It is both interesting and worry­ing that, with so many such unhinged and otherwise inexplicable killings perpetrated by people taking legal medication, the official world has been so slow to look into the matter.

9:45 AM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...


Thank you for affirming what I've been experiencing as I've only been in the counseling profession for a year (my internship, with court mandated ex convicts was more rewarding than the private practice, b/c we didn't have psychiatrists medicating all of them)...anyhow, it's nice to hear from another medical professional.

I guess if talk therapy goes away I can always be a research psychologist and contribute to articles on Yahoo such as today's entitled "Seven Reasons why Some Women Cheat". Then I can make excuses for all of the bad behavior of my countrymen and base it on BS. see, I'm thinking ahead.

11:05 AM  
Blogger Al M said...

I assume you've seen Zeitgeist part 3, where they talk about this problem specifically.
Our society is indeed the problem, although my allergy meds and blood pressure pills do indeed seem to help.

1:23 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Just got message from my poetry publisher. She said no one else is having trouble ordering the bk, so she's not sure what to tell u. I guess most people pay with PayPal, but if you click on Checkout, it gives you the option of std credit cards. I'd suggest trying again, and if you can't get it to work, perhaps we can talk on the fone and I can walk u thru it. Thanx.


3:41 PM  
Anonymous JM said...

If you haven't seen Adam Curtis' superb BBC documentary The Century of the Self ( http://tinyurl.com/yns2fy ) I recommend it highly.

He presents the strange history of psychiatry and the DSM and posits that mass pharmaceutical drugging may be an effort to enforce conformity to an inhuman social arrangement rather than making society more humane.

As a matter of fact I recommend all of Curtis' films. You'll have a better understanding of society for having seen them and they are fascinating.


4:51 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

"What happens once democracy has been used up? When it has been hollowed out and emptied of meaning? What happens when each of its institutions has metastasized into something dangerous? What happens now that democracy and the free market have fused into a single predatory organism with a thin, constricted imagination that revolves almost entirely around the idea of maximizing profit? Is it possible to reverse this process? Can something that has mutated go back to being what it used to be?"

--Arundhati Roy

9:30 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Additional evidence of American brain damage:

Poll: 1776 date puzzles some Americans
By: CNN Political Unit

(CNN) - A slight majority of Americans know what year the United States declared independence, according to a new national survey.

The Marist Poll released in honor of America's Independence Day, July 4, showed 58 percent of residents aware their country declared independence in 1776. Twenty-six percent were unsure and 16 percent named another date. Younger Americans, those under 30 years of age, were less likely to have the correct answer with 31 percent, compared to Americans between the ages of 45 and 59 who said 1776 75 percent of the time.

One in four Americans also didn't know from which country the United States seceded, with 76 percent correctly naming Great Britain, 19 percent unsure and 5 percent naming another country.

The survey of 1,003 adults was conducted between June 15 and June 23 via telephone and had a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

9:59 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Posted on cnn.com today:

(Health.com) -- Children whose mothers take Zoloft, Prozac, or similar antidepressants during pregnancy are twice as likely as other children to have a dianosis of autism or a related disorder, according to a small new study, the first to examine the relationship between antidepressants and autism risk.

This class of antidepressants, known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), may be especially risky early on in a pregnancy, the study suggests. Children who were exposed to the drugs during the first trimester were nearly four times as likely to develop an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) compared with unexposed children, according to the study, which appears in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

7:25 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Soma, anyone? Now in new Acai Berry & Green Tea flavors!

Joe, your posts were enlightening & sad. I was immediately reminded of an article in the NY Times a few months back, "Talk Doesn’t Pay, So Psychiatry Turns Instead to Drug Therapy" -


It just so happens that before I read this latest post & its responses, I'd begun re-reading Eric Wilson's thoughtful little book Against Happiness, which deals with the American obsession with EXTREME! 24/7 HAPPINESS! at all costs.
I highly recommend it.


I'll be watching Century of the Self very shortly. I agree, Big Pharma is more than willing & eager to degrade humanity for control & profit. There's a pill for everything now -- many for any one "problem" in fact. And quite often that "problem" is not buying into the Official Model of society.

Over the long weekend I caught several episodes of The Twilight Zone & was reminded again that so many of them dealt with the dangers of social conformity, especially enforced with (allegedly) the best of intentions -- best for the powers that be, of course, who don't want any disturbances, not a single ripple in the placid reflecting pool of controlled existence.

9:11 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I tried again yesterday to order the book and was successful. I'm not sure what I was doing wrong to begin with (my attempts were all on the same day and it could have been just a brief glitch in the system somewhere) but I appreciate your offer of help. That was very generous as I'm sure you have better things to do than help the technically challenged perform simple tasks.

Joe and Rowdy--

The companies that peddle psychoactive meds would say "we'll never know how many deaths were prevented b/c lots of people are on medications who would otherwise not be able to control their impulses". I've heard this argument used by professionals who should know how weak this logic is. The truth is, there's a lot that's not known about human beings but rather than accept this mystery and treat the brain and our bodies with respect and study its complexity with caution and humility, new technologies are developed for its assault. Where I work, we just started early trials on cortisol and depression. So the endocrine system is the next in line to be manipulated and blamed for the emptiness of modernity and to generate a whole new class of drugs to be hawked to a desperate public.

10:25 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


Yes, I've heard that "logic" before & never bought it either. Might as well say, "We'll never know how many lives were saved by use of torture," as many have indeed said without shame.

We're talking about a massive effort to stigmatize difference & nonconformity, and to address the symptoms without troubling with the causes. Those twisted roots are the last thing anyone wants to unearth & untangle, because we might then see all the ugly, nasty little things clinging to them, both personal & cultural -- the ugly, nasty little things we allow as long as we're not forced to acknowledge them. Just as we agree not to acknowledge that Faustian bargain in the first place.

11:26 AM  
Anonymous Ray said...

One of the more prominent late Cold War memes floating around the US media was how the Soviet Union systematically supressed and punished growing dissent - by defining it as a mental illness and developing a whole science of "socialist" psychiatry to medicalize what was essentially a political problem. This came complete with its own military-industrial infrastructure of Red-pharma producers, "intake specialists" in various kinds of organizations who subjected dissidents to mental evaluations after arrests or other run-ins with authority, Marxist-Leninist theorists of brain-mind-society interface,psychiatric prison camps, etc. etc.

Since it was outside our ideology we labelled this system an opressive perversion of science, as indeed it was. Pot/Kettle.

I'm sure we are capable of working up a new campaign against any Chinese version of this, despite our own late imperial stupor. But this time, the Chinese might just have enough inter-cultural postmodern psy-war nous to start indicting our system too, once they read this blog.

The globe as a madhouse run by its inmates, divided into various hostile factions, each fully aware that the others are, indeed, insane. With the climate control on the blink. There's a collapse scenario for you.

12:23 PM  
Anonymous Nigel R. said...

A measure of how over-medicated we are is the presence of many prescription drugs in our water supply - some of it due to people flushing unwanted pills down the toilet but much due to people gulping down more tranquilizers, painkillers etc than their bodies can process and, um, pooping and peeing the remainder out. (And if that's not a metaphor for something I don't know what is.)

2:54 PM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

Well, folks, even if you aren't taking this stuff in pill form, the bad news is you are consuming it anyway. It is well established that psychiatric drugs (and the active ingredients in birth control pills) are in public drinking water supplies in detectable amounts. The FDA claims they are in such low concentrations that there is no public health risk. But just think about how much of this stuff is passing through humans in the US everyday for it to be detectable in drinking water at all. The answer is: a shitload.

Onward and downward, indeed. I feel like I have all the dignity of a average E. coli.


7:23 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Dr. Berman,

I've been on and off the couch (and innumerable anti-deps) since 1977 with nothing to show for it. I have come to the inescapable conclusion that the problem is not that I am mentally ill, but that I am a sane individual trapped in an insane society. In short, I'm maladjusted for madness.

Not that the current shrink (number 10 or so in a series, collect them all) wants to hear about it. The last two meds I was put on, Klonopin and Topamax, damn near killed me in different ways. When I object to continuing the pharma-roulette she just looks at me and talks about other new, miracle drugs.

Obviously, this isn't going to work - it's never going to work. All she has is book solutions and the madmen wrote the book.

The trick I'll have to work, at long last, and on my own, is how to exist in this society without thinking a pill or a shrink is going to fix it. You can't fix American society and I refuse to accept it's mores. I frankly don't know how to do it - when I read my daily news sites I have to fight the urge to give in to despair. I'm thinking of becoming a hermit.

Well I know one thing - if Bachmann wins in '12, I'll tunnel my way out of this hell if I have to.

-- Keith

7:30 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Hermit's good; NMI is even better. I'd start tunneling rt now.


10:37 PM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

Dear MB,

A fine post. Also think of the school children who are getting the best medication that education can supply. Diagnosed ADD & ADHD. (The explosion of acronyms in the lexicon is itself a sign of a disorder, no?)

I was so very lucky in my late twenties--when my life was a 3-D movie (divorce, dissertation, depression) to have found caring therapists in the Gestalt and Bioenergetics modalities. What if, for one day only, all Americans breathed normally, I mean as Fritz Perls, Wilhelm Reich, Ida Rolf, or Moshe Feldenkrais describe? I think it would certainly interrupt positively the course of human events in this society.

Now in my early sixties, I court the Three Graces of Poverty, Poetry, and Verity. But because of the former work, I find as William Butler Yeats says, "A tattered coat upon a stick shall dance and sing..."

--Mark N.

12:37 PM  
Blogger kate59 said...

Dr. Berman --
Thank you for this interesting and timely post. I think (particularly concerning the anti-depressants) that we need to take a good look at ourselves as a society. I've been concerned for years about the over-prescribing of these drugs. Every week someone else I know is on some anti-dep, and I always wonder about the necessity of it. Obviously, it's complicated. I am personally deeply concerned about statin drugs (for cholesterol) and the HUGE number of Americans on them -- was prescribed a statin recently and after doing lots of research I rejected it firmly. Would love to hear what you have to say about them.

1:52 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

"By body, I understand a mode which expresses in a certain and determinate manner the essence of God, in so far as he is considered as an extended thing."


"The role of the writer is to describe a situation so truthfully...that the reader can no longer evade it."


3:28 PM  
Anonymous Art said...


If you haven't already found them, check out The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics (thincs.org).

I also highly recommend the blog of Emily Deans, M.D. (Evolutionary Psychiatry) at the Psychology Today website. See her article, "Low Cholesterol and Suicide".

Structural problems require structural solutions, and this applies to the human brain no less than it does to social systems. But, drugs are usually not the answer; those pesky little environmental factors (diet, time spent in nature, moving your body) often are the most beneficial. In a screwed-up society, however, who has time for them?

1:29 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Great post and I can't wait for your book to come out.I am constantly rereading your first 2 on the USA and am always discovering ideas I did not quite catch previously. To call you prescient is not good enough. You are more like Merlin who, it is said, "lived backwards" in that he had already seen the future.
Anyway, we now have quite a lethal cocktail out there- millions of American minds either destroyed by drugs or a pernicious educational system (is it any wonder that 100's of teachers and administrators in Atlanta helped stdents on the state exams?)an economy in total freefall, and finally an abundance of guns (32 shootings in one weekend in Philadelphia; I mean so much for brotherly love).
Yes, health room in inner-city elementary schools should simply be called pharmacies as so many students are medicated for showing anti-social behavior which I feel is simply exhibiting the pangs of growing up.
Now with budget cuts in Penna. there will be no more special ed. classes and the truly crazies will be included in the regular classroom. And woe to any teacher who cannot show adequate progress in reading and math as he or she is spending at least 80% of the day dealing with classroom management issues.
I think Bachman should be our choice for 2012. She makes Palin look like Jefferson. For instance, she thinks it's good that Melissa Etheridge has cancer so it will give her time to reevaluate her "wayward lifestyle", thinks only Glen Beck can solve the nation's national debt crisis and who's husband calls gays "savages" in need of strict discipline.
In short, it's a daily horror show here but the only thing the media cares about is if Obama can win a second term.

8:34 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


It's just too long a discussion for me rt now, but there is apparently some evidence that
1. Low cholesterol intake is bad for the brain, and may be the cause of the rise of Alzheimer's over the last 30 yrs;
2. The whole scare was concocted by Big Pharma, to sell expensive drugs in huge amounts, which they have done;
3. Taking these drugs changes the #s of your blood rdg, but once yer off them you go rt back to where u were--hence, they don't really prevent heart disease;
4. 50% of people who have heart attacks also have low cholesterol;
5. There really is no difference between eating animal fat and eating olives--u can eat lard for all it matters, inasmuch as cholesterol is manufactured internally, by the body;
6. Any attempt to get this info out is suppressed by Big Pharma.

I'm not saying this is all definitively correct; it's just starting to look like it. As Art says, it's lifestyle that prevents atherosclerosis--esp. low stress.


9:08 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Today's example of The Dumbening:


On This Week, during an extremely sophisticated and insightful debate on the importance of the Constitution, Christiane Amanpour apparently attempted to keep the conversation at an elevated level of intelligence by showcasing an SAT-worthy word in the middle of her statement. Amanpour casually said “perspicacious,” yet dropping such a big word apparently served as a bat signal for the ABC graphics department to go into emergency action!

Said action? A caption spelling "perspicacious," showing how it's pronounced, and providing a definition of it.

I'm not sure about the cholesterol controversy; but since I had emergency triple bypass surgery some 8 years ago, fixing a previously unknown condition that 17 cardiologists said should have killed me months before without any warning, I can hardly be objective. Sometimes meds are necessary. Maybe mine aren't ... but after such a close brush with death, I tend to trust the doctors who saved my life. :)

But we don't have to agree on every little thing here, do we?

I do feel that my subsequent lifestyle change of regular exercise & far better food prepared from scratch has made a big difference in my continuing health. It's stress that I do my best to avoid above all else -- no easy task at times!

Hmm, does that make me perspicacious?

1:21 PM  
Blogger kate59 said...

Art and Morris, thank you for your comments. I'll definitely follow up on those links. It's great to hear from other people who confirm my own beliefs/fears about cholesterol and treatment in this country. I would add that the statin drugs used to treat cholesterol are dangerous to the user in a number of ways (for instance, blocking co-Q-10). Anyway, thanks for the info. Great to be on this site, as always.

1:24 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Long before Lipitor, there was the Lipid Hypothesis, the idea that saturated fat raised cholesterol and cholesterol caused heart disease. Big Agriculture was there to seize the day: butter was demonized, and replaced in the American kitchen with Crisco shortening. Yum!

Recently, I heard the rumor that our government issued warnings against cholesterol in the 1960s at the direction of President Johnson, who wanted to reduce the price of eggs to improve the inflation statistics. Don't know if that one is true.

Not all fats are created equal, however. There is considerable evidence that the industrial "vegetable" oils, not natural animal fats, contribute to disease. But, corn (and soy) is still king at the USDA. (BTW, coenzyme Q-10 is only found in animal foods)

Tim, rest easy: in her article, Emily Deans writes that "Statins seem to improve mortality for middle-aged men who have known heart disease, have had a stroke, or have high levels of inflammatory markers." Trusting your doctor's dietary advice, well, that's another story!

10:30 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


Oh, I plan my own diet! Nothing pre-packaged if I can help it, making as much from scratch (locally grown organic scratch, at that) as I possibly can, smaller portions, etc. I'll be 58 in December, and I'd like to enjoy 2 or 3 more decades in good health if I can. :)

Today's example of The Dumbening:

Apparently there's a special "intermediate level" reader's edition of The Great Gatsby available now, all of 67 pages long.

Roger Ebert's blog has an appalled & disgusted reaction to this caricature:


Roger comments:

What depresses me is what this Macmillan Reader edition says about our American educational system. Any high school student who cannot read The Great Gatsby in the original cannot read. That student has been sold a bill of goods. We know that teachers at the college level complain that many of their students cannot read and write competently. If this is an example of a book they are assigned, can they be blamed?

Just to make it clear, Fitzgerald's gorgeously haunting ending has been reduced from several lyrical & heartrending paragraphs to:

Gatsby had believed in his dream. He had followed it and nearly made it come true.

Everybody has a dream. And, like Gatsby, we must all follow our dream wherever it takes us.

Some unpleasant people became part of Gatsby's dream. But he cannot be blamed for that. Gatsby was a success, in the end, wasn't he?

10:20 AM  
Anonymous Ellie said...

Regarding the medicating of America, does anyone else wonder if this has something to do with why there's no real effective opposition to our corporate overlords?

It seems to me like the past had opposition - strikes, labor organizing, peasant rebellions, or at least serious intellectual opposition that got circulated to the oppressed. But we have next to nothing. There's the occassional self-referential "march for [x]", political rally, or "protest" - held with permits in "free speech zones" of course - that serve no real purpose and have absolutely no effect. (I could say "serve no purpose at all", but I'll be generous and assume that maybe these things serve the marginal purpose of helping the participants feel less alone, or something.) The serious intellectual oppostion that does exist is sparse and marginalized, and one needs to hunt to find it.

But I always wonder if one of the primary reasons people just bend over and take it from the corporatocracy (is that a word?) is because they're medicated into submission. Unhappy? No need to question your life or the structure of the society that's making you miserable - it's not them, it's you, you're just "chemically unbalanced", take a pill. Stressed? Can't sleep? Well, there's nothing to be done about your job or other external circumstances that might be stressing you out, so don't question those circumstances, or (god forbid) try to organize for change - you just need to take some pills for your "anxiety disorder" and some more pills for your "sleep disorder".

And so, any opposition to the insanity is "diagnosed" as a mental problem, and people are drugged into complacency. And of course, it starts early. The smart, curious, perceptive kid who perceives that adults are full of crap, society is hypocritical, school exists largely to manufacture cogs for the system, etc., better keep his or her mouth shut, or else risk a "diagnosis" and a brain-damaging drugging.

I don't know exactly what percent of the people I know are on drugs for their "mood disorders", but I know it's very high. The thing is, in my whole life, I think I've met maybe a handful of people who probably did have a real mental health problem. (Honestly, I think when you DO meet someone who really does have a disorder, you can tell - it's NOT the same as all the people who are just miserable, anxious, and unhappy for good reasons.) I'll buy that the truly "mentally ill" exist, but they are few and far between. And I strongly suspect that all of the "sick" people on numb-out drugs are what once might have been the force of change, if the only way to feel better was to actually organize to fix the external problem.

12:43 PM  
Blogger Cj said...

In regards to cholesterol:



3:33 PM  
Blogger Cj said...

Off topic but a great presentation by Glenn Greenwald:



3:34 PM  
Blogger James said...

Humans are not well adapted to systematic living. Living within a system that demands specific organization and molding of the mind to fulfill its needs. Drugs are not really for you, but rather to maintain a “productive member of society”, that will report to cell #33Work St., Anywhere in the U.S.A., for further abuse and discontent in the societal effort to eat and digest more fossil fuels.

You too are a system and the RNA of your cells have already been yoked into their role between the DNA and the little ribosomal factories they comprise and tend so carefully. Further system development will see you in a similar situation, your life commandeered by the system to be educated to manipulate information and build tools to eat and process the fossil fuels. We have not gone so far as to eliminate the unproductive, used geriatric humans in the name of efficiency, but I'm sure that is not too distant in the future. The cell doesn't keep RNA hanging around in an enjoyable state of retirement.

However, the technological system seems to be unaware. In humans, when the glucose stops flowing to the mitochondria and the ATP no longer circulates, death ensues. Likewise, when the coal, oil and gas stops flowing to the machines, the electricity and assorted motions will stop and death will ensue.

It won't be a painless death, we should have started our metamorphosis thirty years ago. Our minds know no limts, but our reality will be tightly circumcribed by the laws of thermodynamics.

10:07 AM  
Anonymous Art said...


Living to ninety--sounds like a plan! I'd be very interested in your opinion about Lierre Keith's book, "The Vegetarian Myth"; it's about ethics, the environment and social justice as much as it's about diet. I'd be happy to send you a copy if you like (who knows, you might eventually write a glowing review on Amazon!)


And there's drugs in our daily bread, too! Supposedly, peptides from gluten (wheat contains tons) react with opiate receptors in the brain, mimicking the effects of drugs like heroin and morphine. Again, it's not just Big Pharma; Big Agriculture keeps us numb--breakfast, lunch and dinner.

2:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could you please post a link to the evidence for neurological damage from screens? I've been a computer programmer all my life - hell, I guess if this exists I have it.

4:20 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


There is no link per se, just lots of links. But basically, the info is collected in articles that have appeared over the last decade in journals such as Harper’s, Atlantic Monthly, the New Yorker, and the New Atlantis, and discussed at length in Nicholas Carr’s book The Shallows. (I suggest checking out his footnotes.) In particular see studies by Walter Kirn, Christine Rosen, and Maryanne Wolf of Tufts University.


5:32 PM  
Anonymous JM said...

Tim and All,

I wanted to correct an error I made in my previous post. Adam Curtis' 2002 documentary The Century of the Self (available on YouTube) deals with how big business and the state used the new science of psychology to manipulate and control the masses. And how the public willingly embraced the process by which they were transformed from citizens in a democracy to consumers in something much less than a democracy.

Curtis' examination of psychology and psychiatry as a means of control continues in his 2007 documentary The Trap (available on Google Videos). It is in The Trap that the odd history of the DSM and the use of mass drugging to promote conformity is discussed.

If you have seven hours to spare I'd watch The Century of the Self first followed by The Trap.


5:37 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


I've heard a bit about The Vegetarian Myth & I'll put it on order from my local library. My main reason for going vegetarian was ethical -- although sentimental might be an even better word for it -- I just didn't have the heart (or stomach) to eat an animal any longer, especially when I saw how they were treated prior to slaughter. Anyway, how could I ever look our resident woodchucks in the eye? :)


I came across references to The Trap while doing a little research on Century of the Self -- clearly I must see both!


I think your post is spot on. What better way to control people than to "help" them (whether they want it or not) via medication & basic reprogramming? We already know that despite the lip service paid to individuality in this culture, anyone who doesn't fit the norm -- anyone whose individuality falls outside the narrow limits of what's deemed acceptable -- is derided, dismissed, or destroyed in short order. Mass produced, mass marketed "individuality" is applauded, of course -- after all, it's really just selfishness, rudeness, and arrogant aggressiveness under that label -- but a genuine individual is a threat, even one who wants nothing more to be left alone.

1:11 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Mary,

Thanks for writing in abt the poems. I shd tell u that it's best to write in to the most recent post, since no one really reads the previous ones. Meanwhile, welcome aboard, and we hope to hear from u in the future. Another review of the book may be found at
http://dougholder.blogspot.com/ (scroll down to July 9). Anyway, glad u found us.


7:35 PM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

Off topic, but topical. Self-perception, and all.

Watch the last 5 minutes of "Mars Attacks" and absorb the beauty and splendor that is setting and the band playing "The Star Spangled Banner". Damn. And Teepees. And Jim Brown. My god, I sound like the dialogue of a Kerouac novel.

I'd link to the clip, but the Man thinks otherwise (tried multiple ways). Those of yinz with Netflicks can do it for (sort of) free.


10:40 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I am very much looking forward to reading your newly published book of poetry. I also wanted to recommend to this group Wendell Berry's excellent new book on William Carlos Williams. Here are a few of my favorite passages:

"...the metaphor of the machine has grown upon us until it has ceased to be a metaphor and has become an equation or an identity, so that organisms, including our minds and the world itself, are now conventionally spoken of as machines, and this has helped to make us cold-hearted and destructive."

"When you are mindful of all that is involved in the making of a poem, schools of criticism and schools of composition, whatever their uses, will look small in the presence of poetry itself and of the good poems you know. The only equipment at all equal to those presences is the human mind, complete: imagination, intelligence, reason, instincts, senses, shared knowledge and loyalties, and the personal furniture of experience, memory, history, and culture. And insofar as that mind is conscious, it will be conscious of mysteries, of being baffled."

"As Williams saw, as anybody who looks can now see, it is precisely in their granting of priority to ideas over things and over the world that the universities have failed us, for that priority is established and maintained by the industrial technology that oppresses and exploits the material world and all its bodies."


7:00 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Very good essay, Maury. Thomas Szasz in his *Myth of Mental Illness* (that perhaps overstates his case) and his books attacking the "medical-pharmaceutical" complex has long decried the abuses, greed, and misinformation arising from that misalliance.

Unfortunately, research studies indicate that talk therapy has a low rate of success, perhaps nil.

The U.S. has become a ship of fools!

11:08 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


Thank you for that recommendation & those excerpts.

"... the metaphor of the machine ..."

You're hardwired to do this & that. You process data. Your basic default is X or Y. And so on. Or as Tom Good said on the old Britcom The Good Life/The Good Neighbors, you're just "a grotty little cog in a whacking great machine."

A lot of people seem to want that these days. I'm sure they'd jump at the chance to have a smartphone surgically embedded in their skulls. The more expensive ,the better, of course!

My wife & I just saw Midnight in Paris last night, and it provided some NMI food for thought. It's not only entertaining, quite possibly Woody Allen's best film in years, but it's a lovely reminder of what really matters, what really makes for a meaningful life.

12:54 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

"We should welcome even the feeble prostest which is now being made against the vulgarization of all life: first because it is one token amongst others of the sickness of modern civilization; and next, because it may help to keep alive memories of the past which are necessary elements of the life of the future, and methods of work which no society could afford to lose."

--William Morris, "The Revival of Handicraft" (1888)

8:10 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Have you considered sending this in to Alternet? It's an excellent article and I think it would be perfect for their site.

6:51 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Susan,

Some time ago, when QOV appeared, I wrote them and asked if they wanted to run one of the essays. They never bothered to answer. So I'm guessing the prospects aren't that gd (as in the case of regular journals, these websites often tend to have an "in-house" quality to them--depressingly repeating the pattern of the "Establishment"). Also, this particular essay draws heavily on Marcia Angell's two articles in the NYRB, so Alternet wd probably regard this as derivative; which it is. The larger issue, however, is how to circulate this kind of info in the context of Big Pharma etc. An uphill struggle, to be sure.


7:32 AM  
Anonymous Chad (chadz70) said...

I wanted to pass this story along.

Mass Psychosis in the USA:

"James Ridgeway writes in Al Jazeera that with over $14 billion in sales in 2008, antipsychotics have become the single top-selling therapeutic class of prescription drugs in the U.S., surpassing drugs used to treat high cholesterol and acid reflux. While once upon a time, antipsychotics were reserved for a relatively small number of patients with hard-core psychiatric diagnoses, today it seems, everyone is taking antipsychotics. 'Parents are told that their unruly kids are in fact bipolar, and in need of anti-psychotics, while old people with dementia are dosed, in large numbers, with drugs once reserved largely for schizophrenics,' writes Ridgeway. 'Americans with symptoms ranging from chronic depression to anxiety to insomnia are now being prescribed anti-psychotics at rates that seem to indicate a national mass psychosis.' By now, just about everyone knows how the drug industry works to influence the minds of American doctors, plying them with gifts, junkets, ego-tripping awards, and research funding in exchange for endorsing or prescribing the latest and most lucrative drugs. According to Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, under the tutelage of Big Pharma, we are 'simply expanding the criteria for mental illness so that nearly everyone has one.'"


I just finished The Trap. Excellent. Thank you for the recommendation.

8:46 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Presented without comment from today's Annie's Mailbox:

Dear Annie: For the past two years, my 4-year-old granddaughter has been given medication to "help her enter REM sleep" at night, and the dosage was recently increased. She seems drugged and impossible to wake up.

This drug worries me, and I also have no clue what the long-term effects might be. I mentioned my concerns to my son and daughter-in-law and suggested trying more natural remedies, such as no TV or chocolate or sugary foods at night and perhaps putting her to bed around 7:00 instead of 10:00, but they ignored me.

It is so hard to see a young child taking so much medication at such a young age. When she stays overnight at my house, she is on a calmer routine with regular mealtimes, and she naps and eats and sleeps without any fuss. In fact, she is a joy.

Do you have any suggestions on how I can be a positive influence in her life? — Worried Grandma

Dear Grandma: Prescribing sleep medication for toddlers is, unfortunately, not uncommon these days, although we are concerned that this pediatrician has kept your granddaughter on heavy drugs for such an extended period. Most pediatricians who recommend medication do so in conjunction with behavioral management techniques — such as winding down before bedtime, no sugar or caffeine, etc. Although you are an expert on those techniques, it is not a good idea to stop any regular medications without first checking with the doctor. But if your granddaughter doesn't need to take her sleep medication every night, the best thing you can do is ask if she can sleep at your home as often as possible.

1:39 PM  
Anonymous Zosima said...

Am currently reading in "Dark Ages America" in beat up library copy form. I am grateful for the superbly detailed history of the Cold War history deeply rooted in American history. The three decade long postwar Bretton Woods economy of middle class prosperity as a mere moment, unlikely to be revived. The interesting Carter as anomaly theory. It made me think of the all the subsequent presidencies as essentially one continuous Reagan presidency, now in its 30th year of oligarchic rule.

The cultural trend you present of the same period is ominous. For such a society to persist it would necessarily require the suppression of human decency and intelligence on a massive scale. What lead was for Rome, advertising is for America. America has for many decades been under its insidiousness influence. We have allowed this powerful drug into the minds of the tiniest tots to sell junk food, violent toys, and as they grow, the most sadistic video games and films. The result being one of our teens is a mere 10 weeks training away his aerial drone slaughter station, or Imperial Storm Trooper post at Abu Ghraib. In contrast, an adequate number of Afghanis still can’t be trained in up after 10 years.

Do we even notice the not so subtle ways that advertising is destroys our humanity? I remember watching a movie on TV with some British visitors when the ad came practically in mid-sentence. They howled in disbelieve that such rudeness was not just permitted, but accepted and not even noticed by Americans. Advertising teaches Americans that it is ok to interrupt, to be rude, thoughtless, self centered and crude, because advertising is all those things. It’s literally in you face. Is it any wonder that our culture, especially youth culture is dominated by these modes of thought. And with introduction of the quick cuts and flashes that began to used in virtually all video related content with the rise MTV in the 1980’s, the effect is to disrupt normal thought processes and as with lead to turn the brain to jelly.

Thanks to you for your books, and this blog and its contributors, for it continues to be a great source of commentary and important articles and books for those few who can still think.

9:35 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thank u for writing in. It's not just advertising, but in larger context the commodification of everything, that has ruined it all. I remember going to Europe for the first time in my early twenties, and being shocked by the awareness that most people most of the time were not talking about money or success. It was only then that I began to realize how thin the air was in the US, and how one-dimensional its people were.

Anyway, I appreciate your appreciation. In terms of further rdg, check out the conclusion of the trilogy, "Why America Failed," which will be out around Nov. 1st. It's not that I hope to change anything by writing what I do--much too late for that--but only to provide a postmortem for the tiny handful that are interested.

Stay with us,


1:44 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Additional reasons why I'm so happy not to be living in the US (besides Chris Hedges' column today on truthdig.com): This just in from Assoc. Press:

Police in Ga. shut down girls' lemonade stand

MIDWAY, Ga.--Police in Georgia shut down a lemonade stand run by three girls trying to save up for a trip to a water park, saying they didn't have a business license or the required permits.
Midway Police Chief Kelly Morningstar says police also didn't know how the lemonade was made, who made it or what was in it. The girls had been operating for one day when Morningstar and another officer cruised by.
The girls needed a business license, peddler's permit and food permit to operate, even on residential property. The permits cost $50 a day or $180 per year.

[Good for you, Officer Morningstar! Crack down on this wanton crime wave! You go, girl!]

7:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Maury, 

I enjoyed your post of the police breaking up the unlicensed lemonade stand. 

Speaking as an environmental police officer all I can say is law enforcement (somewhat of a microcosm of society) gets more fatuous by the day.   Your poetry book has inspired me to start writing as an escape. 

This week  a co worker wrote a two page report on an Injured deer. 
Most reports that involve an injured deer being shot out of mercy last no more than three sentences. His was a bit longer, with an unusual amount of detail. The bizarreness of this report inspired me to write a poem, (see below) that captured the essence of the event. Like all my poems, I always go by the pen name Matt O'Loughlin, another officer I used to work with that not only shares no responsibility for any of "his" poems, but now actually hates poetry as a result of being the unintended author of at least 9 of them.
The Declaration Of A Dispatched Deer
As I gazed upon the suffering Deer,
I felt its pain and its terrorizing fear.
Stuck in the fence along 16A,
drawing its last breaths on its darkest day.
Lying in the blood soaked grass,
as scavenging animals chewed on her ass.
Fear not my Deer, soon you’ll be dead,
as the angel’s hollow-point enters your head.
I used an elevated angle aimed towards the ground,
with a strong maple tree to shield the round.
The shot rang out and my friend was free,
now run in clouds, where no cars will be.
What could I say, what more could I do?
Salvation from a barrel of my Glock 22.  (Serial # PTF037)    
So in preparation for a possible retort,
I returned to quarters, for a 2 hour report.
                                                              By Matt O'Loughlin
Really by Bruce M. 

11:20 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Bruce,

Thanks for writing in. I tell u, as things "progress" in the US in their inevitable direction, it becomes clearer and clearer how peculiar the US is, and its inhabitants are. Most of it cd serve as a kind of dark satire, except that it is actually happening!


2:06 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr.Berman,

I don't know if you read David Brookes'hilarious op-ed on July 14, Death and Budgets. He was against "death panels" but now he's for it. It's costing David too much and people need to face reality they're going to die anyway--the sooner the better if they're on public assistance.

I sometimes think it would be a good thing if everyone simply dropped their health insurance. No money to pay for these outrageously expensive drugs, less profit for the drug companies, less prescribing. Since I work in the health-care-scam-o-rama it's easier to see how completely profit driven this system is. In psych hospitals you're only crazy as long as the insurance or Medicare/Medicaid will pay and the minute the benefits are tapped out, miraculously cured and d/c'd with a fistful of prescriptions. Including antipsychotics for anxiety. What has saved many a patient from serious side effects is their inability to even afford the copay. I'm glad to see even a small amount of light being shed on the abuses and lack of real evidence to support the claims of the psychiatric field. A pill has been substituted for community, family, hobbies, or spiritual growth since most of these things were squashed long ago.

6:58 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

MB recommended Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story a few posts back, so this follow-up should be of interest to everyone here:


I don't have a link for this next item, it's just a news story I glimpsed briefly in the morning a few days ago. Apparently somewhere in the Southwest, a limited number of Section 8 houses were made available for low income families. The footage they showed was of a horde of desperate people running through the streets to be among the few lucky ones. It took place sometime before dawn, and the image was sad & heartbreaking. Worse, I could just envision a fair number of Americans seeing that & laughing, joking, seeing it as entertainment.

Such is the social status of "losers" today -- surely the most grievous mortal sin in America. It doesn't matter what you do to get there, as long as you're a "winner," then everything's all right. Otherwise, forget it.

9:12 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Sometimes I think it works like "fractals," in which the characteristics of the whole are reflected in each of the parts. It may be that any single institution--such as the AMA/Big Pharma/Mental Health, reveals the characteristics of any or all of the others--e.g., US foreign policy, or public education. And this may derive from the fact (if it is one) that there are a small number of characteristically American behaviors (i.e., mistakes) that we keep repeating in every area of our lives. Things like, If the rich are happy everything will work out; or Let's not deal with root causes, only with symptoms. I'm sure you guys can think of a few more in this vein.

10:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's another problem with the DSM manual, one that I'm not sure was addressed in this article.

It has a new classification, "oppositional defiant disorder." That, according to the manual, is defined as a tendency to constantly have problems with or resist authority (!!!).

Somebody on here wonders why Americans don't resist the oppressive order as much. I have my own theory as to why, and I'd like to coin a new concept for it, the "reverse sieve."

You see, because so many teachers take their cues from this manual, what ends up happening is that those few children who DO have minds of their own and actual human values are then forcibly punished and medicated by the "adults" who are supposed to be the role models and guides of wisdom. The humanity and, in this particular case, the students' "free will" to question the world around them is classified as a problem and dealt with.

So what ends up happening is that our schools have become a "reverse sieve" from which the child has no escape (he can't leave the school because the truant officer will drag him back, his parents support the vicious culture and will also drag him back, etc.). Instead of straining for wheat and weeding out the chaff, what ends up happening is that the schools reward the rude, aggressive, ignorant chaff and (indirectly) punish the intelligent and kind, sometimes when the children are as young as toddlers.

And when I question some children about this, I learn that there's an even worse element: you see, at least in Sparta, everyone knew that children were supposed to aggressively fight with each other, so there was no "confusion as to what the rules were."

But here, everyone still pats them-self on the back that we're the most moral people on the planet...so whenever the few compassionate and intelligent children left try to call attention to the problem, the response from everyone around them is some red-faced angry variant of "STOP WHINING!!! THE PROBLEM IS WITH YOU AND YOUR FAILURE TO ADAPT TO SOCIETY!!!"

So not only do the schools teach children to be obedient and passive little dolls thanks to that DSM classification, they don't even own up to the fact that this is what they're doing. It's no WONDER the children grow up incapable of telling the difference between black and white.

The cognitive disconnect extends to other areas, such as people I've met on the Internet who scream about the virtues of Western Civilization but then refer to literature and philosophy as pointless academic work.

I know several children on the Internet who have gone utterly MAD from the disconnect. One young boy, for example, is now obsessed with My Little Pony dolls, because to him they represent such values as "kindness" (which he harped on repeatedly) that our society is missing.

Luckily, my own school experiences were different and I live in an area where people mostly have their heads on straight. That's pretty much the only reason I have not myself gone crazy.

So what do you think, Morris Berman? Is my concept of a "reverse sieve" enough of an explanation?

10:35 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Dear Maury,

Thanks to you I've been recently reading Isaiah Berlin, specifically, *Freedom and Its Betrayal*, a series of lectures delivered extemporaneously on BBC's Radio 3 in 1952.

So far I've read the lectures on Helvetius and Rousseau. The remaining lectures are on Fichte, Hegel, Saint-Simon, and Maistre. The book is hard to put down and Berlin's style just sweeps me along in what Eliot described as Berlin's "torrential eloquence" --love that phrase!

So he lived to be one hundred? Hopefully he was torrential to the end.

12:23 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thanx for yer input, tho pls edit it down a bit in future; it's just a tad long. I shd tell u that I recently ran across a new classification for shy people, and I can't recall the name or acronym--something like Social Aversion or whatever--that labels shyness a mental disorder. It may turn out that the authors of the DSM-V are the true lunatics among us.

Kel: Berlin lived to 98.


1:20 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I meant, in *future* postings. No need to do a revised version now; it'll only add to the length. Thanx.


3:45 PM  
Anonymous Rowdy said...

Actually, speaking of the DSM, one thing that characterises Americans (though of course is also to an extent pan-Western) is the ever-expanding enthusiasm for acronyms.

They're kind of technological and impersonal and mystificatory.

So for example if you designate someone as having ADHD, you:

1.) Give the impression of an objective, non-judgmental scientific assessment

2.) Subject the designee to a destabilising level of confusion, and

3.) Deter any interested layman from contesting the appraisal.

Of course what can happen now is that an operative whose job description is an acronym can designate a citizen as another acronym, arrest them under a law that has been abbreviated to an acronym, place them in a vehicle that is identified by an acronym, take them to a room known by an acronym in a building known by another acronym, and subject them to a procedure that of course has been euphemised by its acronym.

The ultimate effect of these acronyms is therefore of course to prevent thought or reflection - to mechanise human actions into an interlinked chain of "neutral" procedures whose outcome is inevitable for all its participants.

6:25 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

BOPs: Buffoons on Phones
TBs: Techno-Buffoons
TAP: The American People
HRIR: Heads Rammed In Rumps
CRE: Cranial-Rectal Embedment
MPH: Morons Per Hectare
DI: Dolt Index


Everyone is invited to add to the list.

8:17 PM  
Anonymous Ray said...

Rowdy and Morris,

Re: Dehumanizing or moronizing acronyms/neologisms....

They're not exactly new or particularly American, although this country has produced its own unique flavors of this late modern phenomenon.

Eviscerating/uglifying/euphemizing language through abbreviations/acronyms seems to have been a habit of technocratic regimes of both the liberal-democratic-consumerist as well as overtly authoritarian varieties all through the twentieth century -but interestingly, not before the age of total war.

The overtly authoritarian regimes seemed to default to syllables, not letter-acronyms; Geheime Staatspolizei becomes GeStaPo, Cheka, GuLag...let's see... Sovnarkom, Comintern...Sturzkampflugzeug becomes StuKa, etc. etc...NaZi itself.

Orwell tried to develop a fictionalized version of this "continental/syllabic" approach to language mangling for English in "1984," (with some of it partly coming true in 21st century British neologisms such as "Asbo," "Ofsted," "Ofcom" etc.

I think a big part of this process has been the spread among the general public in those countries of specialized communication techniques meant originally to ensure reliable transmission of clear syllables in short bursts of sound amidst loud technological environments like tanks, aircraft, etc. in the era of total war. Not to mention they sounded cooler and more fightening. As a youngster I really thought German and Russian had words like these.

The American approach seems to have been more conservative, and has (arguably)produced a less off-putting aesthetic result. Still frightening though. Americans tend to shy away from "totalitarian"-sounding syllabic abbreviations, preferring to pronounce the entires names for letters in acronyms. MAD, SUV, IED, LSD, FBI, ADHD, MS, ED, etc. About the only exception that comes to mind right now is the phonetic way of pronouncing SNAFU as "snafu."

Another advertising-driven U.S. perversion is to meld together certain associative terms in neologistic ways to create positive affects in the buying public. These tend to appear in marketing to women and in the medical industry -"WellPoint," "LifeTrends,"
"Activia," "ChoiceCare," etc.

The other American idiosyncrasy is to try to cut down to size the intimidating air of foreignness or sophistication from certain words, so as not to disturb the introverted, smug equanimity of the heartland ear. One sees this phenomenon (or "phenom!"), for example, at work in the use by wait staff of wine-talk terms such as "cab" for cabernet, "chard" for chardonnay, "gewurz" for Gewuerztraminer, etc.

I once saw one of those technology shows on the History Channel refer to a trebuchet as a "treb." Talk about a new Dark Age

1:21 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

iPod People?

Cue a wild-eyed Kevin McCarthy: "You're next!"


I love your used of the word "euphemised" -- what better way to put it? After all, it's what's happened to society, to individuals and to the very concepts of humanity & civilization.

There's an old Peanuts strip from the 1960s, where a boy tells Charlie Brown that his name is a number, and that his father has given everyone in the family a number instead of a name. Charlie asks if that's his father's way of protesting the dehumanization of the individual, and the boy replies, "No, that's his way of giving in."

Numbers, acronyms, euphemisms -- anything to deny the essentially humanity & individuality of a person, and render them interchangeable, easily replaceable parts instead.

Turn On, Log In, Zone Out!

8:15 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Hi DAAer's,

I just saw Michael Hudson, resident of the Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends, a Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, and author of "Super-Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire" on DemocracyNow. He said that the Boehner/Obama debt ceiling talks is really a bid for Wall Street to take the money and run, i.e., sucking money out of Social Security and Medicare and giving it to Wall Street because the 1% knows (what with rising unemployment at 9.2%) that the game is up. He added that what's currently happening in Greece is a dress rehearsal for the U.S.

I hope it isn't too late to leave Dodge.

12:49 PM  
Blogger Alan2102 said...

"It was found that psychoactive drugs affect neurotransmitter levels in the brain, and from this it was concluded that 'the cause of mental illness is an abnormality in the brain’s concentration of these chemicals that is specifically countered by the use of the appropriate drug.'"

No, from that it was NOT so concluded. The monoamine ["neurotransmitter imbalance"] thesis of mood disorders is based on a deep mass of scientific literature going back decades, and much of it involving no consideration at all of the action of drugs -- including the modern, high-profit drugs.

"As Daniel Carlat notes, by the same logic one could argue that the cause of all pain is a deficiency of opiates, or that headaches are caused by having too little aspirin in one’s system.
The logic, in short, is upside down; and as far as the empirical evidence goes—there is none."

Please. There is vast empirical evidence that monoaminergic neurotransmitters do indeed have an intimate relation to mood -- though that relation is not well represented by simplistic notions of "chemical deficiency". The evidence is not perfectly consistent -- but then, is evidence for anything in biology or medicine ever perfectly consistent?

2:27 PM  
Blogger Alan2102 said...

PSS: one more thing: I've been a reader and admirer of your work for some years. The foregoing comment is not meant to disparage your overall accomplishment -- not by a long spot. It was a hasty reaction on a subject I happen to know quite a bit about, and I get tired of the thoroughly-uninformed "anti" arguments.

Keep up the work!

And you might delete this instead of putting it on the comments; it is just my personal note to you, Mr Berman.

2:37 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Not at all; thanx for yer input. I'm sure I don't read biochemistry at the level u do, but I suspect that Marcia Angell, whose credentials are pretty impressive, knows more than both of us. My guess is that if you were rt on this pt, she wd have pointed out the counter-evidence in her article. Scientifically speaking, she's very much a straight-shooter.


5:03 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...


in stating that chemical imbalances (seratonin re-uptake, dopamine being related to schizophrenia, etc) the monoamine ("or chemical imbalance") theory of mood disorders fail to establish what is "balance". If someone is depressed, is it suprising that there are chemical changes in the brain? Chemicals are the physical manifestation of thoughts, memories, and yes, mood (all brain functioning). I will not make a fool of myself and arguing biochemistry with you, as you obviously have a great erudition on the subject. What I would like to do (as someone who also happens to know a bit about "mental illness") is attempt to understand how it is ok for big pharma to have so much influence over what makes it into the diagnostic criteria for mental and emotional disorders. If one is indeed depressed, or bipolar, should we automatically assume it is a chemical problem, and forget about this individual's environment, history, etc.? Pfizer would certainly prefer this, and would also prefer that talk therapists such as myself were not even trying, because we cannot write scripts.

If I feel bad, I like to know why, and not just eliminate the bad feelings with chemicals. Well, I do drink a little, so yeah, I guess I do like to eliminate the bad feelings with chemicals. but at least I know what I'm getting myself into.

When one considers the drastic increase in the incidence of diagnosed mental illness in this country, how can one not be alarmed? Should everyone be on medication indefinitely, with a plethora of nasty side-effects? Pfizer would like that too.

That brings me to one final point. I find it troubling that in order for me to get paid, I MUST diagnose my clients (in almost all cases; i have a few self-pay, but, as I do not set the rates, my group charges a lot, so they are few and far between). I was recently reprimanded by our clinical director because I inform my clients that if they want to see me with insurance, I have to give them a diagnosis, and if I feel that diagnosing them will be at their peril, or if I just flat out disagree that i can pigeonhole them utilizing the DSM-IV-TR criteria, I tell them that I will not be able to see them and bill their insurances. My director told me to knock it off or go work somehwere else.

6:41 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


The trouble w/posting to a previous post is that nobody will read it. You might wanna be au courant, stay w/the most recent one, and then you'll undoubtedly get some replies.


11:04 PM  
Anonymous David M said...

I just recently found this site and boy does this feel good. I found another home. I previously followed Joe Bageants' and Case Wagenvoord's (open letters to George Bush and shortshots)blogs up-until Joe died and Case stop posting.It feels good to find like minded folks who recognize the dark future that lies ahead. It gives one solace to know that one is not alone. Looking forward to more great post like this one and the stimulating intellectual debate that follows. Please keep them coming, it helps.

9:18 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear David,

Welcome to the blog, and we look forward to hearing more from u in the future. If u just keep in mind that (a) No empire in its declining phase ever reversed its trajectory; (b) We are totally screwed; and (c) It can only get worse, you can then understand a lot of what is going on in the US today (hysterical Tea Party, destruction of remaining social safety net, right-wing presidents who pretend to be liberal, a citizenry so stupid and/or out of it it makes one gasp, etc. and etc.). In addition, since we are in the Bizarro World, where bad is good, we applaud things like torturing everyone and everybody, 'cracking down' on innocent protesters or groups, assassinating private citizens, engaging in war crimes around the world, letting the economy economy fall apart, making the rich richer and the poor poorer, closing libraries across the nation, pursuing meaningless wars on the other side of the globe, foreclosing on mortgages and throwing millions out of their homes, electing clowns such as Michelle Bachmann to positions of power, and--well, you get the idea. "Onward and Downward" is one of our slogans, equivalent to Why not get it over with as quickly as possible? We are excited about drugging everyone up to their eyeballs, giving Prozac to 2-yr-olds, labeling shyness 'mental illness'...but I'm letting my ecstasy get away with me here; need to find my bottle of Haldol. More later.


9:52 AM  
Blogger Alan2102 said...

Joe doesn't know said...
"[the] chemical imbalances...theory of mood disorders fail[s] to establish what is 'balance'".

True. And how would that be established? In practice, it does not matter a great deal. We know that drugs, nutrients and other substances that affect neurotransmitter synthesis/metabolism have effects -- often quite favorable effects -- on mood problems.

"If someone is depressed, is it suprising that there are chemical changes in the brain? Chemicals are the physical manifestation of thoughts, memories, and yes, mood (all brain functioning)."

True enough. And chemical treatment is ONE way -- not the only, not necessarily the best, often NOT the best -- of intervening.

That said, it is also true that chemical intervention is easily the simplest, most-straightforward, and often the most economical means. (Note that I did not say "the best means"; I only said what I said.) It is unfortunate that these qualities happen to correspond with corporate/profit objectives.

Frankly, I would like to see a total and complete restructuring of American society, culture, economics and politics, so as to create a much less crazy-making context in which to live -- one in which chemical supports would be only rarely needed, if ever. But I'm afraid the High Priests of psychiatry are not much interested in my suggestions for the design of a non-depressogenic and non-psychotogenic social order. :-)

"[how is it] ok for big pharma to have so much influence over what makes it into the diagnostic criteria for mental and emotional disorders[?]"

It is NOT OK, in my opinion. Those bastards are out of control, and need to be chained up and taught to behave. Perhaps literally.

That said, it is also true that... blah blah blah.... (neurotransmitters and mood; SSRIs are SOMETIMES useful and OCCASIONALLY excellent; etc., etc.)

[...continued on next post...]

1:26 PM  
Blogger Alan2102 said...

[...continued from previous...]

"If one is indeed depressed, or bipolar, should we automatically assume it is a chemical problem, and forget about this individual's environment, history, etc.?"

Certainly not. Or rather: certainly it is the case that the chemical problem is only ONE dimension of the thing; or, it is one VIEW of a complex, multi-faceted problem.

"Pfizer would certainly prefer this, and would also prefer that talk therapists such as myself were not even trying, because we cannot write scripts."

I don't doubt it.

BTW, you might enjoy this recent item from Peter Kramer, who indicates in this piece that (surprisingly) he prescribes SSRIs rather sparingly and conservatively -- as is, of course, appropriate:

In Defense of Antidepressants
Published: July 9, 2011

"If I feel bad, I like to know why, and not just eliminate the bad feelings with chemicals. Well, I do drink a little, so yeah, I guess I do like to eliminate the bad feelings with chemicals."

Yes, of course. And alcohol, and other recreational drugs, are OK as occasional convivial euphoriants. But that is not the situation with depression the disease -- if "disease" it is, and that's a whole other discussion. I trust you know what I'm talking about. Everyone has occasional blue moments, but chronic major depression is a different animal, a ruinous problem, and really does require treatment (or some kind of attention). I know this from personal experience. People with major depression cannot "snap out of it" any more than a person with spinal osteoporosis can "snap out of it". It is a very serious and life-threatening condition, whether or not it qualifies technically as a "disease".

"When one considers the drastic increase in the incidence of diagnosed mental illness in this country, how can one not be alarmed? Should everyone be on medication indefinitely, with a plethora of nasty side-effects?"

No. But with respect to major depression specifically, I would rather them be on medication indefinitely, even with side effects, than to suffer the tortures of the damned, or worse, indefinitely. Death by suicide, and/or feeling perpetually like you WANT to die asap, is a pretty darn serious "side effect".

As for other mental problems: too wide a spectrum, too diverse, to make a blanket comment. But to make a blanket comment anyway: medication does sometimes have a useful role. So does nutrition, though it is usually ignored. So does a lot of other stuff, though it is often ignored. Etcetera.

Please keep up your good work on behalf of your clients, in spite of officious and harmful BS from clinical directors, insurance companies, etc.

1:28 PM  
Anonymous David M said...

Thanks for the reply. It looks like one could run out of space or even tax one computer ram listing all the downers going on in this country these days. I guess all we can do at this point is get comfortable and hang on tight for the downward ride.

5:08 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Regarding the on-going debate, let me recommend Jas Ridgeway's essay, "Mass Psychosis in the US," posted at commondreams.org on 16 July 2011.

6:04 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...


thank you for the thorough and informative reply. It's a shame that the people in charge of things aren't as heartfelt and passionate about helping folks live more meaninful lives as you are. If only the ones pulling the strings were so informed and could 'do the right thing' once in a while. It's good to have you on the blog.

10:01 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Alan and Joe--

I've worked in a variety of settings with the mentally ill for a long time and have come to question just how much "good" medications actually do, especially used in the quantities they now are and for purposes never really tested.

One former patient comes to mind, Richard, who had his first psychotic break around 20, was hospitalized, placed on haldol and stayed on it or other antipsychotics for the next thirty-five years. When I saw him in clinic he had severe tardive dyskinesia, still heard voices and was paranoid and delusional. I wonder--how did all this medication help? At no time in his life could he have been considered functional and we (nurses,social workers, MDs) place so much faith on taking a pill that he was never free from these powerful drugs and given other treatment. From reading your response, Alan, I know you recognize the problems and I'm not wanting to be argumentative. I worry when I see more and more medication prescribed, used with a younger population and, increasingly, off label.

10:06 AM  
Blogger Alan2102 said...

Susan W:

I don't know much about psychoses.
I do know that Haldol can be a nasty drug, when used in high doses over a long time, just as you say.

You ask, of your patient Richard, "how did all this medication help?" Of course, I don't know whether or not it did. Perhaps the "help" was limited to making life easier for the attending staff. Or perhaps Richard was himself truly helped in some way; perhaps his experience was less hellish than it would have been, without the drug. You, and especially Richard himself, would be in a much better position to judge than anyone else.

Although there is no hard proof, my nose tells me that the orthomolecular ("megavitamin") folks are on to something important:
.... and of course, since the cost of therapy is a couple dimes per day or thereabouts, with zero possibility of anyone getting filthy rich on the idea, there is no interest in conducting large-scale clinical trials. (Am I being cynical? or realistic?)

4:52 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Alan mentioned the crazy-making context of the times in which we currently live. Here's just a small example ...

Today my wife & I had to run into Toys R Us for a few minutes, and we came across a series of toys called Spy Gear. Apparently these are toys to help small children play at becoming participants in the surveillance state. While all were egregious, I was especially stunned & disgusted by the Security Scanner:


I see it's recommended for ages 6-8 by the store. Perfect training for a new generation, both in spying on one another & in accepting the complete loss of privacy & civil liberties as the norm.

And I suppose if anyone objects to this sort of thing, there's undoubtedly a pill to "fix" that bad attitude in a hurry.

7:18 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Alan et al...

There is the curious stat that parallel to the rise in the consumption of anti-psychotic or anti-depressant drugs has been an *increase* in the rate of mental illness in the US. One would expect a *decrease*, if all of those pills were working, no? Of course, maybe if we just wait long enuf...


10:38 PM  
Anonymous Art said...


Thanks for the link to the Abram Hoffer interview on orthomolecular medicine. For a wealth of information on the role of nutrition for mental health problems (with an emphasis on food over supplementation) see the blog of Emily Deans, M.D. (Evolutionary Psychiatry). The article, "A Paleolithic Body and Brain" is a good place to start.

8:04 AM  
Anonymous Jason said...

I'm sure someone has sent this in before, but I couldn't find anything. (http://kunstler.com/blog/) James Kunstler's blog "Clusterfuck Nation."

9:08 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

The Face of America: Everybody pls go to truthdig.com today and click on Bill Boyarsky's column. You'll find a picture of Barbara Ann Nowak. Study this face; it is the heart and soul of America. Indeed, it is the future of America. We are marching to Pretoria.

9:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is my fav blog of urs so far, so thx! Paula J.Caplan wrote an expose of the DSM back in the 90s: "They Say You're Crazy: How the World's Most Powerful Psychiatrists Decide Who's Normal."

As a child, I watched helplessly as my mother was diagnosed then prescribed heavy doses of Thorazine, no less. Then a sibling was later diagnosed then prescribed equally debilitating antipsychotics.

When u have a parent who's "mentally ill" u nd to be very careful about approaching medical professionals for any malady, as the psycho-iatrists see "mental illness" as hereditary and will try to find signs of it in u too.

As a child, I was the only one who felt as I did--that the drugs were making my mom crazy and what she really needed was someone to talk with her and find out where her emotional troubles really came from, someone to help her to deal with life's troubles.

Instead she was just drugged into submission. Then ppl criticized her for being so apathetic and lethargic. Why doesn't she have more energy? Why doesn't she do this, that and the other? Well, duh, the Thorazine made her so tired that she spent most days just sleeping--all day long. Yet her doctors said she was doing well! Yeah, as long as they were filling their pockets... Her doctors did very well, but she just deteriorated into passivity and acceptance.

Needless to say, I had a horrific childhood. But all that chaos would have been prevented if my mother had gotten the help she needed when she needed it instead of a bandaid that just made her too tired to "act crazy" in public, but didn't take away the craziness she expressed in pvt toward her kids.

1:34 PM  
Anonymous mblady said...

I'm going to watch "Century of Self" tday.

Just wanted to add that psychologist Bruce Levine has been writing about this. There r so many ways in w/medicating people w/mental hlth probs affects r society. For ex, a person might nd to learn better social skls, coping strategies, assertiveness techniques, anger mgmt or 2address a serious character flaw--all of w/might be the underlying cause of a "mental illness." But many psychologists don't even try to find the underlying cause or strategies for eliminating the cause.

Instead the focus is just on finding the right pill. So people continue to act according to the character flaw, communication deficits, etc. and continue to cause problems in relationships all around them, so everyone suffers because the "mentally ill" person never truly recovers.

I'll continue my comment on my blog, as space is limited here. www.TheMadBagLady.wordpress.com

2:06 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: Also on truthdig.com today, be sure to see article by Christopher Ketcham.

3:31 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

It would be interesting to know if Barbara Ann Nowak is taking an anti-psychotic drug!

On a related note: I remember watching, years ago, Charlie Rose interviewing the playwright, Tony Kushner. Kushner said that he considered being a Republican a mental disorder. Rose just laughed, in disbelief.

6:23 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I tell ya, there are so many Barbara Ann Nowaks in the US, anything is possible. I'd like to see her replace George on the $1 bill. As for Tony K.: a sharp guy. Thus, if he were to be invited back to Charlie's show today, I suspect he'd extend his diagnosis to Democrats as well. Frankly, it's only from within the US that Americans appear to be sane (and then, not very). From outside, the place comes off as the largest open-air mental hospital in the world.


6:57 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

Dr. Berman,

loved the Ketcham article...read a book by a group of monks and in the first few chapters they discuss at length silence and how afraid of silence the modern "civilized" American is, for silence leaves one alone with himself, and then he must eventually be with himself. That, for most, is terrifying. Interesting to consider how difficult it is for us to find silence in our day to day lives in this country. Certainly it is impossible in our commercial lives, and I challenge us to consider how often we have the opportunity to experience it when we are alone. Introspection may lead to some uncomfortable feelings, and we all know how well Americans do at being uncomfortable. There is, of course, a pill for that.

12:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I noticed Morris mentioned fractals in a recent post. For those interested in following up on this line of thought might I recommend Didier Sornette's piece here:


Click on the 'view or download' link at the bottom of the page. Interesting to see a mathematician comes to the same conclusion as Morris does. The good news is that we've got until 2050 before we need to head for our baked bean stocked log cabins in the mountains.

(The maths might be a bit obscure but scroll down to the conclusions and he's pretty clear.)


4:28 AM  
Anonymous ray said...

Dear Morris,

Per your suggestion, I had the pleasure yesterday of acquainting myself with Miss Barbara Ann Nowak. This is like staring into a postmodern version of the Gorgon.

The only worry I have is that Miss Nowak and her ilk are only the most visible kind of darkness. With apologies to the whole Arendt/Eichmann banality thing, the really worrisome monsters in this land are all hidden behind office casual, firm handshakes, level speaking voices, and firm, steady, friendly eye contact.

9:45 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Ray,

Yeah, she's probably the tip of the iceberg, but man, what a scary tip. I wd say that she has replaced Sarah in my romantic affections, but word has it that Barb sings "America the Beautiful" as she attains orgasm. I think I might have a hard time living w/that on a regular basis.

As for the Arendt thesis: gd pt. This is where things get complicated. You may recall the flap over Ward Churchill a couple of yrs ago; he had written (on 12 Sept. 2001) that the folks in the WTC were "little Eichmanns." Were they? Even the Muslim janitors and folks who ran food concession stands? It seems a stretch, of course, but in a practical way, every worker in the WTC kept the wheels of empire turning. Finally, no one is exempt: I pay my taxes every April; part of the money goes to buy dogs and hoods and pay the salaries of American torturers. I may not be as great a war criminal as Cheney or Obama, but--I am one.


Full disclosure: my first degree was in mathematics.


10:04 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


I wonder how many Americans realize on some subconscious level that things are on an increasingly steeper downward slide, even if they can't consciously admit it to themselves, much less to each other?

It makes me glad that I don't have children, to be honest. What's coming in the decades ahead is not the future I'd like to leave to anyone.

I notice that one of the reactions to the horrific events in Norway is a grim, numb acceptance that we'll see something similar here in America before long, and quite frequently -- Oklahoma City was just a prelude. The level of free-floating anxiety, fear, dread & desperation keeps getting higher & higher. Everyone knows that the ultra-wealthy 1% will get more & more, and everyone else will have to fight one another tooth & claw for the crumbs. Hell, there's your next reality TV show!

Those who do choose the NMI option may find themselves having to maintain a very low profile, as they'll be such obvious scapegoats & targets, I fear. Civilized life & behavior will have a very low priority.

10:43 AM  
Anonymous Ray said...

Dear Morris,

You are the kind of self-decribed war criminal I would be proud to be hung alongside with.

The original denazification tribunal classification system distinguished between Main Offenders, Lesser Offenders, "Fellow Travellers," Not Affected, and Active Resisters. For about five years after 1945, ALL Germans theoretically had to get vetted into one of these categories. Fellow Travellers continued to dominate german society until the 1980s. There simply were too many in crucial positions to punish. You have to make a cut somewhere practical.

Before we encounter whatever form the selection centers and execution pits of the not-too-distant future will take, everyone on this board might aske themselves: "What future denazification category would I realistically fit into?"

The Nazis did us all - even Germans - the dubious favor of making their darkness fairly easy to recognize, with fairly high amounts of cognitive dissonance required to play along.

Our system is harder to categorize in Manichean terms, and requires fairly low amounts of cognitive dissonance to play along with. It remains to be seen if the outcome will be any less monstrous.

In this case, an alternative moral stance might come from another Churchill, not Ward but Winston - even he recognized that for any succesor society to have a chance, the limits of justice had to be set at Lesser Offenders, not Fellow Travellers.

What do you think?

In steady respect and admiration,


11:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I skimmed the Didier Sornette piece and was surprised that it doesn't reference "The Limits to Growth," which is what it seems a version of. Curious.


1:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: the Christopher Ketcham article

Better deaf than deafened. -- Formerly one wished to acquire fame and be spoken of. Now that is no longer enough because the market has grown too large; nothing less than screaming will do. As a consequence, even good voices scream till they are hoarse, and the best goods are offered by cracked voices. Without the screaming of those who want to sell and without hoarseness there is no longer any genius.

This is surely an evil age for a thinker. He has to learn how to find his silence between two noises and pretend to be deaf until he really becomes deaf. Until he has learned this, to be sure, he runs the risk of perishing of impatience and headaches.

Nietzsche, The Gay Science #331 (1887) as translated by Walter Kaufmann

There really is nothing new under the sun. We've been on this course for quite a while.

4:39 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Abs. rt, but I think we took a quantum leap in the direction of stupidity and self-destruction w/the election of Reagan in 1980. Of course,things such as telecommunications and Big Pharma were gearing up to inundate the culture by ca. 1965.


5:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Professor Berman:

Great post! I really enjoy reading your blog. You are so insightful and I love The Twilight of American Culture. One of my favorite books.

I have been diagnosed with depression since I was 15 and have been on so many different medications. When I was 16, I lied to my psychiatrist and told him I was hearing voices so he prescribed me Haldol - an antipsychotic drug! I've also been on Zoloft, Imipramine, Wellbutrin, Klonopin, Buspar, and Trazodone and I'm not even 40 yet.

Depression is such a debilitating disease, and I have my ups and downs. At my best, I was a college student with 4.0 GPA, graduated summa cum laude, studied mathematics, and won many scholarships. I was completely immersed in my studies, exercising on a regular basis, proving math theorems, discussing proofs with my professors, finding ways to solve differential equations, or different ways to arrive at a conclusion.

Now I won't even pick up a math book.

I'm currently unemployed, not in school, and spend my days in a stupor.

What I want to point out is is that I hate living in the U.S. I have no health insurance, so I can't afford to see a good psychiatrist. The only doctors I see are so busy and swamped with other patients, that it seems all they want to do is hand me a prescription and send me on my way.

I've been on Prozac for over 3 years now.

I dream of moving to a different country where I can receive quality health care, find a good job, interact with people who share my interests, and actually be someone -- not this empty, hollow, shell of a person I am now.

But the future looks bleak. And it seems the only way to escape this pain is to end it.

But I hope someday our system can be fixed. I can get the help I need, and actually become a functioning, normal human being again.

I won't hold my breath, though.


P.S. Would my situation be different if I lived in another country?

5:40 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Em-

Jesus, what an awful story. I feel like giving you a hug.

I'm wondering if you can't possibly afford to see a therapist (i.e., not a psychiatrist) at least once a week. (Are you on SSI? This might help, financially.)The whole drug thing is a complicated subject, but my own guess is that in most cases, the depression arises from unresolved emotional issues. Working thru these wd be a whole lot better than drugging away the symptoms--which I suspect in the long run doesn't work anyway (consider the sad case of Wm Styron).

Anyway, you need to get better before the American medical system does, that's for sure. Re: other countries: it depends on the country, but the US is the apex of the chemical-treatment model, that's for sure. If you cd find a decent therapist to wean you off of Prozac and get you dealing with your inner life, I suspect that wd be a better route than, say, moving to Denmark. At least at present.

A couple of books you might want to look at, in any case: Ethan Watters, "Crazy Like Us," and T.M. Luhrmann, "Of Two Minds."

Meanwhile, stay tuned: Susan and Joe will have something to say abt all this, I'm sure.


9:56 AM  
Blogger Alan2102 said...

Morris Berman:
"There is the curious stat that parallel to the rise in the consumption of anti-psychotic or anti-depressant drugs has been an *increase* in the rate of mental illness in the US. One would expect a *decrease*, if all of those pills were working, no?"

My guess is that this is circumstantial, and that the increase in the rates of mental illness is caused by:
1. society's increasingly psychotic and crazy-making nature, and
2. increased diagnoses (some being more or less correct diagnoses, and some being spurious).

The drugs might be causing some craziness too, but I doubt very much. Mostly they cause other problems (sexual disability, weight gain, etc., etc.).

11:37 AM  
Blogger Alan2102 said...

Art: "I remember watching, years ago, Charlie Rose interviewing the playwright, Tony Kushner. Kushner said that he considered being a Republican a mental disorder."

I am sending my suggested criteria for a new disorder to the DSM editorial committee: DOAD, or Duopoly Obsessional Attachment Disorder, which is characterized by compulsive voting and, in extreme cases, active campaigning for corporate politicians -- even in the face of overwhelming empirical evidence to the effect that these same politicians are effecting or facilitating a looting and destruction of one's own nation. DOAD sufferers are, tragically, gripped by obsessional and delusional convictions to the effect that "if we can all just vote for good people, things can be set aright". Prognosis is generally poor. Most DOAD sufferers can expect to remain in their lamentably deluded and infantile/regressed state until the terminal political and economic collapse of their nation -- at which point frothing and violent psychosis may supervene. Some few sufferers, however, given early diagnosis and aggressive treatment, may enjoy a return to sanity and functionality.


12:27 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...


Hope you don't mind me responding to your post, glad you are on the blog. Sorry to hear about your ongoing difficulties. While I share your desire to leave America (and have a very serious plan to do so in good time), it doesn't mean you have to suffer so much on a daily basis, especially to the point where you think not being alive is better. I strongly recommend you get yourself into a community mental health agency. I am not sure where you live, but I work a little at a nonprofit, and it's by far the best job i have. (I always work in private practice, but it has its drawbacks)...at the community agency, a few of my fellow therapists are some of the hardest working, most caring people I know (in a land full of narcissistic trolls, no less).

My agency is free for income-qualified people, and charges on a sliding scale. It's very financially forgiving, and we take only people withouth health insurance. It may really help to work with a therapist instead of just a psychiatrist so you can work at examining your inner self and it won't just be about doping you into submission. You are obviously intelligent and discerning enough to enjoy dr. berman's work and to be an accoplished student, and it sounds like you are also willing to search your soul and confront yourself with the tough questions, so you could potentially really benefit from the opportunity to work with someone who gives you a safe and effective place to do some work on yourself.

Hope you don't mind the "advice", just hate to see one of the few clear minds left in this zombieland have to suffer so dearly. If you'd like to email me or talk more, I'm at jose.no.sabe@gmail.com.

Thanks for the millionth time, Dr. Berman, for having this blog and interacting with us and giving us a forum to meet other wandering souls.

12:35 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Can't remember where I read it, but there are apparently a lot of data re: Zoloft et al. causing suicide and/or aggressive behavior.


3:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Em,

I totally sympathize. Maybe what is strange and crazy is that so many people can tolerate the intolerable. I've been living in the US for about 10 years now, and it has pretty much destroyed me. It's a long story... I am not taking any medications though. Doctors tried to give me antidepressants for my weight loss, for example. Bah.
And my homeland... it was destroyed too - the same source, hahaha, with sanctions, NATO bombing, blackmailing. But I am going back there! I am scared, but the alternative of staying where I am is at least equally scary.
Have you ever been outside of US? There are still traces of life outside of it, you know, traces of life that existed before TV and noise and cars and the shit culture. Life before the US! Something real, with people in it. Most of it is polluted, but there are at least traces...
I too wish I could give you a hug!

10:04 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Newsflash: The US Gov't is now putting people in prison for advocating civil (i.e. nonviolent) disobedience. Check out the story of Tim DeChristopher on today's truthdig.com. Too bad they can't exhume and jail Gandhi and Rosa Parks.

11:22 PM  
Anonymous David M said...

You know eventually they would have to find ways to round-up people like us. The next new patriot act is going to include jailing people who don't consume enough or are not taking enough medications which would be construed as seditious and anti-american. I think i'll go out and have my orange jump suit cleaned and pressed today.

8:27 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I can't imagine that the gov't, b4 2 long, won't be arresting people for what they write or say. They already have computer programs troll blogs for 'seditious' material--this is well known. Folks who write bks w/titles such as "Why America Failed" surely must be in a file labeled 'malcontents'. Will they construct detention camps in Nebraska for those guilty of 'thoughtcrime'? Exactly how far-fetched *is* that?

9:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave & Morris,
I can't see anyone getting locked up for thought crime, there are simply too many off the wall people running their mouths in America. However not consuming enough seems likely, not stimulating the market is right up there with "providing material support
to terrorists" . If you don't buy then you hate Anerica.
Sarah P.

10:19 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Today, Richard D. Wolff, Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of Amherst, Visiting Professor of Economics at New School University, and author of *Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do about It*, on DemocracyNow echoed Michael Hudson, who appeared on the show last week, by saying that the debt ceiling debate is political theatre--Hudson had called the debate a charade. Wolff proffered the interesting stat that the U.S. government has raised the debt ceiling 90 times since 1940, on average raising the ceiling twice a year since that time. Like Hudson, Wolff said that raising it has been normal, automatic, and routine since the time the U.S. became a debt society.

It's as Hudson described it: a game of Good Cop, Bad Cop, a charade, a bit of theatrics to condition people to believe that the proposed cuts to "entitlements" are fated and beyond debate.

Wolff usefully listed what's not on the table:
1) War and its costs and 2) taxation of the rich and corporations.

Wolff describes U.S. society as being dysfunctional politically and economically. He didn't mention that it's also socially dysfunction, as Morris Berman has repeatedly asserted. Unfortunately, Wolff is more hopeful and optimistic that the slide into utter disintegration of the U.S. can be reversed ("if only ..."). Here, Hudson sounds more realistic than Wolff, but both seem to have correctly analyzed the current non-crisis.

12:37 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

In a grim counterpoint to the Tim DeChristopher story, as well as David M's post, check out the story entitled 15 Years For Taping The Cops at AlterNet:


Apparently more states want to pass laws making it illegal to film any police officers blatantly breaking the law in public. So if you get out your cellphone or camera to tape police brutality happening on your own property, for instance, your equipment can be confiscated, you can be arrested, and you could quite possibly face several years in prison for the crime of revealing the truth.

1:13 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

DeChristopher's fate is a substantiation of a Derrick Jensen axiom (loosely paraphrased from *Endgame*):

The property of the people above is more valuable than the lives of the people below.

2:03 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Just in case we were still harboring any illusions about the Obama administration, today I found this official complaint filed on behalf of the scientist who first called attention to the possible threat to polar bears posed by climate change. It appears that the Obama admin has been investigating him for "scientific misconduct" (and pushing for more drilling up north at the same time), and that he is currently under a gag order, etc. The article was in today's Guardian, but you must read the text of the complaint itself to grasp the magnitude of the foolishness underlying all of this. Please note especially the transcript of a phone conversation between the criminal investigators (not scientists) handling the case and the scientist who is being accused. As comedy, it is worthy of the Marx Brothers. http://www.peer.org/docs/doi/7_28_11_Scientific_Misconduct_Complaint.pdf

6:44 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,


The advice Joe gave was good as well as practical. I hope you'll actively look for counseling on a sliding scale and do it soon. Please let us know how you are and if you've had any success starting treatment. The only advice I would add to Joe's is this: be completely honest about your symptoms and resist any temptation to add ones you don't have or you'll get treatment you don't want or need with possible unintended consequences. Good luck---I hope you'll do well.


It would take a sturdier believer than I am to have any illusions left about Obama. Talk about the power of advertising--he's living proof as to how far people can be duped (myself, the Nobel Prize committee and millions of voters included).

Dr. Berman--

I am completely reversing myself on antipsychotics. In fact, I'm for adding them to the water supply and we can begin in DC.

8:46 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


That's funny; I thought they already *were* in the water supply!


10:32 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

On DemocracyNow today, Johan Galtung, a Norwegian sociologist and founder of peace & conflicts studies, observed that Breivik's ideology is exactly the ideology of the Washington-led attacks on Muslim countries.

11:38 AM  
Blogger Alan2102 said...

"What Americans have that other people don't is an unbelievable level of stress. Among the countries I've lived in (West Germany, the former East Germany, Italy, New Zealand), Americans face a unique level of financial insecurity, a unique threat of violent crime, a society built for cars not people in which every day-to-day task you can name is difficult and time-consuming and complicated, an insane political system that periodically throws everyone's lives into turmoil, uniquely constant bombardment with muzac, a uniquely long working year, a unique level of fear paranoia and rage in the media . . . this place is nuts, and it's killing people. Just look at the level of medication in this country--for pain, for depression, for sleeplessness, for sleepiness, for twitchy leg syndrome, for "ADHD," . . . it's mad. We're not suffering from diseases of affluence; we're suffering from diseases of stress."

12:27 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

In terms of dollar sales, 2/3 of the antidepressant mkt is American--which is less than 5% of the world's population.

3:30 PM  
Anonymous JM said...

Several instructive facts about the felony conviction of Tim DeChristopher:

1. The judge did not allow him to tell the jury why he did what he did.
2. The judge also did not allow the jury to be told that activists raised enough money to pay for the bids made by DeChristopher.
3. DeChristopher received a longer sentence than many violent criminals do. There is no parole from federal prison.

DeChristopher is clearly a political prisoner and the latest victim of the vicious corporate war against environmentalism detailed in Will Potter's book Green is the New Red. http://www.greenisthenewred.com/

DeChristopher's statement at sentencing was magnificent:



“The big corporations, our clients, are scared shitless of the environmental movement. They sense that there’s a majority out there and that the emotions are all on the other side — if they can be heard. They think the politicians are going to yield to the emotions. I think the corporations are wrong about that. I think the companies will have to give in only at insignificant levels. Because the companies are too strong, they’re the establishment. The environmentalists are going to have to be like the mob in the square in Romania before they prevail.”

3:41 PM  
Anonymous David M said...

I'm responding to your post to give you a ray of hope. I to have suffered from depression. I also was on prozac and a few others. I fell deep into hopelessness thinking it would never end holding on only for my family's sake. After some years though I seemed to have come out of it. It was a long and slow process. Every once and while I would have a good day. I remember at the time it gave me hope and anytime I had one I would cherish it. I never got any relief from the medications, but mainly from talking to therapists, friends and family. Every once in while I have a short bout but it doesn't last. Hang in there you just never know. One day you might find yourself having a good ol time, when you do, hang on to it and try to build on it.

4:03 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


As I understand it, the judge did not regard the phony auction bid as any big deal. He made it clear that the 2-yr sentence was for advocating civil disobedience. Which means, that anyone the gov't doesn't like (i.e., the corporations don't like) is fair game for prosecution (persecution). When I wrote Dark Ages America, I confess I didn't imagine it wd get *this* dark.


4:14 PM  
Anonymous David M said...

I seen a headline on AOL that social security checks might be held up. How cruel would that be? There are millions of americans who can't make ends meet when they receive a check. What would happen if all of a sudden they should stop coming for what ever the reason. Chances are it would be devastating for these people. But of course! they are only people and its the politics and the bottom line that. Even if this report is bogus or political tactics by either party, its still cruel because it will scare the hell out of people. It looks like its getting darker every day.

8:40 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Check out recent interview w/Richard Wolff on Democracy Now, also Robt Scheer on truthdig.com. All of this is a way of preparing the American people for the end of entitlement programs, Soc Sec included. As in the case of the Roman empire, the cash will be depleted domestically and flow to things like useless military adventures. Getting Americans to believe that this is abt the national debt, rather than a corporate-political agenda, is a way to make it all seem inevitable, and thus ward off any possible protest; tho protest is not something we really engage in any more.


10:06 AM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

Dear MB and All,

I just returned yesterday from a five day individual retreat at a Vedantist monastery; after a routine scan of e-mails and paying bills online a day or so late (Corporacracy forgive me, for I have sinned...), I came to this blog finding it alive and well, insofar as reports from this site suggest to me that discriminating and thoughtful lemmings are much the preferred company even if they cannot completely escape the tide of the American variety of our species. flowing towards the edge of the cliff.

By the second day of the retreat most of the "radio stations" playing in my head faded out to the degree I could even fain to cultivate contemplative intelligence. I began reading I K Taimni's "The Science of Yoga," written a number of years ago and considered a classic exposition in English of themes from the Sanskritaphorisms of Patanjali. The section on "klesas" --the passions which defile the mind and which we foment while trying to avoid (or "medicate" away)--was especially compelling. I am afraid the standard North American "skamsara" (imprint which entails ongoing suffering), may be too much for us all. This is not the sort of yoga to make a "brighter, happier you" whose spokespersons would have turned up on Oprah.

Solemnity is a virtue not up for adverts or sales. Innoculate as quickly as you can!

7:24 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

This morning on Alternet is an article that makes the following point about the effect of medications and arbitrary diagnoses:

In 1955, Erich Fromm, the then widely respected anti-authoritarian leftist psychoanalyst, wrote, “Today the function of psychiatry, psychology and psychoanalysis threatens to become the tool in the manipulation of man.” Fromm died in 1980, the same year that an increasingly authoritarian America elected Ronald Reagan president, and an increasingly authoritarian American Psychiatric Association added to their diagnostic bible (then the DSM-III) disruptive mental disorders for children and teenagers such as the increasingly popular “oppositional defiant disorder” (ODD). The official symptoms of ODD include “often actively defies or refuses to comply with adult requests or rules,” “often argues with adults,” and “often deliberately does things to annoy other people.”

Many of America’s greatest activists including Saul Alinsky (1909–1972), the legendary organizer and author of Reveille for Radicals and Rules for Radicals, would today certainly be diagnosed with ODD and other disruptive disorders. Recalling his childhood, Alinsky said, “I never thought of walking on the grass until I saw a sign saying ‘Keep off the grass.’ Then I would stomp all over it.” Heavily tranquilizing antipsychotic drugs (e.g. Zyprexa and Risperdal) are now the highest grossing class of medication in the United States ($16 billion in 2010); a major reason for this, according to theJournal of the American Medical Association in 2010, is that many children receiving antipsychotic drugs have nonpsychotic diagnoses such as ODD or some other disruptive disorder (this especially true of Medicaid-covered pediatric patients).

The entire article, 8 Reasons Young Americans Don't Fight, is interesting and I thought others might be interested too.

8:20 AM  
Anonymous Jason said...

Yet more evidence of Cranial-Rectal Imbedment...


Global Warming on the Moon?

9:33 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Susan,

Thank u for all the info. You might want to check out Ethan Watters' "Crazy Like Us" for a comparison with other countries. We are living at the limits of a scientific civilization, awash in meds and electronic toys, as our minds get duller and duller.

All of this info makes me very sad, quite frankly. In addition to becoming docile thru drugs, Americans aren't very much fun to talk to anymore (in case u hadn't noticed). Dick Meyer ("Why We Hate Us") says we are now living in a zombie world, in this country. There is this vacant quality to our lives...when you read stuff on alternet or commondreams, the distance between the rare folks who see thru stuff like the 'debt drama' and the mass of the population becomes depressingly obvious. I don't know if the lead fork actually did rot out the brains of the Roman people, but I think it likely that our own equivalent, psychoactive drugs, is killing off what's left of the American mind.

During the Lincoln-Douglas debates, the audience sat quietly and attentively for five hrs at a time, following the arguments. Can u imagine any group of Americans being able to do that today?


9:53 AM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

"Oh yes, there is hope--infinite hope. But not for us."
Franz Kafka

I found this quotation in "Lonely Planets: The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life", by planetary scientist, David Grinspoon. Please permit me a brief existential interlude.

The more things fall apart, the more I'm drawn to exploring the "big picture": where did we come from? who are we? where are we going? I read about "Big History" (bighistoryproject.com) and the "Epic of Evolution" (journeyoftheuniverse.org). It's a great story: from the Big Bang, to the emergence of life, to the awakening of consciousness in complex organisms. Whether or not the human adventure has a happy ending remains to be seen. Grinspoon writes:

"Everything that I've learned about the nature of our universe and our biosphere tells me that life will find a way to thrive. Gaia, as Lynn Margulis has said, 'is a tough bitch'. If her noosphere chops off its head, she'll keep grooving along. In time, she may grow another noosphere, giving a different proto-intelligent species a chance at reaching the big time. I see our proud little spurt of technical invention as a little eddy in a whirling universe that is evolving, self-organizing, and moving inexorably toward more life and more intelligence. Our little whorl could wink out in an instant, or it could grow into a deeper, more stable mind-storm."

Like our crumbling empire, my own individual life is a mess; it's unlikely to get cleaned up "in time". But I take some consolation in the idea that the NMI is embedded within a larger movement toward self-realization. Not a very happy story, perhaps, but hopefully a true one.

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another reason why Americans don't protest:

I recently spoke online to a Republican who was trolling on Huffington Post, and he angrily defended the virtues of the Republican party by claiming that Republicans were like a "cold, stern father" who expected his kids to "work for what they have" and didn't want to hear any "whining," i.e. any criticism or attempts to find meaning in places other than work.

And there's the rub. How can Americans grow up, when even their parents subscribe to a "backwards definition of maturity" and teach children that growing up means mindlessly fitting into a hierarchy and overworking yourself at your parents/bosses/superiors' tasks with a cheerful smile on your face? In America, even your own family wants to train you for corporatism.

1:41 PM  
Anonymous Chad said...

Agreed. This weekend I had to listen to a guy prattle on and on about how Obama won't release his college transcripts and how this was indicative of something dark and sinister the president was trying to hide. Oh, and the president is a screaming-red socialist as well (instead of a feckless, ineffectual pro-corporate tool).

There's no point in even engaging anyone about our current predicament. You're right about 99 percent of the people not being able to see through the debt-ceiling drama. At this point unless it's about the new iPad I don't think most Americans can even be bothered to care. Trying to have an adult conversation with them using logic and facts is like trying to explain algebra to a dog.

Honestly, why do people like Bernie Sanders even bother making speeches? No one has the attention span to follow him and they wouldn't be able to process it if they did (although I suspect they would probably consider him un-American as he would be pointing out a lot of obvious problems they'd rather not confront).

3:14 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Art et al--

Yes, maybe there is some hope at the far side of history (wh/I personally believe is true, just that it's not going to manifest on US soil), but during our lifetime, in any case, the guiding rule will remain, Bad Is Good. The reality is that the progressives (whoever they are, and they certainly aren't any type of organized political entity) are completely deluded, because a decent future depends on having an intelligent citizenry; and lordy, that's the one thing we *don't* have. What we have is a collection of 310 million buffoons, and in such a condition, Onward and Downward is the only reasonable prediction. So, might as well get it over sooner rather than later, is how I feel about it.

However, all of this is larger than the US, tho we are the cutting edge (of folly). The capitalist formation that arose in Europe around A.D. 1500 is now playing itself out; it's in its final phase. The large structures that developed over the last few centuries are now in slo-mo disintegration; what cd be more obvious? For Americans who have half a brain (i.e., all 65 of them), I can only counsel hitting the road, or becoming an NMI. Some of the rest of the world, meanwhile, is exploring alternative options (alt. energy sources, e.g.), ones that may move into the breach as the collapse deepens. The only viable future I see that we might have is a medieval-style decentralized model--"anarchic," if you will. Not that that will be without its problems.

Ursula LeGuinn explored this in a number of novels (her father was the famous anthropologist, A.L. Kroeber), notably "The Dispossessed." It's more social commentary than sci-fi. Anyway, she juxtaposes a Late Capitalist planet with a Socialist planet with a "green" or Anarchic planet, and explores the pluses and minuses of each. (Warren Wagar copied and extended this in "A Short History of the Future".) This is well worth rdg to get a handle on our present situation. Also relevant is World Systems Analysis (Immanuel Wallerstein et al.).

Keep in mind that these large scale collapses/transformations are no picnic for those living thru them. The end of the Middle Ages, for example, saw plague, famine, and riots on a huge scale, and I'm quite sure we shall have our own equivalents of these b4 too long. I say this not to depress u all, but to pt out that living thru these kinds of times requires perspective: since we emerged from hunter-gatherer society, this cyclical pattern of accumulation/collapse has been the norm. Whether one lives in the US or SW Bulgaria, nothing--beyond sheer survival--is as important as having an educated guess, a meaningful interpretation of events (w/o resorting to "God").

This blog, of course, is a mere drop in the ocean; but what else is there? People need places (even virtual ones) where they can come together and think. If individuals can have a "dark night of the soul," so can civilizations, it seems to me. Not to be too apocalyptic about it, but welcome to the 21st century.


4:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazingly, we do have some genuine socialists in the USA. They are trying to organize and had a large conference this summer in Chicago.


Next time you meet someone who thinks Obama is a "socialist" point them to this site and see if they can even comprehend that "socialist" is something different from the Democratic party.

4:41 PM  
Anonymous David M said...

Dr. Berman
I purchased a copy of your book "Dark Ages America" a few days ago. Its a facinating read. I enjoy your prose, its hard to put down. It helps one cope with the reality of what is going on, when one understand how that reality came to be and where it probably is going to go.

7:47 PM  
Blogger diana said...

Recently read an article linking anti depressant use in pregnant women to autism. Had to shake my head when some of the women said they were told by their doctors that it was safe to use anti depressants during pregnancy. Can see those doctors lecturing against drinking and smoking while writing prescriptions for prozac.

Not so sure that people don't fight because they are drugged into submission. Would guess they gave up the fight long ago when they sacrificed their souls at the alter of materialism. and that the drugs are a balm for the emptiness and despair that comes from a life devoid of any value beyond narcissicism.

7:53 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yer probably rt; the American soul is certainly a haunted one. Or perhaps, it no longer exists.


Sequel to DAA on the way: "Why America Failed," scheduled for Nov. 1st release. Enjoy!


4:26 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


I think you're right. So many Americans have sold their souls for a mess of pottage -- artificial, hormone-laced pottage at that -- now they have to pretend that it was worth the price. Or maybe Maury is right, and they've long since forgotten that they had souls.

When I'm with such people, I'm struck by how individually nice & friendly they can be -- but how little depth they have. You simply can't talk about anything meaningful, because, "Hey, let's not get so serious!" or, "What are you complaining about?" Something along those lines, anyway. And if you persist in pursuing a more serious conversation, they can get very nervous, threatened, and downright angry.


I'm glad you mentioned that deeper, wider, more cosmic perspective. It's turning out to be a comfort to me as well. I believe C. S. Lewis once spoke of people squabbling in the hold of a ship, unaware of the vast world outside. When someone decides to go up on deck at night, a vaster universe is revealed. The squabbling still continues below, unresolved, often ferocious -- none of that has changed -- but it's suddenly put into a much different perspective by the sight of the ocean & the night sky filled with stars.

I've always liked that image ...

7:50 AM  
Blogger kate59 said...

Tim --
Wow, you've hit the nail on the head. Every time I try to talk about anything serious -- the debt crisis, for instance (!) -- people just say, "oh, I'm tired of that," or the endlessly-repeated "all politicians are crooks," or "I can't think about that stuff," etc. It's why we turn to the internet, and to blogs like this one.

9:15 AM  
Blogger kate59 said...

David M --
I also recently purchased Dark Ages America (I admit -- for my Kindle) and love it. It provides a wonderfully-documented history to all of our (the U.S.A.'s) troubles. I'm enjoying it immensely (if enjoying is the right word -- it's incredibly dismaying at the same time!). Three of us in my family are reading it simultaneously (that's the beauty of multiple Kindles) -- my twenty-year-old son has abandoned his earbuds of all things...after reading Dr. Berman's intro about the wired people on the streets -- he bought headphones to use them more "deliberatly" when listening to music, rather than just wearing the things all around town and alienating himself from those around him. It's a tiny step, but I love it all the same.
Anyway, kudos to Dr. Berman for an amazing read.

9:21 AM  
Anonymous Ray said...

Dear Morris and others...

Thanks for the last few posts of general considerations.

Living one's lifetime in years beyond the general cultural point of no return (but before the emergence of any succeeding viable matrix) is a particularly dark privilege that we share with a only few other generations that have lived on this planet.

I personally would rather be living in the immediately following phases - real defense against physical barbarian violence already necessary, new cultural practices already in need of further creative elaboration, etc.

Yet we are fated to be the Cassandra generations that endure mockery, incomprehension, or just the daily little deaths of seeing the ways of life we trusted as children slowly dry up and die in front of us. Without any clear idea of what comes after, we can only offer to others our bemused observations about the collapse, resist the Marxisant temptation to speed it up in bursts of pubertal culture jamming or worse, and accept that we can only help NMI'ize the new dawn in some foreign future we cannot live long enough to really share.

Our memory trace work - education, conversations, preservation of useful lifeways and practices - is our only consolation.

Better than nothing.

The passengers still argue in the hold, the few stand on deck and look up at the stars. There are hunter-killer submarines tracking the ship, madmen, thieves and fools are at the helm, the rivets are popping on the rusted hull, the engines are burning up, children are dying in the filthy bilges, and there are icebergs and sandbanks just up ahead. I look up at the stars too...but from the deck of a small escort ship, the kind that saved the survivors at Dunkirk. The kind that might founder before reaching safe harbor.

10:03 AM  
Anonymous Zosima said...

Great place to monitor the deliberate dumbing down is at www.dailyhowler.com. Check out today's column on the antics of the NYT coverage of the debt. A great place to see how even your best newspapers refuse to inform on the major issues, and how they strive to keep even the better educated people of this country in the dark.

11:03 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


The NYT is by now little more than a joke. Their actual motto ought to be, "All the News that Fits Our Views." That clowns like David Brooks and Thos Friedman are on their staff says it all. For real info on what's going on in the US, one hasta go to the online sources: alternet, commondreams, truthdig, rollingstone, and the others that have honest reporters and editors.


5:21 AM  
Blogger Mike Cifone said...

Dear Morris and Friends,

Thank you for your last comment Morris re the bigger picture. My contribution to this inner, nomadic project takes two forms. The first, an inward trek, has been healing for me on many levels. It's the immersion in the wealth of our trembling civilization's best works of the imagination. Without it -- and without your help, Maury, to go in, fully, and see what happens to my inner life -- I would be nothing, another soulhusk moving about, adrift in the electric wind.

The second is an outward gesture, moving, nomadically, across the land and finding a better place to live and work. I've now chosen San Francisco, which, tho not without its own forms of the dumbening, has the benefit of attracting fellow travelers. One of them is a close college friend of mine now living, with others, in an intentional community in southern Sonoma county. I'll be spending some time there, recouping and regrouping, while living in the Bay area, chasing a muse or two around the decaying empire of the imagination. Fun "job".

I'm taking a leap, and I hope that as I am in the air, I can see the landscape, see the pastures that need tending. As we enter this new World Medieval, many things are in the process of dying, as we know. My contention is that, as Heidegger said decades ago, "we are not thinking". I take this to mean that our reservoirs of thought -- I count science and philosophy there -- are dying, are drying up as we, as I suspect, "Egyptify", that is, as we turn ourselves into a living museum of failed hopes & dreams.

I hope to work on an escape route out of this embalming process, both inwardly (by fusing poetry and philosophy) and outwardly, by living in this medieval sort of arrangement Morris just mentioned.

Comments and advice much appreciated.

Thanks again (next dispatch from an undisclosed location)


12:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Recently read an article linking anti depressant use in pregnant women to autism. ... Can see those doctors lecturing against drinking and smoking while writing prescriptions for prozac..."

Interestingly, there is actually not a single study linking light alcohol consumption to a single birth defect. (Heavy drinking, yes - but not light consumption.)

But if god forbid you even SUGGEST that it might be okay for a pregnant woman to occassionally consume a little alcohol, you're a pariah. Seeing a pregnant woman having a single glass of beer or wine while pregnant would SCANDALIZE almost every person I know - HOW can she be so selfish? Who cares if it isn't PROVEN that there is any link between light consumption and birth defects - isn't it ALWAYS better to be safe than sorry? Unless you're a selfish woman in need of a shaming and an intervention over that one drink, of course!

Yet those very same people will take anti-depressants all through pregnancy, and say nothing when a heavily-medicated woman gets pregnant - despite the fact that there is at least some evidence of a link between anti-depressants and birth defects.

The difference? My guess is because one has to do with pleasure, while the other has to do with doctors and "treatment". This is a fundamentally puritanical society, after all.

3:31 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Just so u know, we love dispatches from undisclosed locations. It makes it all so much more cloak-and-dagger-like. Whee!


6:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've never understood this, 'God Bless America' line. Is it a joke? I've asked Americans about it but never received a satisfactory answer.

Which country did God bless before the United States came into being? None? All? A few?

Or was he deeply disappointed in everything that came before and with the rise of the states slapped His knees and said, 'Awesome! Finally a nation worthy of my blessing.' And if the nation is blessed why is it going pear-shaped?

On Evolution...Bill Hicks once said ,'you ever notice how people who don't believe in Evolution don't look evolved?'

6:20 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I think a comma got left out, as it seems to be an invocation: "God [if yer listening], bless America [, OK?]". However, punctuation aside, the answer to all your questions can be summarized in 3 words: Barbara Ann Nowak. I encourage u to google this name, and contemplate the photo. There, u will see the very heart, soul, and mind of America. If that ain't enuf, try Latreasa Goodman; or perhaps plug in "michele bachmann slavery quote." Enjoy!


7:14 AM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

Michael & MB,

What I find most interesting about the "God bless America" line is that it is one of the few popular examples in American English of what a Latin derived grammar calls the use of the "subjunctive mood."

I want two bumperstickers, one placed at each end on the back of my car:

"God Bless America." "It sure needs it."

--Mark N.

9:10 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I cd be wrong, but I think it's actually vocative (direct address to someone) followed by an imperative (bless; i.e., do this--a command). "Et tu, Brute," said Caesar; not Brutus, because that wd be nominative, but Brute, because that's the vocative. Of course English isn't inflected, i.e. doesn't have case endings.


9:26 AM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

Dear MB,

Good observation, which sent me to GH Vallins, "The Patterns of English" (1956). One use of the subjunctive, of which there several, although waning in English, is what is called the formulaic subjunctive. Such as in "God save the King" (or "God bless America"). The form may look like the imperative, but since you cannot strictly order God to do anything, the mood cannot be called imperative. As you point out, English is not inflected to reflect this difference, so the phonetic and written form of the verb (save/bless) look the same while the moods are technically different.

This is clearer in Romance languages as in the French "Que Dieu vous benisse" where the verb is clearly, phonetically and in written form, subjunctive.

It is in the subjunctive not only because God cannot be ordered about, but because the Divine's answers to your requests and wishes are uncertainas regards the form you wish or anticipate. They are uncertain. Hence, the subjunctive mood.

The vocative case indicates a noun or name of a person distinguished as an object of address and not as the object or subject of a verb. Example: In the sentence, "Please pass the Prozac,Pauline," the first name is in the vocative case as she is nether object nor subject, nor indeed indirect object. (As regards drugs, Pauline is only an enabler.)

"Thank you for the exchange, Morris." (vocative.)


"May you excuse my pedantry." (subjunctive)

--Mark N.

ps. I do recall right now Eric Berne's amusing discussion of what he called the "Berkely subjunctive," but I can't recall the partciulars.

2:52 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


Thanks for this dispatch -- please keep 'em coming!

My wife & I seem to be responding to the state of the culture by hunkering down in our "bubble built for two," as she laughingly calls it. Maybe it's a monastery built for two?

Frankly, I don't know if that's a solution or a surrender. It's good to get somewhere far away from the lowest common denominator, but how many can do that on a permanent basis? Well, perhaps more than I'd imagine ... but eventually most of us have to return to & live in the (un)real world, I'm afraid.

Maybe that's the problem, though -- maybe I am afraid to take such a step. Yes, I focus on NMI activities & living as best I can, presumably on the Zen principle of finding enlightenment in the midst of the mundane world. But that could just as easily be a self-serving excuse.

I do agree with your words about the inward journey, Mike. That's the one that really matters, I think.

Much of this is on my mind after watching Mindwalk again last night. The idea of getting away to someplace like Mont St. Michel is almost too beautiful to believe ... but even in the film, made in 1990, the characters comment on the radioactivity in the water, due to the nearby atomic power plant, and the overall pollution of the ocean. Is there any safe place, other than in one's own soul?

Again, I don't know. I don't have answers, just lots of questions. Meanwhile, I read, think, make art, struggle to make sense of things ...

3:08 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Dear Maury,

English is slightly inflected, a hangover from Old English (a Germanic language). Hence we have "he says," and "we say." The "s" is an inflection to indicate 3rd person, singular. Also, "'s" inflects for possession (the genitive), etc. But you're mainly right and English is becoming ever more uninflected just as Modern Greek is virtually uninflected when compared to Ancient Greek. Perhaps a general law of language evolution might surmise that Modern German will therefore become increasingly uninflected? But I'm no scholar of languages to answer such an intriguing question!

3:28 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Well, I dunno if u guys are rt abt all this grammar, but I did get a mild headache reading your messages (3 times). Perhaps we shd consult Barbara Ann Nowak, get things cleared up once and for all.

7:55 PM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

I just brought up Ms. Nowak's website for the first time.....jeez, what a photo! jeez. what a mind!

Several months ago I made a sardonic remark which I thought was really too cynical, and I especially don't want the women contributors of this blog to launch the standard femininist harangue against me, or to take the following remarks in the wrong way.ds

Back in the 1900's or thereabouts Ezra Pound said European civilization was "an old bitch gone in the teeth."

One might say today that American civilization is an old bith bolstered by Botox and pacified by Prozac.

6:28 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman and friends,

There's an interesting op-ed in the German magazine, Der Speigel, Once Upon a Time in the West by Jakob Augstein that you might find interesting. From a European's perspective, he writes why America isn't seen as viable social system anymore. From the introduction:

"This week, the United States nearly allowed itself to succumb to economic disaster. Increasingly, the divided country has more in common with a failed state than a democracy. In the face of America's apparent political insanity, Europe must learn to take care of itself."

With the markets crashing (again), he may have a point.

6:52 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Sarah has faded; Barbara Ann Nowak is now the rising star.

Barbara! I can't live without you! Have my babies!


Vielen Dank for the ref to Der Spiegel. I particularly enjoyed the author's statement that in the US, "reason has been replaced by delusion," and that as far as America being able to recover from its situation, "There's no deliverance in sight." We are, in short, kaputt.


9:34 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


I just read the Augstein commentary, and had an overwhelming impulse to just break down crying. It took me by surprise -- after all, we know what he's saying is true, we've known it for quite some time now -- and yet I was struck by a deep & wrenching sense of grief & sorrow & loss at how eagerly & gleefully civilized life is being trashed in America. Cue the announcer:

"The role of Lady Liberty is now being played by Barbara Ann Nowak."

My rewatching of Mindwalk sent me to Henry James' Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, which I clearly should have read sometime ago. But this might be the right time for me to read it after all. What a pleasure to immerse myself in its pages!

Is that what the future holds for us, though? Each of us building our own little Heaven/Haven in consumerist Hell's despite? Will that be enough to sustain us?

I guess we'll find out ...

10:29 AM  
Anonymous Jason said...

(Yet) more evidence that the US of A is goin' down the tubes...



11:01 AM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

All these grammar lessons got me thinking about the most influential lesson on Latin of all time:


Pure genius.


11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


The word "West" used to have a meaning. It described common goals and values, the dignity of democracy and justice over tyranny and despotism. Now it seems to be a thing of the past. There is no longer a West, and those who would like to use the word -- along with Europe and the United States in the same sentence -- should just hold their breath. By any definition, America is no longer a Western nation.

The US is a country where the system of government has fallen firmly into the hands of the elite. An unruly and aggressive militarism set in motion two costly wars in the past 10 years. Society is not only divided socially and politically -- in its ideological blindness the nation is moving even farther away from the core of democracy. It is losing its ability to compromise.

from: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,778396,00.html

Right on target. But look at the comments. The only comments posted so far could be by Barbara Ann Nowak. Maybe a few of the visitors to this blog could login and provide some evidence that not all Americans are brainwashed and unable to recognize that the US is becoming a third world nation?

7:19 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Am seriously thinking of renaming this blog Barbara Ann Nowak. Why not just call a spade a spade, and be done w/it?

Readers are encouraged to vote on this crucial issue. If more than 60% are in favor of this change, we go from DAA to BAN.

Barbara! I love you! Come to me!

8:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BAN is the future.

9:10 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

What cd be more obvious?


10:11 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

The Ballad of Barbara Ann
(With apologies to the Beach Boys)

A Bar bar bar bar Barbar Ann
Bar bar bar bar Barbar Ann
(Bar bar bar bar Barbar Ann)
Oh Barbara Ann take my hand
(Bar bar bar bar Barbar Ann)
Barbara Ann
(Bar bar bar bar Barbar Ann)
You got me rockin' and a rollin'
Rockin' and a reelin' Barbara Ann
Bar bar bar bar Barbar Ann

Went to a dance looking for romance
Saw Barbara Ann so I thought I'd take a chance
Barbara Ann
Bar bar bar bar Barbar Ann

Oh Barbara Ann take my hand
(Bar bar bar bar Barbar Ann)
Barbara Ann
(Bar bar bar bar Barbar Ann)
You got me rockin' and a rollin'
Rockin' and a reelin' Barbara Ann
Bar bar bar bar Barbar Ann

Say Bar bar bar bar Barbar Ann
Bar bar bar bar Barbar Ann
Oh Barbara Ann take my hand
(Bar bar bar bar Barbar Ann)
Barbara Ann
(Bar bar bar bar Barbar Ann)
You got me rockin' and a rollin'
Rockin' and a reelin' Barbara Ann
Bar bar bar bar Barbar Ann

Tried Betty Lou
Tried Peggy Sue
Tried Betty Lou but I knew she wouldn't do

Bar bar bar bar Barbar Ann
Oh Barbara Ann take my hand
(Bar bar bar bar Barbar Ann)
Barbara Ann
(Bar bar bar bar Barbar Ann)
You got me rockin' and a rollin'
Rockin' and a reelin' Barbara Ann
Bar bar bar bar Barbar Ann

Bar bar bar bar Barbar Ann
Bar bar bar bar Barbar Ann
Bar bar bar bar Barbar Ann
Oh Barbara Ann take my hand
(Bar bar bar bar Barbar Ann)
Barbara Ann
(Bar bar bar bar Barbar Ann)
You got me rockin' and a rollin'
Rockin' and a reelin' Barbara Ann
Bar bar bar bar Barbar Ann

Barbar Ann
Barbar Ann

12:27 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

“A nation or a civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on an installment plan.”


7:50 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

On Obama as a spineless nonentity: see essay by Drew Weston in the Sunday Review section of today's NYT.

And the clown will probably be re-elected!

9:19 AM  
Blogger diana said...

Dr. B.

I've read the recent articles on Obama's cowardice, spinelessness, ball-less-ness and completely disagree that weakness is the problem. To say that Obama is weak and spineless is to assume that he did not fight for something he believes in. But why fight if there is no principle, no value worth sticking your neck out for. He has everything he values, power, money and celebrity.

Seems to me that we are using old paradigms to evaluate people with new and profound personality and spiritual disorders. The reality is that they are different. It's what we discuss daily on this blog. What we have here is the new American. These people have no soul, no inner life. These are replaced by personal narratives: Raised by single mother. Abused by someone. Triumphed despite the odds.. If you have read anything about Oprah or have seen her show, you know the list.

How else could he have had an academic career and serve as editor at the Harvard Law review and has written nothing that sheds any light on any principle or value he holds. But he has written about his cocaine use. So as we discussed earlier, the drugs are needed because the soul, as you said, is haunted or just not there.

2:09 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, the Repubs have ideas and principles; they just happen to be bad ones. The Dems have nothing at all. But I agree, Mr. O is a real Nowhere Man.


2:54 PM  
Blogger Mike Cifone said...

Maury --

Everything ok down there? This Barbara thing has me worried; maybe I can drive down from SF and we can do a couple tequila shots, and we can do a duetto with this Barbara song? I can sing falsetto...

DAA or BAN, hard choice.

Tim --

Must see Mindwalk; thnx. Btw: I think you mean Henry Adams on that Chartres essay, no? In any case, I put that on my list; working through Maggie Jackson's *Distracted* as a follow-up to Carr's fantastically argued & written book (*Shallows*), alg with Toynbee's big *A Study of History* (the chaps on declining civs, esp. Egypt). Also see the remarkable work of Vilem Flusser *Into the Universe of the Technical Image* & *Does Writing Have A Future?* -- no, it doesn't, as we move to the imagistic/visual. This thesis is shared by Hedges and even Carr. Our dark age will be an explosion of visual splendor, as dialectical-logical complexity becomes the purview of a small collection of elites; even then, as in the European Dark Ages, true depth & independence of thought will be a rare thing, as most of the "thinking" will be devoted to doctrinal or technical affairs (collecting "data", endless political "debates" & commentary, etc.).

This week it should be clearer than ever: party's over.

Maury: I know you didn't have a crystal ball back in '99/'00 when you wrote TAC; but jeez, pretty f***in close.

Onward & Downward.

3:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is off topic, but there was a "riot" at the Wisconsin State Fair a few days ago. Hundreds of black teenagers ran wild, and assaulted various white people while shouting racial slurs. It's strange to me how the national news didn't cover this. If it had been hundreds of Ku Klux Klan members punching blacks at a gathering, it would have been front page news. I only found out about this through reader comments on Yahoo. The media is slanted in a very liberal way. I feel myself, just like David Mamet, shifting more and more away from the liberal point of view. You can google this news story, and ironically, only the Madison news stated that the attackers were all black, and the victims all white. I feel myself losing "faith" with the liberal establishment. There was also a murder a few years ago where two brothers (black) just out of jail went to a random house and raped and executed 7 out of the 8 "white" residents. The last girl ran away after being shot in the head, nude. This was also not picked up in the national media. It was mentioned in Pat Buchanan's "Death of the West." (It didn't fit the profile). The media is only publicizing white on black crime, even though it is very rare.
I also know from a friend on our major city paper (one of the last) that reporters are told what is OK to write and what is not politically-correct, etc. This is similar to what Goebbels did in the Third Reich.
I tried to read that Augstein article, and found it ridiculous that he said Europe was "The West". Europe is being swallowed by Islam, let's get real. There is a lot of anxiety in France and Germany. It is not a nice feeling to have people around you that don't think like you, don't have the same values, etc. Multi-culturalism doesn't work. It never has, and never will. Actually America is in better shape because Mexicans are Catholic, and closer to us cultural than Islam, etc. Actually the Mexicans have more "heart" than most Anglos. I am not racist, but I think "truth" should be "truth" and the news should be objective. MSNBC is as bad as FOX.

9:11 PM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

(The following delivered in the manner of Sarah Palin)

Hey, guys and gals of the DAA, don'cha think we gotta help Maury with his BAN obesssion?

Change the name of this blog from the DAA to BAN?

Say it ain't so, Mo.

You can come on to my flow anytime up here near the North pole. Let's melt snow balls in the only kind of global warming I know (Smile, wink wink.)

yrs truly


9:39 PM  
Blogger Zosima said...

Tim, you just reminded me of something that makes me think maybe human beings aren’t so bad after all. Poetry. Thanks for reminding me about Mindwalk. To listen to this poem just google Mindwalk Enigma.


You ask me what the lobster is weaving down there, with its golden feet.
I tell you the ocean knows this.
You say who is the ascidia waiting for in its transparent bell.
I tell you, its waiting for time, like you.
You say who does the macrocystis algae hug in its arms.
Study it.
Study it at a certain hour in certain sea I know.
You question me about the the wicked tusk of the narwhal and I respond by describing to you about how the sea unicorn, with a harpoon in it, dies.
You inquire about the kingfishers feathers which tremble in the pure springs of the southern shores.
I want to tell you that the ocean knows this,
That life, in it jewel boxes, as endless as the sand impossible to count, pure.
And the time among the blood colored grapes has made the petal hard and shiny,
Filled the jellyfish with light, untied its knot, letting its musical threads fall,
From a horn of plenty made of infinite mother of pearl.
I’m nothing but the empty net which has gone on ahead of human eyes, dead in the darkness, fingers accustom to the triangle, longitudes on the timid globe of an orange.
I walked around like you investigating the endless star.
And in my net during the night I woke up naked,
the only thing caught,
a fish, trapped inside the wind.

Pablo Naruda

3:20 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thank you for writing in. A lot of food for thought, obviously. BTW, the Wisconsin State Fair riot was covered by the Milwaukee newspaper, the Journal Sentinel. I cdn't find anything in the NYT or the Wash Post.


6:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let us assume an America of Bermans and Chomskys, 300 million of them. They have all the voting power. The political landscape after an election would be unrecognizable. I would suggest that few politicians, if any, on the scene today would still be around. The new credo might be, 'tell the truth or get off the stage!'

My point is, how can so many people be duped? Now it's clear that at least two qualities must exist in a person to see through the scam, intelligence and erudition.

Whilst it is clear these qualities are not widespread in the general population, there are a good number of people with all the 'right stuff' who seem fooled. How is this then possible? It's easy to understand how a simple-minded person falls prey to nonsense, but what of the intelligent?

Or are they fooled? Are they two people in one? One side hidden that knows and then a facade? Is it, 'yes I know it's all phony but it pays?'

What is it in intelligent people that allows them to go along with obvious lies? Is it evolutionary? Why is there a minority that see and refuse to accept it all?

7:34 AM  
Anonymous Jason said...

Anon: Supposed 'ultra-liberal' NPR covered the Fair Riot.

9:13 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

And in a wonderful instance of serendipity -- or synchronicity, if you prefer - Andrew Bacevich invokes Henry Adams in the latest issue of Commonweal:


In addressing the moral & spiritual crisis of the digital world, Bacevich writes:

As successor to the Machine Age, the so-called Information Age promises to empower humanity as never before and therefore to complete our liberation. Taking the form of a wireless handheld device, the dynamo of our time has truly become, as Adams wrote, “a symbol of infinity.” Rather than spewing masses of stone and steam, it offers instant access to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

The Information Age does something else as well, however: it displays in stark terms our propensity to bow down before freedom’s reputed source. Anyone who today works with or near young people cannot fail to see this: for members of the present generation, the smartphone has become an amulet. It is a sacred object to be held and caressed and constantly attended to. Previous generations fell in love with their cars or became addicted to TV, but this one elevates devotion to material objects to an altogether different level. In the guise of exercising freedom, its members engage in a form of idolatry. Small wonder that aficionados of Apple’s iPhone call it the Jesus Phone.

10:00 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Depends on yer definition of intelligence. Given the intense brainwashing that goes on in this country from a very early age, high IQ is no guarantee of anything. Robert McNamara had a very high IQ and was basically an idiot (and a war criminal to boot). I could give you lots of examples of this from personal experience as well (e.g. talking to very smart people and watching them glaze over when you raise fundamental questions abt American history).

Seeing thru the b.s. requires a certain facility of mind, one might call it reflexivity, that enables one to see thru one's own belief system and also, get into the mindset of different ones. It is an anthropological way of thinking. For most Americans, this requires traveling or living abroad, which can then undermine the fixed American viewpoint on things. But 88% of the American public don't travel outside the country, except for occasional holidays in Canada and Mexico. Thus, for most, the accepted American narrative remains intact. Mr. Obama, for example, has a very high IQ, but if you read his speeches you see that he buys into classic notions of "City on the Hill," free enterprise, America has a mission in the world (redeemer nation), technology will save us, and all of the other cliches (conscious and unconscious). He is so blind that he won the Nobel Peace Prize, went off to Oslo, and gave a lecture on America's right to unilateral action--what could be dumber? He doesn't even grasp the fact that we are a dying empire. You get the idea.


10:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

FWIW, I was never taken in by Obama, the build-up to war following 9/11, or sundry other memes propagated through the media. I'm not invulnerable to bad ideas, but I've retreated so completely from the dominant media that I've never seen an Obama speech and rarely encounter Fox News or attend to other propaganda organs. My basic stance is arch skepticism, repudiating nearly everything. But what has it gotten me, really, except disenfranchisement and alienation? Hard to say.

Prof. Berman sez: "Whether one lives in the US or SW Bulgaria, nothing--beyond sheer survival--is as important as having an educated guess, a meaningful interpretation of events (w/o resorting to "God")."

This is perhaps the best answer to my question "what has it gotten me?" I don't pretend to be clear-eyed about most things, as objective truth is difficult to come by, but a meaningful interpretation is worth the struggle, at least to me. Ironically, that's exactly what the culture is also straining for: a meaningful interpretation. Too bad its delusions are worse than my own.

3:20 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


As I said to Michael, much depends on the cognitive facility of reflexivity. Check out essays #2 and 5 of "A Question of Values," in which I discuss American narrative structures. 310 million Americans live inside of those structures; i.e., are unconscious and unthinking. A tiny handful are able to look at American history w/X-ray eyes and see the narratives, and also see them for what they are--just-so stories that we tell ourselves so that we can function. But function how? The problem is that these narratives don't really correspond to reality, so that in the fullness of time, we stop functioning. The American Dream, for example, was always crap: how can you attain infinitude in a finite world? Now it is hitting a wall, so Americans are hurting and angry. Reality will not be kind to us, my friend; this is definitely not the "American century". The major tragedy is that the American habit of always blaming the Other, and never ourselves, will continue. The 310 million will not recognize the narratives at all. As Gore Vidal famously said, "Americans never learn; it's part of our charm."


4:21 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

And the Dumbening continues ...


Apparently education needs a digital upgrade, according to the book this writer is enthusiastically endorsing. If students can't write a decent essay, the problem is obviously with the obsolete essay form itself -- let 'em write blogs & do video projects instead!

As always, the comments posted in response are well worth reading.


You're too quick, I think, to dismiss the edification one can get from traditional modes of scholarship, like reading books like "Gravity's Rainbow." To posit that reading serious and complex works of fiction is antiquated and, compared to consuming digital media, is unprofitable to the modern mind is misguided. I'm not even a big Pynchon guy, but his books are at the very least a nice vocabulary lesson. Your vision of the future, as I've gathered from your articles, seems to be a world that is sterile, pragmatic, technologically proficient and intellectually vapid, which, frankly, I find strange from someone with a Harvard English degree.

I'm in my mid-twenties, and find the information exchanged on social media within my age bracket to be anything but "intellectually robust" -- I find it to be intellectually vacuous! Your articles seem to promote the antithesis of a traditional liberal education, when in reality, a synthesis between new and old forms of learning is probably for the best. Have you ever met an average 18-year old? They can't sit down for half an hour and read. Is that good?

3:10 PM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...


Thanks for posting that response to the NYT article, and thanks also to whomever authored the response. I saw the title of the article I when I skimmed the site yesterday, but did not click to read, as the upbeat jingle advertsising a bright digital tech and eduation future has become all too familiar, and ...well, to paraphrase William Blake "the sounds are many, but the notes are really few."

For an "ars humaniora" respite from all that, check out Stephen Greeblatt's article on Lucretius and his De Rerum Natura in the current "New Yorker."

MarK N.

5:51 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Not to be missed:


8:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maury, baby! Where are you in these trying times?? London in flames, America all hopped up on guns and meds and political rhetoric, and Japan (where I live) shaking and quaking each day like it's about to become neighbours with Atlantis. We need you man!

10:12 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


The vast majority of responses to that article were in the same vein as the one I quoted, by the way.

And thank you for pointing me to that Greenblatt article. Time to dig out that old Penguin edition of Lucretius from a recent library sale, I think!

A little exploration of the New Yorker site also turned up this article about secularism & meaning, and all those Big Questions that concern the caring, thinking mind:


At one point the author refers to "... newspaper columnists (of the kind who argue that we are happiest living in suburbs and voting Republican because neuroscience has 'proved' that a certain bit of our brain lights up upon seeing Chevy Chase or Greenwich; or that we all like novels because stories must have taught us, millennia ago, how to negotiate our confusing hunter-gatherer society — I exaggerate only a little)." David Brooks, anyone?

The shallowness of the current age is why someone like David Brooks is acclaimed by many as a deep thinker, of course, rather than the unashamed apologist for The Powers That Be that he is -- he offers pre-packaged, pre-digested nostrums of confirmation bias that soothe & satisfy anyone who might question the status quo. As so many pundits & experts do these days.

And if that fails, there's always a pill you can take, right?

Have any of you ever told friends or acquaintances that you were struggling with the meaning of life, that you wanted to know what it was all about ... only to be treated like some poor, naive, addled fool? That, or an insufferable snob sneering down your nose at them?

(Maury, work filters here are blocking the Logos Journal link, but I'll happily read it once I get home. Or is "happily" the right word?)

11:02 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


What makes u think I went anywhere? I'm here at the computer, as always. Meanwhile, I'm planning a trip to Japan next yr, part of a research project. Why don't u write me an email and identify yerself? mauricio@morrisberman.com

(Watashi wa Mauricio desu)


3:46 PM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

From Philip Greene's "Farewell to Democracy"

"Now in the U.S., even more so that in Western Europe, in the wake of headlong privatization and the manufactured debt crisis the welfarist regime has become nothing more than the resistance of an obsolete past against an enfeebled present and an onrushing future.."

How true. Nonetheless, yesterday I became eligible for food benefits as my monthly income is so low, and I was shocked I was accepted. But I am also very grateful. No telling how long the benefits will last.
Twelve months from now I hope to be outside the States, in SE Asia or West Africa--the latter not such a soft landing place as the former, true, but from past experience I have found it is much better to live in a place where you can sense the sky above and the mud below, instead of having your head stuck in nether regions, virtual or otherwise.

Finally read the NYT article on digital upgrade in education. Reminded me of "Campus 1980" by William Arrowsmith, which came out in 1970, predicting fantastic changes in education wherein students would be visiting
Greece instead of "just reading" Sophocles and Euripedes. Sounds great--the educational bureaucracy's equivalent of the Popular Mechanic's magazine cover depicting us zooming around towering structures in flying cars, etc.

6:44 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Re: riots in England, check out the following editorial that appeared today in The Guardian:


9:08 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Sorry, that got cut up somewhat. The website is:


9:11 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Seumas Milne authored the account of the London riots Maury cited. Is he related to A.A.?

"Politicians and media talking heads counter that none of that has anything to do with sociopathic teenagers smashing shop windows to walk off with plasma TVs and trainers. But where exactly did the rioters get the idea that there is no higher value than acquiring individual wealth, or that branded goods are the route to identity and self-respect?

While bankers have publicly looted the country's wealth and got away with it, it's not hard to see why those who are locked out of the gravy train might think they were entitled to help themselves to a mobile phone. Some of the rioters make the connection explicitly. "The politicians say that we loot and rob, they are the original gangsters," one told a reporter. Another explained to the BBC: "We're showing the rich people we can do what we want."

He concludes with this:

"We're starting to see the devastating costs of refusing to change course."

And could be talking about US.

4:36 AM  
Anonymous David M said...

Dr Berman
I finally broke down and googled BAN: I think I'm going to be sick.
Professor Juan Cole had a excellant post reguarding the London riots on his informed comments blog a couple of days ago. Also Robert Jensen gave a speech to the veterans against the war(it can be found on counter currents.org in an edited form, just scroll down to it)in which he spoke about the three great revolutions The Agricultural, The Industrial, and The Delusional. He gives humanity no chance of surviving in its present form.

9:43 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Try to compress a bit; I worry when messages get too long.

Thanx mucho,


12:53 PM  

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