October 12, 2011

Energy vs. Analysis

Dear DAA65:

If you've been following the discussion on this blog, the essay below will not contain very much new information; and I agree that we've probably worked over Steve Jobs ad nauseam, and should probably let the poor bugger rest in peace. However, I wanted to collect my thoughts in a more coherent form, so as to present what I feel is a generally ignored slant on the Wall St. protests. Or at least, I can't find any mention of this thesis anywhere, which is hardly surprising. The idea of a Stage 1 and Stage 2 of protest movements, and the possibility that the "screen culture" and the social media promote the first and then undercut the second, is to me an intriguing possibility, and I'm thinking it may even be correct. But that it would not be raised in the media (whether virtual or hard copy) should hardly come as a shock, given the enormous "religious" pull of technology as a supposed panacea in American history--as dear to the Left as it is to the Right. Anyway, I offer this reorganization of my previous scribblings as food for thought. As follows:

Like most folks reading this, I want the Wall St. protests to succeed, though at this point I'm not exactly clear as to what that would look like. Minimally, the arrest and trials (preferably at the World Court in The Hague) of numerous CEOs for financial terrorism; confiscation of the wealth of the top 1% and the redistribution of it among the rest of us; immediate withdrawal of all troops from Iraq and Afghanistan; reduction of the Pentagon budget by 90%; massive reparations, plus heartfelt apologies, to Iran, Guatemala, Vietnam, Chile, Iraq, and several other countries, for the horror we visited upon them through the CIA and our foreign policy; and so on. In terms of what needs to be done in order to turn America around, these are admittedly very small steps—baby steps, really—but one has to begin somewhere, after all. However, this is to get ahead of ourselves. Right now, as far as Occupy Wall Street goes, anything might happen. Historically speaking, demonstrations that seemed tame suddenly caught fire, as in the case of, say, the Russian Revolution. So it’s hard to predict the outcome of these protests in any definitive way.

That being said, I confess it doesn't seem likely that these protests can reverse 400 years of a culture based on “hustling,” as I call it in my most recent book, Why America Failed, or the post-Civil War consolidation of corporate America. Which brings to mind a quote from Lincoln: we must "disenthrall" ourselves, he said. Are we now clutching at straws, and getting all enthralled? Look at the enthrallment over Obama in 2008, and how he turned out to be the very opposite of what he said he was. (Basically, a George Bush who can speak English.) I hear Michael Moore saying how these protests will sweep the country, and I think: but you thought Obama was going to sweep the country. Maybe it's time to look at our tendency toward enthrallment, and figure out why “sweeping” is not very likely.

A friend of mine, a journalist, was down at the Washington, DC, protests a few days ago and gave a talk about formulating a new foreign policy for the United States. Only 50 people attended, he told me, and of those only two were under 60 years of age. This for me is an ominous sign. Where can these protests wind up, if they are only about euphoria and youthful energy, and if a sober analysis of American history and our situation today is not a factor in the current uprising?

So much is made of the role of the “social media” in these types of uprisings; I remain skeptical on a number of grounds. I mean, Facebook didn’t play much of a role that I know of in Paris during 1789; and where is the Egyptian “revolution” now? But it goes much deeper than this. Even if we credit the social media with being able to mobilize youthful energy, this is only Stage 1 of any successful protest. Stage 2 is really being able to know and analyze what this country is about, or what a new US foreign policy might consist of; and on this score, the very things that made Stage 1 possible now ironically serve to make Stage 2 extremely difficult, if not impossible. For it is because of these media, and the cumulative impact of television and the Internet in our lives, that young Americans are literally unable to think. They don't know what the difference is between information and knowledge, nor do they really understand what an argument is; and thanks to the new telecommunications technologies, they now have the attention span of a gnat. Printed books take time; they are designed for thinking and reflection, whereas screens are designed for scanning, for bouncing around, for “Whassup, dude?” And if these folks should happen to attend a lecture, they typically sit there and check their e-mail or text-message their friends. In such a context, Stage 2 of the protest is not likely to come about.

All this current worship of Steve Jobs is a symptom of massive cultural dysfunction and decay, in my view; but not just mine. There is by now a large literature on the damage caused by the Net, Google, Facebook, and so on, even detailing the negative impact they have on synaptic connections in the human brain (cf. Nicholas Carr, Sherry Turkle, Christine Rosen, et al.). Nevertheless, I think we are still a long way from really grasping the incredible damage wrought on ourselves, and our culture, by the googlification of American society; from understanding that Gates, Jobs, and Zuckerberg have been little more than cultural undertakers.

This is something I deal with in Chapter 3 of Why America Failed, devoted to the history of American technology. One can of course argue that there are good and bad technologies, or good and bad uses of technology; this is the conventional wisdom on the subject. But the truth is that technology is never neutral, never value-free: as Marshall McLuhan (among others) argued decades ago, any particular technology carries a value system with it, and introduced into a culture it will change the nature of that culture quite profoundly. In short order, thanks to Jobs & Co., we've gone from a literate culture that had a human depth, and a sense of self, to a screen culture that has neither. All that remains is the flickering image of the moment—not exactly the stuff of revolution, or even serious protest. Really, what could be more congenial to the American corporate state? If I could get myself appointed Dictator of America (benevolent, of course), my first order of business would be to require that (a) everyone own a cell phone, and be using it almost constantly; (b) everyone be signed up on Facebook and Twitter; and (c) everyone be taking Prozac or Zoloft on a daily basis. I would reign in perpetuity, no doubt about it.

©Morris Berman, 2011


Anonymous Jim said...

Very interesting analysis of the OWS protests. I concur about its uniqueness, as I've read little written about the Wall Street convergence that was not either confused (what are their demands and who are their leaders?) or laudatory (the protesters are the "best among us"). Then along comes the good doctor to cogently set things back in a reality-based setting, with a nod to our history.

I teach a Tuesday night writing class and a student got very confrontational when I brought up McLuhan and the whole notion of the "medium is the message." Interesting that this particular person finds it hard to bring more than 200 words to class and complains about lack of time to write, and yet can't see that one of the hindrances to developing her craft is the amount of time she devotes to technology and other devices that rob her of her capacity towards creativity.

Can't wait 'til the book is out; I have a NOOK (Barnes & Noble) not a Kindle, so I can't "cheat" and download it, otherwise I probably would have by now. Not yet available from B & N.

I have really enjoyed the amount of activity, spirited (and informed) dialogue, and pertinent topics of late.

This blog is a great example of a salon, in the best sense of the word, with you serving as our host.

6:43 AM  
Anonymous satyaSarika said...

yes but ...

Think of the 'People's mike' that the rebels are using to communicate in lieu of amplification.

Because of the constant Internet access, we can readily look up historical references and educate ourselves more quickly.

As long as 'some' become experts perhaps the electronic connections will aid in evolving a kind of revolutionary neural net.

Many of us never fell for Obama's rhetoric but see OWS as the beginnings of a real movement.

Because of the ecological catastrophes in the making, we may not have the time for a monastic regrouping...

Anyway,it's heartening to see and listen to the protesters. it's the most real thing that has happened here in a long time!Perhaps enough.folks can still concentrate and think to carry Off the needed revolution. (sorry for the weird punctuation ... it's the technology getting in the way. :)

7:26 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

This post gets to the heart of the matter in a very eloquent way. I am currently reading the Carr book with some students in a class called "ethics and technology". We have had some good discussions of Carr's analysis, and have also been reading Mumford,Borgmann, Ellul,Heidegger etc. My impression is that young people are, at least to some extent, aware that technology is not just a set of neutral tools and that their lives are profoundly shaped by life online. Many students have responded very favorably, for example, to Borgmann's ideas about reforming technology by cultivating focal things and practices (one student a few years back was so moved that he went to see Borgmann in Montana). I guess my point is that, as Sherry Turkle has observed, the young do not always feel "liberated" by technology and in fact experience a lot of anxiety and depression related to using it. They are "enthralled" in the sense of "enslaved", but not wholly satisfied with their lives. As you say, however, few people are linking the problem of our disappearing literary culture with the question of the prospects of protest. So Stage 2 of Occupy, the thinking through things in a careful way part, becomes less likely.

7:51 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Maybe one of the reasons Americans have flocked to the internet is b/c of the isolation we all experience in this society. As you've pointed out in other work, there is no community or cafe society, interactive neighborhoods or any place where we can socialize spontaneously. A friend of mine from Nigeria has been in Texas for 20 years and made this observation; she actually sent her three oldest children (15,14,12) back to Nigeria for a year to live in the same town as her family so they could see what a community was like. When I moved to Austin 7 years ago there was no town square (and there won't be one either) to meet people so it's been a struggle to build friendships and social connections. I really enjoy reading your blog and contributing too but I know this doesn't substitute for a real life with real people.

I think you're right about stage 2 when the full impact of the conditioning of instant response and bite size thoughts takes its toll. I hope the OWSers do strike terror into the hollow men on Wall Street and they're further exposed for the sniveling little cowards they are.

8:28 AM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

I found you and your friends here because of a piece you wrote on the late, great Joe Bageant.

I am not betting on the Occupy XYZ activities to grow into something cohesive and successful either, but as in the case of the Russian Revolution, sometimes the ball lands in the little slot marked "00" and some things change some.

One of the most heartwarming and optimistic of Joe Bageant's images was of the demolitions-trained Vietnam vet schooling the young anarcho-activist on the color coding scheme for electrical wires.

We are on the verge of that scene becoming real, if it hasn't done so already. If that scene doesn't come through the looking glass soon enough, the future is chock-a-block with other potential game changers.

Imagine a scenario where a 14-year old West Virginia girl can't get an abortion, but, thanks to lawmakers wanting to make things easier on poor, endangered coal companies, can get herself a heap of dynamite.

If you close your eyes and sympathize, can you visualize her strapping on the suicide vest she made in Home Ec class ? Now imagine she's scholastically in the top 5% nationwide and she's not interested in buying (y)our Thelma & Louise ending. To cop a phrase from one of the Desert Storm TV-briefing generals, "America is a target-rich environment."

To end on a hopefully more upbeat note, I'm curious to know your opinion of the work of Buckminster Fuller.

8:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your post made me think of the following notes I wrote to myself regarding the Occupy Movement.


10-6-2011 (WED) THRU 10-10-11 (SAT)


The first night I got home I remember thinking that it is all useless. That, evil has to eat itself in order for it to be defeated. In other words, it is pointless to try to dismantle it in through protesting. It occured to some of us that the oligarchs are laughing at our small group and that we are nothing more than a very small pimple on the earth. After all, they have ALL the gold and ALL the property and ALL the Media and all the guns. No sense in thinking we can do something. Eventually, evil will devour itself because monopolization of resources in the hands of the few eventually leaves no one to be slaves. Some of us discussed this idea and wondered why do the 1% do not think of this eventuality.

Saw footage about Egypt! The damned Generals are in charge after all that energy to rid a dictator. They aren’t any better off. Are they? My point exactly. So much for the Arab Spring.

But then, the next day, I got on the internet and found the Occupytogether.org site and realized how many other actions are simultaneously going on. There is one near me that I can participate in and possibly bring one to our area! Maybe evil can be defeated?

9:17 AM  
Blogger Justin Ritchie said...

Excellent points. Reform of the US via the Occupy Wall Street protests will be very difficult to achieve because the well reasoned treatises that were the backdrop of the American Revolution against the British have been replaced by a constant stream of 140 characters. The US population was so caught up in the Reaganomics bubble of the last 30 years that no one took to streets in any meaningful fashion. In France, Greece, etc.. where strikes and protests happen far more often, these nations have built an infrastructure for protests and their politicians act knowing that a disgruntled public could make life very difficult. American politicians have been able to get away with anything they like as long as it means bringing back the pork to their district, ensuring re-election. OWS is the first attempt at building a US infrastructure for protests. A first attempt That may not be all that successful, but people haven't had all that much practice at showing large scale public outcry in a few generations. Until widespread coordinated strikes occur, normality won't be disrupted. When you have guys in New York City jumping to save someone from the subway tracks just because he couldn't afford to be late to work on the train, the desire to preserve the rapid pace of American work life is still maintained. If that pace can be challenged through public disruption, this movement has a glimmer of hope, yet still may remain rather shallow. I expect outrage against bankers to amplify as the EU breaks down and their banking crisis shakes markets around the globe, OWS and similar groups could get quite heated, spark a violent clash against law enforcement which could spiral out of control quickly until someone dies at the hands of police and becomes the poster child of a violent revolution. Recognizing the possibility can help us avoid chaos. Let's hope nonviolent strikes are the path this movement follows instead of an urban melee.

9:23 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Thank u all for the first crop of reactions. I think it's a shame that I/we can't get a huge grant from the government (funding from Goldman Sachs would be wonderfully ironic) for all of us (DAA65) to fly to Paris and sit around at the Cafe Procope--the favorite of the 18thC philosophers during the Enlightenment--and talk abt all these things face to face. We have something of a virtual 'community' here, I suppose; but as Susan pts out, there's no substitute for bodies, for being physically together.

In lieu of that, I can only offer my public lectures, Seattle Nov. 4 and LA Nov. 8, as possible loci for DAA'ers, but I realize that for most of us, the airfare makes that prohibitive. There really is no justice in the world. Meanwhile, I've been working hard behind the scenes to try to get venues for NY and Boston the wk of Nov. 14, and will let u all know how things shake out.

Ty: I went to a workshop yrs ago by "Bucky," and left after an hr. Perhaps this was unfair, I don't know. But I thought he was a simpleton: simplistic ideas, with a sort of 'down home' Midwestern populist spin added to it that I didn't buy ("aw shucks, I'm just a farm boy, but..." kinda crap). It was the classic American position of Technology Will Save Us, plus no awareness of the importance of local environments: let's put geodesic domes everywhere, jungles and deserts and arctic zones; that'll solve our problems. I remember in the early 70s Lewis Mumford began corresponding with Warren Susman, my dept. chairman (History) at Rutgers University. Warren told me that Mumford wrote him that Bucky's head was "a geodesic dome full of holes." I guess I had already come to the same conclusion.

Susan: When I lived in DC I was a member of a bkstore discussion group, and one guy in the group went off for 2 yrs on a project, to find community in America, abt wh/he intended to write a bk. He returned quite dejected: "There is none," he told me. I guess he had to return the advance to his publisher, as there was no book to write. Things like that make a strong impression on you.

Jerome: I have long suspected that perhaps 2% of our young people are actually quite smart, and not fooled by the tech-hype of our culture. For this tiny minority, I believe there is a deep 'yearning for the real'; these are kids who still have souls, and for them, I wd return to the classroom (well, not full-time, of course).

Satya: yes, the energy is real, and this is great; they're not just lying down and saying, "roll over me again". And now, I think it's time for Part II of the drama to unfold.

Jim: of course, a virtual salon is not as gd as meeting at the Cafe Procope; but it's a salon nevertheless, and a whole lot better than 0, that's fer sure.

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

We'll see what happens if/when OWS break McKenna's Five Percent Rule: "As long as any school of dissent remains below five percent of the population no money is budgeted to destroy it."

Also, I see that Justin Ritchie posted a comment. Along with "What Now," you should appear on Justin (and Seth's) excellent podcast The Extraenvironmentalist. (Highly recommended.)

9:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MB –
Re: your list -no arguments here.

Recently reoccurring thoughts . I remind myself that we have horrid media coverrage of this. We may not be getting a clear picture of the protest (tho’ it obviously varies). The crowd shots I’m seeing (maybe nothing) show some real diversity (tho’ no apparent millionaires!). I’d expected an entirely young tech-crowd but it certainly isn’t limited to that. Maybe inarticulated, but I think there’s a sense of something outside US borders.

Yes, the analogy to a ME Spring may be dramatic but nice to see anyone in US inspired by or connected to Egypt etc.. People are hanging out, talking, sweating, getting arrested together and even watching out for fellow strangers. If under 30 they’re getting a taste of a new vocabulary to wrap around those troubling ideas . As per everything on this blog – this is a fading and confused empire. May not be as difficult to tip over as people think.

Some questions – does all of this this depend on your def. of success? Turning around 400 yrs of history’s a long shot. If an ongoing “experiment” in the democratic process (ala C. West) when is it a failure? Many anarchists don’t want to save or reform a mass society at all so feel it’s 100% off the mark.

Lot’s of thoughts running through my head these days. Dr. B and all, another great post and discussion.

El Juero

9:57 AM  
Anonymous J said...

This photo of the Wall Street protests may not be for the blog, but I thought you might like it.


11:11 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yeah, that hat by J. Crew was particularly offensive, I thought.


12:00 PM  
Blogger Nicholas Colloff said...

There is, I think, real mileage in your two mutually challenging stages.

Having been in Tunisia recently, it is clear that enthralment is rapidly giving way to the absence of real understanding of what comes next.

What occurs to me is that actually navigating successfully stage 1 depends on effective work at stage 2. If you look at how the people of the Philippines rid themselves of Marcos, you had years of building people's capacity to exploit a wider opportunity for enthralment and guide it to an effective, non-violent outcome.

It is this culture of educated preparation that is missing: your stage 2 precedes and follows stage 1 if a 'revolution' is to be an effective harbinger of successful change.

This 'discipline' of revolution can be harnessed for ill (Bolsheviks) as well as good (Filipino non-violent nuns). The real challenge of America is that neither appears to be present. We drift into the energy of enthralment - and it dissipates, leaving the status quo intact.

12:02 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yeah, I know...the thing is that we do have a lot of gd Stage 2 material; it's just that most Americans, young or old, are not interested in it and not equipped to understand it; the more so if their brains have been fried by screens. Consider the following from Douglas Dowd, "The Twisted Dream" (1974):

"The tension between...the natural course of capitalist development and the increasing resistance of the human spirit [e.g., what we see in Stage 1 of the OWS movement], lies at the root of our developing social crisis. Human beings are inherently moral, possessed of feelings of sympathy, empathy, solidarity with our kind, and the need and ability to live creative and loving lives. These attributes continue to emerge, and manifest themselves, now as in the past, despite the presence of our baser capabilities. One need not be a Marx or a Veblen to see people as something more than creatures of material self-interest....The crisis awaiting us shows itself first as a crisis of economic and political life; its root is a moral crisis, whose resolution will determine the realization or the destruction of our species' needs and possibilities."

12:38 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

I suppose all of this domestic protest has blurred America's sense of identity somewhat so that a spruce up is needed and found in the recently foiled assassination attempt of the Saudi ambassador and the holding of Iran accountable for the attempt. Yes, Iran is our new Iraq and we can all breathe easily once again: we still have the means to maintain our war on terrorism, more excuses for enthrallment to perpetual war and for not making the introspective journey inward.

3:14 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yes, I read abt that event, and wondered if it was true, or whether we had another Gulf of Tonkin incident on our hands. But true or not, it will, as u say, give us reason to get all enthralled all over again. Let's get excited, let's go to war! In the US, there are no upper limits to Cranial-Rectal Embedment (CRE). You say to yourself: Well, it can't get more stupid. And then--it does.


3:19 PM  
Blogger Robo said...

The United States was founded by hustlers, has been generally governed by hustlers and is largely populated by hustlers. It has been a self-selecting bunch. Non-hustlers stayed behind in Europe and continue to a distinct minority here in the USA.

By accident of history, the Founding Hustlers were influenced by the ideals of the 18th century Enlightenment, which leavened their Constitution and Bill Of Rights with a modest portion of liberal idealism. Imagine how different the US Constitution would be if it had been written in the social and political context of the 21st century.

The democratic veneer that covers American culture is augmented by an equally thin but glossy coat of intellectual and educational lacquer that looks very pretty but is easily scratched. Just underneath that shiny surface is the selfish and willfully ignorant core of hustle that brought us to where we are today.

The new 'screen culture' makes this very easy to see.
Read the scrolling comments on the 'Global Revolution' webcast of the OWS proceedings to see the revolutionary thought process as it unfolds.

5:32 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Louis Hartz, in "The Liberal Tradition in America" (1955), developed the concept of 'fragment societies'--ones that broke away from Europe but took only one particular fragment of the European way of life and made it into the totality of the way of life of the new country. In the case of the US, he said, the fragment was an aggressive British middle class. He never used the word 'hustlers', but it was this population that came over and that formed the dominant culture; altho as I document in "Why America Failed," there was always an alternative tradition that objected, but got ignored. Wh/is why America failed: it was severely lopsided from Day 1 and never had much of an interest in righting itself. (Those who tried, or try, were/are immediately branded 'un-American'; which in a certain sense is true.) This extended to US foreign policy, which can no longer be regarded as separate from the hustling culture. And finally, we're 'tipping over', so to speak--that's what 9/11 was about, and what the crash of 2008 was about. But so intent are we on hustling, and the whole ideological framework that surrounds it, that we cannot see these events for what they are; we are utterly unable to read the message in the bottle. Which guarantees our further collapse.

Here's what wd hafta happen in the minds of most Americans today for America not to fail:

1. They come to regard Ronald Reagan as a scumbag, little more than a drooling buffoon who wrecked the US economy, and Jimmy Carter as a visionary hero who tried to set us on the rt path;

2. They come to regard yr typical Wall St. CEO, w/his 20K suit and 20K bottle of wine and his private jet, as trash, as a disgusting human being, and an OWS protester in jeans and T-shirt, sleeping on concrete and eating bagels and peanut butter every day, as classy; as the very best of America;

3. They hafta see that US capitalism is a snow job, a destruction of the soul and replacement of that organ with tons of consumer shit that can never fill the resultant void. They hafta say: "I'm not livin' like that no more."

Do u think the odds are gd for any of this?


6:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is your chance to assess the intelligence of some of the protesters. Extensive discussion with actual members of several of the major "Occupy" protests today on Onpoint. They do bring up "long term" and "large scale" planning for the future. Including a political third party.

Occupy Wall Street Examined

7:50 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

Great post, as usual, Dr. Berman. Regarding the techno-culture causing the atrophying of human connection...I attended a meeting today w/a group of colleagues (talk therapists), and the topic was "How Technology will Transform Psychotherapy"...The presenter, a techno-buffoon, explained that we all need to prepare for the "Skype revolution" in therapy; that very soon, we will all be required to provide therapy for clients over Skype. (for anyone unfamiliar w/Skype, which I was, it's basically audio-visual connection over the computer). I was sorta shocked, but more amused by it. I thought to myself "I will never do it"...I raised my hand and asked a question about ethical concerns, and was sorta aggressively shut down by the presenter and a couple of colleagues.

Whether one agrees that my chosen profession is relevant or not, what is most important about a therapeutic alliance is the quality of the relationship, and the connection . There is something very ominous about attempting to form that alliance over the internet.

8:03 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

One more thing, Maestro and my friends, the DAA 65...I would like to someday meet some of you face-to-face. I'm not sure how, but Susan and Dr. B are correct...there is no substitute. That being said, I appreciate this blog and this "community" so much; it's such an exhilarating, stimulating, and safe place to read and learn and contribute. Maybe we can all hang out in Mexico someday. I'd love an excuse to save up a few bucks and travel. Just a thought.

8:05 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, this is something we shd keep talking abt. Mexico City might be a gd place to meet, and I know it well. I can also rec a cheap ($45/nite) hotel in a great part of town. (Also note that the dollar is currently doing well against the peso, wh/can wind up svg u a bundle.)

What else wd be central? We are all scattered across the US. Ellis, Kansas, is the geographical center; but who wd wanna meet in Ellis, Kansas? Unless we start an Occupy Ellis movement, perhaps...

Re: electronic therapy: I once did a bit over the fone, and it actually worked out pretty well.


I confess I cdn't get much in the way of a coherent plan from that link. And how far the intelligent have fallen! Todd Gitlin suggesting that the protesters try to influence the Democratic party. Yeah, that's gonna work...


9:01 PM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

I am heartened by the outbreak of the OWS movements and am cautiously hopeful. It's a sign that people still have a little dignity left, if nothing else.

Still, this is basically a revolt against the excesses of capitalism, certainly not capitalism per se. If the banksters paid more taxes and were reined in a little bit, and if people were led to believe that hard work was rewarded I’d bet many people would go home and get back in front of the teevee. It’ll take another round or two (or three) of market crashes, very high unemployment (apparently 9% is not enough) and a real depression to get enough people to really question fundamentals. The operating, default idea is capitalism. It is, by now, taken for granted by even “liberals” as some kind of natural law rather than a deeply-flawed human construct.

As far as imagining something really different, how exactly would most Americans EVER do that? Is labor history taught in high school? In the universities? Do people understand the true nature of capitalism because Daddy learned about it at the union hall? Do people know police and federal troops regularly killed protesters in this country without anybody thinking twice about it? Where are most folks supposed to learn this stuff? A hundred years ago every urban center was chock full of people who knew the score because they lived it every day in the mills. You had the Coal and Iron police to keep out the labor organizers and break strikes and remind you every day of how society was organized. God and Henry Clay Frick wanted it that way.

But you at least had a leavening of people who knew things could be otherwise. You had a huge cohort of Germans, Italians, and E. Europeans schooled in socialism from the old country. Wisconsin regularly elected socialist candidates at the local and state level through the 50’s. That’s all gone. And virtually impossible to replace. I fell blessed to live in a city where labor history surrounds you everywhere you go (Pittsburgh) even if many people walk right past it. But nobody should kid themselves, people will fall for the idea that a kinder gentler capitalism is out there someplace waiting to be discovered.

So I’m hopeful, and I will pitch in and do my part. I’m just not betting the farm on it.

10:18 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

Did any of you Americans get to watch Adam Curtis' BBC documentary during the summer?


10:21 PM  
Blogger Robo said...

I have to admit that the last President I took very seriously was Jimmy Carter.

Meanwhile, Reagan's reputation is solid, most Americans still want to live like a billionaire rather than sleep in the street, and when the going gets tough, the tough still go shopping. The Democratic party is still the Washington Generals to the Republican Globetrotters, and a progressive third party would tilt future election results even further to the right.

So far, the only OWS concept I've heard that might actually effect the status quo is the idea that everybody who wants to support the protest transfers their checking & savings accounts from Wall Street banks to a local credit union on November 5.

"Remember, remember the fifth of November." That would make all those Guy Fawkes masks a little more meaningful.

Of course, a quick bank holiday would put a stop to that idea, tout suite.

10:38 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I think yr rt, that the core demand is just a more inclusive capitalism, not a new system. It's impressive, how little the Powers That Be wd have to give up, for everyone to be 'happy', and for the protests to melt away. Time will tell...


10:51 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...


Maybe most of the people who support OWT owe much more on their credit cards than they have in their savings/checking accounts. In order to boycott Wall St. banks you have to have a balance of more than twenty-seven cents.

David Rosen

10:53 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

A leaderless uprising working toward consensus...is how one OWS "organizer" described the happening to Amy Goodman of DemocracyNow, who took their cameras to Wall Street. Another OWSer said that they do not want to be coopted by labor unions or left organizations, that it's not about making demands but about taking a moral stand, a question of values. On the other hand, some random OWSers interviewed spoke about Bloomberg firing 700 teachers, another about how her father who recently stuffered a stroke was without medical insurance.

My impression is that the OWS activists are still working toward consensus that would be defined as taking a visible stand on morals and values, not particular reforms. One expressed the hope that if this moral stand can spread throughout the country, then perhaps others like labor unions and ecological activists will be swept along and the system will begin to be changed. One said it's about changing the system, capitalism I presume.

Since voice amplification is not allowed, the OWSers use "human amplification" whereby a speaker reads out a message one line at a time and it is echoed by the crowd to amplify it and also to intone and vibrate the message in their own bodies and this is described as very empowering.

Something to ponder...

11:26 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

Dr. B, yes, something we will keep talking about. Mexico City sounds great...I've always wanted to visit Mexico, and what better reason?

11:41 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Restaurants, museums, to die for.


We can only hope; tho the conspicuous absence of any mention of delicatessen foods is not a gd sign.


3:40 AM  
Anonymous David M said...

Dr Berman and DAAERS
When I post comments on your site I feel (as the celebrated comedian George Gobal once said) the world is a tuxedo and I'am just a pair of brown shoes. The root cause analyses that is presented on the blog is refreshing and inspiring. If only the OWS would attack the problems in modern society they are protesting in such a way. I suspect that most only want their piece of the pie back. If WS gave back all the money, the middle class folks would all go home and leave the poor, sick and dienfranchised on their own again. Call me cynical but that is how I see it.

DR. Berman we have a local viewer supported radio station (WMNF) in Tampa. They have guest such as yourself on daily. Chris Hedges, Naomi Klien and Wendel Potter to name a few. This would be a good venue for you as it has an excellent host and is a progessive station. They welcome all comers and do interviews live by phone and allow folks to call in and submit unscreened question and comments. They also give books as premiums for donations. Just a thought!

DAAERS: Any folks living in the southwest florida area or are traveling through, please feel free to contact me. Maybe we could meet for coffee or drinks or dinner or all the above to converse. My E-mail dhikemyers@aol.com

10:07 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thanks for info on radio stn; I passed it on to my publicist, so maybe something will get worked out. As for yer invitation to meet folks: this is gd. I think DAAers are slowly starting to move from a virtual meeting of minds to a physical meeting of bodies. Altho I had originally hoped this unification might take the form of flying to DC and peeing on Obama's shoes (Guccis, for sure), I think a combo of regional and international (i.e., Mexico) mtgs wd be a very good thing, even if no urine is involved. I'm hoping more of u guys will come outta the closet, so to speak, declare where u live, and start moving in the direction of getting together in the nonvirtual world.


10:41 AM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Joe & Dr. Berman—

Speaking of restaurants in Mexico City, here's a quote from Leo Rosten’s "The Joys of Yiddish" under the entry for "fresser" (a person who eats a lot – a "chow-hound"):

"Gerry Blumenfield writes that she once saw a restaurant in Mexico City whose menu under 'Sandwiches' read:

Pastrami por Fressers… 10 pesos

Pastrami (Double Decker) por Grandes Fressers… 15 pesos

Pastrami (Triple Decker) por Grandisimo Fressers… 20 pesos"

(Shouldn’t that be 'Grandisimos Fressers'?)

Unfortunately, Rosten's book was published in 1968. Never-the-less, we expect Dr. Berman to drop everything and immediately get to work to find out if this place is still there! Then we can consider a meeting in Mexico City.

David Rosen

11:16 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


There is a Jewish section known as Polanco, but it's a fair distance from where I usually stay, so I'm not that motivated to go in search of chopped liver tacos or whatever. In addition, Mex City is the wrong place to be fressing pastrami, really. But I can show you guys Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Polish, and Italian to knock yer socks off.


12:05 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

One of the teach-ins at OWS was led by 3 activists from South Korea, Chile, and Panama. They were there to object to the free trade agreements that the U.S. is currently brokering with those countries.

From the Panamanian activist, I learned that the real reason for the invasion of Panama was to relieve it of its standing army so as to pave the way for corporations, in other words, to eliminate the specter of nationalization. I suppose this is one of things President Martinelli of Panama meant when he told Fox News that the economic boom [for the wealthy, as ever in that country] occurred because Panama makes it easy to do business.

12:21 PM  
Anonymous Tim said...

To give some perspective from the UK - I think many have been inspired by the OWS protests and there seems to be a similar protest planned to occupy the City of London - we will see how that pans out.

There is a large student demo planned for the 9th of Nov against cuts to funding and massive fee increases to higher education. As you may be aware there were similar large protests last year - including Conservative HQ being occupied despite huge police numbers. Police tactics were generally heavy-handed, and over the top, leading many protesters to start fast-moving mobile protests through central London.

Also, large-scale public sector strikes planned for November 30th.

As with the rest of you, where these protests are leading is unclear. Will they be the beginning of a cohesive movement, with clear objectives such as stated in the article? Certainly, recent history in the UK has shown that protests have had limited success in achieving significant change, however if they at least increase politicisation of a new generation that must be a good thing. My sense is that with a lot of these movements we are seeing globally just now, there is major mistrust of the political class as well as the rich / corporations. I hope that this grass-roots style, can expand and lead to something different, but share the scepticism of Morris and the rest of you.

1:41 PM  
Anonymous Rowdy said...


Where do you think pornography fits into the screen/tech dynamic?. Do you address this in WAF?

I'm not asking this as a regular user (honest), but from the angle that it seems that most porn (I'm guessing 90%+) originates from the U.S., and much of the innovation in interactive computing is said to be motivated by porn distributors.

It seems to be an important aspect of contemporary culture that melds tech and decadence....

3:06 PM  
Anonymous joonsae said...

Professor Berman, I'm a great admirer of your work and I share your views on the cultural decline of American society (not that it has very far to fall), but in this post I do think you and the DAA65 are a bit unduly harsh on members of my generation (born in the mid 80s).

It's also important to note that the membership of OWS is heterogeneous; while this may not be the case for everyone there, there is definitely a current of opinion that is not merely seeking a bigger piece of the American pie, but is questioning the desirability and sustainability of the pie itself.

An example of this current can be found in the student occupation movement on the West Coast. In California at least the "occupy everything" movement has been on going since at least 2008, and its members have a fairly consistent vision in their criticism of late-capitalist American society. Their prose can be a bit bit florid (in the vein of Guy Debord), but they are definitely not brain damaged by technology, and hold no illusions about progress:

Here are some samples of their writings:

'Communique from an Absent Future' (pdf, written in 2008-2009):


'Plaza, Riot, Commune': http://tinyurl.com/3h78l6p

In many ways I think OWS will come to represent a test of the potential of social networking technology - can we turn the beast against itself? Or it will a digitally organized resistance, as you suggest, simply undermine itself?

I'm hoping for the former even if the latter seems likely - optimism of the will and all that.

3:09 PM  
Anonymous joonsae said...

Sorry to double post, but I just realized the formatting on that pdf I linked is a bit off - you can find a readable webpage version here:


And here's the opening paragraph:

"Like the society to which it has played the faithful servant, the university is bankrupt. This bankruptcy is not only financial. It is the index of a more fundamental insolvency, one both political and economic, which has been a long time in the making. No one knows what the university is for anymore. We feel this intuitively. Gone is the old project of creating a cultured and educated citizenry; gone, too, the special advantage the degree-holder once held on the job market. These are now fantasies, spectral residues that cling to the poorly maintained halls."

Very much in keeping with the general outlook of DAA!

3:15 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I hope yr rt. Believe me, I'm pulling for the younger generation to have the ideals, and the cognitive abilities, that mine did during Vietnam. The stats don't bear this out, but maybe things will change.

As for the social media etc., I do discuss what I call 'techno-blowback' in WAF, whereupon things get worse in the very area that was predicted to get better (e.g., multitasking actually makes us less efficient; or, car travel in NYC is 50% slower than it was via horse and buggy 100 yrs ago). But I gather this is not quite what u mean; which is more, the use of the technology to defeat the technological society. 'Techno-implosion', we might call it. Intriguing, to be sure. If such a thing cd be demonstrated, I might run out and buy a cell phone and a whole bunch of Jobs-like objects, use them until they explode (implode). Whee!


Not something I'm terribly informed on, but I once read that 95% of Internet use is for pornography.


4:08 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...


A wag, prof. of computer science, once said that the wild success of the VCR was because it enabled pornography to be viewed in the privacy of one's own home whereas previously one had to go to seedy, dangerous places to get one's fix. Maury's stat seems to confirm this. If so, it would be intriguing to consider what kind of synaptical reorganization is occurring while screening pornography.

5:11 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,


I did watch Century of the Self and thank you for recommending it. My youngest daughter started work on a MS in anthropology and referenced it in her first paper for her tutor--she was very impressed too.


I have a lot of sympathy with young people your age and know you want more than Baby Boomers have (and had)to offer. The real burden to change the world has fallen on your generation's shoulders and my guess is many instinctively know the stakes are about as high as they can get. What I see and what worries me the most is a lack of understanding concerning what the real sacrifices will be to turn this mess around. Do not look to members of AARP for help or wisdom--few have little to spare.

"One generation abandons the enterprises of another like stranded vessels"--Thoreau

Capitalism and communism have both caused misery and it will be up your generation to put together a civilization that makes sense and hopefully doesn't include slavery, exploitation, Big Brother,and complete degration of the enviornment.

5:16 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...


The argument that screen technology is causing a toxic fallout in our behavior because it may be deleteriously reorganizing brain wiring seems to contain a category error: science can only offer us explanations for the behavior of material objects, of which the brain is one. But what does brain behavior have to do with human behavior? We encountered this earlier in our discussion of mind-altering chemicals like Prozac vis-a-vis talk therapy. An ancillary question is to what extent does our present knowledge of the brain allow us to explain human behavior that we may judge to be "bad," or "evil?" I think that the question of badness and evil in human action is the province of moral philosophy and not science.

5:28 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I suspect human brain behavior has a lot to do w/human behavior in general; or at least, that's what neuroscientists say. Maryanne Wolf at Tufts has written a fair amt abt how the new technology changes brain functioning, so that reflection and depth become impossible: we have a new generation of 'pancake people' arising, who have v. short attention spans. I can't see how this wdn't spill over into morality etc. Check ftnotes of ch. 3 of WAF for the sources on this.


6:09 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Let's Nuke Iran!

cnn.com has an article on how Obama just said, in view of the (alleged) plot to kill the Saudi ambassador in Iran, that Iran has to "pay a price." I'm very excited abt this, and hope we can get another war underway as soon as possible. Losing 2 of 'em simultaneously just isn't enuf, in my bk; we need to add #3 to the list.

But clearly, things have dragged out in Afgh. and Iraq because of conventional weaponry. This can be avoided in Iran by dropping 100 H-Bombs on 100 separate cities. In the case of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we vaporized 200,000 civilians; then millions died from radiation poisoning. In the case of Iran, we can just vaporize everyone, and end the problem rt there. Plus, it wd demonstrate to the world that we're still No. 1.

So start writing those letters to the pres now: Mr. Pres, please nuke Iran. We're America, after all!

(I feel like I'm breathing pure oxygen. Hu-ahh!)

8:48 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Dr. Berman—

There are two programs on Public Radio that I think you should ask your publicist to look into. Neither are radical or 'alternative' programs, but a lot of people who would have found the title "Why America Failed" incomprehensible a few years ago might be ready to have a look at it now.

The first program is called "Fresh Air" and it is hosted by a woman named Terry Gross. She is an excellent interviewer who sometimes interviews actors and singers, but also authors of a wide variety of books. When she interviews an author, you can tell that she knows their book, and she asks searching questions.

The second is called "On Being" which is hosted by Krista Tippett. She usually interviews somebody over the phone and then edits the interview into a program. The program used to be called "Speaking of Faith", but as it drifted to a less religious and more philosophical orientation, the name changed to On Being. I could easily imagine her doing a program about your works. People who like this kind of program are people who read books.

Both of these programs are top quality – you might want to check them out on the web -- they're both down-loadable. I think either or both could get your book the kind of attention it needs.

David Rosen

9:01 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thanks; I'll run it by her. I'm familiar w/Fresh Air.

The problem is getting national coverage. In 2006, I did a few local NPR shows; but the national level simply wasn't interested. I'm guessing that hasn't changed much, but it's probably worth a try.


9:59 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...


RE: Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran

Every time we forget and go back to thinking that nobody could be worse than George W. Bush, Obama makes another move that reminds us again that we're wrong. Take a look at what Juan Cole has to say on his blog "Informed Comment" in 'Wagging the Dog with Iran's Maxwell Smart'.

He says, "I am frankly shocked that Eric Holder should have brought us this steaming crock, which is now being used to make policy at the highest levels." He concludes with, "I conclude that they are being dishonest, and this is Obama’s turn to wag the dog as he faces defeat at Romney's well-manicured hands next year this time."

David Rosen

10:15 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

In addition, Rom Mittney recently said that he wished to bring back America's role as world leader. This is a 'tuf' position that will excite most Americans, I'm guessing; Obama needs to show he is tuffer, and Iran is the obvious choice. Meanwhile, the heads go deeper into the rumps.

10:56 PM  
Blogger Phlogiston Água de Beber said...

Thanks to a link provided by Dmitry Orlov on his blog, I have, as of this afternoon, a better understanding of the global economic situation. It is a lot worse than most are willing to contemplate. Given how bad it is, contemplation is futile anyway.

In his book, available free via the goo goo googly ones, Scarcity Chris Clugston reports on the availability of 89 key nonrenewable natural resources (NNR). Spoiler alert! According to figures dug up by Clugston (lots of numbers in the book) 63 of them were globally scarce by 2008. It's not a quick read, but here is kind of a summary Nature’s Ultimate Con.

Nature suckered us in with temporary abundance; a condition that we misconstrued as permanent…

The Capitalists are by comparison to most folk "bad actors". But, it probably should be said that their evil mostly consisted of, possibly wittingly aiding and abbeting Mother Nature in her little con job. In this particular instance at least she has turned out to be a "bad mutha". There is nothing the Capitalists or anyone can do to mitigate the tragedy ahead.

When the NNRs become sufficiently scarce that the only available substitute is the inexhaustible element unobtainium, industrial civilization screeches to a halt. Clugston devotes some space to what happens then. The discomforting aspect is that our present population is approximately an order of magnitude overshot for an agrarian civilization and about two orders for hunter-gathering. Dark Ages doesn't begin to describe it and it isn't just America. The whole world goes dark.

1:12 AM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Dr. Berman—

So, an article in today's Guardian tells us that you have been right all along – cellphones are full of crap.

The article is, "One in six mobile phones contain E coli", and it states, "Reseachers say 16% of UK mobile devices and users' hands contaminated with faecal bacteria due to poor personal hygiene"

David Rosen

9:46 AM  
Blogger James said...

The “looking out for you” authorities will string you along with promises of cold-fusion, fusion, breeder reactors and whatever else they can pop into your mind while they continue to garner a return of capital from their previous investments. New massive energy sources will never come to pass. A new source of energy must produce a greater net energy than the energy source used to develop it in order to maintain growth and existing metabolic activity. It should be happening now, but it won't. Using coal, natural gas and oil to build solar and wind won't work either without a reorganization of society that will seem catastrophic. When reorganization is seen as inevitable, it will be too late. It should have started forty years ago, but those that profit from fossil fuel development will lead us directly into a blind alley from which there is no escape.

Say goodbye to cars, most roadways, home heating and cooling, sending the kids to school, medical care and more. The unfortunate truth is that man, through ignorance, has unrealistic expectations of science and technology and fails to understand the ecological limitations of his existence. When the pain begins to bite, the deluded of our society will try to crowd into Disney World and LasVegas, the feel good capitals of the U.S. Those with any sense will have found a place that allows them to live a safe, low-density, energy frugal existence.

9:52 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


It's actually worse than that; there is some evidence that cp's may cause cancer, i.e. brain tumors. Meanwhile, as James notes, the romance of technology goes on, and because it is a 'religious' pull, an unconscious one, there is literally no stopping it; certainly not in the US. Only a tiny fraction of the population is asking, What were we thinking??! Someday, most of the pop. will be asking that. There is simply no arresting our self-destruction, and the US is the cutting edge of it. Thomas Hobbes defined hell as the truth realized too late.


10:53 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

One OWS protester when interviewed yesterday said: "I just see the American dream being sucked away by Wall Street and its investment banks." I may be wrong, but has *anyone* down there said: "Hey, the American Dream itself is a pile of shit"?

11:04 AM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Cell phones cause brain cancer? How could that be? In order to get brain cancer, you have to have a brain in the first place.

David Rosen

11:25 AM  
Anonymous Mr. D said...

OK, I finally remembered, it's "C D B" by William Steig.


12:06 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Rt, I forgot. People who use cell phones actually have hollowed-out crania. Cancer of the cranial surface, is what I meant to say.


12:57 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Hi Maury,

On the face of it I agree that it seems reasonable to suspect that human brain behavior does affect human behavior. What is human brain behavior is an investigation of neuroscience and the objects of that science's study are, among other things, neurons, synapses between neurons, neuro-chemicals, and material processes involving these objects; in a word, brain behavior is the behavior of these objects. But how can the behavior of these objects provide a context in which to explain good and bad human behavior? What would that look like in detail? How can it explain greed, friendship, altruism? The decision to jettison screen technology is a moral or aesthetic one. If not, then we are slaves to our bio-technological conditioning and can never hope to address the question of values in our behavior.

Well, enough of this. I don't think a blog is a proper forum in which to debate this and it is probably off-topic. But thank you for referring me to Maryanne Wolf. I'm still awaiting my pre-ordered copy of WAF.

3:36 PM  
Blogger Metro Thought said...

Dr. Berman,

Have you seen the petition posted to http://occupywriters.com/ ? You have expressed support for the protestors (mixed w/ a dose of realism) so I thought that you might be intrerested in adding your name to the list of writers supporting OWS (which obviously doesn't include Tom Friedman). ;-)

6:06 PM  
Blogger diana said...

Dr. Berman,

Check out the website for The Story with Dick Gordon, which airs on NC Public Radio. No experts are ever featured and some segments are quite brilliant. The goal is to link the personal stories of guests to current events.

Confident that a few people in this area (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill) who will be receptive to the message of WAF.

6:19 PM  
Anonymous Paul said...

Article from Tikkun Oct 12 on a counter-movement to the OWS protests. Man, it just gets stranger and stranger... Very high REQ (rectal embedment quotient) in this realm.

The Self-Righteous, the Ideologically Confused… “the 53%”

A little bit from the article....

According to Slate, the 53% figure refers to the number of households that actually pay federal income tax. The other 47% do not have to pay either because they have so many deductions or they are simply too poor.

The 53% Tumblr site:
I discovered this week has the following ridiculous tagline: “We are the 53%: Those of us who pay for those of you who whine about all of that … or that … or whatever.” Apparently, each person posting on the site feels like he or she is personally supporting a bunch of free-loaders and that somehow all the protestors are living on hand-outs. Talk about self-aggrandizing and ignorant!"

Apparently, they are prepared to fight tooth and nail to maintain the status quo even if it's obvious the results are not in their best interest.


Fun times ahead for sure...

7:14 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Dr. Berman and DAA’ers—

I need to keep this as short as I can, but let me say that I think there are a number of very synergistic factors which come together at different stages of very many people's lives and result in the stupefied population we are witnessing in the US. They include:

1. Isolated 'nuclear' families which limit infants' and small children's contact with a variety of caring and loving adults.

2. Excessive childhood TV (and other screen technology) viewing to the exclusion of conversation and story-telling. This prevents the development of abstract thinking and imagination during critical stages, after which the capacity is lost.

3. Schooling whose primary purposes are custodial care, discipline, and indoctrination as future employees.

4. The encroachment of 'scientific management' into more and more occupations in which all thinking, planning, and skill is removed from employees – who are then parents who contribute nothing to their children's intellectual development.

5. The artificial and historically unprecedented concept of 'adolescence' which trains people as consumers by socializing them into a 'culture' which is the product of advertising and marketing. It also seems to prevent many people from ever really growing up.

6. The popularity of 'techno-dreck' devices, which keep people multitasking, and keep their attention spans short. This prevents any residual capacity for thought and analysis which may be present from developing.

I have to end it here, but these are all worthy of discussion.

David Rosen

7:15 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Don't rule out being interviewed on television, either. Keith Olbermann's show on Current TV regularly invites people like Matt Taibbi and Markos Moulitsas. As an added bonus, I think they're located in NYC, so you could also squeeze in a trip to the Stage Deli!

8:27 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thanks for the reminder. I was actually hoping to give a lecture at the Stage Deli as well: "No Liver, No Life."


Historically speaking, the REQ has never been higher than it is today. Watch a whole nation gleefully commit suicide! The greatest show on earth, rt now.


I doubt Dick wd have me on the show, since I don't really fit the framework. But it wd be gd to do some radio thing in that part of the US, 2b sure.


Thanks for the tipoff; I added my name to the list. Meanwhile, I'm hoping to start my own group, POTS, which stands for Pee On Tom's Shoes.

10:27 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

I have been mulling over this recent discussion and just wanted to add a couple of observations

I am getting old, so I have a longer history than most of you, and my experience here in Australia, was that the Vietnam protest movement was preceeded by an organised nuclear disarmament movement, which increased in numbers after the cubam missile crisis. Many of you probably cant remember this personally, but believe me, I was more scared then, than I have ever been, and many of my friends felt the same way, it was a great impetus for an evolving protest movement. This movement gradually morphed into the anti vietnam movement, spurred on by the fear of being conscripted (the draft to you americans) The movement received a lot of support from the general public, because afterall it was their sons who were in the firing line, the middle classes being abled to opt for student deferrment, not because they opposed the war per se. (as well here our TU movement was very actively involved) Its interesting how the powers that be, learned that political lesson, and dropped the draft. To my mind it is not necessarily the numbers that count, it is the sympathy of the general public that is important, I think this young lot may have a few surprises in store for us. As to demands start small, nationalise the Reserve, set up state owned and run banks :-)

11:36 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

Second post, thought this was separate really.
I have just finished watching adam curtis's century of the self (at the library once a week, so its taken me a little while), and the one thing I found missing from his analysis, was any mention of the less obvious concessions the ruling class make to lessen dissent. Two things come to mind, from the 70's on expansion of credit debt, which allowed people to purchase their homes and other material goods on the never never.The shipping of the soul destroying, health destroying, industrial jobs to the third world, to my mind, many of the left over glorify the industrial sector,and it tends to blinker their critical analysis. Of course what it did was send the problem away, and as we traditionally have little empathy with asian cultures, buried it will stay. It also deprived the western working classes of the opportunity to push for technological inventiveness to be directed towards the work place, shorter working week and more leisure. These concessions came at a cost and are now running out of steam, I very much doubt that the vaunted financial capitalism has the mojo to keep the system afloat.

11:38 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

On a sign recently spotted at the OWS protests (and posted as a pic on cnn.com):

"I no longer feel alone with my disappearing faith in the American Dream."

9:11 AM  
Anonymous David M said...

Dr Berman
Juan Cole posted some data related to the 99% versus the 1%. The one piece that strikes me as significant is the poll that shows 54% of Americans support OWS. I think it's going to take a lot more than that for change to happen. 54% will only lead to a hung jury in the end. Perhaps as time goes by more people will get behind them. As Studs Terkel last book iterated " Hope Dies Last". Although Robert Fisk when talking about peace in the middle east said "no hope is better than false hope".

9:39 AM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...


The thing about "the less obvious concessions the ruling class make to lessen dissent" is that they see much less need for it now. Remember Mrs. Thatcher’s TINA (THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE.). Shortly after the USSR fell apart and the Berlin wall came down, I was struck with the idea – "Now they don't have to try to make capitalism look good anymore!" Our ruling class certainly has been acting as though it's true. They may yet end up sacrificing a few expendable CEO's and making a few other concessions to OWS. I don't think the Military-Industrial Complex would ever go beyond cosmetic concessions without getting very violent.

In any case, if the OWS protesters manage to win back a piece of their beloved American Dream without getting the US out of the Empire business, they will have become the enemies of the majority of the peoples of the world. I have lived on five continents plus the Middle-East, so I tend to look at these things with a somewhat different perspective.

It's starting to get cold here in Iowa, so my thoughts are turning back to south of the Equator. I send you my greetings, and I hope that global climate-change will go easy on you this year.

David Rosen

11:25 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Apropos David Rosen's second point re: the ill effects of screen technology, see the debate "The End of Friendship: Do Social Media Destroy Human Relationships?" between Roger Scruton, a conservative thinker and polemicist and Tyler Cowan, an economist, at American Enterprise Institue, a conservative think tank.

3:12 PM  
Blogger ijcd said...

Prof. Berman,

You should also try the only two independent TV channels I know of, which can only be found in DishNetwork and DirectTV. These are LinkTV (www.linktv.org), and Free Speech TV (www.freespeech.org). Just a thought...

I have to say that I have little hope of any substantial change towards a reasonable, just and decorous existence in this nation (speaking of the "Ocupy Whatever Shit" movement). I am really looking forward to personal trips to Panama, the Canary Islands, and perhaps to Mexico with the DAA’ers if I am welcomed to participate in the gathering.

Professor, I have an academia-related question for you: What is your take in the fairly new research field of “Mathematical Sociology”, more like “Econophysics”, with many different tools of modern Physics being implemented in the study of human behavior and societal processes?

Right before I decided to stop my Ph.D., for lack of interest due in part to the urgency of current national and global issues threatening all species, in part to my disgust for American “academia”, and my huge student loan debt and total loss of hope for my future, I looked into switching to applied Mathematics, working in research projects related to Mathematical Sociology. However, when I looked at the profiles of most sociologists and physicists/mathematicians who had switched to this area, most of their grant dollars (and lots they had) came from defense-type agencies. I immediately became very suspicious as to the usefulness and use of the research findings. … I only had an interest in understanding human behavior and social phenomena, I can’t be part of some sort of control tool for these fascist scumfucks we have running the show…
so... Another question is: How are these topics covered in Mexican universities?

8:10 PM  
Blogger ijcd said...

By the way, I am currently reading one of the books (you mention so many) you mention in your second trilogy: "The Reluctant Fundamentalist", which I was surprised to find in clearance at the University of Miami's bookstore.

Also, I am taking the idea of DAA'ers to meet in person, and plan a trip to Mexico, very seriously, and I do hope it happens... funny thing, let's see how many of us will show up in the "Do Not Fly" list.

8:35 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


That essay was in "A Question of Values," wh/is not part of the 'America' trilogy; it's a collection of essays, tho abt 1/2 of them are abt the US, and, imho, relevant to getting the complete picture of the American decline. I'm surprised it was on sale, since one usually hasta order it thru Amazon. As for Mathematical Sociology, I fear I know nothing at all.


10:54 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

"Speculators may do no harm as bubbles on a steady stream of enterprise. But the position is serious when enterprise becomes a bubble on the whirlpool of speculation. When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done."

--John Maynard Keynes

11:24 PM  
Anonymous Zosima said...

Michael Moore, one of the NMI you mention in Twilght has some insightful commentary on the OWS.



2:59 AM  
Anonymous Zosima said...

Meet the 1%. This piece of work is worth 21 billion but she's too cheap to call a cab.


3:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like the cops are bringing in more motorcycles and horses to move people around as they are facing bigger crowds.

The weirdest scene I saw online today were people were getting arrested for withdrawing money and/or closing accounts at Citibank and B of A. They were doing it as part of protesting but were peaceful.

Very strange scene seeing cops arresting people for getting their own money out. Clear who the cops are protecting.

In response to unnecessary macing (caught on video) in San Diego the responses have got a different tone - "people need to start bringing their own mace....." etc..

El Juero

7:02 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

It seems that Wall St. is not exactly quaking in its boots from OWS, or losing too much sleep:


Also, as must be obvious, the police see their interests in defending the 1%. They don't see themselves as part of the 99%. Nicholas Kristof has some gd data on social inequality today: such as the 400 wealthiest Americans have more $ than the bottom half of the country, and the top 1% have more collective wealth than the bottom 90%. US social inequality is now worse than Egypt or Tunisia.

8:59 AM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...


After reading what people have been saying on this blog I was surprised to see Immanuel Wallerstein's latest semi-monthly commentary of 15 October 2011, "The Fantastic Success of Occupy Wall Street". [www(dot)iwallerstein(dot)com You’ll have to fix the dots.]

He describes the protest as going through stages: 1. Police Brutality, 2. Publicity, 3. Legitimacy, and 4. Respectability. All of his stages involve what Dr. Berman calls the energy phase.

He then devotes two paragraphs to the difficulties of what Dr. Berman calls the analysis stage, and here he acknowledges the extreme difficulty involved. He doesn't say so, but this would be an extremely difficult project even if we had an intelligent population, which we do not. He just hopes that OWS protesters will be able to come up with something to struggle FOR.

In his 15 Sept 2011 commentary, "The Social-Democratic Illusion", Wallerstein states that Social-Democracy is no longer an option. Years ago we could try and imagine finding ways to make some kind of socialism workable by avoiding the pitfalls that the USSR, China or Western social-democracies fell into. We could try to imagine establishing some kind of workable socialism while building a genuine democracy and without sacrificing civil liberties. In the US today, we are starting pretty much from zero.

At this point I must add that, even though I don't think reform can 'save America', reforms that simply alleviate some of the human suffering that will accompany America's failure are worth fighting for. They can involve fighting for New Deal like government programs or forming New Monastic communities -- or just leaving in search of societies where 'wealth' is measured in more human terms.

David Rosen

12:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...Technology's other side is increased accessibility for the elderly and disabled. Some could not read your books without a tablet device. Apple is at the forefront for natural language speech recognition/cognition (Google: Siri) - good for the blind and those who can't use a keyboard. Do we leave them dependent? 

Although you maintain screens are superficial experiences, more *books* are sold for the Kindle than are sold in hard copy at Amazon; it's not all blog skimming going on out there and you might want to think about getting your books in that format.

Did you say the French Revolution didn't have Facebook? Yeah, well, they had pitchforks instead. I prefer non violent revolutions with people "armed" with cellphone cameras if I can get them.

Steve Jobs fun fact: His preferred way to have one on one conversations was over long walks. He often invited an employee, a reporter, or a person he wanted to do business with on a walk (and, yes, he was often seen walking with his wife too.) How old fashion.

1:06 PM  
Blogger ijcd said...

I am very sorry for this ranting today, and I would like to know if I am being too extreme even among the DAA’ers. I would be surprised if that were the case, since reading Berman’s books, fellow DAA members’ posts, Chris Hedges articles, Noam Chomsky’s work, Howard Zinn’s legacy, and much more, I get the impression that I am not crazy or neurotic, that I don’t simply “choose to see the bad stuff” as I have been accused of many countless times, or that I “look at the world through a distorted and dark glass or window”.

I had a Cuban friend up in Tallahassee, who had come from Panama (the country) to study physics. It turns out she must have been like a “canary in the coal mine”, since from the start she always felt depressed, unable to function in the “proper sense”, desperate to have a meaningful human relationship (I gave her company and support), she seemed to be quite sensitive to those little things that you, Prof. Berman, have mentioned before… those little things that really matter, that tend to compound and have the greatest effect on the quality of our lives… those everyday “little things” of the quality of human interactions, the constant noise and lack of quiet & sacred space, the unwelcoming manner in which our cities and businesses are designed (e.g. in Barnes & Noble, tables in the coffee shop are are very small to force you to drink your coffee fast and get the hell out to fulfill your duty as a consumer and buy lots of shit), etc.

Needless to say, she is now back in Panama, and very very happy, feeling like a human being...

I have, by returning to Miami, fallen into that stage of suffering, just like my friend, and I am sure that I am not alone in this pain among the members of this blog. I have the impression that you, Prof. Berman, don’t care much for the “therapeutic effects” of this blog, but you cannot help it. We are humans, stuck here, suffering, lonely, and knowing that what we see is not a “negative” distortion of our reality but are yet rejected and/or mocked by those around us. I know you’d prefer to have a purely intellectual interaction with us, but among those of us living here, only the cruel and the cold are capable of such cranial disconnect from the heart. The pain cannot be intellectualized; it is lived, shared, analyzed, and addressed… We can do our best to bring something of value to our discussions, and I try to do so.

But please, if desired, I will stop posting here. I have no intention of hijacking anyone's space.

1:20 PM  
Blogger David F. Petrano Esq. said...

Mr. Berman, from the very second I heard your voice on a movie called "Lifting the Veil," I KNEW I was listening to a fellow Rochesterian. I WIKIed you immediately and proved to be right!!!!!

2:07 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...


Thanks for your remarks on what I said about the ill effects of screen technology, and for the link to the debate. It may be a few days before I get a chance to spend an hour in front of my computer screen watching it, but I look forward to hearing what these guys have to say.

In Point Two, I was concerned with the effects of TV, video, and computer games on children during certain critical stages of their development. In Point Six, I mention the effects of screen technology on young adults.

Allow me to recommend an interesting book by Joseph Chilton Pearce called "Evolution's End: Claiming the Potential of Our Intelligence". In some ways you may think that Pearce goes off the deep end, but I think a lot of what he has to say is very valuable. In his introduction he mentions "that our schools have collapsed not from 'bad' educational systems, which have always plagued us, but from a majority of our children having been neurologically damaged past the point of educability." He attributes this, in part, to excessive TV and video viewing during critical stages of neurological development.

He claims that TV, which supplies both the aural and visual stimulation together, does not allow children to develop their imaginations and capacity for abstract thought the way reading, conversation, story-telling, or even listening to talk on the radio does. He argues that there are certain stages in children's development where abilities and capacities which have not developed are permanently lost.

It may be that those young people, who still have the capacity for thought and analysis, but who are addicted to twitter, i-pad, or whatever, could get un-addicted and regain the ability to think. The question is, however, how many such people are out there?

David Rosen

2:09 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

David F-

Sure, but can you name the high schl I went to? We had our own special accent...


As Larry David said, curb yer enthusiasm (a bit). Yr post kinda long; try to compress, and also not send in 3-5 posts a day, etc. As for blog therapy: yr rt, I am a cruel and cold person, utterly disconnected from my heart. All my friends tell me this. I went to a therapist to try to deal w/it, but after one session he said, "Forget it; yer too cold and cruel for me." He even refused to take payment, just begged me never to darken his doorway again. Some people are beyond redemption, I guess.


Had to delete one post, as it was a personal attack on me. I know it's hard 4u not to do this, but yr going to hafta learn to stick to the arguments themselves, not critique me personally or anyone else on this blog. (Less rhetoric, and more courteous language, might help.) As for things being better today than b4:
There was a gd review recently of Steven Pinker's bk that argues this ("Better Angels"), wh/did a gd job of refuting it. Unfortunately, I can't recall where I read it; but it was a good antidote to the sort of 'presentism' and 'progressism' that Americans are typically into (our very own Pied Piper). The digital/Jobs argument: I confess, refuting yer args wdn't be hard; but it wd be tiring--same old stuff over and over--and I don't think u wd be open to it. (For example: sooner or later a real revolution involves pitchforks, or their equivalent; there's just no getting around this. Sooner or later, the military/police have to defect, or at least remain neutral. Cell phones don't change anything at all; they have nothing to do with this; they just make people feel gd abt their 'soft' revolution--witness Egypt and the 'glories' of Tahrir Square, now long gone. Finally, there have to be bodies in the street, and on the line. People get out there because events spiral that way; because people are out there, because serious change is in the wind. This is History 101, mon cher.) But u might give ch. 3 of WAF a shot, which shows that the romance of technology is so powerful in the US, historically speaking, that very few Americans manage to pull away from that charmed force field, see it for what it is. And this does require not getting caught up in this or that detail or example, but in seeing the overall picture, historically and sociologically--as, for example, Albert Borgmann does so effectively. (Which is not to say, of course, that *all* tech is bad; that's not what I'm arguing.)


2:58 PM  
Anonymous Ray said...

I'm beginning to realize that the best therapy available on this blog involves "forcing" strongly felt emotions into a concise argument. This allows one to connect with others without overwhelming them with the force of the felt affect. In fact, the strongest emotions SHOULD drive the most calm, careful and succinct analysis.

I have sympathy for those who really cannot help but vent a little here (been guilty of it myself), but disciplined formulation is even more therapeutic than ranting. There need not be an artificial divide between logic and emotions, as some Anonymi fear.

In general - the increasingly jagged tone of some posters (particularly newer ones) here over the last several months seems just more evidence that, as Morris puts it, "serious change is in the wind." Animals before earthquakes, etc. I hope that any 'punctuated change"-type tipping point up ahead doesn't involve actual puncture wounds.

4:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfavorable reviews of Steven Pinker's latest? How about John Gray in Prospect Magazine:

Delusions of Peace


A sceptical reader might wonder whether the outbreak of peace in developed countries and endemic conflict in less fortunate lands might not be somehow connected. Was the immense violence that ravaged southeast Asia after 1945 a result of immemorial backwardness in the region? Or was a subtle and refined civilisation wrecked by world war and the aftermath of decades of neo-colonial conflict—as Norman Lewis intimated would happen in his prophetic account of his travels in the region, A Dragon Apparent (1951)? It is true that the second world war was followed by over 40 years of peace in North America and Europe—even if for the eastern half of the continent it was a peace that rested on Soviet conquest. But there was no peace between the powers that had emerged as rivals from the global conflict.

In much the same way that rich societies exported their pollution to developing countries, the societies of the highly-developed world exported their conflicts. They were at war with one another the entire time—not only in Indo-China but in other parts of Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. The Korean war, the Chinese invasion of Tibet, British counter-insurgency warfare in Malaya and Kenya, the abortive Franco-British invasion of Suez, the Angolan civil war, decades of civil war in the Congo and Guatemala, the Six Day War, the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956 and of Czechoslovakia in 1968, the Iran-Iraq war and the Soviet-Afghan war—these are only some of the armed conflicts through which the great powers pursued their rivalries while avoiding direct war with each other. When the end of the Cold War removed the Soviet Union from the scene, war did not end. It continued in the first Gulf war, the Balkan wars, Chechnya, the Iraq war and in Afghanistan and Kashmir, among other conflicts. Taken together these conflicts add up to a formidable sum of violence. For Pinker they are minor, peripheral and hardly worth mentioning. The real story, for him, is the outbreak of peace in advanced societies, a shift that augurs an unprecedented transformation in human affairs.


4:18 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thanx for the ref. That wasn't the review of Pinker I read the other day--damn, I wish I cd remember where I read it--but Gray is gd at debunking Pinkerish-type kaka. In general, I find Pinker a very superficial thinker, very it's all instinct, B&W-type arguments.

Also, I find it curious that, if things are so absolutely fab in modern times (in fact, the 20thC is #1 on the genocide hit parade, historically spkg), Harvard professors wd feel the need to write lengthy treatises arguing that they are. Methinks the lady doth protest too much...The truth is that is it *not* at all obvious that the 'progress' theory is correct, and many suspect, on a gut level, that it is quite wrong. Modernity carries its own snow job, and some people, at least, see thru it. But ostensibly, writing a lengthy bk to defend the present is in the category of a long tome establishing the Catholicity of the Pope...shit, what if he's really a Jew, after all?


5:03 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Someone once wrote that the Internet is a place where people just wanna let the Id loose. Of course, when I taught workshops in writing, I told my students that they shd mobilize their emotions, and that their 1st drafts shd be angry, insulting, sarcastic, or whatever they were feeling. I always do this myself, because the 1st draft is literally 'barfed' out, to get the whole writing process going. However, if the 1st draft shd come from the gut, the 2nd one always hasta come from the head: in which you edit out all of the pain and stupidity that was in the 1st draft, get down to cases, and speak like one adult to another. Unfortunately, on the Internet, people have a tendency to post their 1st drafts; not gd.

It took me a while to get used to what is really childish behavior, and filter it out. This is my 1st (and hopefully, last) blog, so when I began 5.5 yrs ago, I didn't realize what was going on. We had a lot of 'dick-measuring behavior'--see? mine is bigger than yours!--and also peacock behavior--look how smart I am! Slowly, over time, the shmucks drifted away. I had dinner yesterday w/another gringo in town, a very nice guy, but someone I know only casually, really, and it turned out that he had decided to check out my blog (I don't think I even told him I had one). Over dinner he said to me: "I was stunned at the level of intelligence on your blog, of the folks writing in. What great discussions you guys have." Which I think is true; but it took me about 3 yrs to weed out the buffoons. And then, once in a while, someone new comes along--wh/of course I greatly welcome--but then doesn't understand that it's OK to be courteous, have evidence for your arguments, not attack the messenger because u don't like the message, and so on. It's a slow and painful process, esp. for Americans, and especially today; but eventually, hopefully, the newcomer gets it, that this is not about emotional discharge, one-upsmanship, or anything else. And that it also helps not to be overly dogmatic abt yr position.

Maybe, of course, as u and ij suggest, there is an unavoidably therapeutic aspect to some of this, in the sense that this blog is some kind of refuge from a dominant culture that most of us see as Nuts with a capital N, and Fucked Up with a capital FU. Truth be told, I think the human race in general has made progress only in a narrow scientific and technological sense; in a moral sense, it's a rather complex, chequered picture. (Numerous thinkers, such as Arthur Koestler or Robert Redfield, have argued this.) Modern America, to me, is one of the sickest societies to ever have existed, and it makes its citizens sick on a daily basis even while it brainwashes them to believe that We're No. 1, Baby. So the most typical response I've had to my work since I first began writing is some variety of: "I thought I was nuts until I read ___, and now I feel I'm not alone." There have been hundreds of letters like that, I'm happy to report. Hence, if this blog is serving to any extent as an oasis in a shitstorm, I admit that some therapeutic component is unavoidable. I just prefer to keep that aspect of it from being deliberate and over-the-top. As u suggest, there is enuf therapy in truth, and truth requires the 2nd draft: a sober look at the facts.

I love you all; boo hoo.

Sorry, I lost control there, for a minute.


5:04 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: too many Anons out there, for my taste; it's getting confusing. Cd some of u pick a handle already? Suggested possibilities:

1. Corned-Beef Eater
2. Chopped-Liver Lover
3. Scourge of Obama
4. Rom Mittney


5:06 PM  
Blogger James said...

I sent this nicely crafted doom and gloom to the Archdruid (JMG) but he did not appreciate my craftsmanship and failed to publish my comment. I guess it doesn't matter. I did find Boursin Garlic and Herb cheese on sale at Kroger's today for $2.99 (regular price $5.99) and I cleaned them out. I'm enjoying some now with a cold Guinness Draught and that'll get the dopamine circulating. Hope you all can also find some little pleasure for the more emotional side of your brains.

Plato's horsemen and Freud's Id and Superego are roughly equivalent metaphors or representations of the human mind. We live in an Id society, even though a relatively thin veneer of religion and lawfulness prevails. Most follow the codified morality when there is a promise of reward, as in deliverance to heaven or riches. There's big magic in those promises. The Id continues munching on the environment and the Superego maintains order in society to facilitate efficient munching (with the implied or explicit promise of rewards). Guilt and punishment exists for those undermining the social contract.

Now, what kind of reward can be had for not converting all resources into a pleasureful event? It seems like some of us, a significant minority, get real pleasure from virgin wilderness and the complexity of life. However, most Id-dominated people despise environmentalists because we stand in the way of their simple pleasures and generation of profit. They don't give a damn about the environment and are only interested in money and what it can buy in technotopia. I just don't see any “magic” that will persuade the majority to abandon their desires for visceral satisfactions. Our journey is like building a wider and wider boardwalk into an endless chasm. When it becomes apparent that the journey leads nowhere, we will all rush back to the starting point, but the boardwalk will become narrower and narrower, a bottleneck, and will not accomodate everyone's return.

Unfortunately, unless the wise and sensitive move from the boardwalk now, they may be left standing on its unfinished edge in the middle of the chasm, watching the wild Id people fight for passage back through the bottleneck. How much wider and longer can we build the boardwalk to nowhere? I don't know, but for certain they can't stop building as population swells and the dopamine flows freely at the end of nowhere.

7:22 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Cosmic Justice Dept. (if we lived in a perfect world):


10:43 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

The link to the comic was great, Dr. Berman! I read some bullshit article today about the "seven success rules of Jobs" or something...the first line of the article was something to to effect of 'whether you like it or not, the technology of steve jobs has drastically affected your life'.

As an aside, Dr. B, I would like to thank you for doing a fine job of keeping this blog ad hominem-attack-free and from digressing into what nearly all of the rest of the observable cyberworld is - a cesspool of id behavior and dick measuring. This is truly a safe place to have a thought-provoking discussion, and it has become a community (hence the reason i most definitely want to meet my fellow DAAers face-to-face someday.) Anyhow, once again, many thanks to you, Maestro. This is more of a respite for me than I ever thought a website could be. That you have created this small oasis in the vast wasteland...well, let's just say that I would most definitely like to buy you a beer.

12:40 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thanks, much appreciated. You guys (DAA-ers) at some pt are gonna hafta pick a time and a place for the Great DAA Reunion, the transition of this great virtual community into a physical one. Mexico City is certainly a possibility, but let's not rule out Thos Friedman's front door in suburban Md. We cd all go there w/candles at night, and then one by one, snuff them out, to symbolically show what Tom is doing to the US, analytical thinking, and (what's left of) the American brain. Then on to the White House, to pee on the president's shoes (Gucci's, I'm guessing). Sooner or later, millions wd join us; OWS wd get absorbed into the DAA movement. We wd pointedly not carry cell fones or use Twit or Face, demonstrating that true revolutions are not about any of that poop. The millions wd surge north, walking to NY, until we came to the NYT Bldg, where we wd again put out candles. Then we wd collectively fly to Alaska, carry away Sarah Palin, and bring her back to DC, installing her--and Michele Bachmann--in the White House as Co-Presidents in Perpetuity. Across the land, George Washington wd be removed from high schl history curricula, to be replaced by an in-depth study unit of the life and work of Estee Lauder (no reason to limit this educational reform to Texas, obviously). I tell u, it all gives me a frisson of joy. As one US Army officer said of Ben Tre in Vietnam, "We had to destroy the village in order to save it." And to think the Transformation of America began with four people and a tiny, unknown blog...


5:40 AM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I found Ivo's recent post very moving, and did not get the sense that he was implying you lacked emotion. I think he was just voicing his opinion of the need for a more visceral approach. Sure, his comment could have used a bit of editing; but I appreciated his honesty and courage. (I dunno, there's something about living in Florida...)

P.S. My father has (finally) decided not to have chemotherapy. However, the only encouragement his doctor offers concerning any of the natural alternatives is: "If it makes you happy..." No wonder then, with this kind of "guidance", my Dad has decided to do nothing at all.

9:59 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Amazingly enuf, I got that; my reply was in the spirit of kidding around (aka a joke). Although, I did hafta add that there hafta be limits to the 'therapeutic' approach to blogging. Anyway, I suspect u don't need to worry too much abt him; or me.

Your father, however, different story. You might wanna explore non-Western approaches at this pt, perhaps (if u haven't already).


10:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Thanx for the ref. That wasn't the review of Pinker I read the other day--damn, I wish I cd remember where I read it."

Perhaps it was Elizabeth Kolbert's piece in the October 3, 2011 New Yorker, entitled "Peace in Our Time"?

10:33 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,


The key word in your post was "magic" as in magical thinking. The boardwalk will continue to expand until stark reality can no longer be postponed. We had a taste of it this summer in Texas when the heat and drought broke all records in every state ever recorded, including the Dust Bowl years. But despite all this, a family member bought property (about 50 acres) in Middle-of-Nowhere, Tx and was telling me how she's going to start an orchard and a vineyard. No topsoil, no water and most importantly, no workers to plant and maintain this stuff. When I tactfully pointed this out she told me I was "negative" and wanted to ruin her "dream." And there you have America in a nutshell. The desert will bloom spontaneously, technology will save us and when all those brown people who speak funny languages realize the glories of the free market and quit hating us for our freedom then it will all be okay. And of course there's no thought out assessment of what the real effort, labor or commitment actually is to make any dream a reality.

ijcd--I don't know if you're a student or work full time or part time, but I'd like to make a suggestion if it's okay. It can be difficult to meet people and establish new friendships but it helps to simply work in a situation where you have frequent contact with people, even if it's only one day a week. A retired man I know works one day a week at a local bookstore and has gotten to know the other workers, sits in on book clubs, etc. Please don't drop out of the blog, you've made valuable contributions.

10:37 AM  
Blogger HansfromDK said...

Dear dr. Berman & DAA 65

Let us choose the dates for a gathering of the clan in Mexico City, and I will also start saving up for the tour.

About "the increased accessibility for the elderly and disabled." due to new technology. This is true, but once people read aloud to each other, or sang together, or conversed, or listened to the stories from the elderly - also the blind and disabled. "We do not have time for that nowadays!" you may argue. In a few years children will be brought up by computers and robots, and people will say: "How great that technology can do this, since the parents do not have time for it!"

Joe doesn't know:
Did you ever read Joseph Weizenbaum's classic book "Computer Power and Human Reason"? I think you will enjoy it.

Last week there was a poll here in Chile. During two days people could vote in favour of a free and improved public education. Many lined up in the streets in order to do so, and the result was two million votes, which I think is pretty good, considering that the total population is only 17 mio.

Best to all of you

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...


I agree with Dr. Berman about alternative therapies. Why not quietly explore what's available in your area so you'll have something to offer if your father is experiencing pain or discomfort?

David Rosen

10:54 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I'm going to suggest the weekend of April 13th. Also, that we do it if 12 or more DAA-ers commit to it, and not do it if 11 or less commit to it. This is 6 mos. away; lotsa time to make plane reservations. I can also suggest an inexpensive hotel nr. where I usually stay (and we can probably gather at that apt., since it's fairly large, b4 heading out to spectacular restaurants; or else convene in front of the hotel). The hotel has a website in English, BTW, w/all the relevant info; some of the staff probably speak English, altho I'm not 100% sure, since I've always spoken to them in Spanish. Upon arrival at the airport, folks need to go to one of the taxi booths and give them the address of the hotel. But we can sort all that out later.


Yes, thanx; it was Kohlbert. Between recent bks by Pinker and Thos Friedman, we can deepen the illusion of magical thinking Susan refers to in her last post. Americans just eat this stuff up; that it might be raw poopie never crosses their tender (and minuscule) brains.


11:14 AM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Dr. Berman and David,

My father doesn't believe in alternative medicine, so when his doctors tell him not to waste his money on supplements...well, there's not much I can do; my father respects authority figures. And in this neck of the woods, there's no such thing as an integrative oncologist or holistic MD. No doubt about it: location can be hazardous to your health.

Speaking of location...how about Austin, Texas? Susan and Kelvin are already there, English is spoken (more or less) and it would be a short flight from Mexico. Don't know about the restaurants, though: I've never been.

12:09 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...


It sounds as though you have done what you can -- at least for now.

Good luck, and let us know how things go.

David Rosen

3:07 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

It's official: China is a capitalist country:


3:36 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

"This American Life" Dept.: Honestly, I can't get enuf of this stuff:


5:32 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Dr. Berman—

Capitalist Indeed!

A long time ago the Standard Oil Company celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with the slogan: "Serving America for Fifty Years".

This prompted Will Rogers to tell a story about how, when he was a boy, his father told him to take a cow to the neighbor's farm to get 'serviced'. The farmer took the cow into the barn and told Will to wait behind the barn because this wasn't something for him to see. Will found a knothole in the barn and watched what happened. He said, "That's when I learned what it means to get 'serviced' — and believe me, Standard Oil has been servicing America for fifty years."

Well, it looks as though the ethos in China has changed from "Serve the People" to "Service the People". Isn't it amazing how quickly they're catching up?

David Rosen

6:15 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Mike C: Pls compress abt 1/3 and re-send; thanx.

DR: Similar distribution of wealth pattern as well.


7:16 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Nervous Fact Dept.: World pop. hits 7 billion this month, and it only took a mere 12 yrs to do it. It was 6 billion in 1999.


8:21 PM  
Anonymous satyaSarika said...

Well, I would love to come to Mexico City more than any place suggested so far. I would start practicing my spanish if I knew I was gonna be goin there.

Sounds like you're not too worried about the cartels chopping off heads. Read some really ghoulish nightmares are going on with that.

Dr MB, you are LOL funny. Enjoy that even if I don't think much of chopped liver. :)

And thanks for the Twisted Dream ref (among others). I just love the Dowd guy. He was/is spectacular!!!

11:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you want to know why Americans are so docile, take a gander at this article:


Three bathroom breaks. PER SEMESTER. No exceptions for little girls having their periods, or children with urinary problems, etc. And the students are expected not to complain about this, even though going to the bathroom or some other bodily function should not be a "privilege."

Americans are used to having their lives regulated and controlled by authority figures because that's what the public schools teach them when they're small, through policies that make life miserable for them if necessary (and some Florida schools even use TASERS on little kids, I kid you not).

I said this before actually, but hope my post is small enough this time.

12:51 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Tots who get tasered grow up to be members of the NYPD who become engraged/violent if anyone contradicts authority. At the height of the Vietnam war, the % of demonstrators against it was actually quite tiny. The overwhelming majority of Americans were far more offended by these folks than they were by the US Army dropping hot jellied gasoline on Asian infants.


I suggest u start Span lessons now. We shd be able to recruit the minimum 12 DAA-ers between now and April 13. As for your head getting chopped off, that tends to be confined to border towns. In fact, homicide rate in Mex City is 9 per 100,000 per annum, same as Wichita KS or Stockton CA. Not much chopped liver there either, wh/I personally prefer to chopped head; but then there's no accounting for taste. Doug Dowd is 92 and going strong, living in northern Italy for many yrs now. He probably eats a lot of cioppino.

3:23 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I hope you'll choose Mexico City for the reunion for purely selfish reasons--I've never seen it and would really like to. I'm going to visit my daughter sometime in the spring but have made no plans yet so when you pick a date, I'll work around it.

David--In an earlier post you said "reforms that simply alleviate some of the human suffering that will accompany America's failure are worth fighting for". I agree and it would be a major victory if even that could be accomplished. Wall Street and the Big Banks probably are nervous particularly in the face of the imploding euro. I've read in several articles this is really nothing more than yet another massive bank bailout waiting in the wings and Wall Street, the IMF, and other financial institutions could be worried the peasants will start sharpening the pitchforks.

On the news last night, psychiatrists have "revised" the parameters for diagnosing ADHD to now include children as young as 4 while vehemently denying this is for prescribing drugs. And drug companies have stockpiled cancer treatment meds to create artificial shortages then price gouge to explode profits and raise stock prices. Capitalism at its finest.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Time and place are set for the Great Reunion of the DAA65:

Mexico City, weekend of April 13, 2012. Hotel information to follow, eventually. Peso currently weak against dollar, tho that might not last for 6 mos.; but it sure makes for a less expensive trip.

However, trip is on only if we get a firm commitment from 12 people or more. Any less, it's a no-go.

Remember, everyone: art museums, and restaurants, to die for. In both cases, 'spectacular' doesn't even come close as a description. You'll be talking abt the trip to yr grandchildren, several decades hence.



10:26 AM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Susan W.—

American libertarians like to repeat ad nauseam that the New Deal did not end the great depression. It doesn't seem to matter to them that that what they claim would have ended it doesn't seem to be working very well right now. But, what is even more telling about American libertarians is that it doesn't seem to matter to them that New Deal programs kept people from starving, alleviated a lot of suffering, and kept a whole generation of young people from becoming a huge social problem. (Young men who would have spent the entire 1930's unemployed, would have become unemployable – hence a social problem.)

I'm not sure what America's power elite thinks about the imploding Euro – they may be conflicted about it. You could argue that Wall Street, together with big European banks, actually caused the problem. But now the banks may fear that the Europeans aren't going to bail them out, but make them take a big haircut. On the other hand, our power elite knows that they need the US dollar to remain as the world's reserve currency, and they may have seen the Euro as a threat. Now they can continue to print more dollars, and the rest of the world has to accept them – particularly for petroleum and other resources. I see that as a big part of the imperial war against Libya – Gadhafi had established a new gold backed Dinar which the US power elite saw as a threat to the Dollar's status. Europe may just be trying to strengthen its grip on Africa – which was never really decolonized.

There are always divisions in a ruling class, or power elite, and Wall Street may be more interested in short-term greed, and the Military Industrial Complex in the US dollar's ability to buy strategic materials – with Congress and the White House caught in the middle. How difficult it is for Obama to serve two masters! And now the poor shmuck also being jerked around by Netanyahu.

David Rosen

12:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

... For example, Steve Jobs once said, quoting someone else, that when people are in possession of technology they don't understand (i.e., how it works) they imbue it with magical properties. That, I believe, accounts for some of the modern day fascination, but, on the other hand, is the fascination with technology really so new. Have we not always had the talisman? Don't we construct stories around the magical object (the magical sword, ring, neckless) that could save the kingdom? It's as if a tech object today is a talisman that actually works. Who would not take delight and marvel in that? It's at this point that I would write that you seem so dismissive of technology that I don't think you can appreciate this primitive talisman marvel of the individual uncynically (which, let's face it, is similar to what Western churches have often tried to elicit architecturally - hence, tech *is* like religion, but unlike the architectural promise of the church, a light switch, once a marvelous technology in itself, actually lights a room: it fulfills its promise, therefore the marvel here is at least somewhat justified) but that point-of-departure, my disagreement with your position on tech and those who marvel it, is not the same as calling you a schmuck.

As for Steven Pinker, it would be nice if you posted sometime what you disagree with regarding his thesis of the decline of violence leading to the present age instead of merely saying his stuff is kaka. I've read Gray's criticism and strangely it doesn't really address the validity of any of Pinker's data. He attacks pejoratively his ‘impressive-looking graphs and statistics’(!) and berates him for being an 'evangelist for humanism' but nothing about the actual, um, evidence. Odd. See, this is what offends me: bad (unsupported) arguments.

Here is a lecture of Pinker's on the topic with all of the data if you are willing to suspend disbelief:

Well, obviously this is too long for you to post, but I will add just a bit more to say I look forward to your future essays and books, to the arguments I find well supported and even to those I don't, because it's the latter that makes me think more, and I thank you for that.

Your truly,

The Dick-Measuring Schmuck

12:57 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I cdn't post the other part of your message because once again, the two of them would be much too long. In addition, it was--once again--a critique of me (and this blog) personally; I guess it's very hard for you not to do that, and not to operate on an emotional level. The thing abt being less than polite re: public figures (Steve Jobs, e.g.): I think that is generally accepted as OK; it seems to me that public figures are fair game. But on this blog, we don't take down the host or other bloggers in a derogatory way.

Regarding technology as magic: I said as much in "The Reenchantment of the World"; I don't really disagree w/u on that pt. But it's a very complex argument, because in a lot of cases, magic worked as well; and one could argue that in a larger sense, a cultural sense, modern technology fails--it creates a destructive type of world. I'm hardly arguing that all technology is bad--that wd be rather nuts; but I am arguing that there are different types of societies, or civilizations; and that one that is defined by tech is finally not viable or sustainable--the more so when it has a hidden religious dimension (see ch. 3 of Why America Failed). In terms of grasping the larger picture, I think you would benefit a lot from reading authors such as Albert Borgmann or Heidegger, for example. It's a question of the 'world' one wants to live in, ultimately; tho this is not B&W--the magical world of the Middle Ages certainly had its down side. But one problem it did not have was anomie, a lack of meaning; which is the result of the 'arc' created by an expanding economy and technology since 1500, and which I suspect we are now seeing coming to a close. (Again, I cover a lot of that territory in the Reenchantment book; also check out the World Systems Analysis folks.) So we cd certainly get bogged down in a level of detail--X-rays, anesthesia, and the marvels of modern medicine, for example--and ignore the fact that modern medicine is now part of a larger corporate structure and may be hurting more than it's helping. (Check out the post I did earlier this year on "Fork in the Road," e.g. What Big Pharma is now doing to Americans is literally ghastly. This is 'progress'?) And that it is integral to the anomic culture in which we live. It's a question of what level you think is more important. (continued below)

7:56 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

As far as Pinker goes, I didn't read the Gray article myself, but I did read the one by Elizabeth Kohlbert in the New Yorker, and she does refute a number of his arguments point by point. This is (again) at the level of the particular arguments, and I was impressed by her refutation; but then there is (again) the level of the larger picture. Modernity carries its own propaganda, and focuses on its achievements; it isn't too interested in looking at the down side of 'progress', and the upside of traditional or steady-state societies. In that sense, I see Pinker as lopsided as modernity. As Anon (guy who referred to John Gray) above pts out, consider what Pinker has to leave out, in order to make the case that he wants to. His social science, his history, is not very good.

Anyway, you and I cd continue the debate abt Pinker, modernity, technology, etc., at the level of specific issues, and (since there are up and down sides to the Lebenswelt in each case) probably do it forever w/o convincing the other person of very much of anything. There are thousands of specifics here; it could keep us busy for years. We could also debate Heidegger's Nazism, for example, and whether it was integral to his philosophy or not---and so on. My pt is that in order for u to see what I'm talking abt, you'd have to step across a major conceptual, even ontological or existential, chasm, and I don't have the impression you are very interested in that. I may be wrong, but given the heavy emotionality you bring to all this, I just can't imagine that occurring. At this pt, then, it might be better just to agree to disagree. If it's any comfort, many more people (by several orders of magnitude) are in your camp than in mine.

I'm glad you enjoy my work, in any case, and thank u for your appreciation.

All the best-


8:00 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home