February 21, 2012

Second West Coast Tour

Dear Friends:

Here's the info on my schedule for Vancouver and San Francisco, coming up in a few short weeks:

March 18, 4 p.m.: People's Co-op Bookstore, 1391 Commercial Drive, Vancouver
March 19, 12 noon: University of British Colombia, Woodward Hall Rm 1, Vancouver
March 22, 7 p.m.: Modern Times Bookstore, 2912 24th St. (between Alabama and Florida Streets), San Francisco

Hope to see you there!

Please also note that C-SPAN will be airing my LA lecture of Nov. 8 on Feb. 25 at 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. est, and on Feb. 26 at 6 a.m. est (see www.booktv.org for more information). They will also be supplying me with a link to the videotape later on, which I shall post on this blog.

Thank you all for your interest and support.


Anonymous Dovidel said...

Dr. Berman,

I read the Mark Lilla article (NYRB, 12 Jan 2012) twice, and I need to read it again. There is much more to be said about it than fits on half a page. For now, here is a quote from Erich Fromm which I transcribed from a cassette recording of a 1976 radio interview program:

“I think the ‘camps’ are completely wrongly organized.”

“There are many people who are conservatives because they really hang onto the deep values of our Western Culture, and believe or are persuaded that the conservative parties who speak that way will in fact also have a policy which tends to realize this. And there are many liberals and leftists who have the same basic values and express them in political terms, maybe of socialism or some other ideology.”

“These two camps are basically very related because they have the same human aims.”

“While on the other hand, there are many conservatives who are just using conservative formulas for the naked exploitation of others – and many leftists who basically are not different, who also believe that a strongly authoritarian society as the best way to promote happiness for all people. What they really say, the Communists – is that all people should be bourgeois. That was really the aim of the Communists and social democrats.”

As we move from our moribund world system to a new and now unknowable one, our old ways of classifying people become meaningless, and new ones will have to be devised.

David Rosen

2:47 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


I've been pleasantly surprised to find that I have some common ground with some people I'd have written off as hidebound conservatives in the past. As Fromm said, there are those who value civilized life & our common cultural heritage on both sides of that dividing line.

Perhaps the dividing line that counts now is the one between those who opt for a shallow view of life, and those who prefer a deeper one. That's painfully simplistic, I know -- but I think you know what I'm struggling to say.

While I feel that the late Theodore Roszak was much too optimistic about the possibilities of transforming contemporary life into something better -- though I certainly share his longing for it! -- I think he was right about the danger of the modern technocratic worldview, one that values power & success & progress above all else, and is frighteningly reductionist when it comes to viewing & valuing human beings. As he noted, that view found a comfortable home in both America & the Soviet Union, unbound by the limitations of any side or label. Its newest version is the digital age of distraction & control, of course. Since his death last year, I've been reading some of his books aqain, and nodding in agreement at much of his diagnosis.

Earlier today I was deep in a lengthy discussion with a 35-year old friend about how life is to be lived, especially in these times. It's a pressing question for her, and for many of her own friends. The NMI approach is very appealing to them, I find. I feel for them, as things can only get worse in the coming decades -- makes me glad that I don't have children, to be honest.

6:33 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...


In that interview I quoted, Erich Fromm was talking about his book, “To Have or To Be” which is about exactly what you mention – a shallow view of life which he calls the having mode of existence, or the deeper one which he calls the being mode. Very, very often, Dr. Berman and Dr. Fromm are on the same page in their writings.

One reason we have so much trouble describing and classifying ways of thinking is that the times are changing so fast that our thinking has trouble keeping up.

David Rosen

11:25 PM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

Over the years, I also have found common ground with people who self-identify as conservatives. In my case it has been far more often with libertarians than with cultural conservatives.
I won't dismiss Fromm's idea that there are those who value civilized life & our common cultural heritage on both sides of that dividing line, but my experience has generally been that the civilized life part is mostly concerned with safety and the more you discuss history and/or economics, the Venn diagram of that common cultural heritage starts to develop more and more areas of non-overlap.
But maybe that is to be expected, since I'm not a liberal any more.

I read the piece by Mark Lilla, but it didn't seem to be much of a book review. Rather than discussing the book in question, he seemed to be more interested in promoting his own "grown-up conservative" bona fides to some audience of powerful interests, who, he hopes, regardless of whether the Republicans win or lose in the coming elections, will want some seasoned old hands to put the genie back in the bottle.

I wasn't familiar with Mr. Zinn but found this quote on his Wiki page to have more sense in it than Lilla's whole book-review-cum-right-wing-think-tank-job-application-or-fellowship-grant-proposal...

"We were not born critical of existing society. There was a moment in our lives (or a month, or a year) when certain facts appeared before us, startled us, and then caused us to question beliefs that were strongly fixed in our consciousness-embedded there by years of family prejudices, orthodox schooling, imbibing of newspapers, radio, and television. This would seem to lead to a simple conclusion: that we all have an enormous responsibility to bring to the attention of others information they do not have, which has the potential of causing them to rethink long-held ideas."

Although Lilla's quote of Kristol's about the St.Paul on the road to Damascus-like conversion of liberals into neoconservatives was probably true of a few people with money and/or power, most of the former liberals I know went into more radical areas of the left after being mugged by reality.

Oh, and Mr. Lilla:"trust-fund hippies who went back to the land"? Seriously ? I think Michael Savage has the demographic for that level of propaganda covered with his "Red diaper doper babies". Look for another niche.

1:55 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

Just now uncovering Hunter Thompson.

"It proved what I set out to prove...that the American Dream is fucked...and I think the original reason (running for Sheriff of Aspen, Colorado) was to prove it to myself". (1969)

"Life is a meat grinder." shep

11:04 AM  
Blogger x said...

Hi, Dr. Berman,

I wanted to extend an open invitation to visit us on Maui. We are a book club that has been in existence for close to 20 years and we have done 3 of your books over the last several years, and currently reading Why America Failed. Let us know if you are coming this way. We would love to meet you. Best, David Sullivan dnavillus@gmail.com

7:02 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thanks for writing in. I'd love to meet u guys as well. I once got invited to give a talk on Molokai, but never made it over to Maui, I'm sorry to say. Anyway, I was greatly encouraged to hear that WAF was being read there, and do wish I could come out. Poke around: maybe there's some institute or branch of the U of HI nearby, that wd consider extending an invitation (long shot, I know). That wd be a whole load of fun.


8:52 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Dr. Berman, DAA’ers,

Re: The Reactionary Mind

“They say in Harlan County
There are no neutrals there.
You’ll either be a union man
Or a thug for J.H. Blair.”

-- Fragment of a memory – from an old Pete Seeger record.

As a human being you can only have a small number of really close friends you get to know really well. To get on in the world you have to put the people you interact with into categories of some kind. To do it in a meaningful way is not easy because people tend to be very complex and internally contradictory, not to mention the fact that the conscious portion of the psyche is the tip of the iceberg (or ice cube in our blessed land).

Each in their own way, all civilizations have been class societies based on exploitation, and the as liberation theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez has said, “Class struggle is a fact, and neutrality on this matter is impossible.” To me the primary question for the political left-right scale is ‘Which side are you on?’ Other differences between people, as important as they may be, tend to follow from this – and there is a hierarchy of importance.

Moreover, criteria for the left-right scale need to be modified as society changes so your categories make sense the world you are actually in. As moribund capitalism dies, all this is going to become very difficult and confusing. As Gramsci said, "The old is dying, and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear."

Conservatives like to deny that there is class struggle in society, or at least to minimize its importance, and Lilla may be attempting to ‘muddy the waters’ by highlighting differences between people which are only of secondary and tertiary importance.

David Rosen

12:06 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Anon (pls pick a handle) and Dawn: yr messages were a bit too long for this blog. Please compress by abt 50%, and I'll be glad to run them. Thank you.--mb

6:53 PM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...


I agree that "which side are you on?" is always a good first question.

Sometimes party/movement labels won't work.
I saw a clip recently in which Chomsky identified himself as a socialist-libertarian, while suggesting that successes by 'libertarians' in the US would pave the way for corporate tyrranies. Neither of these groups are quite what Leary had in mind when he was self-identifying as a libertarian long before his terminal phase. There are probably enough other identifiable flavors of libertarianism to give quarks a good run for their money.

Speaking of 'muddying the waters',
in the page-right "suggested clips" column
of the YT page for the clip of a BBC show on poverty in the US left by an anonymous poster recently, I found a 9-part interview with the late David Foster Wallace, which led me to the link below which is audio of his 2005 commencement address at Kenyon College.

Any DFW fans who have not seen this interview will probably enjoy it, and anyone who is thinking about going in the NMI direction, or just thinking about modifying what DFW calls your 'default settings' will probably enjoy the commencement address, titled "This is Water".

Interview (Part 1 of 9)

This is Water (Part 1 of 2)

7:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(Hope this isn't too much -- the 77 degree weather and sunshine has me a little prolix!)

..I also recently found Fromm's "sequel" to _To Have or to Be_ at the library: _The Art of Being_. So thanks to commenters here who brought it to my attention! I decided to skip THOTB, figuring, you know, I'm pretty sure he's gonna come down on the side of "Being"... Yeah.. So maybe just cut to the chase and get in on that Being action(?) right away.. How, pray tell, does one just "be" in this world anyway.. That was my efficient, time-pressed American way of thinking..

It's been about a month since I read it, and if you asked me "What stuck? What did you retain?" Well, I remember he debunked some 60s gurus who had managed to commercialize transcendence and sell it to the masses. Much else was a pleasant read, but would probably need some triggering word or idea to bring it to mind. The one thing I think that really did stick with me, because it was so hard to fathom, was a quote from the Buddha about the nature of small talk. The Buddha advises against such chatter, which Fromm describes as a way of being with others (avoiding loneliness) while still being "alone" in a deeper sense --- not really making meaningful contact with others. What floored me about the quote was the Buddha's long list of subjects that qualify as "small talk". I won't try to repeat them here, the point was just that many of the items were topics conventional society considers "serious". But to the Buddha the only things worth speaking of were these very rarefied matters of personal transcendence, freedom from desire, how to eat only pudding and like it, etc.

So, while Dr. Fromm may not be expecting total saintly renunciation of his readers (I hope?) he does show us what the high bar looks like.


8:16 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Hi Gang-

I appreciate all the comments about the Lilla article and the issue of B&W vs. shades of gray. Not that I've sorted it out myself, because it's true that sometimes one can get too Manichaean about it, but also true that sometimes the shades of gray position turns things into mush. Robin Corey responded to Lilla in the next issue of the NYRB, and got the better of the debate, I thought. Perhaps sometimes we need a shade of gray between the Manichaean position and the shades-of-gray position, I'm not sure. "A grandes rasgos," we say in Spanish: in broad strokes. Well, sometimes the broad strokes are correct, and sometimes they can do a lot of mischief.

I recall when I was writing WAF, and was talking about the massacre of Native Americans by whites in the US, and some copyeditor asked me in the margin if I wanted to modify "massacre," and I basically said: what else was it? I didn't feel shades of gray in this case wd be accurate or politically insightful.

On the other hand, there are lots of crossovers today...When you have Tea Party politicians protesting the NDAA, and saying that the definition of 'terrorist' is so loose that anyone might qualify...well, I'm on their side (in that case).

You see the problem.


8:54 PM  
Blogger Russ said...

According to my Directv chaennel guide (which may be wrong), it looks like Book TV will be replaying the Dark Ages America episode on 2/25

8:13 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I know they are doing the 8 Nov. 2011 LA lecture this weekend; I'd be surprised if they were also airing the 2006 DAA lecture as well, but I guess stranger things have happened.


10:10 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

You know, maybe this mania for the proper & exact label winds up becoming an exercise in busy-ness rather than being, a way of keeping the mind preoccupied with categories & minutia, rather than getting on with life itself. If pressed for a label at this point, I might very well go with, "A human being." And maybe add, "struggling to be civilized." Or is that just another label to argue about?

Anon, Fromm always rewards thoughtful reading. If you haven't discovered his work yet, I'd also recommend Rollo May. Seems to me a lot of his writing would be useful food for thought for the aspiring NMI.

11:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tim - Rollo May, the name is familiar but I have not read him. Any books in particular?

MB - My post with the Henry Miller quote didn't go through, was it too long or you did not get it?

Its absence makes my subsequent post a little unclear, since it briefly refers back to the missing one.


7:35 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yes, sorry; I don't want any one person sending in too many long ones, so u might wanna space them, day by day. I try to encourage as many folks as possible to contribute, wh/sometimes means thinning things out a bit. Send it in again, perhaps a bit shorter.


8:24 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Just when you think the American head can't go any deeper into the American rump, yr fellow countrymen surprise you!:


10:40 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

There are some gas stations in Florida that are charging $6 a gallon and there they are lining up to buy $220shoes though I expect many were there to steal them since they are going on-line for almost $2,000 (the shoes, not the customers).

8:36 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Data of CRE in this dept. are currently not available for the US, but have just been reported for the UK: A company called SecurEnvoy just released a study showing that 66% of British cell phone users have a deep fear of losing their phones. They suffer from "nomophobia," i.e. the fear of being out of cell phone contact for prolonged periods of time. Nomophobia = no-mobile-phone-phobia. Women apparently suffer greater distress than men: 70% to 61%, altho men are more likely to own more than one cell phone.

So this is "progress": the depths of pathetic emptiness and outright stupidity to which the human race has sunk. Oh yes, we are so much more superior to the Middle Ages, clearly; we are an "advanced" civilization.

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

By the way, did you see our favorite secretary of state blast the Russians and Chinese over Syria excuriating them for being "on the wrong side of history" while the US continues to support every right wing thug on the planet, did nothing while Baraini demonstrators were being killed, supported Mubarak until the last second, and even launches drones on funeral processions?

9:58 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I really wish we wd just get this decline thing over already. The pres cd announce that the US was closing up shop. All hospitals, libraries, newspapers, websites, media of any kind, schools, Wal-Marts, universities, airports, govt offices, national parks, Times Square, Disney World, etc. were going to shut down permanently; Wall St., all major corporations, and the NYSE, the same; end of payroll for politicians at any level of govt; the pres goes fishing (permanently) and all the lights in the White House are turned off (permanently). In fact, the W.H. is purchased by a Buy-Rite pharmacy, or something of that sort. But not before the pres apologizes to the entire world for the misguided trajectory we have been on since the late 16th century, and for setting a terrible example for the rest of the world. Now *that* would be "progress"!


10:13 AM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Dr. Berman,

‘Nomophobia’ may be just the latest manifestation of the ‘Great Will to Consume’ or something like that. I have noticed that most Americans seem to have a sub-conscious ‘umbilical cord’ connected to their cars. If they are more than a few hundred yards from their automobile, they start suffering anxiety. That’s one reason most Americans would only use public transportation if they were forced onto it at gunpoint. It’s probably been this way since the 50’s.


If you want to prevent high blood pressure, stop listening to Hillary! Isn’t it interesting that she says the Russians are on the ‘wrong side of history’? I thought that it was Communists who believed in ‘historical necessity’. Take a look at John Gray’s “Black Mass” to see how the US is up to its eyebrows in Judeo-Christian apocalyptic thinking.

David Rosen

11:35 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Enjoyed watching you on Book TV. Very interesting things to think about. Especially the comment you made about providing this important information but not really being to change things. I would love to create change. ;)

12:15 PM  
Blogger Putty said...

So, where is your value of 'freedom' and the human striving for this. Although, we have laws, we struggle to remain free. Some could argue that we are not free (and, I am only referring to Americans right now). But, nowhere in human history has a people lived and achieved and contributed so much to the rest of the world as here in America. This America which was founded on a basic principle exalting the individual as his or her supreme governor and left to pursue their own course in life. Although, my neighbor might have a different set of values as I, we live in harmony as we, being responsible humans, live and let live. Our country's constitution was designed to ensure that this scenario should continue to exist for all generations. No one man's values should be impressed upon another. This has been the swan song of those that rebelled against King George, and, we are at a point in time again to have to cast off an ever increasingly oppressive government.

12:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Arrogant Americans are in a trance from constant propaganda that keeps them irrational. They vote for a bribed government.

You tried but missed the mark.

12:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I don't get BookTV on my cable here, but I am looking forward to watching the interview on-line, when you have a link.


12:39 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Julian: I shd have the link in abt a week.

1st Anon (pls use a handle next time): yr message too long to post. Compress by 50%, and I'll run it.

2nd Anon (u2, a handle, pls): I take it yr not very familiar with my work.

Putty: u.r. a true American; I salute you.

Bella: Not to worry; change--in the form of cultural, social, political, and economic disintegration--is occurring all the time in the US, virtually on a daily basis.

Thank u all for watching the show-


12:51 PM  
Anonymous shep said...

Poor Mr Putty...

3:03 PM  
Blogger kanndvs said...

Dr Berman,
I saw you on C-SPAN this morning and would like to ask.
What do you think the relationship is to our failing culture and mental illness?
What do you think the future will look like, the end of our failure?
What area of Mexico do you live in? I'm thinking of leaving, Mexico would probably be easiest, but what of the violence there?
Thank you for putting so well into words the source of my unease. It explains alot and eases my loneliness. Karen

3:42 PM  
Blogger Scotty said...

Morris, (may I call you that?) Anyway, I just did...

You got the 3/5 clause of the original Constitution wrong in your C-SPAN "lecture" -- as well as few other things --but no time to go into those now.

As Wikipedia notes: "Delegates opposed to slavery generally wished to count only the free inhabitants of each state. Delegates supportive of slavery, on the other hand, generally wanted to count slaves in their actual numbers. Since slaves could not vote, slave holders would thus have the benefit of increased representation in the House and the Electoral College. The final compromise of counting "all other persons" as only three-fifths of their actual numbers reduced the power of the slave states relative to the original southern proposals, but increased it over the northern position."

Are you claiming that counting the slaves as full citizens would have been preferable? I doubt it – but considering your other views it’s difficult to be certain. In either case, as I'm sure you know, this section of the original document was later rendered moot by the 14th amendment.

Why must you progressives always struggle to mislead the fools you lecture?

3:46 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Let's be clear about one thing: I'm not a 'progressive'. Believe me, they won't have anything to do with me or my work, and the day I'm invited to speak on Democracy Now or any of those left-wing programs, I'll literally faint. I don't believe the US is 'progressing' toward anything; just the opposite.

2nd, I ask you to be respectful of me and the audiences I speak to, including people on this blog. They are not fools, by a long shot, regardless of what you may think; nor am I in the business of misleading anyone. I am serious about the research I do, as you'll see if you bother to read any of my work.

Regarding slavery, then. 14th amendment was ratified in 1868, so I don't see what that has to do with the racial or political outlook of the Founding Fathers. As for the 3/5 rule, there has been a lot of debate as to what it actually meant, but the general drift among American historians is that in the early years, a black person was judged to be 60% of a white one in political, and perhaps human, value. In addition, at the time that Michele Bachmann made her gaffe about the Founding Fathers, a number of major newspapers pointed this out, regarding what the FF actually believed. But u may know more than me (or them) in this regard; I'm not a Constitutional expert.


4:10 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Karen,

Thanks for writing in. Regarding collapse of US and mental illness, check back to "Fork in the Road" archived under 3 July 2011, and the ensuing discussion, for an answer to your question. As for the future: some version of "Blade Runner," altho Gary Shteyngart has a likely scenario in his novel, "Super Sad True Love Story" (also a post on this blog).

Mexico: violence is largely confined to Michoacan and the border states; American press makes it sound like the whole country is going up in smoke. Fact: homicide rate in Mexico City is 9 out of 100,000 people per annum, the same as Wichita KS and Stockton CA. In addition, recent calculations of national poverty rates show that the US is on a par now with Mexico, Egypt, and Tunisia. The truth is that Mexico is one of the most relaxed and gracious places on the planet.

However, it's not the only one. You want to find a country that still has strong elements of traditional culture, and many do: Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Bulgaria, etc. I suggest you do some research online, read a few bks, and when u can, take holidays in the countries that interest u. This will give you some idea of what feels rt, for u. The thing you don't wanna do is wind up growing old in the US. That's a formula for deep loneliness, to be sure.

Thanks again, and keep writing in.


4:36 PM  
Anonymous Joseph S. said...

I was talking to someone the other day about going to Mexico City for a visit and the response I got was "Are you crazy? You'd be robbed or kidnapped or even killed!" Now, I live in a nice area but it's connected to a pretty bad side of a city not known for its low crime statistics. I also lived in the Philippines when I was 18-21 and I can say with a fair degree of certainty that I felt safer walking around at night on the streets of a town in the southern Philippines (which is safer than most people give it credit) than I do walking to my car at night in the downtown area of my hometown. Of course there are many parts of the Philippines not even the 19 year old inebriated version of myself would venture into, but one can say the same thing about any city/country in this world. The big difference is that people in the Philippines and many other countries deemed exotic and "hostile" by Americans are full of life loving, friendly people who are very willing to help you out if need be. People like that in other countries are the rule and the a-holes are the exception whereas here it's the other way around. (Side note: I first heard of you from a South African student studying at the same school I was in the Phillipines. I borrowed [and forgot to give back] his copy of Reenchantment of the World and read it till its cover fell off.)

Have a good weekend, and say what you will about technology but it was nice being able to DVR your BookTV lecture. :]

6:14 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Actually, I love it when the American press tells the American people how dangerous Mexico is, and they believe it. This keeps a lot of gringos away, wh/is a big plus; because those down here tend to bring America w/them, and ruin the place as a result. The Shmuck Index (SI) among the gringo population in Mexico is quite remarkable. Check out my poem, "Gringos," in my bk, "Counting Blessings."


ps: Some sociologists have written in to say that Shmuck Index is too informal, and that the correct scientific term is DBL: Douche Bag Level. I like that as well.

6:31 PM  
Blogger Layton Victorian said...

Morris, I so enjoyed watching your Barnes and Noble interview for your book on Why America Failed. Perhaps you are aware that the information and history in the Book of Mormon published by the LDS church has a great deal in common with your book. It covers a thousand years of the same kinds of things. Perhaps you have read it. You will find it a great friend to your continuing research.

10:19 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hello Dr. Berman - I read (and loved) "Coming to Our Senses" and "Wandering God", so I've been thinking about our culture a long time. I just caught you on C-Span. I have 2 comments I want to post: 1. Prozac saved me. I was truly clinically depressed since high school and I knew something was wrong. And that was it. Not enough serotonin. What a difference it made in my interpersonal life. So it isn't all a conspiracy of big pharma, as you said. 2. Do you think you might have an "empathy deficit" for the Americans you described? Their fear (of themselves) drives them to thrive on opposition, no?

10:44 PM  
Blogger ImaginePeace said...

I just finished watching your Barnes & Noble presentation on C-Span. I promptly poured myself a stiff scotch & water afterwards. I have been coming to the same conclusion about this country and to have someone far more astute than I summarize the last 30+ years / 300+ years so distinctly did not make me feel any better.

11:28 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I never said it was *all* a conspiracy of Big Pharma; just most of it. And there are certainly cases in wh/it is useful, e.g. when mental illness has been inherited, and it's likely to continue unless interfered with chemically. But you know something is wrong when 2/3 of the world dollar sales of anti-depressants occur in a nation that has less than 5% of the world population. So I'm genuinely glad it helped you, but consider the possibility that doctors prescribe it like candy, for people whose "problems" are basically ones of simply living in a difficult world.

As to your second pt, yr rt, I don't have much empathy for Americans. This is my own shortcoming, clearly, but I find that I don't have empathy for people who don't have empathy for people; who lack heart, who lack basic generosity of spirit. Of course, there is *some* of that in the US--nothing is 100%--but it's not the tenor of the country at large, and there are deep historical reasons for this.

You know, living outside the country, and watching Americans relate to each other and to the locals in a foreign environment, you see who they really are. It's not pretty, the more so since they are oblivious to the way they behave. And then you watch how the locals relate to each other, and even to the offensive gringos, and you realize how very different much of the non-American world is; and how much better the world wd be if people did not emulate the hustling, me-first attitude that seems to be sewn into the DNA of the American people.

The truth is that I lived in the US for most of my life, and much of that proved to be very unhappy, because this was not my value system. I began to notice, over the years, how happy I was when I was out of the country, by comparison (I've done a fair amount of traveling), and that I was simply a stranger in a strange land. Finally, the solution became obvious: leave. The only regret I have is that I didn't do it sooner.


11:48 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yes, I try to sow misery and depression wherever I go! Ha ha! Actually, Karen's reaction (see above) is fairly typical: I feel better because now I know why I feel miserable, so I feel less weird. This blog is a place for about 75 people who regard the other 311 million Americans as literally nuts, and suffering from CRE (Cranial-Rectal Embedment). Welcome.


12:06 AM  
Blogger Richard Kent Matthews said...

Watched you on CSpan this evening. Very informative if not a little disheartening. Thanks.

1:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed your appearance on Book TV tonight and will be posting messages on a few discussion boards seeking to elicit comments on Why America Failed.

Bret Cantwell, Dallas

2:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am watching your appearance on CSPAN. Your book corroborates the position I've held for some time: The American Era is drawing to a close. The brazen stupidity of the current political discourse, growing self-centerdness and narcissism are all earmarks of a sick society. I plan to buy 'Why America Failed'. Thanks for your candor and insight.

6:38 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Thank u all for writing in. I've gotten some hate mail as well, but that goes with the territory, to be sure. Anyway, I hope you'll all stick with the blog and contribute to it from time to time. Not *all* of us have to be lemmings, after all, and rush to the sea.


8:30 AM  
Anonymous David M said...

Dr Berman & DAAers
I'm always greatful for personnel attacks from the right. It just confirms what I have come to realize in the jingoistic soup that we thrive in, that personnel attacks are and can only be their response. They have no moral ground to stand on and their arguments typically lack true historicl reference.

In Robert Jenson's latist post he reviews Benel Fernandez's book "The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at work" and interviews her.
Here's an excerpt.

What’s scary about Thomas Friedman is not his journalism, with its
under-inflated insights and twisted metaphors. Annoying as his second-rate thinking and third-rate writing may be, he’s not the first -- or the worst -- hack journalist.
What should unnerve us about Friedman is the acclaim he receives in political
and professional circles. Friedman’s New York Times column appears twice a week
on the most prestigious op/ed page in the United States; he has won three Pulitzer Prizes; his books are best-sellers; he’s a darling of the producers of television news shows; and he fills lecture halls for a speaking fee as high as $75,000.

On a personnel note: Had dinner the other night with 5 friends. When I pulled up to the restaurant 4 of 5 were playing with their phones and continued even when we got a table, were seated and served. It was just amazing how these folks(all are over 60)could not put down their toys for some dinner and conversation.
Onward and Downward

10:45 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Interestingly, a number of questioners had an accent so obviously your native born Americans had little interest in your post mortem. I could feel for the Hispanic woman who yearned for some meaningful conversation with white Americans but couldn't find any. Yes, the list is endlist, but you might want to mention the superpacs which essentially renders the concept of one man one vote essentially mute, and the fact that there are approximately 66,000 special forces completely unaccountable to even the Pentagon running all over the planet creating mayhem which again proves your point that a dying nation does exactly those things with even more intensity that got itself into its critical state. Yes, it's quite a chore having or trying to have an intelligent conversation here since you need to provide so much information before your conversation can actually commence which renders the process totally exhausting and hardly worth the effort.As for a course on Kim Kardashian's butt, may I suggest that the fall semester concentrate on the right hemisphere and the spring semester deal with the left. Afterall, you don't want to cram too much information (the whole butt) into one semester. The student body and their parents might protest.

11:26 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Excellent idea; but aren't u ignoring the rectal crevice? Or shd we assign an additional semester just for that?


11:42 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Could we not offer that in the summer (I will resist the puns). As for future "fakakta" wars, US special forces are fighting the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda, Congo, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. There are also US personel in Nigeria and Somalia assisting interrogations which I think we know what that means. But you are right-it all originates at the micro level. Principals discourage teachers from helping each other and a friend in IT was warned not to be nice to her colleagues.

12:04 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, microcosm and macrocosm reproduce each other in an endless downward spiral, that's for sure. BTW, I like to spell it 'vercockte', but that cd be idiosyncratic.


12:09 PM  
Blogger kanndvs said...

Dear Dr Berman,
I will check one of your books out of the library and get back. In the meantime, I'm thinking about cruelty, facing it straight on.
Thank you for your response and good luck with the rest of your tour.

12:44 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Yahoo spells it "verkakte". Oh, now you can add the recently passed NDAA bill which allows for the indefinite detention of American citizens. You may also add that not only is the real unemployment hovering around 20% but also 30% of 18-34 yr. olds live with their parents,20% of jobs pay poverty level wages, 5.6 million are long-term unemployed (when Obama took office it was 2.6 million),and 100 million people are either in poverty or near it. But at least we have sex. What?! Santorum's against that?

12:59 PM  
Anonymous Joe Masterleo said...

I watched your Book TV presentation on WAF this weekend and found it piercing, illuminating and informative. I also browsed your website, and was left with similar impressions, hoping to soon read your books.

Substantive and salient points aside as an identified “cultural historian” and “social critic,” it seems that your observations and writings, while unique and distinctive, are nonetheless reflective of your state of consciousness, which with refreshing predictability seems to have gone the way of similar historically enlightened observers in its acute awareness of their society's prodigious waste, rampant folly and accelerating decadence.

Then again, without healthy detachment from and/or discouragement by such folly, how would one ever individuate, detach from, escape or transcend same, save by psychoses, death, or as in your case, relocation?

“Cultural” and “social” self-definitions aside, you seem to have the mind, heart and voice of those in the prophetic tradition – somewhat solitary, crying out in the wilderness, misunderstood, and with roots deeply embedded in a form of mysticism, whose works and expressions inevitably end up couched in cultural, social or political language. (How else would they be understood, and by whom?)

As I’m very new to your work and person, forgive my presumption. Then again, a mystic by any other name still sounds the same. Like the sea, everywhere his/her taste is salty.

Joe Masterleo,
Syracuse, NY

1:47 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, it's hard to be a mystic when u were born in Rochester, wh/I was. And not too many sweet mystics around, I guess. But I'm glad u liked the program.


But we also have Kim's buttocks, wh/are everywhere.


2:10 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Morris --

Just saw the C-SPAN show online. Laying out everything point by point that way has a powerful impact -- unless you don't want to believe it, which as you know will be the response of the American majority. Or would be, if they watched the show. My feeling is that a common response would be, "Oh, he's so negative! What about all the good things America has done?"

I was especially struck by one of your last lines, commenting on the American pathological fear of revealing weakness. What does such an obsession with power, control, and weakness say about a culture? Back in the 1980s, when it suddenly became popular for Americans to loudly proclaim, "We're Number One!" -- well, that's when I knew nobody actually believed it any longer. Remember all those survivalist & America-is-invaded films? Denial really became a growth industry then! And it continues today. Zombie apocalypse, anyone?

TimR -

Just about anything Rollo May wrote seems worthwhile to me. You might begin with Power & Innocence & Freedom & Destiny. I particularly like The Courage to Create & My Quest for Beauty, as they have a lot to say to the aspiring NMI about quality & richness of life -- Being rather than Having.

Meanwhile, let's all remember to remain bright-sided! Wishing will make it so! It's The Secret!

2:37 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Not too much hate mail in wake of the c-span thing; I'm surprised. I was friends w/Rollo May during the last 2 yrs of his life; we had a lot of fun rolling our eyes during New Age conferences. "Love and Will" is his classic work, I think.


2:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ymou remind me of Charcot's quote, "theory is all fine and well, but that doesn't keep facts from existing." Keep up the good work!

3:59 PM  
Anonymous Vince said...


I watched your speaking engagement yesterday on Book TV. It was quite refreshing to listen to someone just speaking the truth. As you have said on several occasions, "the message just cuts to close to the bone".

Here are some examples of what I experience concerning what you have talking about.

At work when I take a break or lunch and I am with someone in the break room they are usually on their phone, if not, they are plugged into their iPods. The radio is constantly going in the shop with one of three radio stations that play the same music in different program order. Small talk is limited to complaining about the same things at work, but no actions are taken, they are just too inconvenient for people.

Any serious discussion about the state affairs about the U.S. is usually just me listening to some blather from the corporate media that is regurgitated by my television watching coworkers. Partisan political chatter is mistaken for serious discourse, even after I remind anyone listening that the political process is just a farce funded by monied interests. I get the usual eye roll or some thought terminating cliches about how I hate this country or it is the best in the world.

I have just about given up on even attempting to strike up any conversation with the general public. Meeting women where I live is next to impossible due to their incessant cell phone / texting habits. I couldn't believe my ears when I struck up a conversation about what movies people were watching. My god man. Grown adults watching children's movies or the latest teen vampire movie. What in the Hell?

School (university) is quite uninspiring. The professor is nice enough. But can you imagine a statistics class with Power Points? And then imagine that students were complaining about our recent test when they did not do well because they missed the lecture / PP. You should have seen the look on their faces when he suggested reading the textbook.

I am often reminded of a line in the movie "Hoffa". Where JH's successor asks him what he is supposed to do after JH goes to prison. JH turns to him and says "If I gotta tell you, what good's it I tell ya."

Somehow I believe that would describe the look on your face when you look around when you are back in the U.S. and people just do not understand what you are talking about.


6:26 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thanks for yr input. Just keep in mind, at all times, that Americans *are* children; they really aren't adults, and it's not very likely that they will grow up any time soon. Realizing this simplifies a lot of interactions; altho it leaves an adult in a rather lonely position.


6:34 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...


There is a news article in the Guardian (23 Feb 2012) called “Mexican scientists successfully test vaccine that could cut heroin addiction.” It explains that the “vaccine makes the body resistant to the pleasure effect of the drug and is now being prepared for tests on humans.”

The article isn’t really worth looking up, but the following concerns are NOT addressed in it.

With a pharmaceutical product for use on heroin addicts, I guess it won’t be very hard to find “volunteers” when testing it on humans.

Also, I would worry about the following two possible side effects:

First is the possibility that the vaccine will make the body resistant to the pleasure effects of everything! In that case Christian fundamentalists, particularly of the Calvinist stripe, will want to use it on everybody.

Second is the risk that it will eliminate all types of addictive behavior. This might cure Americans of their consumerism, which could cause the economy to collapse immediately, instead of just soon.

In his excellent first book, “The Natural Mind”, Andrew Weil who has since become a natural-health guru, cogently argued that the really harmful social and health effects frequently associated with heroin come from its being outlawed.

David Rosen

8:32 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Drones are coming to America:


Civilian cousins of the unmanned military aircraft that have tracked and killed terrorists [and hundreds of innocent civilians] in the Middle East and Asia are in demand by police departments, border patrols, power companies, news organizations and others wanting a bird's-eye view that's too impractical or dangerous for conventional planes or helicopters to get.

Along with the enthusiasm, there are qualms.

Drones overhead could invade people's privacy. The government worries they could collide with passenger planes or come crashing down to the ground, concerns that have slowed more widespread adoption of the technology.

Despite that, pressure is building to give drones the same access as manned aircraft to the sky at home.

"It's going to be the next big revolution in aviation. It's coming," says Dan Elwell, the Aerospace Industries Association's vice president for civil aviation.

What was that about a boot stamping on a human face forever?

10:15 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


This is gd news. Long overdue for the Pentagon to start rubbing out American citizens randomly, and drones are an excellent way to get the job done.



11:40 AM  
Anonymous dookie said...

I watched your Barnes & Noble presentation on C-Span. I have been coming to the same conclusion about this country and to have someone far more astute than I summarize the last 30+ years / 300+ years so distinctly was astounding

The above is a modified CnP from another but it perfecly works for me also.


1:59 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Dr. Berman, I would like for you to opine on the idea set forth by Dr. Frances Cress-Welsing that "white supremacy" is an extant global system to protect the European genotype. And if that's the case, could this explain America's conceptual disintegration and infidelity to its cosmological foundation- unitarity, as expressed by the more esoteric meaning of e pluribus unum?

10:31 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Mike,

Not much I can say, since I haven't read the good dr's work. It does sound a tad arcane, however. I also am not sure how one wd prove such a thesis.


12:30 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Sorry Dr. Berman, obviously I inferred too much from your education and experience. However, I think you have given me another affirmation as to how even the most un-arcane truths of the last thirty-three centuries can remain hidden from the most knowledgeable of Man!

Thank you for your response.

1:30 PM  
Anonymous AliceJo said...

I saw you at Modern Times in SF, 03/22. When you talked about the arch of capitalism I pictured Peak Capitalism. We have reached peak capitalism. We're on the downward slope. What will be peak capitalism's equivalent of peak oil's franking? Corporations are people.

1:37 PM  
Anonymous Shirley Harned said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I am SO mad at myself that I missed your visit to San Francisco!!! I live in San José and would have been there with bells on if I had only known. Now that I know where you are in blogland I will be keeping an eye out so that I won't miss it should you pass this way again.

I really enjoyed working in your class at the UW extension as well as the private class a group of us had with you later.

I'm looking forward to reading your new book.

Shirley Harned

10:15 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Shirley,

Wow! Well that takes me back a bit, eh? Something like 15 yrs, I guess. Sorry abt the lack of publicity regarding that talk at Modern Times; I guess they didn't publicize it all that much. Anyway, pls stay in touch, and enjoy WAF.

With kind regards,

10:36 PM  
Blogger boxcarro said...

Found you at Modern Times in SF, 03/22, had you Autograph to "Boxcar Slim." your book. I see now what "Thinking" does o the man. You are quite chipper, bright-eyed & engaging, I am a 1949 fellow, with Grey Beard, your a 1944 Model, looking younger and sharp to respond to a "Gung-Hoe" America-Firster" with aplomb & class. A true Gentleman, I am sincerely overjoyed to have found you & you writings. Shalom.

12:10 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Box-

Gd to hear from u! Yes, I do remember u, and thanks for writing in. In future, best to write to latest post, as no one tends to read the older stuff.

Take care, and maybe I'll get back to SF one of these days.


8:34 AM  
Anonymous AliceJo said...

Dr. Berman, the American as Hustler, alive and high spirited, right in the Mission District of SF where you spoke at Modern Times on March 22. Irresistible image created in the 3rd paragraph, excerpted from an SF Appeal news story about a fake doctor, April 24. Link follows.

"He was arrested and pleaded not guilty in December to charges stemming from allegations that he performed liposuction on a woman. Along with allegedly smoking a cigar during the procedure, Guzmangarza later came to the woman's house and flushed six pounds of her fat down the toilet, prosecutors said."


1:30 AM  
Blogger Dain Waris said...

Dr. Berman,

I enjoyed your column on Pitirim Sorokin (April 28, 2012) and the discussion of the three types of cultures, Ideational, Sensate and Idealistic. I recently read your trilogy, “The Twilight of American Culture,” “Dark Ages America,” and “Why America Failed,” and found to my delight that we both appreciate the work of Philip E. Slater. Last fall I re-read “Wealth Addiction” in an attempt to fathom the Paul Ryan budget.

When I was in college one of my literature classes had to read a poem about ancient gods which included a pungently thought-provoking footnote. Briefly it said that over the ages gods come and go but it is the “godstuff” that roars on eternal like the sea. By that I understood the annotator to mean the makings out of which humankind fashions its deities, things like immortality, omnipotence and august apportionment of justice. Given that as a framework, I would be very intrigued to learn, out of your experience of other cultures and vast study, what you think would be the “stuff” of a utopia. Down through the centuries, how have great minds conceived of the ideal society? What are the core characteristics which repeatedly show up in the longed-for places and earthly paradises?

The 1956 version of the musical play Candide recounts one that I’ve always liked in the lyrics for a song about El Dorado where people live who

"have no word for fear and greed
for lies and war, revenge and rage.
They sing and dance and think and read.
They live in peace and die of age."

Joe Donovan

1:53 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Gd hearing from u. In the future, it's best to send yr messages to the most recent post, since folks tend not to read the older ones.

As for utopia: I actually taught a course on it in the early 70s at Rutgers University. Hard to recall the syllabus 40 yrs later. Thos More was the 1st study, of course, but then there's H.G. Wells and Edward Bellamy and B.F. Skinner and on and on. Try plugging 'utopian literature' into google, see what comes up.

Thanks for writing in...mb

6:22 AM  

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