April 15, 2012

Interview with Chuck Mertz

Dear Friends:

I did an interview yesterday (April 14) with Chuck Mertz for his program, "This Is Hell" (my kind of title), on WNUR-FM in Chicago. The audio link is as follows:


It's Episode #689, and the portion of it that constitutes the 47 minutes with yours truly is from 1:22 to 2:09 on the track. I should warn you that it ends rather abruptly; WNUR has been having some engineering problems, so suddenly the thing winks out in mid-discussion. But I think/hope you might enjoy it, as Chuck asked me some interesting questions, which made for a good conversation. (Nothing about deli meats, but then you can't have everything.)



Blogger Antonio Torres said...

Good Morning.

I read about your participation in american radio.
Would you like to participe in mexican radio, specially in a non-right political program in Queretaro??
How can I speak with you??

9:17 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Buenos dias. Si, buena idea. Por fa, escribeme a mauricio@morrisberman.com, y podemos arreglar algo.


9:35 AM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...


Who says America is in decline? You malcontents just don’t have what it takes. Just Google the Associated Press story, “Texas eatery serves $12K, 10-course Titanic meal” and see what is possible in this land of opportunity. After all, “If you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?” is the question every American has to answer.

This “American Dream” story begins thus:

“It's the 100th anniversary of the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic, which hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic on a frigid, dark night, killing 1,514 people. And to mark the occasion, 12 people in Houston enjoyed a replica of the lavish 10-course dinner the wealthiest people aboard the ship enjoyed just before the crash.”

It goes on to tell how these successful Americans enjoyed “a couple of bottles of Armagnac from that era, one at a cost of $400 per ounce, or nearly $4,000 for the bottle.” The story reports the chef’s comment, which proves that Americans are interested in history after all. "To have something form (sic.) that era, from that age, is quite amazing, a lot of history there," Lewis said. "That bottle's got a huge story to tell."

There is a story about how a Black prizefighter tried to book passage on the Titanic, and was refused when the captain replied, “We don’t carry coal”. That story was well known among African Americans, hence the folksong about the Titanic. I remember hearing an old record of Pink Anderson singing that song, and his voice conveyed such delicious irony as he sang:

“All the children and the wives
And the husbands lost their lives.
Wasn’t it SAD
When that great ship went down?”

David Rosen

11:27 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

And then there's the collapse of the American judicial system:


11:42 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

This is Hell (loved the beer sound) IS Heaven but the opposite destructive path of Fascism is Hedonism.

"Our Greatest Victory will be Martyrdom and Our Deliverance will be Death -- Joan

11:45 AM  
Anonymous ziran said...

In other news, the new and most popular choice for cosmetic surgery in the US is the Chin!


12:30 PM  
Anonymous Chad said...

A bit off subject for this post but I watched 'God Bless America' twice last week (I thought it was that good). True, the violence is a bit over the top, and I don't think anyone who visits this blog would approve of shooting anyone for any reason. But the movie has some very strong insights into how America has become a nation of isolated, violent, indifferent buffoons.

Early on in the movie the protagonist is diagnosed with a terminal disease. While his doctor is delivering the bad news he gets a call on his cellphone (of course he takes the call and ignores the man who he just told was going to die). Next we see a stunned Frank slumped against an elevator devastated at losing his job and being told he has a terminal disease, both within the span of a couple of hours. A woman walks up to him and tells him to move, he can't be there.

I could go on, but really, aside from the violence, are these the kinds of things that happen in this society on a daily basis. This random cruelty? Unfortunately, yes. It may be an exaggeration because it's a movie, but are we really that far away from this?

Anyway, good flick. Thanks to you all for the great comments and discussions on this blog. I don't post very often but I check in regularly. Listening to the interview now.

Res ipsa loquitu

3:05 PM  
Anonymous Nate said...

Great to hear you on TIH. Two of my favorites together! Chuck has been broadcasting that show (on a volunteer basis) for a long time.

I would encourage any of my fellow WAFers to stroll through the This is Hell archives, lots of good stuff in there.

4:07 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


loquitur, with an r: a deponent verb, passive but with an active meaning. Check it out:



res ipsa loquitur: the thing speaks for itself

Caesar viro senecto loquitur: Caesar speaks to the old man

On a less pedantic note, check out "Ik Is Us" in my essay collection, "A Question of Values."

6:22 PM  
Anonymous Chad said...

Ah, and here I was trying to be clever ;-) My apologies for the typo and thanks for replying. I have A Question of Values and will check out the essay you mentioned.

I finished the interview before heading home from work. Excellent as always. Thanks again for sharing.

6:51 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Nah, it was just an opportunity for me to indulge in my Latin neurosis.

As for the callousness of Americans, if u just keep in mind that they are degraded and debased, u can't go wrong.


7:21 PM  
Anonymous Julian said...

Speaking of interesting movies, yesterday I watched The Hunger Games, which I highly recommend. For a Hollywood production, it is a clean and thoughtful film. And, I have a feeling that this is pretty much the kind of dystopia that the elites have in mind for our children.

I'll be listening to the the Chuck Mertz interview next.


8:16 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Advanced Head-Wedgitis Dept.:


12:42 AM  
Blogger Lance M. Foster said...

Saw you on BookTV. Brilliant stuff. Going to be reading more, of BOTH trilogies. Glad I found your blog and the universe continues to help me cope with the darkness coming. Thanks "Library Angel" :-)

I am a fan of Joe Bageant as well, who lived in Mexico before he passed. Also a fan of John Michael Greer, Dmitry Orlov, J.H. Kunstler, and similar thinkers on the imperial decline. I just found your blog today, so I am going to be catching up.

I was raised (and raised myself) in a hybrid worldview of Catholicism, my animistic tribal Native ways, and science (I am an anthropologist and landscape historian) and have been trying to catch up more on my western humanities education over the last 6 years since I lost my fulltime job. I currently teach as a part time adjunct, intro to archaeology and fine arts (drawing, painting, global visual culture/art history) at a 2-yr branch campus of a university.

One reviewer of "Twilight" said: "He calls it the monastic option. Here, one gets the sense of a secret order of the enlightened whose members may know of each other, and even be friends but never gather as an order. There are no "membership cards and badges (whether real or metaphorical), avant-garde language and appropriate party line, organization and even visibility," writes Berman Instead, Berman envisions these "monks," men and women, going about their business of preserving bits and pieces of their culture, shunning any inclination or attempt to institutionalize their work, for to do so "would be the kiss of death." In our current situation which Berman highlights with terms like Starbuckized, Coca-colonization and Rambification, any endeavor toward the excellent is likely to be bought out and sold by entrepreneurs ready to market it. Once the excellent has been packaged for sale, it is doomed to join the rest of American culture mashed together in an indistinguishable mess of the good and bad, the excellent and execrable, the elite and the rabble."

I would like to know more about this path some have been taking. I too believe it must be a loose and "nonmonetizable" direction of individuals preserving the intellectual, cultural and spiritual "genes" of the best of what we were and have been. It reminds me of Greer's "Cultural Conserver" project, of the work of the monastics in Britain, of the group of scholars Edward G. Robinson was part of in "Soylent Green," and of the sci-fi classic "A Canticle for Leibowitz."

7:00 AM  
Anonymous David M said...

Dr: Berman:
Grear interview with Chuck Mertz. The CNN report is upsetting on so many levels I didn't even finish reading it. Not just the McCarthy aspect but implication that all Marxist are murderers by the authors. I own a copy of the manifesto so I guess that makes me a murderer. I suspect that 300 Mil plus in this country don't know that Marx died some thirty before the Russian revolution. I believe he and Lenin had some contact and I wonder if Lenin had not died so soon after the revolution if the Soviet Union would have been so repressive. Perhaps some folks with more knowledge about this might respond. As Carl would say often "As for me I am no Marxist.

8:42 AM  
Anonymous TonyU said...

I listened to the talk, and I like the metaphor about the frog in hot water. Substitute the frog with Americans and substitute the water with infantilism. Recall Chuck Grassley (grand father) who intentionally lied about killing grandma. Romney cannot stop lying. To lie in matters of politics or economics is considered to be like Jesus Christ. The infantilism is growing:

The U.S. Secret Service agents accused of misconduct in a Cartagena, Colombia, brothel revealed their identities by bragging about their connection to President Obama.

Partying at the “Pley Club” Wednesday night, eleven members of the president’s advance team allegedly bragged “we work for Obama” and “we’re here to protect him.”

The officials spent the night throwing back expensive whiskey and enlisting the services of the club’s prostitutes, according to a bouncer at the club and a police source.



2:43 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

This American Life, cont'd:


What I don't understand is why she wasn't tasered and beaten w/a nightstick. Once again, the police and the military in this country are showing far too much restraint.

11:02 PM  
Anonymous Mike Alan said...

I recently listened to your interviews on This Is Hell, The Extraenvironmentalist and What Now. I am impressed. Thank you much for your work and the ideas you present.

I remember dreading my high school graduation in 1979. The reason for this dread was watching the treadmill of work, work, work and consume wear down my workaholic family and others I knew in my life. I was dreading that I was next in line to hop on the treadmill and start running.

Then in my early 20's I watched my workaholic grandfather retire and die of cancer about 2 years later. Around the same time the big corporation my father worked for got rid of him because he was approaching pension years with the company. Can't have a drag like that on the corporation, the good life is for upper management, not the people doing the actual work.

Needless to say, I've had an aversion to the hustler culture most of my life. However, I have never been able to really understand the ceaseless tension I've always felt or put the whole big picture together like you have in your work. I feel as though a large puzzle piece has fallen into place. I guess sometimes it's hard to actually see the mess when you are living in the middle of it.

Anyway, thank you for showing me that I wasn't crazy for feeling like I was one of the only people to notice the futility of this carrot-on-a-stick paradigm. So often when I have tried to talk to people about these things they look at me like I was crazy for mentioning them.

Even though I loved reading Thorstein Veblen's ideas in grad school, and many others you mention in your books, I feel kind of behind for only catching on to your work and ideas now. I plan on reading much further and understanding more so that I too may exit the treadmill as soon as possible.

Keep up the work.


11:17 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Mike,

Thank you for writing in. I'm glad my work has made a difference for you. I tell you honestly, over the yrs the most typical comment I've gotten in response to it (aside from "Die, Zombie Werewolf!") is something along the lines of, "I thought I was crazy until I read X..." So I'm glad this was your reaction as well.

One thing that became clear to me as I wrote the trilogy on America was that America wd not be able to change until Americans changed, and that that was simply not going to happen; 99% of them have fried rice in their heads. Hence, all you can do in such a situation (of a nation going downhill fast) is save yourself, and (if u choose) try to preserve what is actually gd in the culture (what I call the 'monastic option'). So I wish u the best in getting free of the rat race, and also suggest that u think about getting out of America altogether. You can't imagine the sense of relaxation, the sheer pleasure of life, being in a place not drowning in corporate-consumerist ideology.

Pax vobiscum,

12:51 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well,it's happened. California politics is forever the cutting edge of our national collapse. First it was Ronald Reagan; then Clint Eastwood; and finally, Arnold Schwarznegger. And now: Kim Kardashian! I kid u not! The dimmest bulb on the planet has announced her intention of becoming mayor of Glendale. And she has already received some enthusiastic endorsements. I say: Today Glendale, tomorrow LA! We have a new Palin figure on the horizon: habemus Palinem.

Now as most of u know, I was for a time (prior to Michele Bachmann and Barbara Ann Nowak) planning to propose to Sarah and have a honeymoon with her in Alaska, where we would make love on an ice floe, among the meese (and possibly with Ed Meese present). Alas, it was not to be. As for Kim's candidacy, the problem is--I just can't bring myself to propose to her. Honestly, folks, I find her ugly. That face is so stupid, it's actually terrifying; and her rear end (implants or no) is actually grotesque. So while I'm very excited for Glendale, LA, and really all of California (eventually), her emergence as a political figure does not resolve my search for a Palinesque partner to fill the deep void in my soul. Boo hoo!

However, I regard this campaign as so central to the American collapse, that I just may come north to work on it, go door-to-door in Glendale, promoting the cause. My real hope is that Kim's face will eventually replace that of George's on the $1 bill. Aim high, my parents always told me.



1:03 AM  
Anonymous satyaSarika said...

The news about Kim K running for mayor of Glendale made me aware of how truly privileged I am in that I have absolutely no idea who this kk person is tho I keep hearing her name bandied about, usually in a pejorative tone. I asked my gf who she is and she said she was rather like poor Anna Nichole smith.

I feel fortunate in so many ways ... I've never seen an adam sandler movie or american idol. Being a know nothing geeky yokel ain't half bad these days. :)

3:21 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


You indeed live a wonderfully sheltered life. Kim's buttocks, her psoriasis, her marriage, and now her impending divorce, are the sort of 'news' that the American media focus on. Let's not talk about the new strip search law, or the NDAA, or the gigantic NSA data collection center in Utah, or the detention center in Illinois designed to hold dissidents of any stripe--Oh no, why bother with the construction of a police state, the shredding of the Constitution, and trivia like that. Let's put our attention instead on Kim Kardashian's massive behind.


5:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fellow WAFer's,

For a rather stunning display of the US's latest foreign relations issue, check out the L.A. Times today on other released photos involving US soldiers having "fun" with the dead and their remains.

Of the first 16 or so comments most are defensive about the soldiers and/or angry at the LA Times for running such a disgusting story......(irony noted)

At least one military spokesperson's response I saw was this was not in the character of the military etc...

I guess they haven't considered this really is in the character of the military?

Nothing much needs to be said I'm afraid.

El Juero

8:59 AM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

Mr. El Juero,

Mutilation of wounded and dead enemies is nothing new. American soldiers, for example, were doing it with gusto in World War Two.

American mutilation of Japanese war dead

The Greatest Generation (tm) --with the ears, teeth, skulls, and gold fillings to prove it!

12:06 PM  
Anonymous TonyU said...

Here is the same fool who made millions of dollars preaching the gospel of outsourcing in his book “The World is Flat”. Today, he is realizing that because his brain is flat and fat, America has been flattened:

"I had to catch a train in Washington last week. The paved street in the traffic circle around Union Station was in such poor condition that I felt as though I was on a roller coaster. I traveled on the Amtrak Acela, our sorry excuse for a fast train, on which I had so many dropped calls on my cellphone that you’d have thought I was on a remote desert island, not traveling from Washington to New York City. When I got back to Union Station, the escalator in the parking garage was broken. Maybe you’ve gotten used to all this and have stopped noticing. I haven’t. Our country needs a renewal"


1:06 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thos Friedman is one of the biggest douche bags the US has ever produced. For verification of this, check out Belen Fernandez, "Imperial Messenger," and also an article Matt Taibbi did 2-3 yrs ago on smirkingchimp.com, I think it was; something like "Someone take away Thomas Friedman's computer before he types another sentence." That he is a Pulitzer winner and NYT columnist tells you something about the sorry condition of American culture.

Buffoons Rule!, no doubt abt it.


3:44 PM  
Anonymous Chad said...

My favorite Taibbi piece on Friedman has always been Flathead:


6:12 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

If only I lived in Glendale and could personally vote for KK. But in a mere ten years she could be on the national ballot and I'll have my chance. Remember, Spiro Agnew went from vice president of the local Rotary Club to VP of the US in ten years flat.

And I have Kim's running mate lined up. In the spirit of Going to Hell in a Handbasket I'd like to relate a true story that happened to my youngest daughter last summer. She was home prior to leaving for grad school and picking up extra money babysitting. She took care of a little girl down the street, Sara (age 8) one day and took her over to H's older sister's home to go swimming with the kids there. When they were leaving, H said to Sara--"Be sure to tell Mrs. W thank you for having you over to play." No response. Thinking she hadn't heard her, she repeated the request. Sara said--"I heard you the first time. I don't say thank you." When asked why not, she replied-- "my mother told me never to thank anyone for anything." Yes, now discourtesy is some kind of twisted badge of "superiority." And so, gentle readers, we have Sara to look forward to on the end of the line of customer service or whatever career path this delightful child pursues. Is learning Spanish terribly difficult?

6:44 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Strongly suggest u hit the road; it can only get worse--you know this. But did you know that the MPH (Morons Per Hectare) count in the US is 147.8? (By comparison, Denmark is 6.3.)


7:10 PM  
Blogger Lance M. Foster said...

I will stay. I am wed to this land. My American Indian ancestors' spirits are here and when my time comes, I will join them.

Maybe if I wasn't this way, emigration would be an option. But I want my bones to be here, in this soil we have joined for tens of thousands of years.

We know all about the government, as you well know, Dr. Berman.

So I am more interested in the second option, the monastic option. So maybe the Rules of Benedict will be useful again for some in a different future. I would like to know more about people who are going in that direction.

I dropped out 6 years ago. I make basic rent money and food by teaching at a community college. But I am just an adjunct, living under the poverty line and no health insurance. So far over the last 6 years I have had to self-treat a liver infection, shingles, kidney stones, bronchitis, flu, pneumonia, and a broken foot. My wife and I pretty much live as hermits, except my blood kin are here and I visit them all the time. I moved back to be with my family, and since then, my grandma and my mom have died, but my dad is still around and my sisters, brothers and their families. I am in my 50s.


7:30 PM  
Anonymous canadian said...

hi there,

I was wondering about your thoughts on Americas gun love affair. As a Canadian I could never understand why Americans love their fire arms so much. I just watched a video of Ted Nugent making a wonderful speech at a NRA rally, quite a intelligent man. Anyway, I'm thinking that Americas future could just turn into some form of failed state, more like Somalia just with less clans and more individuals, all running a round with their guns blazing.

Thank you for your great work.

8:00 PM  
Anonymous shep said...


Tks for the Flathead Taibbi piece.

Unbelievably hilarious!

To all others:

How do you turn a sentence to blue and make a link?

8:19 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Lance,

Thanks for writing in. You've obviously had quite a struggle; as have millions in The Land of Opportunity. Myself, I think we wd all be better off if the Gov't apologized to everyone, said the whole thing has been a terrible mistake, and just gave the nation back to the Native Americans. Who, in the fullness of time, proved to be the real 'savages', after all? Genocide is now our stock in trade.


It's not that difficult to figure out. Americans are not very bright, as a people, and believe that owning guns (which includes 50% of all American households) keeps them safe. (Bella Santorum, 3 yrs old, is now a card-carrying member of the NRA.) Truth is, they've never been more anxious and unhappy--and unsafe.

O&D, mate!


8:35 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Dear Morris,

I enjoyed your interview, and have been reading your book Why America Failed with enthusiasm. You put into words the troubling thoughts I've been having about American society for a long time.

I can only say that I wish I was as lucky as you to be able to move out of the country. American culture is just too much to bear. Though I've lived in the U.S. most of my life, the hustling mentality and the dominant anti-intellectualism are things I've never understood. Is it not totally shocking that although there's constantly a new news story about U.S. soldiers bombing wedding processions or posing with dead bodies, the last thing that the average American will talk about is the wars his armies rage? This lack of critical reflection on the part of the average American is quite alarming. Freedom, in the U.S., is merely freedom to buy the latest commodity. When corporations become people, and people become cogs in the corporatist machine, you know you have a problem.

Now after reading your work, I've managed to set my hazy intuitions into an historical context. For that I thank you. Though I'm stuck in the U.S. for the next few years, I look forward to following your advice of leaving the country when the opportunity presents itself.

Thanks for your work.


8:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a different sort of Titanic story. Not exclusively American, as it comes from a British newspaper. But still definitely a sign of the declining times we live in.

'Just found out Titanic really happened!' The tweeters who thought world's most famous shipwreck was just a film

As the world commemorates the centenary of the Titanic's sinking, thousands of people have taken to the internet to discuss the historic anniversary.

But the event has evidently proven more educational for some than others.

A number of tweeters have used the micro-blogging site to confess that they were unaware that the Titanic was a real ship.

The ill-informed netizens sparked an online backlash, with hundreds sharing their disgust at the apparent ignorance.


8:50 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thanks for writing in, and for yr support. As far as emigrating goes, I suggest u start planning now, because it really is a major job. Think about where u might wanna live; do research on the Net, buy used bks off of Amazon; take language classes; talk to the relevant embassies; start getting yr financial affairs in order, fix up yr house/apt. for sale; visit the countries in question, and talk to the people--etc. Just the paperwork involved in establishing residency elsewhere is enormous. The pt is, there is much work to be done, and this is a very valuable way to fill yr time.

And then comes the moment when you do depart, and arrive somewhere else; and (if you choose well) you are not surrounded by endless corporate-commercial-consumerist pressure, fatuous media "information," and millions of people who are clueless. For which, let me wish you good luck.


11:41 PM  
Anonymous satyaSarika said...

Dear Lance,

I can relate re: the necessity of self-diagnosis and treating. I haven't had health insurance since '04.

At the moment I'm in some miserable pain and can't sleep due to it. I am afraid because I'm not sure I can handle this on my own and I do have a home to lose to medical bills. :(

Internet Research indicates possible gallstones. I cared for my elderly folks for 5 years until they passed away.
Then the sibling was mean afterward and I am finally settling down w my gf and dogs to some happiness. Now it looks like that may be real short lived. :(

I am in some bad pain now and it is hard to know what to do.

Ahh, the joys of being a citizen here, watching the sociopaths get away with murder.

I don't feel afraid of dying at the moment, but also wish I could stay longer and see how things play out. I have a nice gf, a wonderful service dog for my ptsd, and a son who just got married last year ... I will be 59 in August. I have to say I feel a tad depressed as well as sick and exhausted.

I understand that Americans sometimes travel to Mexico to get surgery less expensively than here, the land of stick 'em up.

Dr MB (or anyone), if you have any advice on traveling down to Mexico to get relatively affordable care, let me know.

6:45 AM  
Anonymous shep said...


Thank you for Dreyer's, "The Passion of Joan of Arc". Stunning for me also!

It led me to discover, somehow, Leonard Cohen's version of Joan of Arc.

I will never know how I missed this gentle, simple, man; his music and his poems.

It drives the melancholy and ache within me for a better world.

7:49 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


You should at least get a diagnosis, which can probably be obtained at an ER. As far as Mexico goes, yes, surgery rates are much less; the best hospital in the country is the American British Cowdray Medical Center in Mexico City:


Write me at mauricio@morrisberman.com for more info. In the meantime, better to lose yr home than yr life; although I doubt it will come to that. But go to an ER today; that shd be #1 on yr to-do list.


8:30 AM  
Blogger Lance M. Foster said...

Sat, I only did the kidney stone self-care because I pretty much knew what it was, having had them 8 or so years ago already. I had insurance then, and did the hospital thing, and all they did was give me pain meds and it took 2 weeks to get through it all.

If you are in sharp pain, you should just go to an emergency room right away, like, yesterday. Like Morris said, no point in dying to save a buck. Stuff is just stuff.


8:46 AM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

Dear MB et al,

Just a note to recccmmend Stephen Marche's article---"Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?--in the May 2012 issue of "Tha Atlantic," which can be found online at www.theatlantic.com.

For "new monastics" there really may be nothing new in his discussion. It is, however, eloquent.Such is the art of prose to reveal "That which is often thought, but ne're so well expressed."

--Mark Notzon

10:17 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

Mark, thanks for the article. It reminds me of a (mostly) good book titled "Party of One: A Loners Manifesto" (http://tinyurl.com/cctspjt) which in one of its more interesting sections, the author derides the label of "loner" given to school shooters when for the most part, they were anything but.

3:20 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Dear Morris,

I thought I would provide you with some thoughts I had on reading the section of Why America Failed titled "The Illusion of Progress."

I found particularly interesting your claim that telecommunications devices are generating a nation of buffoons. At this section in the book, I'm not sure I agree with it. Aren't you presupposing a certain metaphysical view of the relationship between humans and technologies, where artefacts have all of the agency and humans have no agency?

You seem to be down-playing the fact that artefacts are what the Don Ihde calls "multi-stable." Technologies don't have a fixed metaphysical identity in the way you seem to presuppose, but instead possess interpretive flexibility. Even if it's true that TDs often create distracted, multi-tasking subjects, people can nonetheless relate to their technologies in different ways. For instance, I have used my iPad to read complex works of philosophy. (Incidentally, if I could go back in time knowing what I know now about the working conditions in Apple plants in China, I wouldn't have bought the iPad in the first place.)

Anyway, I thought you might like some feedback on your work. Hopefully my comments weren't totally off-based.


5:34 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


This is a very long discussion, and the best answer I can recommend is Albert Borgmann's classic work, "Technology and the Culture of Contemporary Life." But even b4 that, Marshall McLuhan had it rt (as did Herbert Marcuse) that technology is simply not neutral, or value-free. It contains a cultural vector, which is why a particular technology cannot be introduced into a society w/o changing the culture of that society--and typically, in a negative or asocial direction. This is the flaw in the Stephen Marche article on Facebook (see above): it assumes that this technology can be used for greater human intimacy, if used 'correctly'. The analogy here is the car: you can drive to a friend's house or off a cliff--your choice. But as I document in the Dark Ages bk (ch. 7), the car culture is a very different animal than the non-car culture; the larger effects (pollution aside) have been disastrous, producing much greater human isolation than previously existed. It's not that human beings have *no* agency; rather, it's that they have limited agency, because yes, technology is a metaphysic: it's simply not neutral. If real interpretive flexibility exists, it hasn't shown itself very dramatically to date, as far as I can see. "Peaceful uses of atomic energy" proved to be a mirage, to take only one example (Chernobyl, Fukushima, etc. etc.). The list goes on and on. (In the 1950s in Japan, the Japanese gov't launched a campaign to reassure the Japanese that 'the atom is your friend'. Yeah, some friend it proved to be.) Multi-stability sounds gd in theory; in practice, it's a very different story.

And part of the reason is that while tech has a huge impact on culture, culture also 'evokes' certain types of technologies--one of the explanations for the phenomenon known as 'simultaneous discovery'. For example, the culture of extreme individualism that has been central to American identity for 400 years now. What this culture did was produce the technologies that enhance being alone, and thus, loneliness. Just taking the 20C alone, we see 1st the automobile, which put folks in isolated metal boxes, and destroyed bus lines, subways, and all forms of mass transit (except in a few cities like NY); then the TV--thus spelling the end of the (community) movie theater ("The Last Picture Show"); then air conditioning, so now people don't sit on their doorsteps in the summer talking w/their neighbors, but go inside (and watch TV); the personal computer; and finally the cell phone, which means that people walk around like zombies, in a private bubble, not interacting w/the people around them, and in fact rudely shutting them out. A current research project at MIT is trying to develop an electronic 'body wrap' so that u can walk down the street and not interact w/anyone or anything, but only w/your own private circuitry--cybernetic masturbation, really. These inventions, to my mind, are not 'accidents', and it is not accidental that they came out of the saddest culture in the world, one that thinks isolation is salvation. Of course, once this stuff is introduced to the culture, it enhances the isolation, evoking even further tech developments that enable more isolation, etc. Not a pretty picture. As I say in ch. 3 of WAF, we badly need a new definition of 'progress'.


6:34 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...


I'm familiar with Borgmann's work. In fact, I'm somewhat surprised to see you didn't make more use of his central idea in Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life - that to counter the rise of what he calls the 'device paradigm,' we need instead to adopt 'focal practices' that gather and engage us. I suspect that if you addressed Borgmann's main recommendation (focal practices) more fully, you would have seen him as being as much of a hopeless dreamer as you describe Mumford as being in the earlier chapter.

By the way, I think your comments about the dialectic of technology are interesting. Though philosophers today seem to rarely recognize this, the question of technology goes to the core of what it means to be human. Our technologies and material environments tend to produce a certain kind of human subject, and unfortunately as you say, it tends to be an extremely atomized subject today.

It's an open question for me how any notion of moral progress can be realized in the context of such atomization. Today in America, as you describe so well, we've seen the death of any notion of society or the common good. Are Americans simply doomed to a culture of atomized individuals and decline? Is there no hope to change this system? As much as I sympathize with your view that decline is inescapable, I can only hope that you're wrong.


9:13 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Actually, I did make extensive use of his central idea: check out DAA, pp. 66-79. And no, I didn't/don't regard him as a hopeless dreamer.


Too long! I cdn't run it. Pls compress by 50%, and re-send. Thank u.


9:45 PM  
Anonymous satyaSarika said...

Lance and Maurico,

Thanks so much for your kind words. Spent the day in the ER. Turned out to be really bad diverticulitis so it's good didn't delay further. Definitely no time to shop around for care. Pain was too great. And at least, tho the bill will be several thousand, they won't take my house and land this time.

And while, I agree, stuff is just stuff, home and land are something else. I love every pinon and juniper and sage here(tho I'm not terribly fond of the rabbit brush and occasional Russian thistle). :)

I can sympathize with the poor guy in Modesto ...

11:39 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

Dr. Berman,

Here is an extraordinary article, published (of all places) in a reactionary magazine.

Chinese Melamine and American Vioxx: A Comparison

Conclusion: Human life is cheaper in America than in China.

9:19 AM  
Blogger Lance M. Foster said...


I've been underemployed for about 6 years now, and after that long, and me being old and tired anymore, tired of a lot of stuff (I will be 52 in June), my desires have receded along with my funds. It is interesting.

I just focus on learning stuff. Not to make mo' money, ...money and all the BS that goes with it (greed, hustling) just pisses me off. But because I don't want my brain to vegetate any sooner than it has to. I am learning new digital stuff (I teach two of my courses online, first through Blackboard and now through Moodle, as well as learning how to integrate Camtasia). As you can see my my various sites at http://about.me/lancemfoster I hop around and learn about different digital venues.

I just ordered your entire latest trilogy and also "Re-enchantment"..I don't buy much stuff because I am under the poverty line, and all my money pretty much all goes to rent, utilities and food. Some months I don't get paid at all (gaps between semesters) and I have to live off savings. My 4-yr old iMac desktop and this internet connection is my survival kit.

But I am not just focusing on learning about digital stuff, though the venue is often digital. I am teaching myself guitar through YouTube, I learn about magic (hermetics, etc.), I am wildcrafting and guerilla gardening, I am learning Mandarin, learning sacred geometry and numbers (Michell and Schneider), doing some art, teaching, and catching up on reading I have neglected for decades (Epictetus and Plato).

Basically except for darting out to teach painting or drawing a couple of times a week and getting food, or visiting dad, or sisters' families, I am becoming a hermit and contemplative.

I don't have ambition, not as most would define it. My career days are over. Even if I could get a fulltime job (I've tried for 6 years, and have finally given up)...I don't believe the narratives you have to in order to do it. I'm done. I get by, making soup and bread and tea. I feel death coming before my time (no health care here), and I don't want to waste it on the rat race and the worm-eaten and moldy carrot they hold out to keep you believing.

1:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our culture may encourage isolation, but it's kind of a feedback loop: What happens in this country, after all, when we ARE encouraged to be "social"? What does being social actually MEAN, when you hear that kind of psychobabble from the Oprahs of the world?

Typically, that means going along with the crowd even when the crowd's ideas are BAD, whether that means mindlessly supporting war on Islam with your fellow bar patrons, or mindlessly supporting torture with your fellow evangelical Christians, or mindlessly supporting bullying with your fellow teachers, or mindlessly supporting the consumer and fashion cultures with your fellow teenagers...

The list just goes on and on. The irony of your comment, Berman, is that because this country's culture is trashy and because being social means empty babbling at parties, to paraphrase Wilhelm Reich, you HAVE to be a loner just to find the time to read books of value of like Plato, or to find the solitude to enjoy nature without being called a hippie or a socialist, etc.

So it's a feedback loop: the culture of isolation created a consumer trash culture, but in order to escape that culture you can't really go along with your fellow Americans, either, because your fellow Americans will use psychotherapy or public schooling or any means necessary to force you to conform to immaturity, hence the New Monastic Individual.

Any thoughts?

2:44 PM  
Blogger Zosima said...

Lance, you certainly sound ten times more interesting than most fully employed people I’ve met. It might help to explore some ways to meet others and share some of those interests. There’s a site called meetup.com where I’ve found some groups of fairly interesting people. I’ve found a pretty fairly wide selection of groups on this site, but I am in a fairly large city.

11:38 PM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...


Thanks for the Flathead piece by Taibbi.

I wonder if Phish had Tommy Boy in mind when they wrote this tour de force.


Lyrics for the first section are under "Fluffhead" at lyrics sites.
Later section is titled "Fluff's Travels"...lyrics below...

Tipsy fuddled boozy groggy elevated
Prime did edit her
Hellborn elfchild roadhog mountain fortune hunter
Man beheaded her
Fat bulk expanse mass lump block clod
Tipsy fuddled boozy groggy elevated
Prime did edit her

Rabid victim martyr stranded
Level headed boy, ya better bend
Soon your luscious honey sugar
Mellifluous life is gonna end

Fat bulk expanse mass lump block clod
Rabid victim martyr stranded
Level headed boy, ya better bend

From now on, for me, the master of the mangled and muddled metaphor will always be known as Thomas Fluffhead.

2:18 PM  
Anonymous TonyU said...

@Dr Berman, Sat, Lance Michael Foster, and others:

Read the story of James Verone. He had to rob a bank for $1 so that he could get medical care in prison:


5:00 PM  
Anonymous Julian said...

A good new book about the isolating effects of technology is “Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other” by Sherry Turkle. The author is an MIT psychologist, so she has been pretty close to technology.


From you wrote you have a lot going for you. To begin with, at 52 you are not old. Your experience with Blackboard and Moodle are very valuable in today’s online teaching job market. Schools are actively seeking people with your experience. Your “career days are not over,” as you wrote. However, the days of full time teaching jobs are largely over, and not just for you, but for everybody. I am saying this because I am around your age and I teach online at 3 different schools, making a nice income with little hassle, and lots of spare time for travel and other activities, while also living abroad (and thus with access to socialized health care). Many online schools are hiring, so you don’t have to live in poverty. Let me know if I can provide you with any of my insights (psychoanalyst101@gmail.com).

7:50 PM  
Anonymous shep said...

Lila York has it going on.

"Future Headline at OpEdNews - Sociopath Party Wins in Landslide"

I recommended this blog to her in a comment to her article since she says she is planning on moving out like our maestro has done.

Hope some will enjoy it as much as I did!


8:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The article on Facebook & loneliness is definately worth checking out.

An essay on the subject is at the NYT's this AM.

Flight from Conversation


El Juero

9:08 AM  
Anonymous Julian said...


About 10 years ago I worked for a little while in the prison system, and even back then stories similar to that of James Verone were common. The most common reason was access to expensive HIV medication. However, there are some problems with that scheme. First, health care in prisons is not nearly as good as this news report portrays. Second, banks are FDIC insured, so bank robberies are federal offenses. Third, bank robbery typically carries very long federal sentences, usually between 10 and 20 years (almost never the 3 years Verone was hoping for). Fourth, in the federal prison system one must serve at least 80% of his sentence, so the possibility of some kind of early release is slim to none.

It really is not worth robbing a bank in order to get prison health care in America. But I wonder if doing time (and treatment) in a more civilized country might be an option. Gosh, I can see the headlines: “Millions and millions of uninsured American ‘medical tourists’ who have engaged in random vandalism within the Louvre, are scheduled to be returned home in 2 months with their dental work taken care of, all happily chanting ‘Vive la France!’”

2:58 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Meant to post this the other day but didn't get around to it: I've always loved the song but it certainly has enhanced meaning after reading WAF.


(Of course, except for Helm the rest of The Band were all Canadians....)

RIP Levon (and Rick and Richard).

7:26 PM  
Anonymous James Sosa said...


Your response to Tony probably means that you did not read about James Verone. The had no choice and nothing to lose but his fear. Read this:

"James Verone says he has no medical insurance. He has a growth of some sort on his chest, two ruptured disks and a problem with his left foot. He is 59 years old and with no job and a depleted bank account. He thought jail was the best place he could go for medical care and a roof over his head. Verone is hoping for a three-year sentence.
He'd then be able to collect social security when he got out, and says he'd head for the beach.

Verone may have a little problem with his plan. Because he only demanded one dollar and didn't have a weapon police charged him not with bank robbery, but larceny, so he might not get as much time in the slammer as he was hoping for.


10:28 PM  
Blogger Zosima said...

Thanks for that beautiful song Kevin. Listening to it is like reading one of Ambrose Bierce’s Civil War Stories. I also like The Weight, which I like to imagine is about Reconstruction, though it’s not. I like the use biblical names and imagery of desperate characters wandering around a kind of burned out American Zion. It would be difficult to keep either song of a list of the greatest songs of the 20th century.


11:14 PM  
Anonymous JWO said...

Lance Foster!

Are you the same Lance Foster as the one on the DVD "America's Lost Landscape" about the decline of the prairie lands? I thought you looked familiar. It is one of our favorite documentaries (we volunteer doing prairie restoration in MN) and you were one of the most eloquent people on that disk.

If you ever find yourself in MN, let me know and we can chat. I'm working on this craziness (http://www.usdakotawar.org/) and it would be great to hear what you have to say. (oner0002 at umn.edu)


9:27 AM  
Blogger Lance M. Foster said...

@Jason, yep, that's me. I am glad to hear the "Landscape" project has had meaning for you...it sure has for me! Send me an email offlist and we'' talk about your Dakota project (lancemfoster at yahoo dot com).

@Julian, I'll send you an email later today. I'm always interested in people's experiences and observations. I have to say I am a little burnt out on "screenworld" though (my eyes are too :-)), and am thinking more along the lines of returning to the Native American arts and crafts I learned as a kid and grew up doing, carving wood, doing hidework, and such. Also a couple of years ago I was telling place stories on walks in the fall here in town, focusing mainly on ghosts and history. I am mainly looking for things I can do as I age into the next 20 years, and screenworld is not where I really want to be, given I subscribe also to Greer's and Orlov's take on the decline of tech availability with the economic and energy challenges. Plus, honestly, I think the heavy education promotion right now (all those commercials for getting online degrees creep me out) is really a bubble just like housing was, because there aren't enough jobs for these kids and the student loan debt burden kids are convinced they have to take on is wrong and will ruin many of their lives, as it has for so many already.

@Zosima, thanks for the thoughts :-)

10:07 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Zosima -

Per your comment "I like the use biblical names and imagery of desperate characters wandering around a kind of burned out American Zion," check out the stunning "When You Awake."

"If I thought it would do any good, I'd stand on the rock where Moses stood..."

10:38 AM  
Anonymous Julian said...


I watched the video, but I must have missed the part about the police charging him with larceny instead of bank robbery. He got lucky to run into a friendly police department. Many of the inmates I met who robbed banks to get access to health care also did it nonviolently, usually did not ask for any money, and just waited for the cops to arrive, but ended up serving 15+ years in a federal joint nonetheless.

I once saw an inmate whose 15 year sentence for bank robbery was almost complete. So, I saw fit to cheer him up by exploring with him in therapy the wonderful possibilities that were soon going to be presented to him as a free man. So, after he listened to my 10 minute spiel about how wonderful his life will be as a grocery bagger or furniture mover, when I asked him which career seemed most appealing to him, he said, “As soon as I get released, I plan to go back to the same bank and rob it again.” In amazement, I asked, “But why!?” So he replied, “Because I have HIV and I can’t afford the meds that keep me alive.”


11:52 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Came across an interesting little book by Andrew Keen entitled The Cult of the Amateur (2006). The author is hopelessly centrist -- he cites Thomas Friedman as an exemplar of responsible, informed journalism! -- but his argument is worth reading. He says that the Internet is flattening out expertise in favor of millions of opinions, each equally valid in the minds of the Web. Truth itself becomes a matter of consensus, rather than fact; everything is homogenized down to the lowest common denominator. I'm sure we've all seen evidence of this ourselves -- people with no scientific background claiming their opinions on global warming are as valid as those of scientists, for example. Or teenagers forced to read the classics for school, then ripping them to shreds & claiming their opinions are just as good as those of literary scholars. They call it the "democratization" of the Web.

In short, he sees our economy, culture & values being destroyed by a paradox: the Web claims freedom for the individual, everyone having his or her own voice at last ... yet in the end, what we get is a liquified mush of opinions & feelings with no individual clarity or vision. Basically, a hive mind, with memory & knowledge outsourced to computers.

4:46 PM  
Anonymous Vince said...


In the Star Trek universe they would be known as the Borg.

Defined as follows on the Star Trek "wiki" site.

"The Borg were a pseudo-race of cybernetic beings, or cyborgs, from the Delta Quadrant. No truly single individual existed within the Borg Collective (with the possible sole exception of the Borg Queen), as they were linked into a hive mind. Their ultimate goal was perfection through the forcible assimilation of diverse sentient species, technologies, and knowledge. As a result, they were among the most powerful and feared races in the galaxy, without really being a true race at all."

Doesn't this sound familiar?

6:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This one speaks for itself...

Forbes: University of Florida Eliminates Computer Science Department, Increases Athletic Budgets. Hmm.

Let’s get this straight: in the midst of a technology revolution, with a shortage of engineers and computer scientists, UF decides to cut computer science completely?


9:04 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yes, but I understand that they are planning to invest $500 billion in the humanities and social sciences. What a fabulous institution!


10:36 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

Dr. B, thanks for comment at 6:34. I would read any number like that and buy a book made from 'em. "Crafting a New (Definition of) Progress"? I hope you're happily walking the book trail again...

11:49 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Not sure what 'number' and 'em' refers to, but we are not, on this blog, opposed to cryptic messages. On the other hand, I cd be completely obtuse. As for public lectures: I'm about to take Madrid and Barcelona by storm (in June). Buy yr plane tix now, avoid the rush.


5:07 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


Yes, I can see we're finally getting an origin story for the Borg: they willingly & eagerly did it to themselves.

And in today's America Continues To March Backwards feature, we have what's essentially the return of debtors' prisons:


We may not be able to provide decent or even minimal health care to our citizens, but by God we've got the resources to hound them mercilessly for every last dollar!

9:24 AM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Tim Lukeman,

You are absolutely right that everyone in America has a ‘constitutional right’ to their opinion. The fact that there is a difference between opinion and evidence has been forgotten long ago.

Indeed, the ‘lowest common denominator’ in our blessed land is very, very low.

So, everybody please write that down so you can put it into your computer – and then you can forget about it.

David Rosen

11:13 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,


In a Tampa newspaper:

"A quick review of the long and illustrious career of Facts reveals some of the world's most cherished absolutes: Gravity makes things fall down; 2 + 2 = 4; the sky is blue.

But for many, Facts' most memorable moments came in simple day-to-day realities, from a child's certainty of its mother's love to the comforting knowledge that a favorite television show would start promptly at 8 p.m.

Over the centuries, Facts became such a prevalent part of most people's lives that Irish philosopher Edmund Burke once said: "Facts are to the mind what food is to the body."

To the shock of most sentient beings, Facts died Wednesday after a long battle for relevancy with the 24-hour news cycle, blogs and the Internet. Though few expected Facts to pull out of its years-long downward spiral, the official cause of death was from injuries suffered this month when Florida Republican Rep. Allen West steadfastly declared that as many as 81 of his fellow members of the U.S. House of Representatives are communists.

Facts held on for several days after that assault — brought on without a scrap of evidence or reason — before expiring peacefully at its home in a high school physics book. Facts was 2,372."

The entire article is by Rex Huppke, originally printed in the Chicago Tribune on 4/23. Funny, but sad.

12:11 PM  
Anonymous shep said...

These days many individuals (including myself) view Jimmy Carter as one of our better, if not the best, of Presidents. It is my belief that we have had NO good Presidents. In fact, all of them could have been tried as war criminals and they have ALL stood for the elite sycophants, most of the time. Yes, all make "political" statements that seem to be taking pity on the lower class but they ALL , in the end, push for inequality.

Now there is an article, by Paul Street, that clearly documents my case. He doesn't get into the war criminal aspect but apparently Mr. Street doesn't deem it appropriate to go that far, even if it is true.

He gets on "Flathead" too!


1:38 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Thank u all for writing in. I've been thinking lately that it might be a good idea if the pres were simply to declare that the purpose of the American Way of Life, including all of its institutions, is to hurt people, and also make them even dumber than they are; and that in his opinion, the project is succeeding admirably. *Then* I wd vote for the jerk!


1:59 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

Dr. Berman,

Ha, sorry for my cryptograph. I meant I could read practically any number of comments by you that are on the order of the one you wrote here about technology as a metaphysic.

I wonder if you're writing another non-fiction book, and, if so, whether it's about tech as metaphysic. In one of your talks posted online (sorry, I have forgotten which), didn't you mention craftsmanship as a subject you're interested in? "Tech v. Craft and a New Definition of Progress" would be a beautiful title. But an even better one might be "Chicken Soup for the [Teenager/Mom/Dad/Realtor/Think-Tanker/et al.] with Cranial-Rectum Syndrome: Now with Cartoons."

Speaking of books, WAF is not available at any bookstore in East Tennessee, believe it or not (I am requesting it). Nor at any public library I'm a member of (requesting it). Yet it's the best of the Amer culture trilogy and friends grab it from my hands.

4:27 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Currently working on a bk on Japan, including the Japanese craft tradition. As for no WAFs in TN: Wiley basically dropped the ball on PR and distribution, so I'm not surprised. Whatever u can do out there wd be greatly appreciated.


6:06 PM  
Blogger ijcd said...

Hi Shep,

This latest article by PCG may shed some light on your comment about his past and current agenda. I myself am also skeptical of anyone who was part of Reagan's administration; but hey, apparently back then, even conservatives, at least some of them, were personally and intellectually honest. Nowadays, conservatives of the past look increasingly progressive and even “socialist” in comparison to today’s “carnies” (creatures of the carnival in which we live, full of clowns, magicians, freaks, crazies, and all sorts of low-life hustlers and snake oil peddlers).

"How Liberty Was Lost", by Paul Craig Roberts:

Fellow DAA’ers and Prof. Berman,

I am currently reading Dr. Gabor Mate’s book “When the Body Says NO. Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection” and I came across this beautifully powerful sentence:
“Strong Convictions do not necessarily signal a powerful sense of self: very often quite the opposite. Intensely held beliefs may be no more than a person’s unconscious effort to build a sense of self to fill what, underneath, is experienced as a vacuum.”

This brings to mind our experiences in trying to engage our fellow Americans (and also all those immigrants and “immigrant-wannabes” enticed and enthralled by the allure of this culture’s infantilized and infantilizing soft power) on meaningful and serious discussions about our current predicament, its roots and our dark future. There is no point trying any longer, we are too limited and powerless, incapable, even if we wanted to, of even beginning to fill the immense emptiness in the “American Soul” (if this terminology makes sense at all). Prof. Berman saw it, with honesty, especially intellectual honesty, and took action, along with many others. This “Titanic” is sinking faster than I expected, and I am even more pessimistic than most here: there will be no hole in the world to hide this time. The collapse will be global, and this giant will take everyone along down the bottomless pit… Perhaps, in my case, if I go back to Cuba… then again, we have a dictator and a corrupt autocratic and bureaucratic class running things there… and yet again, they are my people and there is still a human community life there… what is this little sad man to do?

By the way, I am also reading Dr. Robert Hare’s book “WITHOUT CONSCIENCE. The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths among us”. It seems like a great tool to learn to identify and keep away the potential little monstrosities that so much abound in this sociopathic society. USA = United Sociopaths of America. I also recommend “Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths go to Work”, based on research results (haven’t read it yet).

O & D!

11:42 PM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

To: All WAFers attached to the Gucci-Barf project (sic)

Re: Bad News & Good News & Bad News

Bad News:
The Prez has a Secret Service detail that will wrestle you to the ground before you can barf on his Guccis.

Good News:
Thomas "Flathead" Friedman has no such protection.

Bad News:
If you barf on Flathead's Guccis, you run the risk of catalyzing another one of his epiphany moments, which will likely result in another book.

But at least a new Flathead tome will probably prompt Matt Taibbi to pen another takedown review column.

11:57 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Gd quote from Mate. Reminds me of Yeats' line about how "the worst are filled w/passionate intensity." There's surely a lot of that going around these days.


I think it's in "The Meaning of Life" (Monty Python) that there is a scene of a projectile vomiter hurling at 50' away. This might be a way to get around the Secret Service detail; although lining them up w/hookers might be a bit easier. As for Friedman: in his case, my choice of liquids has always been urine.

Yes, O&D...mb

12:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ijcd perhaps this reference confirms your idea about people who hold firm ideas as a front for their hollowness - we are the hollow men.


In her marvellous book Gossips, Gorgon's & Crones, Jane Caputi has a section in a chapter titled The Nuclear Family Goes Critical in which she describes Freddy Kruger from The Nightmare on Elm Street series as Reagan's toxic shadow cutting a dark swathe through the children of America and more importantly their future. She even features quotes from the director wEs Craven and the actor Robert Englund.

"Freddy is the most ruthless primal father. The adult who wants to slash down the next generation".

"he is the nightmare of suburbia. He is the nightmare in white America, and he's reminding you that you can't escape IT"

Caputi - "Krueger is the alter ego, not the true opposite, of our culture's original Founding Fathers, who were slaveholders, Indian and buffalo killers, and "virgin land" rapers. At the same time, he is the hidden face of that cultural icon, the all-knowing and authortitive suburban dad/bomb. Krueger is Ward Cleaver unrepressed, running amok, wielding his cleaver. He is the incestuous, alcoholic, abusive, murderous father, hidden behind the placid facade of Elm Street, USA. Morover, he is a consummate nuclear father, signifying imminent apocalypse. Freddy is something like a personalized nuclear bomb. He is a new founding father for an unremittingly apocalyptic culture, pointing to a future of random, individual violences at unprecedented rates, fissionable families, militarized starscapes, beaches spiked with toxic waste, extincted species, razed forests, global warming and nuclear war.
Assuredly, the nuclear father is the incestuous father, the one who fucks his own children"

5:42 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...


I used my magic former librarian powers and found that only 2 libraries in Tenn have WAF, the Univ of Tenn and the Univ of the South. There are a few libraries in the country that have the e-book version so you may be able to access that via your local lib.

9:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

American life dept: A man is beaten by 3 neighbors with metal pipes and hospitalized after parking dispute. The wife calling 911 had her phone smashed in her face.

11:17 AM  
Anonymous TonyU said...

Dr Berman’s predictions are real. Be prepared to see another economic crash.

Frontline's new documentary about the financial crisis. On Tuesday night PBS will air the first two parts of a four-part documentary on the crisis, called "Money, Power and Wall Street," with the second two parts to air next Tuesday, May 1.


Watch video 1 and video 2:



Thanks to IJCD
Everyone should read this book:
"Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths go to Work" by Dr Paul Babiak and Dr Robert Hare

1:45 PM  
Anonymous Chaz Holmes said...

America's failure is no reason to give up on teaching our kids well in math & the sciences—at least it will cut down on the number of meth-lab explosions we have to deal with.

2:02 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I love it! I can't get enuf of it! This is the true America, where simmering rage is only 2mm. deep.
You know, I often write/lecture that Americans are stupid and violent, and then I get hate mail that is--stupid and violent! Guess they showed *me*!

CRE forever...mb

2:37 PM  
Anonymous Julian said...


I just wanted to mention that last year Gabor Mate also gave a series of excellent interviews on Amy Goodman’s democracynow.org He also co-wrote “Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers” which is great for parents raising kids in America.

From your description, the American psyche sounds as one of narcissism. Psychologically, narcissists are people who are fragmented and insecure inside, but put a façade of toughness in order to cover up the inner weakness. “Narcissistic rage” is their typical way of interacting with the world, which expresses along a continuum, ranging from mild arrogance all the way to “shock and awe.” Narcissists tend to be unfinished persons tied together by psychological duct tape. It’s a pretty primitive personality, and I think it explains a lot of America's societal problems.


3:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I guess this story isn't so "unbelievable" after the last few... so I'm not sure what to call it. More of the same?

CNN: Man plants a wire on his autistic son and uncovers bullying by teachers

A New Jersey man has launched a website to publicize what he calls "a culture of bullying" by teachers in his autistic son's Cherry Hill classroom after sending the boy to school with a covert recording device.

Stuart Chaifetz said he placed a recorder in the pocket of his 10-year-old son, Akian, in an attempt to find out why staffers at Horace Mann Elementary School had reported that the boy had been acting out and hitting his teachers.

What surfaced was more than six hours of recordings of what he says are teachers and aides apparently talking about alcohol and sex in front of the class, punctuated by yelling at his son to "shut your mouth."

Chaifetz posted the recording online Monday, which has since led to disciplinary actions, including the removal of at least one teacher, school officials said.


3:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should post some of your hate mail for a good giggle.

4:50 PM  
Blogger J. P. CAZADOR said...

As for the Massachussetts beating, I remember in the nineties when a lot of the ultra-violent TV shows like HBO's The Sopranos and the prison show OZ, among many others, first came out there seemed to be an increase in all kinds of senseless violence that was identical to the scenes depicted in those shows, and it just gets worse and worse. In 2009 in Indiana, a 17 year old boy named Andrew Conley killed his little brother because he wanted to be like the character in his favorite TV show called "Dexter", a show where the main character is a serial killer.

Americans love to mindlessly imitate what they see on TV and in movies like trained animals or two legged Pavlov's dogs. I remember in 1993 there was a movie called "The Program" starring actor James Caan. Apparently there was a scene when some characters in the movie, college kids, lay down on a highway and let tractor trailers pass over them, escaping harm due to the center of the truck passing over them and the wheels straddling them on each side. Some knitwits in various parts of the country were killed when they tried to imitate the movie's scene, not realizing that fantasy and reality are very far apart. These were people in their 20s who should've known better, not little children.

Americans are childlike and live immersed in fantasy and very few have any idea about what reality entails. That's why they're as maleable as a block of clay.

6:24 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Narcissists, bullies--the pt is, we live in a nation of grotesque buffoons. Not a hyperbole, and not just "a few bad apples." No; this is who we are. As for the Sopranos: this was an extremely popular show, and it effectively glorified the Mafia--a collection of hustler thugs who threatened and/or murdered people who got in their way. At the very least, this modus vivendi was presented as "just another lifestyle," the bad and the bold of New Jersey. Which is a good way to inculcate values of total relativism, amorality, in the culture at large.

O&D, folks; O&D.


11:08 PM  
Anonymous shep said...

I found this today: "John F. Kennedy held a dinner in the White House for a group of the brightest minds in the nation at that time. He made this statement: 'This is perhaps the assembly of the most intelligence ever to gather at one time in the White House with the exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone'."

Shud have read: ...when Martin Luther King, III dined alone."

Insert your own.

9:05 AM  
Blogger Lance M. Foster said...

You might enjoy a little from Chomei's hut today:

9:06 AM  
Anonymous Julian said...

Avoid the rush! Get your one-way tickets early:


9:23 AM  
Anonymous Ray said...

Re: the man who wired up his autistic child to catch teachers abusing the boy in his school...

The primary tragedy - the obvious cruelty and viciousness of the teachers - is only the first level of wrongness in the story.

Another level of out-of-kilterness can also be found however, in the nuances of the father's entire response to the abuse problem at his son's school. While the basic response (protect the poor kid from mistreatment and stop the structural preconditions for such abuse)is eminently defensible, I was struck by the following:

-The instinctive and asocial recourse to instrumentalizing technology (wiring up children to secretly monitor their schools) in what is essentially a further step in social disintegration - imagine the destructive copycat potential here...

-The combination of hyperindividualist cultural reflexes from the "embattled parent against the hostile society" subculture: Immediate recruitment of the currently trendiest free-floating memes like "bullying"; the recourse to verbally agressive youtube appeals to the peanut gallery, the agitation for some state or Federal law that will probably be eponymously named after the poor kid caught in the middle of all this, etc.etc.

Although far more a justifiable response to a real case of injustice, there is nevertheless a behavioral continuum that links this case to other examples of "spooked middle class grandstanding" during this current phase of social crisis: peanut allergy neurotics pushing the sterilization of the mouths and hands of all classmates as a precondition for the school attendance of their children; aggressive lobbying by home schoolers of all ideological stripes; self-righteous and sel-pitying "manifestoes" left by failed small businessmen before killing themselves in spectacularly public ways, etc. etc.

12:00 PM  
Blogger Cj said...

Hi, this is a blog I find of interest which others here may as well: www.theburningplatform.com .

The most recent posting is: H. L Mencken was Right at http://www.theburningplatform.com/?p=33585

Hope everything is going well Professor.


4:10 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I confess, I kinda like the idea of everybody in the US wiring themselves up so they can record everyone else. Also, following that beating over a parking space in Mass., I think everyone shd also carry a tire iron, and beat up anyone they don't like. The way to overcome the American collapse is to go thru it, push it to the limit. Maybe it's just me, but I find something oddly comforting about 311 million Americans taping and beating each other all day long, every day. Metaphorically speaking, they're already doing it; might as well make it literal.


Gd to hear from u, amigo, and I hope all is well in S.D. BTW, I did finally finish that trilogy by Javier Marias: what a tour de force. Can't thank u enuf.


9:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Um, Ray, given that American society IS hostile and cruel, I think the "asocial" response is justified. It's better than letting his son be attacked all day; I hope you agree with that at least.

It's better than Japan (though that's not saying much). Japan is becoming as cruel and crass as America is...but Japan still tries to PRETEND it has social harmony, so it won't allow responses such as that parent's at all. (In Japan, the parent's response would be called selfish; even though the school community itself, like American society, is behaving selfishly by justifying hurtful behavior).

So in Japan, you can't do that hyper-individualist Christian homeschooling response (even though paradoxically the Christian homeschooling movement IS ITSELF a "society") because Japan hates individualism...but if Japan REALLY hated individualism it would have curbed the bullying problem in the first place so kids can come to school without being assaulted.

I tried to point out this paradox in an earlier comment, I don't know if I've succeeded in explaining this very well: the problem is that most communitarian solutions wouldn't work if the population is hostile to any new ideas or genuine living in the first place and is likely to attack you if you tried it in their backyard.

So in order to live ethically and simultaneously be free from endless harassment from conformist materialist narcissistic friends (who simultaneously ask you not to be selfish and consider their feelings) you have to either a) go it alone after all or b) use Morris Berman's solution and move to a country where there's a real community (and community is used to justify being considerate to you, not to justify mistreating you).

7:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wait, I found a better way to explain the nuances I was trying to express earlier!

The missing ingredient in this "individualism vs. community" discussion is the problem of "sociocentrism."

It's a term Richard Paul and Linda Elder use a lot. It's the tendency of human groups to behave like aggregates of selfish people.

It's possible for America as a country to be selfish, for a Muslim tribe as a whole to be selfish towards women, for the Aztecs as a whole to be selfish towards the tribes they conquered, etc.

The problem is that most American individualist responses were themselves in response to groups that are extremely selfish, not to mention infantile, in nature.

So Morris Berman dislikes it when Americans withdraw from conversation...but what happens when you try to say to Americans that maybe Facebook isn't everything and maybe the Muslims have a point about us? You get shunned AT BEST, and physically attacked at worst. So then, withdrawal makes sense, which is what Berman did when he moved to Mexico.

The same happens when tribes try to isolate themselves from larger cultures: the larger culture selfishly tries to obliterate the tribe, necessitating their withdrawal and proving the tribe right. But then the tribe starts acting selfishly and won't tolerate dissent or criticism or meaningful solitude.

That's arguably what America has done: it rebelled against the selfishness and individualism of Britain, but it became so individualistic that it shot straight back into "herd mentality." That means if you want to be treated nicely, that makes YOU the individual who stands out in a society of devil-take-the-hindmost.

God forbid a parent should withdraw his child from bullying, that would be SELFISH! Except because selfishness is "sociocentric" as well as egocentric, the child may well be spared the impact of interacting in an American "community" where EVERYONE is selfish!

Am I making sense? I feel like we shouldn't try to condemn people who are legitimately seeking better lives for themselves and their children.

7:36 AM  
Anonymous Ray said...


300-plus million people taping each other as they beat each other up 24 hours a day every day sounds like my kinda place.

Except it is unworkable. There needs to be around 2-3 hours down time every day for all that "evidence" to be uploaded by everybody to That Utah Collection Center - after all, we paid for it.

Hypercompliance, or overcompliance - if they want total information awareness, we should give them exactly what they want.

Also, we should not stop with wiring up our kids. Each of the 250million or so parents in our land truly deserve their own personalized criminal law named after their unique, precious child, to reflect whatever past or upcoming tragedy their little one faces - physical or mental abuse, peanut butter infestation, shunning, exposure to head lice, etc. Not just a single "Tyler's Law" or "Madison's Law" covering all the Tylers or Madisons, eewww, that would be like...sharing. No, EVERY parent should have an automatic entitlement to their own "MY Tyler's Law" or "MY Madison's Law" to reflect THEIR unique tragedy/annoyance/playdate slight, etc. etc. etc.

After all, what would all the evidence gathered by wiring up 100 million kids be otherwise good for?

9:46 AM  
Anonymous Julian said...


In addition to tire irons, recent findings indicate that fabric scissors and beer mugs are an equally effective weapon of choice of average Americans everywhere:


I tell ya, the place is goin' to hell in a handbasket...LOL

10:31 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

The beatings will continue until morale improves.

2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of beatings, here is a 80 second clip that defines 2012 America...


3:57 PM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...


The combination of hyperindividualist cultural reflexes from the "embattled parent against the hostile society" subculture: Immediate recruitment of the currently trendiest free-floating memes like "bullying"...

Dude, really ?
I'd have thought bullying to be a meme anchored in at least millenia of experience.

Now, mind you, I'm usually down with Claudius's dictum of "Let all the poisons that rot in the blood hatch out!"

But I'm also a retired special ed teacher.
Especially in the face of recorded abuse by teachers, an autistic child should be like any other citizen of our eroding republic, innocent until shown to be guilty.

Getting all POMO rhetorical on his ass is a purely punk move.

Of course, if you want to pick on someone your own size, like maybe a psychobabble-spouting major metropolitan area school district superintendent, I may be available to hold their head up against the curb while you perform boot-driven dental extraction on 'em. Or we could just read to them from a 9mm magazine likein "God Bless America".

9:53 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Greetings from Thailand
Dear Anon,
Hey , don't be so bitter. Didn't you learn how to fill in bubbles on a multiple choice test? Now there's a skill you can use throughout your life.
Oy, so now parents throughout the country will wire their kids. Near axiomatic for being an effective teacher is to develop and warm and trusting relationship with a student. Now what teacher will take the chance to do that? Simple statements of concern might be judged preditory.
You are certainly right about the US being marginalized on the world scene.The Bangkok Post traditionally had a page devoted to US news and now US news is just a part of the international page. In fact, the only US news that was mentioned a few days ago was the death of Charles Colson.
Anyone see the NYT piece about the children of US immigrants returning to their home country because of the US sinking economy? My guess is that the reasons are much deeper than economic. The violence, the near impossibility to have an intelligent conversation about national or world events and/or just the crippling lonliness which is so much a part of the American landscape.

6:38 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


There have been recent articles abt Mexicans in the US returning to Mexico in large #s, and the rate of immigration of Mexicans to the US having dropped off severely in recent years. I'm sure a lot of it is the economy; but culturally speaking, the US must be a real drag for many Latinos--as u pt out, violence, alienation, and the sheer, raw stupidity of the population.

Several yrs ago I got into a taxi in Mexico City and the driver asked me where I was from. Let's call the town I live in La Flor. I said, "La Flor." Let's call La Flor's most famous poet Michelada. The driver suddenly began to recite the work of Michelada by heart--and he wasn't even from La Flor! And I thought: would it be possible in the US for any taxi driver, of any ethnic origin whatever, including white Americans born in New England, to recite Robert Frost by heart? What are the odds they would have even heard of Robt Frost? Or of the Declaration of Independence, for that matter?

On another occasion, a taxi driver in Mexico gave me a long disquisition on black holes, and on the role of the Freemasons in history.

99% of American taxi drivers, on the other hand, like 99% of the US population, have warm baby diarrhea in their heads.



7:32 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

More from the CRE Dept.:

1. This article from Tavis Smiley and Cornel West:


2. It ends with this sentence: "It's time to resuscitate the American Dream." The authors, who are quite intelligent, are nevertheless unaware that the American Dream is the problem. Like the rest of the country, they still think it's the solution!

3. Most of the comments to the article are, as one wd expect from an American audience, daft. But there were a couple I enjoyed:

-"And in the corner of that shack pictured above is his mom's iPhone. That is the true American Dream....."[he got that right]

-"The dream isn't broken, the country is." [because of the Dream, amigo!]

Anyway, that's the latest from the HRIR front. Every day, the American head goes yet another few millimeters deeper into the American rump. O&D, my friends.


8:09 AM  
Anonymous Julian said...

I don't mean to change the subject, but please don't miss this highly important piece of butt news:


11:42 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

If you enjoy "feel good" viddeos about America, check this gem about

1:47 PM  
Anonymous shep said...

Best Quote Ever.

"...warm baby diarrhea in their heads."

2:44 PM  
Anonymous Ray said...

Dear Friends,

I'm all on that autistic kid's side; I also took pains to point out that I recognize the valid roots of the father's rage. OF COURSE autistic kids are blameless and their parents are everyday heroes. No Pomo "quotes" or "smirks" here.

I just have major reservations about how the justified emotional reactions on the part of the wronged parent concerned were expressed, and how they might then be taken up by the larger culture. For every truly wronged parent of a disabled child, there are thousands of self-involved drama queens and professional victims who co-opt the unassailable figure of the Wronged Child for their own need to assert themselves against society. I just worry that the father's justifiable anger led him to take measures and go public with this case in a way that will arm the drama queens with valuable new tactical ammunition in their self-obsessed and spurious campaigns for self-affirmation. Inadvertently and unintentionally suggesting novel tactics to victim-inflaters and a new generation of the self-involved is bad enough; that the father saw no alternative but to JUST THIS ONCE, BECAUSE IT'S NECESSARY, instrumentalize the kid he loves seems to have escaped any discussion. Were there truly no other alternatives?

I don't know how I would react if I were the father facing the situation he described; I hope that if I took the same measures he did, I would do it after due consideration of the points raised above.

I know what being bullied feels like. These days however, even the bullies often claim to be bullied. That's another slap in the face for the truly bullied. And worse, the truly bullied can later take on bully-like behavior. This is where CAN all get...uh..a bit POMO...dude, If that makes me a bully or bully justifier, so be it.


4:20 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


It's not really off the subject.


4:21 PM  
Blogger Zosima said...

Your comment about the taxi driver reminded me of some of Henry Miller’s comments. He said he would go into a ordinary butcher shop in France, and the butcher, after discovering who he was, would take him in the the back and show him his library of Miller’s books. Whereas in the US his books were banned for many years. You might like his Air Conditioned Nightmare which describes his journey across America after he reluctantly returned from Europe where he lived for many years. When the boat entered Boston he said he “wept at the horror of that city.” I came across the book just after I moved to Atlanta which he described as having the worst aspects of both the North and the South. I could see exactly what he meant. There’s a chapter called the Southland that is interesting. Someone sold us a copy of Coming to Our Senses along with books by Henry Miller and Alan Watts, both writers I admire for their love of life, and their criticism of hidebound American and Western ways. You’re in the pantheon with them, and for those of us who can still think and feel, we are very grateful to have your books on our shelves to discuss and enrich our lives.

6:50 PM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...


Your Ver2.0 sounds better than the beta did.

I agree that there are plenty of dramatic extremists out there, some of whom will be moved by this case to wire themselves up. But, if they record their encounters with the world at large, we have a chance to determine for ourselves if they are victim, troublemaker, or some sort of egotist hybrid (sorry, can't resist http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CLUSbNU-z4&feature=related ).

For a parent or an educator, the first responsibility is to the single child being abused. In this case, it isn't the father's responsibility to worry about the society-wide implications of getting the facts recorded. We have plenty of cultural pundits to help us make sense of that. (Arguably some such pundits are self-involved drama queens themselves, but we have Douglas Hofstadter to help us make sense of that self-sustaining cycle.)

Yes, bullying and abuse seem to be self-sustaining, in that yesterday's victims become today's perpetrators in great enough numbers to keep the syndrome alive and kicking without having to recruit new players. I don't think either of us would be confused with a bully justifier just because we can see a big picture of how the process works. (Like the old Firesign Theater line...Modern life is like having bees live in your head...but...there they are.)

5:03 AM  

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