September 20, 2012

The New England Lecture


Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thanks for writing in, but I don't post Anons. Pls pick a handle and re-submit.


3:37 PM  
Blogger PedroC. said...

Excellent essay, Dr.B. Forwarded it to all of my friends (yep, all three of them).

I've been reading ZeroHedge out of financial morbidity (since my other major is in international business). From what I gather, we'll be lucky if the system lasts until 2020 (2015 is my bet).

Also, one needs to include potential game-changers like strong AI, increasing robotic manufacturing, biotech, wars and 'black swans'. Interesting times ahead.

By any chance have your read Asimov's Foundation series? I think the only feasible 'solution' is a Foundation-like initiative. Which is really just a more ambitious new monastic option, but with the chance of, like you've said, being there as a shadow entity for when the current world comes crashing down.

Best of lucks in your Japan journey! :) (try to stay away from Fukushima and surrounding area - I don't trust those 'official' radiation readings)

6:08 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Compelling, clear-eyed, and pretty much impossible to argue with, MB.

How many people have begun discussing what else is due in the near future? I mean increasing population vs. decreasing resources? I'll have to do some Internet searching, but I recall reading about some scientist referring ominously to something he called The Cull -- what will happen when there are just too many people & not enough resources or land for them all. This could either be a series of wars (inevitable, I'd say) or countless natural disasters due to climate change -- or more likely a combination of both.

In short, there simply won't be enough to go around, unless the population is drastically reduced. Which it undoubtedly will be, one way or another. I don't like to think about how much will be lost in such an event.

I was away in Virginia for 9 days & was struck by the utter desolation of the decaying towns -- so many empty buildings, and a plethora of cash-for-gold places, car title loan places, tattoo parlors, auto parts stores, and rundown storefront churches. The taste of despair was palpable, sour, depressing.

I also had a chance to see unlimited cable TV, with hundreds of channels. Not a damn thing worth watching on any of them. Lots of reality shows called "_______ Wars" (fill in the blank) -- Cupcake Wars, Pawn Wars, Whisker Wars, you name it. Most of them seem to have sought out the lowest common denominator & simply plunged far below it.

My overall impression was of a devastated landscape, physically, psychologically, spiritually. And what you describe in your essay is the capitalist ethos that creates such a wasteland, and how it's made increasingly worse by the frantic, rabid effort to sustain that illusory ethos.

This does not bode well for the immediate future ...

6:13 PM  
Anonymous mikbeth said...

This is a brilliant piece! I have shared it with the three people I know who might actually read it. It really works as a good quick summary of your books.
I liked your ending which also comforted me. There's something about facing the truth that is calming.

6:39 PM  
Blogger LJansen said...

Stunning! Now I know what I missed by listening to "Shock Doctrine" as an audio book (my first and only).

Anyway, except for including Jimmy Carter in the pantheon, I think we can take this to the bank.

Oh, maybe not.

8:10 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Check out the Carter sections of DAA and esp. WAF, for further elaboration. Sad to say, there are no Mittney sections.


8:38 PM  
Anonymous shep said...

I'm calling it "The Last Essay". No need for any more writings. Period.

I see where Sister Begonia says that the 6th stage of a dying anything is inflation. Number 7 being the actual collapse and over run.

I bought three 50# bags of dog food on 8-8-2012 for $22.95 PER BAG. Today, bless their hearts, they are running a sale for 40# at $26.95. That is a 45% jump in six weeks.

Maybe Mitt has a chance after all!

I love Mittens too!

By the way, if I sent your piece to my 1959 graduating class. No one would answer or call again. I too have 2 friends I share this good stuff with. Everybody else is nuts around here.

Also, the Idiot, oh I love him, was very recently in Atlanta, Georgia at one of those $50,000 a plate deals where they never publish a list of the attendees. I would love to have been the cook.

I am really fired up. The end is apparently near. My net worth should be zero in no time.

8:59 PM  
Blogger LJansen said...

MB, will check out WAF & DAA. Was waiting for library but damn, they're too slow.

10:22 PM  
Blogger Socrates said...

I'm from India and Morris Berman's writings have a certain universal relevance and resonance. Substitute "American Dream " with "Great -Indian-Middle-Class-Dream" and you'd pretty much end up with the same results.

There is a tendency especially among the Indian Middle classes that America is the land-of-milk-and-honey and can essentially do wrong.A recent PEW poll found that a solid 58% majority in urban India is favorably disposed toward the United States, seeing America in a more favorable light than they view other major world powers, The Indian population in the US has jumped from less than a million in 1990 to more than 3 million in 2010 .

The Indian Middle Class or more accurately the Vedic Bourgeoise which they have become is a hypocritical beast.The primary aim of Indians today is to get a branded education in America,excel in the rat race,worship money and power ,not challenge authority,revel in one upmanship and to shinny-up the slippery career grease pole .The Vedic Bourgeoise simply mask their true intentions with a very thin veneer of spirituality.On the one hand they argue that they come from an ancient land India steeped in the ancient Vedic outlook,simplicity and self-abnegation and yet on the other they slavishly adopt and follow the models of the West,even looking upto it for guidance.When the West is forced towards considering alternate forms of development Indians are keen on aggrandizement.

I'm perfectly in agreement with Morris Berman that it is essentially meaningless to make distinctions between the 1% and the 99% when the 99% aspire to become the 1%.Capitalism at its heart appeals to our most base natures and that would probably explain its strange hold on our sheeple(sheep+people)."The Banality of evil" is a phrase coined by Hannah Arendt .She puts forward the view that great evils in history generally are not executed by fanatics or sociopaths, but rather by ordinary people who accepted the premises of their state and therefore participated with the view that their actions were normal.If we accept this view then we shouldn't be really surprised at where we find ourselves.Why do Indians cross the oceans to come to America?The Indian Middle classes are essentially banal in their outlook.This banality at one point sufficiently provoked the great Swami Vivekanada to exclaim over 100 years ago.."what are you?!!! And what are you doing now?!!! ... promenading the sea-shores with books in your hands—repeating undigested stray bits of European brainwork, and the whole soul bent upon getting a thirty rupee clerkship, or at best becoming a lawyer—the height of young India’s ambition— Is there not water enough in the sea to drown you, books, gowns, university diplomas, and all?"

The Indian Philosopher Aurobindo Ghose said" live grossly and unthinkingly by the unintelligent rule of the many, to live besides according to the senses and sensations controlled by certain conventions, but neither purified nor enlightened nor chastened by any law of beauty, - all this too is contrary to the ideal of culture. A man may so live with all the appearance or all the pretensions of a civilized existence, enjoy successfully all the plethora of its appurtenances, but he is not in the real sense a developed human being. A society following such a rule of life may be anything else you will, vigorous, decent, well-ordered, successful, religious, moral, but it is a Philistine society; it is a prison which the human soul has to break. For so long as it dwells there, it dwells in an inferior, uninspired and unexpanding mental status; it vegetates infructuously in the lower stratum and is governed not by the higher faculties of man, but by the crudities of the unuplifted sense-mind. "

We are all Philistines.And so if there is going to be pain from here on, I think we all deserve it.

Anand Menon

3:28 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

"When a political regime disintegrates in historical reality, can one not...distinguish between its two deaths, symbolic and real? There are weird epochs when a regime, for a limited period, persists in power, although its time is clearly up, as if it goes on living because it doesn't notice that it is dead."

--Slavoj Zizek, "How to Read Lacan"

9:04 AM  
Anonymous Smith said...

Just a minor quibble:

I'm not sure J.D. Salinger should be included in the alternative tradition, at least if you're referring to Holden Cauffield from Catcher in the Rye.

We were actually supposed to see Holden Cauffield as a brat, and we weren't supposed to agree with Holden's criticisms of mainstream culture. That he got held up as a counter-culture hero drove Salinger CRAZY.

So Salinger's Catcher in the Rye isn't actually supposed to be a criticism of American culture at all, since the protagonist was meant to be an "unreliable narrator."

Unless you're talking about another one of Salinger's works I haven't read? If so, please enlighten me so I'll learn something new.

11:33 AM  
Anonymous bart said...

Speaking of Indian aspirations to American middle class-prosperity, Chris Hedges shredding Dinesh D'souza:

Note that the recently overturned NDAA by a judge ruling against Obama admin in favor of Chris Hedges, Naomi Klein, Chomsky, Ellsberg et al... has now been stayed... So for a few weeks we weren't a full-fledged police state... Now we are again....

Will this go up to the Supreme Court where the miscreants on the bench who gave us Citizens United just get it over with and fully overturn the Constitution by granting the Prez full dictatorial powers to arrest anyone he wants for whatever reason he wants?.... Stay tuned.

Chris Hedges: ... "I did not vote for Obama in 2008, I voted for Nader and wrote several of Ralph’s major policy speeches and will not vote for Obama in this election, not least of which is because I just sued him in federal court. And unfortunately the appellate court last night issued a stay on Judge Forest’s ruling of a permanent junction on the section 10:21 on the NDAA, which means it’s now law again until they review it."

mb,... all the best on your upcoming Japan trip and great to see the essay showing up on Counterpunch. I wish you all the more visibility in the future.

12:11 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I wasn't referring to Salinger as part of the alternative tradn, but only as one of our great writers.


Actually, it appears that the DOJ ignored Judge Forrestal's injunction anyway, making them in contempt of court. The pt is, we now have a govt of men, not laws, and the men will do whatever the hell they want. They are hardly scared of being held in contempt.


12:24 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

MB I think you need to change your profile picture to the one in the panama hat,

Also, will there be a video posted of the Clark lecture?

Mike O'

12:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Strange to say, yours is a hopeful view of the future, pointing to something -- anything -- coalescing out of the smoldering remains of industrial civilization. Your well argued analysis is directed to cultural and civilizational formations taking hundreds of years to play out, but even larger ecological, evolutionary, and geological (and even cosmological) formations are also at play. I think the world systems folks look at those, but I'm not certain. Other predictions for the near-term future suggest not just to the collapse of capitalism and austerity for all but indeed to an ecosystem in freefall and the resulting culmination (within as little as 40 years) of a mass extinction event already underway.

To read scientific analyses based on those considerations, we are faced not with the fraying and unraveling of one paradigm eventually giving way to another (e.g., the collapse of Rome or the emergence of modernity out of feudalism) but a complete lights-out, all-bets-off, anarchic reset where whatever comes next takes millions of years. This is especially true if/when untended nuclear sites (nearly 450 of them) start popping off like Roman candles (as did Chernobyl and Fukushima) and irradiate the entire planet.

I don't possess the expertise to evaluate all claims, nor do I know what future would be best. One without humans may be the most beneficial to the rest of the biosphere, though still disastrous on the short term. However, this isn't desirable "creative destruction"; it's just destruction, or perhaps self-annihilation, where there is no meaningful afterwards on which to pin one's hopes no matter what Christian eschatology pretends.

2:38 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Probably not, but perhaps of the lecture I did in Vermont.

Anyone else who just posted here: I may have accidentally lost yr messages, so if so pls try again.


4:36 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Very happy that my wife and I got to catch the 'live' version Monday night at Clark. Thanks again for a stimulating evening.

Granted it was a small sample but we were impressed with the student questions and participation. (Before your talk we were walking around campus - had never been there before - and taking the obligatory pictures with Freud when a student asked if she could help us find anything. When I said we were going to a lecture at 7 pm she piped in "oh, the Morris Berman talk," and pointed us toward the right building.)

Also thought it was interesting that the director of the lecture series brought up the Rob Hopkins "transition towns" movement. Any thoughts on this? I've read/heard about it but really have no idea how effective/successful this alternative idea is/will be - probably very similar to the hit-and-miss Joel Magnuson examples you cited.

5:18 PM  
Blogger LJansen said...

"There are weird epochs when a regime, for a limited period, persists in power, although its time is clearly up, as if it goes on living because it doesn't notice that it is dead."

Randy Newman: "I'm Dead But I Don't Know It"

6:27 PM  
Blogger jeff davis said...

Dear Mr. Berman,

"Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it."

This is how I feel about government. Everyone talks about its deficiencies, but with the next breath they declare that democracy and the Constitution are sacrosanct and immutable (Capitalism, too, but I'll just set that one aside.)

It's my impression however, that the Constitution itself gives the lie to this notion. The Constitution seems to have been just the sort of reinvention of government that our current global "political economy" -- people and planet rape -- so desperately needs.

The authors of the Constitution were exceedingly well versed in the deficiencies of the political systems of their time. It was on the basis of that expertise and with the goal of correcting those deficiencies that they crafted the Constitution. In light of "progress" and the lessons learned since 1787, I think it's time for another reinvention.

I'm looking for a place to study and discuss the idea of a complete reinvention of the system of governance, starting from first principles: human nature and human needs and the context of history.

Can you advise me where to find that discussion?

Jeff Davis,

6:29 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I don't have a clue, but maybe some of the Wafers can help u out. Stay tuned.


Thanks again for coming; it was nice to meet u. Yes, a pretty smart audience, I thought.


7:49 PM  
Anonymous EM said...

Hi Morris.

I don't really have anything new to add to the discussion. Great essay. I read The Shock Doctrine awhile back, and I think I must have seen that Capitalsim vs. the Climate essay somewhere too, because the quotes sounded familiar. I'll have to check out Magnusen.

I came over here today because I was once again feeling like a crazy person, because I seem to perceive a different reality than most Americans. It gets lonley and depressing. This site is still depressing, but at least it's less lonely...and since I'm not "the only one" seeing my verson of reality, I feel less crazy.

So, uh...thanks, I guess.

Told ya I didn't really have much to add. Just needed to stop by for a reality check.

11:15 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Sometimes it's gd just to drop by for a brain flush. Again, u need to have that post-it on yr bathroom mirror, as an early morning reality check. Plus, spending some time working on the Mittney campaign might be beneficial as well.


11:30 PM  
Anonymous Zero said...

Great essay! I think Americans are clueless about the viciousness of what is in store for them during this “longue durée” and the period leading up to it. This will be the Shock Doctrine on steroids. And, I think it will take America a very long time to recover. The reason is primarily because as capitalism turns on America, it will devour everything in sight, with a ferocity not seen before even in Latin America or Africa. It will make the “wild capitalism” implemented by the US and the rest of the West in Eastern Europe look like picnic. Expect foreclosed homes to be torn down and sold by the brick, while homeless families are forced to live in abandoned cars across the street, cordoned off by riot police battalions. Expect railroads, power transmission lines, airports, and even “crown jewels” of capitalism such as Apple Computer Corp to be sold for scrap iron.

I have seen what capitalism did in Eastern Europe. Yes, railroads were sold for scrap iron, billion-dollar factories torn down and sold for brick value, sea ports dismantled, entire commercial navy fleets disappeared into thin air never to be found again. Those societies survived this Western viciousness and were able to muddle through and eventually reinvent themselves because the people there still have a connection with the earth and their village of origin, there is national unity, and the family system has not been destroyed yet.

I think that societies such as those in Eastern Europe or Latin America, having gone through this form of capitalism abuse already, have received a form or immunity against future such shocks. However, the Americans and the British in particular, parasitical nations of blood suckers who have lived for centuries from theft and cheating are likely to crash and stay crashed for a very, very, very long time. Serves them right!

Tim Lukeman,

What you described about Virginia also applies to Chicago now. I had lived in this town for many years, and returned a few weeks ago (just temporarily) after a 4 year absence. This used to be a nice city, but today it looks totally dilapidated, roads and bridges are in shambles. About half of the storefronts on major commercial avenues are vacant, new buildings only a few years old already look dirty and ran down. The people look far, far poorer than before. I see many more people with severe mental illness symptoms in the streets. And I am talking about the so-called North Side of Chicago, where the upper middle class lives, and where Hollywood used to shoot its stupid “picture perfect America” movies until recently. I imagine the South Side, where mostly low-income blacks live, is in even worse now than it used to be before. America is like a candle that is slowly burning itself out. I tell ya, there’s not much wax left on this candle stick.


12:19 AM  
Anonymous bart said...

"Actually, it appears that the DOJ ignored Judge Forrestal's injunction anyway, making them in contempt of court. The pt is, we now have a govt of men, not laws, and the men will do whatever the hell they want. They are hardly scared of being held in contempt."

mb, I certainly have no disagreement with that. I can't imagine them being concerned with their lawlessness since the American people are in such an uninformed stupor they don't even notice it. Even if Americans wanted to inform themselves (which I don't find the case) they're confronted with pure propaganda or infotainment, as Chomsky writes "Any dictator would admire the uniformity and obedience of the US media."

The excellent "Orwell Rolls in his Grave" documentary:

America is FUBAR:

9:18 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


CRE is central to the process by which America got turned into a police state. Ask yrself quite seriously: How many Americans are aware that the president has a 'kill list', and that every week he murders civilians by means of predator drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan? How many are aware of the passage of the NDAA on 31 Dec 2011, or what it even is, or that it has an 'indefinite detention' clause, and that this clause includes American citizens on American soil?

I'm guessing less than 1% of the American public know these things, and that very few of the remaining 99% would care, if they were informed abt them. On the other hand, I remember something abt a poll taken yrs ago on the content of the Bill of Rights, and that there was a significant % of the country that seriously thought the Bill included the Right to own pets.

Bottom line: when a nation is little more than a collection of douche bags, the gov't can do anything it wants.


9:44 AM  
Blogger LJansen said...

Over at the Naked Capitalism blog, MB's Counterpunch was recommended as a "must read." There is some lively discussion (both pro and con) of it in the comments, both pro and con. Cheers, MB!

9:45 AM  
Anonymous Marcos M said...

@jeff davis
Americans are ignorant of their own country and they are ignorant of other nations.

Government is not only necessary for human happiness, it is necessary for everything that contributes to human happiness. Think about a day in your life without any government.

Think about school, water, municipal water services, house, garbage, lead poisoning, the police, the roads, fire department, community health, food protection, FDA, etc, etc

Only a fool refuses to understand what the government does for him while enjoying the goodies from the same government:

People come here from other parts of the world because the US works; at least 40% of the powers the US government (local and federal) is put to use in solving problems and helping the masses. In most third-world nations, 0% of the powers of the government is put to use to help the masses. The most fundamental function of government is providing security and order. Without security and order, nothing else will work: school will not work, the markets will not work, the grocery stores will not be open for you! The problem is that Americans have never gone hungry; they have never witnessed wars in their neighborhoods and communities; they have had so good all their lives that they do not understand or appreciate what they have.

11:53 AM  
Blogger PedroC. said...


I completely agree on what will happen in the USA. The thing is, when Eastern Europe countries fall there is not so much of a ripple effect. If the giant falls, we're basically screwed. All of us. (Well, not if you live in a self-sustained community, but I think those are rarer to find than Dr. B's books in American book shops).

When it became clear that Spain would eventually default, a bunch of analyst made a 'what if' scenario: after a Spain default, complete fuck up of global operational logistic chains in no more than two weeks, taking months to recover (that is assuming that the financial crisis was rapidly contained). Don't want to know what will happen when the good old dear U. S. of A. bites the dust.

Globalization helps Apple sell addictive cellphones at a handsome profit and puts cheap goods at a Wal-Mart near home. On the downside, it makes all economies interdependent and very vulnerable if the main player crashes.

Thank you for the info about Transition Towns! I'll read the books about the topic - sounds like an interesting option.

12:22 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


The interesting thing abt globalization is that the supposed up side--Apple products and cell phones, e.g.--*is* a down side. There's very little 'up' at all, really.


Truth is, many Americans have gone hungry for much of American history, and not only during the Depression. As of today, official figs for hunger are 15% of the nation; real figure is abt 1/3, i.e. abt 100 million people. (Keep in mind that the criteria for the 'poverty line' date from the 60s, and are by now quite unrealistic.) 2/3 live from paycheck to paycheck; all they need is one illness or disaster, and they are royally screwed. A gd source for all this is the writing of Barbara Ehrenreich.


Well, somebody wrote that I was "one of the treasures of our age." I guess I can't bitch and moan abt that too much. Someone else actually thought I was making $ off my books (Jesus, what a laugh; I've averaged abt 2.5 cents/hr in earned royalties over my entire writing career, and I'm not kidding). And then someone wondered why Fernand Braudel (who was abt as French as one cd get) coined the phrase "la longue duree" in French! Then a few people complained that I wasn't a political activist, when I have been doing everything I can (short of shooting poor people) to get Mittney elected, and wd work for a Bachmann or Cain or Palin campaign in a heartbeat. Whee!


3:49 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

John Coltrain (shdn't it be Coltrane?)-

Sorry, much too long. Pls compress by 50% and re-submit. Thanks.


11:59 PM  
Anonymous teri schooley said...

Dr. B,

After careful consideration of the current situation, I suggested to the Mittney machine that they might want to use the following song as their theme music, but they rejected it as "too blunt and forthright". I will make the same suggestion to the Oblahblah camp, since it is really an all-purpose, true-blue American bipartisan tune. (The title of the piece is actually "Merry Minuet" - must have been uploaded by a UnitedStatesian.)

I just read a report about arsenic in rice grown in the US. The FDA will get around to a study in due time - they aren't sure that arsenic in food is as toxic as arsenic in water (which is sort of like being uncertain that the law of gravity works the same in Canada as it does in Kenya), and so, while the EPA has set limits on the "acceptable level" of arsenic in our sources of water, the FDA has never set a limit to the amount of arsenic that is "acceptable" in food products. Culling the herd, indeed. The day after this report came out, the government of South Korea withdrew all its bids on US rice products. Since the report was only released on Wed., I suspect other countries will soon follow suit.

I still keep up with the blog and comments; I would write more often, but I have pretty much run out of things to say.


5:21 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


The truth is that as far as the collapse of America goes, it's all over but the shouting. And there will be a lot of shouting, but no surprises. Meanwhile, you could send in poems about Mittney, which I'm sure all of us Wafers wd appreciate.

10:38 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Howard Zinn repeatedly wrote in "A People's History of the United States that people power is the engine for creating a fair and balanced society. This became the holy grail of the 60's "liberal" movement. What Zinn looses sight of is, how much greater the gains of the ruling class has been. Their trajectory has had few if any bumps in gaining more power/control.
For all their brilliance leftists like Zinn and Chomsky, lack the ability for challenging self criticism. To be fair though, it isn't easy to question one's belief system. To say one has been wrong begs the question : what can I possibly replace my structural outlook with which won't do permanent damage to my personal esteem? Today we have "thinker/activists" such as Berman, Hedges, Taibbi, Klein, to name a few, who have not only questioned this people power engine but aren't afraid to "rain on the party " so to speak. Again even these admirable critical thinking writers don't reflect upon their own struggles with values, principles in their public writings. That seems to be the responsibility of poets. (Hedges touchs upon it trying to align his religious beliefs with the sunami of today's world).
We desperately need to be looking in the mirror for starters. How to look seems all but lost. By this I mean ask yourself : what are your values, principles, how deep are they? What are you willing to give your life for? When I ask myself I don't get very far. As Bruce Cockburn sings: Everybody loves justice done - on somebody else....
So we are given an inch while "THEY" take feet,yards,miles. We are allowed our old games: protest, voting, pursuing the holography of the American Dream, ignoring the unpleasantness in the rest of the world while we conviently consume "stuff". How often do you hear some phrase like: "the American people know what's going on". Of course it's light weight code for "the American people know jack shit". Our ignorance, blindness to the world on many levels is constantly being praised. Isn't that how manufacturing consent works?
What does it take to see that the system isn't broken but quite healthy - in fact better than ever? I think it 's time to remake "The Life of Brian". And where Brian turns to the crowd glued to him and sez in this new version, "don't you realize your being treated like ATM machines?" And the crowd responds in unity "you've got to be kidding!"

12:57 PM  
Anonymous Marcos M said...

The only time I read about hunger in America was during the Depression of 1930’s.
What I mean by hunger is not having anything to eat – no food, no drink, and not knowing where to get your next food from. Most present Americans have never gone through an experience like that. They may live from pay check to pay check, but they still have some food to eat. Professor Wolff captures the situation better than the author you provided:

Democracy at Work
Capitalism Hits the Fan


4:47 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


That's what I mean by hunger as well, and it may affect something like 100 million Americans today. Those living from paycheck to paycheck are the *other* 200 million. Nor was hunger restricted to the Depression, historically speaking. But I do admire Wolff's work, I hafta say. Have you actually read Ehrenreich, BTW? There are also other bks on the subject, but I fear I don't have the refs readily at hand.


5:23 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Per the end of the essay, don't forget R.E.M.'s lyrics:

It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.

5:46 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: Here's one I just thought of: Michael Harrington, "The Other America" (1962). But I remember reading others, years back. Check this out, e.g.:

5:49 PM  
Blogger NearFar said...


oh rom- rom- mittney
You really really
Git me, don’t dash
Our hopes

We love that kind of outrage
Those damn 47-percentage
Can’t “Gitmo” votes
(it’s time to turn the page)

And start really tryin’
To tell the truth while you’re
Lyin' on the back of Paul

Ryan, it’s Obama you need to goad
(Cain already shot his load)

Them other Repubs were more fearsome
(Oh Mittney you “Palin” comparison)
Unless Ryan goes rogue
And the NRA guns explode

Oh dear- dear- mittney
I hope you catch by drifty
Beating barack would be so nifty

(He’s the “bain” of our -sistence)
Ain’t no dern sense
(“Kenya” still beat’em?)

Why don’t you tell’em?
Obama’s revoltin’ shackles
(Thems worse than any
Mormon tabernackles)

Oh mitt- mitt- mittney
the rest of us Yanks could use a lifty
(while we’re ‘Biden’ our time)
Cause them liberals always shitn’ me

-Christian Roess

6:47 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

Dr. B,

Fantastic piece of prose; I've shared it w/several ppl, it really struck me and reminded me of why this blog is a great respite. I hope you have a lovely trip to Japan, Maestro.

Julian and Tim L

You guys oughta see Cleveland. Or better yet, don't. Everything Tim said about Virginia, everywhere. It's quite difficult to feel anything other than despair in much of the city. I was with an acquaintance/colleague the other day and we had to go into the city; the colleague kept talking about the "third world", and how unlucky ppl who lived in "those countries" are - until I pointed out that where we were walking was quite horrible, and frightening to boot.

8:42 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


That was so beautiful; I wept. I really do love Mittney, and I'm sad that he's a turkey and shot himself in the claw.


Glad u enjoyed it. I hafta admit, even the *thought* of Cleveland frightens me.


8:59 PM  
Blogger Zosima said...

Keeping the wrong sort of people from voting, not baseball, has always been the great national pastime. So cheer up, and enjoy this little video about the laws passed by our brave GOP governors in many of the the swing states that will hopefully be successful in preventing millions of these parasites from voting. Trust Mittney, everything is going according to plan, campaign headquarters may be in Boston, but remember, all instructions are transmitted directly from the planet Kolob. Keep the faith!

10:17 PM  
Anonymous Mess Lassk said...

enjoy this little video about the laws passed by our brave GOP governors in many of the the swing states that will hopefully be successful in preventing millions of these parasites from voting. Trust Mittney, everything is going according to plan

That's exactly what pisses a lot of people up around the world: these people run around talking about democracy when they do not practice democracy inside their own states and nation. They call other people terrorists, but they are the deadliest terrorists ever. They do not want Iran to have the bomb because this very reason - they continue to lie and intimidate and kill around the world.

4:39 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, this is why I'm hoping for a Mittney victory. Once in power, I wd be appointed his Chief Advisor, and the following programs wd be implemented:

1. There will be no criticism of the US for any reason whatsoever. Anyone who criticizes the US will be shipped off to Guantanamo, where they belong, for an indefinite period. This includes not just US citizens but anyone, anywhere, who sees fit to criticize the US. And while I'm at it, Toronto and Paris (= cheese-eating surrender monkeys) will be vigorously nuked.

2. Since Guantanamo will not be able to house the many millions of ungrateful wretches who criticize the US, we shall expand the construction of CMU's--'communication mangement units--i.e., political prisons--as they now exist in Indiana and Illinois. Every state will solve its unemployment problem by building several huge penitentiaries.

3. If anyone is left unemployed, or regarding the 47% that Mittney correctly identified as being on the dole: sorry, they will hafta be gunned down using predator drones and other sophisticated technology. These people will never learn to take responsibility for themselves, so there's no reason for them to continue to take up space on the planet.

4. All remaining citizens will be required to memorize "Atlas Shrugged," and to read the new book from my Chief Advisor, "Cornerstones of the Mittnaic Endeavor." Anyone posting a negative review of this book on Amazon will be waterboarded.

I, Mittney

5:08 AM  
Anonymous Smith said...

John coltrain:

Actually, I think asking scholars like Chomsky or Hedges to self-criticize, when they are ALREADY doing everything they possibly can to stop the American juggernaut, is itself part of the problem, and also part of the reason the left has not been able to reverse any of the right's gains: we demand an "impossible standard of perfection" before we'll ever deign ourselves to LISTEN.

As an analogy: recently, I had to leave a liberal group (which shall remain nameless) I'd been attending for years, because the group leader seemed to think my negative opinion of America stemmed from a lack of proper self-criticism and self-work, and that I was "putting Americans down". I attempted to point out to him that it is the rest of America who cannot self-criticize if they're willing to rain down bombs on innocent people in other countries, or are willing to abandon the hungry to their fate.

Nothing doing. If I was questioning my fellow Americans' behavior, I was being arrogant and I needed to change my opinion forthwith. God forbid I should ever attempt to do the same courageous "speaking up" as Morris Berman or Neil Postman were capable of doing.

Maybe Noah Linden is right: Liberals are just as fascistic as the conservatives, only in a different way.

Thoughts, Berman?

1:01 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, it's a topic I go back and forth on, esp. when I run into cultural critics who are extremely zealous in their cause. I recently told one of these guys that if he ever got into power, we'd be worse off than with what we've got now. I also recently attended a lecture on the environment; the speaker was 'glazed', evangelical--even if she was right. Perhaps it comes down to the problem of Eric Hoffer's "True Believer" syndrome, about which I wrote in "A Question of Values" and elsewhere.

Our jazz musician writes:

"even these admirable critical thinking writers don't reflect upon their own struggles with values, principles in their public writings. That seems to be the responsibility of poets."

Well, what can I say? I wrote a book of poetry, and a book of essays that does reflect on myself and on my values...but ultimately I doubt I'm very important, in the larger scheme of things. Again, balance: No self-crit creates the 'true believer'; lots of it creates navel-gazing and even an unwillingness to take a stand.

Maybe that's why I put a great emphasis on the importance of humor, even as the ship is going down. I just don't trust anyone who isn't funny.

Graffito from Paris, May '68:
"Nous sommes marxistes, tendence groucho"; We are Marxists, Groucho-style. That, I like.


1:54 PM  
Anonymous Savantesimal said...

It's not just soldiers being pushed over the edge, though their suicide rate also continues to climb...

Huffington Post: Suicides Now America's Leading Cause Of Death By Injury

Between 2000 and 2008 motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death by injury, but suicide surpassed car crashes in 2009, according to a recent study in the American Journal of Public Health. The switch is the culmination of a decade-long trend; the rate of death by suicide increased by 15 percent over the past ten years, while the unintentional motor vehicle crash death rate dropped by 25 percent during that same period.

The study didn’t specifically factor in economic conditions, but many have speculated that the downturn may be responsible for a boost in suicides in America and around the world. In Greece, the suicide rate for men rose by 24 percent between 2007 and 2009, according to The New York Times. Suicides motivated by economic crisis grew by 52 percent in Italy in 2010.

4:08 PM  
Blogger Boris the Spider said...

The title says it all: "How a broker spent $520m in a drunken stupor and moved the global oil price"

This is what high-speed computer trading has brought us -- the world market moves on the whim of a bottle of hooch. Just wait 'till we can all do this on our iPhones!

4:20 PM  
Blogger Zosima said...

It really doesn’t matter what Chomsky or Hedges say because people like Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck have had thousands of hours of prime time TV time to explain foreign policy to Americans and Chomsky and Hedges have had zero hours. This is not likely to change in the foreseeable future.
Interestingly, our leaders have mostly followed Coulter’s advice when she told us we needed to invade Muslim countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity. And we’ve been successful in accomplishing the first two goals, but we’ve failed badly in accomplishing the crucial third goal. Even though our military is now mostly made up of evangelical Christians, they just haven’t done a very good job converting the Muslims to Christianity.
So, maybe a Mormon President will finally make the difference, as a missionary Mittney knows how to make converts. So sending our bicycle riding Mormon missionaries to the Middle East may be the answer we’ve been looking for to turn the tide. With this new Mormon God on our side, along with Jesus and Yahweh, we shall surely prevail. If Mittney wins I think our troubles in the Middle East will soon be over.

4:50 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I'm not sure what type of research you'll be doing in Japan but, if you have time before you go, you might want to read Murakami's Underground about the sarin gas attacks. Even though a large group of people were affected, very few agreed to be interviewed. A much different culture from America where we'd all be elbowing our way to the front of the line for our 15 minutes of Stone Phillip's attention. I'm looking forward to your observations on Japan and particular topic of interest.

On Naomi Klein's article you wrote about in Counterpunch, I agree the corporations got the picture a long time ago that changing business as usual would spell doom for their bank accounts if they publicly acknowledged their awareness of and participation in pollution and its dire consequences. A funny thing has happened in this country when it comes to environmental issues--corporations seem to be pretty much off the hook and the onus is on us as individuals to "turn it around." So if the Artic ice completely melts it's b/c we didn't recycle enough beer cans or drive Priuses rather than corporations and the government working together to frack, deep water drill, poison the water with toxic runoff. I'm not saying we shouldn't take our own participation seriously but no one who reads this blog will be signing to okay the Keystone pipeline and those are the actions that really matter.

6:14 PM  
Anonymous bart said...

Marcos M

I enjoyed the Wolff video very much. Thanks for posting.

Another writer on poverty in America, Frances Fox Piven:

Naturally, she's been labelled by the right wing (in the person of Glenn Beck) a subversive, resulting in hundreds of death threats.

We'd be living in a wonderful country if only we could rid ourselves of Commies like Michael Harrington, Barbara Ehrenreich, Dorothy Day, LBJ and his war on poverty, RFK wandering around in the Bronx trying to stir up violent revolution, et al.

There's a Chris Hedges/Joe Sacco collaboration which examines current destitution in various US locations, rarely if ever reported on:

Well, yes, Americans still have some food to eat, as you say. We're not yet Southern Sudan or Ireland during the potato famine.... But I certainly wouldn't count it out as a future scenario, particularly now that we have two good God-fearin' Presidential candidates dedicated to Social Darwinist austerity measures.

7:38 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yes, I read the Murakami book a while back, and thought he had a lot of gd insights into the nature of J society. Not surprising, tho: capitalism emptied it of meaning, so people joined the Aum cult in order to find it. Very gd interviews w/former members.


I'm quite confident that Mittney can clean up the Middle East; yet another reason I'm sad abt his future loss. Meanwhile, NBC foned me and said that from now on, for every 60 seconds they give to Ann Coulter, they will give 10 hrs to me. And here I thought nothing cd change in America. ps: However, they will be calling my show "A Cure for Insomnia." Probably rt.


7:43 PM  
Blogger Lionheart said...

I greatly appreciated your article at Counterpunch.

May I suggest that it is also appropriate to place Paul Goodman in the alternative tradition (despite, or perhaps because of, his contradictions and inconsistencies).

[I wrote about him in 2003:]

8:26 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Most definitely; one of my heroes, for sure. Taught me that we can all grow out of having grown up absurd. (Well, perhaps not all.)


I remember, some yrs ago, one study revealed that a gd # of Americans were buying tins of cat food off the grocery store shelves, and not for their cats. Only way to survive. I don't remember where the article appeared, or what the % was; just that it was abt 20 yrs ago. Meanwhile, the idea is making a comeback:


9:17 PM  
Blogger Frederick Froth said...

I think we should all elect Zippy the Pinhead as the next prezident.
Or perhaps R Crumb.
Unfortunately the other well known trickster Timothy Leary is no longer here to advise us.

Meanwhile the two cartoon characters that best sum up the American ethos in this time and place are Beavis and Butthead. B & B are obsessively interested in stuffing junk "food" in their mouths, what comes out at the other end, and wanitng to screw whatever moves. But never being successful at "it".

They also inevitably trash everything that they come across.

10:20 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Well, and then there's this:

The guy was threatening the cop w/a pen.

I tell u, when Mittney becomes president, we are going to gun down all amputees, disabled people, and the mentally ill. In addition to being a great threat to various police forces around the country, they are wastrels on the dole. Fuck 'em.


11:05 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I want to thank Morris for making me the group's "jazz musician"! (Does that make me a jazz wafer? - btw what is a wafer anyway?) As the official jm I would like to say a few words. First off, I do admire Trane greatly but one of his disciples, Wayne Shorter has had a greater influence on me. But THE musical influence goes to Miles Davis.

As your jm I suggest trying to feel the beat rather than counting it. And be careful of getting too caught up in the groove! Most Americans get stuck there. When that happens it gets hard to improvise, come up with something new, to say.........

12:22 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Happily, that will never happen on this blog. Wafers rock! (As does Mittney)


5:37 AM  
Anonymous Marcos M said...

@bar: "I enjoyed the Wolff video very much. Thanks for posting"

Checkout more videos from Richard D. Wolff (pay close attention to his knowledge and use of history, especially on the C-Span video - very illuminating):

7:50 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

mb : ".... No self-crit creates the 'true believer'; lots of it creates navel-gazing and even an unwillingness to take a stand."

“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
― C.G. Jung

“Silence is only frightening to people who are compulsively verbalizing.”
― William S. Burroughs,

The curious thing about the site where I grabbed these quotes was, those whose quotes on "introspection" who thought it too much of a self absorbing process are people of the present age. I guess this proves you have to be dead to be introspective.

BTW my favorite Burroughs quote: "Language is a virus from another planet."

Andy Kauffman would probably lurk this blog too

4:10 PM  
Anonymous Zero said...


Regarding that wheelchair-bound double amputee who was shot by the good Houston police office for waving a pen at him, all I’ve got to say is, “Serves him right!” I am tired of double amputees attacking us from every corner. These days it seems 47% of America is just schizo double amputees looking for a handout.

Just last Sunday, I decided to drive over to that deserted Barnes and Noble store I mentioned a few weeks ago. So, I get in my Hummer, and start cruizin’ down the potholes. While waiting at the first stoplight, two double amputees encircle me, each armed with a styrofoam cup. I turn up the music, and ignore them. At the next stoplight, just a block away, one more double amputees encircles my Hummer. The same thing happened 3 more times. At that point my nerves were shot, so when I see the next double amputee heading my way, I rev up my Hummer and run the SOB over. The sound of his crushed bones brings tears to my eyes – tears of joy, of course. And I felt so relaxed after that. One less 47%-er!

When I finally get to the bookstore, I discover that it went out of business due to lack of customers. I feel slightly irate over the matter, so on my way back I try to relax some more. Unfortunately, it turned out that the first double amputee I try to run over was no amputee at all, because when he saw my truck heading his way he jumped out of his wheelchair and sprinted away like an Olympian. It was too late to steer my Hummer back onto the road, so I had to run over a pregnant woman with 5 kids in tow who were waiting at the bus stop. They were brown skinned, so I figure they were Ayrab terrorists or illegal Mexicans. Lucky for us I put them out of their misery before they grew up into full-fledged 47% double amputee freeloaders. Serves them right!

And I was very, very relaxed for the rest of that day.


5:50 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I'm proud of u; u.r. a true Wafer, what can I say.

Yr also a true Mittnite.

"Mittnite at the oasis
Send your camel to bed..."


6:18 PM  
Anonymous Godfrey said...

Hi Morris,

I'm fairly new to your site.

I was wondering why you used the word America and not the United States in your writing and book titles.

Appreciate your thoughts.

7:39 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I use both, just for the sake of variety. It gets a bit redundant otherwise.


7:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

7:55 PM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

john coltrain
three Burroughs links for you...
you might have seen the first two, but I doubt you've seen the 3rd...
if none of these is new to you, feel encouraged to send some from your favorites

Count Zero
Since combat missions against the 47% are not yet operational, sadly there is no way to recommend you for a gold or silver star.
But keep those reflexes sharp and the Hummer full of gas...
if Mittens can pull it off, it'll be open season on these treasonous wretches by springtime next year.

47% joke...
Why do the 47% always want a hand-out ?
Because the double-amputee bastards can't accept the leg-up we're offering.

Maria Muldaur? She opened for these guys back in the mid-70's...
so in the late-night spirit, here's...

8:13 PM  
Anonymous Godfrey said...

Interesting, Morris.

But don't you think that "Dark Ages America" would convey a different meaning (and attract a different target audience) than "Dark Ages United States"?


8:30 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Actually, I don't. Besides, "Dark Ages United States" is a very awkward phraseology; no publisher I know of wd release a bk w/a title like that.


9:23 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

This American Life: CRE in full swing (does it *get* any dumber?):

11:53 PM  
Blogger Tin Hat said...

I've read this twice, and now I'm imploring my friends to read it. Thank you!

12:54 AM  
Anonymous Zero said...

Now, this woman clearly deserves this because she speaks with a foreign accent, which is unacceptable in Arizona. She should have got the “deadly force” treatment!

I don’t understand morons like this woman who still hang around this country, cling on to their stupid houses, and send their children to “serve” in the American military. What kind of moron is that? It’s time to go back home, you losers! America is now more of a police state than Romania ever was under Ceausescu. What are you waiting for in America anymore? Immigrant Auschwitz? Is that what you’re waiting for? It'll happen, don't worry.


2:21 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Latest polls on Mittney: he's toast. He is trailing in almost all of the swing states. He is perceived as a man w/o a message. Actually, he does have a message: If yr rich, yr a gd person; if yr poor, yr a loser. That's a tough sell, when most of the country isn't rich.

So, it's 4 more yrs of Millard Fillmore. He does have a message (I guess), though it's rather dubious and only mildly positive. The problem is that he's demonstrated repeatedly that he's great at rhetoric and rather weak on implementation. In fact, in a number of cases he gave a fancy speech and then went about doing the opposite of what he promised. In any case, taking us to Reality is hardly on his agenda; this is a presidency of illusion, as Jeffrey St. Clair and many others have noted. So while Mittney is vapid, Obama is insipid. We face 4 more yrs of failed vision, tepid crisis management, and basically, bullshit.

End-of-Empire Blues: what else to call it? Whoever is in the W.H. is hardly the pt; the pt is that the US is going down--the powers that be are seeing to that. Which is gd; we need to get the show over with. It's just that Mittney would have done a better job of that, and in addition, he makes for great late-night comedy, unlike Obama. He's almost as empty as G.W. Bush, and it wd have been entertaining to see him in the W.H., shooting himself in the foot on a daily basis. But in 2 mos., no one will even remember his name (who is John Kerry, anyway?).

Mittney, so close and yet so far!
So few understood you, Mittney! But on this blog, the Wafers love you, and you are Numero Uno.

Adieu, Mittney...we hardly knew ye.


10:26 AM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

Obama leads Mittney among NASCAR fans. NASCAR fans are something like 99% white.

I don't believe Rom is toast, though. I think he will win. You smile. Keep smiling. A Reaganesque blowout will occur. A Mitteny monsoon. The American people will come through, don't worry.

The best part is, you read it here first.

10:40 AM  
Anonymous dave in Van said...

MB and USians,

Do you think that when candidate X is chosen in the voting booth the gizmo won't give the vote to candidate Y, or is that too cynical?


11:42 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

There is nothing left worth saving in this country.
It is so awash in misery, and we all know what is to come.

A bunch of clowns and ignorants. Every where you turn, anywhere; is stupidity. God! What a joke! No one has a voice.

Even, my wife is against me, because I want to complain about issues in a town of 5,000. If I do, I think she is afraid the stupid people in town will come down on her shop. I'm sure she is right. The hucksters always win.

2:55 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Have u put a post-it on yr bathrm mirror? This is very impt, that u look at it every day.


That sorta trick can work if the vote is nearly 50/50, because then a slight fudge can tip things in a particular direction. But Mittney is trailing significantly in the swing states, so I don't think that fiddling w/the machinery can pull it out for him. Just a guess.


4:03 PM  
Anonymous JSRANK said...

MB, regarding ... the point. The point is the US is going down.

Well, it's been sinking for a long time. It's only recently that a slim percentage of supposedly 'smart' people have noticed it. I knew we were FFF'ed as a nation when only 7% or so opposed the saber-rattling in lead up to the phony Iraq War. Yes, I was one of those voices in the wilderness then, and called all sorts of pejoratives...unpatriotic kook one of the mildest.
As General Smedley Butler astutely observed, all wars are economic in reality.
What the ultra-rich know, is that they instigate their 'revolutions' by devaluing the currencies and instituting economic chaos. They practice 'neutron bomb' economics; that kills people, but leaves infrastructure and properties intact.
They then buy up at fire sale prices from desperate masses.

The masses have but one strategy to fight this plunder.

4:26 PM  
Anonymous Lorien said...

Brilliant essay, thank you. A little hit of oxygen to stave off the mind numbing gases arising from forced consumption of election coverage (forced because my frakkin job has a TV on at all times in the lunchroom).

I just read Cormac Cullinen's _Wild Law_ which posits, similar to Klein, that "environmentalism" as we know it (Gore, Friedman) will never work because it doesn't question economic expansion as a baseline good. He suggests legal rights for nature (Christopher Stone, Thomas Berry) as an alternative approach -- i.e. granting "rights" to an ecosystem such as a river to exist, "rights" to species to exist, etc. While I think those are exciting ideas, Cullinen doesn't really address *how* this change to a less humancentric view in the legal system will happen. To be fair, that's not his goal, he's a lawyer and is discussing changes in jurisprudence. I do think, though, that there *is* a possibilty that some sort of rights of nature paradigm could work in an NM way on a small, community based scale (such as the work done by the CELDF to empower small municipalities to resist corporate pollution, frakking etc.), but only if Gore, Friedman, et al. stay out of it. Another point to consider here is that the US constitution basically enshrines property rights, it isn't the shining egalitarian document it is made out to be.

In any event, I'm rambling. What I meant to say was that, as always, your essay gets at the roots and probable trajectories of our f**kedness -- I guess that's part of the longue duree analysis. It's, oddly enough, way more satisfying than all the hortatory visions I've been sifting through for what seems like years. The notion that the current paradigms (capitalism, modernity) that a lot of us can't see beyond are parts of a cycle, and not written in stone are oddly comforting, even though the abyss is not at all pleasant.

So, thanks again for the beautiful essay. As someone else said, it's pretty much impossible to argue with it.

5:22 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


My own feeling is that Butler was only partly rt. Check out my essays on 'conspiracy' and 'locating the enemy' in QOV. There are deep psychological causes, largely unconscious, for US behavior, and in that sense folks like Obama are little more than marionettes on strings. For example, the Void that exists, historically speaking, at the center of American identity has created an unacknowledged terror of the Other, such that Americans believe that the only way to be safe is to forcefully remake the entire world in its own image, i.e. into one big America. Other nations can go along, get on the 'democracy-free mkt' bandwagon, or else face our military. We can't seem to do anything else because we can't see thru our own narrative. In fact, Americans (including the Best and the Brightest) don't even realize that we *have* a narrative; they just think that what they see is 'reality' (this is reminiscent of Plato's Parable of the Cave).

Was the destruction of Iraq in 2003 really abt 'blood for oil'? Partly; but I suspect the major part was to get geopolitical control of the Middle East; which in turn was about converting the whole world to our way of life, so we can feel 'safe'. All we managed to do was to make ourselves less safe, of course; which then leads to further war on the 'enemy' (Communism, Islam, whatever), which leads them to fight back, which...etc.

*We* remain our enemy, however; whatever damage 9/11 did to us (3,000 people), the real damage lies in how mindlessly and stupidly we reacted to the attack. Osama must have been laughing up his sleeve, I'm thinking. It's as tho he and Dick Cheney colluded in a project to destroy the country (I don't mean this literally, of course, but the effect is the same).

The only strategy the masses have to fight this, as far as I can see, is awareness; but this takes insight, and Americans simply don't have it. Henry Kissinger has never been a hero of mine, but he said a couple of things that I wish Americans wd at least consider. One was, that if you set yrself up as a hegemon, you become a target for the rest of the world. The other was that Americans in particular have very little capacity for understanding the viewpoint of the Other. But these are not things that Americans are going to consider; they are simply beyond our grasp. So we continue to live in a fog, believing (e.g.) that the difference between Mittney and Obama is significant, and that elections in general are momentous occasions. The fog is what's doing us in.

I'm sad abt this, in the last analysis. I still have an attachment to the land of the US, the geography into which I was born, and which shaped my infant consciousness, my body. And now I'm forced to watch the nation committing suicide, without a hope in hell of avoiding this outcome, all because 314 million people (no matter what their IQ) are unable to think, to see beneath surface appearances. In the end, this is both tragedy and farce.


5:23 PM  
Anonymous shep said...

Hell, I'm only 71 and have lost all hope of a fit for use memory.

What is the post-it supposed to say?

6:05 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Mb:, all because 314 million people (no matter what their IQ) are unable to think, to see beneath surface appearances. In the end, this is both tragedy and farce."

Yes, right on but add "unable to feel, lack the capability for awareness and lack the capacity to engage in introspection". Without these elements of being, one's "insight" will never be deep enough for one to see beneath the surface.

A painting my sister did years ago: people are naked, walking back and forth on a sandy ocean beach on a clear day. Only they aren't completely naked - each one has a blindfold on. And each person is holding a vanity mirror up to their blinded face, as if they could see themselves . That is your Amerikan "belly gazing" life, the tragedy and farce..........

7:34 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


Your latest post really gets to the heart of the matter, i.e., the tremendous waste of what might have been a worthy nation, one that somehow managed to offer a lot of beauty & art to Western culture in spite of itself, and especially in spite of the majority of its population. It really does make me want to cry -- so much that was good, or potentially good, wil be lost forever.

For example, "American Masters" on PBS just featured Carl Sandburg, and surprisingly didn't stint on his fiercely socialist views. Here's someone who saw the flaws & weaknesses of America, but had hope in its people, in some indestructible vein of decency & goodness ... something that turned out not to exist. And of course we could think of so many other creative people as well, people whose work was ignored, attacked, finally accepted by a handful of people who genuinely care, while being forgotten by the masses. Kardashians? Rihanna? Yes! Melville? Miles Davis? No!

Instead we get crap like this proposed FOX reality show, described by "Entertainment Weekly" thusly:

Fox is moving forward with a controversial new reality series where companies must decide whether to fire an employee.

No bread, but plenty of circuses for the bloodthirsty, even as more libraries are closed & teachers are demonized.

Americans are like the Bizarros in those old Superman comics, doing everything backwards, only without the childlike charm ...

8:17 PM  
Anonymous satyaSarika said...

I'm sad too. Sad and resigned. But at least I don't waste my time as much trying to follow all the hellatious happenings. That would be a full-time job of unsurpassed futility. Better to practice zen, love one's friends, converse with simpaticos, and do whatever else one finds rewarding and fulfilling.

8:23 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

jazz musician-

I *did* mention awareness, yes? The rest I thought was obvious/implied. (No need to engage in stylistic overkill, in other words.)


I'm horrified that u never posted it. No wonder yr depressed. Well, this'll cheer u rt up:



8:43 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Mittney, R.I.P.:

Plus, Ging Newtrich just crapped all over him in a cnn interview.

Bottom line: the guy's a douche bag. (You'd think that wd work in his favor, but apparently not in this case. Could it be that he's *too much* of a douche bag? Even for Americans? Is he, in other words, an Over-Douche Bag? This election is so exciting...)

10:57 PM  
Blogger LJansen said...

MB sez: RIP, Mittney.

Okay, so now all you WAFers, do not skip any steps:

1. Denial and Isolation [well you can skip this one -- it's hard to deny he's a goner, & we are not isolated here at DAA.]
2. Anger
3. Bargaining
4. Depression
5. Acceptance

Have a nice day. :)

11:25 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Of course, these 5 Kubler-Ross steps can be applied to Americans' reaction to hearing that the country is going down the tubes. Most of the population is somewhere between 1 and 2; only Wafers are at 5 (abt 100 people out of a nation of 314 million). The Left (The Nation, Democracy Now, etc.) is so steeped in denial that they look like a large collection of ostriches (the Right, on the other hand, resembles a large collection of turkeys; I'm not quite sure which is more ludicrous).

Or to the notion that the planet is kaputt: Stage 3 would be buying a Prius, for example, or recycling, or attempting 'corporate green' solutions. (On this all Wafers are encouraged to download an early episode of "30 Rock" entitled 'Greenzo.)

As for Mittney, where is he with regard to the fact that he's toast, and will go down in flames on Nov. 6? Definitely at Stage 1; altho in his private moments, when he's all alone and can't even bullshit himself, he's at Stage 4. He'll hit Stage 5 around Nov. 15 (maybe).

Where am I re: the refusal of the Rupert Murdoch Press to publish my 5-vol. "Principles of Mittnism"? Stage 2: rage; plus Stage 3: I have suggested to them that when Mittney loses, we bring out a book of memoirs, reminiscences if you will, called "Rom Mittney in Song and Story." I keep checking my e-mail Inbox for a reply. Any day now...


11:43 PM  
Anonymous bart said...

Marcos- thanx again for the Wolff videos!

mb: "Could it be that he's too much of a douche bag?"

It's inconceivable to me that Mittney has found the Douche Bag threshold and stepped over it! There's actually a bottom to American stupidity? And Mittney has found it! This is a historic event. Mittney has managed to prove himself too stupid to be elected by the American public???? How could this be? Surpassing Reagan's alzheimer's?

And will he ever return again? Popping up in the graveyard of other failed Republican Prez candidates:

Mittney wipes out this fantastic array of Presidential possibilities: Santorum, Cain, Trump, Bachmann , Perry, Gingrich....

and then wanders around like a headless imbecile so halfwitted that even the undecideds are giving him a pass this election?

12:19 AM  
Blogger Zosima said...

Tim, Coltrain, fellow Waffers:

Sure, America has had some impressive artists, poets, writers, musicians, and thinkers, but don’t expect that Americans will ever learn about them. As you know, under the imperatives of austerity, music and arts education are being eliminated as non-essential frills that we can no longer afford. I’m sure the study of literature and history will soon follow them into the dustbin. Education will focus on creating the only kind of worker our economy’s owners need, someone to tend machines in thoughtless silence. The privileged few will be taught the arts of creating complex scams to steal what’s left of the meager wages from this dolt workforce. Here we can see in a nutshell our oligarchs’ dream society, is has mostly already happened.

3:56 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


"Already happened"...yeah, looks like it. When I was in VT a couple of wks ago I was talking to a prof at some univ. there, maybe it was UVM, I can't remember, but he said to me: "It's now the case that when freshman arrive, they know nothing, and I mean that literally. You ask them who Hitler was, or Franklin Delano Roosevelt, or how many planets circle the earth, and they draw a blank. All they know is video games. Anything you tell them--anything--is new information." And these are college freshman at a good school. Back in the mid-80s, a German friend of mine was doing his freshman year in NYC (Columbia or NYU, I forget), and the guys in his dorm wanted to know where Germany was, and whether it had TV. True story. That was nearly 30 yrs ago, with young adults at a good university in New York. Can you imagine what the freshman class was like at Slippery Rock Community College? Bottom line: we are a nation of mindless buffoons. Speaking of which:


I think I may have figured it out. The real problem is that Mittney doesn't have a story line, whereas Obama does. Obama's story is a bad one, and a dishonest one; but at least it can be shaped into some sort of lame narrative. Mittney is nothing more than a haircut; there is no story there, and so Americans, as dumb as they are, can't make any rudimentary sense of the guy, except that he has a gd barber. (Of course, this all takes place on a visceral level, since Americans are too stupid to think. Viscerally speaking, they need to feel/believe that they are part of something, going somewhere--as in the American Dream. This is why they are depressed today: they know in their gut that the Dream is in the toilet, that the country is going to hell in a handbasket, and that they have no real future. This also explains why they are getting increasingly violent.)

In a way, this election reminds me of 1996. Remember Bob Dole? While he wasn't totally vapid, like Mittney, his problem was also that he had no story, whereas Bill Clinton did (again, it was a bad story--"let's all make money!"--and dishonest, as the gap between rich and poor widened during his admin--but at least, it was a story). Or take the election of 2004: John Kerry's problem was that he couldn't come up with a story that was significantly different from Bush Jr's. Thus, as in the present election, the voters could not see what the advantage was to switching horses (actually, horses' asses) in midstream.

In addition, Mittney continues to make it worse. "47% of the country are layabouts on the dole" hardly qualifies as a story, and it is certainly not a story that flatters the American public, or eases their anxieties.

Toast, I tell u; toast: polls from yesterday indicate that Romney is behind by 10 pts in Ohio, and 9 in Fla. There's no way he can lose those 2 states and win the election. Yes, folks: even in America, a haircut is not enuf. You need a story.


5:16 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Dear Dr. Berman and Friends,

There is an amusing article in Harpers today in which the author teases literary and cultural allusions out of a collection of Romney gaffes. It is pretty funny, which is, as many here have observed, about all we have left. And I propose that we begin referring to W. Mitt Romney as "Willard." Willard is after all very close to Millard. The Harpers piece can be found here:

And here is an excerpt:

Major Rom
“When you have a fire in an aircraft there’s no place to go, exactly, there’s no— and you can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that. It’s a real problem.”
This is Major Rom to ground control, I’m squeezing out the window,
And I’m floating in a most peculiar way . . .

Ground control to Major Rom, your circuit’s dead, is something wrong?
Can you hear me, Major Rom?
Did you roll the window down?
Are you insane, Major Rom?
You’re an idjit, Major Rom . . .

The Love Song of W. Mitt Romney
“Ha, ha. We’re in the stretch, aren’t we? Look at those clouds. It’s beautiful. Look at those things.”
Let us go then, you and I,
While the clouds are stretched across the sky,
Like my campaign etherised upon a table.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of time in Mexico . . .


5:45 AM  
Anonymous Zero said...

In case anybody missed Julian Assange's rebuke of O'bummer at the UN meeting, here is is:

I remember when I was growing up in Communist Romania, and some dissidents would seek political asylum in the US embassy. Oh, how things have changed in 20 years. How proud America stood back then. But how greatly the proud have fallen. Oh how shocking! How embarrassing! How humiliating! And yet, how just.

9:50 AM  
Blogger LJansen said...

Tears must be blurring his vision. Tweeter Conservative Top Cat doesn't know it's over.

Top Conservative Cat ‏@TeaPartyCat:

"#ImWithMitt because I won't believe Obama's birth certificate until I get in a time machine and witness him coming out of his mother's womb."

10:56 AM  
Anonymous Marcos M said...

@bart: "Marcos- thanx again for the Wolff videos!"

"Mittney has managed to prove himself too stupid to be elected by the American public????"

Actually, there is something here to be investigated by smart researchers and social scientists like Dr B and Dr Wolff: Does Mitt signify the prevailing problem in the current American society/economy??

The question can be rephrased in different formats (research questions):

Is intelligence for business different from intelligence for government?

Is decision making in business different from decision making in government?

If a person is successful in leading 50,000 people in a private firm, can he be successful in leading 300 million people in a nation?

If a person succeeds in plundering private companies can he succeed in plundering public organizations like USA and Texas?

How can this man with this low-level of intelligence be successful in business - did he really work for the money under his name?

10:57 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

Thank you for reminding me, Sir.

I LIVE AMONG DOLTS. (I'm happy now)

And, common, disgusting criminals called elites, that we can do nothing about. Even blacks have joined the parasitic money parade.

3:56 PM  
Anonymous Smith said...

There's technically a way the planet might not be "kaput", although using that way would make us no better than the sociopaths and would do as much harm as good.

And that's the way the radical activist Derrick Jensen proposes: he frequently uses the analogy that if a psychopath has broken into your house, he may first decide to kill your wife and children, but eventually he will turn the gun on you. In that situation, the question becomes, how are you going to stop the psychopath before he kills you all?

His proposal is that if the people in power won't stop wrecking the world on their own accord, we have to make it so they "have no other choice," and we can't use their moral systems or laws to do it.

He's rather vague in his essays on what that means, but his books are more clear: he wants people to blow up dams and cell towers, to start with, and then proceed to do "whatever it takes" to stop industrial civilization. If non-violence works, by screwing up the paperwork so the native population of lizards doesn't get bulldozed over for example, do it. If violence works, such as possibly blowing up the homes of the power-brokers, do that too.

Basically, Jensen's idea is that if the physical reality of our situation is that our culture is going to create a future that cannot sustain human life OR ANY OTHER LIFE, that takes priority over EVERYTHING ELSE and anything to stop that outcome is justified. Even the "Unibomber solution".

I don't endorse that solution, though, because if you wipe out the entire 6,000 years of civilization (and Jensen thinks that whole time period is basically industrial), you wipe out the "life of the mind" along with it.


4:25 PM  
Anonymous Diogenes said...

This reminds me of a Russian story that I read in one of Zizek's books: A Mongol warrior on his horse came upon a russian peasant and his wife whereupon he stopped and informed them that he was going to rape the peasant's wife. Remarking at how dusty the road was , the mongol then ordered the peasant to cup his testicles to keep them from getting dusty. After he completed his assault on the woman, the Mongol got on his horse and rode away. Once the Mongol was safely out of sight the peasant started chortling with joy. The astonished wife demanded to know what was so funny especially since she had just been brutally raped. "But I won", the peasant exclaimed. "Didn't you notice woman, how dusty the Mongols balls were?"
Obama winning the election will only get the 1 percenters' balls dusty. The rape continues.

5:20 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


A # of people have written me that they don't mind my rather grim outlook, because it's obviously correct, and that being in touch w/the truth is something of a relief after wallowing in public left- and right-wing b.s. So of course u.r. happy w/yr post-it, because it's absolutely true: You live among dolts. Don't doubt it for 1 second, amigo: You live among dolts. r.u. hearing me? You live among dolts.


I guess my problem is that I find civilization kinda groovy. I would have loved to have been a scribe in the Alexandria Library, for example. And wiping out civilization means wiping out hot corned beef sandwiches on rye with cole slaw and Russian dressing; to which I say: fugeddaboudit!


ps: Shep: You live among dolts. Plus, there are more of them every day, and they are getting doltier as we speak.

5:41 PM  
Anonymous Savantesimal said...

If you've not gotten depressed (or scared) enough from the easily noticed "pop culture" trends in dumbing down, how about some in-depth studies of the decline? Onpoint has got another show on it. The statistics they discuss on rates of kids of all ethnicities and all but the highest economic backgrounds dropping out of school and getting involved in crime are truly frightening.

onpoint: Upward Mobility In America Now

New census report out this month on Americans and money. The income gap grows again. The big majority of Americans see no gains in a pale recovery. Median household income, down 8 percent from 2007. Middle class, falling. The poor, going nowhere.

Only the well-to-do on the rise. Economic mobility – “movin’ on up” – is at the heart of the American narrative. Now, a lot of Americans are going nowhere, or down. Who is moving? And who’s not? And what will it take the move the country again?

This hour, On Point: going somewhere, going nowhere, in America.

5:52 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, I guess I said as much in the Twilight book: we're in the shitter, and there's no reversing the trend.

Confluence of factors I see now:

1. Failure of the American Dream will finally impact the (very) feeble brains of our countrymen, and they will get increasingly violent and hysterical. They will also scapegoat minority groups: Hispanics especially, some blacks, perhaps even some Jews. Muslims shd head for cover, like, yesterday.

2. Poverty will deepen = more violence and hysteria, more scapegoating. Police actions in all major cities will be ubiquitous and repressive.

3. As resources get scarce for all, we shall see migrations and riots.

4. The Pentagon has (I'm sure) contingency plans for crowd control in unstable situations, has probably been doing mock-practice drills in Nevada. The military will shoot to kill, and probably enjoy doing it. (Kent State, 1970, was mere child's play.) Regardless of who is president, it will all be justified on grounds of 'national security'.

No pretty picture ahead, in short. The country is just abt as fucked as Mittney's campaign, at this pt. Real intelligence will be in very short supply. Instead: blame, raw emotion, rage, full-blown insanity. 'Analyses' in the NYT, Wash Post, and etc. will be exponentially flatulent. (If u think Thos Friedman is a total asshole now, just give it 10 yrs.)


6:37 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Zosima & Tim--- "As you know, under the imperatives of austerity, music and arts education are being eliminated as non-essential frills that we can no longer afford." I spent yesterday afternoon with my 8 yr old grandson and he was telling me about his "music class" which consisted of the kids taking turns on the computer to play the garage band app. A computer game--no singing, playing a simple instrument or learning the rudiments of reading music, just a computer game. And on the news tonight was the announcement 5.3 billion will be cut from the education budget. So all pretense of teaching the kids about music will soon be gone.

You ended one of your comments with "I'm sad abt this, in the last analysis... In the end, this is both tragedy and farce." It's been a paradox I've struggled with for a long time--how could so many good hearted people be so blind and cruel? I saw an interview with the young man who blew the whistle on the torture in Abu Ghrab and it was horrifying. He and his wife grew up in the same small Va town and due to the hostility of the local people (his neighbors and friends)they had to be relocated. No hero's welcome, Medal of Freedom or book deal--just threats and recriminations for exposing these criminals. He was a decent young man, not much education and probably dim prospects for the future but he said he would do it again b/c what they were doing was wrong.

7:28 PM  
Anonymous Reverse Engineer said...

Just wanted to let everyone know Morris' articles are now also being published on the Doomstead Diner. Just got the Waning of the Modern Ages up today.


7:31 PM  
Anonymous bart said...

mb: "4. The Pentagon has (I'm sure) contingency plans for crowd control in unstable situations, has probably been doing mock-practice drills in Nevada."

The perfect place. They can be stationed near Vegas where after practice they can chill out with legalized gambling, prostitution, and golf courses. This will hopefully cut down on the problems with women soldiers being raped overseas which hurts our PR image. Time Magazine: "What does it tell us that female soldiers deployed overseas stop drinking water after 7 pm to reduce the odds of being raped if they have to use the bathroom at night?"

The ground forces can also train for situations facing any serious resistance. Nearby missile and predator drone launch sites can be used for practicing co-ordinated attacks:

In the 50s tourists flocked to the Atom Bomb tests apparently thrilled to expose themselves to radiation and eye damage. Eisenhower helpfully granted the military complete immunity from any radiation-exposure related lawsuits...

The American Government has always been greatly concerned with the health of the public.

"Residents of Nevada, Utah, and Arizona had their bodies, their air, their land, water, and livestock poisoned, while the AEC public relations staff made jokes to dispel fears of sickness and death from radioactivity...and while the President of the United States joined in a plot to misinform and thus endanger the nation."--Mary Ellen Glass

"...the AEC did nothing to stop even families with small children from driving or hiking as close to ground zero as possible. .... Within hours of an explosion AEC monitors in their telltale protective suits would descend on nearby towns in Nevada and Utah, their Geiger counters clicking from fallout frequently so heavy that lawns, porches, and cars were blanketed in a thick layer of radioactive dust and debris."--The Money and the Power, Sally Denton/Roger Morris

Susan W- Just a note. Obama has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other Presidents combined.

10:34 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Calling all Wafers for blog help:

Something weird just happened, as I tried to do a new posting, and I have no idea how to avoid this, as it's never happened b4. I did the post, then clicked on Publish, and the thing came out as a "block"--i.e. w/no line or paragraph breaks at all. Useless, from the pt of view of the reader, in other words. Tried to edit it, and that just reverted to the html text; and when I tried to publish that, the same "block" effect was what I got. So then I left Netscape and went into Foxfire, and the same thing happened. Foxfire does offer you the option of updating yr browser, by downloading some file; so I did that, and it made no difference. Any ideas? I wd really like to do this new posting, but not in this unwieldy form. There's gotta be a key to this somewhere...


12:07 AM  
Blogger Tim Rocks said...

Re blog help
Sometimes these things are just temporary kinks in the internet. It might work itself out if you try again later/ tomorrow.

One thing to consider - the box where you enter the post has two little tabs at the top, one for using HTML and one for just using a visual interface (I forget how they refer to that one.) Anyway you might make sure the latter is selected (I'm assuming you don't want to mess with using HTML.)

6:01 PM  

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