June 29, 2013

In Praise of Shadows

Dear Wafers and Waferettes:

On June 22 the Media Ecology Association presented me with their Neil Postman Award for Public Intellectual Activity at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, MI. They asked me to talk on any topic of my choice as the acceptance speech, and also said they would provide me, post-lecture, with a link to the video of the talk. As it turns out, it's going to take them several months to knock that link into shape. Now I know that most of you are sitting on the edge of your seats, waiting to see the video; so in lieu of that, at least for now, I decided to post the text of the talk. Hope you enjoy it.

I want to thank the Media Ecology Association for naming me as the recipient of this year’s Neil Postman Award, and for making it possible for me to be here with you today. It’s quite an honor for me, and I’m very grateful to you for it. Postman was a hero of mine, in the sense of being an honest and unsparing critic of American society, and I cite him a number of times in my own work. He had a natural talent for telling it like it is, and I’m hoping that I’ve been able to do something similar in the following talk. That was my intent, in any case.

In Praise of Shadows is the title of a little book by the celebrated Japanese author Jun’ichiro Tanizaki, which he wrote in 1933. Tanizaki’s particular focus in that book is how the West tends to emphasize things such as concrete objects and bright light, whereas the East is more interested in empty space and shadows. It is a brilliant, if somewhat idiosyncratic, essay, and Tanizaki’s East-West dichotomy stayed with me years after I first read the work. I should add that his intuitive take on this issue was subsequently confirmed by a number of empirical, sociological studies, but that would be the subject of a separate lecture.

In any case I also want to talk about shadows today, but in a somewhat different context: not in terms of East vs. West, but rather in terms of depth vs. surfaces; although it turns that this latter distinction does overlap a bit with Tanizaki’s, as will become apparent later on. The conflict I am talking about occurred most sharply in the life of the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, who spent the first half of his life as a Platonist, and the second half as an anti-Platonist. I explored this curious contradiction in my book Wandering God, and also in a poem I wrote a few years ago called “Philosophical Investigations,” which was published in a collection entitled Counting Blessings. Allow me to test your patience for a moment by reading it.

Wandering through Wittgenstein’s house in Vienna

the one he built for his sister, Margarethe,

you can’t help thinking:

this is the Tractatus,

in the form of a building.

I mean, it’s so austere–

the masculine, Platonic lines

and the purely functional doorknobs.

Everything perfectly aligned, down to the last millimeter.

Wittgenstein did a complete flip in mid-life, of course,

deciding that the truth had to reside here on earth,

not in heaven.

Suddenly, it was all about context.

I wonder what that house would look like.

Couches with the stuffing coming out, maybe;

pigeons roosting on a window ledge

or even in the corner.

A few friends sleeping on the floor, perhaps,

clothes piled in a heap.

And lots of sex going on, too–

Platonists need not apply.

The first was a world without friction;

the second had nothing but.

Wittgenstein felt more at home in the second,

often entertaining his philosophy class at Cambridge

with examples from American detective stories.

But the first world refused to let him go;

there is, after all, something uncannily erotic about asceticism.

“The sense of the world must lie outside the world,”

he told a colleague the year before he died;

“in it there is no value,

it must lie outside all happening and being-so.

It must lie outside the world.”

He died in 1951,

declaring that he had had a wonderful life.

Sometimes I picture him as a pure spirit

floating above the world

shyly wondering if he is, in fact, the meaning of it.

The dichotomy is something like this: In Book 7 of the Republic, Plato imagines a scenario in which people are sitting around in a cave, staring at shadows on the wall in front of them. They take these shadows to be reality. But at some point, one member of the group leaves the cave and discovers a brilliant light located behind the shadow-watchers, which is the source of what they see on the wall. They are, he realizes, mistaking the shadows for reality. Our task, says Plato, is to leave the cave and become acquainted with the light; to sort out the real from the unreal. Unfortunately, he goes on, very few human beings are capable of doing this.

What might be examples of this phenomenon, a phenomenon I like to call “vertical”? We believe that the objects around us, with their physical properties of density, color, texture, and so on, are real; but read a few pages of any contemporary physics textbook and you will discover that the true reality is atomic particles and empty space, as Democritus asserted a long time ago. Or, we believe that human beings are basically rational, that they make decisions based on objective information. But read a few pages of any contemporary psychology text and you’ll discover that a good part of the time we are in the grip of drives, instincts, and unconscious forces that have their origins in early childhood. Third example: Most Americans believe that the two major political parties in the United States are poles apart, offering very different conceptions of the good life. But a serious examination of their respective histories reveals differences only in terms of style, not substance: Empire vs. Empire Lite, as the Canadian writer Michael Ignatieff once put it. (Franklin Roosevelt’s historical role, for example, was to save capitalism, not to destroy it, as his enemies still believe. Virtually all American historians agree with this assessment.)

That, in any case, is the light-behind-the-shadows approach, the “vertical” argument, and it does illuminate quite a lot, it seems to me; it is a powerful methodology. But the approach of the “horizontal” school, as exemplified by the later Wittgenstein and phenomenologists such as Maurice Merleau-Ponty, is rather different. What it says is that there is no light; it’s all shadows, and the shadows happen to be fully real. “Depths are on the surface,” as Wittgenstein put it; what you see is what you get. The gross physical body, said Merleau-Ponty, is the reality; it’s much more than a collection of atoms. It suffers, it experiences sexual desire, and it sends subliminal messages to other bodies. It is hardly a mechanical assemblage of parts.

To take the example of politics once again: In terms of vertical analysis, it seems clear enough by now who the real Mr. Obama is. He is the man who appointed as his economic advisers individuals who were espousing the very neoliberal ideology that led to the crash of 2008; and the man who ignored the plight of the poor and the unemployed after that crash, and instead funneled upwards of $19 trillion into the hands of Wall Street bankers—who subsequently gave themselves huge bonuses that he publicly approved of. He is the man who decried the senseless slaughter of children in Newtown, Connecticut, last December, while sending predator drones to Afghanistan and Pakistan, which just happen to murder children on a regular basis. According to the New York Times, the president holds “Terror Tuesdays” meetings with his national security advisors every week, during which they discuss which suspected terrorists should be assassinated by drones. In one-third of these cases, says the Times, Mr. Obama selects the targets himself—targets that have included American citizens. He talks of the great freedom enjoyed by citizens of our democracy, and at the same time aggressively persecutes whistleblowers and has his intelligence agencies collecting information on practically every man, woman, and child in the United States, as recent revelations have shown. An analysis of this year’s State of the Union Address by Shamus Cooke (on Counter Punch, 19 February 2013) showed how that speech was coded so that the corporate elite would understand that they would be increasingly in control of American society. To conclude that the president is basically a corporate and military shill, despite the veneer of faint liberal rhetoric that he occasionally comes out with, is hardly rocket science at this point. This is what a vertical analysis tells us.

However, if we look at Obama horizontally, as a “real shadow,” so to speak, we discover a much subtler reality. Who is Barack Obama, in fact? If you look into his eyes, through the medium of television or newspaper photographs, you see a certain type of vacancy there. Rhetoric, after all, is just rhetoric; beneath it lies an empty person. He’s chic, he’s poised, and in a spiritual sense he stands for nothing at all. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat captured this quite accurately when he wrote, last month, that Obama is basically a performance. The man is a shell; he lacks an inner moral compass, which is why Wall Street and the Pentagon and the National Security Agency were able to seduce him so easily. Since he is an empty vessel, he was quickly filled up with the agendas of the wealthy and the powerful, such that even genocide is now part of his own agenda. Of course, the type of vacancy I’m talking about can also be seen in the eyes of Mr. Clinton, Bush Jr. and Sr., or Mitt Romney—remember him?—who was little more than a walking haircut, and one of the emptiest individuals to have ever graced the American political stage. But what does it mean, that the American people want “hollow men,” as T.S. Eliot once put it, to represent them? (Romney, after all, garnered 47% of the popular vote.) As the comedian George Carlin once put it, “Where do you think our leaders come from? Mars?

This finally takes us into media ecology, the larger picture, because horizontal analysis goes way beyond merely identifying these individuals as the mouthpieces of the rich and powerful. They are; but they are also the mouthpieces of nearly everyone else in the United States, which is why they get elected to office, and why the choice always boils down to Tweedledum vs. Tweedledee. What American, for example, doesn’t buy into the American Dream? Why do soup kitchens and tent cities across the United States fly the American flag above them, in a strange parody of patriotism? As John Steinbeck put it many years ago, in the U.S. the poor regard themselves as “temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” And as I argue in Why America Failed, the goal of the settlers on the North American continent, as far back as the late sixteenth century, has been capital accumulation—“the pursuit of happiness,” as Thomas Jefferson subsequently called it. In March of last year, the Pew Charitable Trust released the results of a poll that revealed that most Americans have no objection to the existence of a small, wealthy elite—the famous 1%. Not at all. Their goal is to become part of that elite, and they are deluded enough to think that they can. This is one reason why the Occupy Wall Street movement had such a short lease on life, and why social inequality was a nonissue in the last presidential election, not even mentioned in the pre-election debates. Rich or poor, nearly every American wants to be rich, and in fact sees this as the purpose of life. In this sense, we have the purest democracy in the history of the world, because ideologically speaking, the American government and the American people are on the same page. To quote Calvin Coolidge, “The business of America is business.” Hustling is what America has always been about.

This is why our elected leaders have a vacant quality about them. After all, the American Dream is about a world without limits, about always having More. But More is not a spiritual path, nor is it a philosophy of life. It has no content at all, and this why, when you look into the eyes of an Obama or a Clinton or a Hillary Clinton—probably our next president—you see not merely nothing, but a kind of terrifying nothingness. Unfortunately, this vacant look characterizes a lot of the American population as well: the microcosm reflects the macrocosm, as the medieval alchemists were fond of saying. Once again, this is evidence of a pure democracy: nobodies elect nobodies to office, and then everyone wonders “what went wrong.” All of this reflects the power of horizontal understanding: what you see is what you get.

Let me dwell just a moment on this business of the emptiness of American life, because I really think it goes to the heart of the matter. I first became aware of the reality of this phenomenon in the late seventies, when I was living in San Francisco and some art gallery mounted a collection of photographs of anonymous European faces from the twenties and thirties. What struck me was the depth and complexity of those faces, and how different they were from American faces, which tend to be rather bland. I began to notice this more and more as the years went on. Then last month I happened to be in Barcelona, and the Museum of Modern European Art hosted an exhibition of twentieth-century Catalan sculpture—most of it consisting of busts of ordinary people—and again, one sees a real presence in these faces, a real self-awareness; there is no mistaking it. Finally, the very next day I went to MACBA, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and discovered that there was a collection of portraits on display by the English photographer Craigie Horsfield, of people in Barcelona in 1996, for which Horsfield was nominated for the Turner Prize. Once again, the sense of an interior life was so dramatically present in the eyes and expressions of these folks, and someone—perhaps the curator of the exhibition—wrote of Horsfield’s work: “His individual portraits remind us of the configuration of a civil society in which dissent remains as alive as ever.” I immediately flashed on the film Compliance, which was released last year, a fictional reconstruction of an event that took place more than seventy times in more than thirty states, in which someone impersonated a police officer over the phone and got his fellow Americans to unquestioningly do whatever he asked, no matter how outrageous or degrading. This is a sad X-ray of the American psyche, revealing the complete absence of an inner voice. At the end of the movie, the woman who caused the most damage as a result of her blind obedience is interviewed on television, and all she wants to discuss is the weather in New Orleans. What else would one expect, however, in a nation in which the cultural icons are not Garcia Lorca or Picasso, but Tony Robbins and Donald Trump? A nation that, to quote Barbara Ehrenreich, is vapidly “Bright-Sided,” thinks Oprah is a sage, and has literally no understanding of the tragic dimensions of life. A nation whose people wear smiley buttons and constantly tell each other to “Have a nice day!” No vertical analysis is required here: the reality of our situation is staring us in the face. Tomas Young, a dying Iraq War veteran, put it this way in a letter he wrote to Bush and Cheney: “Your positions of authority, your millions of dollars of personal wealth, your public relations consultants, your privilege and power cannot mask the hollowness of your character.”

The problem with the philosophy of More is that More, as already noted, doesn’t have any intrinsic meaning. After all, once you have it, you then want—More! That’s the American Dream. But the awareness of this dynamic—assuming we ever get to that point—puts us in a particular bind, at least as far as serious social change is concerned. We are finally talking about a kind of conversion experience; and beyond the individual level, which is itself no small achievement, that can only happen when history presents us with a no-win situation. The bald fact is that we cannot maintain the American Dream—now foolishly being pursued by the Chinese—because we are running out of resources, oil in particular. The American Dream cannot survive without energy, and lots of it. Our conversion to a different mental outlook will thus come in the form of a crunch, in which the subdued lights and the quiet shadows—I mean this in Tanizaki’s sense, i.e. a kind of austerity, or Zen restraint—will get praised because we can no longer afford to have the bright lights burning 24/7. The Russian-American sociologist, Pitirim Sorokin, called this the shift from a “sensate” culture to an “ideational” one, and it is this shift that we are now caught up in. If history is any guide, it won’t be a whole lot of fun, because when you’ve been doing something for a long time it becomes very hard to shift gears. It’s a little like detoxing from heroin, I suspect. But there could be a few benefits as well. Let me conclude by suggesting what they might be.

1. Under the American Dream, people waste their lives by never being present in them. (To quote George Carlin once again, “They call it the American Dream because you’ve got to be asleep to believe it.”) Since the goal is More, real life is seen as always on the horizon, always about to start at some future point. It’s an absurd way to live, when you think about it. One reason I moved to Mexico several years ago is that despite the heavy Americanization of Mexican society, there still remains the vestige, the ambience, of a traditional culture, one not constantly trying to get somewhere. Americans tend to laugh at this “mañana” culture, but I doubt they are going to have the last laugh. The truth is that they don’t know what they are missing, and it should come as no surprise that the U.S. consistently ranks below Mexico in world happiness polls. Most days for me begin by getting up, making myself a cup of tea, and sitting on the couch and staring into space for an hour, thinking of nothing in particular. I can’t really describe the pleasure of this wu wei, as it is called in ancient Chinese philosophy—this nondoing—except to say that I wish it for all of us. The freedom from an agenda may be one of the greatest freedoms around.

2. As the consumer society, and the American Dream, continue to disintegrate, many will experience a severe crisis of meaning, inasmuch as prior to the crunch, meaning was to be found in the latest technological gadget or piece of software or brand of lip gloss. I see lots of nervous breakdowns on the horizon. But as one droll observer once put it, the trick is to convert a nervous breakdown into a nervous breakthrough. After all, twentieth-century life offeredhuman beings in the West, at least, a set number of master narratives—communism, fascism, and consumerism, primarily—so that they might be able to avoid that most terrifying of all questions: Who am I? As the I Ching tells us, crisis means danger plus opportunity. Wouldn’t it be great to discover that one was more than one’s career, for example, or one’s car? That opportunity is going to present itself, sooner or later. For many, it already has.

3. Along with all this there might be a shift in the definition of happiness. Now there’s an interesting thought. The damage that the American Way of Life has done to community, friendship, sexual relations, daily social interaction, the family, the workplace, and the nature of work itself, is colossal. This loss has been documented in volume after volume of studies of contemporary American society; most famously, I suppose, in Robert Putnam’s book of 2000, Bowling Alone; although in a qualitative sense, Neil Postman anticipated Professor Putnam’s statistical findings by quite a few years. In any case, we now have many such studies at our disposal, including novels, such as Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen, a depressing book that shows that we have no real freedom at all. There are also a number of stunning films on the costs of this way of life, such as Margin Call, with Jeremy Irons, or Up in the Air, with George Clooney, or Compliance, which I already referred to. “A good deal of modern American culture,” writes Thomas Lewis in A General Theory of Love, “is an extended experiment in the effects of depriving people of what they crave most.” That the systematic destruction of all these things—community, friendship, and so on—might come to an end, is in my view a cause for celebration. In fact, for some Americans, at least, it might mean the return of what it means to be human. Typically, neighbors in the U.S. have no relationship with each other and don’t even know each other’s names. Children barely see their parents, who throw money at them—if they have money to throw—in lieu of loving them or even talking to them. None of this, I wish to point out, requires vertical analysis; these things speak for themselves, as, for example, Franzen’s novel makes abundantly clear. They say asmuch about the vapidity of American life as the vacant look in the president’s eyes, or the empty rhetoric of his speeches. You get my point.

In any case, these are some of the benefits that we might receive if and when the current way of life can no longer be maintained. Taken as a whole, they add up to the remark made 150 years ago by the Victorian art critic and social reformer, John Ruskin, whom Mahatma Gandhi called the single greatest influence on his way of thinking: “There is no wealth but life.” (Gandhi’s version of this was, “I have no message; my life is my message.”) Ruskin would have agreed with both Wittgenstein and Tanizaki, I suspect, that it’s the shadows that have the most to teach us.

©Morris Berman, 2013


Anonymous cubeangel said...

Dr. B

This is the most profound writing I have ever read. You are a genius of times. Dr. B, If I just sat their, drank my tea and stared into space I would be wasting my time.

I have just laid their in my bed just staring at the ceiling before and thinking about nothing in particular. When I do that, I feel so refreshed. My mind feels so clear. My significant others sees that as just wasting my life? I didn't know the Chinese had a name for this.

In America, I would be considered mentally ill and I am considered mentally ill. I am a mentally ill person living in screwed up society with screwed up standards. What does this tell you?

12:37 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Just to clarify: the Chinese wu wei is active, not passive, in the same way that karate is. When Eastern cultures talk abt the void, or emptiness, they don't nec mean that in a neg. sense, as we do. It can also be a creative void, the fullness of emptiness, as it were (sunyata, in Sanskrit). It's confusing, because wu wei literally means non-doing; but it's a rather rich non-doing. If yr mind feels clear after yr own practice, yr probably on the rt track. My suggestions:

1. Do this once a day.
2. At least once a day, read your post-it (on bathrm mirror).
3. Avoid dolts like the plague.

Try that for 30 days, report back to us.


1:04 PM  
Anonymous Mike Daniel said...

Thanks Morris, I read "Why America Failed" and feel this recent blog digs deeper into the irrational side of things. I was thinking of the erotic attraction to death or Thanatos underlying the American dream. Returning to Eden/happiness through an unconscious desire for more matter, more mommy yet in fact avoiding growing up by avoiding pain and suffering. I feel the substance within the people you saw in the pictures and elsewhere comes from just that a willingness to engage in finding out who I am and telling the truth to oneself out of that exploration. Your description of the horrible nothingness of the Clinton's brings to mind this segment from Barack Obama's book "Dreams from My Father". "Nor do I pretend to understand the dark nihilism that drove the terrorists that day and that drives their brethren still. My powers of empathy, my ability to reach into another's heart, cannot penetrate the blank stares of those who would murder innocents with abstract, serene satisfaction." Talk about dark irony.

1:58 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Indeed. And now he is a war criminal, murders innocents with abstract, serene satisfaction, presents us w/a blank stare, and of course won't look into his own dark nihilism--god forbid.

I just don't get it: when I tell people America is finished, they laugh (or present me with a blank stare).


2:46 PM  
Blogger jjarden said...

THIS speech is the epitome of enlightened thinking and "Being Awake." It saddens me though, because its a reminder that our lives and the era we live in our not the optimum, or best it can be. Of course, things could be a lot worse for all of us (ie - living under Nazi-like conditions), but we know it's not closer to the utopia it actually could be if Americans were awake and intelligent, which the vast majority are not.

I have a buddy who I have known for 33 years, having served in the Army with him. He's a good, hard-working guy, and very successful in sales...he's also a hardcore defender of Capitalism, Anti-Intellectual, Anti-Social anything, and a follower of Rush, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, etc. He is the exact opposite of me, and I find that we are arguing a lot more these days and growing apart, which also saddens me. If I sent him Morris' speech he would tear it apart...saying things like..."Doesn't this socialist know that if it weren't for us Capitalists, he and everyone like him would be living in poverty, and he has the nerve to berate Capiitalism and all the hard-working people out there busting their ass everyday to increase our standard of living."

He has made these statements before (not about Morris) so obviously he doesn't "Get It."

How do we deal with people that are so out of touch and anti-intellectual? Drop them as friends? After 33 years? Where can we move to in the US or elsewhere where we will be surrounded by other Wafers/Intellectuals/Humanists/Bohemians/People who are awake?

3:15 PM  
Anonymous satyaSarika said...

re: wu wei

I recommend Ellen M. Chen's "Tao te Ching: A New Translation and Commentary", published 1989 for a wonderful description of the concept of Wu Wei. It is also the best translation and commentary of the "Tao te Ching" that I've found. I read it when it first came out and was wowed. I picked it up at the Bodhi Tree Bookstore, which was a landmark on Melrose in West Hollywood for 40 years, now sadly defunct, gone the way of the vast majority of independent bookstores in US. Very sad day for me when Bodhi Tree closed as I had spent hundreds of happy hours perusing its shelves.

On the Snowden story: Once again the conversation is often reduced to the 'hero or traitor' binary choice. Celebrity uber alles. Substance always takes a second place to salacious snickering/envy over 'pole dancer gf and fat job in the NSA'. Speculation as to personality is always at the forefront. I'll speculate a bit myself here, wondering if Snowden was a tad bored with his life as an analyst and perhaps weary of girlfriend. Certainly a fascinating story; hope Snowden does not end up murdered! I don't believe he will, altho the vicious Obama clearly dislikes being made to look the fool (see Tariq Aziz's book: "The Obama Syndrom: Surrender and Home and War Abroad" for the story of the fellow black Ill. politician who embarassed the big zero and got called out for fisticuffs (course zero is a lot bigger/bullyman) and the fight never happened, more's the pity ...to think O's career might have ended there just fills me with the 'shoula coulda wouldas'.)

3:22 PM  
Anonymous shep said...

I think Obama is Caligula one day and Nero the next.

That Michelle beats all too.

3:41 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Dr. Berman,

Mazel-tov on a great talk – the people at Grand Valley State University should be thankful. I just hope there weren’t too many blank stares in the ‘congregation’.

Were you to survey all 315 million Americans, you might be able to say: “Yet I have left me seven thousand in (the land of the boobies), all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.” But man, are they few and far between!

I happened to read “In Praise of Shadows” while I’m about halfway through John Gray’s “The Silence of Animals”, and ideas from both may get shuffled into the same deck in my mind. I may have trouble remembering where they came from – perhaps quite a few will be from both you and Gray.

My wife was talking to a relative – a high ranking officer home on holiday from a stint in Afghanistan. She asked him if the US soldiers who were all over YouTube peeing on dead Afghans meant that the military was recruiting the dregs of society. He said that he had been looking at American television after being away for a while, and he thought the real problem was that American culture has sunk to a very low level. It’s something for HIM to recognize that!

Question: Why did Weimar Germany have such a vibrant literary and cultural life as it was going to Hell in a hand basket, and the US is such a cultural wasteland as it declines into Fascism? Is it just that the US has always been little more than a monoclonal hustling society?

Also: thank you for all the generous time and effort you put into running this blog – not to mention your other writings.

David Rosen

4:22 PM  
Blogger Dan Henry said...

This was linked in a comment thread from another blog. I found it very interesting. Ive been thinking about this revenge/bullying/older brother/first to the bowl type of framing that we celebrate in the US so much because of an argument I got in to with my uncle at a family party recently. Unfortunately, I may need to modify MB's bathroom mirror note to account for family...


5:06 PM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

Dear MB,

The speech was the very best of your ideas in the very best of your style.

On the following in particular:

"no understanding of the tragic dimensions of life. A nation whose people wear smiley buttons and constantly tell each other to “Have a nice day!”

Remember A.N.Whitehead? He wrote "The definition of youth is life as yet untouched by tragedy." Of course he meant "tragedy" not as newscasters and popular talk do. In the country that idolizes the young and the new, you can grow old without growing up, and remain incapable of understanding anything at all about tragedy, much less being "touhed" by it.

"Whitehead"--an unfortunate name to have when it was trendy (as it recently was) to talk about deceased Western thinkers as "dead white males." It is actually worse to be a living "white bread male," which of course, MB, you are not.

5:49 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

A wonderful talk and I'm looking forward to seeing it presented when it's available. I understand what you mean by the vacant soul in America. Last week one of my coworkers left for CA with her BF and their kids after telling me earlier how her paternal grandfather (3 hours north in Dallas) was in and out of a coma and not expected to live much longer. He had made it possible for her to attend nursing school and helped her with her kids and a down payment on her house. As my youngest daughter said--exactly how much "fun" is she going to have laying on the beach while her GF dies? This is a true story. Her own father is traveling and it would "cost too much for him to come home early." It appears his primary concern is that the stepmother might get the house. It's a detachment from, for lack of a better term, the richness and depth of life you did see in the Spanish faces but is absent in ours. It's a difficult thing to adequately describe but I understand what you mean.

I watch the sun rise every morning with a cup of coffee and a quiet mind. That emptiness is the "peace beyond on all understanding."

6:24 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Wafer/ettes:

Thank you all for your kind remarks. I guess I must have had an unusual crowd at GVSU, inasmuch as the response to the talk was very positive. Young people there in particular 'got it', were asking me after the lecture what the heck they should do. Which was a rare beam of light, since 86% of Americans ages 18-24 can't find Iraq on a world map and are basically living under water.

DR: Yr welcome. As for Weimar: for starters, they didn't have TV, and they had Beethoven and Goethe, historically speaking. We had Henry Ford.

jj: State of mind, not geographical location. But I appreciate yr frustration. BTW, this guy is not really a friend, except in a ritualistic sense. You got form, but no content.

Susan: We live in a system that turns people into dreck, but w/o their knowing it.

shep: When u get down to it, they're probably just a pair of douche bags.


7:03 PM  
Anonymous Brian said...

Dr. B--

1. Thanks for this gift (GVSU speech);

2. We lost a good one; sigh . . . (URL on Slater below)




7:24 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


One of my heroes. He once called America a "psychological slum"--this in the early 70s!


8:08 PM  
Anonymous The Dude said...

MB - that was an outstanding summation of our collective predicament.

For me there is this weird dichotomy in that I actually like most of the people I know, and during my recent cancer battle a few whom I previously considered to be not much more than casual acquaintances have really come through and been very supportive, for which I have been quite thankful.

That said, whenever I got out in public I am almost invariably appalled by the number of fat, slovenly, tech-addicted, obviously brain dead people I see walking around who then blissfully drive their huge SUVs through massive traffic jams to their suburban McMansions chock full of shit they don't need--and LIKE it this way to the point where they'd rather let the president run wild abusing his powers than contemplate the unsustainability of their utterly empty lives.

For a long time it was the first half of the above equation that blinded me to the second half. Individually, many Americans may be decent folks, but collectively we are a real horror show.

9:51 PM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...


Brilliant essay. In effect all of american life (and to some extent or another other places) is all a "simulacra". Yes the empty eyes. On more than one ocassion have heard americans that they don;t travel and that they can experience the world via the internet. On one occassion I stupidly tried to point out that its obviously more interesting to actually go to a place or to do a thing than to watch it on a screen--met with incomprehension. The cause (proximate or immediate) is in my view marketing, PR and mass media hawking sneakers and lifestyles or Lyotards spectacles. i suspect a good part of the anger around the world is due to young peoples frustration at not acquiring all that is hawked on TV, web etc. But you are correct--the "people" in the U.S. are truly hollow and over time I do find them frightening.

9:52 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Hackenbush said...

jjarden- No doubt there's a great divide between Wafers and ditto-heads. However--- as a media omnivore--- I will say I'm sometimes surprised to find overlap and common ground between the two camps. Their real "enemies" are the apolitical types following Kim Kardashian on Twitter. It's sort of like followers of different religious faiths: they may argue passionately, but their passionate concern is something they share, whereas the apolitical majority is completely alien to them. At base, Occupy and the Tea Party agreed on some fundamental points, such as not wanting to bail out the bankers. Unfortunately there's so much animosity over stylistic (cultural) differences and in terms of their ideological frames, that they can never unite on the shared points.

jml- I guess it depends how you define "zoned out." I do find drawing to be somewhat meditative, I know that. And, once a drawing is "planned out" anyway, I can follow a conversation or speech while drawing. So it seems to leave the verbal ability of the brain open, utilizing some other part that handles visual and motor skills.

10:17 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

I do have this recurring kind of reverie, that 50 yrs from now, Chinese historians analyzing the collapse of the US will stumble across my work by accident.

"Hey, Wu," one of them will say to his colleague, who teaches at the Five Happiness Chicken University in a suburb of Shanghai. "Look at this guy, Belman. He figure it all out, long time ago. US fail because population was collection of self-destructive buffoons" (hard to translate this phrase from the Mandarin, but that's the closest I can come, esp. since I don't speak Mandarin). "But nobody pay attention to him," Chang goes on. "They laugh at him! But he have last laugh, even though he dead as piece of BBQ pork hanging in store window." Together, Profs. Wu and Chang publish "Mollis Belman and the Buffoon Thesis of American Failure," which becomes an instant best-seller. Serenely, I smile from my grave, redeemed at last.


10:29 PM  
Anonymous al-Qa'bong said...

A couple of things in that essay really stuck out for me. First was the mention of the "Hollow Men," and second was that US/western culture lacks "restraint."

Joseph Conrad made similar points in Heart of Darkness.

It might be appropriate for waferinos to put a sticky note with "The Horror" written on it up on their bathroom mirrors too.

12:32 AM  
Anonymous LW said...

George Carlin (an honorary WAFer I would presume) saw how horrible things had become and he knew how to not let it make him angry and upset: he become a spectator.


12:49 AM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

Well Dr. Berman

I don't see emptiness in the same light as most people. I have been asked if I see a glass of water as half full or half empty.

I see a glass that is both filled with water and emptiness. To me, the glass is full. To me, a glass can be filled with emptiness. If it has water then the glass is empty but empty of emptiness.

Let's say we have set A and it has five empty sets as members. A:{{},{},{},{},{},{}}. I see the set A as filled with emptiness. This is how I think in a nutshell. I don't know if I'm perceiving things wrong or not.

Anyway, someone I spoke to online gave me online free philosophy courses I can take. It is a treasure trove of courses if anyone wants to do them just to enrich their mind.


1:02 AM  
Anonymous AvengerSentinel said...

Excellent speech Morris, fabulous stuff.

4:33 AM  
Blogger jml said...

What a beautiful essay, I think this has become my favorite piece of yours. A few years ago, I had an experience similar to the one you had in the San Francisco art gallery. The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston had a show of Roman portraiture. In a small room, there were perhaps 12 marble busts of Roman statesmen and officials. I don't want to be overly romantic, but there was an earthy groundedness, character, and integrity felt in these faces, as seen through the wrinkles and the imperfect facial features and messy, wiry hair, that was kind of breathtaking. I am not saying that these men were saints or that Roman culture was ideal and I don't want to romanticize the past, but the overall impression the show left upon me was that we have really devolved.

8:12 AM  
Anonymous Mo Ronich said...

This is a profound and beautiful essay. Is it possible you've distilled an essence of your trilogy here?

For some twisted reason it made me think of the great American philosopher David Lee Roth. "Money may not buy happiness, but it will buy a nice yacht to pull up next to it"

8:18 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Thank you all, very much. On the assumption that there are abt 100 active Wafers out there, I have altered Tennyson's famous poem just a tad, as follows:

Charge of the Wafer Brigade

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of buffoonery,
Rode the one hundred.
Forward, the Wafer Brigade!
“Go for the Guccis!” he said:
Into the valley of buffoonery,
Rode the one hundred...

Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to urinate on the Guccis, oh my!
Into the valley of buffoonery
Rode the one hundred.

Buffoons to right of them,
Buffoons to left of them,
Buffoons in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with utter stupidity,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of buffoonery,
Into the mouth of douchbaggery,
Rode the one hundred...

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder'd (but not the US).
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the urine they sprayed!
Noble one hundred!

9:26 AM  
Anonymous Bruce Bennett said...

Mr. Berman -
Your excellent speech about the deficits of American culture reminded me of the words that the Buddhist monk and Nobel Peace prize nominee, Thich Nhat Hanh, once used to describe the many who are caught up in the swirl of materialism and "lifestyles". He referred to them as "hungry ghosts".
Also, I wanted to thank you for quoting George Carlin. He is one of my comedy heroes. He was fearless in speaking truth to power. He agreed with you, Mr. Berman. In an interview with Keith Olbermann not long before Carlin died he stated simply, "This country is finished." I highly recommend to my fellow WAFers that they check out Carlin's work on YouTube. He was brilliant.

10:43 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Beautiful, Morris. Every line rich with meaning & food for thought, as we've come to expect from you. If more people could read this, I'm sure it would strike a resonant chord with more than a few, those who know something's wrong but can't articulate it.

Toward the end of the film Mindwalk, John Heard's poet recites Pablo Neruda's "Enigmas" on the beach, then asks about the tourists he & his friends have seen throughout the day. Paraphrasing - "What about those people we feel so superior to? Maybe it's even worse for them, because they don't even have the words to express what we know." There are people like that, people who need to be awakened to what they could be ... but very few will take that vital step & unplug from the Matrix. Perhaps just a handful. I was one of them.

One thing about your speech really hit home, because my wife & I had been discussing the very same thing a couple of days before: the blandness of American faces, their emptiness, a kind of numb, raw despair & formless rage. I said that I try to imagine these people as children, perhaps filled with energy & aspirations & dreams ... where did all that go? It shows in their bodies, too - the obesity, the awkwardness of ill-fitting clothes that long since slid from casual to slovenly, the leathery tans that make a face look mummified, the plastic surgery that makes a face look plastic. The physical damage reflects the psychological damage.

Let me recommend the film Take Shelter to all WAFers. It really captures the inchoate fears & terrors of the American psyche, the creeping suspicion that Something Is Wrong, that Something Terrible Is Coming. Its protagonist is an ordinary man trying desperately to live up to the roles that society has already deemed obsolete, consumed with apocalyptic dreams & nightmares, fearing that he's going insane ... but perhaps it's the world he's always known that's truly going insane.

"The horror!" indeed ...

11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Several things -

"thank you for all the generous time and effort you put into running this blog" - DR's note is invaluable!

The Tennyson variation: brilliant - makes me so damn glad I am mounted up and charging with the wind in my face.

Carlin's spectator comments via U tube are also brilliant.

Thank you, Dr Morris Berman - On to the Green Island in 2015!

11:08 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

I like to think of Wafers as Wayfarers.

11:41 AM  
Anonymous Bruce Bennett said...

I also wanted to echo the recommendation to see the film "Take Shelter" with Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain. This indie film starts out with an examination of the growing paranoia of a man who may have inherited a mental instability from his mother but the ending when he and his family have moved away from their home and they find out the truth of their situation is quite memorable.

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Shane W said...

what you said is very profound and succinct. Couldn't have said it better myself.
I don't think it'll be the Chinese that'll rediscover you, since they're foolishly following in our footsteps, maybe you'll be rediscovered in Mexico? Maybe your village will have "el festival de Santo Berman", complete w/chopped liver pinatas? Millions of future WAFERs will make the pilgrimage to your village to pay homage to Santo Berman. Creo que si...

1:00 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


They day the Mexicans make a chopped liver pinyata, for *anyone*, I will have died and gone to heaven.


Many thanx, but please limit yr posts to 1 a day, in future.


2:07 PM  
Anonymous Libra said...

It seems that in its death spiral, the West (currently led by America)is turning into its Nemesis (Apollinian). The Greeks prized concrete objects and bright space, the west never recognized them as important and instead valued infinite space and Destiny - becoming instead of become (Spengler). The West must play out its love of "more", the longing for infinity to the bitter end. The absence of an inner voice has been our lot since the ending of the Baroque (high point of portraiture).I am afraid that before we see the dawn of an ideational culture, we must first experience a period of subdued lights and quiet shadows.

2:53 PM  
Anonymous swordfish said...

MB, beautiful post, as usual. I know this has been said over and over by Waferinos, but it's such a relief to read stuff that accurately describes us Amuricans, without any sugarcoating.

With ref to the photos, though, I did think of Walker Evans's depression photos -- lots of character in *those* American faces. But, it was a different age, when there actually might have been a turning point, and the average person wasn't brain dead yet.

Appropos of American faces & bodies today, not long ago I had to drive cross-country, from NY to NM. I drove pretty much straight through on the interstates, because I didn't have the time to sightsee, so I stopped at a variety of rest stops on the way. What was bizarre to me (because I haven't spent much time on the interstates) was how completely awkward most people looked outside of their cars -- overweight, with thick white "running shoes" on, uncomfortable, lurching out to grab some fatty snack from a vending machine and pee and climb back into the armored vehicles that pass for cars these days. I'm a former dancer, so I notice this kind of thing. It freaked me out a little, because they all looked scared and alien, like the earth outside their cars or homes was a terrifying place. It made me sad.

Which also brings me to your earlier post, "182" and CTOS -- CTOS was the first of your books I ever read. It hooked me, so I'm glad to see it coming out again. As someone who's always been physical, that book made so much sense to me!

Oh and yes: "Honor the urine they sprayed!" -- yes indeed. Pee on, Waferinos, -illas, -ettes, and -ones!

5:43 PM  
Anonymous joe hohos said...

Dr Berman/Wayfarer's,

I had meant to say what cultures other than Japan and Mexico have a craft culture?

Wonderful speech and the poem is great.

Out and about today noticed many people wearing tees which had slogans such as "Me State University" and "It's all about me". Can't wait for the endpoint of this culture - it just devours all in it's path and avoids all questions.

8:23 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Certain parts of Bulgaria; Italy; Ecuador; etc. As for T-shirts, I propose one that says

(Front) What do you expect?
(Back) I'm an American, and therefore a douche bag!

God, wd I like to see that at shopping malls...


Americans at rest stops: as gd a snapshot of this country as one can get, I suspect. Indeed, very depressing.


8:50 PM  
Anonymous Martin Ramirez said...

MB: When I try to "boycott" the consumer paradigm (understood the pun/), I am seen as "crazy" and "too radical" by my family. What do I do?

9:29 PM  
Anonymous Captain Spaulding said...

Hey Dr. B -- It's been a while but I wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading your speech (couldn't make it out to Grand Rapids, malheursement). You'd be amused - and vindicated - to read about what's happening in Detroit where our governor-appointed emergency financial manager is planning to sell off the Detroit Institute of Arts' world-class collection to stave off the city filing for bankruptcy. Actually, they're just exchanging one kind of bankruptcy for another. My wife and I have come up with a new phrase to describe this country - "a cesspool of stupidity." (But Tocqueville, Twain and Mencken had this figured out over a century ago -- it's hard to believe we've fallen off such a low bar).

Anyways, back to the shadows!

9:50 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Find a new family?


10:19 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

Darn you, Berman. You just broke my budget this month: now I HAVE to buy yr Counting Blessings.

Allow another Wafer to add his compliments on yr award, & thanks for this speech. It's one of yr better & more characteristic short pieces, something of a fireworks display, actually (I mean that in a positive way). No wonder the audience responded. One would have to be already buried or cremated not to.

10:55 PM  
Anonymous Michael in Oceania said...


Brilliant lecture. I especially appreciated this point you raised:

"[H]orizontal analysis goes way beyond merely identifying these individuals as the mouthpieces of the rich and powerful. They are; but they are also the mouthpieces of nearly everyone else in the United States, which is why they get elected to office, and why the choice always boils down to Tweedledum vs. Tweedledee."

This is the reason why I no longer spend time trying to analyze the machinations of the Powers That Be (PTB). Fifteen years ago, I used to think that things like the Bilderbergers, Committee of 300, etc., were important. I don't regret my research, and I am glad I better understand how the world works, but I now think it is beside the point.

What matters (for instance) is not whether 9/11 was an inside job (as I happen to think that it was!), but how America reacted to that. What other country responds to such things by turning itself into an open air prison and rampaging all over the planet? Ireland, Spain and Italy suffered the same things in the 1970's and '80's, and they didn't react this way.

I moved overseas in 1999, because I didn't want Americans as my neighbors when things go bad. Who your neighbors are is what counts in the end, not what elites do. Power always does as it wants. False flag capers have been going on ever since Nero burned down Rome and blamed it on the Christians. What counts is how your neighbors react to these things. I have good neighbors now, and it seems you do, too.

I look forward to the video when it comes out.

12:06 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


CB is currently out of stock on Amazon, but the publisher tells me she has asked the printer to whip up another batch, so I expect it'll be available soon enuf. Enjoy!


2:27 AM  
Anonymous Jerome Langguth said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

As many have commented, a beautiful and poignant condensation of your thought. I love the connections you draw here between the argument of Wandering God concerning the tension between horizontal and vertical worldviews and your more recent reflections on the US in decline. In both cases, you refuse to draw easy conclusions or iron-out nuances. For some reason, what you say about Wittgenstein’s later philosophy in your poem reminds me of a line that I remember (or perhaps misremember) from one of Rilke’s:

“The knowing animals are already aware that we are not really at home in our interpreted world.”

Thanks again for posting,


6:40 AM  
Anonymous LW said...

Americans don't know ANYTHING about history of America.


7:53 AM  
Anonymous Mo Ronich said...

Don't let the dream die department:


8:57 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


"Bozos on Parade" wd be a gd title for that clip. Sometimes he even gives them the date and asks them what the date was, and they don't know. And these people vote.


8:59 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

And at the other end of the spectrum:


10:05 AM  
Blogger Kevin Frost said...

Dr. Berman: Greetings from Tasmania,

I’m most impressed with how you can sustain an historical account of America which reflects a serious spiritual distemper, and with such precision, distinguishing ‘not just a nothingness, but a terrifying nothingness’ (Clintons) with the assistance of Asiatic notions of ‘emptiness’ predicated upon meditation practices and insight.

I should say that I’m newish to your work and unfortunately I haven’t read your books beyond Reenchantment, which was prominently listed under the heading: ‘Max Weber and the Dialectic of Modernity’, included in a course study sheet handed out by RBJ Walker, with whom I studied and did my MA at UVIC. I’m sorry to say that by the time I knew who you were, you were already headed south after your Lansdowne Professorship. But happily, your publisher twisted your arm regarding this blog (as I understand), and it is good – for us readers, that is.

So you began with Marx (?), like so many others, but have shifted position towards Weber. If I understand correctly, Weber’s argument in the PE was against Simmel (also Second Internationalist reductionists). Simmel had argued essentially that capitalism was a Jewish development. Weber responded by distinguishing between traditional and modern capitalism, the former being – make a stack of money and buy your way into the aristocracy, send the grandchildren to musical academies and such. Modern capitalism was located by Weber in the Protestant ethic which for the first time in anybody’s history established a formerly vilified avarice as a godly quality signifying election, possibly, but short of that signifying orderliness and the rectitude of saving. And therefore Weber affirms modernist American exceptionalism. The focus of the text is very much this ‘more, more, and more’ business, transgressing all traditions, Western as well. The core sections of the PE dwell on the psychological nothingness, an abyss beneath the puritans fear of damnation.

So, question: you must have written about Weber in your books, which one(s)? Otherwise do you have a general take on Weber, what good, what not?

The reason I bring this up – I frequent the cream of the doomer blogs: Orlov, McPherson, Greer, Krolic, and I’ve encountered lots of Durkheimian ‘complexity’ talk which basically explains our present very precarious and destructive situation as a sort of natural phenomena. Population overshoot, diminishing systemic returns with increasing size, human nature is what Augustine (and Napoleon Chagnon) said it is, and similar dubious tales. All this while I keep wanting to say: wait a minute. America’s a special case, it’s not just one civilisation among many. Weber didn’t think so and wrote so many (somewhat unreadable) books to nail down the argument presented in the Protestant Ethic. But whatever happened to the humanities anyway? Nobody reads Weber anymore, or Marx for that matter. But in any case, the question I’m trying to mull has geopolitical implications.

Do you have dealings with the Durkheimian positivists and their reductionist theories about why everything’s going wrong? Or what is your take? Perhaps you don’t see a problem? Well, that’s two questions, and if that’s one too many the former question is primary.

Thank you, and best wishes, Kevin Frost.

10:37 AM  
Anonymous James said...

Here's a map of American priorities:

Highest-Paid Public Employees

10:54 AM  
Anonymous John said...

Dr. B:

Lately I've been immersing myself in Buddhist and Taoist literature, and found your discussion on emptiness intriguing. A few questions:

Wu wei is exactly one-half of a very famous adage in Taoism: Wu wei wu! or "Not doing and doing". Is there a reason why you left out the "wu" in the "wu wei wu?" I also understand that a full blown investigation of Taoist philosophy is probably beyond the scope of your wonderful essay.

I'm still working through the Buddhist conception of "emptiness". Ironically, it seems there's a lot to it lol

One discussion of it begins much like Plato's discussion of shadows in the cave: "The true emptiness of prajna is like a huge round mirror, and every illusory form is like an image in the mirror. Once you know that images don’t exist apart from the mirror, you know emptiness is not separate from form.”

Another discussion goes much deeper, by telling us what it isn't:

Followers of lesser paths use emptiness to eliminate form, unaware that emptiness is their own mind. But if the mind sees emptiness, then emptiness becomes an object and an obstruction. And an obstruction is another name for “form”. But bodhisattvas understand the nature of form is simply emptiness, not form cancels emptiness, and not formlessness if emptiness, and not emptiness depends on insight, and not emptiness is due to no mind, and not emptiness means cutting off dharmas.” Hui-ching

Thanks to Hui-ching, I have a better understanding of what emptiness isn't, but am still not quite sure what it is. Can you help me out here?

Any insight you can provide would be appreciated!

11:40 AM  
Anonymous joe hohos said...

Dr. Berman,

Why are Americans so dumb? What is it that makes most of us that way? Is it that America was settled by dumb people and we have bad genes? People say nothing is taught in schools, but I went to schools in America and have no problem thinking and remembering. Do you think people choose not to remember simple facts because they view them as unimportant or do they really not have the capacity to understand? And fortunately these are not the voting public since only 50% of Americans vote. Also, how produced was the video posted by LW? You notice there are a few people who want to answer but he doesn't let them.

2:05 PM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...

Sorry MB--posted in other post....

Friend Bill Bonner had this on his newsletter today...

Yesterday, we took the train from Paris to Zurich, passing through the valley of the Rhone... past castles... medieval churches... lazy, picturesque rivers... quaint villages... to Lyon... Basel... and then skirting the Alps and lakes to Zurich.

The scenery was remarkably beautiful. But the most remarkable thing we saw wasn't outside the train car; it was in it.

A family of Americans boarded the train in Gare de Lyon in Paris. They took their seats, parents and two children. Tanned. Dressed in baggy shorts and polo shirts with little alligators on them. Even before the train left the station, the parents had given each of the children an iPad. Then mom and dad each got out their own iPad... and plugged in ear phones.

From our vantage point, we could see that Dad was watching some sort of action movie, apparently with super-heroes involved. Mom's iPad viewing was never revealed. But from Paris to the Swiss border – three hours of some of the most scenic countryside in Europe –none of them even looked out the window. Nor did they say a single word to one another.

"There's so much electronic entertainment," said a Swiss friend when we told him this morning. "People are losing touch with the real world. It's like a drug. It keeps away reality.

"Of course, it gives those of us who aren't drugged-up a big advantage!"

Contemplate for a moment Wafers that living around dolts has some advantages. Contemplate also that perhaps more than a few of the 1% take some pleasure in mulcting these dolts with trinkets and illusions...some are wafers but being knowing the situation apply to take in rainement for themselves and love ones or for amusement.

2:27 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and the Wafer Brigade,

Dr. Berman-

You have done it again- marvelously! "In Praise of Shadows" is an engrossing read that radiates with sensitive, thoughtful, and intelligent observations. It was such a delight to read; a refreshing antidote against all the romantic blather one hears about the greatness of the United States and the American Dream. Simply put, it is the truth.

Wafers and Dr. B-

The Germans get it!


A few key quotes from the article:

1. "In Germany, whenever the government begins to infringe on individual freedom, society stands up."

2. "...we have not forgotten what happens when secret police or intelligence agencies disregard privacy. It is an integral part of our history and gives young and old alike a critical perspective on state surveillance systems."

3. "Germans... of all ages want to live freely without having to worry about being monitored by private companies or the government, especially in the digital sphere."

4. "...the policy decisions of the Bush administration after the attacks- from waterboarding to Guantanamo- appalled Germans."

5. "Now we are not sure where Mr. Obama stands."



3:41 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I confess I got a bit of a headache trying to read yr message. The Chinese phrase, wu wei, means not-doing. On emptiness, you might check out works of Keiji Nishitani.


I wish I had time to answer your questions, but--I don't, sorry. (It would take at least 40 pp., and oddly enuf I do have a life beyond this blog.) As for Weber, I don't think I wrote very much abt him, that I can remember. I also don't think I drifted from Marx to Weber or to Durkheim. They are all rich in insights, imo.


4:16 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Great essay! Love the Thomas Lewis quote.

Great the CTOS will be easily available again. Hopefully the reprint of CTOS will have a better cover than the bland one I have. (And the missing illustration will be restored...)

5:30 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Land of the free & home of the brave:


The cop advanced on a breastfeeding mother with one hand on his Taser, eh?

Nice to know we're so well protected.


My wife & I were nearly sideswiped or directly hit by other cars 3 different times this morning. In each case, the driver was intently looking into his/her lap, oblivious to anything but texting.

5:40 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Starting from around 1965 the US was hit by a slow-moving buffoonami that began to gather momentum and has now struck the country with full force. Imagine in yr mind a tsunami, like the one that struck Japan on 3.11.11, only composed of stupidity instead of water. In both cases, there is no stopping it. You cannot stand up to a tsunami and shout, "go back." But this is what 'progressives' wanna do with our current buffoonami; which makes them even dumber than the wave crashing down on them. A buffoonami has incredible force, historically speaking; the eventual outcome is by now pretty obvious.


6:09 PM  
Anonymous Smith said...

Folks, I wouldn't judge people for being "angry" in this culture. The angry ones tend to be the "awake" ones as well.

While I myself am polite to everyone I know, and I have friends, I walk around angry almost constantly, because Americans are acting like jackasses but they won't allow any discussion of that fact.

Not to mention the myriad ways you can be punished for being aware of reality...

What I'm saying, WAFers, is for all of America's faults, "anger" is not one of them.

Who WOULDN'T be angry, if attempting to talk about something important with your fellow citizens was like speaking through concrete?

Who wouldn't be angry, if you were treated badly and unjustly, and everyone around you acted like you had brought pain on yourself?

Heck, I once spoke to a woman online who was repeatedly being abused by her husband...but she couldn't get any help because everyone yelled at her for being a "whiny little victim". The woman told me that if I hadn't cheered her up she would've been on the verge of killing herself. All because a woman crying out for help is now seen as a bad thing.

It's the ones who AREN'T angry, who like "the way things are"...THOSE are the people you have to watch out for, not the "angry" ones.

9:30 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Problem is, most Americans are *not* "attempting to talk abt something important w/their fellow citizens"--not at all. Instead, they talk abt drivel. They are not angry because "Americans are acting like jackasses." All that wd be very welcome anger, productive anger, but it's not the type of anger that we have in this culture. We have irrational, thoughtless anger--against minority groups, for example, or foreigners, or anything different. There is certainly very little anger against the ruling class, or the fucked-up narratives that everyone buys into. Heck, 99.9% of the country doesn't even know what a narrative *is*. You get my pt.


9:41 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: Latreasa Goodman was extremely angry in 2009 when McDonald's ran out of Chicken McNuggets, to the point that she foned 911 3x. This is mainstream American anger, I think. Personally, I'd like to see her on the ticket w/Hillary in 2016 as the VP candidate. She's my kinda gal.

9:48 PM  
Anonymous Kyle said...


What is your opinion on how Americans will react when their incessant optimism ceases to prop up their fragile view that everything is peachy and The United States will be #1 forever? The populace has been robbed of the language and thought capable of articulating an alternative way of life which is more in touch with reality. I'm afraid that the shooting sprees we have been seeing lately is a result of the dolts being unable to understand what is happening.

Making fun of dolts for their obsession with Kim Kardashian and Mcdonalds is all fun and games till they go postal.

10:44 PM  
Anonymous satyaSarika said...

@Dr MB: I was interested to read your comment that you like to think of wafers as wayfarers. Synchronisticly, a few days ago (before you made that remark), I opened a screen name of "waferwayfarer". Makes sense, eh? Very much enjoyed your lecture. Perhaps its good reception is an indication of some 'headway' being made toward CRE extraction in the states.

@all the fat remarks: It would be nice for all us fat folks on the blog (I doubt I'm the only one) if people would tone down the disgust level re: fat people in the USA. It's much harder to change being fat once it's already a fact of one's physical reality than it is to improve one's mind and get off the dolt-a-rama of American life. One of the worst aspects of Americana is the loss of empathy; would be nice not to see that replicated here.

11:02 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, that's why I say that it's not a healthy anger; it's just an ignorant anger, which is what makes it really dangerous. And I can assure you, they'll go postal--and have been doing so for quite a while now--whether we call them dolts or not; there's no connection between the two (and they certainly aren't listening to folks like you, or me; of that you can be sure). It's not so much a question of making fun of dolts as seeing America for what it really is. You've got millions watching "American Idol" who haven't the foggiest notion of what July 4th actually stands for, beyond an oppty to get drunk. I continually scan the 'progressive' literature for the one factor in our decline that most analysts won't face up to: we are a nation of morons (Gore Vidal, however, did say this up front, much to his credit). This is why their analysis is faulty: it leaves out a crucial piece of the puzzle, and one that badly needs to be pointed out, if we are to really understand our situation. But of course, 'progressives' have obvious reasons for hiding this info--esp. from themselves.

Nor are the dolts innocent victims in all this, as you seem to imply. (This is something we've discussed at length on this blog, in fact.) They had little objection to being robbed of language and thought; indeed, they reveled in it, and found any attempt to argue for the importance of these things 'elitist'. So now they are trapped in their own incomprehension.

In any case, regarding your last line: This is what the Germans call a 'Totschlagargument'--attempting to shame the other person with an overbearing, moral zinger, so as to shut down discussion. Nice try, but it didn't work, and I wd ask u to avoid that sort of finger-wagging and pseudo-high-moral-ground-taking in the future. It doesn't say much abt me, or this blog; but it sure says a lot abt you.


11:29 PM  
Anonymous The Dude said...

joe hohos -

I actually think that one of the biggest culprits turning America into such a monstrosity was cars. When, after World War Two, the government consciously decided to favor automobile and truck transportation over all other forms (except air travel), the seeds were sown for our destruction as a society. It took a couple of generations until things really got out of control--I remember back in the 1970s when many of the cross country Interstates had still not yet been completed, for example--and the oil shocks of that same decade, rather than causing us to rethink the unsustainability of our increasingly car centric lifestyle caused us to double down on it once Reagan took office.

But that is the dry explanation. If you want to really understand your fellow citizens, drive the streets, road and highways for awhile and closely observe what you see. It's a jungle out there.

Most Americans are relatively polite when you meet them on foot, but behind the wheel many turn into sociopathic monsters, utterly intolerant of pedestrians, bicyclists and anyone driving a less powerful or gigantic vehicle than their own, as if getting two additional car lengths ahead at rush hour means they won that particular day. Combine that with all the idiots who carelessly invite death for themselves and others by yapping on their cell phones or texting while driving, or who are just plain incompetent and shouldn't be on the roads even tough that is their "God given right," and the full picture begins to emerge showing a society full of self absorbed, hustling twits with, to paraphrase MB, poop where their grey matter ought to be.

Tens of thousands of Americans are killed and maimed on the roadways each year, gas prices have doubled in a decade and will eventually double again, and yet we still have corporate shills loudly decrying any attempts at conservation and recently we even had rich assholes in New York condeming the city's freaking bike share program.

Sadly, the modern American collective personality was very much shaped by the car, and we will eventually ride that outmoded form of transportation right into the brick wall of an oil supply crunch-instigated economic collapse of our own making.

12:28 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Lionel Shriver just published a novel on the subject (fat), "Big Brother," that sounds rather interesting in that regard. Check out recent review in NYTBR.

As for CRE extraction: if only. I suspect that Media Ecology Assn bunch is a rather exceptional group. Fellow travelers, if not actual Wafers (or wayfarers). But I had a dream abt living in a parallel universe, and the prez (nothing like Obama) called me to the W.H., gave me a crowbar and a bucket of vaseline, and said: "Berm, do what you hafta do." And like Johnny Appleseed, I went forth into the land, from house to house, extracting heads from rumps. But then I woke up. Damn!


12:32 AM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

Excellent post, Dr. Berman. Perhaps my favorite of all of them over the last few years since I first discovered this blog. Your works have been such an influential and important part of my life and have provided such a needed source of clarity... and best of all, you approach it with such humanity. Thank you, Maestro, for what you do.

1:59 AM  
Anonymous AvengerSentinel said...

I find it very impressive that you predicted the collapse of the American Empire even before 9/11 in your book, "Twilight of American Culture." When did you decide that enough was enough and that you had to move out of the US?

2:03 AM  
Anonymous teri said...

Dr. Berman,
If I may emphasize a tiny bit of your excellent post today, I have found the following "portraits" of two of our elected officials to be telling. The first is of Scott Walker, governor of Wisc. I've never seen a photo of him that did not look like a caricature - a cartoon - something about his visage is plastic, unreal. His picture always appears to be photo-shopped into whatever background is behind him. And his face does not look quite "real". [The articles are unimportant; I chose them for the pictures.]


And here is Oblahblah. He let his game-face slip for a moment. In this photo, he looks like Rasputin trying to hypnotize the Empress. Or Satan trying to sucker the retarded into one of the circles of hell. I suspect that this is the most accurate picture of the man existent.


Congratulations on the award!

6:52 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Check out DAA ch. 7, on rise of the car culture.


Many thanks. I do look forward to being discovered posthumously. What a rush that'll be.


Where do douche bags come from? How do they get into office? The $64 question...


It grew on me slowly, really; it may have been decades in coming, because I never really fit into the American ethos, and always had a sense of relief when I traveled to Europe or elsewhere. By the time of the Clinton years, when I began collecting notes for the Twilight bk, it was clear to me how anomalous I was: everybody was celebrating the 'prosperity', and I was depressed at how meaningless the whole thing was (ftnote: between 1993 and 2000, the gap between rich and poor widened); how empty he, and the rest of the culture, were--an emptiness that got filled with OJ Simpson, Monica Lewinsky, and dot-com frenzy. I was also becoming increasingly aware of how stupid Americans were (elementary words misspelled on official signs, e.g.--"Childern's Hospital"), and how angry they were in ordinary interactions w/each other. At some pt in 2004, prior to the re-election of Bush, I knew I cdn't live like this anymore--depressed and angry myself (and completely isolated) for the rest of my life. Crossing that border in 2006 was the smartest move I ever made. I remember, 30 miles into Mexico, coming to a Pemex station that was also a cafeteria, and joking around w/the teenagers that worked there, and thinking: in the US these kids would be hostile and bewildered at an older person kidding around w/them. (Check out Tina Fey's movie, "Mean Girls," for a parody of this--except it's not really a parody.) American youth, our 'future', are barely human anymore...This country is all dressed up w/no place to go. How is it that only a few 1000 people see this, out of 315 million?


9:22 AM  
Blogger NearFar said...

Hi WAFers,

(Wayfarers sounds good too)...this truthdig trek was quite rigorous. On the final day, because of an extreme weather forecast, we had to adjust our plans and forgo our hike up to Mt. Madison (we were in the Presidential Range of the White Mts. of NH). So our hiking group made its way, as quickly & safely as possible, down Mt Washington. It is always a good idea, w/ reports of severe thunderstorms & sustained winds up to 120 mph in the forecast, to hike down to a point below the tree line (and off the mountain)...btw: CH has been hiking this area since before he was a teenager (our group included CH's son w/ 15 yrs experience & he is a wilderness guide who has led other expeditions)...Anyhow, I will try to fit my overall impressions into a few concise sentences and paragraphs. But since tedious personal narratives (along w/ digressions on wilderness survival) are not relevant to this format (along w/ our necessary 1/2 page space limit)...I will put my overall impressions into a Word Document and provide a link to it at some future date. But I think there are a few things I heard (ie., during CH's three talks that he gave) that may have relevance to the Waferian outlook, so I will attempt to put a few of these kind of impressions together and post (only if I can keep them short).

9:54 AM  
Anonymous joe hohos said...


Two observations - when I was in WA driving along I-5 to work everyday, I had never seen more courteous driving, until October when the rain started. Then everyone started driving 10-15 miles over the speed limit, in pouring rain, and semis would be hauling butt in the middle ln cutting people off like they didn't see them.
I think our cities and culture might have turned out slightly differently if bikes had been invented before the car, which still remains a mystery to me. Humans figured out the internal combustion engine (1817, or so) before the bicycle (1869, not practical until the turn of the century).

Dr. Berman,

Just finished WAF, which I picked up from my local library. Even more well written than DAA, if that's possible. I began to formulate questions as I read ch. 4, until I read, per your suggestion, n. 41. This explains everything about your argument really ad shows that the south was a hybrid culture, existing within a hustling context, but not necessarily hustling. And as you point out, non-hustling is easy if you have someone else doing the work for you. Pgs. 151-2 were especially illuminating, imo. Anyone who criticized you as being racist has bat guano for brains, since you pt out how horrible slavery is over and over again. Last pt, thanks for the buffoonami knowledge and had I waited to ask my question til I had finished WAF, I would have foud an answer in ch. 5. TY Dr. Berman for telling it like it is, and I for one can't wait to read more of your books.

1:00 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Good day Dr. Berman and Wafers,

Woke up this morning, stumbled to the bathroom and read my post-it. As I read it, I looked at my mug in the mirror and thought... I am a dolt! Holy Sweet Jesus Shit, I must be if I continue to stick around here...


1:14 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I have vowed to not continue discussing WAF ch. 4, since I kept trying to defend myself from the 'pro-slavery' accusation made by people w/bat guano for brains, and failed. The antebellum South is the 'third rail' of American politics to this day: touch it at your peril, as Genovese warned, and as I found out. Furthermore, as I explain in ch. 4, if you read the 'Civil War was abt slavery as a moral issue' school, e.g. Foner or MacPherson, you discover that push comes to shove, they are actually arguing for the 'clash of civs' thesis mounted by Genovese and Vann Woodward (and me)! Thus there seemed to be no pt in discussing it anymore; American 'minds' are closed on the subject. Emotion takes over and that's the end of story--esp. in a context now where Americans are so feeble-minded that they think opinion = argument and emotion = reason. W/no new evidence on the origins of the Civil War, what was left to discuss?

Well, it now turns out that there *is* new evidence, gathered by James Oakes in a bk called "Freedom National," and recently (June 6) reviewed in the NYRB by David Brion Davis. I haven't read the bk, but Davis is a 1st-rate historian, and his review indicates that Oakes has found evidence for the 'Civil War was abt slavery as a moral issue' argument. I'm not going to review the evidence here, esp. since I haven't read the bk; but were I writing WAF now, ch. 4 wd have to be modified. Not that the clash-of-cultures arg is wrong--I don't think it is--but that it needs to be modified and expanded a bit, which I'm only too happy to do in the face of solid historical research. (I'm not talking abt slavery as an economic issue, wh/is a different sort of argument, and which I dealt with in footnote 41.) The modification wd entail saying that while the clash theory is correct, we can now add that the (moral) slavery issue did have an impt role in the momentum to War prior to the Emancipation Proclamation. Anyway, I look forward to rdg Oakes' bk.


2:25 PM  
Anonymous shep said...

Since we have a variation on Tennyson, here is one for "I Am A Poor Wayfaring Stranger".

(Please feel free to change to more vivid/better lyrics on any occasion, esp. taverns with chopped liver, wooooha!)

(Preferred artist - Emmy Lou Harris.)

I am a poor wayfaring wafer
Traveling through this world of dolt's
Where there is no buffoon, phone or apple
To that sweet place, away I go

I’m going there to see my friends
I’m going there no more to roam
I’m going now overseas
I’m going to a pestless home

I know douche nags are gather'd ‘round me
I know my way is rough and steep
Yet beauteous fields lie just before me
Where Berman’s redeemed their vigils keep

I’m going there to see my friends
I know they'll meet me when I come
I’m only going overseas
I’m only going to a better place
I'm only going to a better place ...

4:40 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I dunno what 'douche nags' are, but I think I like them. Meanwhile, try this one on for size:

Douche bag in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little moron—but if I could understand
What you are, empty head and all, and all in all,
I should emigrate immediately.

5:12 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...


This was an interesting speech. It was both intellectually and emotionally hard-hitting, and quite eloquent. I especially liked the idea of how Americans focus on surfaces and ignore depths.

As you say, for us WAFers, life can be so alienating in America, as the vast majority of people are so ignorant and unwilling to have serious conversation about the things that actually matter. I feel that a piece of my 'soul' (for lack of a better, non-metaphysical word) dies each day I remain alive here in America. To think how much is possible in terms of positive change if only Americans cared - reversing inequality, ending the state of permanent war, creating an economy that serves human interests rather than the interests of a tiny minority, having real community where we engage with and help one another - is, for me, truly disheartening. Sad to say, in America, the examined life is almost not worth living - it brings so much pain and loneliness.

To be truly intelligent and wise, to recognize the reality of the American situation, is to suffer enormously. It is as if America is a giant factory that processes people's dreams and crushes them, only to turn people into individualistic cogs greasing the wheels of consumer society. For those like you (and Edward Snowden) who manage to escape America and live a better life, I have only respect.

8:33 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you Morris Berman for all your works. I've read your trilogy on America (read Dark Ages twice) and I still recall the incredible relief I felt as I read through the series. You articulated and expanded upon so many ideas I had felt but could never really express. You and Chris Hedges are my favorite intellectuals - real heroes to me. The extra environmentalists interview you two did was great and I would like to see more of you two getting together.

You've hinted that you've used drugs - smoked marijuana and took mushrooms at least once. Could you elaborate on how that changed or developed your worldview? From my own personal experience smoking pot made me stop and reflect on what a joke our entire rat race civilization was. It was a real value changer for me, wondering if you went through anything similar.

Thanks again, I'm grateful for everything you do and keep up the good work.

8:47 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Mike & Jarid-

Thanks to u both. I hafta say that over the yrs, the most consistent comment I've gotten in letters to me ran along the lines of, "I thought I was nuts until I read your work." It took me many years to realize that it was American society that was nuts, not me; even worse, cruel and stupid and vulgar. And that the reason I felt like shit all the time was that the snow job performed by the culture worked for 99.9% of the population, so who was there to talk to? In any case, if my work can save some people time, so that they can figure all this out in 2 yrs instead of 20 (or 40, or not at all), I've done my job.


9:24 PM  
Anonymous Bingo said...

Just one observation about the Snowden situation:

Seeing the number of countries that have denied granting him asylum, WAFers may want to consider this as the beginning of a larger trend toward countries not allowing Americans on their territories. So, if you're thinking of emigrating, you might not want to wait much longer.

10:29 PM  
Anonymous satyaSarika said...

@mb: Thanks for the pointer to Lionel Shriver. Seems like an interesting person. The Big Brother book isn't for me as the concept of rescuing people from themselves is too depressing since it almost always backfires. For depressing I like non-fiction works. My current favorite fiction author is Alexander McCall Smith. He's apparently a very pleasant, erudite fellow who writes very amusing books. I particularly enjoyed his Sunday Philosophy Club series. It is located in Edinburgh, a city I'd very much like to visit.

@Bingo: I interpret the lack of hospitality for Snowden as being a reflection of the unfortunate inability of most governments to give the US the finger. I don't think it says much about attitudes toward US emigration in general. However, I think you are correct that it is going to get harder and harder to flee as life here continues to degrade and USans don't learn community.

1:42 AM  
Anonymous Jesse said...

Obama is either in a panic mode or his administration is completely confused. Snowden could be anywhere by now. I have a feeling that some liberals pissed off by Obama are behind this thing and other leaks:

VIENNA — The plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales was rerouted to Austria after France and Portugal refused to let it cross their airspace because of suspicions that NSA leaker Edward Snowden was on board, Bolivian officials said Tuesday.

Officials in both Austria and Bolivia said that Snowden was not on the plane, which was taking Morales home from a summit in Russia, where he had suggested that his government would be willing to consider granting asylum to the American.

A furious Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca said France and Portugal would have to explain why they canceled authorization for the plane, claiming that the decision had put the president's life at risk.

"We don't know who invented this lie" that Snowden was traveling with Morales, Choquehuanca said in La Paz. "We want to denounce to the international community this injustice with the plane of President Evo Morales."


1:44 AM  
Anonymous AvengerSentinel said...

(i forgot the link in the previous post, please publish this one)

For all of the WAFers, here is a clip of Morris speaking on CSpan after publishing "The Twilight of American Culture"......in April 2000.


The past 13 years have pretty much vindicated your central thesis that the American Empire is over, and the descent is going to be horrifying.

You actually aged very well Morris, for some reason I think you look better now. I'm surprised that you were so clean shaven in the past.

5:40 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I felt I looked too innocent in the past, and needed more of a Svengali look. Dunno if I managed to achieve it, however.


I don't post Anons, as a rule. Please pick a handle--e.g., Sam Schmeck--and re-send.


6:18 AM  
Anonymous LW said...

Women on COLLEGE CAMPUS sign petition to end women's suffrage (because you know, it, like, sounds like suffering). Ahhhh, higher learning in America.


8:04 AM  
Anonymous Troutbum said...

Dr. Berman and fellow WAFers across the planet:

First of all Kudos's to the good Doctor on a smashing presentation in Grand Rapids.

Today, I wished to draw your attention to an interesting article in the NY Times by Simon Critchley, a professor of philosophy at The New School for Social Research, and Jamieson Webster, a psychoanalyst, titled : " The Gospel According to ‘Me’.

"Charming as American optimism may be, its 21st-century incarnation as the search for authenticity deserves pause. The power of this new version of the American dream can be felt through the stridency of its imperatives: Live fully! Realize yourself! Be connected! Achieve well-being!..... Rather than being the by-product of some collective project, some upbuilding of the New Jerusalem, well-being is an end in itself.... In a seemingly meaningless, inauthentic world awash in nonstop media reports of war, violence and inequality, we close our eyes and turn ourselves into islands..... The stroke of genius in the ideology of authenticity is that it doesn’t really require a belief in anything, and certainly not a belief in anything that might transcend the serene and contented living of one’s authentic life and baseline well-being..... The self-help industry itself runs the gamut in both directions — from “The Power of Now,” which teaches you the power of meditative self-sufficiency, to “The Rules,” which teaches a woman how to land a man by pretending to be self-sufficient. Profit rules the day, inside and out....... When the values of Judeo-Christian morality have been given a monetary and psychological incarnation — as in credit, debt, trust, faith and fidelity — can they exist as values? Is the prosperous self the only God in which we believe in a radically inauthentic world?"

Read the article here and don't miss reader comments at the end : http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/29/the-gospel-according-to-me/?ref=opinion

There reasons why we are surrounded by Dolts!

8:47 AM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...


Countries have NOT denied asylum to Snowden. This is a U.S. Media distortion. They are not granting it to him unless he applies in the country or an embassy--that's how asylum is granted and thus his internet requests have not been accepted. Not the same as rejected. Ask any diplomat. Please Wafers don't be suckers for misinformation.

10:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You`re absolutely correct that life in the US can be extremely torturous IF and IF you are an independent thinker, somewhat intelligent, and value real/authentic social interactions. I made more friends in Montreal in 1 month than I did in the US in over 15 years. Looking back, I cant believe I spent so much time in that sick society.

10:48 AM  
Anonymous Bad Idea Du Jour said...


You are so right about style over substance. It is baffling! My FIL, a highly-educated scientist and extremely "successful" career man, and I were discussing the ethics of working for an certain organization. I turned down a job because of personal experiences with the negative impacts of their policies and he sincerely thought it would have been a fine place to work because he read their mission statement from their website (called up w/ his gadget BTW). As if their intentions and/or publicly stated goals are more important than what they actually do!

On the 4th remember that true freedom is the freedom to opt out of the consumerist madness and live a dignified life.

From the "Wafer Confirmation Bias Poetry Anthology":

"Happiness" by Carl Sandburg

I asked the professors who teach the meaning of life to tell
me what is happiness.
And I went to famous executives who boss the work of
thousands of men.
They all shook their heads and gave me a smile as though
I was trying to fool with them
And then one Sunday afternoon I wandered out along
the Desplaines river
And I saw a crowd of Hungarians under the trees with
their women and children
and a keg of beer and an


11:07 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


You'd think he (Snowden) wd know that, no?


Gd article. Shades of Chris Lasch ("Culture of Narcissism").


Just when you think Americans have hit the stupidity limit, you discover that it's bottomless!


11:48 AM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings MB and Wafers,

Only in America Dept.:




2:36 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...


Thanks for the comment, I hope to be able to make the switch you made. Montreal is a very nice place, from the times I've visited there.

Since you made the switch, can you say anything about the process of immigrating to Canada as an American citizen? Specifically, can an American citizen just go and work there, or do you need some kind of work permit or special visa?

4:27 PM  
Blogger mike said...

Hi Morris,

I neglected to mention a book I found very illuminating around shadows and the basis for the nothingness within. It is "C.G. Jung on Nature, Technology and Modern Life" edited by Meredith Sabini. A small quote from it. "Matter in the wrong place is dirt. People got dirty through too much civilization. Whenever we touch nature, we get clean."

5:18 PM  
Blogger mike said...

I realize I have one comment per day. Just wanted to let you know if you do decide to publish my comment the beginning title of the book by Sabini is "The Earth Has a Soul":C. G. etc. Thanks
Mike Daniel

5:32 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

We seem to be over-miked these days. I'm doing my best to sort u guys out. Perhaps put in surnames (real or invented).

5:36 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Jeff T,

Those were some good articles you had in the "Only in America Dept."

The one from CNN on parents not being worried about their kid's digital media use was most interesting, ESPECIALLY the comments from people below the article. Did you see any of them? They're some real gems. Here's one here I'll copy and paste below:

"When i have children i will have no problem with them being on their technology 24/7! But there is one term, they have to know how it works, how to code, and how to use it for things other than playing angrybirds the whole time. People need to let go of the past. Just because you grew up playing in the schoolyard doesnt mean your children have to. As humans evolve so will children. I encourage you to teach your child about technology so they can get a career not just a job in a factory making it."

This comment represents 90% of the posters (at the least). The few commenters who criticize the parents in the article are attacked just as we'd expect.
Personally, such comments like these make me happy. America is the toilet bowl of the planet and it's people are worthless, irredeemable turds. The sooner they flush themselves into history's scrap heap the sooner Humanity and Nature will have a chance at survival.

7:15 PM  
Anonymous Shane W said...

The reason why the antebellum South is the third rail in American history is because the Civil War never really solved anything--it set us on the course we're on now. So, the South will rise again as the US fails, it will be the source and fuel of the right-wing dummy revolution that MB has referenced. So, Yankee Americans will have fundamentalist Jihad in their own backyard, and will suffer the same blowback for their actions in the South as they do for their actions in the Muslim world, and will be completely oblivious to their role in perpetrating it all. In the fullness of time, the Civil War will have solved nothing, and Lincoln's name will be mud. The US foundation is on very shaky ground indeed, which is why the antebellum South is the 3rd rail of US history.

8:42 PM  
Anonymous Mittney said...

Dear Morris,

Do you believe in synchronicity? What are your thoughts of the work of Jung? Are you a fan or no?

8:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for another insightful post mb. What I like about your work the most (and that of my 2nd favorite blogger, Dmitry Orlov) is you vindicate my rebelliousness with each new post--it's great to read thoughts that I thought I could claim originally as my own, yet could never write so eloquently. I have always felt compelled to live against the grain even though it's such a lonely experience (and I hate loneliness), and I always get such joy out of reading what would depress most everyone I know. It seems like your writing is going in the direction of hypothetical alternatives to the disintegrating mainstream. And I like it. To criticize America (and Western culture in general) is becomingly increasingly easy, but to hypothesize ways in which one can attain peace of mind on the margins... now that's really interesting.

I love the Leonard Cohen lyric, "There's a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in," but "there is no light; it’s all shadows, and the shadows happen to be fully real" seems much more accurate.


10:34 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

Here's some dual-process stuff.

1. In America, the dwindling number of people who are gainfully employed is slated for the sack, and they are meanwhile being worked to death as "human machines," according to this article.

Permanent Unemployment for Everyone, Brought to You by Vulture Capitalism

In my own experience the level of totalitarian micromanagement in many jobs nowadays is incredible. Anyway, the comments on that article are interesting.

2. Here's the classic essay "The Abolition of Work" by Bob Black. This essay is looking less like a joke and more like the words of a sage, with every year that passes. "No one should ever work," says Black.


10:44 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


You cd be rt. One thing I talk abt in WAF ch. 4 is the 'scorched earth' and 'scorched soul' policy the US pursues towards its enemies. It is rarely gracious in victory, and sows the seeds of indefinite resentment. Treatment of Native Americans was horrendous; Mexico had more than half her country stolen; Civ War saw Sherman's march to sea; impossible conditions were set in the Treaty of Versailles, guaranteeing economic collapse for Germany and rise of Hitler (something actually predicted by John Maynard Keynes in 1919); Tokyo was firebombed, and Hiroshima/Nagasaki nuked; what we did in Vietnam was unspeakable; etc. This is what's known as bad karma, because you can win a war w/o becoming insanely and gratuitously violent. So the South never forgave the North, Japan resents us to this day, and so on. We have a habit of winning the war, and losing the peace. I suspect that 50 yrs from now, the US will be known as the country that never had any real friends.


1st, let me say how sorry I am u lost that election. I was really pulling 4u, amigo. As far as Jung goes, I never admired his admiration for the Nazis all that much, and I do think Freud really understood the human condition much better than he did. His treatment of Sabina Spielrein was appalling--what a cad he was. But my Reenchantment bk has a pretty Jungian flavor to it, and I always admired his creative way of dealing w/life, thru dreams, archetypes, and the like. Obviously, a very rich thinker. As for synchronicity...it's...*interesting*. I always look for patterns in my life, and try to figure out the message therein. Same w/dreams. Of course, the latter can be quite cryptic. For example, yesterday I dreamt that I flushed Obama down the toilet. Am still trying to figure out the meaning of that; it seems so obscure.


Well, we need to think of alternatives on an individual level (hence, the Twilight bk), and also in geopolitical terms: the emergence of an eco-sustainable, nonprofit-oriented, soft energy way of life. In a word, on both a personal and political level, we need to get beyond hustling, w/all that entails. Yes, an enormous challenge, but what else were u planning to do w/yr life, anyway? (I'm using 'u' in a general sense here.) As for loneliness, remember that it's a longing not for company, but for kind. There are lots of gringos where I live in Mexico, pretty much a useless lot who talk abt the weather and the prices and don't have 2 thoughts to rub together. What wd be the pt in hanging out w/them? Definitely not my kind. Five mins of conversation w/these jokers and I wanna go get a .357 magnum and blow my brains out. Honestly, the US has generated more nonpersons as a % of the population than any other country in the history of the world. Douchebaggery run rampant.


11:25 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

And as for July 4th:


12:09 AM  
Anonymous Bingo said...

MB & WAFers,

I am glad to report that I have finally left hellhole USA. At this point I have no reason to waste any more time on future trips to that country again.

I can't even begin to tell you how my outlook on life improved instantly, how much higher quality things such as food, air, water, are here, and how nice it is to speak with people who actually are interested in you as a person. It's nice to eat tomatoes that taste like tomatoes, cheese that tastes like cheese, etc. It's nice not to worry that some crazed up junkie might shoot you in the back. And it feels great to have basics such as health insurance, which, while in the US, the so-called universities where I was a professor would not provide.

Anyway, you too should leave that hellhole while you can. Do not look back, and do not even waste your time drawing comparisons with other places. There is nothing there for any sane/normal human being. The place is just that -- a hellhole, and it's getting worse by the day.

7:26 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


So u finally pulled it off! I'm sure all Wafers and Waferettes join me in congratulating u, and wishing you clear skies and happy sailing. Pls keep us informed abt yr new life, and I'm sure we'll continue to keep you up to date abt life in Upper Slobbovia (ftnote: Al Capp). BTW, you might enjoy this recent remark of Evo Morales:

"Message to the Americans: The empire and its servants will never be able to intimidate or scare us," Morales told supporters at El Alto International Airport outside La Paz. "European countries need to liberate themselves from the imperialism of the Americans."

Let's hope the Suez Moment is not too far away...


8:00 AM  
Blogger NearFar said...

Hi WAFers,

I'm traveling thru southern New Hampshire now. I'm going to hunker down for a day to keep to the margins of the 4thjuly buffoonery. Thinking abt driving down to Pittsfield Mass. tomorrow where Melville lived for 19 yrs (according to some quick research I just did..mmm, maybe Emily D. in Amherst). I have not read Moby Dick yet. I better get steppin': Melville just keeps showing up! He is a continuous presence for CH who just reread Moby Dick recently ( ie., someone in our group asked CH to expound on Melville in terms of cannibalization & the 'sacrifice zones,' across the U.S..). Of course, Melville/Moby Dick is a 'shadow' (?) presence thruout Why America Failed (trying to think abt 'shadow' in terms of MB's latest posting).

If anyone has suggestions on what I should be looking for here in this area (west Mass/ so. VT & NH) here's my email: Croess45@gmail.com. Or if you want to grab a coffee or beer (my treat) and compare field notes or do a little ethnographic investigation of the CRE phenomenon among the locals, shoot me an email. I will continue down west NY, PA, & thru to NC within the coming days...perhaps.

9:37 AM  
Anonymous Shane W said...

the Tea Party, which is where the US right wing dummy revolution will come, is full of Confederate ghosts--strengthening of federalism/states rights/nullification, weakening/shrinking of the national government (including the military), repeal/rollback of Civil Rights laws, and an underlying xenophobia/racism/homophobia. I mean, much of the Tea Party doctrine/policy could've been lifted from 1850s-1860s Southern grievances against the North. So, what did the Civil War really settle in the fullness of time? By scapegoating the South, the North created the monster shadow that will eventually engulf the whole country.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Just one post/day, thanks.


Thoreau's shack in Concord?


10:34 AM  
Anonymous shep said...


And u have this re: the South..it's true.

"In any event, you have working people down there who’d rather walk around with four teeth in their mouth than belong to a union dental plan.
David Macaray counter punch 7-4-2013

11:13 AM  
Blogger Jack at CASCADIA ARTPOST said...

It should be no surprise that the U.S. mails are being snoopervised.


Activist = Terrorist = Target

11:26 AM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings MB and fellow Wafers,


Congratulations are in order for your recent escape to freedom. The fact that news about your departure fell on "hellhole USA" Independence Day is cause for further celebration! I will personally miss your observations about Chi-Town's on-going collapse and other musings. For old times' sake, here is one more story from the local rag of the "City on the Make" (credit to Nelson Algren):



12:22 PM  
Anonymous AvengerSentinel said...

Bingo, where did you move to? I'm curious.

5:46 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...


Thank you so much for Bob Black’s wonderful essay, “The Abolition of Work” – I highly recommend it to all Wafers and Waferettes. It was reprinted in “Utne Reader” back in the 1980’s, and I’ve been meaning to look it up and mention it on this blog.

For decades now I’ve been carrying this line in my head: “There’s more freedom in a moderately de-Stalinized dictatorship than in the average American workplace.”
(Julian, would you like to comment on that?)

You say that it now seems less like a joke, but I never considered it to be a joke at all. While it’s true that it was written with a certain amount of hyperbole, people really do need to move their thoughts and actions in that direction, far, far away from the American Dream (nightmare).

All my life I have managed to deprive myself of the joys of home-ownership, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that fifty years ago when I read Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row”, it became one of my life changing books.

Of course at some point in the 21st century Americans are going to move to a simpler world made by hand, but not because they’ve wised up. They’ll be dragged to it kicking and screaming when the industrial age runs out of energy. And the dumb schmucks will probably *choose* to schlepp blocks of stone, building pyramids for a new one percent.

Another formative book was Elmer Rice’s “The Adding Machine”.

David Rosen

11:13 PM  
Anonymous joe hohos said...


Went out to a 4th event today and decided to report from the field. Very little tecnobuffoonery going on - didn't see anyone talking on a cell phone, no tablets. I overheard one or two inappropriate conversations, not much for the thousands of people there. Also, people were very nice and polite. The one odd thing I saw was the crowd segregated itself for the most part - one section of the park, by the lake, was mostly black and hispanic, while on the other side of the park the crowd was mostly white.

1:03 AM  
Blogger Dan Henry said...

My own contempt for unbridled nationalism aside, I have to make note of the horror this "holiday" inflicts on my dog. She has barely eaten the past two days and spent today hiding underneath a pile of boxes. And this is a gun dog...I can't imagine what some of the toy breeds are like at this joyous time of year. Ehh, fuck it, BIG BOOM SOUND LOUD!!1!1!!!

3:42 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Brief notes from our 4th of July.

Someone had put little plastic flags in front of every house on the local streets. When I went out to look at the one we got, I saw that they all had cards from a real estate agent attached, each one wishing the reader a patriotic 4th & asking us to call her if we were interested in selling our house.

Just makes one glow with national pride, doesn't it?

A friend invited us to her place & treated us to homemade Indian food & several hours of intelligent, sparkling, thoughtful conversation. We all agreed that it was difficult to find that sort of conversation these days. What a pleasure it was!

I turned on the TV briefly & saw they were showing (as expected) several 1940s WWII films. One thing that struck me was that their patriotism was nowhere near as grotesque & overblown as it is today. Soldiers weren't saints with 6-pack abs or "wounded warriors" then; they were ordinary people. And even the flag-waving had a kind of down home warmth to it, as opposed to the almost viciously insistent "patriotism" of the present day. Illusion it might have been, but it was a more human illusion than the plastic, hysterical version we get today. It was the regular Joes vs. the Master Race. Now our American cinematic "heroes" look like the Master Race themselves. (Wafers, here I recommend Erich Fromm's The Heart of Man & Lewis Yablonsky's Robopaths.)

8:09 AM  
Anonymous Rufus T. Shmeck said...

Dr. B.

I'm beginning to despair that I will ever see/read "Spinning Straw into Gold". Please rescue me from these depths!


8:58 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


You and me both. I'm going to pick up the latest proof copy at my US mail drop today, but every time I do, there's still something wrong w/it. SSIG was supposed to be out in early April. This too is part of the breakdown of our culture--printers ain't what they usta be! I'm hoping we can get this up on Amazon by the end of the month, but who the fuck knows anymore? We are endlessly "on the verge" of being finished.


I guess I shd have put it in the Twilight bk, but one sign of a civilization in collapse is the palpable increase of douchebaggery on a daily basis. I wd have coined a new word.


9:30 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

NearFar -

Check out Fletcher Steele's gardens at Naumkeag in Stockbridge.

Also, "Moby Dick" has interesting interpretations as a book on ecological limits - the peak (whale) oil of its day.

11:52 AM  
Anonymous J S RANK said...

MB ...What if, as you indirectly indicate; that the 'dolts' ARE shadows ? Much like the cyphers in Zamyatin's "We" ?
In this dystopian construct, it is the material trappings and the 'glass houses' of trivial fame and celebrity that are the shells that make up a fantasy reality.
Meanwhile, the inner souls - the psyches of the drone inhabitants are mere shadow puppets, oblivious that their 'lives' are controlled and dictated ...not 'theirs' at all.

In this, the vacant look of the empty men may indeed be just a reflection of what they see.

1:28 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

What's shakin' Wafers?


Damn printers! Meanwhile, a new acronym perhaps: PID (Palpable Increase of Douchebaggery).

Tim Lukeman-

Indeed, realtors never miss a beat. My father was a WW II veteran and the thing I remember most about his service was his silence about it. He never talked about the experience; seemed to just wanna forget it, really. He did say to me once, however, never join the military unless you enjoy spending time with assholes who have complete control over you.

Sean Hunter-

Thanks for commenting on my contribution to the "Only in America Dept." It's a never- ending Department for sure.

With the recent death of Philip Slater, I found myself thumbing through his classic work, "The Pursuit of Loneliness," at my local library. It's remarkable how prescient it is. Slater forces his readers to grapple with our addiction to technology and why we continuously use it to distance ourselves from people. The fact that this problem remains unresolved and growing into a sickness, is telling.


Thanks for the Philip Slater obituary. I was struck by the words, "He... began culling his personal possessions down to the two boxes he left when he died at 86...." Proof of a well-lived life, no?


2:07 PM  
Anonymous James Newlin said...

I made my first piece of pottery from a local outcrop of clay, and I recommend everyone try it. In reading about pottery, I learned about Hal Riegger - Raku Pioneer and conscientious objector to war:

WWII conscientious objectors were organized into work camps and were required to pay to stay there. Riegger was assigned to a camp in northwestern North Dakota, where he helped organize a pottery program for the men in the camp. The program gained national attention for the quality of the work produced, and an exhibition of assignees' work toured veteran's hospitals to encourage physical therapy.

About the Civil War -

I don't believe your argument in Ch. 4 in WAF, but I don't think you're pro-slavery either. It's interesting that if it were about a clash of civilizations, why did the confederacy come to the north during the war, enslave 1000 black people, many of whom had always been free?

2:07 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Here are the problems I have with your comment re: Civ War:

1. What is your proof of this assertion? I need author, title, and page # of a respected historian, to believe this. My sources for clash of civs were Woodward, Genovese, Foner, and MacPherson. Yours?

2. A single irrational activity during war doesn't prove very much (assuming it happened). War is a very crazy thing, and sometimes events occur that are contrary to the dominant purpose. This happened during the French Rev, for example; it's a well-known phenomenon. Picking up on one strange event doesn't contradict the overall argument.

3. However, if this event occurred after the Emancipation Proclamation, then it also doesn't prove much, because by then the stated purpose of the War had changed--as I indicate in WAF ch. 4. Things were very different in 1863 than in 1861, when the War was actually launched.

Finally, as I've said a # of times, we had all this out on this blog when WAF 1st came out, and I saw that I wasn't able to convince anybody of the argument, no matter how well substantiated it was, and no matter how many respectable historians had said the same thing. As a result, I really have to stop having this (pointless) debate, and I hope you'll respect that. The only reason I re-opened the topic recently was due to the publication of "Freedom National," by James Oakes, which has new evidence regarding the slavery argument. I.e., solid evidence from an accomplished historian.



4:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff T

My uncle was at Pearl Harbor and flew bombers. Growing up (I was born in '55), I used to be amazed that he never spoke about his experiences. The movies, you know, made the war seem so heroic, I used to wonder why he never talked about it.

He is now 92 years old, and apparently his mind is starting to go a bit. My mother (his sister) tells me he is waking up with night terrors now and crying, and keeps talking about all the people he killed with all the bombs he dropped. His wife is trying to get some help for him, but no one seems to know what to do.

The stuff that these guys did and saw is buried deep, and apparently the "Good War" narrative is able to keep it at bay somewhat, but there is a price to pay. Apparently, not everyone can keep the thoughts and memories away until the very end.

4:48 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...


Yes I remember wincing in regret just after I hit the "Publish Your Comment" button on that; didn't really mean to use the word "joke." (Probably "less flippant-sounding" or something else woulda been better.) Glad that essay is one of yr faves too.

For years a deal of ink 'n' pulsating pixels have been used in discussing "the end of work." Here is Black's interesting review of Rifkin's book abt it.


5:05 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Sir T-

Jesus, what a story. More people shd know abt it.

Here's a group that doesn't:



9:24 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Cowardly, spineless Europe.

Courageous Latin America.


9:37 PM  
Blogger mike said...

Hi Morris,
When I read "Why America Failed" and then following your comments in the blog I got the distinct impression that there is some psychological underpinning to what you are saying beyond the historical background which I appreciate being Canadian of US parents. In fact I sense the psyche end of things is where this has to lead to next in some ways. For me the shadowy part of the human being is where the juicy stuff lies. Here the human soul can be screaming out with body symptoms or nightmares and a person like Mr. Cheney keeps seemingly chugging along in his foul ways.
My father lost his leg in the Battle of the Bulge. He remains relatively unable to express feeling generally but this is changing as he approaches 88 this year. When I visited him recently he spoke for the first time in detail about being a machine gunner. After the war he and my mom joined the socialist wave and during the McCarthy era were harassed by the FBI phones tapped, letters opened, car tires slashed until they left for Canada. The FBI literally came on to the campus at UBC and spoke to the Dean of Medicine to have my father's job offer rescinded. It was my good fortune that the snipers bullet landed in the dirt in front of my father's face at the edge of the foxhole and the Dean said piss off.
Mike Daniel

12:22 AM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Waffers & Wafferettes,

In “The Culture of Narcissism”, Christopher Lasch says something like: “In an age of absurdity, it becomes difficult to recognize parody.” Indeed, “The Onion” presents a better picture of reality than today's lame-stream media.

I enjoyed Dr. Berman’s reference to Al Capp’s “Li’l Abner” and “Upper Slobbovia”. Lately I’ve been thinking about the Slobbovian Bald Eagle, a round bunch of feathers on two chicken legs with a bald top of its head and two big eyes looking straight ahead.

The thing about it was that anyone who looked into its eyes couldn’t help but tell the truth. Of course if any of our political leaders were to come under its gaze, the normal functioning of the government would become impossible. So, the Slobbovian Bald Eagle was seen as a security threat, and federal agents were sent to hunt it down. The story, which I remember from the 1950’s, involved Abner, Daisy-Mae, and Mammy Yokum’s efforts to protect the poor bird.

(This was at a time when the FBI spent a lot of time and money persecuting the big-bad “Communist threat”, while J. Edgar Hoover was denying that there was a ‘Mafia’— even as it blackmailed him.)

Manning, Asange, and Snowden are today’s Slobbovian Bald Eagles, but Mammy Yokum is nowhere to be found.


I recall that one of your reasons for your stint in the US was so that your daughter’s English wouldn’t develop a ‘foreign’ accent. I wouldn’t have put Chicago at the top of my list for that purpose. If you really want her to have a humdinger of an accent, take her to Brooklyn or, better yet, Jersey City. Texas, however, would be outright child abuse.

Anyway, felicitări on your return to a land of health and decency.

David Rosen

12:52 AM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

Greetings from Costa Rica...

1) Robert Anton Wilson regularly referred to George as The Philosopher Carlin. My take is that he was trying to get his readers to appreciate the depth (in Spanish...profundidad) of George's thinking

If you aren't familiar with RAW's work, buy many kilos of coffee and plan to spend a few months reading or watching his entertaining performances on Youtube.

2) Late SciFi author John Brunner wrote a short story (sorry, title long-forgotten) about reincarnation.

The premise was that there were a finite number of souls available to go through the reincarnation process.

I recall (perhaps correctly) that it was set in India and that at some point doctors there started to see babies being born with blank stares...as if they had no souls.

Maybe it was a case of the right plot gimmick being set in the wrong country.

Pretty sure souls in the USA are on back order these days with no indication from the supplier of an expected date for delivery of more.


2:38 AM  
Anonymous ellen said...

Dr B said:

'Cowardly, spineless Europe.'

Yeah, all that phony outrage but the poodles roll over when the master speaks. I am cynical enough to expect nothing else but nevertheless, beyond ashamed.

Greenwald on the obvious circus of distractions:


All of Europe was served with international arrest warrants several days ago but only Ireland published the news. There is very little being published here apart from by the Guardian, all news outlets have been served with 'D notices' to discourage reporting and most are complying:


3:33 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Just fyi, I'll be giving some lectures at the 3 univs. in Costa Rica in Sept. 2014.


Manning, Assange, and Snowden are adding up. Obama sits around w/egg on face. A few more heroic 'traitors' and perhaps the US will finally have its 'Suez Moment'. One can only hope. Meanwhile, the American public, always half-asleep, can't even identify these people if asked. So we have a gov't run by sociopaths and passively supported by clueless dummies.

Mike D-

Wonderful people, the FBI, eh? True patriots. Meanwhile, for the psychological underpinning check out "Coming to Our Senses." Soon 2b available on Amazon, but u can order it now from the Book Clearing House, bookch@aol.com.


8:18 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

The latest from Amy Goodman:

"Grass-roots justice movements are the hope, the beacon, the force that will save this country."

I'm not sure what planet she's living on, but I find this both touching and adorable.


10:32 AM  
Blogger Sarasvati said...

Dr. Berman and Fellow WAFer/ettes:

I’ve spent some time mulling over the “Wu Wei” conversation, and thought I’d ask if anyone here is familiar with the writings of Wei Wu Wei ("action that is non-action"). WWW is the nom de plume of Terence Grey, an Irish nobleman, connoisseur of the theater, racehorses and wine, and a 20th century Taoist writer and philosopher. Perhaps John, with his metaphysical questions, would be interested in Wei Wu Wei’s writings about the “negative way.” Quote: “Play your part in the comedy, but don't identify yourself with your role!”

Which brings me to the thought that there’s another option available to those of us who cannot, for various reasons, emigrate or go NMI: That other way out is “in.” Crash the Gateless Gate and find freedom within ourselves and therefore freedom within the confines of our crazy society. It won’t change what happens to the physical body or to the country, but life for those who do it would be held in a different perspective. This kind of liberation actually has nothing to do with religion (Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Born Again, New Age, whatever), and I’ve often wondered why such an idea is always discussed within a religious context.

Anyone here have some thoughts about this?

11:34 AM  
Anonymous Kyle said...


I think some government officials must have read WAF. I'm not sure if this has been discussed here but the DHS recently purchased 1.6 billion rounds of ammo and thousands of armored personnel carriers.


12:12 PM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...


Geesh, the Amy Goodman is such a doll! I suspect its mere words to make her listeners feel good and put on an additional bumper sticker on the ol Prius and or feel better as they go with their canvass tote to the local vegetarian co-op. Can chat with others about yes I agree with Amy and with Bernie Sanders and we are so good. Monday comes and these very same people all go to work for the FBI, GM, Congress, and even defense contractors. You see it in California and in D.C. Much like Dovid points out there is no parody nor is there any depth. The sorts who listen to Amy G and carry their NPR coffee mugs at their job at homeland security merely pose and utter empty words. I will add that some of the recent phrases used by the NPR crowd like "going viral" "lean in" "empowerment" and "grass roots" "Community Based" do make me feel a bit violent but alas I read my post it a few times....

12:26 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, that's partly NMI, at any rate. It's a start.


Nice, the idea of the Pentagon holding seminars on WAF. This b4 they use all that new equipment to hang me from the nearest lamppost.


It's just wonderful, Amy and all the 'progressives' believing that hogwash. I love it. More power to 'em, I say! Meanwhile, yes, consult yr post-it. You might think of having a variety of them. E.g. today's might read: Amy Goodman is a deluded buffoon.


12:55 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and fellow Wafers,

Dr. Berman-

As the Ottoman Empire crumbled, it was known as "the sick man of Europe." Today, New Jersey notwithstanding, we might say something analogous about those "college" students answering questions about American Independence Day. In between gasps for air, I felt the urge to vomit.

Sir Tagio-

Your uncle's story reminds me of historian Howard Zinn. Zinn was trained as a bombardier during WW II and flew combat missions in Europe. After the war, he confronted the horrors of what he had participated in during the war. At any rate, you're right, the memories are deep in the psyche of many of those veterans. Hopefully, your family can get him some help. For more on Zinn's story and life, check out his book, "You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times."



1:46 PM  
Anonymous Edward said...

America, the land of the dumb and the selfish. To be dumb and selfish is a deadly combination. Please explain to me how this could happen:

Child dead after being left in hot truck

LANSDOWNE - The black Ford F-150 is the focus of Baltimore County police detectives. Pictures are taken and the child car seat is eventually pulled from the truck.

"Somebody don't have no heart. I can't believe it," said Aura Mendez, a neighbor.

It's tough on neighbors, knowing now a 16-month-old girl was found in cardiac arrest and later died at the hospital. She's identified as Sabriya Towels.

"No common sense. You don't need an education to do that. It's just sad," said Brian Salvato, a neighbor.

Towels was found around 1 p.m. on McDowell Ln. in Lansdowne. Now police say it may have been an accident.

A relative, not a parent, was supposed to drop her off at the Highland Village Head Start Center. But instead, he drove to their home on South Paca St. and went inside to sleep.

Four hours later, he went to pick up the child but ran back out and found her in the truck. At this point, police do not think it was intentional but it's still tough on neighbors.

"We had no idea that someone would leave a baby in this type of heat in a truck with leather seats," said Veronica Towson, a neighbor.

It was 88 degrees outside. Inside a black car would be hotter. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will determine how she died.

"You don't even leave a dog in the car for that amount of time. I don't care if it's two minutes. It's too hot out here," said Shanda Thomas.

The relative has not been named and no criminal charges have been filed.

Employees at the Head Start Center would not talk to us about the case.


1:52 PM  
Anonymous Shane W said...

Speaking of parody and reality merging, here's a kindred spirit, MB--enjoy--

1:58 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Came across this quote last night:

This is where we are after the liberals, the radicals, the humanitarians have tried to make a better nation by making a better political structure and by dedicating their own lives to this greater public interest. The political activists have had their day and have been given their chance. They ask for still more activism, still more dedication, still more self-sacrifice, believing more of the same bad medicine is needed, saying their cure has not yet been tested. It is time to realize that this form of activism merely affirms the State. Must we wait for fascism before we realize that political activism has failed?

Interestingly enough, it's from Charles Reich's The Greening of America, circa 1970. After it was mentioned in previous posts, I dug out my old copy & decided to read it again, cover to cover. For all the mocking it's taken over the decades, his analysis of America is still pretty much on target. And his contention that a complete change in consciousness would be required to save America from itself was on target too -- it's just that it never happened, as he admits might very well be the case even then.

If there ever was a time to be hopeful that such a change might be possible, it was then. That time has long passed. I really can't begrudge Amy Goodman or anyone else for wanting to believe that change & salvation are still possible, even though they clearly aren't. Who wants to admit that they've devoted their lives & energies to a futile cause? I'd very much like for them to be proven right, in fact ... but it ain't gonna happen, alas.

Cultivate your gardens, NMIs, both real & metaphoric.

2:59 PM  
Anonymous James Newlin said...

Re: Lost Cause Myth and Civil War HIstory

About the enslavement of up to 1000 free northern blacks -- from the Diane Rehm show on July 2, 2013, listen beginning at 35:40 (audio available at http://thedianerehmshow.org) -- the first voice is historian Adam Goodheart, followed by historian Ervin Jordan.

My sources: Stampp, McWhiney, Durden, Roark, Foster

Kenneth Stampp has commented on the fiction of a nationalistic/cultural difference. "Fundamentally," he writes, "the Confederacy was not the product of a genuine southern nationalism. Indeed, except for the institution of slavery, the South had little to give it national identity, and the notion of a distinct southern culture was largely the figment of the romantic imagination of a handful of intellectuals and pro-slavery propagandists. Grady McWhiney and other of today's historians share this opinion.

Kenneth M. Stampp, The Imperiled Union (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), 255, 265.

Grady McWhiney, Southerners and Other Americans (New York: Bass Books, 1973), 3-4.

Kenneth M. Stampp observes that Southern spokesmen "denied that slavery had anything to do with the Confederate cause," thus decontaminating it and turning it into something that they could cherish. "After Appomattox, Jefferson David claimed that 'slavery was in no wise the cause of the conflict' and Vice President Alexander H. Stephens argued that the war 'was not a contest between the advocates or opponents of that Peculiar Institution.'" The denial that slavery protection had been the genesis of the Confederacy and the purpose of secession became "a cardinal element of the Southern apologia," according to Robert F. Durden. He finds that "liberty, independence, and especially states rights were advanced by countless Southern spokesmen as the hallowed principles of the Lost Cause." And James L. Roark notes that postwar Southerners manifested "a nearly universal desire to escape the ignominy attached to slavery."

Kenneth M. Stampp, The Imperiled Union (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), 268.

Robert F. Durden, The Gray and the Black (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1972), 3.

James L. Roark, Masters Without Slaves: Southern Planters in the Civil War and Reconstruction (New York: W. W. Norton, 1977), 195.

From Gaines Foster:

"I don't think too many historians any longer see it as a battle between an industrial North and Agrarian South. Moreover, there was certainly a great deal of interest in making money, one might even say bustling spirit, in the South."

The Lost Cause is therefore an American legend, an American version of great sagas like Beowulf and the Song of Roland. Generally described, the legend tells us that the war was a mawkish and essentially heroic and romantic melodrama, an honorable sectional duel, a time of martial glory on both sides, and triumphant nationalism.

4:04 PM  
Anonymous Savantesimal said...

This is not an easy place to have a detailed discussion of philosophical concepts, but I thought I would point out that there is actually something in the Western tradition, or was before it was violently suppressed, that corresponds to the Eastern concept that MB is referencing.

In Classical Greco-Roman religious thought, there was a stream of mystical tradition that got woven into everything, even the budding movement of Christianity. For a while. But eventually there was a sort of adaptation to Imperial regimentation by the "Christian" movement and what is now called Orthodoxy was invented. In order to survive in the regimented militaristic society of the Roman Empire, Christianity itself became regimented and militaristic, with all sorts of hierarchy and defined jurisdictions for appointed authorities. And all forms of religious thought or belief that didn't suit the authorities were suppressed. One of the labels for the "inappropriate" styles of opinion was Gnosticism. This was only a label, though, used for many different groups who might not have accepted being classed together.

An important concept that appears in most so-called Gnostic thought is the Pleroma. Translated literally it means "fullness" which might at first seem to be the opposite of the idea of "emptiness" that has been imported from Eastern philosophy. But as with all rational concepts, context is everything. A reading of the Wikipedia article on pleroma is a good place to learn something about the shades of meaning of this word. Put simply, it usually means "the whole" as opposed to the parts. Non-specificness could be described as either "emptiness" or "fullness" depending on the language being spoken, I think. The difference between levels of abstraction is a more technical way to describe it. MB's contrast between vertical and horizontal thinking comes to mind.

And once you've digested this small sample of the complexities involved in understanding a single word of ancient Greek, check out the article on Gnosticism in the New Testament which discusses how the supposed founder of Christianity used Greek terminology in a way that is unmistakably "Gnostic" -- although Orthodox scholars of course continue to dispute that Saint Paul said what he said. Modern scholarship is in fact finding that many of the letters attributed to him are actually forgeries. But it's not the ones that contain the "Gnostic" ideas. It's the ones that contain the statements designed to establish authority and rational control. Ideology is as old as rationality, it seems.

5:12 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thanks for the refs; I appreciate it. The trouble w/Stampp and those claiming that outside of slavery, the South had 0 to offer, is that it's merely their opinion. Other historians (mostly Northerners, but one Southerner, Vann Woodward, is esp. gd on this pt--u wd do well to read his essays) think very differently, and say that these assertions are an attempt to whitewash the South--which was certainly successful, and has done the US untold damage, esp. in its talent for seeing the Other (any Other) in Manichaean terms. That's the legacy of how we treated and whitewashed the South, although it's certainly true that we had that psychology prior to the Civil War--no enemy, b4 or after, ever had any redeeming virtues. These statements by Stampp are merely assertions; they don't constitute proof.

Note that WAF doesn't make the economic argument (Beard, e.g., and see my note 41) or the states' rights argument. The clash of cultures argument is something completely different. However, I'm quite convinced you are going to believe what u want to believe, and in that, you'll certainly be w/in mainstream American thought.

And now, as I said--let's put it to rest. I've debated this endlessly, last year, w/no success whatsoever. Like yourself, those folks were not able to take in the actual evidence I present, and I do understand how threatening it is. That there was nothing more to the South except slavery and romantic myth is clearly what Americans need to believe. Genovese et al. can write piles of vols. to the contrary (or see Michael O'Brien's "Conjectures of Order," 1400 pp. documenting the intellectual life of the Old South); it will not change Americans' minds. If they can't, I certainly can't.

Anyway, you shd be aware that I'm not going to post anything more on this, for reasons already indicated. As I said, James Oakes was a reliable exception.

All the best,

5:17 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


On Gnosticism and early Christianity, check out "Coming to Our Senses" and the corresponding ftnotes.


5:30 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

This from cnn.com:

"In February, the VA released findings of a study that has saturated national op-eds and Washington news conferences ever since: 22 U.S. military veterans commit suicide every day."

7:08 PM  
Anonymous Winter in America said...

I've been meaning to contribute to this post but its been like me attempting to double-dutch, and here it is 144 comments already.

First off - Thanks Dr, Berman for providing the transcript to your speech — well worth sharing along with Orlov's post from this past Tuesday. Funny thing you mentioned the inherent vacuity features of John & Jane Troglodyte — well now I know I'm not alone in this observation. Interesting!

You also mentioned your morning routine of tea and pondering... at the end of George Carlin's skit on children he too sums up the point you were making.

Secondly - I was also pleased to see so many references to GC — it was my intent to recognize his passing on this blog on 6/22 with a link for his You Are All Diseased show -- something you'd all appreciate I'm sure if you haven't listened to it. If you're familiar with it indulge yourself with an encore.

Wrapping it up - The NY Times on 7/5/13 ran an article on a dispute Frank Serpico (for those unfamiliar with him see the 1973 film Serpico starring Al Pacino) is having with a land developer. In reading the article I thought you folks here might appreciate the following:

His convalescence here, a two-hour drive north of New York City, has been Mr. Serpico’s second act. He wandered Europe and North America for a decade and then, in the early 1980s, built a rustic one-room cabin with no furnace overlooking the Hudson and began living a monastic life in nature...

“It’s like fighting the system again,” Mr. Serpico said. “Here I’m trying to enjoy my tranquillity and I’m being dragged back into a world of corruption.”

So discouraged has Mr. Serpico, 77, become that he has renewed his American and Italian passports with an eye, he said in all seriousness, toward moving back to Europe.

10:49 PM  
Blogger Zosima said...

The latest from Amy Goodman:

"Grass-roots justice movements are the hope, the beacon, the force that will save this country."

I'm not sure what planet she's living on, but I find this both touching and adorable.

It’s her job to keep saying things like that, so that people will not move on to the obvious and necessary formulation that:

“Revolutionary movements are the only force that will save this country and this world from the destructive greedy thugs that now run it, and who pay Amy’s salary.”

1:47 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


This article came and went some time ago, but it struck me as pretty impt, needing a lot more publicity:


It talks abt The Nation crowd and other 'progressives' essentially being bought out or co-opted by rich Democrats, so as to keep potentially radical forces contained. Whether this includes Amy or not, I have no idea. Her naivete, however, is beyond dispute.


6:45 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Anti-CRE Dept.: Here's an interesting attempt to get the American head out of the American buttocks, w/o benefit of crowbars and K-Y Jelly:


7:02 AM  
Anonymous Troutbum said...

Dr. MB and fellow WAFers:

In the afterglow of Independence Day, I bring to your attention an article in the NY Times on July 3rd, " U.S. Postal Service Logging All Mail for Law Enforcement". The article begins with the tale of a bookstore owner, yes a bookstore in this land of the free, who discovers that all of his mail is being watched.

Quoting the article: the bookstore owner...." was targeted by a longtime surveillance system called mail covers, a forerunner of a vastly more expansive effort, the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program, in which Postal Service computers photograph the exterior of every piece of paper mail that is processed in the United States — about 160 billion pieces last year. It is not known how long the government saves the images. Together, the two programs show that postal mail is subject to the same kind of scrutiny that the National Security Agency has given to telephone calls and e-mail...... “It’s a treasure trove of information,” said James J. Wedick, a former F.B.I. agent ....... “Looking at just the outside of letters and other mail, I can see who you bank with, who you communicate with — all kinds of useful information that gives investigators leads that they can then follow up on with a subpoena.” "
Notice WAFers, this is largely a fishing expedition without any court supervision. More evidence the US Constitution is toilet paper. And 2/3rds of the American people will say I have nothing to hide.

The Dolts are winning.

7:16 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

I'm sure we've all seen an increasing number of news stories about SWAT tactics used by local police for the most ridiculous of reasons:


I've also noticed that not only cops but reporters love this sort of thing, using phrases like "lockdown" & such as much as possible to make something seem like a potential disaster, when more often than not it's something that a single cop on the beat could handle -- if it even needed that.

I live in one of several small NJ shore towns, and even the smallest of them has some sort of SWAT gear & team. And no doubt they're just itching to use it at every opportunity.

And God help you if you try to photograph or take video of them in action, even if you're inside your own home, looking outside through the window!

9:24 AM  
Anonymous From Imbecileville said...

The moral degeneration of Israel is complete:


We torture the adult Arabs and the Israelis with their "Most Moral Army" take care of the kids.

It is just unfathomable how far a nation, which arose from the ashes of the Holocaust with its cries of "Never Again!", has fallen in just a few generations.

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Wafers and Waferettes,

Re: “Child dead after being left in hot truck”

Beyond the widespread stupidity, a number of synergistic factors come together to make this sort of thing almost inevitable.

The isolated nuclear family is a bizarre anomaly in human history, but is accepted as normal in the American Hologram. It really does take a village…

Working parents are forced to dump their kids off at whatever childcare they can get, and/or to trust whoever they can find to care for them.

Millions of parents and adult relatives are exhausted and distracted from working their butts off at multiple low-paying jobs. Many do this in part to buy their children and themselves things they think they need, while they and their kids are starved for decent family and community life.

These and other social sicknesses cause parents to develop and repress deep resentment toward their kids and each other. This is manifested in many ways including high divorce rates, domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, and a generally hostile and negligent home environment.

Is it any surprise that a completely exhausted and resentful person just might forget to stop at the daycare, stumble into the house, and crash?

Of course, the people who fight for the “right to life”, thereby producing more unwanted children, will be the first to demand the arrest, prosecution, and punishment of parents and caregivers when something happens. Clearly, our insecure working and middle classes need an ‘Immanuel Goldstein’ for their daily ‘two-minute hate’ as in 1984.

It’s all done with capitalist efficiency; nothing is wasted. Social pathologies become TV entertainment for the masses.

Onward & Downward,
David Rosen

10:31 AM  
Anonymous Ass Puncher said...

Goodman has her head jammed far up inside of her balloon knot. Protestors will just be tortured and slaughtered like cattle by the multi-trillion dollar death machine. One need only read about how the US dealt with latin American protestors over the yeras. Or check out www.whowhatwhy.com to read about the FBI docs released through FOIA -- on plans to use snipers against the Occupy movement.

On a different (but related) note: Watched 'Little Big Man' with Dustin HOffman last night. Here's a fascinating quote from the Indian Chief:
"the [indians], my son, they believe everything is alive. Not only man and animals. But also water, earth, stone. And also the things from them... like that hair. The man from whom this hair came, he's bald on the other side, because I now own his scalp! That is the way things are. But the white man, they believe EVERYTHING is dead. Stone, earth, animals. And people! Even their own people! If things keep trying to live, white man will rub them out. That is the difference."
I post that quote because I think it is profoundly relevant to the themes in your work, Dr Berman. In the speech you gave at the college you said something about how people in the West perceive that objects are 'real.'
One thing I would add to this: This perceived realness is paradoxically also a perceived deadness. People in the West see 'physical' objects as unconscious or 'dead' so to speak -- this is so obvious and universally assumed by westerners that it probably sounds stupid of me to say it. And in this materialist view, somehow our Consciousness emerges from this sleeping universe of 'things.' Specifically, from some location in the human brain or head.

Hope this post isn't too obscure or poorly communicated. But to return to my main point here -- the 'reality' that we perceive in objects "out there in the real world" is precisely the 'deadness' that we perceive in objects (as the chief seems to be saying) -- because of course we think Consciousness belongs to the human being. And while this may be common to all people in all nations/cultures, it seems to be exaggerated among people in Western civ. Even before the advent of Science, our religions seemed to have the notion of an individual "soul" at the core of their teachings.

I could go on and on about this topic. But I'll stop for now.

11:15 AM  
Anonymous Shane W said...

Speaking of Southern shadow taking over, there is hope for WAFers. President Perry would be an awesome development on the O&D front!

11:41 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Check this out:


also a bk I wrote in 1981 called "The Reenchantment of the World."


No surprise there. Check out ch. 5 of DAA, altho this goes further.

On an unrelated matter, wh/we've discussed b4, here's this:


O&D, Kiddies!


11:59 AM  
Anonymous shep said...


To Beret stand-up, I realize, we can now add photographic memory! You are something else.

4:38 PM  
Anonymous J S RANK said...

@ MB

It would seem that Henrich experienced his own twist on the ultimatum game with the U of British Columbia in offering his research.

I also infer that Veblen had a much earlier insight to the psychological aspects of community ( without the cultural differences aspect ) with his "evolutionary economics".

The bush tribesmen's reactions in "The Gods Must be Crazy" is humourously anecdotal to this topic.

If I have posted this before, pardon the repetition, but
:"Fairness" experiment with Capuchin monkeys.
Instructive as well are the behavioral differences between binobo's and chimpanzee's ...virtually identical DNA's, yet group behaviors radically apart.

The dichotomies presented by the "weird, western mind" versus every other culture; accepted as 'right", 'dominant', or 'superior' ; may well be as subjective and environmentally particular as these other studies suggest.
The lesson from these and other copious social history examples is that creatures and cultures that can't or refuse to adapt ...given exigent circumstances, will die off.
Groupthink makes this a foregone inevitability. Most of the time, there are survivors...typically the 'crazy' people that don't follow the herd. Not always, though.

4:52 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, that beret stand-up routine was not exactly my finest hour. As for foto memory, not sure what yr referring to. My recall of every item on the menu of the former Stage Deli?


5:21 PM  
Anonymous joe hohos said...

Dr. Berman/WAFer's,

Followed MB's recommendation and read "Brightsided" by Barbara Ehrenreich. Amazing book. Thanks for pointing it out. I was raised by my dad and he was constantly reading Norman Vincent Peale, watching Robert Schuller, and listening to Anthony "Tony" Robbins. It never helped him and I found it all a bunch of poppycock. Since I've grown older I've been told by lots of people about the law of attraction and you can manifest your own life. If all it took was manifestation, I would be as well off as the 1%. I tell everyone that it is a load of poppycock and it actually takes hard work, luck, drive, and determination and I get looked at with blank stares. When I point out what I think are logical hurdles to someone's plan, I get called negative or defeatist. Specific question Dr. B - I've read in sociology, and business, in hispanic cultures they have a hard time telling superiors bad news. A) Is this true? B) Is it the same as what happened on Wall Street where everyone saw the writing on the wall and ignored it, or does it have a different context?

9:52 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


It's true in Japan; dunno if it's true in Mexico, to be honest. It was also true during the war in Vietnam, among US military. As for Wall St.: oddly enuf, they were making rational decisions on a personal basis (i.e., more $ for me); it's just that collectively, it added up to a disaster.

Adlai Stevenson was once asked what he thought of St. Paul vs. Norman Vincent Peale. He said, "I find Paul appealing, and Peale appalling." Smart guy. BTW, u shd also read "The Age of Oprah," by Janice Peck. It's pathetic, how Americans eat that crap up.

And now for an anti-Oprish spiritual guidance bk: I'm hoping that my "Spinning Straw Into Gold" manages to get published by end of month. It suggests u live in reality, and forget New Age Dogshit. Shd sell all of 14 copies, I'm guessing. If there's one thing Americans like, it's dogshit.


11:19 PM  
Anonymous LW said...

@Joe I always found it odd that people who believe in "the secret" and the whole "law of attraction" philosophy can never explain why there are so many sexually frustrated guys out there. Are they just not visualizing it enough? LOL - doubt it.

1:12 AM  
Anonymous dookie said...

Yo Mollis Belman

Excellent post above...thx

I've written about one of the obnoxious DC assclowns

McCain & the Forrestal Fire

I had just left the Navy but 6 of my squadron mates (enlisted) were killed during that fiasco.
Enlisted sleeping quarters were just below the fire area

McCain's actions were reported differently by him vs others

Read about it in this TruthDig article ... link http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20081007_investigating_john_mccains_tragedy_at_sea//

Not mentioned is that McCain graduated Naval Academy near the bottom (5 other Middys were lower)

As a former Navy pilot of the McCain era it is my opinion he was basically a fuk-up coasting on Daddy's coattails until
beginning his stay at the Hanoi Hilton where he heroically excelled.
Just from the SEER training I went thru before shipping out for Yankee Station I knew I never wanted to be captured alive but...
Tough to fight to the end or escape like Dieter Dengler if you hit the ground with broken bones

I respect John for his leadership in Hanoi Hilton but...
Gawd, what a disaster and RINO embarrassment he's become as a Republican
(Search 'Keating five' for more on his malfeasance as a U S Senator)

3:39 AM  
Anonymous ellen said...

"What incoherence? Taken as a whole, these stories clearly delineate a world in which all the most powerful governments, at least in the West, have been revealed to be fronts for a global criminal enterprise on behalf of the corporate/financial elites."

Taken from the comments on this article:


5:09 AM  
Anonymous Jerome Langguth said...

Dear all,

In connection with Tim Lukeman's recent post about SWAT tactics and their incursion into ordinary life in America, my wife and I recently visited a daycare housed in an elementary school to discuss enrolling our four year old daughter. When we asked about naps we were informed that napping was no longer possible at the daycare because of the number of emergency drills and practice lockdowns at the elementary school. The kids' naps kept getting interrupted, so they just did away with them entirely. Setting the tone for the rest of their lives, I suppose.


6:57 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

NearFar and other Waferites:

Chris posted an essay on Moby Dick (which NearFar mentioned here earlier):


8:56 AM  
Anonymous Quadricyclic said...

Exceptional speech Morris! It was a joy to read, I think you are a genius!

Anyways, was it difficult convincing your wife and kids to leave the US?

10:31 AM  
Blogger NearFar said...

@MB - I didn't make it over to see Thoreau's shack. Thanks for this reminder, b/c that option didn't cross my mind. Maybe it needed to, in that Thoreau demonstrates what you've talked abt recently: investing our time in "creative thinking" (ie., alternative ways of living in a post-capitalist world)... instead of non-creative thinking: like maybe visiting the museum/home of a dead writer (half joking/half serious).. but I did make it to Melville's home (he lived there from 1850-1863, almost 13 yrs.. not the 19 yrs I mentioned earlier).

@Kevin - thanks for that suggestion I just missed seeing your note, or I would've followed up. Almost swung over to West Stockbridge and could've checked out the Fletcher Steele. I'm going to get my sister in on this, tho. Interesting insight on Moby Dick , I'll keep that in mind as I'm reading it now for the first time. Also just made it to Gettyburg for the first time, ie., 150 yr. anniversary.

Almost forgot: a belated Happy birthday United States of America, you're one year closer to your death.

10:49 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

Does anyone remember the post a while back of the article about the town in Denmark where you give up 80% of ur earnings? I cannot seem to run it down.

Also: Things seem to be getting out of control (sorry if this is a repeat post) in Spain where a ref in soccer game is quartered and decapitated.


10:52 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Mike Alan-

It's best to send messages to the most recent post. No one reads the olds stuff. Thanks.


1:09 PM  
Anonymous Count Friedrich Sauerkraut Von Heineken said...

I'm so excited that my copies of Destiny and A Question of Values arrived in the mail today. I hope they are the page turners that Twilight,DAA, and WAF were.

1:48 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Gut von Ihnen zu hoeren! Bks will have u on edge of seat. r.u. by any chance related to Graf Pastrami von Gehackte Leber?


2:19 PM  
Anonymous From Imbecileville said...

A timely reminder from the always insightful Brian Leiter on the true importance of the humanities:

" ... [I]t is indicative of the depraved circumstances under which we live that the argument has to be made in this form ("studying humanities can make you employable"!). The point of humanistic study is to make students human, that is, to allow individuals to realize some distinctively human abilities, such as having and understanding values, reflecting upon and understanding the past, cultivating aesthetic appreciation or achievement along the many dimensions that the world has offered us, and refining the intellectual tools necessary to understand, interpret, and interact with the broader world as something other than an automaton. Or, to borrow from Nietzsche, the point of disciplined humanistic study is to cultivate everything that "makes life on earth worth living--for instance: virtue, art, music, dance, reason, intellect--something that transfigures, something refined, fantastic, and divine" (Beyond Good and Evil, 188). The real scandal is that purportedly serious universities let students study "business" and "engineering" and other fields that have their uses--they make life livable, but not worth living.

Chattel slavery may be history in most parts of the world, thank goodness, but wage slavery is not, and these defenses of the humanities are, alas, depressingly realistic testimonies to that fact."

Source: http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2013/07/in-defense-of-the-humanities.html

2:58 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Conclusions: Americans

1. Are not really human
2. Have no values
3. Are leading lives that are pointless.

I'm beginning to understand why I had a hard time fitting in. I wd also add

4. Are basically living under water.


5:43 PM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

Dr. B

I don't fit in either and the more I have worked out what one has to do to fit in the more I am revolted by it.

All of this crap pisses me off. I just want to head bang and punch things.


I've received the same bullshit.

Everyone, I have a blog if you all want to read.



Tim Lukeman

My next blog entry may have you in it.

6:51 PM  
Anonymous Winter in America said...


While reading your comment on the "nuclear family is a bizarre anomaly" I was immediately reminded of the song Quality Time by Iris Dement...

She's got a phone in one hand, a hairbrush in the other
and she says, "Life's too short to stay home and be a mother"
She says she can have it all 'cause that's The New Deal
so God give her a hand, 'cause she needs one for the wheel

When he gets home from work, it's well after seven
But he drives a nice car so he thinks he's in Heaven
and his kids hardly know him but they've all got nice clothes
and in just a few hours more overtime he can pay-off that boat

And they've got nice big houses, and they've got nice big cars
and it looks, from the outside, like they're really going far
but there's trouble in the engine and we're junkyard-bound
if some moms and some dads don't start hanging around

When they get around to dinner they're damn near half-dead
so they drive through McDonald's and put the kids off to bed
But they're upwardly mobile and everything is fine
'cause when they do get together, it's quality time

...it goes on from there — couldn't find any audio or video link for the song, but it's off her 1996 album The Way I Should. Wasteland of the Free is another good cut from that same album.

Here's another little tidbit from the surveillance front:
License-Plate Readers Let Police Collect Millions of Records on Drivers and for all you educators in the house here's one for you: Facial Analysis Software Spots Struggling Students - A computer can learn to recognize, and respond intelligently to, users' emotional state.

8:43 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and Wafers,

Top Secret--For Wafer Eyes Only:


I almost pity the NSA snoops who might be called upon to monitor the communications of Americans. Can so many idiots be a threat to anyone?



9:01 PM  
Blogger Zosima said...

Count Friedrich Sauerkraut Von Heineken...r.u. by any chance related to Graf Pastrami von Gehackte Leber?

Since we are now revealing our royal heritage, I am also known as the Baron of Grey Matter.

I guess I shouldn’t be so harsh on Amy Goodman, I don’t know who funds her. But do know America will have no burst of social reform either from people’s movements or the elites. Like the Johnny Cash song, America has fallen into a burning ring of moral nullity and social decrepitude, and there is no turning back. The song needs a slight change though, we didn’t fall in, we deliberately jumped in...the final result won’t be pretty...expect only ashes.

"Ring Of Fire"

Hustling is a burning thing
and it makes a fiery ring
bound by wild desire
We jumped into a ring of fire...

We jumped into a burning ring of fire
We went down, down, down
and the flames went higher.
And it burns,burns,burns
the ring of fire
the ring of fire.

The taste of hustling is sweet
when hearts like Americans meet
We fell for greed like a child
oh, but the fire went wild...

We jumped into a burning ring of fire.....[etc]

10:30 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Wafers, we need to gather up our urine:


2:14 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

There's so much douchebaggery to deal with, we may actually run outta urine:


2:22 AM  
Anonymous ellen said...

It now seems that Brazil is being snooped on also, and quite pissed off about it:


It is becoming clear that it would be quicker to compile a short list of the countries that are not being surveilled in this manner than a long list of those that are.

The second part of the video interview with Edward Snowden is up on the Guardian site, detailing his reasons for disclosure:


3:47 AM  
Blogger NearFar said...

I want to pee on Bunmi Laditan's shoes for that claptrap. Haven't we been discussing the brain damage or the irreparable changes caused by this screen interaction? I don't know, maybe our elites need "a pacified readership over an empowered one." Is that why cnn is paid millions to give us "reductionist analysis over integrity?" Or are we such an exceptional populace that we deserve to luxuriate in illusion and magical thinking? Or maybe this stuff is for a select coterie who need reassurance that things will turn out well, so they can get back to what matters: making money. Who else can afford to pit these devices in their kid's hands? Will we even have public schools much longer providing these kids with that technology? We are so far gone how can we even begin to start over? Apropos, perhaps, here's something I just read a few days ago. It's from Eduardo Galeano’s newest work 'Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History,' in which Galeano offers a vignette for each day of the year. The publisher's blurb say that each of these take inspiration from something associated with that particular date of the calendar year. This one is *September 28*. The vignette is called "Recipe for Reassuring Readers":

Today is the international day devoted to the human right to information.

Perhaps a good opportunity to recall that, a month or so after atom bombs annihilated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the 'New York Times' discounted the rumors that were terrifying the world.

On September 12, 1945, the daily published a front-page story by its chief science reporter William L. Laurence, which challenged the alarmist notions head-on. There was no radioactivity whatsoever in those razed cities, the article assured one and all, it’s only “the Japanese continuing their propaganda . . . ”

That scoop won Laurence the Pulitzer Prize.

Sometime later it came out that he was receiving two monthly paychecks: one from the 'New York Times,' the other from the payroll of the US War Department.

6:55 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, Thos Friedman has won 3 Pulitzers, so I guess that tells u what that prize is worth. Sorta like Henry Kissinger and Obama-Flama winning the Nobel Peace Prize. We live in a world of ironic jokes and douchebaggery.

As for Bunmi: I agree w/u that her shoes are far too dry, and need a gd soaking. The problem is the sheer # of Bunmis in the US today. The country is turning out clowns by the ton, all of whom think they're sophisticated and in the know. I doubt there's enuf urine to go around, really. Wafers wd be busy for years.

Radiation deaths in Hiroshima in the wake of the bombing: here's a cut from Wikipedia:

“Estimates of total deaths by the end of 1945 from initially non lethal burn and blast injuries, acute radiation syndrome and related disease, the effects of which were aggravated by lack of medical resources, range from 90,000 to 166,000. One speculative estimate suggests that up to, or in excess of, 200,000 had died as a consequence of Little Boy, in the "five-year death toll", as cancer and other long-term effects took hold. An epidemiology study by the Japanese Radiation Effects Research Foundation states that from 1950 to 2000, 46% of leukemia deaths and 11% of solid cancer deaths among the bomb survivors were due to radiation from the bombs, the statistical excess being estimated to 200 leukemia and 1700 solid cancers.”

I guess Laurence and the NYT have much to be proud of.


7:29 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

MB wrote: "There's so much douchebaggery to deal with, we may actually run outta urine:


Wow! And the comments are even better - it is as if nobody actually read the article. A story based upon a study "conducted by couponcodes4u.com"? As my little sister would say, WTF? At least one person brought up digital dementia. 90% of the comments are some form of "kids will need to know this stuff to get a job" which may have been true 20 years ago, but now it's simply not true. My job is semi tech based and what I've seen over the past years is that tech is becoming simpler not more complicated. You don't need a PhD in computer sci to build an "app". They need to learn what wild plants are edible and how to plant crops and how to can veggies. All this tech-douchebaggery will be door props if the power goes out!

Imbecil: Great quote!

8:55 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

It has dawned on me (a reason among many) why the Occupy movement failed. The following must be too elementary?

Some contrasting figures were given in the Denmark Article about comparing the income disparity of Denmark VS. Amurica. It dawned on me that it is the 15% against the 85%; not the 1%.

The 15% include all the sycophants (NYT, Kissinger, middle class folk who have it made) that have good reason(s) to cheer for the elites that control us.

It is all over, sayeth Jamey Hecht. (http://guymcpherson.com/2013/07/collapse-awareness-and-the-tragic-consciousness/). I do not see any reason to continue on. There is no way out of this sickness.

Like BM says, ..."there isn't enuf urine..."

BTW: If any make it to Ireland in 2015, maybe some Wafers with pull can talk Hedges or any other like minded comrades to join us. Near Far: are u listening?

11:51 AM  
Anonymous j said...

Concerned citizens,

We've talked about the ARGUS camera, here's some (scary) details on it.

Then, a little bit of good news, maybe. It seems like Dr. B and other WAFer's are not the only ones getting sick of laptop hooligans.

And now, a quote - "This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it - that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable."
Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail, 1973, Hunter S. Thompson

1:49 PM  
Anonymous satyaSarika said...

Thankful to have survived another hideous 4th of July 'holiday'. I plan to be out of the country for the next one, if only up to Canada.

I confess I'm surprised at the lengths the Douchebag brigade is going to re: Snowden. It seems like Oblahblah doesn't have the sense to realize how foolish he appears. I realize I was mistaken regarding the risk Snowden took and it's far worse than I believed. Just hope he makes it to safety.

3:36 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


But those cafes want to get rid of the LH's because the very low turnover is costing them $. They don't give a warm crap abt the destruction of social or cafe life. I pee on the LH's, and I pee on the managers of those cafes.


Chris will be too busy to come, for sure, but in any case I'm restricting this gala event to Wafers and their Significant Others.

New suggested post-it:



3:47 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings MB and Wafers,


What Wafer gala event? I musta missed something important. Can someone please fill me in?

Meanwhile, a new T-shirt idea:

(Front): Got Urine?

(Back): It's time for a GOOD drenching...


Nice HST quote. Check this one out:

"The avoiding tendency lies at the very root of American character. This nation was settled and continually repopulated by people who were not personally successful in confronting the social conditions in their mother country, but fled in the hope of a better life. By a kind of natural selection, America was disproportionally populated with a certain kind of person."

~ Philip Slater, "The Pursuit of Loneliness," 1970


6:42 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


International Wafer Summit Meeting(IWSM) will take place in Ireland June 1-5, 2015. However, only if 7 people besides myself actually buy a plane ticket, no later than 1 Jan 2015. This is open only to genuine Wafers, i.e. people who have been active on this blog. Honor system here: you can't say I'm coming, and then not show. Once tickets are purchased, I'll give the Seven Samurai, via email, details of hotel etc.


6:52 PM  
Anonymous LW said...

NYU media critic stops critiquing CNN because they are brain dead and proud of it and hey . . . who cares anymore?


7:16 PM  
Anonymous Shane w said...

For queer people, or those who like nekkid ppl walking around, Toronto pride takes place July 4th weekend, and easy escape from American patriotism....

7:22 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

And don't forget Truman said he didn't lose a minute's sleep dropping the bomb- a true social psychopath. Now finishing up my annual 3 month tour of SE Asia. Of course there is the usual techno-crap here but I did not see a group of SE Asians together where one or more was engaged in techno-buffoonery; that is, people here still appreciate the primacy of conversation .
So you will be in NYC in November? It would be my great pleasure to take you out to the deli of your choice. Let me know if this is possible.

9:28 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: you Wafers sure are active! It seems like I blink, and we've hit the 200 mark for comments. Well, we're doing abt 1250 hits a day here, which shd be of no small interest to the NSA, Guantanamo, and other black hole torture sites. If I suddenly disappear, you'll all know why. Meanwhile, I suppose we shd start a new post.


10:28 PM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

My new significant other has a Deep Vein Thrombosis condition that prevents her from flying more than about 2 hours per hop....but there are ocean vessels that can get to Europe from the Caribbean side of Costa Rica (those vessels won't make problems for her blood vessels).
So, don't count us out necessarily.

As an alternate venue, in case not enough Wafers can make it to Ireland (or in case Eire is a blast and folks want to do it again but in a new location)...Costa Rica is still plenty green, even in the dry season. Plenty of time to think about it....

What's your handle over at Nature Bats Last ?

Ike & Tina had the Ikettes.
Steely Dan has had some killer backup singers.
But these guys, yikes...

1:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was a brilliant post. I have drifted off from this blog for awhile. I am a teacher and have the summers free to spend with my two boys. I take them to parks and find that we are alone at the park. The other children are at daycare or they are put into all-day camps, etc. Sometimes I see a nanny with children, etc. I rarely run into a mother with her children (or father) Many suburban towns are like ghost towns. I actually grew up in the same town during the 1970s and it was such a different place. Mothers and children all over the streets. A lot of this started when mothers went to work and dumped their children in daycare. Once the mothers were sent to work, the community just shattered. The town just became a lot of empty houses and yards and parks. Sad... This could change if the economy gets bad enough so that the mothers have to come home and actually raise their children again.

5:44 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


2 things.

1) I don't normally post Anons. In future, pls pick a handle; like Sam Schmeck, Ph.D.

2. Pls send message to most recent post; no one reads the older ones.


7:42 PM  
Blogger David said...

A masterpiece! If the networks ever came even close to this we would have a true democracy. Keep up the good work!

2:11 AM  
Anonymous Brad said...

I'm here for a first time reading Berman's take on the world. Interesting piece that has a lot of truth in it. However this has not been my take on life in America. Maybe it's working class comraderie, or being raised by a mother who was that rare bird, a dyed red in the wool socialist. Don't know. I'll will have to read further of Berman to get a take of what he's saying.

2:12 AM  

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