November 05, 2023

Taking a Breather


I'd like to switch subjects for a moment, and take a breather from our discussion of the events going down in the Middle East, which has left most of us, I'm guessing, pretty depressed. The following essay is something I wrote a few months ago. I sent a memo about it to American and British journals, and (here's a shocker) got no reply. So I'm going to post it here. Meanwhile, my Mexican editor is going to translate it into Spanish; I'm guessing some journal in Mexico City will pick it up. But here's the original version, in any case; hope you all enjoy it.

The Never-Ending Conflict: Tribalism Versus Rationalism in Human History

"[O]pposing forces routinely coexist in biological systems."—Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score

A number of years ago I wrote an essay called “Tribal Consciousness and Enlightenment Tradition.”(1) In this essay, I was following the thesis proposed by Neal Stephenson in his novel Snow Crash, which is in turn based on the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins’ concept of the meme: “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.” Less charitably, we might describe the process of diffusion as a kind of viral infection, or perhaps as brainwashing. It is essentially a blind process, an unthinking one—a tribal consciousness, as it were, which could also be compared to a trance, or medieval possession. In tribal consciousness, what counts for truth are not facts or data or any type of objective evidence, but blood, kinship relations, affinity groups, and community. McCarthyism is a good example of this (as is communism, of course), brilliantly illustrated by Arthur Miller in his play The Crucible. When the US Government sent the Rosenbergs to their deaths, for example (1951), the outcome of this trial was preordained; evidence was the least of the prosecution’s concerns. Cold War America was the “tribe” that had to be protected at all costs, and the trial was basically a sham as a result. In my own view, and that of a number of other historians (e.g., William Appleman Williams, Denna Fleming, Walter LeFeber), the Cold War could be seen as a trance that possessed the United States for decades, and it did incalculable damage to America in the process.

Stephenson’s focus, however, is not Cold War America but the mythological consciousness of the ancient world, which was tribal and pagan. There were, he says, various attempts to break out of the trance of magic/sacrifice/sun worship and so on; the most successful of these was Israelite monotheism—a counter-virus, he calls it. Judaism, he goes on, was the first rational religion, but eventually it hardened into legalism and Pharisaism—ritual without content—to be challenged by Christ. (“What comes out of your mouth is more important than what goes into it.”) Through the efforts of Paul, this eventually became the next meme, until it was in turn challenged by Martin Luther many centuries later. Centuries after that, Protestantism was rejected by New Age spirituality, which spits up Oprah and Chopra, leaders of the latest trance, who are blindly adored by millions. And so on. This is a cycle that writers such as John Gray (Black Mass) and Eric Hoffer (The True Believer) have described in exhausting detail.(2)

Mimetic thinking, of course, is the rule rather than the exception. It, not critical thinking, is the norm for the human race. Yet things shifted in a radical direction during 800-200 B.C., what has been called the “Axial Age.” This concept was the brainchild of the German psychiatrist and philosopher Karl Jaspers, who pointed out that during the centuries just noted, a number of sages arose, more or less simultaneously and independently of one another, espousing an entirely new way of thinking. This was what has been called second-order thinking: in other words, thinking about thinking (reflection, analysis). As opposed to tribal trance, in which people are immersed in their thoughts, and in whatever surrounds them, axial thinking consists of distance, perspective, and objective evaluation. Thus Socrates proclaims that the unexamined life is not worth living, and urges Athenian youth to question conventional beliefs; the Buddha formulates the practice of meditation, in which one part of the mind (the “Watcher”) observes the random thoughts that come and go when you just close your eyes, sit still, and concentrate on your breath; the Hebrew Prophets inveigh against the polytheism of the Canaanites in favor of the one and only God, Yahweh, who issues directives from on high; and Confucius promulgates societal rules and moral values—directives for living the good life. The world, Jaspers concluded, was permanently altered as a result.(3)

The result I am referring to is what I call the never-ending conflict. In recent years, the most famous illustration of this is the movie The Matrix (1999), although it was prefigured by Ira Levin in his novel This Perfect Day (1970). (Recall also Huxley’s Brave New World, in which almost the entire population is zonked out on “soma.”) The plot is that you have a society caught up in a trance, except for one individual (“Neo”), along with several others, who manage to see through the trance—i.e., achieve second-order thinking—and as a result, escape from that society.

The Matrix was lionized; it grossed over $460 billion at the box office during its first year. Why would that be? My guess is that there are many individuals in various countries who see their fellow-citizens as sheep, mechanically and unquestioningly going along with the dominant ideology (consumerism, for example), and doing whatever the government tells them to do. Or simply what everyone else is doing. They find this alienating, even repugnant, and so a movie based on the theme of escape from “sheepdom” is inevitably going to attract them. The fact is that rational thinking, when first encountered, comes as something of a shock. It is irresistible, even overwhelming, and once you are exposed to it you cannot easily forget it, and return to a state of “innocence.” Arthur Koestler gave the classic description of this type of awakening that happened to him when he came across Marxism as a critique of capitalist society: light, he wrote, seemed to pour across my skull; everything suddenly fell into place. All was clear now; everything made sense. Of course, years later he realized that Marxism was just another form of tribalism, after which, with the same intensity, he fell into the tribalism of anti-Marxism. Toward the end of his life, he declared that the curse of humanity was “devotion”—addiction to causes, i.e., memes.(4)

The metaphor of light is no accident. In Book VII of The Republic, Plato describes most people as living in shadows, in a cave, confusing the shadows on the wall with reality. Only a few manage to break through, to discover that the shadows are images thrown on the wall of the cave by a light coming from behind. These few then emerge from the cave into the light, get accustomed to it, and start to explore it. In so doing, they rise up the “noetic line” of awakening, until they attain the status of “philosopher-kings.” And awakening lies at the core of axiality: you see the light—critical reasoning—and leave tribal consciousness behind.

As it turns out, not quite. The problem (one of them, anyway) is that things are not that clear-cut. It seems that there is a dialectical relationship between tribal consciousness and rationality. They need each other, they define each other, and this is why the conflict is never-ending. Neither side is willing, or really, able, to give up its hold on the human mind. There are layers of meaning here; it’s not all black and white. In order to get a more accurate picture, we need to consider the following:

1.Critiques of Jaspers, and the concept of an Axial Age 2.The evolution of mind, as delineated by sociologist Robert Bellah and psychologist Merlin Donald 3.The dialectical relationship between tribalism and axiality

Critiques of Jaspers and the concept of an Axial Age are quite extensive, and often fairly insightful. The question we shall have to ask ourselves is whether, after the dust settles, the concept has any validity, and if so, to what extent.(5) To begin with, both the philosopher Charles Taylor and the Egyptologist Jan Assmann fault the theory for its apparent assumption that there is a universal history, a single trajectory for mankind to follow: one Truth, one Mankind. In other words, it assumes that there is a single path, running from tradition to modernity, with the latter regarded as superior. According to this theory, during the period 800-200 B.C. the human race broke through to this Truth (second-order thinking); but, says Jaspers, it didn’t really “take” in a major or conclusive way. Rather, the tendency was to chronically lapse back into pre-axiality. It's as though the West, with its particular (and narrow) definition of progress, is waiting for everyone else to “grow up” (the easterners Buddha and Confucius notwithstanding). In contrast to this assumption, Taylor argues that there are a variety of fundamentally different civilizational patterns of development, while Assmann adds that different civilizations have different turning points in their history. All of this generates a much more complex, and nonlinear, picture. Assmann concedes that there certainly is such a thing as axiality, but argues that there wasn’t an Axial Age as such.

In addition, the larger point Assmann is making is that the notion of an Axial Age is part of the theory of modernization, which is typically blind to the cultural achievements of stabilization and continuity. In that framework, he says, tradition and cultural memory are devalued; they appear merely as factors of regression or even stagnation—a very biased way of reading history.

Another problem with the theory: it is too rigid. Various civilizations exhibit degrees of axiality, and in fact elements of axiality can be shown to predate 800 B.C. Thus we have, for example, the Code of Hammurabi (an anthology of legal situations) in Mesopotamia by the eighteenth century B.C. And Mesopotamia accomplished quite a lot in the fields of political organization, statecraft, literature, astronomy, mathematics, and even historiography; and this is but one example. (The case of Akhenaten, the fourteenth-century Egyptian pharaoh, is obviously another one, as he attempted to shift Egyptian religion from polytheism to monotheism.) As Assmann says, it’s not all or nothing. Jaspers was a bit blind to the axiality that existed in nonaxial civilizations, and which existed prior to the first millennium B.C.(6)

I want to return to this discussion in a moment, but first let me say a few words about point #2, the critique of Professors Bellah and Donald. To me, this gets down to the nitty-gritty of it all. As far as the evolution of the brain, and cognitive development, goes, there is, Donald says, a kind of “layering phenomenon” of successive evolutionary stages, whereby the human race went from the Mimetic to the Mythic to the Theoretic. These three stages are categories of memory representation, and—the crucial point—they don’t replace each other. Rather, they just accumulate. Mimesis consists of imitation and repetition, and is the basis of crafts, dance, music, and tool use. This capacity is hard-wired into the brain; it goes back 4 million years. The Mythic phase is also hard-wired, although it goes back only 300,000 or 400,000 years, and it consists of speech and storytelling; narrative, in a word. It includes stories of origin, legends, allegories, and so on. And finally, with Theoretic culture, which eventually included axiality, we get writing systems, symbolic representation, analysis and reflection. In terms of evolution, this phase is not hard-wired. It is relatively recent, and has a cultural basis rather than a biological one. As a result—as Jaspers said—its hold on us is a bit iffy, rather tenuous.(7)

The crucial point here is that the modern mind is a mixture of all three of these modes, or capacities; there was really no “replacement” of one mode of consciousness by another. For we still dance, and sing, and we still tell stories, generate myths and narratives—in fact, we do both all the time. And if our mythologies are not religious, then they are secular (modern ideologies). True, analytic thinking can do things that the other two modes can’t, but these latter two “domains,” says Donald, are nevertheless

"extremely subtle and powerful ways of thinking. They cannot be matched by analytic thought for intuitive speed, complexity, and shrewdness. They will continue to be crucially important in the future, because they reside in innate capacities without which human beings could not function."

(Elsewhere I have referred to this mode of consciousness as “ontological knowing”—from the Greek word ontos, being—as distinct from intellectual knowing.)

Robert Bellah drives this point home with great clarity and incisiveness when he writes that narrative

"is more than [just] literature; it is the way we understand our lives. If literature merely supplied entertainment, then it wouldn’t be as important as it is. Great literature speaks to the deepest level of our humanity; it helps us better understand who we are. Narrative is not only the way we understand our personal and collective identities; it is the source of our ethics, our politics and our religion. It…isn’t irrational—it can be criticized by rational argument—but it can’t be derived from reason alone. Mythic (narrative) culture is not a subset of theoretic culture, nor will it ever be. It is older than theoretic culture and remains to this day an indispensable way of relating to the world." [Italics mine]

So much for Western notions of “progress,” which are narrow, limited, and superficial. The axial way of thinking, of knowing the world, is indispensable for the functioning of modern societies, but it is only a way of knowing the world; and although we cannot live without it, it may not be the most profound.

To return to our earlier discussion (point #1), we need to note that there is a class bias involved in the emergence of axiality. Donald’s Theoretic mode, second-order thinking, is mostly the province or territory of an intellectual elite—the Op-Ed crowd at the New York Times, for example. Today and yesterday, the majority of the population, worldwide, lives in the Mythic mode—Plato’s shadows. The average person is not a philosopher, and for him or her, what is right in front of them is what’s real. Nations vary, of course, but in the United States, it’s a good bet that more than 90 percent of the population would not be able to say what a metaphor is. Jaspers was right; for the most part, axiality never really “took,” at least not for the greater part of humanity. As I’ll indicate below, this has serious repercussions for our present situation.

Turning to point #3, I would argue that although tribalism and rationalism are two distinct ways of being, they are nevertheless entwined in a dialectical relationship. As already noted, they define each other, and this dialectic has never really gone away, as the biblical scholar Arvin Kapelrud points out (Baal was the Canaanite god of fertility and storms):

"[T]he relationship between Yahweh and Baal was a matter of central importance; and if we do not take account of this we get a distorted picture of the history of Israel’s religion. Although in the end Yahweh triumphed over His opponent, we ought, nevertheless, not to underestimate Baal’s importance. The conflict between Yahweh and Baal was more than an incidental historical episode. It was a conflict between [two] principles and interpretations of life which in other forms is still being waged today."(8) [Italics mine]

It would seem to be an eternal psychological dynamic. Applying the concept of axiality to contemporary American politics, for example, what do we find? The current violent divide in the United States, politically speaking, strikes me as being ultimately rooted in the archaic conflict between tribalism and rationalism. Millions adore an intellect-hater and fact-denier like Donald Trump, whose followers have no use for critical analysis and who are steeped in a tribal, Trumpian mythology. The “bubbas” who wear MAGA hats despise the New York Times, and what it stands for—the pointy-headed intellectuals who look down on them (“a basket of deplorables,” per Hillary Clinton). There is ominous talk of civil war, with 25 percent of the population endorsing violence against the government, as was evident on 6 January 2021, when a mob of Trumpites stormed the Capitol Building in Washington DC, in the tribal and misguided belief that Joe Biden stole the election from Trump.

A related example: If you know how to look at them, the presidential debates of 2016 are a perfect illustration of this conflict. Hillary Clinton was depending on fact and evidence to win the debate, and as a result came off as scripted and boring. Her opponent hadn’t bothered to prepare for the event; his weapons were mimesis (body language) and tribal mythology (invented scenarios, rhetoric, dramatic emotional expressions, and so on). At one point he even referred to Hillary as “nasty.” The result? He pretty much wiped the floor with her. As Merlin Donald tells us, this mode “cannot be matched by analytic thought for intuitive speed, complexity, and shrewdness.”

In any case, those on the axial side of this conflict are for the most part capable of critical analysis, but a rather large percentage of them have gone off the rails, channeled it into a strange place of “woke” ideology, where the focus of attention is on political correctness—an abuse of critical thinking, in my view, and a movement that has created its own form of tribalism. But the point being made here is that the axial issue is, it seems to me, a potentially fruitful way of framing the heated political conflict that is currently engulfing the American body politic. My guess is that this mode of analysis can be applied to other countries as well, such as Brazil, or Israel. The struggles going on in the US and these nations can, I believe, be seen as having their origins in the fundamental conflict between a tribal way of life and consciousness and an axial one; and the conflict, which is existential, would seem to be never-ending. With Trump, tribalism may eventually triumph in America; but the rational opposition to him will not simply go away. Many Israelis regard the Palestinians as a variety of savages, “human animals,” as the Israeli Defense Minister put it (October 2023), whereas the Palestinians view someone like Benjamin Netanyahu, with his desire to destroy Gaza, as a monster, a war criminal. It should not surprise us that there is no resolution in sight. As for Brazil, consider the contrast between Bolsonaro and Lula, and what each of them stands for. This mode of analysis may seem far-fetched; personally, I’m guessing that it contains more than a kernel of truth. At the very least, it seems to me to be heuristically valuable.(9)

Truth be told, the issue of an Axial Age never got resolved. Everyone agrees that axiality exists in a psychological or mental sense, and that we can investigate the degree of it in various societies, on a comparative basis. But did it exist historically? Was Jaspers right about there being a specific Axial Age that can be identified with the period 800-200 B.C.? On that score, opinion remains divided. There are eminent historians on both sides of the argument. Personally, I agree with the critiques discussed above, regarding modernization bias, class bias, and the problem of ignoring the vibrancy of other capacities of the human mind. But at the end of the day, I think Jaspers got it pretty much right: this period was a turning point in the evolution of human consciousness, and the sages he identifies as agents of the change were sui generis. Of course, they were not acting alone; I am not proposing a heroic version of history, and it’s a good bet that they were the products of deep-seated changes going on in Greece, India, China, and the Levant. But they may, perhaps, be likened to Hegel’s “world historical individuals,” who changed their societies because they epitomized changes that were already underway. It is rather amazing that this occurred across the board, in the absence of practically any cross-cultural influence. Once again, we might draw on Hegel for the notion of a weltgeist, sweeping across the globe in the space of a few centuries, and seemingly coming out of nowhere. Whatever the cause, this much is certain: the human race hasn’t been the same ever since.

©Morris Berman, 2023

1.“Tribal Consciousness and Enlightenment Tradition,” in A Question of Values (Charleston SC: CreateSpace, 2010).
2.See also another essay of mine, “The Hula Hoop Theory of History,” CounterPunch, 11 January 2013.
3.Karl Jaspers, The Origin and Goal of History (London: Routledge, 1953; orig. German edition 1949).
4.Morris Berman, Eminent Post-Victorians (Independently published, 2022), pp. 67-79. See also Raymond Aron, The Opium of the Intellectuals (London: Routledge, 1957; orig. French ed. 1955).
5.In the discussion that follows I am borrowing liberally from Appendix III of my book Neurotic Beauty (Healdsburg CA: Water Street Press, 2019).
6.For additional critiques see Daniel Hoyer and Jenny Reddish, Seshat History of the Axial Age (Chaplin CT: Beresta Books, 2019); Ken Baskin and Dmitri Bodarenko, The Axial Ages of World History: Lessons for the 21st Century (ISCE Publishing, 2014); Iain Provan, Convenient Myths: The Axial Age, Dark Green Religion, and the World that Never Was (Waco TX: Baylor University Press, 2013); and Antony Black, “The ‘Axial Period’: What Was It and What Does It Signify?,” published online by Cambridge University Press, 15 February 2008. Regarding the Code of Hammurabi: according to two scholars of Canaanite (Ugaritic) literature, the adjudication of legal cases, particularly those involving widows and orphans, “was the ordinary task of elders and rulers in ancient Near Eastern societies.” This goes back to ca. 3,000 B.C., i.e., 1,200 years before the Mesopotamian Code. See Michael Coogan and Mark Smith, eds. and trans., Stories from Ancient Canaan (2d. ed.; Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012), pp. 27-28.
7.This section and what follows are also taken from Appendix III of Neurotic Beauty.
8.Arvid S. Kapelrud, The Ras Shamra Discoveries and the Old Testament, trans. G.W. Anderson (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1963), pp. 55-56. Kapelrud’s assertion that we are talking about two distinct principles and interpretations of life is one that is supported by a number of scholars of axiality, notably S.N. Eisenstadt in his edited volume, The Origins and Diversity of Axial Age Civilisations (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1986). These scholars refer to the shift as “the transcendentalist breakthrough.” Eisenstadt defines it (according to Alan Strathern) as the “erection of two sharply distinguished orders of reality and modes of behaviour,” which he (Strathern) regards as “a powerful way of lending coherence to the apparently disparate ancient philosophies.” See Alan Strathern, “Karen Armstrong’s Axial Age: Origins and Ethics,” The Heythrop Journal, vol. 50 no. 2 (February 2009), pp. 293-99.
9.I am not the first historian to suggest this kind of long-range influence. The biblical scholar Baruch Halpern makes a somewhat similar argument in his book From Gods to God: The Dynamics of Iron Age Cosmologies (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009). Halpern accepts Jaspers’ thesis about an Axial Age, including (unfortunately) the Western bias and modernization theory criticized by Jan Assmann, above. But leaving that aside, Halpern argues for a similarity between the axial shift that took place in ancient Israel (which gave birth to monotheism), and the cultural and intellectual shifts that took place across Europe during 1500-1800; which is to say, the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment. But not just a similarity; rather, some type of connection, or influence. This is not a causal connection rippling down through the centuries, but only an argument that there is a psychological or mental pattern here that gets repeated; what Kapelrud is saying, in effect. In such a framework, I don’t feel that this is far-fetched, although Nathan MacDonald, in a lengthy review of Halpern’s book, does, and he offers a plausible critique. Clearly, the jury is out on all of this. See Nathan MacDonald, “Making the Past Present,” Journal of Hebrew Scriptures, vol. 11 (2011).


Blogger Morris Berman said...


I know we're on a break, but I can't resist quoting from Ahad Ha'am, pen name of Asher Ginzberg (1856-1927), Jewish philosopher and journalist who had this to say in the 1920s (his pseudonym means "one of the people"):

-"[The Arab Palestinians] have a genuine right to the land due to generations of residence and work upon it. For them too this country is a national home and they have the right to develop their national potentialities to the utmost.”

-“We are used to thinking of the Arabs as primitive men of the desert, as a donkey-like nation that neither sees nor understands what is going around it. But this is a GREAT ERROR. The Arab, like all sons of Sham, has sharp and crafty mind . . . Should time come when life of our people in Palestine imposes to a smaller or greater extent on the natives, they WILL NOT easily step aside.”

-"[The Zionist pioneers believed that] the only language the Arabs understand is that of force ..... [They] behave towards the Arabs with hostility and cruelty, trespass unjustly upon their boundaries, beat them shamefully without reason and even brag about it, and nobody stands to check this contemptible and dangerous tendency."

And he wrote this 100 years ago!


10:17 PM  
Blogger K. Grainey said...

I enjoyed your essay even though I am woefully ignorant of the subject matter. The scope of your scholarship is overwhelming.

11:58 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Perhaps you cd share w/us whatever came to mind, thoughts you had after rdg it.


12:36 PM  
Blogger K. Grainey said...

Well. Some of the thoughts that came to my mind had to do with fanaticism. It's so difficult to avoid being lured into it. The example you gave of Arthur Koestler's feeling of enlightenment when he read Marx only to later realize that Marxism was another form of tribalism leads me to wonder if it's possible to avoid this pitfall. Why can't people benefit from Marx's insights without becoming fanatics?

2:09 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I think I answer your question in my book "Healing."


2:20 PM  
Blogger Joe McIlnen said...

Callousness marches on in the U.S.A.!, U.S.A.!, U. S. A.!

Here’s today’s mugshot of your typical unconscionable sexual predator USAin:

Here’s a grandson’s “love” for his grandmother:

And here’s the parents’ “love” for their disabled child:

I mean, Does this shit happen in other countries? Or is this country truly "exceptional"?

3:31 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Regarding yr 2nd link. I'm guessing that w/in 5 yrs, if some beheading shd occur, the guy will take the head w/him to use as a bowling ball. We aren't quite there yet, but almost.


5:17 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


So here's my prediction:
1. Trumpi will go to jail.
2. He will defeat Schmiden in the 2024 election.
3. He will undo all of the DOJ convictions against him, let himself outta jail, pardon the insurrectionists of Jan. 6, 2021, and go after all those people who opposed him. The belief that the 2020 election was stolen from him will be canonized.
4. He will roll up his sleeves, and polish off the country once and for all. There won't be much left of the US by 2028. He may just declare himself president for life.
5. But, he won't cultivate stupid, violent wars, or threaten countries like Russia and China.
6. It wd also be great if he stuck Kamala's head in a toilet, and shut down the NYT. (A man can dream.)


5:25 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

The unvarnished truth:

7:22 PM  
Anonymous Bruce Scofield said...

Good article. The Axial Age concept, I agree, is useful. Certainly something happened during the 6th century when a few individuals founded new perspectives - different ways of thinking that others who followed then expanded and developed. But this period, which was cold and dry and very unstable politically, may not just mark the emergence of rational thought, though that was the case in the Greek world. It also marked the foundations of Asian thought that was less objectivist, but still marks a revolution in understanding the world and has to be considered when thinking about those cultures today. I would see Axial thought in general as marking a stage in the evolution of a better understanding of reality, which human civilization must constantly improve upon to survive.

Greek thought at the time, basically early science, seems to me to be the most rational of the Axial Age (though Taoism comes close) and it required social collaboration and verifiable checks on reality using close observation and logic. Because this perspective takes place on a social systems level created and sustained by the participation of multiple individuals, it is not something embedded in the brain (and not necessarily a meme) but more of a methodology.

Right – there is a never-ending conflict. Axial thinking fights the deeper, hard-wired response behavior routines of tribalism. Over millions of years the struggle of primate kinship groups to survive developed a kind of social immune system and the us vs them response, as Robert Sapolsky has elaborated on, is apparently hardwired. It may take 100k years or way more for rational responses to stick in the brain and become more automatic – but only if it turns out this serves as a successful survival response. When externalities become challenging and stressful, like too many strange people and a dwindling of resources, there would naturally be a reversion to the automatic tribal responses built into the brain – and then out comes the hate and paranoia. This seems to call for consciousness raising, but exactly what type is another matter as Axial thinking, as you have pointed out a long time ago, has its dark side.

12:15 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Jesus, man, long time no hear. How r.u. doing, and what r.u. up2? Write me at, por favor.


1:11 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

It's in the cards:

Not that hard to eclipse a bozo country that makes all the wrong decisions, and is filled w/buffoons.

4:08 PM  
Blogger Joe McIlnen said...

Callousness marches on in the U.S.A.!, U.S.A.!, U. S. A.! With the cruelty that goes on in this violent shithole of a country, there should be a newspaper called “The Daily Callousness”. Here could be a few of the main stories:
1) Our so called “intelligence” couldn’t get it right with the Iranian Revolution, the implosion of the U.S.S.R., 9-11, the first World Trade Center bombing, and various other things. But their employees, their “secret agent men”, are highly skilled at sexually abusing women globally.

2) A cruel stepmom.

3) A cruel high school teacher.

4) On the flip side, someone who’s upset with the high school staff runs them over!

5) And even charities aren’t immune from angry, callous freeloaders who don’t get enough.

"Americans are always bragging they’re #1. They’re #1 in misery. Get out now.” -GSWH

6:53 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Watch length. Thanks.


7:51 PM  
Anonymous Mohamed Ali said...

I found this video on YouTube. It’s from Vice about hyperinflation in Argentina and how citizens are living through it. Inflation is almost 100 percent. Argentina is in this situation because the government was spending more money than they were bringing in. America is doing the same thing. This is our future.

8:20 PM  
Anonymous Satchmo said...

Someone in Grand Rapids, MI got a nasty letter in their mailbox upon moving in. You gotta be pretty miserable to send something of this nature to a complete stranger, eh?

9:31 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, it's clear now that in addition to being a senile doofus, Schmiden is a warmonger and a war criminal. He represents the attempt of the Global North to hang on to its dominance over the Global South. But the tide is turning; fighting History is a futile endeavor. Of course, the Hamas massacre of the Be'eri kibbutz is an unjustifiable horror; but as Hegel once put it, History is a slaughter-bench. This is the sad, awful truth; it typically happens when tectonic plates, so to speak, are shifting. I agree with those protesters who are saying that the uprising against Israel is part of a global anti-colonialist movement. Since 1945, the US has had nearly free reign to run the world in its favor. It was a stupid foreign policy, hugely self-destructive, and now the chickens are coming home to roost. Its hegemony is being eclipsed, and Russia, China, India, and the Islamic nations are going to have their turn at fucking things up. I'm guessing they probably will.

For a better (if unlikely) alternative, check out the 2nd story in my collection, "The Heart of the Matter." I find it puzzling, that the world doesn't listen to me, but what can ya do, really?


5:10 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: I'm still waiting to hear from Gisele Bundchen, Tulsi, Sarah Palin, and Lauren Boebert--cutting-edge intellectual women who deserve to be in the W.H., steering the country toward greatness.

5:13 AM  
Anonymous Megan said...

Nice essay, Dr. Berman, I enjoyed reading it. You make a lot of interesting points and observations that gave me some good food for thought.

At any rate, I just stumbled on this, and it is probably the most astute and insightful take that I've come across with regard to Israel/Palestine. A really fresh psychological perspective. I don't you could get more to the heart of the matter than this: (His observation that one of Israel's founding myths--the Masada--i.e., that of suicide, which he compares to Hamas' suicidal charter, is a pretty interesting insight. He goes on to call Hamas and Israel "two victimhood movements.") (There is some repeat stuff in this one, like the last, but I found it had enough that was new and interesting to make it worth watching.)

5:33 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Edward Said, who was a Palestinian, said that the Pals were "the victims of the victims." Anyway, I think Vaknin is rt, that this is a fight to the finish. The various 'solutions' that have been proposed are all bunk.


10:17 AM  
Anonymous Clay said...

Bruno Latour on Anna Tsing’s The Mushroom at the End of the World: "It would be a euphemism to say this book is not anthropocentric — it places humanity on another orbit."

Latour reviews Tsing's book on the biology 9f mushrooms as a metaphor for the end of capitalism.. looks like a cool book! Ursula Le Guin wrote a new review abt how the book nicely breaks down the ecological crisis and how capitalism is at blame.

Have you read much Latour MB? And would you recommend any of of his writings?

I just finished your newest book, found it quite magical... Thanks for the wide-ranging literature over the years and for facilitating this forum....



6:24 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


We cd use a link for the Le Guin review, por favor. Never read Latour, only discussions of his work; long time ago. Here's the link for Tsing:

The typical American is like a mushroom: the gov't keeps him in the dark, and feeds him shit.

Glad u liked my latest bk, except that I have 2 latest bks. Healing, or Russia?

abrazos, chico-

7:28 PM  
Blogger Joe McIlnen said...

Today’s stories for “The Daily Callousness” here in the U.S.A.!, U.S.A.!, U.S.A.! 1) A “mom” throws her infant son on the floor, kills him, and then takes a nap. But it gets better. She hustles and starts a GoFundMe. 2) A bum ( today’s mugshot) kills his girlfriend and “ditches” her in a ditch. 3) Another “loving mother” blows away her two sons. As Whoopie Goldberg on The View likes to say, “Take a look.”

7:52 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

House of Rep = collection of sick assholes:

8:10 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


She probably was a bit tired after killing her baby, and so needed to take a nap. Understandable.


10:31 PM  
Anonymous Anjin-san said...

Years ago I read something that has stuck in my mind ever since, "We read the world wrong and say it deceives us".

Micheal Hudson is someone who reads the world better than me and helps me see it clearly.

His analysis of America's manipulation of Europe is clear and concise. Of particular interest to readers of the blog will be his advice to Europeans to leave Europe to move to Russia or China as Europe will become a dead zone (at 22:30). Echos of the GSWH's advice to Americans.

Another highlight is the stupidity of American policy to China and its devastating effect on the American economy. It's not just shooting yourself in the foot, more like shooting yourself in the head!

9:54 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


As time goes on, it becomes increasingly obvious that the US, and Israel, are on the wrong side of History.


2:25 PM  
Anonymous Satchmo said...

It’s almost time 4 the Black Friday beatdowns. I think the stores oughta turn these brawls into WWE-style pay-per-view events. Then they can rake in even MORE dough from these fools

6:58 PM  
Blogger Jack Lattemann said...

Don’t believe those fog-of-war pronouncements in mainstream media about how the Israeli Defense Forces are valiantly rooting out those Hamas terrorists from their tunnels in Gaza. Look at officially released video clips: Israeli soldiers aren’t leaving their armored vehicles (kinda hard to clear a tunnel while riding in a tank). Instead, they’re using NATO-patented bomb-em-back-to-stone-age airpower tactics to bomb and level sections of Gaza city while tanks fire on hospitals and residential buildings, and bulldozers clear swaths so nobody can think of coming back. The real objective is a combo of ethnic genocide and cleansing, killing those who won’t/can’t leave. But Secretary of State Blinken says too many Pals have died. How many is “too many”? Wafers are encouraged to weigh in on what exactly is the Blinken Ratio ™ implied by his disgusting handwaving.

7:57 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Check out 2nd story in my collection, "The Heart of the Matter."


Last 2 links didn't work, for me. Are you going to post the item abt IDF T-shirts?


8:50 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: Blinken (Blinkered) is a complete jackass, and an appropriate spokesperson for Schmiden and the US Gov't. What a buffoon.

8:54 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


The home residence of the Vice President is Number One Observatory Circle, in NW DC. I think it is time for us to descend on this residence, and stand outside it, holding a banner that says


Then, after a couple of days, we move on to the White House, with a banner that says


What do ya say?


9:04 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

A few words of ancient wisdom:

Let me add that just as History is punishing the US for what it did to the world, so will it also punish Israel. But both countries are too blockheaded to see it.

5:20 AM  
Blogger Jack Lattemann said...

MB & Wafers, the correct links for my post yesterday about the war in Gaza are below. On the Naked Capitalism link, page down in the comments for XXYY at 4:26 pm suggesting the Blinken Ratio ™ for dead Pals:

The dehumanization of Palestinians by the Israeli Defence Forces is really nothing new. Here’s a report with photo by the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald from March 25, 2009 on Israeli soldiers wearing T-shirts with messages like “1 Shot 2 Kills” with a pregnant woman in crosshairs:

9:13 AM  
Blogger Baron Von Strangeknight said...

MB - Thank you so much for your essay, it has provided a great deal for my mind to chew on. I'm thinking of re-reading Wandering God.

I enjoyed this video of Michael Hudson providing his thoughts on Israel and the current geopolitical disposition. He especially has some interesting thoughts about Rome and The Crusades being analogous to how the U.S. behaving in the middle-east (see at about 44:00). If what he is saying is true, the U.S. won't do a thing to stop the massacre of Palestinians (instead it's hoping for an opportunity to attack Iran).


2:59 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


For Netanyahu and Schmiden, the Pals are little more than human garbage, untermenschen, to be disposed of at will. These guys are war criminals; they have no conscience at all.


3:37 PM  
Anonymous Mr. Oops said...

Dr. Berman—

Taking a break from seeing videos of wounded and dead Palestinian children, I bumped into a study of The State of Democracy in the United States: 2022 from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China. It's a numbered checklist of disaster and decline, but its Conclusion sounds nothing like what you would hear from any politician in the western bloc countries. It talks about working in solidarity, taking into account ones' own shortcomings and not pointing fingers. A sample:

"What our world needs today is not a “Summit for Democracy” that hypes up confrontation and contributes nothing to the collective response to global challenges, but a conference of solidarity that focuses on taking real actions to solve prominent global challenges."

What they say?!?

2:22 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Why is China slowly gaining the upper hand over America? One possible reason: while America is filled w/moronic buffoons, China is filled with reasonably intelligent people. Hmm...


2:38 PM  
Anonymous James Allen said...

If this doesn’t stray too far from the general blog theme, might I offer the following evidence for why the country is doomed:

“Teachers Yelling at Students #1-10.” YouTube. American youth driving teachers to distraction, unable to be either controlled or intimidated.

4:24 PM  
Blogger Joe McIlnen said...

Now this is utterly hilarious. The January 6th shaman is running for Congress! Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha! This country certainly is the laughing stock of the world! Ha!Ha!Ha! Who knows? Perhaps if Don the Con doesn’t get to be president for life, this goofball maybe one day can be our commander in chief! Ha!Ha!Ha!

U.S.A.!, U.S.A.!, U. S. A.!

6:24 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I'd vote for him. He cdn't be worse than Schmiden.


6:37 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

This is kinda nice (portrait of the real America):

7:17 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


It's very possible that less than a yr from now, the American people, in their infinite wisdom, will flush Schmiden down the toilet once and for all. Of course, a Trump presidency will be a horror show:

but with one saving grace: we will finally be rid of a genocidal doofus, a warmongering idiot of the first order. And Kamala Schmamala will no longer grace us w/her inappropriate laughter, and her inability to engage in rational dialogue--permanent retirement for a total buffoonette. Don't kid yourself, my friends; these are no small gains.

But who, you might ask, will guide us during this final phase of the American empire? Gisele Bundchen? Tulsi? Sarah Palin? I am excited at the prospects.

O&D, amigos. We pull away from one abyss, only to be facing another.


1:58 AM  
Anonymous Flyingspaghettimonstr said...

Ever heard of the phenomenon of Amerikkkans embarking on "medical tourism"? This is the practice of traveling 2 other countries for healthcare. Amerikkkans love sitting on their lard asses belittling the medical systems of other countries. But if they're looking elsewhere for healthcare, then that means something's terribly amiss w/ their own.

1:00 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


A short quiz. Between now and 2030, America will come tumbling down. Our economy will be shot, our military in tatters, and other nations of the world will not take us seriously anymore. What will American citizens do, as a reaction to all this?

1. Reflect on the nature of karma, on how much damage we have done to ourselves and the world, and thus reject the American Dream as a cruel joke. Reject the violence of American imperialism, and the stupidity of consumerism and capitalism.

2. Run around waving the American flag, yelling "We're No. 1!"

But I do have a possible scenario in mind. Some Americans will gather outside of Schmiden's house (no longer the W.H.), and yell "Schmiden! Doofus! War criminal!" When he steps out of his house, the crowds will projectile vomit on him.

Meanwhile, a similar crowd will gather outside of Kamala's house, yelling "Kamala! Schmamala! Total imbecile!" When she steps out of her house, they will throw stones at her, and pee on her shoes.

We live in exciting times, amigos.


5:42 PM  
Blogger Joe McIlnen said...

“Don’t hit me in the back!“ “Now, Children, Children.”

Ha!Ha!Ha! Grown members of Congress acting like 12 year olds. The Republican Comedy Show rolls on. The fall of the U.S.A.!, U.S.A.!, U. S. A.!, like Rome, now probably will include bread-and-circus gladiator matches. An angry red state “tough guy” ex-ultimate fighter now is an elected senator. It doesn’t get any dumber ( or funnier). LOL!

U.S.A.!, U.S.A.!, U. S. A.!

6:59 PM  
Anonymous BH said...

This is rather scary in a way. It seems the Heritage Foundation is already screening thousands of people to take over various government jobs and positions if Trump gets elected again. This so much reminds me of the brownshirts in Germany.

6:42 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


The collapse of the US can follow a # of different scenarios, something we have discussed b4 (secession, for example). The Heritage scenario is, in fact, fascism.


9:08 AM  
Anonymous David Samson said...

Have you thought about doing a substack? Many former bloggers have been doing this, such as Curtis Yarvin:

Gray Mirror (Curtis Yarvin aka Mencius Moldbug

You could serialize your books & charge $10 a month. Many journalists started doing this years ago.

9:09 AM  
Blogger Jason Tower said...

Spaghetti- If you point out that contradiction to people from the US they immediately get angry and defensive, and start spouting things like "at least we have freedom." Which brings up another contradiction: Americans constantly talk about their freedom, but they have the highest incarceration rate in the world. And after U.S. prisoners serve their time they are denied many basic freedoms (employment and voting, for example).,a%20federal%20or%20state%20prison%20or%20local%20jail.

9:11 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

This American Life:

4:57 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Scumbags kowtowing to moneybags?

8:15 PM  
Anonymous Ram Gana said...

Very interesting article from Russell Dobular on the potential for the woke establishment's comeuppance:

"These modern-day Dr. Frankensteins had apparently never considered what might happen were a 21st Century Wounded Knee to erupt in broad daylight on social media"

9:20 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings MB and Wafers,

Biden calls Xi a dictator after summit meeting:

Jesus, the US is a joke. Biden is literally a supporter of totalitarian regimes such as Saudi Arabia and essentially sanctioning the genocide of Palestinians by Israel. The good thing is that the US is being exposed like never before.


11:18 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Exposed, but probably not to Americans, who are unable to grasp the obvious. As for Schmiden: Jesus, what a jackass.


1:19 PM  
Anonymous Nico said...


Re: fascism,

PRRI recently found four in ten Americans authoritarian preferences, he represents this country perfectly...

A lot of Americans embrace Trump’s authoritarianism

8:46 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


No surprise. Buffoons Rule! Meanwhile, pls spell out yr acronyms, thank you.


9:13 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Great article on Arthur Miller, Elia Kazan (coward and scumbag), and "The Crucible" in Nov. 2 NYRB.

1:37 PM  
Anonymous willy robinson said...

I really enjoyed this article (although I must confess a lot of ignorance regarding the axial age mentioned).

In terms of using the tools of this study to better understand our contemporary world, I invite you to revisit the Trump/Hillary election campaign not (or not just) in terms of tribalism versus rationalism, but instead in terms of the mimetic, the mythic and the theoretic (this, for me, is the most interesting part of the essay).

One could argue, for example, that Hillary's campaign was extremely tribal, appealing (amongst other things) to an uncritical sisterhood to carry her to office, while failing to engage with more 'theoretical' voters who could see great inconsistencies between her words and actions on foreign policy, or how she broke the state department's own rules for emails and other communications. The big step she took once defeated (blame Russia) was pure narrative management, and contained very little analysis or critical thinking.

If you felt like exploring this thread I would be very interested in what you have to say. Depressingly though, I fear the only one thing you are ever allowed to analyse as a philisophical voter in the US with a working brain is: which is the lesser of the two repugnant evils.

6:52 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


As you can imagine, I didn't want to fill the essay w/Hillary, so I confined myself to an example of her debate w/Trumpi, wh/illustrates the power of the mimetic and mythic over the theoretic. He came across as vibrant, she came across as a boring wonk. Something similar happened in the 1st Bush-Gore debate of 2000. As for Axial Age, check out Appendix III of "Neurotic Beauty."


Sorry, cdn't run it (length rule). Pls compress to half a pg and re-send. Thank you.


10:25 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

They're trash, period:

8:24 PM  
Anonymous Krakhed said...

I enjoyed your article. Tribalism seems to be on guiding a lot of us.

59% of 18-25 year olds are overweight or obese

We are entering a new age of buffoonery where the Average American is a very fat person and also addicted to screens.

9:03 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


American youth are indeed a sad lot--and our future. More worrisome than the fat on their bodies, is the fat between their ears.


1:31 AM  
Anonymous Dub alchemist said...

You're not likely to see much hollering & protesting over this: some assisted living places are gouging its residents for every mundane task, like helping folks to the bathroom. Amerikkka's capitalist vulture economy in all its glory.

6:41 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Hustling is everywhere in America, I guess. A nation of vultures, as you say. But above all: buffoons.


8:36 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: History is punishing the US w/a vigor. When I think of what Americans have become, I hafta lie down for a couple of hours.

1:31 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Schmiden just pardoned turkeys. Was he himself included in that?


6:50 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


7:13 PM  
Anonymous Mulligan said...

Mammon, Far from representing rationality and logic, capitalism is modernity’s most beguiling and dangerous form of enchantment

Eugene McCarraher

The Enchantments of Mammon: How Capitalism Became the Religion of Modernity

McCarraher in his book advocates the like of a Ruskin revival. A very smart person recently told me that the solution to everything is the return of Tolstoyan communes. These things I see as what MB calls dual process alternatives. No way they'll catch on in this country's mainstream....Book looks fascinating though!

9:30 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yes, along w/technology and 'progress'. Also check out 2nd story in my collection, "The Heart of the Matter."


10:43 AM  
Blogger Nathan said...

Hey Wafers - it’s getting towards the end of 2023 and I love year-end lists… could we share some of our favorite reads and favorite albums of the year ? I’ll start;


M. Sage, “paradise crick” (organic instrumental ambient / experimental - full of life)
Maya Ongaku “approach to anima” (laid back Japanese instrumental album - perfect coffee-drinking morning music)
Eddie Chacon “sundown” (soul, RnB, “celestial soul”/jazz)
Fred again… and Brian Eno “secret life” (very spare ambient electronic textures)
Lankum, “false Lankum” (experimental dissonant Irish traditional music)
Graves, “Gary owens” (quirky, easy going country ditties)
Fever Ray “radical romantics” (electronic / experimental pop)
Baby Rose, ‘through and through” (RnB + a bit of Nina Simone)
R.a.p. Ferreira “asiatique black wizard lily funk” (poetic rap)
Midwife and Vyva Melinkolya “orb weaving” (shoegaze / slowcore)

As for reading, I liked “There Are Places in the World Where Rules Are Less Important Than Kindness” by Carlo Rovelli, “America the Beautiful?” by Blythe Roberson, “Testimony: Inside the Evangelical Movement That Failed a Generation” by Jon Ward, “the Creative Act” by Rick Rubin, and I’m hoping to finish Grafton Tanner’s book on Nostalgia by the end of the year. Also enjoying the poetry of Welsh poet R.S. Thomas lately. Looking forward to hearing from others

4:57 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Cdn't run it, as you exceeded the half-pg-max limit. Pls edit down and re-send. Thank you.


7:47 PM  
Anonymous Satchmo said...

This lady is a true Amerikkkan! A Florida rapper was caught on camera gunning down her manager b4 getting mowed down by a white car.

12:44 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


This is really wonderful, eh wot? America!


1:41 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Someone read my work! I'm gonna faint w/joy:

However, I doubt his proposed solution to America's inevitable, and ongoing, downfall, is gonna work. (Sorta reminds me of Chris Hedges' call for the masses to rise up.) Whatchu think, amigos?


1:54 AM  
Anonymous Anjin-san said...

On YouTube I have been listening to an audiobook of The Guns of August, Barbara Tuchman's great analysis of the run up to and then the course of WWI.

The first five chapters are about the European imperial jockeying for advantage and their war planning in the years 1905-1914. I was struck by the eerie familiarity to the chaos of the world today with the USA trying desperately to hold onto its assumed preeminence in the world.

There was a line at 3:11:30 about the Austrians igniting the war with "the extreme frivolity of senile empires."

Encapsulate in so few words the USA today - a senile empire with a senile President and a hubris and power to destroy us all

I'm sure they are planning and scheming like mad, but as that great philosopher Mike Tyson said "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth."

10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anjin-san said...

Sorry... I made a mistake in the timing of my last post. The quote is at the 3:17:50 time. If you can correct please do .. otherwise if you would email me what I wrote at I will amend and repost

11:21 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


The line is "the bellicose frivolity of senile empires." This is a perfect description of US foreign policy today. Led by a senile doofus, and supported by millions of buffoons.


12:12 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Cowards/scumbags worried abt their careers:

Harvard's motto is "Veritas". How do you say Load of Crap in Latin?


7:27 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Imagine this scenario. Schmiden and Kamala decide to make a speech to the American people. Reminiscent of Jimmy's 1979 'spiritual malaise' speech, they choose to broadcast from Annapolis.

Schmiden: "I need to say to the American people that I am a doofus, little more than a clown. Well, also a genocidal warmonger, and a war criminal. If Trumpi gets elected in 2024, it will be a nightmare. But let's face it: you are already living a nightmare. It's called the Biden presidency. My foreign policy is a horror show. I'm just a piece of trash."

Kamala: "As for me, aka Schmamala, I'm basically just a dope. Also a rancid bag of douche fluid. There's not much more I can say, except that when I look in the mirror, I feel like puking my guts out."

Wdn't this be great?


10:09 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: On the other hand, here's what decent people look like:

10:16 PM  
Blogger Jack Lattemann said...

Motto for Harvard: "Onus caca"?

11:01 PM  
Anonymous Megan said...

A bit more succinct this time. Since I posted the Vaknin talks on Israel/Hamas earlier, here is a nice follow up discussion with some similarly sharp insights:

Vaknin often remarks on how many Malignant Narcissists and Psychopaths are in the Israeli government. He is certainly an expert on the subject of personality disorders (as well as a very informed Israeli citizen), and he seems to mean this in the clinical sense. Interesting. I've never read an in-depth biography of Netanyahu, but he certainly appears to tick many of the boxes of either "Malignant Narcissist" or outright sociopath. Avignor Lieberman is another one who gives off a very shady vibe. (Though I think he is currently out of power.) To my admittedly "philosemitic" self, the real tragedy of all this is how the sensible Israeli "left of center" coalition (such as it was), the ones who wanted to do right by the Palestinians, who fought against the settlements, the excessive crackdowns, the corruption, and supported the two-state solution, etc., were essentially obliterated as a viable political force over the past twenty years.

At any rate, if you want something fascinating, literary, entertaining and enlightening to read over the holidays, check out this a propros book. It is a free PDF, and one of my all-time favorites:

11:29 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


What is Latin for "We're so full of shit we don't know if we're coming or going"?


Terrible shame, abt the Israeli Left. Given the general psychosis-lite of the Israeli public, led by the psychosis-heavy of Netanyahu--or narcissistic psychosis (NP), one might call it--they really didn't stand a chance. And something similar obtains in the US. Trumpi, who will probably be our next pres, is a paradigm case of NP, and Americans in general have a lite case of it, in the form of avid hustling behavior and other forms of anti-human deviance (extreme individualism, etc.). What can ya do, really? But at least America will be effectively over by 2030, and I doubt Israel will make it to its 100th birthday (2048).


7:13 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: Megan: keep in mind that 'philosemitic' is not the same thing as 'philozionistic'. I'm the first, for example, but not the 2nd. The 2nd, beginning with al-Nakba in 1948, falls into the category of war criminality. It's complicated, of course, given the need to end the British Mandate, and in the wake of the Holocaust; but ultimately one can't create an identity for oneself by destroying the identity of others. In doing so, Israel sowed the karmic seeds of its own destruction, which is what is now unfolding in spades. On one level, Netanyahu is a douche bag; but more to the pt, he's pretty much nuts.

7:21 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps2: Keep in mind the brilliant short poem I penned a few yrs ago:

"Our lives are X-rated
For we are buffoons--and degraded."

(Keats move over)

7:24 AM  
Anonymous Satchmo said...

The author bemoans the lack of Chinese tourists visiting Amerikkkan tourist destinations, since they're known 2 b big spenders.

"American tourist hotspots now face a significant economic challenge: a sharp decline in Chinese tourists, a critical demographic known for its substantial spending power."

Amerikkka has been losing its appeal as a tourist destination 4 every1 else, too & I don't blame 'em. It's a violent shithole

11:25 AM  
Blogger Joe McIlnen said...

Here’s something in the ever-creative capitalist hustling department. Hustling via deadly armed violence that is. Killer Kyle is having a book published about his acquittal. Of course this functionally illiterate high school dropout doofus, who probably couldn’t write a three sentence paragraph grammatically correct, obviously is having a ghost writer do it for him. What a way to get rich! Only here in the gun loving U.S.A.!, U.S.A.!, U. S. A.!

p.s. Of course, Doctor, as per your quoting Kamala: "As for me, aka Schmamala, I'm basically just a dope. Also a rancid bag of douche fluid. There's not much more I can say, except that when I look in the mirror, I feel like puking my guts out."
She obviously shall be laughing the whole time as she’s saying it.

12:29 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Can one laugh and barf at the same time? Maybe this is Kamala's only talent. As for Kyle: a true American buffoon.

Meanwhile, let's have a look at the world situation (I'll be repeating some things I've said b4). This is prompted by the recent elections, in Holland and Argentina, of extreme rt-wing candidates. WTF is happening? My take follows the style of the World Systems Analysis School, wh/(I believe) still exists.

The central drama underlying everything rt now is the shift in tectonic plates, from rule by the Global North to the eruption of the subaltern peoples, the Global South. Which, imo, includes Hamas vs. Israel, no matter how awful, how brutal, the massacre of the Be'eri kibbutz on Oct. 7th was. People like Netanyahu and Schmiden are not smart enuf to understand what's going on, but they feel it intuitively, and so the Global North is violently trying to hang on to its 500-yr hegemonic role. Hence Netan is out to destroy the Palestinian people (not just Hamas), and Schmiden is willing to underwrite (so to speak) this genocide. If you come out in favor of the Pals, you are branded an antisemite and lose yr job, or worse.

But it's all karma on a grand scale. We have had the imperial, colonial regimes of the Global North, consisting of capitalism and its accompanying cruelties, for 500 yrs now. This is coming to an end, and by the yr 2100, the Global South will have replaced those regimes. There is true justice in this. But here's the catch: the regime(s) of the Global South may not be any better! In fact, it cd even be worse, for all we know. Change means things will be different--that's all. It doesn't necessarily mean things will be better. Only time will tell.

As the Global North disintegrates, consider the American political scene. These characters in the W.H., the Senate, and the House: my god, they are ABSURD. How did we wind up with a moron for VP, Lauren Bobert as a rep., MT Greene with her Jewish Space Lasers--the list goes on and on, and it is frankly hilarious. Even the word 'buffoons' doesn't quite capture them. And altho he hasn't (yet) had a brain biopsy, I'm guessing the pres has pieces of shit in his head, in lieu of gray matter.

Anyway, when tectonic plates shift--last time was from Medieval to Modern--chaos reins. So for those of you who have a huge existential headache, rdg the awful news on a daily basis, this is why. In any case, Marx and Hegel were wrong: History is not necessarily moving to some better place, far off in the distance. There is no 'divine plan'; the abject failure of the Soviet Union made that clear enuf. What does exist is the rise and fall of nations and empires, often in unpredictable ways. Other than that, I don't have a crystal ball, and neither does anyone else.

But check out the 2nd story in "The Heart of the Matter," for a sensible, if utopian, alternative.

Yesterday, I called up the Supreme Greatest Hits album on my computer, and danced to the music. Try it, you won't regret it.

abrazos, amigos

1:26 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: as for the Medieval to Modern shift, the classic work is

Huizinga says Europe was depressed (psychologically) for 200 yrs, as a result of this transition. No shit!

1:29 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps2: Sorry, I meant to say the Supremes. What great gals!

1:30 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

And yet another American douche bag:

Why not hold his head under water for 10 mins? Is there no upper limit to American buffoonery?

7:13 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: This bozo, Stuart Seldowitz, was a senior advisor in the Obama administration. Great people at the top, eh?

10:05 PM  
Anonymous James Allen said...

Immigrant on immigrant criminality, or so it appears to me. Maybe both are Americans. Hardly seems to matter any more.

A man playing with his son on a Brooklyn playground on 6 November discovers that wearing a keffiyeh these days might not be a good idea. Hadasa Bozakkaravani has been charged with four hate crimes after hurling her phone and hot coffee at Ashish Prashar and his toddler, telling them “You and your son, go away.” Accusing Prashar of being a member of Hamas, she called the two terrorists and dogs.

10:16 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Chock full o' morons, our great country, eh? The victim wasn't even an Arab.


11:05 AM  
Blogger ccg said...

I want to tell you about a recent conversation I had with an academic colleague, which shows to what degree supposedly smart people can compartmentalize their thinking without even noticing the contradictions involved.
This colleague is very perturbed about the ongoing genocide in Gaza at the hands of the Israelis, as am I. This is an issue he’s cared about for a long time, and he knows that I feel the same way. He’s taken to referring to Biden as Genocide Joe, and I’m on board with that. However, prior to this he seemed to think that Joe Biden was just wonderful. He seemed to believe everything that the New York Times, and Paul Krugman, told him to believe. Furthermore, he’s totally okay with what we’re doing in Ukraine. He is unable, or unwilling, to see the parallels between the situations in Gaza and Ukraine. In the case of the latter, he has a ‘Putin bad, Trump bad’ mindset, and it came out in that conversation that he still thinks Putin somehow got Trump elected. I was hoping that with his revised opinion of Joe Biden that he might change his mind about the idiocy in Ukraine. But no, he’s quite upset over the fact that some Republicans are trying to withhold funding for that war. He was quite traumatized by the election of Trump, more so than anyone I know, and I’m quite sure that this why he supports the war in Ukraine. He as much as said so the other day.
You won’t be surprised to hear that should I say anything that deviates evenly slightly from whatever he believes, he gets very self-righteous, condescending, and verbally abusive. He is the arbiter of truth, I guess.

12:20 PM  
Anonymous Flyingspaghettimonstr said...

Found this great essay that talks about Amerikkka being a uniquely cruel society. It mentioned things like amerikkka having no safety net & the general nastiness of its ppl. An excerpt:

“A society of people punching one another down must collapse. What else could it do? It cannot rise, can it? If I am punching you down, and I am punching the next person down below me, how can anyone ever lift anyone up?”

Archived version is linked, cuz the piece vanished

1:03 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


This cruelty is my experience of America as well, from junior high on. In fact, for me all of high school (and then college) was a modified version of "Lord of the Flies." The whole way of life is based on hurting or besting others, both systemically and randomly--e.g. some teenager in Bklyn will rape an old lady, that sorta thing. These have become fairly regular occurrences by now.


You might pt out to him that (a) he's a turkey, and (b) that Trump is going to be our next pres. America has millions of hi-IQ assholes.


Every day when I wake up, the 1st thing I do is yell
DEGRADED BUFFOONS! Makes me feel a whole lot better.


6:25 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings MB and Wafers,


Many thanks for your analysis of the world situation. I'm certainly one who has a permanent headache about making sense of the current situation. Who could image the Netherlands moving toward a tyrannical right-wing future, tho Europe has been resonating w/an immigration crisis for some time. It does seem the we in the west are caught inside a karmic drama that is largely out of our control. In any case, thank you for your mind, insight, and honesty in telling us the brutal truth that change doesn't necessarily mean better.


6:39 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Why not? Let's just kill everybody!

7:12 PM  
Anonymous Flyingspaghettimonstr said...

It's known 2 all & sundry that what passes 4 a “healthcare” system in Amerikkka is a failure. Just for fun, I did a web search 4 the keywords “fuck health insurance”. You'll see endless rants from ppl that got denied treatment, surprise bills & more.

Like this person who couldn't get allergy treatment despite shelling out $400/month for private insurance

Or how bout this guy whose insurance co. had him going in circles for his wife's Multiple Sclerosis? These horror stories r amusing 2 me, from a declinist standpt:)

10:41 AM  
Blogger Joe McIlnen said...

The holiday weekend wasn’t a total washout. Check out the hate crime shooting and the hatred for homeless people shooting in this angry, violent, despicable shithole country.

Of course if a USAin doesn’t have a gun, he’ll stab someone to death.

And women are no exception, especially when it comes to a dastardly caregiver.

U.S.A.!, U.S.A.!, U. S. A.!

6:04 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Ask your friends the following questions, and watch them turn red-faced and start waving their arms hysterically:

1. In what way is Schmiden NOT a senile doofus, and a genocidal warmonger?
2. In what way is Kamala (Schmamala) NOT a rancid bag of douche fluid?
3. In what way is America NOT a genocidal war machine run by a plutocracy and cheered on by clueless buffoons?
4. Why SHOULDN'T the US nuke Chad, Fiji, Canada, and Tasmania?

1:38 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

And yet another example of my theory of microcosm/macrocosm:

Seldowitz, and the US gov't, are both garbage.

8:07 PM  
Anonymous Not so french said...

Something grim for today. An israeli sniper killed an 11 y.o a while ago. Only arabic news channels reported it for now, I don't think it will be reported anywhere else.

To use Arendt's concepts, carpet bombing cities may be some kind of banal evil, but aiming at a child and then pulling the trigger is something else, that's intentional evil.

9:28 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Who are the 'human animals', really?


1:10 PM  
Anonymous Satchmo said...

So Jimmy Carter's wife recently kicked the bucket & had her funeral. Carter himself isn't too far behind on the reaper's list, either.

I often wonder what Amerikkka might look like had it reflected on Carter's speech. I know self-reflection isn't in its DNA, and Amerikkka is now on a steep decline as a result. But it can't hurt to daydream it, can it?

5:36 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


You need to reference the speech. I presume yr talking about the 'spiritual malaise' speech of 15 July 1979 in Annapolis. A link wd be helpful.


5:59 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Henry Kissinger, war criminal and all-around piece of dreck, just died. Good fucking riddance.


9:52 PM  
Anonymous Majors said...

thinking today of henry kissinger's victims

3 million + vietnamese

2.5 million + cambodians

200,000+ laotians

3 million + bangladeshis

10,000+ indians

10,000+ pakistanis

15,000+ egyptians

3500+ syrians

6500+ cypriots

40,000+ chileans

30,000+ argentinians

Henry Kissinger, Diplomat Responsible for Millions of Deaths, Dies at 100

Henry Kissinger, War Criminal Beloved by America’s Ruling Class, Finally Dies

7:32 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Once again, the US is a genocidal war machine run by a plutocracy and cheered on by clueless buffoons. As w/Madeleine Albright, there will probably be a state funeral for Kissinger, lauding all of his 'accomplishments'. Wh/wd be appropriate, in a horrific and bizarre way.


8:00 AM  
Blogger Janus said...

Hello, Wafers:

It's been likely four years since I have posted here. While many won't remember that earlier post or my handle, my last message mentioned a move to the Netherlands and a town in the countryside to be with my (now) wife.

Leaving the USA has been a rush to say the least: marriage and the first child arrived this past summer. A girl! I've discovered love I didn't think possible for someone who was always uninterested in having any offspring. We found a place to live despite a severe housing crisis. I've taken and quit a few jobs and have had enough money to pay the bills. There has been a lot of laughter and tears, and bike rides through tulip fields. I've downed copious beers brewed by monks and eaten 'patat met' underneath ancient city gates. We've weathered corona curfews, infertility, illnesses, and financial setbacks.

But, I am still alive and continually "coming to my senses". It is no utopia here, especially with the recent political news, but perhaps I (and now my daughter) will have a chance at a different life than the default one expected back home. (Where is home now?)

This blog continues to be an encouragement and a warm blanket to wrap oneself in when the outside world intrudes too much into the inner one. Will try to check in more and share how US collapse ripples across the ocean.

10:47 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Congratulations on all fronts, but esp. on getting out of the US, wh/is a vicious country filled w/violent, self-destructive buffoons. However, the recent Dutch election suggests to me that Holland is hardly free of buffoons itself. That aside, it's a country I really like. Give my regards to the Rijksmuseum.

Keep in mind that this is the only blog worth rdg.


4:39 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Didju guys know that there is a video showing Israeli soldiers making fun of starving Palestinians, who have no food or water? There is also another one: a popular T-shirt among the IDF is a pic of a pregnant Palestinian woman in the cross-hairs of a rifle, w/the caption (in Hebrew): "Two for one." Finally, during the last 2 days an Israeli sniper shot and killed an 11-yr-old Palestinian boy. Great people, the Israelis.


5:12 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Gd essay, but w/dubious conclusion:

And here's a surprise (ha ha):

5:46 PM  
Anonymous Satchmo said...

Dr. Berman,

I was indeed referring 2 Jimmy Carter's spiritual malaise speech in my last post. I remember watching it w/ my grandmother & being moved by it

Where might Amerikkka b if it heeded his words & took a look in the mirror? The world may never know

7:26 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

More on a piece of trash, and a perfect representative of the US in general:

And this from one of my heroes, Ariel Dorfman (be sure to read his bks):

A piece of dreck who will be feted by the US establishment; who are almost as disgusting as he was.

7:46 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


America never looks in the mirror. End of story, and end of America.


7:48 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: Can you imagine a butcher like Kissinger getting the Nobel Peace Prize (1973)?

ps2: In ancient Greek mythology Nemesis was the goddess of revenge. The saying goes: "Whom the gods wish to destroy, they first drive insane." This strikes me as a fair description of what's going on in the US today.

8:22 PM  
Anonymous Comp said...

I wonder if there are any billionaires or world leaders who aren't totally traumatized, distorted souls driven by insatiable desire for fame, power, and money. Weird system we've got here.

Bibi embraces Musk for the same reason he embraces Putin, Orban, Trump and a bunch of the rest of the world's worst people. It's not a good reason.

Why Netanyahu Loves Antisemites Like Elon Musk So Much - Israel News -

4:36 AM  
Anonymous Otto said...

The world’s richest 1 percent generated as much carbon emissions as the poorest two-thirds in 2019, according to a new Oxfam report that examines the uber-wealthy’s lavish lifestyles and investments in heavily polluting industries.

This Oxfam report says -

What a sick world

9:34 AM  
Anonymous James Allen said...

Though the article’s text doesn’t mention it explicitly, the title does the heavy lifting:

Don’t forget to LIKE, SUBSCRIBE, and HIT that bell to ensure you get future content.

Words fail me.

11:12 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


The Elite are trash. Never forget that. Their admirers are also trash.


Today's students are mostly like Kamala: rancid bags of douche fluid.


11:35 AM  
Anonymous Rud said...

Remember When America Loved Mussolini?But are they ready for the mango version?

Rome Georgia for many years had a statue of a wolf given to it by Benito Mussolini on behalf of the city of Rome Italy - his name inscribed on the statue. May still be there. I know I saw it in late 80s when I lived there....This is a very strange country....

Anyway this is some fascinating history

7:19 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Let's get down to basics:

In Jan. of 2025, Trumpi will begin the process of not only destroying the Constitution, or American democracy, but of America itself. As Kagan suggests, there is very little possibility of stopping this. I have repeatedly predicted the end of the US by 2030; it may come earlier.


8:34 PM  
Anonymous Satchmo said...

Fun times in Wisconsin: a drunk dude was charged 4 biting off some1's fingertip @ a wedding. He was apparently groping a guest there in his drunken stupor. Aren't Amerikkkan just GRAND??

P.S, Wisconsin is a depressing shithole, like the rest of Amerikkka. Much of the population there r either drunks or druggies, cuz there's fuck else 2 do

10:55 AM  
Blogger Jack Lattemann said...

Pay no attention to the DC blather from Biden and Blinken about “humanitarian pauses” and “measures to protect civilians” in Gaza. Israel’s political leadership has taken a low-risk gamble that the U.S. will not shut off its military and financial assistance, and is going for broke to either kill or expel most of the population from Gaza, and could care less about the effects on U.S. elections. The Israeli view is to treat the fate of the Pals as an externality, and have the Europeans and other countries deal with the Pals as refugees. Really, would a Trump administration do anything different? Who besides the U.S. is going to exert enough contravailing force to stop this? From Moon of Alabama:

Meanwhile, as MB points out, neocon Robert Kagen worries about a “Trump dictatorship” in a Washington Post op-ed piece; today’s Naked Capitalism “Links” had comments in reaction:

1:42 PM  
Blogger Joe McIlnen said...

Thank you for your service, Sir. LOL! Check out today’s mugshot of an angry ex-Army reservist who, after “serving our country” ( LOL) in popular conservative lingo, got angry at Popeye’s Chicken and tossed hot grease at a coworker. But as usual, he has “mental issues”, another highly recurring phenomenon here in the U.S.A.!, U.S.A.!, U. S. A.!

Check out also the newest fad in callous shootings here in this disgusting violent shithole country. It’s called “Hobo Hunting”.

7:47 PM  
Blogger ccg said...

It's probably worth mentioning that neocon Robert Kagan is married to neocon Victoria Nuland, who is serving as an under secretary of state and is chiefly running the war in Ukraine. She has long been involved in anti-Russian activity in several democratic administrations. She was involved with 2014 coup in Ukraine, which helped set the stage for current fiasco there:

On a related topic, this scathing article on Kissinger appeared on Al-Jazeera:

Nice to know that he was pushing war as recently as this past October.

8:30 PM  
Blogger futuroexpat said...

Thought I would drop in. First post I read, "Taking a Breather" contains a "gross" error. The Matrix did not have gross earnings of $460 BILLION in its first year or in its first 20 years. Lifetime gross is in the millions, not billions: $171,479,930, which is 1/2682 of $460 Billion, a gigantic factual error which does not inspire confidence to continue reading philosophical musings / opinions. I hope the Mexican editors realize the difference between millions and billions.

PS. Spent a month in Oaxaca (capital city Nov. 2022) per your recommendation. Oaxaca had serious water and garbage issues. Not a pleasant experience. This is what it looked like:

2:52 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Wow! Thanks for the correction. When I looked it up a 2nd time, the source on the Net said 460 million, not billion. Obviously, I misread it (very late at night). My bad, amigo. I'll let my Mexican editor know.


3:01 AM  
Anonymous HeelaMonster said...


As for Kissinger, some months ago I listened to David Feldman (youtube:, who made this comment about him:

Damn! That was a great line. I really wish I'd thought of it.

7:38 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Where is the ref to Kissinger?


9:13 PM  
Blogger Joe McIlnen said...

Doctor & Wafers,
Check out some drunken USAins, two who are teachers! LOL! The third one wants to get it on with a police dog. LOL!

Of course our conservative USAin Trumpers are just as spaced out without the booze! LOL!

Trump 2024! U.S.A.!, U.S.A.!, U. S. A.!

12:26 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

I love it!

Cd Americans *be* more stupid, as Chandler Bing wd say? I can't get enuf of this shit! America will not end with a bang, or a whimper, but in total buffoonery! Go turkeys!

8:32 PM  

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