THE ABSURD TIMES
Once you know the pattern, what need for more examples?
Thoreau -- from memory
I have been entirely too busy with unproduction (ie., practical) matters lately to produce anything, but one of you sent this author and his blog link to me. I had never heard of him, but he seem worth reading.
Back in awhile.
"This extremely limited notion of the good life, combined with almost total unconsciousness, presents itself as daily reality in the U.S. I recall a friend of mine telling me, a few years ago, about a train trip she took up the California coast, during which she decided to walk through the cars very slowly, from back to front, almost pretending to be an invalid, so that she could eavesdrop on conversations. Every last one of these, she said, was about some gadget, some aspect of consumer technology–software, computer attachments, iPods, cell phone variations, etc. This is where, she concluded, Americans put their attention; it is what really excites them, makes them feel alive. Nor is this limited to Americans, of course. In the mid-eighties, when I was teaching at a Canadian university, my colleagues were literally ecstatic over the introduction of personal computers, firmly believing that these machines would write papers and books for them, perhaps help them get tenure or upgrade their entire careers (promises that failed to materialize, needless to say). As for south of the border, I was recently riding around Mexico City with a colleague of mine when we saw a huge billboard ad for some cell phone, with the caption, in three-foot high block capitals (in English, for some strange reason), KILL SILENCE. "Well," I remarked to my colleague, "at least they are being honest about it." "Oh," he quipped, "you are fixated on cell phones."
It's hard to know how to reply to a dismissive remark of this kind, since even the brightest people don't get it, and usually have no idea what George Steiner meant when he called modernity "the systematic suppression of silence." Silence, after all, is the source of all self-knowledge, and of much creativity as well. But it is hardly valued by societies that confuse creativity with productivity. What I am fixated on, in fact, is not technology but the fixation on technology, the obsession with it. Unfortunately, it is hard to persuade those caught up in the American model of progress that it is they who are living in an upside-down world, not Octavio Paz."
Selected quotes from Morris Berman and
DARK AGES AMERICA: The Final Phase of Empire
On the American people:
"All in all, the great mass of our countrymen talk, act, and 'reason' as though their crania contained chopped liver rather than gray matter." (p. 295)
On American democracy:
"We retain the rhetoric of liberal democracy, but in concrete terms this supposed democracy gets enacted as the commodity culture, in which freedom of choice really means Wendy's versus Burger King." (p. 73)
On George W. Bush:
"His excitement over being able to wield power, to kill people, as a substitute for dealing with his considerable 'inner demons' is quite palpable." (p. 298)
On daily American life:
"...a society whose real motto is not 'In God We Trust' but rather...'What's in It for Me?"
"The truth is that things are so far gone now that we don't even have a public language for...the life of craft and commitment, for the long-lost world of civic responsibility."
"9/11 was a wake-up call that was not understood and that went unheeded. It was America's last chance to try to pull away from (or, at least, decelerate) a downward trajectory, a chance that was completely blown. A scenario of steady decline is probably all that is left to us at this point; we will not get another chance." (p. 82)
"The damage of September 11 is nothing compared to the damage we did and are currently doing to ourselves as a result of our reaction to that event. In a bizarre kind of way, Rumsfeld, Perle, Abrams, Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rice, Feith, and their ilk are bin Laden's comrades in arms."
On the "Clash of Civilizations":
"If the United States is not intentionally the enemy of Islamic civilization, it is doing a pretty good job of imitating a nation that is." (p. 187)
On the "shock and awe" strategy for invading Iraq:
"This kind of sadism always has an odd sexual feel to it; I couldn't help thinking how the politics of empire had finally rotted out the American soul. When a civilization finally hollows itself out, there is nothing much left for it to do except...get off on the cruelty you can visit on the powerless." (p. 213)
"...one could argue that the terrorists are already winning, in that they have managed to push us further along the downward trajectory we were already on." (p. 10)
On the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank:
"This...is where the Jews have wound up, after five thousand years of persecution? All I can feel is a sense of sadness and shame." (p. 198)
POSTED BY MORRIS BERMAN AT 3:26 PM