December 16, 2017

As the World Turns

This was the title of a soap opera that ran on CBS for 54 years. Since about a year ago, it has seemed to many of us that we are living in a soap opera; that everything has gotten overblown, exaggerated, unreal. There is, after all, no thinking process going on within the head of Trump; he gets captured by some emotion, or impulse, and runs with it. One only hopes that this “limbic” mode of relating to the world won’t be operative in the case of a nuclear war with North Korea, but at this point, who knows?

As 2017 winds down, and we are faced with another year of soap opera “reality,” it might be good to speculate on what’s coming down the pike. As far as America goes, the answer is simple: cultural suicide. You’ve got people fucking vans and rioting over incorrect cheeseburger orders; others running around with pussy hats and actually believing that this activity amounts to confronting power; a tax bill that will make a lopsided distribution of wealth even more lopsided; progressives urging revolution and others thinking that identity politics is the answer; an epidemic of opiate use, in addition to widespread alcoholism and suicide; and the militarization of police forces around the country. And this is only a partial list. We are fucked, and there just is no way out.

I have proposed “Dual Process” as a portrait of what is happening (see AWTY, last essay): that concomitant with the disintegration of capitalism, alternative experiments are arising to fill in the resultant gaps. Such experiments are especially rife in countries suffering from austerity programs, such as Japan, Spain, Greece, and Portugal. And along with this, the growth of secessionist movements, such as we see in Scotland, Catalonia, and parts of the United States (something I predicted in 1981). One hopes that all of this will get stronger over time, but in the case of the US, the whole ideology of “Me, Myself, and I” is so deeply entrenched, that it is unlikely these things will take place in a serious way. The temptations of “greenwashing,” for example—adopting the symbols and language of green politics while retaining the ideology of economic expansion—are very hard to resist.

Meanwhile, on the world stage, it is clear that the US is finished, or shortly will be. Even internal intelligence memos say this, that China is rising and that there is no way to resist it. When England was eclipsed, at least it had the US to fall back on. We have no one, and it’s likely that most nations of the world will be happy to see us go. Even our allies know we are jerks; Trump is merely the outward manifestation of this (like a sacrament, noir version). Mr. Putin would love for Russia to relive its former imperial glory, be a major player on the world stage; but I suspect the nation is no match for Chinese hegemony.

One diplomat recently argued that America vs. Europe is repeating the drama of the Western vs. Eastern wing of the decaying Roman Empire. America will simply collapse, he said, and become irrelevant, while Europe will morph into some version of the Byzantine world. That is, it will neither be a success nor a failure; it will just limp along. And yet, within that structure, citizens will be able to lead modest and reasonable lives.

But getting back to China: check out my Preface to the Mandarin edition of WAF, archived on this blog. I was frankly amazed that it escaped censure, because I predicted that China would copy the American model of expansion, of cultivating economic colonies around the globe. It is now the world’s largest economy, and President Xi hardly shows any tendency toward restraint, or toward the marginalized alternative tradition I discuss in WAF. All of this will put an enormous strain on planetary resources, and the ignoring of this, and the disregard of climate change, can only pour oil on the ecological fire we are currently caught up in. In any case, the geopolitical situation is one of horror vacui, and as the collapse of America will leave an open hole in the world system, China clearly intends to fill that empty space. I suspect it will.

In the Twilight book, I discuss E.M. Forster’s notion of an “elite”—not, he says, an aristocracy of money or power, but an elite of integrity, of right intentions. People like John Ruskin or Gandhi stand out in my mind as representative of such movements; as Wafers, it is what all of us on this blog aspire to (which is why the blog has evoked such rabid animosity—the “existential strain” I have written about in the past). Despite every attempt in the past to corral such people, to trap them in some form of institutionalization, they always slip through the net, and go free. They resist definition, and yet when you run across one of these folks, you know it. It is folks like these who are best equipped to carry out the positive side of Dual Process, but it would seem that neither the US or China are very interested in what they have to offer. After all, they often choose to point out the down sides of modernization, and nations bent on hustling aren’t going to be receptive to this message. Here again, the “Byzantine” model of Europe may be the most likely place for such people, and such movements, to flourish.

On a world scale, the next 30 or 40 years are going to be rather hellish. As I have often said, you don’t get history for free. Hegel declared that it was a slaughter bench. The point is, you don’t transition out of an enormous world system that has been with you for centuries, overnight, and with relative ease. The collapse of Rome was a nightmare, as was the implosion of the feudal system in Europe. Capitalism is hardly going to escape the same fate; it may even be worse. What lies on the far side of this transition is anybody’s guess. Huxley agreed with Forster, but (like Ray Bradbury) predicted that this Ruskinesque “elite” would have to live on the margins of the dominant culture, whatever that culture might be. “Communities of the abandoned,” Ernest Becker called them, and said that when a person gets to the point of seeing the emptiness of the dominant culture, he or she is then confronted with the question of the meaning of life. American and Chinese (and European and Latin American) consumerism is designed to keep people from asking that question. But, he suggested, such an awareness might just be a new form of religious consciousness, one that could make it possible for us to survive as a race. There are attendant evils on this, of course: the fascism of New Age cults, for example. But all this elite can do, is its best, hoping it will be good enough.

As for Wafers, our motto is something along the lines of “Virtue is its own reward.” (Ruskin: “There is no wealth but life.”) Gandhi once said, “People ask me what is my message. I have no message. My life is my message.”

December 04, 2017

Hell Bent on Disaster

Wafers-

Nothing like a dramatic (but correct) title to usher in the new year. The passage of the GOP tax bill is giving Americans what they have endorsed since 1945: extreme individualism, the "endless frontier," the "religion" of America, hustling, competition, and empire. And of course, very little kindness; very few breaks for the less fortunate. So now, we are reaping what we sowed, namely being ground into the dirt. Yes, we certainly are a City on the Hill, a model for all nations to follow!

Me, I'm throwing a New Year's party at my apartment in Mexico City. At midnight, we shall all look North, shake our heads, and sigh.

One thing I can assure you: 2018 will be worse. "How long, O Cataline, will you abuse our patience?" (Cicero)

-mb

November 22, 2017

Pardoning Turkeys

Well, Trumpi pardoned a turkey. A wonderful thing, to be sure. But what about the 325 million or so other turkeys, walking the streets of our fair nation, and shopping their eyeballs out? Shouldn't they receive a pardon as well? Our Leader has been conspicuously silent about that.

And so, as we careen toward Thanksgiving and Xmas and the New Year, and contemplate our fellow Americans trying to stuff the emptiness in their lives with Wal-Mart, let us look ahead to 2018, and the foolishness that awaits us in the coming year.

I wish you all a fabulous Waferian holiday season, one filled with great inner joy.

-mb

November 13, 2017

Looking Back at 2017

Ay, Waferinos!

Is it too soon to look back, to survey the highs and lows of the past year? What I keep noticing is the split between ourselves and the US. This was a disastrous year for the latter, which will be known in history as Trump 1. So much damage he did! What declinist is not excited by this, is not looking forward to yet another year of gaffes and boorishness and misguided foreign and domestic policy? Stupid advisers, ridiculous appointments, China and Russia laughing up their sleeves--the whole 9 yards.

And yet, concomitant with this, we have the world of Waferdom, with its inhabitants having a grand ol' time. The contrast is really fascinating. Here the US is going to hell in a basket, and Wafers everywhere had a pretty good year of it. For me, it started out at the end of 2016, when Trumpi was elected and I was giving lectures in Germany. Watching Botox-Face on German television, heavily sedated, mouthing some scripted message about how the future was female: Jesus, does entertainment get any better than that?

And then spending 3 weeks in Italy, a land of fabulous art, fabulous food, and a landscape to die for. This was followed by the Wafer Summit Meeting in NY, where we all thrust our faces into pie and reveled in the disgusting mess we created: a party like no other, really. Then, for me, an interview with RT, which then proceeded to cut out two small pieces, fold these into other shows, and toss out the rest. Sublime!, as was a visit to the Met with 2 other Wafers. Plus, I ducked into the 2nd Ave Deli and porked out on pastrami, chopped liver, dill pickles, cole slaw with Russian dressing, and a Cel-Ray Tonic. Life doesn't get much better than that, although the publication, at long last, of Are We There Yet?, felt pretty good as well.

For me, the year winds up with a lecture on my Japan book, shortly to be released in Spanish translation, in Guadalajara on Nov. 27. In Spanish, of course, so if any of you hispanohablantes happen to be in the neighborhood, it will take place in the evening, as part of the Feria Internacional de Libros. I hope to see you there, muchachos!

And if I ask myself why, when the US is crumbling, life is so good for us Wafers, there can be only one answer: because we are Wafers! Our lives are glorious, by definition. So all of you, por favor, write in now, and tell us of your triumphs and joys over the past 11 months, and how Waferdom has blessed your life. As Patrick Henry cried at the height of the American Revolution, "Give me liberty, or give me a tuna sandwich on rye with lettuce and mayo!" These are the words of a great man.

-mb

November 01, 2017

Yes, We Are Finally There

https://www.amazon.com/Are-There-Yet-Morris-Berman/dp/1635610567/ref=sr_1_11?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1509545169&sr=1-11&keywords=morris+berman

October 26, 2017

Hold Off for a Week, Amigos

Waferinos-

Currently on the road. Access to Internet iffy. Returning to Mexico on Nov. 2. If you cd all hold off posting until Nov. 3, I'd really appreciate it. Many thanks.

mb