Went to a used bookstore and bought a book. Dark Ages America by Morris Berman. He’s a social critic or something like that. A cultural historian. Not a real job. It’s an identity of being ever displeased and despairing. The disposition is alien to me but I like to see how other people think now and then.
This book was written in 2006, which makes it irrelevant. A ten or eleven year old book on American politics might as well be the bible. Nothing written can keep up with the pace of change. What I’m writing now will become obsolete before I finish it.
Nothing written can withstand the supersaturation of writing. There are millions of book like this. Historians, academics and experts in the millions drenching a subject in their learned spit. When there’s too much of something, it dies. Or rather, once something dies, there’s too much of it.
Now that writing and reading are dead, everyone is a writer. Everyone has written a book.
There are more people who’ve written books than there are literate people in the world today. I don’t know why I bought this one. No one recommended it to me. I’d never heard of it until I saw on the bookshelf. I’d never heard of the author.
But sometimes it’s nice to walk into a used bookstore and pick up a dusty, discarded book from an unfamiliar author. Forget the afternoon in aimless browsing. Discover an unexplored subject. Although in this case I picked up a book with a tone and topic well within my dank comfort zone of gloomy reflection.
The decline and fall of America. The parallels with the Roman Empire. Berman details American military misadventures and foreign policy outrages. I’m breezing through the chapters that recount our Machiavellian meddling in the middle east. The wider historical context of how terrorism grew out of the cold war and American imperialism is refreshing. Currently we tend to focus narrowly on the present day failings of our closest enemies.
When you concentrate on domestic dysfunction, it’s easy to forget that American foreign policy is aggressive, destructive and widely despised. People in other parts of the world don’t like us, for good reason. I’ve been thinking so much about negroes, gays, jews, and leftists that I’ve forgotten how America is responsible for much of the global discontent directed against it.
Just imagine how the American people would feel if a foreign country interfered with our political processes. Far fetched as the scenario may be, it’s safe to say we wouldn’t be happy about it. And then consider the even more unlikely possibility of other countries funding and arming our opponents and organizing coups against us.
Say the American people wake up one day. We realize our government is rotten and represents the interests of corporate power. We form a populist movement and new leaders with the people’s interests at heart rise to the top. This spirited, nationalist party is on the verge of winning back the country and lopping off the head of its corrupt ruling class when another country intervenes.
They send advisors and intelligence agents to undermine our movement. They back brutal dictators who suppress the popular will. Our country falls back into the hands of corporate, oligarchic power, and the reinforced ruling class begins to purge the revolutionaries. They use torture and execution with instruments and weapons provided by the foreign country.
Chemical weapons, gas attacks in the streets. Advanced surveillance technology and weaponry directed against the populace. All because another country wanted to maintain its economic interests. The will of the American people didn’t matter. If such a thing were to happen, Americans would become vengeful.
At some point, some of the more extreme Americans might take another step and organize themselves, this time with special animating animosity towards this foreign country that disturbed our previous attempts to run our own affairs. Such a reaction would be expected and understandable.
But this all hypothetical. In the real world, terrorists want to destroy America because it’s a crushing, unwieldy empire that subverts nationalist and populist movements and supports oppressive regimes and warlords for its own benefit.
Additionally, American culture is demoralizing, family wrecking filth. We don’t just damage a country’s infrastructure, economy, and environment with our perverse self interest. We also drain cultural cohesion and disrupt historical continuity. Our cultural exports and corporate products have a seductive allure, and people in other parts of the world struggle to resist our cheap goods, name brands, and deviancy masquerading as freedom.
Beliefs and actions have consequences beyond the momentary. Selfish attitudes and anti-social behavior might relieve individual tension in the moment, but they set a precedent for future dissolution. The dream of ease, plenty and pleasure turns into a nightmare of loneliness, frustration and confusion.
After a couple generations have passed in a society organized around material abundance and personal freedoms, you see more dramatic signs of social breakdown and psychic distress. And from there you get increasing complexity and fragility as more regulations and sophisticated methods of managing economic crises and mitigating mental disorders become necessary. The solution to one problem becomes a problem in itself, requiring more people, resources, and agencies to correct.
Even if you have comfort, security and pleasure, there is a deeper human need for meaning and connection that goes unsatisfied. It’s not enough to amass junk and withdraw into a social deprivation chamber of simulation and stimulation. An America unmoored from the people who founded it and their organic ideals of limited, balanced government is a society shredding juggernaut. People in other parts of the world are justified in fearing and fighting against it.
That being said, it’s also understandable why Americans and Europeans don’t want Muslims in their countries. I respect bigotry on both sides. Muslims are right to hate Americans, and Americans, average Americans at least, are right to hate Muslims. There’s no need for us to mix or pretend to get along. Only globalist designs force incompatible groups together and then blame the resulting resentments and conflicts on the ignorant locals.
Berman calls the current age of America a new dark age. His evidence is foreign policy missteps, imperial overreach and technological tearing of the social fabric. But he never mentions immigration or demographic change. It doesn’t occur to him that an age growing darker is also a people growing darker. The striking slide from an 85 percent non hispanic white majority in 1965 to the present day 62 percent goes unnoticed. Because that would be racist.
Berman may be a critic, he may be against imperialism and disruptive technology, he may rail against declining standards and absent etiquette, he may shed tears for dilapidated communities and public ignorance, but he’s not a racist. So none of the problems he sees have anything to do with race, immigration, or demographic upheaval.
It’s okay to criticize an idiotic, abstract american public, but let’s not get any more demographically concrete than that. Berman likely believes that America is a nation of immigrants, and that the ethnic makeup of a nation is irrelevant unless there are too many whites, in which case a little more brown and black should balance everything out.
There’s no examination of the corrosive impact of diversity. Berman probably suffers from degraded social ties himself, so he doesn’t understand the conditions of trust and reciprocity. For him, if there’s no trust or cooperation in a community, it’s because of technology and consumerism. And technology and consumerism do play an important role in depriving people of connection, meaning, and basic life skills and adaptive abilities. But in typical rudderless insect fashion, Berman neglects the importance of racially, ethnically, and culturally homogenous communities built on the foundations of extended family networks and organic social relations.
He senses that American exceptionalism and individualism dissolve social bonds, but he overlooks the importance of demography and population movements, and passes over the pathologies of modern families, such as absent fathers, divorce, and reduced contact with members outside the immediate nuclear arrangement. Neither does Berman have any appreciation for the problems posed by overpopulation and population density. Misguided, irresponsible and devious immigration policies join forces with technological and economic development to scatter and shrink families, overgrow and dilute populations, squander social capital, and upend civic organizations.
American foreign policy intensifies and organizes Muslim hatred, but even without our government’s crimes against the people of the middle east, Western culture and Islam are irreconcilable. People with healthy instincts don’t like to see their land overrun by aliens. If average muslims bitterly seethe over foreign interference and invasion, how do you think average Americans feel about it happening to them? It’s only bigotry when a white American wants to live in peace among his own kind, though.
The writing is serviceable. Well researched in some areas but lacking in others. 5.9/10.