God is Dead

From Morris Berman:

Nietzsche was right when he said, “God is dead.” Once that happened, it was hard to have a religious belief system. Secular systems arose to fill that emptiness. We had communism, which finally didn’t work out; we had fascism, which rapidly didn’t work out. And then we had consumerism, which, writ large, means capitalism and imperialism–and that is now coming apart. In many ways, that collapse is the story of the 21st century. In 1990 we could look at all of those other systems and say, ha, ha, we are the victors–which is what we said when the Soviet Union collapsed. There was going to be a unipolar world, our formula was the right one. Hurray, we won! The combination of hubris and stupidity was breathtaking. It never occurred to us that the other shoe was about to fall; that the bell was now tolling for us…

There are people running around with high IQs–David Brooks, for example–who are in fact little more than bad jokes, and yet are worshipped as sages…

What is it you want? More. Well, more is not a spiritual path. It has no content at all. And then you wonder why you’re depressed…

50 percent of Americans polled believe that our enemy in WW II was Russia…

Reagan was certainly much more attuned to what Americans were about, namely narcissism and consumer goods…

People in the United States don’t care if you live or die. (Try living in a large apartment building if you don’t believe me, or just check the daily news.) This callousness is extended to other white Americans too, not just immigrants or people with darker skin.

Just a few years ago the tide started to turn. That is, more Mexicans were coming back across the border to Mexico than were going to the United States; there had been a sea change. Not clear yet what this means, but it certainly antedated “the wall…”

Russian-American sociologist Pitirim Sorokin, who founded the sociology department at Harvard and was head of that department for many years. Around 1937, he began publishing a series of volumes entitled Social and Cultural Dynamics. This is in the style of, let’s say, Arnold Toynbee. He analyzed the rise and fall of civilizations, and I doubt that either of these scholars can be called hacks. Anyway, he talked about “sensate” civilizations such as our own, which are based on material reality and not much else. What he said was that when a sensate civilization collapses, you get an inversion of values, such that frivolity is viewed as creativity, and cowardice is viewed as heroism, and so forth. I think of that when I think of Krugman. We are in a situation now where serious historians are called hacks, and a hack economist like Krugman gets a Nobel Prize. It couldn’t be more perfect. I mean, when is Kim Kardashian going to be elected president of the United States?..

As far as I can see, there are only two ways of escaping the destructive influence of America: one is the option just indicated, that of the new monastic individual. It’s a kind of internal migration. The other option is the one I took, which is to leave America altogether. I still think that’s the best option: just get out. If you don’t get out, then you’re living in a kind of corporate-commercial wraparound 24/7. It makes it extremely hard to live a healthy life, or even to think straight. Myself, I have to admit that I didn’t have the strength to resist the dominant culture. At first I thought I was going to be a lotus in a cesspool, but all that happened was that I became a dirty lotus. So I left, and it was the smartest, happiest, and most significant decision I made in my entire life. Like most Americans, I had been little more than a hamster running on a wheel.

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