06/11/07 1 pm Morris Berman

Long time Steiner Show listeners may remember one of today’s guests from his last appearance on the show, July 20, 2000.  Cultural historian, social critic, author, teacher, and expatriate Morris Berman joins us by phone from his current home in Mexico City at 1pm today.  You can get some idea of the theme of his latest book from its title, Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire.

How much time does The United States have left in its position as a world-dominating superpower?  If its role were to change soon, would it be for better or for worse?

Depends who you ask, of course.  Morris Berman has written a whole book discussing these questions, and more.  Check out his blog here http://morrisberman.blogspot.com/

-Justin

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4 Responses

  1. There is a high degree of emotion in any such debate regarding whether America is an empire and if and how the bubble bursts. Mr. Berman did a fine job on Mark’s show today laying out the facts and presenting genuine research to back up his claims, and responding to callers with a calm and level head.

    I’ve seen many of the statistics he provided, including those that expose Americans’ increasing ignorance of geography, mathematics, and politics. This was not always the case in America, but these days it is and it’s getting worse.

    There are more than a dozen brutal authoritarian regimes in the world, not including the now-liberated Iraq. Is it America’s mandate to attack and depose all of them, in order to route out sponsors of terror?

    If that’s the case, the only education America’s youth will need is military training, because in order to defeat every dictatorship in the world, we will have to turn our country into a massive war machine that would dwarf the one we had in WWII. If that’s the direction we’re headed in – if we want to continue to be the dominant superpower – we must stop barking and start improving our bite, because our global credibility and ability to strike fear into our enemies is a joke.

  2. I actually called in today on this show and Mr. Berman’s response to my question about “After the fall…” what happens was to say that the American society is too ignorant to respond. I didn’t get to say that I disagree.

    Although I agree that we are very uneducated– even though I’m a teacher who is trying to change that one student at a time– even so… the fact is that necessity is the mother of invention and America is always at her best when faced with insurmountable odds and a giant challenge.

    I believe that if we crash and burn, as appears inevitable, good people will step up to the plate and make it work. We won’t have to worry about invasion, because if we crash and burn, the rest of the world will follow. So, they’ll be too busy trying to save themselve to bother trying to take us over.

  3. Morris Berman is so preoccupied with the influence of the U.S. that he is unable to recognize the extent to which the U.S. is participating in world-wide trends rather than determining them. This error is as egregious when committed by critics on the left as when committed by, for instance, neoconservatives. The U.S. arrived at widespread (though poorly distributed) material prosperity first. Economic and military hegemony on the world stage followed. The moral and ethical systems developed to deal with the human condition, primarily represented by the great religions, evolved in an environment of privation. They don’t tell us enough about how to deal with the attitudes, conditions, and problems that accompany widespread prosperity complicated by great military power. We have not learned the extent or the limitations of our capabilities. When we see patterns of behavior and lifestyles that look much like ours developing in the rest of the world, it is wise to remember that they are not all attributable to us alone, but partly to the fact that other societies are entering an environment we encountered first. (There are, of course, complicating factors. The U.S. is now encountering limitations that Europeans have lived with for centuries. We are having a hard time adapting to them, and that explains some of our incompetence in dealing with the world.)

  4. While I am admittedly a member of the wave of 20th century educated, and in Berman’s words, “stupid” Americans, I can say with some confidence that the notion that the decline of our educational standards is not underfunding or societal factors but rather the apparent epidemic of over protective parents demanding for their child’s education to be sacrificed for their “self-confidence” is just about the dumbest thing I have ever heard. Also the idea of applying the antiquated IQ test on an international level was just another example of Berman’s love for idealized, impractical rhetoric in place of actual statistics.
    As an 18 year old college student, part of the “30 percent” that CAN proficiently comprehend prose, I would expect that such a pompous, condescending bigot would at least pretend that his assertions were in some way founded.

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