Saturday, November 27, 2010

'America's national ego carries on'

America the Material
Excerpts from a review by Nomi Prins in Truthdig:
A Question of Values is an alternately sobering and inspiring collection of essays by noted historian and cultural critic Morris Berman... In the unswerving style of his other writings, he rips apart the national illusion of greatness [of] a country caught in a societal malaise of promoting external accumulation over internal compassion...

In Section I, the second essay, 'Conspiracy vs. Conspiracy in American History,' Berman dissects America's profound sense of self-importance, a central theme of the entire collection [and] lists four descriptive conspiracies (or fallacies): First that we are a chosen people (so we get to do whatever we want); second, that America itself is a kind of religion; third, that we must endlessly expand, whether it be geographically or financially; and lastly, that our national character is composed of extreme individuals going back to our colonization. This he considers to be the main reason why 'American history can be seen as the story of a nation consistently choosing individual solutions over collective ones.'...

Berman brings us to his conclusion that the only hope for America is to stop believing its own hype -- something he doesn't consider very likely... Berman's lament isn't for an America that lost its way, but for one that never had a heart, a colossal ego that raids other nations with self-righteous impunity... If we measure progress by consumption, how can it ever stop until there's nothing left? According to Berman, it can't, which underscores a phenomenon he dubs 'catastrophism.' As he puts it, 'it is a fair guess that we shall start doing things differently only when there is no other choice.'... America's national ego carries on.