Didn’t Rome Deserve It, Though?


Hello my friends! I am sorry to have been silent so long since my last episode. I have been trying (as I explain within) but like everyone else, I am finding many things more of a struggle than usual lately. This one came from several sources of inspiration – especially a bracing blog (which I must guiltily admit appeals as much to my narrative curiosity, as to my thirst for direct honesty), a film which I expected to dislike, and a podcast by a friend who is even clearer about the priority of environment than I am – which is rare in the extreme.

Above all else though, this is for my dear friend Chris – and the many like him, who are feeling frustrated and disconnected from traditional allies in an already very lonely time because of the sort of passionate mix-ups, misunderstandings and mishearings, which can sometimes harmfully mask our far deeper heartfelt agreements, just when we need our confidence in them the most.

I love all the try-ers, the ones with heart, art and generous humour most of all. I am always ashamed when I hurt anyone’s feelings – but none more than them, my own eccentric spiritual tribe.

Please accept my apologies, my biggest hug, and my best clear honest thinking.

Had I better to offer, it would be at your feet.

For all of those beautiful courageous souls who really do love truth and responsibility more than comforting delusion, there are still a few superb resources.

Best investigative reporting in America right now (by far)  https://theintercept.com/

Sweet wise well informed guys with big hearts and long memories  http://www.tomdispatch.com/

Morris Berman’s unique blog (hilariously honest about the real state of affairs)  http://morrisberman.blogspot.com/

Morris Berman’s recent Interview with the brilliant radio show and podcast “Nature Bats Last”  https://youtu.be/hhKLrm8QWrU

More excellent Nature Bats Last shows can be enjoyed here   https://naturebatslast.podbean.com/

And here’s Berman writing about America and Rome, a couple of decades ago in the Guardianhttps://www.theguardian.com/books/2001/oct/06/books.guardianreview5


  1. Comments are now live here at last. So many fiddly soft-switches to get flipped, just so. This means we can stay in touch even if one or the other of us gets tired of other platforms. I am always delighted and grateful for the eyeballs and thoughtful brains behind them. Cheers for coming – hope you find things you enjoy.
    One note – I only enabled the comments on the last few months of posts – if you have a favourite that you wanted to say something about, drop me a note and say so, I’ll be happy to ‘turn it on’ also. ;o)

  2. I like what you’ve articulated here – a widely felt sense of ennui, as we in the democratic west face the inane dysfunctionality of the only systems with a large enough scope to address the root causes. Now, here we get into debates that I encountered in a more exhaustive (and exhausting) form when in university. I took philosophy, sociology and anthropology, and got a much fuller understanding of the most influential theoretical underpinnings of thought about development, and human progress in a more abstract sense. It’s a truism (among some) that there seems to be an inverse relationship between these. At least for me, someone who leans pretty far into luddite territory, it often seems that the more “success”, “achievement” and “winning” there is, the poorer we become in other ways.

    The social sciences were for decades an arena for highly engaged and well-informed planners, many of whom were both idealistic and pragmatic. And they still are. But they are also saturated with a destructive combination of determinism and careerism, reproducing and enabling some very toxic practices. I know they shouldn’t be viewed monolithically, and I reject that strain of conservative criticism that does so (particularly when it embraces some quite specious economic models, also products of a social science). More generally, I am a humanities guy despite, or rather because of, my skepticism about institutions. Eventually overwhelmed, I left uni to get overwhelmed by independent research and writing, attempting to synthesize what I had gorged upon.

    How much of my embrace of metaphysical thinking is for my own petty consolation, spurred on by a cynicism about worldly matters? Sure, my fellow conspecifics are failing to see what ought to be obvious – but I also need to remember my great humility, and ask if I’m seeing the picture in enough detail. One way or another, it’s so easy to be distracted.

    Donald Trump (and more broadly, Trumpism) represents a pseudo-ideology elevating individualism at the direct cost of society, or indeed anyone weaker than “me”. It sees these things as in opposition, rejecting any ideal of harmony. That is probably its appeal. Its figurehead is a symbol of shamelessness, and many see a certain courage in that. Why should I change, or even closely examine, my lifeways, when so much of the world is so backward? To take less for myself would undermine my dreams and aspirations.

    I need to be careful not to give Trumpists undue credit, given their degree of delusion. But it’s well to ask how much of what people detest about Trump is due to him being a shameless presence, an unwelcome reminder of something, as opposed to a threat to the foundational norms of law and governance. I don’t believe in giving the powerful the benefit of the doubt – even if they’re beloved celebrities. To a lesser extent, I also believe elected officials should be held to a high(-ish) standard of decency. But I’m also no fan of liberal puritanism. I’m suggesting that Trumpism is a symbol of western privilege more generally, as well as a crisis of leadership. How we engage with it can tease apart some of the ambiguities inherent in those notions.

    I like your point about compassion being a foundational ingredient in real communication – real, active listening. And this is partly because it comes from, and allows for, greater self-reflection. Eschewing compassion is surely a sign of pathology (haven’t heard many good arguments for kids in cages). But it’s also an ingredient that is hard to define, hard to manufacture or refine. There are knock-offs and substitutes (perhaps why some make a distinction between “compassion” and “empathy” – not to get into semantics). The aforementioned puritanism, for example. For whatever reason, people’s notion of authenticity is tied to an identity free of appropriation or adulteration. And this reifies culture – history – as well as individuals, whatever those things may be. The necessary mysteries of the world will be entombed in mountains of waste. Until some brave explorers come along and find new places to dig.

    • Cheers man! Also – absolutely delighted you got a chance to do a deep dig into so much stimulating material at Uni!
      I’ve always really liked Timothy Leary’s idea of “Intelligence squared”, that is, intelligence consciously considering the development of intelligence! But your active searching and self-challenging (superb standards, I believe) are making me think perhaps we should have an ethical or soul-level concept along the same lines. Humility humbly considering its own furtherance – and compassion also.
      The thing with Trump is three-fold (and none of them are about Russia!).
      The fundamental note in his song is absolutely “unconsidered impulse” – which reads variously as “unrestrained” “unconstrained” and even “free thinker” to some.
      The thing he has unleashed that the left is too stupid to see, is the victims of their own decades-long bullying campaign in the name of sanctimony.
      (Perfectly symmetrical with the massive boost given to atheism by sadistic nuns in the old unreformed parochial schools of the fifties and sixties).

      But the thing I always think – especially from the moment I realized he actually LOVED driving leftists apoplectic, was the old Freudian idea “ID”.
      The slick, controlled “Correct” model of humanity is so hostile to random and playful (both of which used to be heroic standards, leading the leftist charge), that the ID at large has been jonesing badly for a release.

      Lastly – the way the Democrats sold out to W war-crimes completely destroyed their moral credibility. All they can offer now is lifestyle benefit (not insignificant, but by no means idealism or progressive progress).
      This is a criminal loss of heart in the culture itself (and I put it mostly at Clinton’s feet). Contrary to a lot of popular nonsense, Hillary was not a leftist – the Albright doctrine to which she adheres is about using the US military EVEN MORE OFTEN to “Do good”. This was the basis for her putting all her weight behind the destruction of Libya. In effect, the democrats want to convince the weapons manufacturers they will be just as profitable. Can’t think of any greater or more evil kind of sellout of the left.

      Finally – yes compassion first – and also it’s important to say we need more than just that crucial foundation. I have been looking for a very long while, but I haven’t yet seen a comprehensive philosophy which allows for a transition from our present isolated hyper competitive and paranoid version of individualism, into the sort of cooperative thoughtful and intelligently self-restraining humans who could make a true democracy (or anarcho syndicalism, for that matter) work.

      I am humble enough to recognize many great contributions have been made to humane development, and still insist that the lack of such a useful and embracing philosophy does not prove it impossible. Rather – it is part of the difficult but necessary work that every creator and intellect alive should be working on in some small or large way, so as to push the ball along toward a new way of thinking in which we no longer have to bolster ourselves with compassion to endure pain, but can employ it to create massive and sustained progress on community, participation and meaning in our lives (dying of loneliness with a big pile of loot just ain’t cuttin’ it). ;o)

  3. Sorry – didn’t mean to imply that I like the ennui you’ve articulated. I like the way you did – and the hopeful, invigorating response to it!

    Thank you and good day sir!

I am always curious about what you are thinking

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