Monday, February 28, 2011

Waking to the Truth

Per Morris Berman:
We are now, I believe, in a position to answer the question of what all of this frenetic activity is designed to hide; what Americans are running away from. Toward the end of his life Williams wrote: "America is the kind of culture that wakes you in the night, the kind of nightmare that may [yet] possibly lead us closer to the truth." This is a haunting, if enigmatic, sentence. What truth, after all? Possibly, an example of what not to do. For the truth here is an emptiness at the center, to which is added a desire to never grow up. It should be obvious by now that the American definition of "progress" is little more than a joke, and that running away from the responsibilities of adulthood–including the construction of a society not based on endless consumption, competition, and expansion–could be the single greatest thread in American history. That there is a possible alternative history, and a very different type of progress, characterized (for example) by marginal figures such as Lewis Mumford or the late Jane Jacobs, is something Americans don't wish to contemplate, for alternatives to the life of running faster to get nowhere scare them. No, the expansion game, and the life of limbo, as Williams puts it, will continue until we hit a wall, and the game cannot be played any longer (although I suspect we shall be able to limp along with "crisis management" for two or three more decades). This game, of self-destruction and the destruction of others, will continue until there is no place for America to go except to the graveyard of failed empires. And as Williams suggested, violence is very likely part of the equation.
I do disagree with the assertion that things will limp along for "two or three more decades."  The desperation of political elites is too palpable for anything lasting that long.  Their spectacles have become too frantic.


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