An Empire of Children

Some insightful observations by Morris Berman, from A Question of Values

“24% of American population say it’s OK to use violence in the pursuit of one’s goals.” (p. 15)

“Macro-aggression is not really possible without a cultural basis of micro-aggression.” (p. 30)

“It’s the small, everyday choices people make about how they use technology that has a cumulative effect. ‘Little’ decisions such as whether to interrupt a conversation with a friend in order to take a cell phone call —very rude behavior, when you think about it—‘are powerful … because they are cumulative and  because they fuel a vicious cycle,’ namely the cycle of distancing, of disengagement (not to mention, demonstrating one’s ‘importance’). The connection between this and [American’s foreign policy] is not as far-fetched as it might initially appear.” (p. 32)

“Negative identity is a phenomenon whereby you define yourself by what you are not. This has enormous advantages, especially in terms of the hardening of psychological boundaries and the fortification of the ego: one can mobilize a great deal of energy on this basis and the new nation [the US] certainly did. . . . The downside . . . is that this way of generating an identity for yourself can never tell you who you actually are, in the affirmative sense. It leaves, in short, an emptiness at the center, such that you always have to be in opposition to something, or even at war with someone or something, in order to feel real.” (p. 34-5)

“This then is the heart of ‘soft power,’ that empire and childhood are linked by an endless succession of new toys; a world in which every day is Christmas, and in which the neurosis of the US becomes the power of the US, as every last human being on the planet is sucked into this vortex. The American empire, in reality, is an Empire of Children.” (p. 90)

5 thoughts on “An Empire of Children

  1. I really like this article, it covers how Ive been lately. Feeling like a child person in that I can’t seem to really do anything that feels fufilling or even worthwhile sometimes. I feel a lot of the time that it is me verse society, or my beliefs about how to live against the beliefs of the general population which is probably heavily influenced by the tv. So I have become mostly silent, even with my friends sometimes because I don’t want to be ridiculed or made fun of for somestuff and also they just dont want to hear it most of the time, they just dont care to change or to take care or part in something richer or better ways to live, also to each their own. So Ill go for a nice hike in the mountains once and awhile and I find that a lot of the times I just find myself thinking what Im going to be doing later when I get back to town, that my mind doesnt work with the woods right now. Its like I subconsciously feel like my place isnt in the woods right now but I should be here in society trying to find my place…and i dont care to be a millionare so im not so sure what to do haha.

    • Maybe try bringing a guitar on your next hike and sing Society by Eddie Vedder. Its a real easy one to learn on guitar and sing. You will forget about everything instantly! Music is the only thing that really works for me and leaves me refreshed and excited for all your dealings with society.

  2. Hi Will,
    This morning before I read your post, I read an essay by Berman about his brief stay with the Benedictine monks in Mexico. He described it as “like living in a glass sphere. No outside news entered the monastery. No TV or radio, no newspapers or journals of any kind. . . As a result, the silence, and the empty space, got filled up with the contents of my psyche. . . If [the monastery] keeps out the news of the modern world, it also keeps out the garbage of that world as well. It is a sphere of harmony, of beauty, designed to bring peace to the soul.” In contrast, “Americans live in a kind of hologram, a glass sphere with mirroring on the inside. Literally every thought they have is on the order of a programmed response. . . when you think about it, America is no less hermetically sealed than the world of a medieval monastery. Only the content is different.”

  3. A world of children, raised by children, of unconscious misled children, of children, of unconscious parenting… Someone has to break the cycle.

  4. Speaking of Monasteries, Berman recommends the “Monastic Option” for Americans who can’t or choose not to leave the US.

    This is Lewis Mumford’s version from decades ago:

    “… there is so little prospect of overcoming the defects of the power system by any attack that employs mass organization and mass efforts at persuasion; for these mass methods support the very system they attack. The changes that have so far been effective, and that give promise of further success, are those that have been initiated by animated individual minds, small groups, and local communities nibbling at the edges of the power structure by breaking routines and defying regulations. Such an attack seeks, not to capture the citadel of power, but to withdraw from it and quietly paralyse it. Once such initiatives become widespread, as they at last show signs of becoming, it will restore power and confident authority to its proper source: the human personality and the small face-to-face community.”

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