Courtesy of Jesse's Cafe Americain
To say that Morris Berman has a 'dark vision' to share is an understatement.
I think his view is legitimate, but only if you look at one somewhat narrow aspect of the American character, and ignore all the rest. It seems to be singularly focused to the point of distortion by a depressive fatalism.
I have traveled all over the world. To my own view, people are on the whole much the same everywhere. The primary difference is that some cultures tend to incent and reward certain characteristics and behaviours more others, and at different times. This creates a certain 'flavor' to that region or country.
The best example I have observed is the profound difference in the assumptions between the Japanese and American cultural views. But one can still find those sorts of differences in regions of a large country like America, despite the homogenizing effect of mass consumerism and entertainment. But alas, they are becoming less vibrant and distinctive.
My view is quite a bit more in line with Thomas Hartmann. I do think that America 'went off the tracks' in the 1980s, and bought this 'greed is good' meme, which has been repeatedly reinforced by a well funded PR campaign.
And there was a kind of financial coup d'etat that is distorting American policy and character in profound ways even now. It is very apparent if you can somewhat remove yourself from it and then look at it from a 'distance.'
The public and the governmental and financial elite are diverging, becoming almost two different things, as the elites swing further to the extreme, carrying a vocal minority of camp followers with them.
"Even in a time of elephantine vanity and greed, one never has to look far to see the campfires of gentle people."
Such minorities have taken over whole nations before, particularly when the people have become intellectually and emotionally exhausted, but only for a time, and only by the use of systemic violence and repression with which to maintain control and spread the contagion of their madness.
This period now seems very similar to other cyclical changes in the past in American history, that were followed by awakenings and changes in attitudes. One need only to compare the gilded Age with what came after it, for example. And if I compare America today it seems more like modern China than the America of the 1960's.
But whatever you might think this discussion is thought provoking.
Morris Berman has a blog, appropriately named Dark Ages America.