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Ho ho ho! It’s that time of year again. Here’s JHK’s holiday classic: A Christmas Orphan.

11-year-old Jeff Greenaway hears his mom and dad argue one night after an office Christmas party. He infers from their garbled squabble that he is an orphan, found in a willow basket on the welcome mat outside their New York apartment. Thinking now that his parents are imposters, he steals away to Grand Central Station and buys a train ticket to Drakesville, Vermont, where he intends to start life all over again.
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KunstlerCast 263 — Yakking with Morris Berman


JHK yaks with cultural historian, social critic, and author Morris Berman about his new book, Neurotic Beauty: An Outsider Looks at Japan, and a lot of other topics around the crisis of Modernity. Berman’s previous books include the trilogy: The Twilight of American Culture, Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire, and Why America Failed: The Roots of Imperial Decline. Morris Berman was awarded the 2013 Neil Postman Award for Career Achievement in Public Intellectual Activity.

Direct download: http://traffic.libsyn.com/kunstlercast/KunstlerCast_263.mp3

Please send questions and comments to letters@kunstler.com.

The new World Made By Hand novel
!! Is now available !!

Kunstler skewers everything from kitsch to greed, prejudice, bloodshed, and brainwashing in this wily, funny, rip-roaring, and profoundly provocative page- turner, leaving no doubt that the prescriptive yet devilishly satiric A World Made by Hand series will continue.” — Booklist

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My local indie booksellers… Battenkill Books (Autographed by the Author) … or Northshire Books
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Also: Published as an E-book for the first time!
The 20th Anniversary edition
With an entertaining new introduction by the author

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About James Howard Kunstler

View all posts by James Howard Kunstler
James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

10 Responses to “KunstlerCast 263 — Yakking with Morris Berman” Subscribe

  1. Dan January 16, 2015 at 11:41 pm #

    Jim,
    Thanks for another edifying podcast. Mr. Berman mentioned that Japan did not have a nuclear weapons program during WWII. They did have such a program, and is now a de facto nuclear state.

    Other than that, my experiences and observations in Japan lead me to conclusions similar to Mr. Berman’s. I have lived here for 28 years, and I believe that, regardless of the cause, Japan will be a more favorable location to weather collapse than the US.

    Japan lacks resources, and there will be massive suffering in a large scale collapse scenario. In that event the labor force that is now engaged in sedentary office work will largely have to be redirected to agriculture. Thousands will die because they aren’t suited to the rigors of physical labor. I am a farmer, so I’m aware of the effort it will require.

    That said, the social framework and mentality are based on scarcity and cooperation. To live on an island with the constant threat of earthquake and tsunami catastrophe doesn’t permit the luxury of imagining that anyone can be in a place that is immune from sudden and life threatening destruction.

    My conclusion is that in the event of collapse, if left unmolested by China, Japan will suffer in the immediate aftermath, but will soon find stability. The US will take much longer and will involve more social unrest.

    • pembina January 17, 2015 at 5:28 pm #

      I wanted to also comment that I thought that Japan did indeed have a nuclear program in World War II. I believe it was based in what is now north Korea. It fell into Soviet hands at the end of the war. Certainly the uranium mines, and probably the facilities, continue in use to this day.

      • shabbaranks January 18, 2015 at 3:10 am #

        An article published in Science magazine in January 1978 lays out the existence of a Japanese nuclear fission program for its military. The program began around 1940 and was directed by one of Japan’s most eminent scientists, a physicist named Yoshio Nishina. The chief of the Manhattan project, Leslie R. Groves, was aware of the Japanese program, but along with most US military leadership discounted the possibility that Japan would develop and deploy a nuclear weapon before the US could successfully prosecute the war against Japan.

        Besides some dissertation research conducted in the 1960s in the US on the subject and several accounts of the program published in Japanese by academics and first-hand participants in the program, there have been thirteen or more articles and books published in English since 1978 that document the Japanese nuclear weapons program. Most conclude that Japan’s inadequate resources, its limited industrial capacity, and poor coordination of its scientific infrastructure and personnel combined to ensure that Japan would not come close to producing a nuclear weapon.

  2. cascadian January 17, 2015 at 10:40 pm #

    Hello,
    First time commenter. I’ve been reading Kunstler’s books for awhile now and actually read Berman’s “Twilight of American Culture” many years back, before I was aware of peak oil and the limits of resource extraction.

    Overall a very interesting interview. I think you guys are pretty spot on about America being an immature culture. However, I think you unfairly characterize the younger generation in general. To call Millenials “spoiled” is frankly out of touch. We’re hitting our heads against the wall looking for jobs that don’t exist, most of us that graduated college are up to our eyeballs in debt (which we have few prospects of paying off), we’re paying into Social Security even though the program will go bust long before we’re old. Not to mention we’re coming of age in a political situation that makes the Nixon era look like a Scandanavian social welfare state. And yet we’re the spoiled ones? Boomers came of age in an era of unrestrained consumer exuberence, of cheap oil, and a thriving manufacturing industry. We don’t even have an explosive counterculture. So far the best we have mustered is the Occupy movement and dubstep. If millenials are spoiled, then it begs the question who was it that did the spoiling?

    Anyway, I didn’t come here just to let off steam. It’s vitally important that young folks get real about not just climate change, but also peak oil and peak everything else. There’s still a lot of us that harbor delusions about green tech or rebuilding the US economy. We’re going to be the first generation in US history to have less material comfort than our elders, and we need to start planning for it now. I want for the peak oil community to find better ways of communicating to millenials, because we’re the ones that will be hit the hardest by what is to come (if not us than our children). There are actually quite a few who are very realistic about the immediate future, but even most of these fail to see how the “Downturn,” or whatever it’s called now, is just a symptom of much larger systemic failures.

    Thanks for reading. Keep up the good work.

    • chipshot January 20, 2015 at 7:36 am #

      A number of good points, cascadian.
      Especially re boomers, as spoiled and
      self-centered as any generation.

      And if it matters, I am one myself.

  3. Philemon January 26, 2015 at 7:52 pm #

    I’m with cascadian on the millennials [not] being spoiled thing. I’m also a first-time commenter and a millennial as well.

    It’s difficult to tease out all the threads that have woven together this nightmare we find ourselves in but, the truth is, it is an elaborately woven nightmare. All of us – boomers and millennials and everyone else have been born into this oil-devouring culture and, for the most part, groomed to internalize it as a fundamental given of life. It was only about five years ago that I started bumping into word about this whole “peak oil” situation and that’s only thanks to my interest in the occult, which led me to John Michael Greer. By the time I really looked into the situation, I was half way through a doctoral program. I wrapped that program up and now I’m [finally] a working professional… but I’m 32 and up to my eyeballs in student loan debt as cascadian pointed out is our generation’s lot for following the “game plan” we got sold from day one.

    What organism does more work than is necessary? All of us were born into an “easy” world and it shaped how we learned to live. We can adapt to harder times, but it will be hard – really hard – for those of us who, by an accident of birth, were born in this incredibly anomalous time.

    JHK, I REALLY appreciate your books and your blog and this podcast – I really do – but sometimes your characterization of the average person on the street could use a bit more sympathy. Maybe most people are dumb, naive, shortsighted, and lazy, but do they have to be blamed for bearing the weight of these unfortunate characteristics on top of it all? Our public schools and our colleges haven’t been teaching any of us about peak oil. The news doesn’t touch on the topic, either. We Americans might be a bit overweight from indulging in too many corn-based processed foods that proliferate throughout our society, but were we the ones who engineered this beast? Did we ask for suburban sprawl and rascal scooters to navigate it with? I think more people would be attracted to your message if it didn’t come so often with a hefty side of “You should have seen it coming, you dumb bastards!” A lot of us are too busy struggling to keep our lives barely functioning to slog through the fringe of the internet to find out the truth of what is happening in the world around us. Now that we’ve got hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt, what are we supposed to do? Go learn how to do pottery and brew beer while loan collectors breathe down our necks?

    That’s really the sad truth. People aren’t despicable dumb-asses – they’re tired and worn out and scared. Especially scared. In this time of outright terror and urgency, we really need to slow down and think through new possibilities for how to live. But the machinery of life has a lot of momentum behind it and it won’t just stop on a dime and give us space and time to find new ways of living. That’s the main problem. The machine doesn’t allow for free agents existing apart from it. We’re all swept up into it, like it or not.

    Anyway, that’s how I see it. I don’t know why, but I’m reminded of that Mario Savio speech where he says, “There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels…upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”

    The average people on the street aren’t the ones running and owning the machine that has us all spinning its wheels like gerbils. If we’re going to be in the finger-pointing business, let us be sure our fingers point at those bearing the brunt of the blame. In the meantime, far more people in our culture must first become aware of our situation before a critical mass can be reached where throwing our bodies upon the gears and wheels can even noticeably affect the machine.

    End of spiel.

    • Neoagrarian February 3, 2015 at 7:41 pm #

      Some very valid and well-articulated points, Philemon. Nice to see that the podcast elicits some constructive dialogue. Not everyone is out too lunch, we’re just scattered to the winds.

    • rebecca w. May 19, 2015 at 7:10 am #

      In addition to the dumb/lazy/tacky/short-sighted AND scared Americans, there are plenty of us who can read the handwriting on the wall and are changing our lives.

      I’m an organic farmer and live directly across the road from a factory-farmed pig/chicken operation. Watching that guy’s “farming” induces in me all the rage and outrage that Berman expresses. And for every one of that “farmer” there are millions of Americans keeping him in business with their insistence on cheap food. (Just to establish my bonafides as nobody’s Sunshine Suzy.)

      I think it’s actively, actually dangerous to say to a person or a people, “This is who you are and you can never change.” Nothing could be more paralyzing…especially at a time when we really, really need the use of our limbs and brains. Besides, it’s just not true. When the government was shockingly absent, Americans helped each other during and after Katrina. For the first time in decades, the topsoil on my farm is under grass instead of washing to the Chesapeake. My church is buying up trashed properties in our city and, with our own labor, turning them into affordable rental properties.

      No doubt about it, the end is in sight. But my friends, family and I (and my blog-reading, podcast-listening companions) are all Americans, too, and we’re going to meet it with the creativity, hard work and good humor Americans are known for.

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