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UG#580 - The Failed Religion of America (Debt, Cruelty And Redemption)

Robin Upton | 26.02.2012 05:17 | Repression | Social Struggles | Workers' Movements | Sheffield | World

This week we look at what Morris Berman terms the centuries long programming of American society. We begin with a talk he gave after the publication of his new book Why America Failed, and conclude by learning how debt has warped the human psyche over millennia, by reading Cruelty And Redemption, chapter 4 of David Graeber's Debt, The First 5000 Years.

ug580-hour1mix.mp3 - mp3 27M

ug580-hour2mix.mp3 - mp3 27M

In our first hour, Morris Berman on The Way We Live Today. Speaking just after the release of his recent book, Why America Failed, this talk is heavily influenced by his published collection of essays entitled 'A Question of Values'.

Focusing on US life, Berman looks at a wide range of topics, from the commercially controlled media bubble in which so many US citizens live, the fact that US residents consume twice as much anti-depression medication as the rest of the humanity combined to the fact that president Obama has now claimed the right to summarily execute anyone anywhere, for any reason, or indeed for no reason at all. He criticizes public discourse about US society as superficial not only because it is too issue-specific and lacks the 'bigger picture' of multiple interlocking problems, but also because it lacks an understanding of how US citizens behave on a daily basis. Citing one academic study that concluded there was a '48% drop' in empathy over the last 30 years, he is unflinching in exposing what he terms 'the sheer cruelty of the American soul'. While his conclusions are stark, his evidence is trenchant.

Berman's speech continues until just into our second hour, after which we hear a couple of questions from the ensuing Q & A. We conclude by reading chapter 4 of David Graeber's Debt, The First 5000 Years, entitled Cruelty And Redemption. He surveys the historical evidence available about the impact of money and debt, and its tendency to create a hierarchy in which money masters cruelly dictate terms to debt slaves. Citing biblical and other evidence, he recalls that mass debt forgiveness was sometimes necessary to prevent social collapse. What, he asks, do religions have to say about the morality of the market place, and why do they frame their message in economic terms - e.g. Christ the redeemer?

Thanks to Pirate TV Seattle for the Morris Berman recording.

Robin Upton
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