At the bottom of his commentary today
in The Guardian, John Berger is described as “a novelist and a critic”. Not mentioned is that, judging by his own standards, he is also apparently in the throes of madness.
In the article, titled Ignorance and abdication that amounts to madness
, Berger attempts to argue that Bush and company are, in a word, insane.
Is it possible that this administration is mad? Let us try to define the variant of madness, for it may be that it has never occurred before. It has very little to do, for example, with Nero when he fiddled while Rome burned. Any madness, however, implies a severe disconnection with reality, or, to put it more precisely, with the existent.
If a “severe disconnection with reality” is indicative of madness, then Berger himself should be on the lookout for the men in white coats. After all, he speaks of…
…the systematic cutting of [US] government investment in public institutions
In the real world, with which Berger seems unfamiliar, US discretionary spending
has in fact increased
annually over the last five years by an average of 11.7%. Spending on Medicaid has nearly doubled
since 1994. Federal spending on education has gone up
by an average of 9.1% per year since 2000. Indeed, even adjusting for inflation and excluding expenditures on defense and homeland security, President Bush has been (regrettably, in my view) the most profligate
Oval Office spender of any in the last 30 years. Systematic cutting? What was that about a “severe disconnection with reality”?
Berger also claims that:
40 million Americans live without any aid if they fall ill
Presumably this derives from the infamous “40 million Americans without insurance” sound bite that we so often here about. As deceptive as it is, the claim about insurance does have the benefit of having at least some referent to reality. Berger’s claim, on the other hand, does not. Not only does Medicaid provide aid for many of those 40 million uninsured, but federal regulations
actually prohibit hospitals from turning away sick patients, regardless of their ability to pay. And there is a network of so-called Safety Net Providers
, some legally mandated and others voluntary organizations, whose very mission is to “organize and deliver a significant level of health care and other health-related services to uninsured, Medicaid, and other vulnerable patients” and to “maintain an "open door," offering access to services to patients regardless of their ability to pay.”
aid? Again, more delusions.
Berger speaks of the “as-yet-innumerable dead” victims of Katrina. For those of us not inhabiting a fantasy world, “as-yet-innumerable” can be taken to mean “as-yet-640
”. He carries on about America’s “dire poverty”, ie that poverty
in which 97% of households have a TV and 72% have a VCR/DVD player. He says that in the US “black people are typically treated as unwanted second-class citizens,” a fact which was apparently confirmed to him by the scenes from a couple of weeks ago of typical black people living their typical lives in the midst of a typically calamitous natural disaster.
Perhaps most revealing, however, is this remarkable statement:
Katrina was allowed to produce the worst natural disaster in US history
Allowed? What, was Bush supposed to hop into a phone booth, don his cape, and blow the hurricane back across the Atlantic? Natural disasters are not “allowed” to happen by the president or by anyone. They happen all on their own. That is precisely what makes them natural
Katrina to happen, indeed. Is Berger, um, mad?