“universal is for everybody” – oprah discovers socialism
Absolutely amazing moment today on tv. I had heard that Cormac McCarthy was going to be on Oprah to discuss The Road – which seemed like an unlikely and interesting thing to see so I taped the show. But as it turned out, the McCarthy section was by far less interesting than the first segment, which featured Michael Moore discussing his new movie about the American health care situation, Sicko.
The moment when it felt like the ground was giving way beneath my feet comes about 1:30 into this video (which is bound not to last on-line, so get it while the getting’s good)…
(The video is, as I predicted, now gone…)
Here’s a transcript of the exchange in question:
OK this is what I was going to say about the film – that I got it in a way that I hadn’t gotten it before. Now don’t you love when that happens. When you just go “Ooo! I got it!” Because you know the word “socialism” really stirs up…
[Scarily] Socialized Medicine…
O: And then when you showed the example of [how] we have socialized activities in this country. The fire department – we don’t pay for a fire department. We don’t pay for the police department. We don’t pay for public schools.
And it’s universal.
We don’t pay for the library. And it’s universal – universal is for everybody.
And so the very idea of extending that to the care of people is really something that I have to honestly say that I hadn’t thought about it because I’m one of those people, “I got mine,” so I wasn’t thinking about who didn’t have theirs. Really. Right.
And we don’t expect the fire department to turn a profit. It would be an appalling thought, and the reason we don’t is because it’s a life and death issue. Well, health care is a life and death issue.
And that’s why turning a profit has to be removed from the system.
Good Christ, that’s amazing. The slow but distinct re-discovery of what that word, “socialism,” might mean by a figure obviously not associated with words like that. The discovery that we already very much have elements of it all around us, elements that we would never willingly part with. The emergence that a better synonym for “socialism” would be “universality,” rather than “Stalinism” or “gulag” or “bread-lines” that it’s usually equated with, when it’s mentioned at all, in the US. The revelation of the fact that “socialism” in fact provides very simple, but persuasive answers to issues that only at first seem incredibly complex, impossible to repair, and as if natural, inevitable features of our sociopolitical landscape.
In short, I think this little episode renders abundantly clear why exactly socialized medicine is such an important – perhaps the important – issue today in the US. Just as the right has own Overton Window games that they’ve long played with school prayer and vouchers and the like, a nation with a public medical system funded by even a large fractional amount that the US currently spends on health care today would be a nation on its way, I believe, toward a whole branching set of public sector reinvestments.
And it further, Moore’s appearance on Oprah puts to shame ten thousand cute and clever forms of aestheticized intervention – simple, spirited explanation may have set us on a path toward improvement that no act of detournement or deconstruction, no dialectical ruse, nor metatextual abyssalism could accomplish.
This is a sobering, yet inspiring thing to realize, if you’re someone who does what I do for a living.
I’ve really liked Michael Moore for a long time, but he is now officially one of the patron saints of this blog.
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