Slender, slight collection of aphoristic essays by British art critic, novelist and political activist Berger (Here is Where We Meet, 2006, etc.).
“Are you still a Marxist?” Berger, echoing an interlocutor, asks in one piece later in the book. He answers in the affirmative, but not before writing, gnomically, “Every day people follow signs pointing to some place which is not their home but a chosen destination” (yes, for that way lies London, the Pantheon, and points beyond) and urging, “The consumer is essentially somebody who feels, or is made to feel, lost, unless he or she is consuming” (oh, blessed circularity!). The question, the answers, are characteristic of Berger; the approach is of signal interest when approaching, say, a piece by Tatlin or Chagall or Van Gogh, much less so when brought to bear on literal matters of life and death, for does anyone but Harold Pinter need take notice when such observations as “What makes a terrorist is, first, a form of despair” are offered for public—yes—consumption? Berger wrestles with the obvious questions: Why the despair? (Living in a refugee camp tends to focus the mind.) Why do they hate us? (That requires a few paragraphs.) Why are terrorists so willing to blow themselves up? (To blow us up.) But then, grammar be damned, “if a kamikaze martyr could see with their own eyes, before he or she died, the immediate consequences of their explosion, they might well reconsider the appropriateness of their steadfast decision.” Concluding, in good Marxist manner, that the pursuit of profit is a pitiless business and that corporations “consistently wage their own ‘jihad’ against any target that opposes the maximization of their profits,” Berger paints himself into a distant corner of irrelevance, even if he does get off a few good zingers.
Why is the publication date timed for the sixth anniversary of 9/11? For the maximization of profits, of course.