An author wrote me a critical email telling me he thought I’d misrepresented his work. So I invited him on 'Honestly.'
Great points on all sides. From an anecdotal perspective (my own), I think we are on the edge of a big cliff that isn’t being discussed yet. I’ve been a police officer for 19 years and have been a Det. Sergeant since 2014. Personally, I have seen a huge mental health crisis involving long-term effects from methamphetamine users... and it’s really really bad. I work closely with social workers and mental health professionals and they are seeing it too.
These individuals typically fall through the cracks, and become very delusional and often-times dangerous. Even getting them to talk to a counselor/psychiatrist is challenging to say, at the very least. That coupled with serious mental health abnormalities such as hyper-paranoia and violence should be a heeded alarm for those who have power to influence.
He never answered many of your direct questions. His post-modernism is confused and confusing and fails to define his most basic terms so his arguments are garbled. Thanks for steering the discussion back to clarity. Difficult questions do not require complicated non-answers and reveal the bankruptcy of their basis.
Acceptance, huh? In the 'seventies, Sob Sisters with Leaky Waterworks (HT to Twain) convinced state and local governments to close what were then called "insane asylums," citing poor conditions, "human warehousing," and excessive patient sedation. Nobody, though, ever bothered to answer the question, "Where, then, do these patients go?"
One might now ask that same question to San Francisco residents who, before leaving home, consult "Snapcrap" on their phones in order to locate human feces on the streets.
Acceptance? No. Might make you feel all warm inside, but families of those attacked - some killed - on the street by the mentally ill could tell you: hope is not a plan.
The one thing never discussed?
How much the incidence of mental disorders has grown commensurate with the erosion of the nuclear family unit, something that leftist government programs intentionally encourage.
But we can’t talk about that.
Viewpoint diversity is the essence of this site, and the reason why I tell everyone I know about it.
@Bari and team... MORE MORE MORE!!!
I am a conservative and yet was an early financial supporter of Common Sense out of admiration for your courage and commitment to integrity in journalism. I very much want to understand other viewpoints with which I disagree. What I can't abide is blind ideological loyalty with yelling and/or performative empty rhetoric. Honestly quickly became one of my favorite sources of information and clearly I am far from alone. :-)
Thank you so much for this particular podcast. While I still don't agree with the majority of his position, hearing him present it in his own words did, indeed, give me some things to consider.
I also like this format of you interviewing both positions separately rather than having them debate directly. While there is merit to both formats, this style allows you to keep a consistent tone and train of thought with your guest. It's a nice change up.
Contrarian dialog done respectfully and thoughtfully is why I am a loyal subscriber. Keep it going!
I listen to this debate and left feeling that both sides had valid points. I didn't come away with a solid conclusion, but then the topic is so complex that I guess that is to be expected. I wish that I could engage in such honest discussion with the people in my life. We tiptoe around all the "dangerous" topics of converstation, to the extent that sometimes all we talk about is the weather. I was really impressed with Bergner's calm and reasoned responses to Bari's questions. To be able to listen to a debate without feeling like figurative bloodshed is imminent was refreshing.
> dangerous ways in which mental illness has gotten wrapped up in our growing cultural obsession with identity politics.
You see this in with Obesity, too. Nobody wants to talk about the elephant in the room when a fat person presents himself or herself to a therapist. Instead they're told that "all bodies are beautiful" and that "being fat doesn't mean you're not healthy." This "fat acceptance" is killing people and costing our society trillions.
I have been listening to Dr. Christopher Palmer talk about mental illness and started reading Brain Energy: A Revolutionary Breakthrough in Understanding Mental Health--and Improving Treatment for Anxiety, Depression, OCD, PTSD, and More. He talks about diet, sleep and other lifestyle factors dramtically curing extreme mental health issues, for even those who have been heavily medicated for years. I hope Bari interviews him. The medical community is driven by drug research, to the point of denying food interventions for even digestive issues like IBS. To Bari's point, you can't tell a person who is yeilding a machete to eat whole foods, but our society is promoting a very unhealthy lifestyle, which is creating a population that is very sick, physically and mentally. And many medications, if not most, are making it worse.
Haven’t listened yet but have lived two and a half terrible years with a manic depressive who refused to take medication.
That period of my life ended with my fleeing the state with my kids as far as I could go without needing a passport. (Because he hasn’t seen or spoken to them since they’re *my kids not ours.)
I don’t recommend the experience.
There’s also a chat site industry in convincing teens they have some sort of mental problem and they should demand all manner of treatment and accommodation. It becomes their raison d’etre. And they become very persuasive and intimidating of their parents. I know one couple whose 30 something daughter still lives at home and has convinced them she is autistic and disabled. Never mind she never exhibited autism at a younger age. She has hyponotized them into believing she was and they never saw it. What terrible parents, right? What guilt ridden parents. And so they enable her. I can’t talk to them anymore unless I buy into her act. In reality she is a low achiever with an attitude who has trouble making friends and keeping jobs. She needs counseling to be sure. But the autism makes it not her fault, so she doesn’t have to try. Now the parents are trying to get her SS disability. Good grief! I stopped talking to them.
Without going in detail, I will say I’ve been on both sides of this myself.
What’s impossible to convey matters here.
First, unless you’ve been in the real spiraling confusion and dark descent, you cannot understand what it is like.
I think the closet representation I’ve ever seen is the final scenes of two movies. The first is What Dreams may Come. What she’s going through is close. (But there is no savior in real life; you’ll do it yourself or perish). The other is A Beautiful Mind, where he decides to simply live with, and largely ignore, a major mental illness.
The second thing to try to understand is what actually happens to you when someone finds out. This is really a tale of being ostracized by silence and a mass turning away. Unlike cancer, if you get mentally ill you’re generally abandoned.
The third point people don’t really know about is what you experience when physicians literally guess and start making you, substantially, a medical experiment. You take the meds and the side-effects are so severe that you cannot, as they demand, tell them or it is “working” or not. What you can feel is the “blanket” they discussed or far, far worse, in which case a physician may increase or add medication. That itself becomes a hydra and unless you’re just stubborn enough to stop the meds you could easily end up dead, wishing you were, or in a long-term facility.
Or try this. Imagine being unable to work, sleep, eat or rest. For months or years. Just about everyone towns on you or abandons you.
But for my brother, i could’ve easily ended up homeless as a result. There’s no safety net at all unless you were born into welfare up front; you’re going down alone.
That’s a reality.
It is the hardest thing to face, even above the death of a parent or child, that you could experience.
You decide one day to live. To survive. Later you can return to “normalcy” and live a content and happy life again. But most can’t and don’t, and there is no real help if they have no family who can lift them off the ground. Is a part of that stopping the meds? It was for me.
So I’ve seen both sides. Bari snd her guests are all correct, and cannot really know what they’re taking about at the exact same time, save the one man who actually has bipolar disorder and lives through it.
I deeply wish to say I hope you never, ever face what he lives with. Ever.
I also wish to say to todays guest -- you were Bob’s hero. I’ll bet he knew that.
The true foundation of democracy is the ability to have a civil conversation with someone you disagree with without coming to blows or retribution. No better example than the close personal friendship between Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia.
Cancel culture and woke mobs are the true danger to democracy.
Kudos to you both for taking such a complex and loaded topic. But I agree with Ts Blue, too many direct questions were given non-responsive responses. I actually gasped aloud near the end when the conversation turned finally to real, practical questions about safety (not pseudo-intellectual theorizing about it) and the issue of the man wielding the machete emerged again. He spent the entire podcast interview opining that there should be a better way to approach mental illness - nuanced, compassionate, humane - and then still tells us that society already has “bright line” rules about what is a crime - a threat to public safety. I couldn’t believe the circular reasoning. Back to where we started - machete wielding and defecating on the sidewalks are crimes to be handled by the criminal justice system. Ever entered that world? Do we honestly think the issue goes away once we can’t see it anymore on the streets? Are we really this silly? For a real discussion of what happens the minute a person in psychosis is picked up “off the street” through the process of evaluations, temporary holds, adjudications, etc (at least in NY), check out Gorilla and the Bird by Zack McDermott (he himself a public defender who has a psychotic break in Brooklyn one day).
I agree with a more compassionate and holistic approach advocated by Bergner and I applaud his humanistic approach. However, there is a much broader conversation that doesn’t end with “well, bright lines mean crimes are crimes.” We have a criminalization of mental health in this country and if we want to change that it is going to require a radical overhaul of how we address many of our core beliefs, sensibilities, and understanding of what it means to be well - solutions that are social, political, environmental, educational and fiscal. Ezra Klein just interviewed Tom Insel on his new book, Heal, which shines light on the complexity of this problem.
Viewing this from the legal system end, we have a long long way to go but I am personally resolute in making partnerships in a cross-disciplinary, systematic manner to bring about broader changes. Bergner is right though - it does start with changed attitudes. But I have rarely seen successful policy legislate attitude adjustments.
I didn't listen to this or the original podcast, nor have I read the NYT article, so I can't comment on any of that. But I do know about "consensus reality." This was the mainstream position among academic psychologists when I was in college in the late seventies. And like so many things at the universities, it was seen in political terms as much as academic ones. The idea was that there was no such thing as mental illness, that those that we labeled crazy simply saw the world differently, and that we were in no position to claim that our view had any more validity than theirs. And it went even a little farther than that, opening to the idea that those who were operating in a nonconsensus reality were perhaps somehow superior to us, that they had managed to see behind the veil and had escaped the conformity imposed by the capitalist overlords, and bla, bla, bla. This idea is what led to emptying out all of the mental hospitals and creating what we euphemistically call "homelessness." It was also a political get out of jail free card for lefties, because when confronted with reality-based arguments, they'd parry by claiming that that was only the consensus reality, which had no more validity than any of the other realities. This was an extremely toxic idea, and did incalculable damage to the society. (Like so many progressive ideas).
But in our present context, I do see a flip side to the matter, that didn't exist back in the day. Today, we have a full-on attack on consensus reality. Exhibit One in this is the whole trans thing where we're supposed to pretend that biology doesn't exist. But there are also a million other ways in which it's happening. But the argument has shifted away from the post-modernist "there's no way to determine truth" to the infinitely-more-frightening "there is only one truth, and it is not the obvious one that you see right before your eyes." Our entire information delivery system is being reorganized around creating and ruthlessly enforcing a consensus (or so we're told) reality that we're all being forced to live in. Back in the Soviet Union, they would put political dissidents in mental hospitals, something they considered a more severe punishment than standard physical punishment, because it denied dissidents even their own internal reality. Orwell makes this a central idea in 1984.
In today's world, anyone with even a moderately conservative outlook finds him or herself arguing against a supposedly-consensus reality, with all of the "respectable" media organizations insisting that the lie of the day is undisputed truth, backed by "the science," which has been "settled" beyond any question. Anyone who instead insists on their own two eyes, their memories, and their common sense is called a crazy and dangerous "conspiracy theorist" who must be isolated from the population lest they infect others with their diseased ideas.
Given that situation, the notion of being open to multiple realities might not be such a bad idea.
Definitely a difficult topic that requires nuanced thought and discussion. I get that many of the meds are not great for the patients but the wait and see how bad it gets approach sounds unworkable too. These people are not an island. What they do affects others. In the end, I think this conversation is actually about individual vs community. Bari’s guest is all about the individual without regard for the community.