I believe it was last year I had a conversation with a coworker about the political landscape and he questioned my “patriotism”, asking me if I “believe in America.” I told him that people “believe” in different stories that explain reality and he snickered at that as if I was talking nonsense. I then asked him if he had ever lived in California to which he said no. I then asked him if he had seen movies featuring famous cities like LA and San Francisco with scenes where it was raining. He said yes. I asked him if there was lightning and thunder in those scenes. He thought about it a second and said yes. I explained to him that he took it for granted there was lightning and thunder there and that is actually a “story” as there is almost never lightning and thunder on the west coast- they put that in movies for dramatic effect. And now Northern California is burning up because of lightning strikes.
The single most manipulative and dramatic feature of the conservative story is the “welfare queen” getting something for nothing and dragging the rest of us down- by making us pay entitlements to the undeserving. Even the very few of my coworkers who are not confirmed righties have that button and it is easy to push. We hate to see others get for free what we have to work for. If they only knew what the rich get for free. Another coworker is a gun nut and any discussion of him giving up his AR-15 results in red-faced anger even though he is on the left on most issues. His guns symbolize power and freedom he really does not have. My coworkers buy motorcycles they cannot afford with no mufflers because in their story they see themselves as born to be wild. Or the muscle cars and trucks they floor from light to light every day with hundreds of horsepower they, and the planet, don’t need.
I try to explain to them the numbers concerning wealth inequality and how bizarrely rich the 1 percent are now- and how that is still not enough to satisfy their insane greed. But my coworkers seem to think that goes against their welfare queen myth and cannot be true- so there is little reaction from them. The single most manipulative and dramatic feature of the progressive story was sociopathic capitalists possessed by greed making wage slavery of the 99% their universal goal. This worked throughout the 1800’s during the industrial revolution but not anymore. What I call obscene wealth is even worse than it was then but very few are marching in the streets about it. And this leads me to believe, in all honesty, we are a stupid species and will probably go extinct. Biology may not be a process capable of generating beings smart enough to survive any geologic time scales. The gullibility of QAnon followers seem to confirm this. And today the President tweeted the deep state (or whoever?) is working against deploying a vaccine for the virus. Crazy.
The Nazi regime manipulated the masses with the familiar formula but instead of the poor “stealing” entitlements, it was inferior races and congenital defectives as “useless eaters.” The Communists were, on the other hand, a cult that promised utopia by ending all private property, which was characterized as a kind of original sin, as the root of all evil. In the 21st century the Neoliberal Oligarchy is now mostly in control of planet Earth. There are only a few problems they have to deal with, the big one being us- the unwashed masses they use as domestic animals, as their beasts of burden. They are, if you dig into their collective subconscious, terrified of us because of a simple device called the Guillotine and what it was used for at the end of the 18th century. In the early 20th century, because of the Russian revolution, this fear was far more clear and present. Now that the Russian Oligarchs are in control it has become a much less dreaded possibility- like a meteor hitting the Earth. A meteor killed off most of the last dominant species, the dinosaur. And by coincidence a very small harmless meteor will be in the neighborhood on election day with certain clickbait articles making this sound serious. The election is what is serious.
The second problem faced by Neoliberals is they are constantly at war with each other and simply will not combine in any way to share ultimate power. It is not in their nature to share anything and thus we have thousands of years of wars in which those who did attain or were born into local god-like power tried to “steal” the power of neighboring semi-divine rulers. Empires did rise when noble families intermarried and efforts were made to keep the peace. But that led to the third problem. For large organizations like empires to function there has to be upward mobility available to the most driven, intelligent, and ruthless members. If they cannot get more power and/or wealth they start “stealing” or destroying the organization itself so they can pick up the pieces and make it benefit them. This is the cycle of empire where greed and corruption lead to inevitable self-destruction. My fellow Americans don’t seem to get any of this. Not only do they have so little knowledge of history they can’t understand, they do not want to waste any of their precious smart phone time on it. Since I am no rocket scientist myself, of average intelligence, and just happened to grow up in an environment that steered me toward reading instead of sports and history instead of consumerism, I am not hopeful.
At the beginning of the 20th century the Sherman Anti-trust Act began to break-up corporate monopolies and this was continued under several administrations. It did not keep individuals from manipulating the markets and in 1929 it all came crashing down. FDR gave us the New Deal and thirty years later Kennedy gave us the New Frontier and immediately after his assassination Johnson pushed the Great Society. When the 21st century arrived the Reagan Revolution had wiped out most of the gains made by past progressive policies and then came the crash of 2008. Corporations as lawful psychopathic entities were now driving the decisions and were bailed out. Because Americans were not thrown into the street with no jobs or food as they were in 1929, no mass outrage and danger of revolution was detectable- and Neoliberalism triumphed. The “ownership society” is a story that converts stealing the ground we walk on into the ground they own. Neoliberalism makes money the god of this world where all things are owned by those who can pay.
Over a decade after 2008 and Trumpism is the response- the populist ideology that a very small minority of the population with any knowledge of history and instruction in critical thinking now realize is a danger not just to America, but to our species as a whole. That climate change was largely dismissed, by way of paid propaganda from the Koch brothers, as an unimportant issue in the U.S. is…so dangerous it is hard to put into words. But if a high school dropout like me can understand it, then I believe the rest of the population can. The secret is comprehending the the vast size of the human race and our fragile ability to feed it. Raising the temperature of the planet has the makings of a catastrophe that will kill a large percentage of humankind, billions, and send us back into another dark age. The salient feature of Trumpism is lying. Truth is…inconvenient.
Imbedded Liberalism, where a classical liberal free-market economy is strictly regulated and laid on top of a base of social safety net programs managed by big government and supported by progressive taxation of the rich- is what made America great after the great depression. It is an ideal hybrid of capitalism and socialism that depends on educated citizens to keep it functioning properly- and is the most successful socio-economic system in history. It has been associated with the term “the end of history” as there is no other form of government in sight that works as well. Nothing else has ever allowed the individual and the collective to coexist efficiently. We had it, or at least a prototype of it, and we lost it. We have to get it back. A Green New Deal is the best path, the only path. We are not voting for Bernie and AOC but we at least have the option of pushing Biden and Harris into progressive policies- where no such possibility exists with the present administration.
5:20 “People who refuse to tow the line, a line of fiction- a set of statements which were clearly false- that you don’t follow the line- and then get purged- that’s what happens in authoritarian systems, or rather, in totalitarian systems.”
7:28 “-this is a direct attack on the rule of law- the law comes before the individual person and the more power you have the more you have to respect that principle. -without the rule of law nothing else is possible, including freedom.”
10:00 “-I am on the side of facts because facts give us a chance to have deliberative democracy, give us a chance to have law, give us a chance to have decency and for that matter prosperity- ultimately not just democracy but functioning markets depend on factuality-”
12:50 “-making our institutions a joke is exactly what helps authoritarians like Mr. Putin survive; if there is no example of things going better it makes their life much much easier. A big sad thing which is happening is that there is no longer an American example – dissidents – could point to, thanks to Mr. Trump.
14:10 “What Russia does is not particular to Russia- (it) is how an oligarchy with a good understanding of the media stays in power- you figure out what people want to hear- but (also) by way of technical tools (like facebook and google)- and then you target your messages to them. And you don’t care that your messages are lies, in fact, it is better if your messages are lies; you want people to think that there’s not really any truth and to just accept the story that sounds better.”
15:15 “The fundamental question is can you win a campaign on the basis of proposing policy based on facts against someone whose basic idea is to just stir the pot with the most advanced technical tools possible (like facebook) and to rile people up. -That’s everywhere.”
16:42 “What facebook does is it amplifies the authoritarian habit of looking for the emotion of fear. That’s what it does. That’s its design model. It looks for what makes you anxious and fearful and tribal and childish. -It has an inbuilt authoritarian bent. – it has to pull away – and make some changes that support factuality.”
18:26 “-I am for freedom of speech for humans but not for digital beings who don’t have souls.”
He goes on to infer he is for economic inequality and I believe that is the right-leaning view that the extreme opposite of “inequality” is communism and the abolition of private property. I personally believe this view is abused by conservatives to promote predatory economic policies but that is my own opinion. I differ with people who lean to the right but still appreciate their correct views (in my judgement) concerning other matters. And this of course is a big problem in itself: how can you agree with a few or many things a person says but then also disagree with a many or few things and still support their credibility?
Someone I differ with not at all is Chris Hedges. A fellow Presbyterian.
“Salacious tawdry court gossip that now has taken the place of news.” Sad but so true.
Paraphrasing Chris, who is “talking about something that only religious people can grasp in a way” A culture we have created that orchestrates alienation, loneliness, unhappiness, a sense of inadequacy, and promises us that if we invest in that culture, both financially and personally, we can find that happiness they have destroyed.- In biblical terms it is a culture of idolatry. In the end- like Moloch- you are sacrificed on this altar. -That cult of the self has created tremendous depression and unhappiness. What is- any social media platform- many forms of the self-presentation that obsesses a figure like Trump. We all have our own version of it. It is certainly not friendship. -We have created powerful mechanisms to prey upon and exacerbate that sickness.
“The white working class- believe the myth and with the understanding they have been had, I think express a very frightening violent rage which manifests itself in mass shootings and hate groups and figures like Trump.”
“My heart is with the 60 or 70 percent of Americans who are being pushed towards a modern form of serfdom in the oligarchic system. If we don’t rebuild those social bonds we are finished.”