Sunday, November 20, 2016

Dementia '16

The election of Donald Trump was not entirely a positive act of political free will. Leaving aside the fact that barely a quarter of eligible Americans voted for him, his victory had less to do with optimism that things will change, and more to do with a profound sense of despair that they ever can. The Electoral College victory also speaks to the passive-aggressive despair and disgust of the estimated half of eligible voters who chose to boycott the election between two of the most unpopular ruling class candidates in modern history.

  The election of Donald Trump might even be considered an outbreak of mass murder-suicide. The working class refugees who entered his hell abandoned all hope a long time ago. Maybe they figured they might as well take everybody down with them and check out quickly, rather than linger on, hooked up to the drip-drip-drip of the torturous neoliberal therapy prescribed by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

For far too many of us, having hope and staying on the sunny side of life has become too damned exhausting. Pollyanna has been told in no uncertain terms to go take a hike. Why delay the inevitable? Bring on the noise, bring on the Trump.

Political theorist and media critic Franco "Bifo" Berardi writes pithily about the parallel right-wing depressive populism emerging in Europe:
Europe is a country of old people groping desperately for their lives, not out of love, but for property. A country of old people needing young nurses from the Philippines, Moldavia and Morocco; old idiots tormented by despising the agility of those young people, people who have suffered so much at our hands that they don't fear any more suffering, and don't care about the punishment of European law. Senile dementia (loss of memory, irrational fear of the unknown) is spreading in every generational stratum of European society, mentally frail and socially tired. Young voters who vote for rightest nationalist parties are no less obtuse than the frightened elderly, just as unable to think or find a way out of their conformism.
Berardi is not optimistic about how Trumpism and its global variants will play out. Everywhere we look, there are real and threatened pogroms, mass violence, inter-ethnic civil wars, unending global wars. Neoliberal pundits moan about divisiveness, but they seem unwilling or unable to ascribe it to the deadly, soul-destroying effects of plundering hyper-capitalism and the most extreme, demented wealth inequality in world history. The latest Oxfam report has 62 billionaires owning as much wealth as the entire bottom half of the global population.

What Berardi calls "the ideology of unbounded growth and the cult of aggressive competition" must be replaced by a cultural revolution in basic human values. The brutalistic acquisition of money and property as ends in themselves, to which even the hopeless should aspire, has to give way to a program of sharing and solidarity.

It's not enough to shriek our outrage at Trump's daily outrages. It's not enough to vow that we will simply "fight back" against his personal brand of corruption, greed, racism and xenophobia. We have to acknowledge the fact that he himself is not the disease, but rather the symptom, or excrescence, of the disease. He ranks nowhere near those top 62 billionaires. But if he "succeeds" in his dystopian vision of the US presidency as the ultimate public-private partnership, he could well end up outdoing Bill Gates, Carlos Slim, the Waltons, and yes... even Vladimir Putin himself.

So, do you think it's therefore mentally healthy to put our faith in the sudden concern-trolling efforts of the deposed Democratic Party to vanquish Donald Trump? As the past eight years of the Obama administration have all too sadly shown, corporatism with a happy liberal face certainly did not prevent the rise of Trumpism. To the contrary, Obama's party has enabled and encouraged Donald Trump. He was their Pied Piper candidate. And just like in the fairy tale, now they think that they can avoid paying him.

The buzz that Barack Obama and his corporate backers and flunkies will use his post-presidency to form some sort of Democratic  government-in-exile, a resistance movement of wealthy identity-politics freedom fighters, would be laughable were it not so cynically dangerous.

 As political philosopher Simone Weil observed, political parties exist for four main reasons: to win power, to retain power, to raise a ton of money, and to attract new members.

And as his administration has proven, and Trump's administration is bound to horrifically prove, once pseudo-populists backed by establishment parties gain power, campaign promises for governance in the public interest quickly go by the wayside.  So are we really so terminally demented that we will continue to believe in Barack Obama's relentless propaganda even as we disavow Trump's?

Just look at the top consigliere of Obama's reanimated personality cult of a "political movement."

Multimillionaire David Plouffe cashed in on his own Obama service to become the public relations guru for Uber when its own Trump-like CEO was caught being a misogynist and tax evader. Once Plouffe performed some good liberal damage control in the mass media, he was immediately promoted to board member and legal adviser of the multinational corporation.  It's now his job to keep a happy face on the so-called "ride-sharing" multinational venture, which brags about allowing desperate victims of neoliberalism to become their own cab companies -- at least until the actual company unleashes its demented fleet of self-driving cars.

The business model of Uber actually has much in common with Donald Trump's business model.  Like Donald, Inc. Uber avoids paying the standard transportation licensing fees and liability insurance and other taxes which historically have allowed municipalities to build and maintain their roads, bridges and other infrastructure. This business model leaves ordinary people holding the bag so that Plouffe and Trump and the various plutocratic investors can laugh all the way to the bank.

Uber is just one of the latest clever exploitative ways to socialize the risks and privatize the gains.

Meanwhile, here's some of what Pollyanna Obama told his pal Plouffe and a phone audience of "volunteers" in an Organizing for Action (OFA) conference call last week: 
So stay close to each other.  Generate ideas.  Take some time to reflect and let’s brainstorm in terms of how you're going to work together to move forward.  Understand that I'm going to be constrained in what I do with all of you until I am again a private citizen.  But that's not so far off.  It's basically six, eight weeks away.  And I will have some time for vacation, but you're going to see me early next year, and we're going to be in a position where we can start cooking up all kinds of great stuff to do. 
In the meantime, make sure that you stay involved locally.  Find organizations that are speaking to your passions.  Continue to be engaged with OFA around issues that -- or just information and networking and ideas-sharing that can be done.  And if you do those things, I promise you that next year Michelle and I are going to be right there with you, and the clouds are going to start parting and the sun is going to come back out, and we're going to be busy, involved in the amazing stuff that we've been doing all these years before.
Among the amazing sunny stuff which he enlisted unpaid Obamabots to do for him was to market the job-destroying, wage-suppressing, environment-killing corporate coup known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership to their unsuspecting friends and neighbors. I listened in on an OFA conference call on that topic last year. You can read a rough, scary transcript of the demented conversation here.

 And they say that Trump voters are delusional? There's plenty of authoritarianism and propaganda to go around. It is truly bipartisan in its utter brutality.  Luckily, the xenophobic Trumpian propaganda on the TPP ended up prevailing over the lovey-dovey Obamian propaganda on the TPP, and the deal is as good as dead. 

For now, anyway. The undead always seem to have this strange way of waking up just when you least expect it.

Speaking of which, Obama told his biographer, The New Yorker's David Remnick, that one of his main post-presidential goals is to create clones of himself and Michelle. I kid you not:
I’ll be fifty-five when I leave”—he knocked on a wooden end table—“assuming that I get a couple more decades of good health, at least, then I think both Michelle and I are interested in creating platforms that train, empower, network, boost the next generation of leadership. And I think that, whatever shape my Presidential center takes, I’m less interested in a building and campaign posters and Michelle’s dresses, although I think it’s fair to say that Michelle’s dresses will be the biggest draw by a huge margin. But what we’ll be most interested in is programming that helps the next Michelle Obama or the next Barack Obama, who right now is sitting out there and has no idea how to make their ideals live, isn’t quite sure what to do—to give them resources and ways to think about social change.”
If he were a true progressive, he would have called for better public education with higher pay for unionized teachers and curricula to hone critical thinking skills. He would have called for a global wealth tax on billionaires, a guaranteed federal housing policy, Medicare for All, and a guaranteed living wage or income to help all those budding public servants, and all the families of those budding public servants. Because if the next Barack and the next Michelle are cold and hungry and depressed, being unsure about what to do will be the least of their worries. As Bifo Berardi says, they first have to find a way out of neoliberal conformism and un-thought.

If Obama simply aims to groom his de-mented acolytes by steering them toward just the right FIRE sector funding for malleable politicians, and continues to propagandize about the social benefits of capitalism on crack, I won't be at all surprised.

And if people (and I mainly refer to the churnalists of the consolidated media) continue to give credence to the neoliberal Obama brand, then I have a driverless Uber car careening over a rickety bridge reinforced by cheap Chinese steel to sell them. It's built by $10-an-hour, non-union, no-benefit workers whose pensions were looted a long time ago by the same Wall Street investors cashing in on their sweat and tears and blood all over again. Their bridge spans a polluted river all the way to the twin deregulated empires of Kochtopia and Trumpistan.

Welcome to the new, improved New Abnormal.

 The corporate media, now engaged in their own self-pitying frenzy of victimhood-by-Trump, advise liberals to weep for the cameras, listen to soothing music, wear chic safety pins to show silent smarmy solidarity with the Vulnerables, and of course, shop. And then all hail the conquering public relations hero Barack Obama. And while you're waiting for his second coming, ponder the published reports that, as a self-anointed speaker to our passions, Chelsea Clinton is being groomed for Congress.

We have a choice. Run for the hills and wallow in terminal depression. Or resist, rebel, and retool. Give sanity a chance. Re-mentia, not de-mentia.


Jay–Ottawa said...

I have a subtitle for Remnick's biography:
An Empty Life Powered by the Inexhaustible Fuel of Un-Thought.

voice-in-wilderness said...

Maybe Obama will hang out in Hawaii, resurrecting his old Choom Gang and playing golf, instead of forming a vampire squid-like foundation?

Jamie said...

"The election of Donald Trump might even be considered an outbreak of mass murder-suicide"

Couldn't disagree more. Our chances for survival are higher now that the McCarthyite war-criminal Hillary is not in office to stoke war-flames with Russia and blindly serve her monetary sponsors in the Middle East. A vote for Hillary would be a vote for an increased chance of nuclear war with Russia and thus such voting was the actual "outbreak of mass murder-suicide" within America.

Pearl said...

Read @mmflint's open letter to Ivanka Trump

Michael Stivic said...

Karen, If you are single, lets move to Cuba where there is social justice. So what if the state run toilet paper company runs out of toilet paper and all the people drive old beat up American cars from the 50s and 60s.

annenigma said...

The corporate media pushers of hatred, hysteria, and fear are losing their effectiveness as voters are gradually withdrawing from their Clinton brand of the powerful Hope and Change drug. Where is that emotional distress when it comes to WAR?

If voters hadn't allowed themselves to be brainwashed by the media in the first place, they wouldn't be having a collective nervous breakdown. Hillary's predicted slamdunk, cakewalk landslide was largely a media construct. Not only did they create the whole narrative of Saint Hillary vs. Satan Trump, but they suppressed news that would reveal their fiction. The most obvious being the pathetically small crowds for Clinton and huge crowds for Trump (and Bernie before that). Then when he tried to bring attention to that, singling out Katy Tur as not putting the camera on his crowds, they criticized him for 'attacking' Katy Tur instead of the issue of slanted media coverage. They criticized Trump for hyperbole while seriously covering Trump as being a Putin stooge, KGB agent, and racist Hitler who was ready to drop the nuclear bomb.

How ironic that it took a former TV Reality star, with the help of Wikileaks emails, to bring SOME people to realize the undemocratic media-political corruption and collusion that put together this phony production, and even now so few are still willing to face and admit that reality. All the fear and hate mongering has been, and continues to be, for corporate profits. They also benefit from keeping the populace divided into two teams who fight each other so we stay off their backs.

The same corporate media condemning 'fake news' are the ones who created so much fake news in the first place. They've had plenty of practice of course, with war-mongering and WMD. The worst part is that some, like the NYT, are actually being rewarded by an increase in paid subscribers. I suppose it's a form of group therapy as they go through withdrawal, or self-medicating similar to taking Methadone for a Heroin addiction. Corporate news is so addicting it's almost impossible to kick once you get hooked. As a New Year's resolution, I suggest cancelling cable and consuming all corporate news sparingly and with skepticism.

Speaking of perception of reality, Obama's poll numbers might not be indicative of his future political influence. The same polls that got Trump support so wrong could reflect the same 'Bradley Effect' with Obama's polling. (People give responses to pollsters that protect or project political correctness). Actually, I think 'Style Points' figure largely in Obama's popularity, which does not translate into political clout by any means. It just means he's a classy celebrity act. As far as leading a movement, and based on his 8 year record, I'd say forget it. I do give him an A - an Academy Award for best actor in a leading role.

The Democratic Party has crashed and burned, from local, to state, to the national level on Obama's watch. But no Democrats dare blame Obama for doing so little for so few, and doing so much for Himself and his R&F friends - because it wouldn't be PC and they'd risk being labeled racist.

The fact is, we've lost freedom of speech as a result of the culture of PC which has displaced honesty. There are now accusations of 'microaggressions' and creating 'safe spaces' so that no one feels uncomfortable discussing uncomfortable issues. That is one big reason behind Trump's win. He called it like he saw it openly, not behind closed doors to wealthy donors like Mitt and Hillary with her Basket of Deplorables comment.

We're still got a bad case of DEMentia going on. The fact is, a dead political body kept on artificial life support can't win elections or energize future movements.

DEMentia is a terminal condition.

Jay–Ottawa said...

"The Democratic Party has crashed and burned, from local, to state, to the national level on Obama's watch. But no Democrats dare blame Obama for doing so little for so few, and doing so much for Himself...."

Well put. "Obama's Watch"....eight years parked in idle and periodically, predictably, moving in reverse. Let's hope a few historians in the Howard Zinn mode come along to give us a fair reading of the what took place to commoners and the commons on Obama's Watch.

Trump is a doer, or at least a boat rocker, unlike his do-nothing quietest predecessor. The only problem is Trump is well on the way to doing the wrong thing again and again. Let's see whether our vaunted institutions can steady the ship of state while Trump keeps spinning the wheel at the helm.

The Dow just broke through 19,000 for the first time. Happy days are here again. But that can't be the true index. Jobs will be the index to follow closely. Trump likes to build things. Fine. Let's hope he rebuilds the US infrastructure. He can only satisfy his backers from the rustbelts and exurbia if he gives them jobs. Trump's jobs may come without benefits, safety, etc., etc., just so long as more people get back to work again and begin to make money. Lot's of so-so jobs will allow millions to retreat from the poverty line. Jobs can't upset Wall Street too much, can they? Jobs.