I already know Keystone XL has been batted back. I already know the Paris Accord has been signed. It’s really easy to draw tats on Trump’s tits, but they are not artful. As kneejerks go they’re pretty predictable and as I predicted, they carry all of the symbolic and emotional baggage necessary. The Trump Grinch didn’t steal Christmas after all. Tis brillig and all the slithy toves are gyring and gimbling in the big blue wabe. Hazzah! Yet we know what next comes whiffling through the tugley wood. I already hear the burble.
Four years ago I attended the Women’s March in Los Angeles. It wasn’t a march so much as it was a parade of disenchantment. It was a genuine family fare and there wasn’t even the beginning of a hint of violence. The most upsetting thing there were the number of pussy hats. It was a mostly pleasant if sometimes obnoxious show of non-violent social protest. I wrote:
At today's magnificent Women's March in Los Angeles, there was what can only be described as a very very divergent set of opinions about what to say. i could talk about the march at length and I may do so, but I am reminded of the old psychological adage that people don't have weaknesses so much as they overuse their strengths. There were at least a dozen identifiable interest groups if they could be identified by their slogans. But those who bothered to characterize Trump specifically as the object of their scorn did so in predictable ways. I'm not particularly moved or motivated by this type of ad hominem, but it reminded me of the vehemence reserved for Dick Cheney in another era. Whereas Cheney was seen as the evil eminence behind a vapid Bush, Trump is the embodiment himself. The orange target is clear. I expect the ire will continue and I hope it doesn't rub off on Trump's people, only three of which so far I find independently admirable (Mattis, Tillerson & Kushner).
Little did we know how much the magnificent mendicant’s songs from the Big Chair would show us how much everybody wanted to rule the world. If Reagan was the Great Communicator, Trump was the Great Inciter. He ignited the rudest passions in every American partisan. I said then and I say now, he wasn’t the reason why. I defy every mainstream media outlet to tell us accurately how many illegal immigrants got into America with any historical context. I defy them to tell us how many civil rights suits were stopped dead in their tracks. These government engines were certainly embarrassed by the new management but they weren’t repurposed. What Trump actually did better than anything was to remind every culture warrior in America who their enemy was. Dare I abuse the Pogo quote? The Culture War was, is and ever shall be Us vs Us.
What’s interesting about my old aphorism about liberals and conservatives is that it frightens me just a little. I would answer the question about the difference was that conservatives sought to leverage the power of family and community against the dysfunctional abuses of the state, whereas liberals sought to leverage the power of the state against the dysfunctions and abuses of families and communities. I think conservatives, even the wacky fringes pretty much held to that. Over the next four years we’ll see how much the power of state will stake out and stalk a new set of outlaws.
The way I know I have become Stoic and not partisan was revealed recently in my violent agreement with Glenn Greenwald whom I previously considered shrill and preachy. He has abandoned the predictably partisan Guardian and has been betrayed by his new publication The Intercept. Now, completely independent on this very platform, I find his aim true. His concern is for civil liberty and I think he’s right. Let’s get the economy out of the way first.
The Neoliberal Economy
Since I know both parties are committed to the neoliberal program as defined by their rich elite overlords aka The Ruling Class, and since I know that my cohort, The Genius Class, will make whatever meritocratic engines we have keep rolling, I feel safe. But I also know that if a squeeze comes, the Genius Class will flee and be replaced by Stormtroopers and/or we will all have to pretend to be Peasants and play along for a time. So in the short term I am not particularly concerned about what Biden may or may not do. The political gravity that keeps Amazon flowing will not be reversed anytime soon. But let us recall that we are in a two tiered economy.
The Capital Tier
In this section of the economy, people can throw around elevator pitches that only need a modicum of common sense. They can get backing by the hundreds of millions up to billions, and if you’re Pelosi a trillion is not out of the question. Incompetence is not deadly, but you don’t get to be CEO anymore. Finance comes at ridiculously low rates and you get to operate at absurd P/E ratios. Take Netflix for example.
The Cash Tier
In this section of the economy, you work your fingers to the bone and all you get are bony fingers. You live or die by the FICO score. (Calculating your FICO score with 10 years of credit history takes any computer with the power of an iPhone 4 about half a second on a bad day). That’s all the consideration you get, and since your bank will basically pay you a fraction of a one percent on all of your life savings, good luck doing anything but working for cash.
A simple way to think about this two-tiered economy is to compare Tesla and Ford. Tesla is worth 10 times more than Ford. Ford sells about 5.4 million new cars each year worldwide. Tesla sold 367,500 cars in 2019. There are solid reasons for this and people who run capital markets in our neoliberal political economy are not going to be swayed from their logic and processes. This is the infrastructure of America that has a very long wheelbase. It will take monumental forces to turn that in a different direction. Something trouble at the Federal Reserve is sufficient to turn - but that is a catastrophe in the trillions I am currently unable to reckon with. When it breaks, the world breaks. Our misery will have international company, so don’t sweat that soon.
Revenge of the Herds
On the other hand, the blades much much closer to my neck and yours are what I know gets volatile: the symobolz of the interwebz. These, unlike our economy, have the wheelbase and stability of a unicycle. This is precisely the kind of volatility that has radicals on the left and right swap childish positions on policing at a moment’s notice.
Considering that Trump kept us out of every conflict beyond our borders, so much that he was ready to abrogate mutual defense treaties of the resigned body of Gen. Mattis, we had peace on earth. Goodwill towards men, was about as rare as the hair on Mr. Clean. There are no violent white nationalists to clear out of American streets. The election is over and Mr. Incitement has left the building, peacefully. Even the mayor of Portland started calling Antifa a terrorist organization and decided law and order were finally worth a police crackdown. But who else is a ‘terrorist’ or ‘insurrectionist’?
I have reason to believe that the Culture War is not over and that opportunists who have learned to get extreme and get away with it will not be afraid to attempt working backwards from the streets into their bases. From the small dot on the right, they will push back into the bigger circles, and clearly the donks are the majority again. So it is the power of the majority that must be given scrutiny. If Parler were the last domino, we could all sleep soundly. Do you believe that?
Will we have goodwill or will the canceling get more vicious? Has Trump instructed the partisan nation in the nature of fueling spineless and boundless animosity? Does anyone believe that social media will suddenly become factual and rational? Will all the trolls disappear? I’m not holding my breath. In fact I believe people will start telling us what they really think. The average partisan in the Cash Tier of the economy is going to want to do something between now and 2024.
Civil liberty is under threat because we are uncivilized as a society. We are uncivilized because we have wagered all of our moods and manners on political outcomes. Politics are coercive war by mouthy means. We are an incoherent society that, even threatened by a pandemic, remained at each others throats and we pretend that everybody is playing the same zero-sum games, except for useless non-voters like me. Like the fools of New Orleans during Katrina we just figured “it wouldn’t happen to me” and then played a political race card when we lost our livelihoods to a natural disaster. Are we so very different? No, a lot of us are much worse, especially in media.
Show me something better, starting with confession and asking for forgiveness. Obama didn’t get shot. Trump didn’t need to be frogmarched. Dial it down people.