The real problem in the body politic

(Trigger warning: equivalence alert!)

No, I don’t think the Democratic and Republican platforms are equivalent. Ideologically, I’m with the Dems maybe 50% of the time and the Repubs maybe 10%. No equivalence there. But the partisan tone has become equivalent on both sides. If a Dem or Repub leader says anything at all, the other side must consider it a priori wrong (and indeed evil) or risk being kicked out of the club. Perhaps social media is the worst for trapping people into such silos, but with many friends posting political comments daily, I can’t remember the last time any of them on either side deviated from the preset party line when an oppostion leader spoke.

So yes, I favor the Dem platform (or at least find it less bad), but there are three beasts in the cage, and the Republicans are not the most destructive of the three. There are the two major parties, and then there is the “us vs. them” paradigm of politics and social relations, shared equally by denizens of both parties. With my old hippie vision of moving toward a more ideal union, where people still disagree but with the understanding that we are all on spaceship Earth together, it is the paradigm itself that is the most destructive beast of the three. As long as we are locked into the zero-sum, “us vs. them” paradigm, we can move laterally to fix this or that local issue, but there can be no forward movement. We can get short-term ideological gains from our party – e.g., as I favor the Dem platform, I can hope the Dems seize the reins from Trump for at least the short-term benefits I think they would bring. But I cannot hope that Dems any more than Repubs will fix the long-term, and possible fatal, disease in the body politic. Neither party has the slightest motivation to correct the “us vs. them” model that is killing us.

Our only long-term hope is for someone to emerge outside the current political spectrum, an MLK-type voice. Politics per se is dead, killed by the two parties and the army of idiot activists on both sides. I don’t mean the government won’t continue its administrative function, but I mean something more along the lines of Nietzsche’s “God is dead” proclamation. Nietzsche knew that religious structures were not about to disappear, but he also could see that God was no longer a credible anchor of human belief structures. In the same way, for those who would step back from the everyday administration of government and re-envision a better society, politics is no longer a credible tool.  Best to throw it away.

The good news is that underneath the veneer of us vs. them activism, I find that many people are quietly hungry for a unifying voice. I thought Obama was potentially such voice, but his failure to unify the country was pre-ordained by the fact that he emerged within one of the two major parties. Half the country will never listen to any unifying voice that emerges from the opposition party. Thus, my statement that the voice must come from outside the current political structure is a kind of logical tautology. Logic permits no other way. Of course, such a voice, on such terms, may never come, and we may disintegrate slowly or quickly, depending on which of the two parties is in power. But those people I meet hungering for some voice to restore a sense of shared humanness, those people still give me hope. We just need to take all this activist energy invested in one side or the other of the us vs. them paradigm and turn it against the paradigm itself. I would especially ask my friends on the left who consider themselves radical: How radical can you be if you are still hauling around the old albatross of the “left vs right” paradigm? If you want to be radical, break the paradigm.

Can we really get a critical mass of people to shed the dead snakeskin of politics as we know it and start over with a blank slate, a social vision stripped of politics with nowhere to turn but to heart and imagination? Probably not, but it’s worth a try.

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Baby Boomers vs. Gen X vs. Millennials

You can find the arguments all over the Internet – baby boomers broke America, millennials are aimless and self-absorbed, etc. Let me try to put the competition to rest.

All of these arguments have one thing in common: They all rest upon the false premises that these imaginary generational constructs are (1) real and (2) monolithic. Sure, history goes on, and the youth vs. age theme is perennial, but calling Obama “Gen X by personal temperament” (as Ben White does in his generation-based commentary in Politico, 2019/10/26) is no better than astrology, which says those born in November have one temperament and those born in August another. Why should people born 1965-80 have a collective “temperament” but not people born 1975-90?

If anything, this habit of reifying and playing generations against each other is even more absurd than our habit of building walls around races and playing them against each other (a favorite theme on the Right during the Civil Rights era that has now become a favorite theme on the Left in the woke era*). Race, at least, is not as imaginary as the generational categories. Except in tightly localized areas, like elevated risk of certain diseases, race is virtually meaningless as a biological concept. But it is not as meaningless as the generational constructs. African-Americans, e.g., have suffered historical conditions as a group that leave them, not universally but in the aggregate, with a set of legitimate shared concerns in today’s body politic. But playing off the races against one another is no way forward. The idea of race as something that can be circumscribed with sharp lines and defended against all penetration by other groups is as imaginary as the generational constructs. Even “African-Americans,” despite the socially produced set of conditions that apply in the aggregate, is a porous term, genetically and culturally. Studies show that “58 percent of African Americans have at least 12.5% European ancestry (equivalent of one great-grandparent)” and “about 30% of self-identified White Americans have recent sub-Saharan African ancestry.” Even those without mixed blood have grown up with enormous cultural cross-fertilization, from music to movies to cooking and social life. Let’s celebrate the unique attributes of our different subcultures, but this pitting of one group against another is nonsense, and the game has to stop here. Things like wealth inequality and declining environmental resources are becoming too serious.

Bottom line: We have enough categories dividing us without inventing imaginary ones. Yes, let’s fight for a more equitable society and a more sustainable environment, but not by building walls around imaginary groups. We need to leave that way of thinking behind, whether it’s coming from Trump conservatives or woke progressives. Let’s rather bust all the walls and windows and open ourselves to the great multicultural carnival, all working together, celebrating each other across our demographic lines – that could be our future if we just turn the dial on how we think. And we can start with throwing out the stupid faux conflict between invented generational tags.

* Won’t get fooled again

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Trump Science Advisor

This old meme circles back to relevance over and over, as Trump’s steady rollback of Obama-era environmental protections continues this week behind the scenes.

As an addendum, below is a clip from a Fedex commercial, torn from context and re-presented as a cause-and-effect metaphor for Sapiens’s treatment of nature during their brief run on the planet. (And by “brief run” I mean that unless our species lasts another few hundred thousand years, which seems unlikely, even Neanderthals will have proven more successful and robust than their short-lived, destructive, and relatively unsuccessful cousins, Homo sapiens.)

The footprint that marks our time on Earth may be … well, not our own.

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Trump Eulogies

Per the new fictional non-fiction genre of the Trump eulogy, here is my contribution:

Poor George. Sweet guy. Like a kid. Gee-whiz George. Couldn’t tell a lie. But the Brits were laughing at us. I love the Brits. I got Brits working the greens at Mar-a-Lago. Great for managing the shithole country workers. But they were cleaning our clocks, while Gee-whiz George was busy telling the truth. So I says to him, “George, you gotta storm the airports.” And he says, “There ain’t no airports.” And I says, “George, you see that crowd out there. Biggest crowd ever. They don’t want facts. They want entertainment.” No, Gee-whiz George could not tell a lie. So he had a failed presidency. And I’m here today to save his image by telling you about the great storming of the airports at Yorktown and Fort McHenry. And I can tell you, my friends. Believe me. Wherever Gee-whiz George is today, he is looking up and saying, “Trump was right! Thank God for Trump! Thank God for a winner!”

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Impeaching Trump

It’s only a guess, but I suspect Trump’s campaign is fighting impeachment on two fronts: overtly condemning it and covertly doing everything they can to get it started. Impeachment allows Trump to put the spotlight where he likes it (personal fights instead of policy) and to control the narrative. When the Senate absolves him (which we all know will happen), he gets to say, “See, it was all a witch hunt. Democrats have now spent the last few years ignoring issues that concern average Americans to focus (unsuccessfully) on personally destroying me. Now that the Senate has proven me right on all of this, why vote for useless Democrats?” And his case is much more persuasive in the wake of a failed impeachment. Indeed, though I’m not a Trump supporter, I do think he may have a point. Besides hard-core activists, most commoners are probably not that excited about Trump’s taxes or which Playboy bunny he slept with. If they voted for Democrats, they probably did so in the hopes that they’d focus more on issues that affect average Americans. Impeachment is the golden goose for Trump’s narrative.

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Postcards from a shithole country

A few days in central Mexico …

(or in one of “those shithole countries,” as President Trump has labeled them)

                 

 

 

 

 

 

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Trump builds his legacy

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/12/06/trump-epa-coal-rules-1047296

“The Trump administration unveiled yet another rollback Thursday for a major Obama-era climate rule — proposing to ease restrictions on future coal power plants even as the industry shows little interest in building any.

“The proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency comes amid dire warnings from scientists about the massive costs and devastating impacts of global warming.”

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