Joseph Natoli – Joseph P Natoli Gulliver's Takes Fri, 03 Apr 2020 06:12:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Prezdemic: Lines written in Quarantine Fri, 03 Apr 2020 06:04:29 +0000 Published on My interest in staying home is not you but me You are a possible contagion source and an end to me But I can also easily see you back at work for the economy Covid-19 erased with a sagacious presidential word Don’t mind that Fauci behind the screen out of camera range He’s of […]

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Joseph P Natoli

Joseph P Natoli

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My interest in staying home is not you but me
You are a possible contagion source and an end to me
But I can also easily see you back at work for the economy
Covid-19 erased with a sagacious presidential word
Don’t mind that Fauci behind the screen out of camera range
He’s of the same scientist fold that clamors about climate change
And you on bus or subway to work to expand my dividend?
Remember you took this risk thinking of me and not your end
What a small price to be paid by The Old beginning that day
April 12th chosen by our president prophesying it beautiful
So perfect when the market returns to its patriotic bullish play
So what if our Leader at center stage repeats absurdities
Spewing from gut to mouth sure signs of his instabilities
He polls high as our champion in this pandemic
A regular old flu he declares causes no more than a slight emetic
All the missteps, delays, and failures he can again offer Obama to blame
So, years ahead only fake news will slander the Trump name
One who can shoot a man on Fifth Avenue to his followers’ applause
Can surely decree millions to die without the slightest pause.


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A Machine to Beat President Trump Fri, 03 Apr 2020 05:54:14 +0000 Published on As different as night from day yet there’s one way that Bernie Sanders and President Trump are alike, and Joe Biden is different from both. President Trump runs a one man show with a supporting cast. As we know from very recent history of this presidency, this liege cast either pays homage to President […]

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A Machine to Beat

A Machine to Beat

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As different as night from day yet there’s one way that Bernie Sanders and President Trump are alike, and Joe Biden is different from both.

President Trump runs a one man show with a supporting cast. As we know from very recent history of this presidency, this liege cast either pays homage to President Trump or they are gone. They reveal their fealty in expressions such as “In the President’s vision,” as if a man without vocabulary could reveal a vision.

In short, President Trump fills the important positions of running government with those who mirror his hunches and gut feelings, his self-professed instinct for everything, including medical science and American mass psychology.

This autocratic buffoonery is a “whatever” matter if you are one of those who believe President Trump’s own assessment that he is a very stable genius and also believe that if he fucks with the governmental order, it’s about time because government, as Reagan said, is the problem

Now, Bernie Sanders.

Bernie Sanders is not a high-ranking member of The Order of Narcissism as is President Trump, but he has been for a long time a voice crying in the wilderness against our conversion of democracy to plutarchy, and now with President Trump, to a budding, vile autocracy. The isolation emerges from a fearless disregard for conditions “he finds close at hand,” namely, Americans have a two-fold relationship with the word “socialism.” They don’t understand it and they fear it. Bernie has also been isolated within the Democratic Party ideologically: economics and not identity politics being his huckleberry.

Results of this isolation both in the Democratic Party and in the American mass psyche? Not a large ready-to-go supporting cast. For instance, we know that if Joe Biden is nominated, who the field of VP’s might be. With Bernie Sanders? No idea. Someone else who tags himself or herself as a Social Democrat or a Democratic Socialist or just plain Socialist? Not much chance of beating back the President Trump blitz if the Democrats launch both Socialist prez and VP candidates.

It’s a three-pipe problem to see what kind of Camelot, to use the analogy made to JFK’s administration, with which Bernie Sanders would surround himself. Interestingly, Elizabeth Warren would be one clearly coming to mind for both a Sanders and a Biden administration. “The Wall Street Regulator.”

There’s certainly no Bernie Sanders machine in the wings, like the old pol bosses ran in Tammany Hall, no Leninist CPSU. What Democratic Party members are left with now is the weak power of their party organization and the Babel of strident voices on social media. (Of course, the Republican Party after Trump seems unlikely to disconnect itself from Trump.) The DNC was not a fan of Bernie Sanders’s in 2016 and they are not a fan now. Bernie Sanders does not have the kind of socialist talent available in his own party ready to go at Day One.

But they are certainly available at large and if a President Sanders were to create such an administration, including Treasury and Labor, this would be something the country hasn’t seen since FDR. If presidential candidate Sanders had made this eventuality clearer, he might have avoided the bad press surrounding his “socialist” tag.

He’s not a Democrat, as that Party is now constituted. Because we have no party that will declare itself opposed to the economic system now in sway, Bernie Sanders is an outlander. AOC and others — also not Democrats as the Hillary/Joe Biden/Bloomberg/Pelosi Democrats define the party — may, as a result of this Democratic Primary, which will surely end with Joe Biden as the nominee, expand their dissidence within the Party.

Surely, also, will be a Party takeover of that dissidence, formalizing it as mainstream, if President Trump batters and upends our democracy for another four years. There will be no middle ground or mediation politics when the Trump Leviathan tortures and ransacks for another four years the country in ways so transparently clear that even Mitch McConnell will join the revolutionary ranks.

There’s more than one improbability and one certain impossibility in the last sentence.

Right now, however, what sort of government Bernie Sanders would form and who would be heading all important posts is about as clear in the American imaginary as is his use of the signifier “socialist.”

Not so with Joe Biden.

President Trump tweeted that if Joe Biden is elected, he’s “just going to be sitting in a home someplace and people are going to be running it for him.” May it be so, Mr. President, except the home will be the White House and the people running things will be pulled into service out of the former administrations of both Obama and Clinton, as well as those who, like Warren, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Yang, Harris, Booker, have yet to serve a president. However, depressing the re-emergence of this machine may be to the Bernie Bros, the re-election of Donald J. Trump would put them way beyond depression.

Bernie Sanders has not that candidate pool to draw from because his ideological purity cannot accept the position tempering a revolt from our winner take all capitalism. Capitulation and triage have been the Democratic position, one that has placed a fight for justice for all marginal lives as a centerpiece of a party that under FDR defined itself as a party of wage earners, of unions, of a bold fight in the battle of labor and capital.

Any denomination of socialist is in a fight is to create a level of economic equality that would quite naturally create a level of political equality sufficient to empower all differences and thus defeat the pernicious differences of obscene wealth divide. This priority of economics has not been the priority of the Democratic Party for decades.

Neither given the severity of our wealth divide is it rational to advocate a socialist strategy that leans into capital or triangulates or accepts a middle path when the victory of capital is a victory usurping labor totally. There’s a ground that Sanders stands on which unfortunately yet remains unclear: it is axiomatic in an unchained capitalism to accept no abridgement of profits unless forced to do so by Federal Government degree, by the functions of an uncorrupted Constitutionally designed system of checks and balances.

Bernie Sanders’s, integrity, his purity of purpose, and the certainty by which he holds his diagnosis of what ails this country, would make it difficult for him to accept a politics of the possible, a politics of compromise, which would be absolutely necessary given the present conditions on the ground, so to speak, in the U.S.

The dilemma then is this: plutocratic conditions undermining any hope of egalitarian democracy withstood by conditions defining any redress of this travesty as “radical Leftist,” “socialist,” and, most tellingly, tried and failed with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Because surrounding conditions are thus so very far from transparent determination, Bernie Sanders is both blind to and observant of the words of a man who captured the spirit of the 1848 revolutions in Europe:

“Man makes his own history, but he does not make it out of the whole cloth; he does not make it out of conditions chosen by himself, but out of such as he finds close at hand.”

Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte

In the presidency, Bernie Sanders may inevitably be forced to be President Trump-like in forming a body of supporters that support his purity of purpose and eject those who don’t. Just as the devoted Trumpians have faith that President Trump is that stable genius who can force the world into his own mirror image, Bernie Sanders Bros may follow Bernie Sanders in that same path of allegiance.

There is no democratic order in either situation.

After Joe Biden goes through the President Trump and Twitterati gauntlet and reaches, perhaps, victory, we can be assured that he will not be convinced of his own stable genius but rather he will be humbled, not crushed, because Joe Biden has already been through so much crushing stuff, but rather left open to the wisdom of those who have the wisdom to select the many who will perform the wisdom we need to stage a comeback from the ruins of Donald J. President Trump.

That see sawing sentence has as much idealistic conviction and fervor as Bernie Sanders transmits at every rally, at every debate, at every interview. There are no bounds in his view as to how much agitation suffices to achieve his revolutionary goals. How energetically do we respond to a house on fire? A planet? And how radical does such a response seem to those who see no fire, who see no threat except in the Agitators?

This unevenly divided American reality that we are in has settled into two realities, each inconceivable to the other, the top 20% only able to see what Bernie Sanders represents as a threat. Too great a percentage of the remaining majority accept that verdict, though the real threats of global warming, an expanding precariat and now a virus pandemic seem sure to globalize in ways that capital never has.


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Dispelling the Darkness Fri, 03 Apr 2020 05:45:54 +0000 Published on “No light, but rather darkness visible.” – Milton, Paradise Lost It was always easier to pitch politics low and to the gut, but the cyberspace platforms have made it easier in a way that the writers of the Federalist Papers couldn’t possibly imagine. The unfettered nature of cyberspace almost makes it impossible to distinguish […]

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Dispelling the Darkness

Dispelling the Darkness

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“No light, but rather darkness visible.”

– Milton, Paradise Lost

It was always easier to pitch politics low and to the gut, but the cyberspace platforms have made it easier in a way that the writers of the Federalist Papers couldn’t possibly imagine. The unfettered nature of cyberspace almost makes it impossible to distinguish lies and bullshit, aptly distinguished by philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt, from true representations.

Our means to dispel the darkness so confounded, conditions on the ground yet remain to be understood.

Financialized, globalized capitalism, unfettered by government or by popular will, has derived so many Rube Goldberg variations on making all things wonderful for investors, brokers and every form of financial service that its circling within its own circle. So arcane and labyrinthine is the play of multi-trans-nationalized financialized capitalism now that it would be near impossible for a candidate for the presidency to unravel it in Facebookeze or Twittereze.

But of course, there is no impulse to do this; if it could be done, it couldn’t be done without killing the messenger. Thus, politics are different now as is the presidency and not because politicians are viler than ever, or the current president is some dark visitation not birthed in our own American culture. We have a sense that we can return to what we were before as soon as Trump is removed, he being, after all, an anomaly, without roots here, an unfortunate mutation from our historical norm.

The 50% or so who support him are likewise a deviation from that norm, he being a kind of Svengali who has mesmerized his followers who will wake up once his magnetism vanishes. This 50%, enchanted into believing that The Dark State is conspiring against their champion, The President, will return to, say, the clear rational sense of democratic governance offered by Mayor Pete, once any one of the Democratic candidates for the presidency actually wins the presidency in 2020.

This truly is not rational argument, referenced exposition, but narrative, storytelling, likely stories as postmodernity proposed our capacity to tie words to world in an always unreliable, indeterminate fashion.

Another story narrates that we were in so many ways from soup to nuts, Trump-low before Trump. The man is at ground zero in every conceivable way our humanity can be measured, but a brief survey of the last forty years shows us that we were at the bottom before him. He’s a native son, a natural product of this ferment, not an anomaly but what’s at the end of the road when a whole culture elevates profit as the only measure of growth.

A visiting Martian de Tocqueville would have no difficulty in attaching what Trump is to his surround. What this visitor might find strange is the fact that Trump didn’t appear sooner in our lives. True, the second-tier movie actor, Reagan, was a sign of the power of celebrity politics, and Clinton was no more selfishly, thoughtlessly libertine than had become the American moral norm. Obama, however, rose from a good place in the American soul. He made us feel good about our own goodness at a time when we were corrupting and trashing the world with the tentacles of our financial institutions. We blissfully fracked and drilled while we had clear evidence of what tragedy global warming would eventually create.

Trump’s swelter of hatred for Obama and his influence on us is reminiscent of the darkness of soul that fascinated Nathaniel Hawthorne, the hatred of Roger Chillingworth for Arthur Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter, a novel of America’s dark soul. The desire for revenge which Trump, Impeachment Redux, now seeks is set against an elapsing moral sense in the American soul.

This drama, a cultural psychodrama, a psychomachia in medieval terms, has nothing to do with political division and all to do with a battle of darkness and light in a country driven solely by its economics into the shadows of intentions and actions, words and images. The measure of enlightened civility and just mercy is not the Dow Jones or the S&P 500. That measure birthed this president. The mud that made him is ours. He didn’t invent the darkness.

The richest three Americans own more wealth than the bottom 50%. Climate science nailed down the necessity of going fossil-free at the same time as SUV and truck gas guzzlers were Americans favorite. Money is speech? Corporations are persons free to “speak” through their money? Citizens United will preserve our fragile electoral Republic? That part of the Voting Rights Act which keeps Southern states from reinstituting Jim Crow electoral laws invalidated by a 5-4 Supreme Court decision? Minimum wage not raised in 10 years because it doesn’t suit the bottom line of profit? Before Trump worked at undermining Dodd-Frank and its Volcker Rule, which blocked wild investment gambles from using bank deposits as collateral, Congress was already bending to the wishes of Wall Street. The Supreme Court overruled educational financial equity for public school funding in 1973, a ruling that has done much to cement the obscenity of our Grand Canyon of a wealth divide.

Are the Democratic Party primary candidates confronting, ignoring or burying themselves in this surround of clearly observable conditions? Who dispels the darkness?

We have yet to see whether Bernie Sanders has buried himself by using the term “Democratic socialist.” Whether he’s resurrected in the national elections, if he gets that far, remains to be seen. But it is amazing that he has tagged himself so when, firstly, he’s not what any political philosopher would call a Democratic Socialist, and secondly, he has made little attempt to educate his supporters as to what he means by his personal definition of this rubric. A Democratic Socialist advocates worker owned businesses generating a social ownership, not State ownership, of the means of production. Capital and investment are subject to a kind of social planning. In Social Democracy, which is what Sanders sees in Scandinavia, all sorts of interventions in democratic politics and capitalism are pursued. Pure Socialism pursues the goal of parity between economic equality and political equality, something not to be done within a market capitalist economics.

Each one of these, when fully explained requires a great, great deal of “mansplaining” defense in 2020 America, all of it subject to the review of the Twitterati. Sanders’s supporters have rallied to him despite the nebulousness of terminology but the young here outnumber older voters who connect differently with the term. Bernie’s socialism means free college tuition, health care, a government safety net and a wealth divide equalization. To older voters it’s a word always connected with Communism, the Soviet Union, collapsed because its economics didn’t work, and putting “free enterprise” capitalism under government bureaucracy. We all equally queue up for a loaf of bread. The resident meme here is that American freedom links to capitalism and so a destruction of one means a collapse in America First.

Bernie Sanders’ ties are to FDR and the New Deal, “old school” but less destructive signifiers than Democratic Socialist. He could finesse as much government intrusion in capitalism as FDR did without putting a red target on his back. Still, “socialism” has a panache with young voters and FDR’s New Deal is old analog history.

Elizabeth Warren is a “capitalist to the bone,” which is also confusing because one wonders what period capitalism she’s attached to? It can’t possibly be financialized globalized capitalism since Reagan which worked its devilish way to the Great Recession of 2008. This faux pas severs her from the young looking for anti-capitalist solutions. Is she a capitalist like Buttigieg, the American version of the businessman, Macron?

In effect, she is a pure Liberal, seeking corrections to the bad behavior of oligarchic serving capitalism. If she hadn’t gone Medicare For All and then retreated to something not very different than what the moderate Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Biden want, she could occupy a powerful moderate position. But she’s tagged with Bernie and at the same time can’t distinguish herself from the moderates. Ironically, confusion of her own making subverts the candidate with all the plans for everything.

However, if the words “It’s the Economy, Stupid!” still have validity, and I think they do, Warren is the one who can occupy Wall Street’s looting ways and make the corrections needed. If a quantum level divide in wealth is a root cause of political and social problems, then we need to decide who can best deal with this problem. And here Warren is the full tenured prof amid grad students. The change we need is changing the conditions that created Trump and these are economic at base. Bernie’s revolutionary change is neither transparently clear nor amenable to existing conditions. Warren has a proven, focused approach on the financial plays that have driven and continue to drive the incivilities and inequities of the whole society. What we have here is comparable to knocking down a house on fire or going in and putting the fire out.

Mayor Pete is indeed the American Macron. Meritocratic, business world success. All algorithms and systems analysis, and, as Warren put it sharply, Power Point and no plan. Most likely to face from Progressives what Macron is facing from his Yellow Vest and even more likely to find himself in Obama’s neutralized spot if he goes left in a way that Macron won’t.

Mayor Pete may pull some Republican voters who are appalled by Trump’s “temperament.” As the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee, Mayor Pete will be put on a long painful road of abuse before election day. What shape the Twitterati, Deep Fakes, and Trump the Monarch leave him in can only be imagined. Of course, Mitch McConnell, the eternal force in The Senate, will do all he can to stop any Democratic President from getting another term. Nevertheless, Buttigieg and Klobuchar would need a long apprenticeship before even knowing what Mitch was up to.

Joe Biden and Mike Bloomberg, variously politically experienced, will, unfortunately, be like Jonah to Trump’s whale. In fact, to young voters, they may seem Biblically ancient analog, and therefore crush the rising political enthusiasm of the young. Because so much of what is darkening on the horizon will fully appear to the young, their involvement now in tempering that forecast is paramount and a moral imperative we must all obey.

On the other than moral imperative side, we recognize that all of Trump’s supporters show up to vote. The tax breaks and Supreme Court appointments motivate many while others fall under the spell of their champion, Donald J. Trump. It is he, in this dark enchanted world of lies and bullshit, who, those so enchanted, believe can dispel the darkness of the illusionary Deep State.

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Vichy Democrats vs. the Master Voice Fri, 03 Apr 2020 05:37:42 +0000 Published on One reading of the present shows us a hyped economic reality but also political and cultural realities hyped so far that simulacra is quite easily digested and regurgitated as reality. In a world of simulacra, reality is not only a vacated former presence, like a former tenant, but unrecognizable in any reappearance. It’s a […]

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the Master Voice

the Master Voice

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One reading of the present shows us a hyped economic reality but also political and cultural realities hyped so far that simulacra is quite easily digested and regurgitated as reality. In a world of simulacra, reality is not only a vacated former presence, like a former tenant, but unrecognizable in any reappearance. It’s a war of every simulation of reality against every other similar displacement of reality.

And so, a feature of hyperreality is to declare and dismiss this reading as “fake news” or “disinformation.” More accurately, it would be called “fake/false interpretation.” This kind of reaction has legs now in this country, a tweet that flies viral to millions who tweet their own agreement.

Everything – meaning, too much — flies in a society of chaotic spectacle and spin, two outstanding problems in one sentence.

If I were to make a case that it’s too late to save ourselves from this low form of “conversation,” to use pragmatist philosopher Richard Rorty’s ideal of how we can communicate with each other, I’d begin with my description in the first paragraph of how we do “communicate.” Not at all, anymore. Or, much less than any time since paintings were drawn in the Lascaux Caves.

Our hyped economic reality, so in need of deep structural changes to an economic system that went off the tracks in the second part of the last century with the presidency of Ronald Reagan, is a foundational bottom to our hyperreality, if such could exist. And it can’t. Hyperreality has no bottom.

The “Voodoo” nature of that economics – shape a vanguard elite that could compete globally and win for all of us and raise all boats, a kind of Neoliberal utopia – was transparent but there was already an empowered top quintile made flush by profits in the Vietnam “conflict” that could obscure that transparency. I mean that we already had in place a power class arising from wealth that was benefitting from “Voodoo” economics, aka, the “efficiency of the market.”

However, such a move on the chess board doomed a middle-class democracy that had been formed after WWII, an electorally powerful class that tempered a wealth divide that had brought Europe to revolution more than once.

The unregulated rule of the market gradually wasted that middle-class democracy and left us with the wealth divide we have now, plus all the consequences of that divide. Not the least of these is the persisting economic immobility of those who were caught at the bottom two quintiles at the moment of the Reagan launch, namely people of color. They were at the bottom while the middle-class democracy went on, economic and resulting social mobility restricted to white males. What a Democratic Keynesian economics did was allow a government intrusion into private markets to relieve an economic distress of an efficient market theory. This was not a direct mending of the inequities long standing.

Neither did a neoliberal economics complete the reconstruction that had failed following the War Between the States but exacerbated a divide between the races as both mediums for advancement — having money or finding a pathway to having money – were denied brown and black skinned people in what had already become quite transparently a plutarchy.

Wealth and the power coming with wealth see no need in redistributing either. That’s not a planned conspiracy; it’s axiomatic and the guiding axiom is return on investment. Le Roi.

What we have had with the Democratic Party over the course of two Democratic presidencies is no direct confrontation with Le Roi primacy but instead a return to unfinished reconstruction of just mercy to people of color, now extended to sexuality and gender equity. It took some time for Bernie Sanders to make a connection between his attack on unbridled capitalism and such an attack’s positive impact on all marginalized groups. Whether he has convinced people of color of this we will discover with the primaries.

Regardless of how single focused Republicans are and how absent such is with Democrats, our politics are now immersed in the hyperreal, immersed in fabrications that suit our chosen economics as well as our politics, all nurtured in the Dark Matter of cyberspace.

The visions of any form of socialism, the end game of an identity politics, or the Vichy-like conciliations of the Democratic Party play sadly and weakly in a hyperreal more dramatically owned by narratives that make no attempt to tack to the winds of reality.

Thus, perceptions of how great Trump’s America is, how like a warrior fighting The Deep State Trump is, how coddled minorities are by Democratic Party governing, and how fearful we are of illegals flooding across the southern border and transforming very rapidly WASP identity into an inconceivable otherness own the hyperreal stage.

Standards of evaluation and judgment regarding how well the country is doing are targeted on how well investors and dividend recipients are doing. Reportages of unemployment, of wages, conditions of employment, retirement security, and benefits are assessed in relation to an absence of workers’ share of profits that has been in place since Reagan. Any movement from nothing to something is a mathematics not a victory.

For example, the Native American population is doing well in all of these from what perspective? Within what historical accounting? The same can be said if we take a woman’s or any racial minority’s perspective.

If a worker formerly had a secure pension, a wage beyond cost of living, employee paid health benefits, membership in unions representing their needs, and the security of knowing that redundancy wasn’t a “new” reality, and then all that collapses so disastrously that a political party can make it a small plank in their platform, run on its recuperation, and a present administration makes a sham show of the same to keep the precariat from revolt, can we say workers are now doing well?

How our economic state appears to us, that is, its phenomenal reality depends on who the “us” might be. It also depends on the ways in which the “appearance arts” have expanded because of the melding of online and offline representations. Such arts have become so forceful in such a short period of time that we remain stunned by a hyperreality that seems always to have been with us. Images replace discourse; narratives replace critical reasoning; opinions replace factual evidence.

We have gone, following Baudrillard’s explanation, from a common recognition of what is truly reflective of reality and what is not to the perversions of reality economically, politically and culturally practiced and personalized by Donald Trump, to an acceptance of his fabrications and reality pretenses to a simulacrum where something is represented/narrated that, in Gilles Deleuze’s words “bears no relation to reality whatsoever.”

Political hyperreal has expanded and deepened since the House’s impeachment went down in a total defeat in the Senate. President Trump is now on a “Baby’s Peeve Purge” campaign, transparently baby peevish Stalinesque, that has elevated his popularity.

“I’d be able to do it if I wanted I have the absolute right to do it,” the President said this week when asked if he had directed Attorney General Barr, his stooge, to intervene in the sentencing of Roger Stone, one of his operatives.

There is now little need to hide the claim to absolute power, or to worry about the Constitutionality of such claims. The President of the United States is going to punish those who impeached him and the expectation that this too will be accepted as “perfect” is unquestioned in the hyperreal in which we find our stunned lives.

The reasoning that “maybe people should pay for that,” meaning impeaching Trump, was expressed by the Press Secretary as if this kind of statement is okay with everyone. This was formerly back room, behind closed doors Nixonian vindictiveness. It is now so totally “perfect” that we just stand by, curious as to who our President will humiliate next in his made for autocrat’s messaging medium, Twitter. Neither Orwell nor Huxley imagined such a fast track from Master Voice to “We, the People.”

There is no fear of outrage in response but rather once again a rise in the President’s popularity, no fewer swarming to his rallies, the intensity of his magnetism increasing as he goes Full Autocrat.

If you juxtapose the Iowa Democratic primary ruin with the President’s Oprah/Ellen State of the Union Reality-TV show, you get a sense of how weak and failing, how enervated any opposition to the President is now and, judging by the candidates vying to run against him in the election, will continue to be right up to that election.

Perhaps it’s not the fault of a party arguing among themselves over “kitchen table” issues, the “Vichy” Democrats like Buttigieg and Klobuchar for example, staking out a middle ground, set against deep structural economic change Bernie. Putting “kitchen table” issues ahead of what Bernie wants is reminiscent of Vichy President Pétain’s call to put work, family and fatherland ahead of continuing to fight the Nazi invasion wherever, whenever and, however. This is a fight Democrats have not engaged in since FDR.

What is clear, however, is that both factions are campaigning in a reality already dismissed by the hyperreal in which Donald J. Trump triumphs.

He’s not alone there. And this take us to our cultural climate which has very steadily and quickly softened us to the point that truth is not the truth in this hyperreal, as Giuliana astutely affirmed, facts are just yours and not mine, opinions are self-authorized and beyond rational challenge, and reality is what I see and say it is in my bubble of “social” updating and awareness.

I don’t know what the middle ground politics is within this regime of diverse and divagate knowing. I call it “Vichy” because its an attempt to live cordially within an encompassing regime focused on the usurpation of democratic power.

Trump earned his spurs in the hyperreal long before he became president. He’s now formidable because his replacement of reality and truth with himself and his tweets runs parallel with the entire culture’s displacement of shared ways of knowing with personalized links, kinks and apps.

This personalization/privatization of traditional ways of knowing, from armchair rational approaches of philosophy to the scientific method, is, ironically, not personal at all but a manufactured product of both a politics and an economics that is threatened by orders of common understanding, much preferring, as does Putin, the disarray of “personalized” realities.

Cyberspace is a too efficient delivery system of such.

This cultural temper then is running in Trump’s direction, not toward any opposition. I don’t know what authority would stand now in this country as a guide to extracting simulacra from reality. Can evidentially based language be reasserted in defiance of tweets?

We are in a reality that is applauded as new because the old was just so old school, not retrievable and who would want to go back to analog reality? We are inured in our wealth divide and careless of its consequences to the same extent that we are inured of our alternate reality lives in cyberspace. The latter carries over into the former and replaces its evils with the fascinations of the Digital Hyperreal.

The political state we are in has been created by the movement of both culture and economics toward conditions it will be difficult to replace because the forces of those movements are ongoing and now impossible to re-imagine.

Sadly, we have difficulty in imagining ourselves in the world that Bernie envisions or the world that Greta Thunberg envisions, nor can we imagine ourselves back in a world unsettled by the disjunctions and chaos of cyberspace.

These failures in the present may not proceed into a future in which other and new conditions force us to burst the hyperreal bubble we are in.

It’s also possible that the “Vichy” choice as Democratic presidential candidate can describe an appeasing, modulated path that will stand against the spectacles and spin of the hyperreal and its voice, Donald J. Trump. I have my doubts.

To have any chance at all the “Vichies” must move rapidly to convince a dividend recipient class that they will not, as Bernie would, erode their dividends, nor will they do anything more than return our “free” enterprise system to what it was before Trump, his tweets and his mano a mano brand of foreign relations, which promises an accidental war from which even the “Industrial/Military Complex” won’t profit.

The “Vichies” must convince those invested in fossil fuels that their dividends will not end because we’ve rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement. And what stands as most difficult, they must convince on that hyperreal stage, which is our country now, a stage in which Donald J. Trump is the Master Voice, that there’s truth and reality in their “narrative.”

We must doubt, finally, given the description of our present surround presented here, whether a Vichy Democratic presidency will “cordialize” either the MAGA’s or the Bernie Bros.

More certainly, a re-election of Trump will make it more than difficult to salvage what is being economically, politically and culturally destroyed.


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Will There Be No Retribution? Fri, 03 Apr 2020 05:34:14 +0000 Published on “Rep. Adam Schiff lied to Congress and the American people with a totally made up statement about the president’s phone call. Will there be no retribution?” – White House Statement from the Press Secretary, Feb. 5, 2020 If you’ve missed all the signals, cues and clues that Trump is on a march to clear […]

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No Retribution?

No Retribution?

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“Rep. Adam Schiff lied to Congress and the American people with a totally made up statement about the president’s phone call. Will there be no retribution?”

– White House Statement from the Press Secretary, Feb. 5, 2020

If you’ve missed all the signals, cues and clues that Trump is on a march to clear the road of any obstacles to his autocracy, you need only to refresh your memory of Putin’s rise to see how this is done.

By 2008 it was clear that “a new autocracy now governs Russia. Behind a facade of democracy lies a centralized authority that has deployed a nationwide cadre of loyalists that is not reluctant to swat down those who challenge the ruling party.” (, Clifford Levy, “Putin’s Iron Grip on Russia Suffocates Opponents” The New York Times, Feb. 24, 2008))

Of course, there was a tradition in Mother Russia of retribution against all possible threats to autocratic rule. Stalin’s “Great Purge” between 1936 and 1938 removed such threats to the Gulags.

We have no such tradition in the U.S. but what we now face with Donald J. Trump is a kind of start-up autocratic enterprise, one of the great deals he is making us. And judging by his rise in the national polls after his Senate loyalists voted for him and his autocratic rule, this is a deal we’re ready to make. We may be in the same state of mind when it comes to democracy as the leader of Putin’s party attested in 2008: “`We are tired of democratic twists and turns,’ said the leader of Mr. Putin’s party in Nizhny Novgorod, Sergei G. Nekrasov. `It may sound sacrilegious, but I would propose to suspend all this election business for the time being, at least for managerial positions.’ (Levy)

Our path to suspending “all this election business” may be via a total foul up of the 2020 Presidential election, something that this week’s App count in Iowa gives us a glimpse.

Combined with all the liabilities of our cyberspace vote counting, we have our brand new displacement of fact with alternate facts, our mosh pit of our own personally validated Twitter declarations of Truth, our own President’s attacks on all words but his, the “legacy press” tied to a new legacy of falsehoods and fake news, and finally the certain presence of The Deep State, a cabal working in the dark corners throughout the government, except Trump’s White House, to keep the American people from keeping Trump in office for as long as he wants.

Payback is in the air. All over, high and low, far and wide. And it extends in different fashions beyond the crudities of Trump’s mafioso sense of vendetta.

An inestimable number of people are so enjoying the economic fruits of the Trump presidency that they are not motivated to study his nature. It’s a scorpion’s nature, that is, to sting. And the House of Representatives has acted in such a way, that is impeaching Trump, that he will sting them, probably at this moment conferring with Attorney General Barr as to how the sting can best be applied.

All manner of indicting claims will be made. National security, for instance, was jeopardized by the House’s impeachment. The whole proceeding was a Constitutional violation. Not recognizing that whatever Trump does is in the national interest because his re-election is in the national interest, something everyone Mr. Dershowitz’s knows is the case, is a direct attack on American interests. Someone needs to pay.

We’re all tuned in and ready to see how payback proceeds. If we follow the President’s tweets, we’ll get a roadmap of how he’ll proceed once he’s re-elected. Not to say, his scorpion nature won’t forego impulsive stinging right now, but the real deal of payback will go full stage at a second inaugural.

With the House of Representatives stopped cold in every way in the Senate trial and the Senate in Trump’s pocket, who’s to stop him from bringing charges against, say, Speaker Pelosi, House Managers Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler, Senator Schumer and everyone who stood in the Senate and sought his conviction? What does he have in store for Mitt Romney? Is Marie Yovanovitch still worrying when President Trump “will take her out,” or do “something about her?”

At very least, our President will assault his offenders on Twitter day and night, rallying his MAGAs to a revenge pitch, so that security will be an issue for his targets.

If he loses the election, which he says he can’t because while Nixon agreed to leave, he won’t. Payback for that refusal will probably come from our established Constitutional rule of law. Exactly as it emerged during the Senate impeachment trial.

A more certain payback will come from the MAGA bros who also will not allow Trump to be removed by the Deep State, the criminal House of Representatives, and the Coastal Elites who mock God and Guns but welcome Gays. If Bernie wins and Trump and the MAGA bros refuse to accept the win, the Bernie Bros will not be silent and stand by. Thus, these two factions will replace the Constitutional rule of law with rampaging tribes, each committed to their leader, each ready to pay back every unjust attack on their leader.

Of course, on his vendetta rampage, a re-elected Trump will multiply and magnify new impeachable charges. Scorpion nature once again. But will a vilified and humbled House of Representative be intact and sturdy enough to launch a new impeachment?

Another four years of a Trump White House would be something like releasing Wall Street from its post-2007 Great Recession shackles, which we’ve done, and expecting them not to repeat their crimes. Capitalism also has it scorpion nature, it being instinctual, or, axiomatic, if you wish, to reap profits, to sting the losers and reward the winners.

We didn’t see President Obama launching any payback against the Wall Street looters. It wasn’t in his bi-partisan hopeful nature to be harsh with those that he, personally, could bring back into a productive bi-partisan happy marriage.

It also hasn’t been in the Liberal/Progressive nature to seek payback because, after all, the sins of “free” enterprise must be carefully extracted from the wonderful efficiency of the market.

The “thinking” here is that the stings of capitalism on most of the population are not more than collateral damage. Both parties hold this view.

Neoliberals boldly stand behind “creative destruction” and warn of the perils of “moral hazards,” make no apology for a few winning and most losing. Liberals, on the other hand, are weepy and woke about the consequences of “free” enterprise enslavement of everybody but those you can’t see hidden in gated compounds. They have triage stations, bandages at the ready. They have beneficent philanthropies, protests and marches, charities and volunteering. They’ll leave their son’s Lacrosse match and come to your hovel and hold your hand.

As prominent in the days ahead as Trump’s vendetta march will be the DNC’s tactics to keep Bernie Sanders from winning the Primary and become that Party’s presidential nominee for 2020.

Not wanting Bernie as the Democratic Presidential nominee goes way beyond the calculus of whether he could win a national election or whether he could hold his own against the Reality-TV pro Donald Trump.

The Democratic Party has shied away from making the kind of attack Bernie has made on our free-wheeling, casino capitalism. And this economic Master Imperative of Market Rule has been the foundational progenitor of all our woes, although there’s a one to six degrees of separation between it and any of the symptoms with which the DNC are most absorbed.

Politics of identity, particularly Black Lives Matter, Women’s’ Rights, and LGBTQ Rights, would dissolve to the bone of our twisted human nature, if an empowering amount of wealth would be in the hands of these groups. A wealth and power that comes with wealth equity between men and women, any color and white, and any gender and cisgender would take us as far as can go, right to the gates of a dark twistedness that we cannot societally culturally and legislatively reach.

The wealth gap is only one degree of separation from a rethinking and recasting of our runaway Market Rule, a recasting that Bernie Sanders is pushing for. The Democratic Party is not behind this, as little convinced of the destructive significance of a severe wealth gap as is the Republican Party.

The Democratic Party has long shown that it believes that whichever direction the market chooses to go will be the path that the precariat should take as a path of advance. Every marginalized group will be legislated into the center established by Market Rule. We’ll all equally be casino capitalists.

This has been patently nonsense since Adam Smith. Absurd to believe that if the Congress were totally liberal and progressive and the President was also, everyone could be legislated into a social and political justice within the stochastic dispensations of casino capitalism.

What marks every brand of socialist is an understanding that such social and political justice cannot exist within a system axiomatically producing ever increasing economic inequality. The latter erodes the former. We live in proof of such.

The DNC doesn’t see this, but Bernie Sanders does. We can expect then that the more he wins delegates in Primary elections and the closer he gets to the 1990 pledged delegate votes needed to win the nomination, the more the DNC will push back

It seems clear that if the controlling force of the Democratic Party is fearful of Bernie’s economic revolution, perhaps only slightly less fearful than Republicans in the country, Bernie will be experiencing pushback from every quarter, both political parties as well as corporate America, leaving him his Bernie Bros.

Perhaps if Bernie can expose Trump in the debates for the total ignoramus he is, all those whose ideology is “Anyone but Trump” may cast their votes for Bernie. However, whether the “Anyone but a Socialist” voters, both Democrat and Republican, see Trump as a lesser of two evils, results change. We need to remember that Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania see Trump as their blue-collar hero. Bernie is his socialist message and that does not resonate blue collar/working class even in these union birthplace states.

There is a kind of retribution on not only Trump but the economics that supports his very existence that Bernie Sanders can deal out. Contemporaneously, we have every indication that if Trump wins a second term as president he will push his own retributive actions and thus further decimate the kind of opposition that Sanders and Warren and AOC represent and is supported for doing so, as he was in the Senate impeachment trial. And all that will be done amid Liberal cries for bi partisanship.

The post Will There Be No Retribution? appeared first on Joseph P Natoli.

The Muck We’re In Fri, 03 Apr 2020 05:30:08 +0000 Published on “Shifty Adam Schiff is a CORRUPT POLITICIAN, and probably a very sick man. He has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!” – Twitter, Jan. 26, 2020 “She’s a nasty, vindictive, horrible person.” – President Trump, speaking of Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi “It’s a totally upside-down […]

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“Shifty Adam Schiff is a CORRUPT POLITICIAN, and probably a very sick man. He has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!”

– Twitter, Jan. 26, 2020

“She’s a nasty, vindictive, horrible person.”

– President Trump, speaking of Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi

“It’s a totally upside-down world.”

– Senator Chris Van Hollen

Let’s just survey the muck in the impeachment field in which we are now:

The favor Trump wanted from Zelensky was please clean up the corruption in your country before I send you any aid money Congress wanted you to have;

Even if there were a quid pro quo, it would not amount to an impeachable offense but rather an example of Trump’s clever deal making ways on behalf of national security;

Rudy Giuliana, America’s Mayor, was once again fighting corruption in the Ukraine on behalf of national security while the Bidens were profiteering on behalf of family greed;

Abuse of power is more clearly shown by the House of Representatives than by President Trump insofar as they have launched an unconstitutional impeachment against his executive power;

The President did not abuse his power corruptly for personal and political gain because he told no one that was what he did, and if evidence and testimony conclude that was precisely what he did, the “Get Trump” partisanship of the Democrats corrupted such by conducting an unfair and unconstitutional impeachment process, for which they, specifically Adam Schiff, who “has not yet paid the price, on behalf of the country;”

Just as those responsible for initiating the Mueller investigation are now under investigation, Pelosi, Schiff, Schumer, and others should be investigated by Attorney General Barr’s office for jeopardizing national security and Constitutional authority;

Subpoenas for witnesses issued by the House should be ignored by right of Presidential executive privilege which can be extended to wherever a President in an impeachment inquiry wishes to extend it;

Failure to comply with a House subpoena should be sent to the courts and its appeals process and impeachment await those results, thus passing House impeachment responsibility to the judiciary. Failure to do so by the House subjects them to obstruction of justice charges;

Impeachment of a president undermines the voice of The People who have elected him and that election makes him Teflon proof against any charges that he is acting on his own behalf and not on behalf of The People;

The Congress needs to accept President Trump’s assertion: “I can do whatever I want as President” and so forget about their Constitutional oversight of the presidency

As press secretary Stephanie Grisham has said: The Democrats seem to hate Trump so much that “they’re willing to be on the side of countries and leadership of countries who want to kill Americans” and not on the side of the authoritarian leaders Trump admires;

We must heed the closing argument of lawyer Cipollone — “All you need in this case is the Constitution and your common sense. You know what the right answer is in your heart. You know what the right answer is for your country. You know what the right answer is for the American people – even though Trump was impeached for Constitutional violations and the American people are mired in the muck of contesting “right” answers.

About half the country will nod in agreement at the statements above, the other half will feel that the world has been turned upside down.

Common sense is thus common with some, uncommon with others, indicating that there is no “common” understanding anymore, although every opining soul claims to be making sense.

We have more words, written and spoken, all in a bitter battle with each other, all engaged in a retreat to photos and videos to escape such rival claims to the truth words make.

This is a foundationally dangerous place in which we are now because if we don’t make a commonsense pathway through the muck, we may be giving a “truly nasty, vindictive, horrible person” a second term as president.

President Trump has escaped so many clear impeachable violations of his office that we can expect such success will embolden him to mobilize all those who defend and swear allegiance to him to fight with him against his possible defeat in the 2020 presidential election.

The muck will thicken. The Senate’s failure to convict will almost immediately result in further impeachable actions by Trump. Like the scorpion on the back of the frog: it’s in his nature.

A fear that Trump will have another term keeps Senate Republicans compliant during this trial, causing them to make a deal, too ignoble to be called Faustian, with a presidential candidate whose followers vote for him and not for the party. The alternative to this selling of their souls is to convict him and run the risk of a Warren or Sanders presidency.

There is more fear on the Republican side in that possibility than fear of what a totally unleashed second term Trump may do to everything but their investment portfolio.

The liberal side of the Green is Money affiliate, a clandestine affiliation couched firmly within both parties, is caught between their investment returns and a thorough dislike of Trump’s “temperament.” Thus, what swirls in the muck is this: compounding dividends vs. vile tweets.

Accordingly, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are looming dangers to not only invested Republicans but Democrats as well. The coded messaging of moderation of Klobuchar, Biden, and Buttigieg is thus no more than a signaling to the invested class that they have no intention of following Sanders and Warren in their attack on our economic system.

Once again, the DNC is likely to do all it can to subvert both Sanders and Warren, estimating that it is not only big corporate money and every Republican that will launch against either but also the wealth class in its own party.

We are divided on the validity of this description because we are divided on our ways of knowing, adrift now on a collapsed pathway to common understanding.

In too many cases a common understanding of what is true and real stands opposed to personal interests. We don’t understand because it is not in our financial interest to understand.

Such would explain an otherwise baffling attachment to such an embarrassment before all nations and all of U.S. history that we have in this current president.

Nevertheless, it is not in the financial interests of the Many to settle into the muck that a destruction of common understanding has created. We need more description of our collapsed pathway to common understanding. In no more lethal way has Trump undermined us than in this undermining of our pathways to mutual understanding, our ways of finding meaning in not only words and images but in events, chance or otherwise, our ways of bringing the world and our own lives to meaning that ground shared understanding.

When all this is turned topsy turvy, as it is in the present Senate trial, we either wake up or fall into a disarray not historically seen before, a disarray that also endangers a planet much in need of immediate recuperation. A second term Trump would be a catastrophe causing event.

We are experiencing a collapse of our own storage and retrieval processing even though we believe that our digital memory capacity and our instantaneous retrieval of anything brings us closer to true meanings of our world and ourselves.

By this last, I mean that a continuous nano second flow of digital information in the present disables our own personal storage of meaning and understanding. We’re being delivered stuff we can neither store nor sort. We leave the retrieval of this superfluity to a digital search engine, Google or Alibaba, for instance, replacing our own efforts to retrieve a cohering and developing depth and breadth of meaning and understanding.

Expecting cybertech to order its own disordering productions is comparable to looking to technology to remedy the planetary destructions it has created. However much methane cow farts could produce it would be difficult to imagine a global warming as we now are experiencing as a result. The pre-Industrial world was not heading for global warming. Plague, starvation, wars, enslavement, and septicemia were the past’s doom makers. Losing oneself in cyberspace would not have aided us in any of these real world threats to life.

It seems clear by now that we need to depend less on our tech ability to flood us with more and more speech as well as our much-heralded AI and robotic “mentality” to classify and retrieve it and much more on our own human intellectual and imaginative capacities.

In short, we need to interpret what is said and written in able ways so that meaning can be extracted and understanding result. And this is a development of our minds, not computer memory and speed.

Education comes first. Not an education guaranteeing semi-literacy by which one can read words but must look to “Influencers” as to what those words mean.

In a culture of volume and repetition, of bombarded rants launched in cyberspace, previously with very limited real-world access, semi-literacy is a greater danger than total illiteracy.

Jacques Ellul pointed out that illiteracy was protective against the arguments of power whereas semi-literacy put you at the mercy of power. I didn’t buy that argument when Elllul made it in Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes some fifty years ago because as an American, I saw no power so invasive that my own mind couldn’t defend itself. I see now that the manner of demagogue assault Trump has launched thrives in a muck previously inconceivable. His invasion of our understanding is a production of a post-truth temper and all its suspicions, all these now meshed with the rising anger of those our financialized, globalized economics had left out of the game.

All events since Trump took office tell us that we had not educated ourselves to a necessary resistant level, our minds offering no antidote to a confluence of demagoguery, precariat anger, an alternate online reality and its delivery systems, growth measured by profit alone, and profit driving education away from the processes of critical understanding. We can no longer deliver ourselves from the muck.

I could not envision a Reality-TV celebrity as President of the United States demagoguing endlessly on something called Twitter, a venue on which he has 55 million readers/followers/disciples. Both the new anti-foundational, anti-any authority outside one’s own voice plus the circuitry to disperse those voices like an endless cacophony of geese flying overhead brought Donald J. Trump to the stage.

With him has come an assault made by presidential power on what anything means, queuing up the entire Republic Party behind what this new Humpty Dumpty says anything is to mean.

It’s not the diversity and the differences it brings, which Trump assails, that has brought us to a chaos of personal meanings and understanding but the axiomatic advances of a dividing economics.

The fluidity of wealth which had previously generated mobility of all sorts, not least being economic, has now solidified on two levels: one a diminishing share of wealth and power of wage earners and the other, a rising share of wealth and power of those invested in the market and who derive their income from such investments.

This solidifying has corrupted meritocracy by preparing and supporting the already wealthy while disabling from such competition those already in a precariat condition.

What we can observe online and offline is that some percentage of Americans are flying the banner of privileged identity, that identity, white. The preference is for an assimilation of difference into cultural preferences regarding religion, ethics, politics, economics, family, marriage, work, play, and so on.

All this has run head on to a rising diversity and heterogeneity in the culture, as well as a political party devoted to identity politics, making the issue of equal justice extended to whatever differences come to our attention paramount.

In this divisive muck, what resident power does is direct the animosities and grievances of the former faction toward the latter group. Resident power is grounded in resident wealth; the politics of such are narrowed to a matter of taxation or burden on itself. Equal justice demands economic justice and so the diversity that some applaud, others, namely resident power, see only as costly to themselves. Power to protect privilege diminishes as power is extended to all others.

There is a questioning of the fairness of our economic system going on, but it is not being conducted by resident wealth nor by those who conflate political freedom with our “free” enterprise system.

Even though the precariat crosses party lines, those committed to standards the Tea Party had announced do not fight for change in the economic system. What is conservative is this politics of not opening the roads to wealth and power to those who have neither. What is conserved is always a defense against sharing.

The newly arriving to this country, those already long marginalized economically because of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, those seeking an efficient ladder to climb, incensed by its lack and the hardened path of economic mobility, cannot be corralled into a party defending resident wealth and the power that attends it.

If this description of the muckiest elements of the muck in which we find ourselves has any validity, the question to be asked is how to regain ways of knowing that will lead to a commonly shared grasp of meaning and thus a commonly shared understanding?

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Who’s Speaking? Fri, 31 Jan 2020 13:29:07 +0000 Published on “A wise old owl once lived in a wood, the more he heard the less he said, the less he said, the more he heard, let’s emulate that wise old bird.” Flann O’Brien, At Swim – Two–Birds Who’s speaking, writing, texting, posting, messaging, emailing, and tweeting? The answer given now to who is speaking […]

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Who’s Speaking

Who’s Speaking?

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“A wise old owl once lived in a wood, the more he heard the less he said, the less he said, the more he heard, let’s emulate that wise old bird.”

Flann O’Brien, At Swim – Two–Birds

Who’s speaking, writing, texting, posting, messaging, emailing, and tweeting?

The answer given now to who is speaking would be everyone.

Progress has been made. A “going forward,” and judging by how often politicians and CEO’s refer to “going forward” in an optimistic manner, it seems that the present has a good grasp of what’s ahead.

We haven’t stopped advancing since the steam engine so we can reckon that every voice being posted, if heard by only a few or thousands of Facebook friends, or loyal Twitter or podcast followers must also be an advance. We’ve taken speech out of the Dark Ages and democratized it.

What we have done, or technology has done to us, is democratize mind, intellect, thought, brought what was selective and hierarchical to an “all minds equally speaking” status Anyone would have a difficult time in authorizing his or her own voice as more equal than other voices. We can no longer recognize any superiority of one speaker over another which means that we can no longer recognize any quality of mind and its knowing as better than any other, certainly not our own.

In a way we haven’t so much democratized our voices as privatized them, brought them into a melee out of which no voice representing common understanding is authorized. All voices from the Tower of Babel attract their own audiences. Thus, privatization here refers to a turning from “promoting the General welfare” to promoting personal expressions of personal welfare, the “General welfare” conflated into personal welfare.

This is disastrous, hardly any sort of advance except for enterprises that seek to avoid any prosecution by a public tribunal that applies commonly acknowledged standards of judgment. Those standards are now blithely challenged by their inverse without public outcry. That public outcry now lost in a whirlwind of personal authorizations of truth and reality.

The drama of that disaster is now visible in the Senate trial of President Trump.

Mind is that crucial frontier a plutarchic order made possible by a ridiculously transparent looting economics needs to own. We see ownership of thought in different forms in classics by Aldous Huxley and George Orwell, the former ownership of mind via soma tablets and genetic wizardry, and the latter by that bugaboo of the American mass psyche, Big Brother. Cyberspace and its social media provide us with a new tactic: democratize all voices and reduce interpretation and understanding to a “whatever it means to me personally” status.

Flann O’Brien’s wise owl listens and the more he listens the wiser he gets. Unfortunately, listening isn’t in its heyday. After all, why should you listen to someone else if it can’t possibly affect your opinion? Not a problem listening to friends who agree but those who don’t have no authority to overrule your own opinion.

Neither do you share with them a common way of knowing, a shared path to understanding growing from a shared recognition of how words are interpreted, how meaning emerges from such interpretation. The President’s “perfect” phone conversation, so perfect that it’s the basis of the present impeachment trial, Democrats arguing that its perfection lies in its corruption.

But even if you wanted to be like the wise owl and shut up and listen, where do you start listening and to whom do you listen?

Probably right now the shortest route to a mental asylum is keeping a 24/7 watch on Twitter. A slower route would be strolling down Facebook. Out of its own mouth: “Reddit is home to thousands of communities, endless conversation, and authentic human connection.” And in a retrograde cave man tradition, pictures say so much more than words, especially if emoji are replacing words: “As of January 14, 2019, the most liked photo on Instagram is a picture of an egg.”

Two deterrents to true advance:

Firstly, we don’t listen because there’s too much to listen to and no longer any commonly accepted means to separate lies and bullshit from what will make us wise.

Secondly, we have no need to seek a common way of knowing. The axiomatic need of capitalism to replace the public with the personal has finally extended to interpretation and understanding, reducing both to personal recognition and determination. You have your way of knowing. I have mine. What is common is just common, like public transportation, schools, libraries, broadcasting, health care, lands.

This collapse in recognized ways of knowing may be an advance for our casino form of capitalism where chance replaces any rational approach, but we now see clearly that what we’re advancing to is a planet uninhabitable for humans.

Australia hasn’t stopped burning as the first decade of the 21st century breaks all records for temperature rise. About half of the American population sees that a man representing a low form of humanity is the President and may, tragically, be elected again in 2020. The other half sees a champion who, if elected again, will bring all those miscreants who impeached him to justice.

With no way for either side to convince the other that their way of knowing what’s going on is true, we are advancing at equal speed to climate disaster and to civil war.

Everything said and written is done by someone. The speaker is either an observer or a product. What logically follows then if we’re dealing with an observer is the question: Who, where, when and how is the speaker? We perform a kind of human physiography.

If a speaker is an observer, we need to ask is she, he or gender-neutral a present speaker or a voice from some period in the past? If it’s voice from past now transmitted in the text we are reading, how much do we know of the context of that voice? And, more problematic, how much of our own contextual understanding misinterprets a vanished context?

If the present, where in the present? The upper east side or Lennox Avenue? Bloomfield Hills or Livernois Avenue, Detroit? Culturally diverse New York and California or not diverse at all Montana and New Hampshire? What economic quintile is the speaker in and how long has the speaker been there? Is the speaker white or minority? Male, female or LGBTQ? Young or over 40 or over 60? Meritocratic achiever or drop out? Wage earner or living on investments or living on the charity of others and the State? Physically and mentally sound or challenged by both? Is the speaker informed and knowledgeable in a recognized credentialled way or self-authorized?

We can multiply areas of difference beyond these, the extent proving nothing if one believes that all such differences are cancelled by a level playing field of opportunity and by a reasoning faculty that can override all such differences. Afterall, Steve Jobs only attended college for six months. That example resonates in the American imaginary. The playing field is equal for those who get in there and compete – a ruinous meme.

If, however, the conditions you are in are those that Bernie Sanders describes, our playing field is much like how a Monopoly board looks in the last minutes of the game, then the level playing field is an ideal not brought to reality.

Here’s Bernie:

“During the last two years the wealthiest 14 Americans saw their wealth increase by $157 billion. This is truly unbelievable. This $157 billion INCREASE in wealth among 14 individuals is more wealth that is owned, collectively, by 130 million Americans. This country does not survive morally, economically or politically when so few have so much, and so many have so little.”

How uneven the board we are playing on is can be seen from a slightly different angle:

The net worth of U.S. households and non-profit organizations was $94.7 trillion in the first quarter of 2017, a record level both in nominal terms and purchasing power parity. If divided equally among 124 million U.S. households, this would be $760,000 per family; however, the bottom 50% of families, representing 62 million American households, average $11,000 net worth. From an international perspective, the difference in US median and mean wealth per adult is over 600%

On the matter of reason as a means to take us out of the bubble of conditions we are all in but differently, huge or small difference, we need to consider that our reasoning is done inside and not outside our bubbles.

Consider our bubble of conditions as reality frames, a framing of our being in the world from within which we observe and speak. More specifically, they are representational frames by which I mean how we represent what we experience is a matter of connecting word or image to world. How we do that depends on how we are positioned, on all or more of the differences mentioned.

This “chain of signification,” connecting world to meaning through signifiers, like words, fashions the boundaries of our realizing, a process of making the world real to ourselves. How we reason is subject to this process, not lord of it, not a way out, not some Archimedean leverage point outside ourselves that moves us against ourselves.

Nietzsche referred to reason as a strumpet, working both sides of the street, a shill that could be bought, a defense or offense available to the highest bidder. You could therefore trace any so-called impeccable reasoning to power in a surround that made it so. Not true of 1+1= 2 or the laws of thermodynamics or what effect gravity will have on us if we jump out of a high window.

However, none of this has ever carried over to those discourses from political and economic to psychological and sociological where the subjectivity of our life-worlds packages reasoning within itself. The idea that our sciences humaines are covered by our scientific method transfers objectivity’s reasoning methods inappropriately to our resistant, irrational life-worlds, each having its own reasons.

The American cultural imaginary has now brought into everyday life both the relative nature of what any speakers says as well as the strumpet like nature of reasoning itself.

You could see it as a sudden epiphany or a Dantean sudden entering of a dark wood or a Millennial post-truth advance like being “Woke” or finally entering a #MeToo world or one where the LGBTQ community is finally let in.

What we can observe all around us is that a rather sudden absence of an authorized means of establishing what’s real and true and what’s false and unreal has set our order of things, in every corner in of society and government in which order is a sine qua non, on its head.

We are into a politics of suspicion where what anyone says is subject to a personal kind of scrutiny wherein only our own opinions do the scrutinizing. Falling back on the security of our own opinions is not then an impossible thing to imagine. The temper of our uncertainties regarding our ways of knowing has pushed us to where we are.

Donald J. Trump has made good use of our suspicions regarding what anyone says. Quite simply, if someone says something that gets in the way of his advance toward autocratic rule, he says “fake news.” The culture is now prepared to accept that because, as I say, its riddled already with suspicions.

Why Trump’s speech is not suspicioned takes us to the matter of everything being said is said either by an observer or by a product, a manufactured mind. Observers become products when the way they real-ize, or connect word and world, is pre-fabricated by already existing powerful voices and forces in the culture.

Surrounding conditions of being in the world may not cohere and unite under the banner of critical reasoning but they do under the banner of power. In other words, the surround is never of equal forces but rather hierarchical, sometimes quite simply bifurcated. Us/Them, Our facts/Your facts; Our Reason/Your Reason. We are reminded, as Jean Renoir writes, that “the real hell of life is that everyone has his reasons

Our economics has fashioned such a divided world so that the “Influencers” are those seeking to preserve their influential positions and who also have the means in a spectacle and spin, volume and repetition culture to move “reasoning” in their direction, to their benefit.

We forge a chain of signification by which and through which signs all around us come to meaning, but within a hierarchical arrangement of influence, we don’t choose the meaning as we also don’t choose the signs. A semiotics drawn by an uneven distribution of power is set against us. Nothing can remain as it is but must be reduced to a sign that can be invested with a meaning helpful to our economics, our Market Rule, by which I mean here helpful to the bottom line.

Think of your car. It’s a sign of your prosperity. Or not. Or your home. Or your clothes. Why do the wealthy all grab the same signs conveying what their life means? If there was the kind of unique personal choice and so on, why wouldn’t we have some signs other than boats, planes, mansions, Mercedes? Why do you golf, sail, ski, play the tourist to the hilt, have country club and Mason membership? Aren’t these packaged lifestyles that signify in ways that occlude what choices you might have made? Who manufactured the signs of your wealth, or withheld any signing of your precariat life except to sign it as losing?

Your kid is a sign that must be brought within the signage of wealth, within a chain of signification that says your kid is special. The expensive pre-pre-kindergarten must be a sign of your progeny’s future dominance in our competitive world. Such privileged prodigy needs to play Lacrosse, study Chinese at the age of four, listen to Mozart in the crib, invent algorithms, and get into an Ivy and pledge for Skull and Bones.

The precariat cannot fulfill this signage of dominance and so their anxieties and fears have a dimension other than strictly economic.

In short, the chain of signification, how words come to meaning, is forged outside our lives of personal choices in such a way that the choices benefitting whatever way the wealth/power distribution tends become the most attractive to us.

If you have a situation in which a significant middle class tempers the extremes of both poverty and wealth, then the influence in any direction is something of a wash. With a wealth divide as serious as in the U.S., the needs of plutocracy, which are to preserve and defend a privileged lifestyle, shape a surround favorable to those needs.

If the surround is already muddled by a hyperreality both online and offline that confuses what’s real from what’s simulated, resulting from the needs in consumer capitalism to stimulate consumption and repress resistance, then who’s speaking is driven out of a human life-world, a subjectivity, into what Baudrillard calls “the desert of the real, into the arms of images, spectacles and signs. The speaker speaks the power fractures of the surround, or as Baudrillard states “the subject “becomes a pure screen a pure absorption and re-absorption surface of the influent networks”

Because we as speakers have less voice that is our own than the voices we parrot and at the same time are more certain of the uniqueness of our own voice, the gods must surely be laughing.

Someone or some narrative we adopt as our own speaks for us.

A celestial entity speaks through the faithful. A political ideology or an elegant mathematics or economics, an aesthetic, a stoicism or epicureanism, a Rational Choice Theory, or an elegant Market Rule speaks for us.

Because we’re suspicious of the thoughts of others, of complexities of thought responding to the tangle of conditions we are in, we now seek relief in one Master Voice, one speaker conducting a monologue of self-interest we can make our own.

In 2016, both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders found two different ways of speaking in the language of Vox Populi.

Bernie chose the high road of reasoning. He critically analyzed problems and then proposed what needed to be done. Trump chose the low road of passion and kept those on the burn 24/7 on Twitter, the perfect vehicle for a culture already fragmenting thought into various short hand enabled by cell phones. Trump sent messages that needed no interpretation. He told people to fear what they already feared. Bernie, on the other hand, needed to convey via instruction a view of democratic socialism not to be feared. Reasoning would be effort, but the passions Trump incited were effortless.

You would think that with the clear illustrations of the disasters of global warming as well as the illiberal results of plutocracy, that the Vox Populi would adopt reason and rise above passion. Because, however, Trump has replaced the neoliberal narrative of the Republican Party with fear, hate, grievance, and terror, subjectivities have not been shaped by arguable narratives but by irrationalities of the passions.

As long as Trump speaks the language of the passions and the conditions of the surround do not diminish the hyperreality that our economics nurtures, Trump continues to represent what too many voices have become. We have an entire Republican Party that speaks Trump.

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Resolutions and Obstacles/2020 Fri, 17 Jan 2020 06:07:54 +0000 Published on In sociology and economics, the precariat (/prɪˈkɛəriət/) is a social class formed by people suffering from precarity, which is a condition of existence without predictability or security, affecting material or psychological welfare. The term is a portmanteau obtained by merging precarious with proletariat. – Wikipedia Here are some New Year resolutions, individual and on behalf of society and […]

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Resolutions and ...

Resolutions and …

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In sociology and economics, the precariat (/prɪˈkɛəriət/) is a social class formed by people suffering from precarity, which is a condition of existence without predictability or security, affecting material or psychological welfare. The term is a portmanteau obtained by merging precarious with proletariat.

– Wikipedia

Here are some New Year resolutions, individual and on behalf of society and the planet, vital and quaint, I have come up with as deterrents to societal incivility and downright hostilities to mitigation of global warming:

–not to use plastic bags and plastic wrap, and curse Styrofoam’s existence;

— trade fossil fuel stocks for alternative energy stocks;

— compost the organic waste and keep a vegetable and bee loving flower garden;

— don’t drive a vehicle with an internal combustion engine;

— lay rail track down for passenger trains on all Interstate highways;

— stop watering lawns in the Southwest;

— use a bicycle if you must travel less than ten miles to shop;

— shop at Whole Foods when you see people of all colors shopping there;

— read long narratives with many characters and many ideas floating like balloons;

— read them to your kids;

— send your kid to the local public schools;

— take public transportation;

— look up from your phone when talking to a neighbor, or a stranger;

— don’t place your cell phone beside your dinner plate;

— vote for people who put the mitigation of global warming at the top of their agenda;

— unionize gig economy employees;

— buy from employee owned enterprises;

— march against long term renters being kicked out by Airbnb exploiters;

— keep a vegetable garden;

— get profit out of pharmaceuticals, education, prisons, clean water, and war.

Fallen as we are into all manner of tribal allegiances these resolutions can be variously dismissed as quirky, idiosyncratic, unreasonable, gentrified favoring, archaic, analog, not representative of national diversity, obnoxious, too Liberal, too Green, too socialist, too mindless of God, Guns and Gays, suppressive, patriarchal, insufficiently post-truth, more than 280 characters, non-Millennial, stuffy and conservative, trivial, ridiculous, unnecessary, arbitrary, fake news, strange, and decidedly anti-“free to choose” and “free enterprise.”

Most of them, however faulted they may be, would be difficult for most to oblige.

For instance, if you’re working two jobs and your partner is working two jobs and you have at least two kids and therefore don’t have any time to read the above resolutions no less follow them, it doesn’t matter if they’re oddball resolutions or you might like to follow them if you were at liberty to do so. The state of the American precariat class is overloaded with directives, coming from both within and without, demands placed upon them that they cannot fulfill. Relief, perhaps distractions that are easy and costless, immediate and without requirements, seem preferable to yet more imperatives as to what ought to be done.

Alongside these feeling of angst, anomie and collapse of basic trust, a kind of despairing nihilism, there is a relief that comes with all assaults flung at an Invisible Tyranny darkening the precariat existence. It seems clear by now that Donald J. Trump provides such relief in a way that Mr. Biden, for instance, does not. The precariat is way past following an old man back to a past that is like revisiting the scene of the crime.

Maybe the gentrified, meritocratic and dividend recipient, leisure class elite will read and follow the resolutions. Maybe this elite class will do the global warming mitigation for all of us, including the precariat class. Perhaps a wealth class can replace and represent the remaining 80% of the population in the climate change arena, just as their financial success does so much for the rest of us economically.

Some of these resolutions, however, require that the top 20% would have to consume at Spartan levels. If they do have to do that, what good is it having a lot of money? It’s a good question, perhaps not good in a global warming mitigating sense, but sensible in a capitalist way.

Realistically, however, one wonders what the benefits to you are when moguls yacht around the Med, or add another gated compound to their collection, or spend a half million dollars to get their offspring into an Ivy League school? If they don’t use plastics etc. and 80% of the population does use plastics etc., is there an overall, national, societal, humankind benefit? And why, one asks yet again, would the monied class give up all the perks money can do for them? Why give up blue chip stocks, poisonous to the planet yet paying wonderful dividends because in say, forty years, or maybe twenty, or maybe by century’s end or really some indefinite time, the companies you own stocks in will have destroyed human habitation on the planet Earth?

It seems that money itself, earned and possessed in planet and people destroying ways and not possessed sufficiently by those suffering from the condition of precarity, and the economic system that structures this condition is a grounding obstacle to fulfilling our resolutions to save ourselves and a planet on which we humans can continue to live.

II. Obstacles

The resolutions are difficult to follow given we have embedded as cultural memes:

Growing the economy at the expense of a habitable planet;

Applying diversity as a sine qua non requirement for all institutions and enterprises;

Seeking direct democracy through cyberspace representation, or enabled by cyberspace;

Accepting technology as intrinsically beneficial to people and planet, and its leaders as magister ludi.

The growth of profit as the only form of growth homo sapien sapien should care about has become a fatal obstacle to fulfilling our resolutions. We have in this obstructed our own understanding of the plight we are in.

If we put work and workers before profit and profiteers, we are not eliminating either work or livable wage. Worker owned enterprises, like Mondragon in Basque Spain, pay salaries, split profits and invest in other start-up worker owned enterprises. There is no law that says only a shareholder economy enables an electoral democracy. Every member of a worker co-operative can vote and uphold democratic principles. Such an economic situation, in fact, preempts the establishment of a plutocratic order in which a precariat class is one result and a “creative destruction” of the planet another. Rather than being pressured to increase profits to shareholders, worker cooperatives coordinate profit and worker quality of life as well as the environment in which workers live. There is no such relationship between profit and consequences other than increased dividends in a shareholder world.

The question of diversity, of all manner, is itself crucial to the capacity of a culture and the societal and government order emerging from that culture to unite in saving a human habitable planet. Right now, no such unity exists, divided as we are on the issue of diversity itself. Having a president who tweets divisiveness by rallying some of the population to arm itself against others he declares as enemies is certainly an obstacle to achieving the unity of purpose we need currently. A unity that can be achieved through, with or beyond diversity is challenged by a notion that diversity is destroying a unity achieved in the past. Both notions, oddly, vestiges of the Romantic age and both are problematic when it comes to creating a unified response to global warming and the economic system fueling it.

President Trump has led the Republican Party to a more open stand against diversity than they revealed prior to his presidency. Liberals and Progressives stand behind diversity to the degree that it has become a standard by which everything is to be measured. Trump is engaged in undermining the established view that a just society should represent all its people, regardless of their differences. He is using our courts of law and our legislation to confine equity and justice to a chosen identity, an identity that about 40% of Americans accept as privileged.

This is patently tyrannical and if continuing will destroy that republic Franklin urged us to keep well before we lose a habitable planet.

The view held by Liberals and Progressives that diversity is intrinsically beneficial to any order and therefore necessary to achieve the solidarity needed to save the planet has its own troubling issues. We have neither historical nor philosophical proof that the extreme diversity of knowing and ways of knowing alive in the country today lead to unity. We are divided on the issue of diversity itself.

For example, matters become arguable when public schools are selective based on entrance exams and not on proportional diversity representation. Denying public schools this selectivity would leave such selectivity to private schools who are selective not only in terms of test scores but income. You don’t pay six figures to go to Bronx High School of Science, or Brooklyn Tech, or Stuyvesant and so you are given a chance to advance not by money but by quality of mind. If, for instance, you went to the poor man’s Harvard, Brooklyn College, as Bernie Sanders did, before it moved to open admissions in 1970, you went there not because you couldn’t get into an Ivy – if all that mattered were grades and test scores — but because you couldn’t afford an Ivy. Selectivity in public education therefore is a way to foster social and economic mobility.

Why aren’t Blacks and Hispanics proportionally represented in the elite public schools? Ronald Reagan would have had to reverse his Voodoo economics and push wealth downward way back in 1980 for that proportionality to now exist. But he didn’t. And while Republicans push to keep the wealth divide, they enjoy in place, Democrats have lost themselves in dealing with symptoms and not the disease. Ironically, it’s Bernie Sanders who has his eye on grounding causation.

A few grounding issues:

Are mind and talent distributed, even in the best cultural conditions, in line with proportional levels of diversity? Is the notion of equality a narrative that a grossly unequal society needs? If such conditions supported all without prejudice and without any noticeable wealth divide, it seems that diversity itself would be, if not unnoted, no longer an issue. The ideal of equality erases by its very existence any recognition of difference. The reality opposing this ideal is that we do indeed see difference – check all human history — at the same time we are envisioning an ideal, which opposes it, but damn hard to see – check all human history.

Whether societies survive longest or achieve a stable order by being homogeneous rather than diverse, and whether diversity, brought to a certain level, is disruptive of a coherent, continuous order are disturbing and unresolved matters. What we can see all around us are blossoming differences, an increasing intense hostility to this and a vanishing vision of unity beyond all diversity. We are thus far from uniting behind any resolutions to regain our lost egalitarian vision as well as regain the conditions that make life on this planet habitable for us.

The short of the long on direct democracy through cyberspace: The People’s voice, vox populi, can be heard and read every Nano second on social media. Shouts of a rattled mob. President Trump’s 120 tweets in one day most likely hasn’t done much to give us a “direct democracy.” Our real world, fragile republic has now suddenly become so much harder to keep as a result of all this.

The short of the long regarding technology’s intrinsic beneficence: This is a question to be answered in the coming warming days, weeks, months and years. As far as the genius of Gates, Zuckerberg, Bezos, Musk and TED, read Einstein’s 1949 essay, “Why Socialism?” and ask yourself what tech genius mind now possesses such erudition beyond algorithms, such a philosophical habit of mind? There is an instrumentalizing of reason in cybertech that exceeds anything before, a kind of narrowness represented by 0/1 or Boolean algebra. I seriously doubt this will bring relief to the precariat or the planet.

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What Plutarchy Nurtures Wed, 15 Jan 2020 11:49:24 +0000 Published on Maybe you spend most of your time online or wish you could because cyberspace was here to greet you at birth, and it’s been family to you in a way that the analog world can’t compete.You like Nature, the video game. And so on. Or maybe you have a richer social life online than […]

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What Plutarchy Nurtures

What Plutarchy Nurtures

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Maybe you spend most of your time online or wish you could because cyberspace was here to greet you at birth, and it’s been family to you in a way that the analog world can’t compete.You like Nature, the video game. And so on. Or maybe you have a richer social life online than offline. You have so many friends on Facebook that when you die, a real-world action, you’ll live forever as a Facebook friend. Or, maybe events in the real world like impeachment, planetary warming, war, and rising incivility in your surround has you retreating to cyberspace, where you only blood in a video game. Or just maybe you make a very good living spending your work week online, and you wish your family was an online family to enjoy your success with you.

As far as society and all its institutions, including government, is concerned, none of this is a good thing. Replacing the real with simulacra and reality with hyperreality is shit. It’s a serious derangement of mind.

The question then is why are we so effed up that we leave the Earth behind and dwell in cyberspace?

I’d say it’s the corruption of things by plutarchy, that is, money and power creating the conditions of our discontent, the conditions that have us going into cyberspace and going up our own rear ends, which is a rude and crude way of saying we gaze into our own navels and consult with ourselves. We may think we’re surfing other minds but it’s our own mind at the controls circling endlessly within the coordinates own minds have gotten before it closed the doors on the outside world. Tragically for all of us, we now have a president who processes the world in exactly this way.

There’s an easily imagined reason why more profit is made if your “Everyday American” surfs his or her own navel, old time “navel gazing” — profits already made by the few are saved from erosion if the many are so occupied. If you got off your daily cyber soma tablet of endless, mindless distractions, over stimulation and repression of what might spoil your “Wokeness,” you’d wind up noting the conditions of the real world, i.e. a society pitching headfirst into a moshpit of violence, and a planet we’re destroying as we “grow” and “progress.” You’d go from stunned to angry and devote yourself to doing something a la Greta Thunberg.

Everything you’ve repressed in order to avoid “negative attitudes,” threats to your Wokeness, and the micro-aggression of reality would visit you. What is this Wokeness other than a way to feel good about your prettified lifestyle by showboating how much you feel for un-prettified lives? Is this a wisecrack thrown out against deep Buddhist enlightenment, or Aristotelian Eudaimonia or Christ’s Beatitudes? A fast track to salvation or Jungian individuation?

If you weren’t over-stimulated to the point of being stunned, repressed to obliviousness, you’d be with Elizabeth Warren demanding deep structural change, and with Bernie Sander demanding a totalizing revolution. In brief, you’d be a danger to our Wild West economics – all growth is of profit – and threatening our market efficiency meme.

If you don’t think both Warren’s and Sander’s true creative destruction of the private health insurance, Big Pharma, and fossil fuel industries have not pushed those money-making enterprises to throw gazillions against this attack on them, then you probably believe President Trump is “looking out for the little guy.”

The problem I am laying out is one in which two widely divided economic classes are, in far different ways, not positioned economically to help mitigate global warming. The immiserate precariat class literally cannot afford to pay attention to this threat to human habitation of this planet. The wealth class must give up their consuming ways in order to be of help. They must in short shun their own wealth as a problem and live like Have Nots. Following 5th century Anthony the Hermit, they must give up the car, plane and yacht and get a bicycle.

Thus, the way to tackle our global warming problem is to tackle our wealth divide.

We have been tackling it from the Have Not side, as if work not welfare, moral hazards, no child left behind, head starts, and every manner to “solving” poverty by uplifting the conditions of those immiserated — and immiserated quite axiomatically by our economic system, rather like the results of a Monopoly game – would bridge the wealth divide. But it’s the more than ample side we need to focus on, the wells and larders that are full, not empty. We need to go those who have water to put out the fire, not go to those living in the desert.

Taxing for redistribution is the chosen answer of our Democratic presidential candidates, to various degrees. That remedy continues to face the implanted logic it always has in the U.S. Those who have wealth have earned it and deserve to keep it. Those who don’t have wealth yet have equal opportunity to do the same. The failure to do so should not be rewarded. This has been a go to position that has always gotten a lot of acceptance in the U.S, not simply because the wealthy are in positions, political and corporate, to popularize it, but also because Americans perceive heavy taxes on the wealthy as un-American, too socialist, and because they identify with the wealthy in that they can or their children can at some point join the wealth class. They don’t want taxes to burden their future, however illusionary such a future may be.

Let’s face it, the long running campaign of the wealthy and powerful to keep their taxes low is deeply engrained in every American’s, rich or poor, psyche. It’s insane but there it is.

Some 60 million Americans have three times the wealth of the entire middle class, 60% of the population. The top 1% owns more wealth than the entire middle class. Over 40 million people in the United States live below the poverty line, twice as many as it was fifty years ago, and one eight of the total population, a statistic that brought the German public broadcast service, DW, to produce the documentary, How Poor People Survive in the United States, Nov. 2019, available on YouTube.

The products of such a severe wealth divide are all around us. The obscene behavior of a wealth class that uses its wealth to wall itself off from those they fear, namely a struggling precariat class, would get much greater play in the media if the media owners themselves weren’t filled with the same fear. The same situation holds for those who hold elected office, that office out of the reach of anyone either not rich or without the support of the rich.

When the rich inhabit influential domains of power they identify with a need to preserve both the wealth and the power, which means they identify with the moneyless predominately as a threat to their wealth and power. As a sidebar, I would mention that cyberspace has produced a breed of “Influencers” that can only be said to be defending plutarchy unintentionally by further degenerating the critical faculties of those who are influenced by them. This degeneracy in affective attention is a byproduct of cyberspace travel, and so an obstruction to a critical attention to the destructiveness of plutarchy. “Affective attention takes time,” Franco Berardi writes, “and cannot be shortened or speeded up. Hyper-stimulation and visual overload are leading to a disorder in the emotional elaboration of meaning.” (AND: Phenomenology of the End, 2015)

Practically speaking, it is far easier to respond to the asks of the rich than those of the poor and struggling, the former closely attending what may harm their wealth status and also positioned to penalize those who do the harming, while the latter remain confused as to who and what does them harm and are not positioned to retaliate. Again, the presence of Trump in the White House is clear evidence of such confusion.

The sharp focus of the wealthy can be observed in the sharp focus of the pre-Trumpian Republican Party, while the confusion of the masses can be observed in so much recent history, from attachments to the Tea Party, to rancor thrown at the Affordable Care Act, to assaults on labor unions, to nixing a helpful inheritance tax because it was branded a “Death Tax,” to undermining public schools, to seeing a recuperative progress in gentrification, to seeing among their own kind enemies to themselves, to turning away from solvable economic problems to the complications of the existential politics of identity, to seeing in the mountebank Donald Trump, a savior.

Dazed, confused, full of anxiety and fear on a day to day basis, fed on the soma of a cyberspace which does nothing better than project chaos, this new precariat class is now a solid production of plutocratic power.

What we see in gentrification, for example, is a realization by the rich that they do not have to isolate themselves in gated compounds far from the Centre Ville but can invade the Centre Ville and remodel it as they see fit, use the power of their purse to give a neighborhood the kind of personalized make-over they give themselves. Gentrification is intrinsically a problem in an envisioned egalitarian democracy because it can only exist in vastly unequal environments.

The gentrifiers gild the houses, the shops, the food, the schools, and the education of their children. Instead of improving the lot of pre-gentrified working- and middle-class Brooklyn life, for instance, which would have meant labor not crushed by capital, all of Brooklyn became vulnerable to the take-over by a wealth class. Gentrifiers drive their hybrids over the bones of the old Brooklyn, as they do in some many Centre Ville they have invaded. This is plutarchy’s invading army.

Some of the invading horde arrive with the baggage of inherited, legacy wealthy but most arrive either on the meritocratic express or the Chance express, mostly taken by cybertech innovators. While the meritocratic path is an educational one, the clever tech discovery path of say Jobs, Gates, Zuckerberg, depended on dropping out of that path. And unlike the meritocratic path, the Chance one is grounded in — Chance. There’s no path, no degrees, no tests, no profession. Whether there are more young people on that pathless path or on the meritocratic path to some professional income, or which path is represented more in the wealth class doesn’t affect the fact that we cannot outplay Chance with Choice.

But we can do something about meritocracy.

The temperament of meritocracy is anxiety, an anxiety that a ladder will not be climbed to the very top, an anxiety that others will step on your fingers on your way to the top, an anxiety that your children will attend unionized public schools swelling with diversity, and yet, for all that, un-Woke.

Inherited, legacy wealth may be a tax resolvable condition, but it is meritocracy and the rise by it to dividend recipient wealth that is the grass roots creator of wealth divide and all the truly obscene products of this divide.

It’s not the middling millionaires at the top 1% or the booming billionaires at the top .01% that generate an operational plutarchy but the 20% just below them who have the numbers. They are in sufficient number now to displace a former middle-class America rising from an economic mobility that propelled “working class heroes” to middle class security.

We think of this 20% professional class as serving the top 1% but what best serves that top class is their money invested, interest compounding, dividends paid. What the top 20% do for plutarchy is assume the electoral, managerial and administrative positions that enable and preserve the order of things, which, right now, is a plutarchic order. If you want to insist that we still have a democracy, call it our 20% democracy.

Sanders and Warren have plans to recalibrate that meritocratic calculus for the benefit of more than the 1%. But the way to alter the calculus of meritocracy, one in which brains and ambition are evidenced in test achievement, professional school success and eventually high paying jobs, is a way that runs up against notions of work and reward, of enjoying the fruits of your labor, of using your own intellectual and imaginative gifts to find the success you seek.

Everyone doesn’t receive the same grade, not everyone can get into medical or law school, or hack the math to become an engineer or accountant or get into a Harvard MBA program or into Wharton. Even if the conditions creating equal opportunity existed, which they do not, such equality does not extend to quality of mind or mental aptitude. A case can certainly be made that aptitude is not fixed at birth but is capable of growth, depending on the quality of surrounding nurturing conditions. Thus, in a society in which the early conditions by which minds can grow are poor precisely in the way a plutarchy makes such conditions poor for the poor, the meritocratic path to success is not only not helpful but it perpetuates the functioning of plutarchy.

We are presently destroying public education not because its economic or curricula or pedagogical models are poor but because for-profit education produces the profits that public education, tax supported, cannot. Making a profit beats paying taxes, for anything, is an entrenched American meme.

It is a function of the plutarchy to open to profit every frontier possible. This is an axiom of a capitalism that restricts growth to profit. In the case of education, what has happened is that our meritocratic road to success runs through the schools the wealthy can afford and bypasses the public schools.

We are not educating for equal opportunity for success. On Tenth Avenue in NYC there is Avenues, a World School, tuition $56,400; on Ninth Avenue is the public school 33, no tuition. You should visit them and judge the equality of education offered.

Even if we could return to a public education for all, rich and poor, with no choices for the rich other than public schools, and all financial support equally divided, we still face the fact that we are equal under the law but not equal in our individual talents and aptitude. Establishing equally nurturing conditions for rich and poor does not dissolve difference. The inequality of mind is not a social choice issue; every society at every time has lived with this as a given.

How liberal or illiberal societies make use of this kind of inequality is of course pertinent, but that use does not alter its existence. Mind can be turned to dividends and algorithms, or strict obedience to the State or a Book of Faith, and so on but that usage does not eliminate the inequality of mind into which we are all born. Whether we champion meritocracy or not, minds climb to various heights and at various speeds.

How to deal with this kind of ground level inequality, which will persist regardless of how deep we are into social and identity justice and equality and how devout we are in checking our privilege, is not as soluble as the conditions within which plutarchy places us but it can be vastly improved if we eliminate the gated boundaries of plutarchy.

Meritocracy, for instance, is only a problem if the ladder to be climbed is made, serviced, and bought, and the ladder climbers are born and raised in vastly unequal environments. Public education did not deteriorate, did not become déclassé, until the initials “P.S.” became a sign of New Marketing frontier, just as all public transportation had to be unfunded and brought to ridicule and collapse for the automobile and petrol industries to profit.

Public education designed to become in Horace Mann’s words “the great equalizer of men” has fallen into the same abyss everything connected with the signifier “public” has fallen. The benefit of wealth is to consume at the highest level, to consume what the poor cannot, to, in short, perform in everything the raison d’etre and the functions of wealth. And in a disastrously wealth divided society, this kind of expression extends most tragically to education.

To solve our problems with low achievement in school, an economic movement must be made from both extremes toward the middle.

While difference in the quality of apprehension is not a social policy issue, what is a social policy and choice issue that we can tackle is an equal distribution of money for education, and the end of exploiting education as a profit-making enterprise, or as something to be shopped for at Walmart or Bergdorf’s or Dollar General.

In what way would meritocratic rise be subverted by a public education mandated for all? The equality we achieve in our educational system would not terminate individual advancement, just as a collapse of our plutarchic order would only terminate growth that is harming society and planet. Our wealth divide brought to a post-WWII level of separation would do much to remedy the maladies of our uncivil, class divided, “social medial” online neighborhoods, and our rising intolerance to difference.

This is comparable to exchanging worker owned and worker profit sharing enterprises for our shareholder/dividend recipient culture. Worker owned dissolves the kind of wealth divide that is presently obscene and increasing every year. Michael Bloomberg, who is presently using his great wealth to buy minds and votes, can’t give his money away faster than it produces yet more money. What obscene conditions generated this obscenity?

Sidebar: This is a question that all Democratic candidates to the presidency should be addressing. Trump is an obscenity that will go, one way or another, but what of the conditions that brought him to us?

Alongside both meritocracy and gentrification, as illiberal by products of our Grand Canyon wealth gap, we can place the euphemisms of both “sharing” and “gig” economies.

You rent or “share” things like cars, homes and personal time to other individuals in a peer-to-peer fashion. I don’t know if this word “sharing” is meant to remind those who aren’t living comfortably as shareholders that they’re holding zero shares in a society built on owning shares. It could also be the word is meant to remind us that there is no sharing of money or real estate in the game of Monopoly that we’re in.

As far as the “gig” economy is concerned, it is an inevitability because technology has made it so, rather like the way our relations with Iran are heating up inevitably because of Trump’s mercurial decision to break with the Iran Nuclear deal, or the planet is heating up much more than it should as an inevitable result of President Trump’s climate policies.

The one positive with living by gigs is flexibility but who would give up the security of a steady job for this? Flexibility, like the concepts of leisure and mortality, are floating free of common understanding in the American cultural imaginary. They await implantation of meaning, minds always being true marketing frontiers.

On the negative side we have the unpredictability of getting enough gigs to put food on the table, the lack of benefits such as health care, no paid personal leave or overtime, and the inability to change working conditions through unionization.

Gig and share economies are fueling a rising precariat, a class loaded down with insecurities and anxieties pushing a steady state of depression, a kind of cultural border line disorder that comes brand new to the cultural stage, previously personal states of pathology remained on a personal stage.

Would we have this new precariat class if an economic well being hadn’t been sucked from the bottom to the top and that ravaging not made possible by capital knocking labor out of the ring?

To whose benefit but the owners of the means of production is the collapse of full time, fully benefited workers, the unions that support them, and the implanted notion that work can be replaced by leisure without fatal consequences to a society built on work and consumption?

Andrew Yang proposes giving a thousand dollars a month to the precariat, a technocrat’s solution to a rising workforce without work and no means to consume. We do not need slave labor because technology, robotics and AI are making such need obsolete. But we do need to enslave minds so that the class divisions Aldous Huxley so perspicaciously envisioned can settle calmly into their allotted domains. We can see the road to that in our relatively sudden opioid epidemic, any personal path to escape the angst of societal extinction.

Plutarchy nurtures all of this. A dark nurturing indeed.

The post What Plutarchy Nurtures appeared first on Joseph P Natoli.

Divisiveness and Beyond Sat, 21 Dec 2019 08:21:19 +0000 Published on Divisiveness “Narrative,” the word, is in its political heyday. Politicians need to assert their narrative before their opponent does it for them. They need to change it or find it or test it or deny it. We live in an angry jousting of competing narratives, each seeking to crush, scrunch, destroy and annihilate the […]

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Divisiveness and Beyond

Divisiveness and Beyond

Published on


“Narrative,” the word, is in its political heyday. Politicians need to assert their narrative before their opponent does it for them. They need to change it or find it or test it or deny it. We live in an angry jousting of competing narratives, each seeking to crush, scrunch, destroy and annihilate the other. But not by old fashioned empirical and rational methods in the sciences or direct and circumstantial evidence in the courtroom.

Justin E.H. Smith in Irrationality: A History of the Dark Side of Reason describes the point at which our current arena of competing narratives reached after the Trump election, an election which meant “the near total disappearance of a shared space of common presuppositions from which we might argue through our differences.”

That space which was formerly shared is now a gazillion spaces in cyberspace, some briefly colliding in social media, most totally oblivious of the existence of other spaces.

We are all now in our own cubicles of truth and reality.

Narratives are either engaging to scale or they’re not. Is there a Democratic candidate who will be as engaging on stage as Donald J. Trump? Are Elizabeth Warren’s many plans for many things as engaging as one thoughtless tweet of our president? Does critical reasoning influence us or do social media “Influencers” now own that space?

The medium is the message as McLuhan told us, having no premonition that the messaging would decamp from reality to a hyperreality in which so many simulacra replaced whatever was meant by “messaging.”

Way back in the 20th century, the pragmatist Richard Rorty gave up on philosophy’s path to the Truth, and so for him Truth became whatever his contemporaries let him get away with. We are in that space now regarding establishing to everyone’s agreement any notion of truth, but we are way beyond it regarding anyone having any contemporaries in a recognizable societal sense whose existence Rorty presumed. Thus, the truth in your corner of cyberspace is always what your contemporaries there let you get away with. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be there, and they wouldn’t be there. A gazillion other cyber corners are equally inhabited.

Such a “to each his own bubble” state of affairs does not a society make, nor, a culture, that whole way of life out of which an imagined community emerges, as Benedict Anderson described.

How then to continue to keep our republic, a task Benjamin Franklin placed upon us?

Because we are now closer to both a corporate capitalist state as well as a market fundamentalist one, both protected by our cybertech surveillance of our minds and our behavior, both displacing liberal democracy with plutarchy, we can say that we haven’t kept our republic. And, unfortunately, a second term for Donald J. Trump will seal the deal on any possible retrieval.

If some shared imagined community out of which a functional society could emerge, that culture would make retrieval possible. But, again, unfortunately, the transformation of what were previously arguments recognized and understood, briefs, cases, positions grounded in facts offered as evidence are now all “narratives” seeking not to prove themselves but seeking only engagement, the kind of “Like/Emoji” engagement that the hyperreality of cyberspace is built to provide.

It has become increasingly clear that our millennial times are fully loaded with the undecidability, indeterminism and over-determination of our narratives, our truth stories. Our post-truth times caricature basic precepts of a primer to postmodernity, the key figures of postmodernity, from Lyotard and Barthes to Baudrillard, Derrida, Foucault and Benjamin, who retrieved the dark suspicions of early and late modernity to be found in Nietzsche and Heidegger. This undermining of traditions of rationality seems already to have gone through a whole life cycle: birth, maturity, death, all before it went to scale.

This mindset jump flooded the practices and feelings, the habits of everyday life without any thoughtful gestation. We were all someplace in our hearts and minds and then suddenly someplace else, some place where there was fake news, alternative facts, and no longer reasoned views but narratives. We got here but we don’t know how, although foundations of truth and reality have been eroding since the Sixties.

One of the swerves from modernity that postmodernity made was linguistic: words connected to world in no determinate way but floated within a cultural surround that brought them into signification. Words on one page would not remain captured there but could range on a terrain of all previous connections with world. James Joyce had referred to such intertextuality as “portmanteau,” as if each word was like one of those old travelling trunks plastered with stickers of places one has already been.

One wrote and spoke defensively under such conditions in a struggle for a fixed, unarguable connection between signifier and signified, word and world, a struggle doomed to failure as words themselves “floated” quite naturally outside such enforcement. Thus, such attempts at cementing meaning in place were subject to a deconstruction, a pointing out at what points words had flown the coop, had escaped our attempts to hold language to a reliable relationship with world.

I present this one example of the postmodern turn because it’s made the headlines during the impeachment of President Trump in the form of a transcript of a phone conversation which he has repeatedly pronounced “perfect” and the House Intelligence Committee has found so far from perfect that it merits impeachment.

Vice President Pence, in an interview, urged everyone to read the transcript and see for themselves how “perfect” it is. That signifier itself –“perfect” – certainly wanders in a funhouse of signification. Given the charges made that the phone call was an abuse of power, I suppose “perfect” was to mean “innocent.” Still, what we have is half the country reading those words and finding no crime and the other half reading the same words and finding enough crime to impeach. What words mean in any certain way has left the country.

But why? In a postmodern view, words don’t mean just anything but rather mean within a context, a surround, say, a culture which itself has a hierarchy of how anything means, priorities in every category from moral and political to familial and personal. If that bed of recognized and accepted meanings and values divides and then like a cell divides again and again, then a shared core of values and meanings fracture because the milieu from which they emerge fractures.

Words can float anywhere within a clime but always within an already existing hierarchy of talk, of stories, of truisms. Reliability of meaning lies within that. When the clime so changes that there no longer is a commonly recognized and accepted imagined core of what is reasonably the case, and that case made via reason, then we are certainly in a world in which one transcript can be called perfect by some and criminal by others.

In brief, we can write and talk within bubbles of how everything means to us while down the road a piece other people are living within different bubbles of how everything means to them.

We are no longer on the same page, so to speak, and being on the same page is crucial to achieving a common understanding.

What the postmodern mindset assumed was that how we realize, or, literally, make things real to ourselves personally would be forged within categories and conditions outside ourselves, including the conclusions of science. The “I” is already a fabrication of what things we are born into already are. Chaos and anarchy, a completely unleashed subjectivity, did not arrive with the postmodern.

However, none of the checks and balances to such chaos has taken root in our post-truth age because we are astoundingly attached to the illusions of individual autonomy and personal freedom to choose. We now defend ourselves against those truisms that oppose our own by merely asserting the authority of our own personal determinations. Others may have opposing opinions that bind them as if they were truths, but they cannot affect in any way the supremacy of our own personal freedom to design and live within a reality we like, confirmed by the truisms supporting that reality.

What the postmodern did not foresee was the movement of conditions of reality from the offline world to the online world, a movement in which the checks and balances of the real world collapsed into domains of realizing, sites of word and world connections, which are self-validating without outside scrutiny or deconstruction.

In brief, once again, cyberspace created a space within which all personal discoveries of reality and truth could flourish without being denied or eliminated by what is traditionally referred to as the Western Conditions/Canons/Methodologies of Truth, Reason and Reality.

Foundations didn’t vanish and thus destroy the fabric of reality and truth but rather they multiplied, every tweeter standing on self-made grounds, every word meaning, in Humpty Dumpty fashion, what “I say it means.”

“The near-total disappearance of a shared space of common presuppositions” was not then created by Trump’s election to the presidency but rather existed before and he brought to national scale.

In a culture deeply devoted to the personal and not the abstract, to engaging celebrity and not ideas, which is the bane of our politics, the turn from all manner of authority to opinion was sealed by Trump’s ascendance. He dominates not as a prophet of new meaning in the world but as a rebel against what stands as obstruction to personal meaning. His scorn and rejection of a resident order of things, substituting his own whim and will in its place, performs those acts of scorn and rejection that his admirers feel.

Cyberspace and Trump facilitated and accelerated a fracturing already well underway not by a heterodox postmodern assault but by a liberal meritocratic capitalism by which a “liberated”/predatory financial sector operating under the aegis of the efficient market hypothesis made law knocked labor and wages out of contention for an equal wealth share.

The Federal Reserve reports that in “2018, the richest 10% held 70% of total household wealth, up from 60% in 1989. The share funneled to the top 1%’ jumped to 32% last year from 23% in 1989.The increase in the wealth share of the top 10% came at the expense of households in the 50th to 90th percentiles of the wealth distribution.”

Some semblance of a culture of common presuppositions was already fractured by an economics upholding the play of the market as a fulfillment of rational expectations and government as an intrusion and obstacle to that fulfillment. Rational Choice theory turned out as screwball as Voodoo economics.

Globalization, ironically, has contributed to this fracturing of society as it has made possible, by computer, control and surveillance of both workers and productions beyond a brick and mortar site, a “growth” that has created market frontiers of investment and shareholder wealth, further pushing a wealth divide to Grand Canyon proportions.

A precariat class developed, insecure in income and employment, frustrated by such, aware that such precarity did not exist in the previous generations, feeling cheated but not able to point to how or by who. But most consequentially, this class has set itself against an order of things that has obviously left them in such an immiserated state. They are scornful of any authority set above their own.

Donald J. Trump mirrors the condition they find themselves although ironically, he’s the Judas goat leading them to even greater destruction. But both Trump and his followers are enveloped within an order of meaning in which truth was not absolute and universal, that things do not abide in words and words in things, that we make those connections between word and world, that we say what the truth is and that saying is ours, not divine revelation, that saying is always inevitably someone’s, someone positioned somewhere and at some time.

You can be born into the milieu of a pre-revolutionary France without being aware of Diderot and the Encyclopedists. Time and place affect regardless of our personal awareness or choice. But what is required is a space available to all, call it The Great Outdoors, or Objective Reality, a single, indisputable platform within which all can be affected and become aware.

That space no longer exists in an unchallenged way. A chaos of voices sound in cyberspace, an alternative reality; a national space fractures into economically unsustainable spaces for many; and the Master Voice of a willful, blind man fixes reality and truth for us.


We need to find a path within a furor and ferment unresponsive to any approach, including dialectical, to relief.

There are two aspects of our postmodern/post-truth swerve that are very much a part of the hysteria of our disordered clime: the futility of establishing a Master Narrative that centers all narratives, and the relativity of all narratives to their surrounding conditions,

Trump is a center that cannot hold because he himself is internalized disorder, a disorder that has no center beyond greed, blind ambition, vindictiveness, and ego, which means that he can only take a path to his own destruction.

To get him out of office then is to leave him in office until he self-destructs, most likely by efforts to punish all the sick, bad, crooked villains that occupy his brain pan. Colossal ego will push him to punish all those who obstruct his own will. This may happen after the Senate exonerates him and will certainly happen if he wins a second term as president. A true madness unleashed.

Within our postmodern/post-truth world of masterless voices, Trump’s Master Voice has no authority beyond what those filled with illusions grant him, illusions he cannot fulfill except by bund rally bombast. Altering the framing of such illusions, the conditions on the ground which fertilize such illusions, de-authorizes Trump’s voice.

Regardless of how crowded our battlefield of contesting narratives may be, they can only thrive within the bubbles of reality from which they emerge, these “ways of knowing” not our original creations but culturally derivative.

History records the few who have thought originally. Our heads are filled with what we have heard, read and seen, matter that can change as culturally dispositions and priorities change.

For example, if God, Guns and Gays encapsulates a reality frame, a lens of seeing and knowing, it may burst when Flood, Fire, and Food become a real-world contest that cannot be ignored. We are very close now to accepting that those surrounding conditions will force our personal reality constructions to adapt. When narratives offering meaning are endlessly countered by other narratives offering different meaning, we can regain our reason and our sanity by change in the forces out of which our narratives occupy us.

Even closer still will be a revolt of the precariat, those living on the precarious edge of survival, both mentally and physically, whose presence shape a surround that forces recognition and thus eliminates and replaces so many truth story fabrications we now live within. New Tech, New Patents, New Products, and Profit to Shareholders, as well as Dividends and Algorithms would be bubbles burst by Security, Sustainability and Survival.

I say closer still because Trump is self-programmed to enflame all those conditions that have brought so many to a world of immiseration. He is, thus, ironically, himself a condition through which we can regain some semblance of a culture of common presuppositions and common purpose.

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