Joseph Natoli – Joseph P Natoli http://www.josephnatoli.com Gulliver's Takes Wed, 15 Jan 2020 11:50:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3.2 What Plutarchy Nurtures http://www.josephnatoli.com/what-plutarchy-nurtures/ Wed, 15 Jan 2020 11:49:24 +0000 http://www.josephnatoli.com/?p=1900 Published on http://www.counterpunch.org 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

Published on http://www.counterpunch.org

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.

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Divisiveness and Beyond http://www.josephnatoli.com/divisiveness-and-beyond/ Sat, 21 Dec 2019 08:21:19 +0000 http://www.josephnatoli.com/?p=1895 Published on http://www.counterpunch.org 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 http://www.counterpunch.org

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 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.

Beyond

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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Equally Determined: To Impeach/To Support http://www.josephnatoli.com/equally-determined-to-impeach-to-support/ Fri, 13 Dec 2019 14:11:34 +0000 http://www.josephnatoli.com/?p=1887 Published on http://www.counterpunch.org “A federal appeals court on Wednesday evening stayed a lower-court ruling that former Trump White House counsel Donald McGahn must comply with a House subpoena after the administration appealed, arguing the battle poses great consequences for the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches”. – Washington Post, Nov. 27, 2019 There are three obvious […]

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Equally Determined

Equally Determined

Published on http://www.counterpunch.org

“A federal appeals court on Wednesday evening stayed a lower-court ruling that former Trump White House counsel Donald McGahn must comply with a House subpoena after the administration appealed, arguing the battle poses great consequences for the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches”.

– Washington Post, Nov. 27, 2019

There are three obvious reasons why the House of Representative is determined to move with all deliberate speed to impeach President Donald J. Trump.

Doing nothing would violate the Constitutional role of the Congress to investigate and check if needed plausible abuses of presidential power. Absence of action on the Congress’s part would relegate their role to one subservient to the executive branch. Doing nothing because loyalists to the president would do nothing, or because the American public is not unified in doing something (big surprise, this) are not reasons for the Congress to violate their Constitutional role.

The view presented by Jonathan Turley representing the Republican Party in which he states:

“In the current case, the record is facially insufficient. The problem is not simply that the record does not contain direct evidence of the President stating a quid pro quo, as Chairman Schiff has suggested. The problem is that the House has not bothered to subpoena the key witnesses who would have such direct knowledge. This alone sets a dangerous precedent.”

I don’t know why Prof. Turley is ignoring what we all know, namely, that the House has bothered to subpoena key witnesses, but they have been following President Trump’s directive: “We are fighting all subpoenas from House Democrats.” Turley wonders why the House has not brought this matter to the courts as it has for Donald McGahn, but McGahn can still defy a subpoena because the federal appeals court overruled a lower court decision compelling him to testify. A final court decision, for just this one individual, looms somewhere in the future, surely at a time when the House, awaiting such decisions, would have lost all credibility in the public eye and more significantly would have undermined its own Constitutional authority.

It’s also difficult to understand why Prof. Turley does not recognize circumstantial evidence, namely, the kind of reasoning that allows Sherlock Holmes to make his deductions and courts to allow evidence to lead to conclusions. We infer, to quote a classical inference, that if all men are mortal and that Socrates, being a man, is therefore mortal.

The third reason encompassing both substantive and procedural aspects has much to do with feeding the autocratic impulses of the president if the House backs away from impeachment. It also has much to do with possibly obstructing those autocratic impulses of President Trump from doing all he can to mock and sabotage the electoral order and its results and set this house on fire if he loses.

The country is in a very odd and difficult situation with this man as president, not only because he’s a one man proof that Rational Choice theory has no universal validity, but also because he’s gathered so many who depend on him, from pushing an anti-Green New Deal agenda to fulfilling some existential need to “make America great again” via this very sorry illustration of humanity.

If the House were to back off and let the President do as he wills without oversight, checks or re-balancing, Donald J. Trump would, through Attorney General Barr and Twitter, run his own impeachment of everyone who even thought about impeaching him. The Attorney General is now engaged in doing just this regarding Mueller’s presumption in investigating the president. If the House were not to back off, their present course of action, Donald J. Trump would, through Attorney Barr and Twitter run his own …….and so on.

Impeachment by the House, even though the Senate will not follow through, will fuse a Trump assault against any and all involved with his impeachment in the House. The Senate’s vote against impeachment, most likely without any censure and more likely with an apology, would juice this untouchable president to new heights of autocratic, arbitrary, capricious, mad, manic, bad and dangerous activities, domestic and foreign.

Think of your 14-year old’s chaotic, selfish mania unleashed upon the world. Apologies. Think of Apophis, ancient Egyptian demon of chaos, who had the form of a serpent and, as the foe of the sun godRe, represented all that was outside the ordered cosmos.

Juvenile as he is in his desire to have all things his way, Trump is, nevertheless, a serious threat to a Constitutional order of things that we now see as very vulnerable to autocratic attack via our very social media. Though vulnerable and already turned to plutarchy by our economic hegemony, this order more clearly deserves our support than do the blind passions of this man.

The Republic Party is also in dire straits due to this man, but its course is as determined as the Democratic Party’s impeachment response.

Not repeated or with any volume is a reason why Republicans will do all they can to see Trump get a second term. Put blankly, he can do more for the plutarchy’s order of things than any Democrat can. (Wealth concentrated in 20% of the population and the pervasive power resulting equals plutarchy). The Green New Deal, for example, is in any Republican’s eye something like a smallpox blanket passed from hand to hand in the Democratic Party.

Market Rule and all the efficiency of its rule bullshit has so very much to lose with any Democratic president because that party is now heavily influenced by Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, though neither may wind up being the Party’s candidate for the presidency. party. Even Biden as president – dazed, confused and weak — would be forced by his own party to recognize race, gender, LGBTQ, climate and a taxation assault on the rich. The first three serve to incite the God, Guns, and Gays core of Trump’s support. The last two, climate and taxes, are direct hits on the supply base of plutarchy.

With Mayor Pete as president, we’d have what the French have with Macron: a president unloved by both parties, though I believe market Republicans will take to him over time while the Democratic Left will regret their support.

A Trump benefit to the Republican Party is that he is not only impervious to criticism, but he attacks his attackers, to the great amusement of his followers. He wins in a climate of spin, spectacle and uncontestable “narratives.” Such is the present American climate. All that is sacred on the Left is mocked, whether it’s the death of the planet or the death of liberal democracies. Nothing with President Trump in a second term will come to a resolvable debate as, like Ahab, he doesn’t debate, though the megalomaniacal Ahab wrestled with his conscience. We see no sign of such wrestling in our president.

There remains a great deal that any market conservative can get out of a Trump presidency, all the wreckage he can create weighing very little contrasted with what wealth can be protected and what threats to it can be erased. Obama’s eight years were for the most part stymied but still an annoyance and retardant to Market Rule. Trump’s eight years would set fires everywhere, but not to the plutarchy.

Of course, if Democrats hold on to the House, the president who sets these fires can be impeached again.

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What We Must Do http://www.josephnatoli.com/what-we-must-do/ Fri, 06 Dec 2019 16:32:53 +0000 http://www.josephnatoli.com/?p=1882 Published on http://www.counterpunch.org The Warming Planet “The United Nations released an exceptionally bleak report today, which warns that, at the current pace of greenhouse gas emissions, global temperatures will rise by as much as 3.9 degrees Celsius (almost 7 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100.” – The United Nations Environment Programme report, Nov. 2019 “Somehow, against all logic, we have adopted […]

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What We Must Do

What We Must Do

Published on http://www.counterpunch.org

The Warming Planet

“The United Nations released an exceptionally bleak report today, which warns that, at the current pace of greenhouse gas emissions, global temperatures will rise by as much as 3.9 degrees Celsius (almost 7 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100.”

– The United Nations Environment Programme report, Nov. 2019

“Somehow, against all logic, we have adopted a collective faith in the willingness of ruling governments and corporations to do the right thing. Carbon footprints will be drastically reduced thanks to a combination of market stratagems and technological magic. While greenhouse mitigation seamlessly advances, the ruling forces can return to what they do best – indulge their religion of endless accumulation and growth.”

– Carl Boggs

We humans must breathe oxygen, eat enough calories to stay alive, and drink water. And as Bob Dylan reminds us, we need shelter from the storm, or, a fire to warm us after the storm if we have no shelter. The first three are now jeopardized as Earth’s temperatures rise, threatening us with droughts, floods, and toxic air.

Let’s call these the facts, not narratives told to a targeted audience from a certain perspective, but facts. We do not live in all the facts but in worlds of facts, by which I mean humans engage in a “worlding” of feelings/passions and facts, reasons and facts, imagination and facts, responses to facts, as well as total unawareness of facts. Sometimes “worlding” is such that facts play no part as indisputable but rather as always disputable.

If we now conclude that “worlding” is a kind of unfortunate thing humans do and that’s it’s too bad we can’t all live in accordance to or congruent with the facts, we need to re-read Book Three of Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels where Gulliver encounters a society where words are eschewed:“[M]any of the most learned and wise adhere to the new scheme of expressing themselves by things; which has only this inconvenience attending it, that if a man’s business be very great, and of various kinds, he must be obliged, in proportion, to carry a greater bundle of things upon his back, unless he can afford one or two strong servants to attend him.” Merely pointing to this or that to circumvent the processes of “worlding” and thus fashion universal understanding is an absurdity that Swift enjoys describing.

Our often-screwy mediation of “the things themselves” wherein each of us insists things speak for themselves and we’re the ones who hear what they are saying makes our human “worlding” what human history shows it to be. “Mehr Licht” (“more light”) are said to be Goethe’s last words, as I suppose the wreckage of human history passed before his dying eyes.

Both individuals and cultures live within various worlding bubbles, thus transmuting even absolute necessities into what is palpable within those bubbles, those mediated zones. Thus, you may have no fear of what an increase of temperature by 2040 will do to you personally because, say, you’re a member of the Dividend Class and anticipate being on some Olympian remove where the perils of global warming will not affect you. You may even be anticipating turning such catastrophe into a winning situation for yourself, as savvy market players tend to do.

And yet, outside that bubble of yours, it’s 2040, a date that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates will bring a worsening of food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs. The planet is fast becoming uninhabitable, for humans for sure. And right now, regardless of what happy world you’re in, Greta Thunberg, at age 16, has so much greater concern regarding perils her and all those young now may face in their lifetimes. We can presume, that at such an age she is probably not positioned where the Dividend Recipient class are regarding weighing the deleterious effects of The Green New Deal on her portfolio.

The unconcern of the Dividend Class is equaled by the unconcern of those wage earners whose lives are already filled with bleak horizons, such as another class of necessities: mortgage and rental costs, medical costs, tuition debts, unemployment, and all the shaky employment anxieties of the “sharing” and “gig” economies.

In short, there are wild fires burning now and more to come but the fires that at least 40% of the population face have all to do with lack of a sustaining income now, today, day to day, month to month. That economic plight draws the focus from what does seem to be a far-off plight of global warming. We see also that the Olympian focus of the Dividend Class not only removes them from doing what we must do regarding global warming but, more perniciously yet, their focus on ever increasing investment returns presumes that doing anything about global warming, by anyone, is an investment risk.

What we must do regarding the threat of global warming has much to do with what we must do regarding a dangerous divide in economic well-being, a divide we have been structuring since Reagan.

II.

“At Chicago, the prevailing view of inequality was that it wasn’t a bad thing – it spurred people to work harder and become more self-reliant and self-disciplined.”

– Liaquat Ahamed, “Widening Gyre,” The New Yorker, September 2, 2019

Rational choice theory and the efficient market hypothesis were grounded in assumptions that any philosophy grad student could deconstruct.

But that never happened and the idea of a self-correcting mechanism if markets were totally free and the idea that self-interest made you rational and you were rational if you followed self-interest have never left the corridors of academe in the U.S. This is a foundational problem if you believe that we are now in a spot where either Donald J. Trump will rule as he wishes, or a one chamber oversight will restrain him, because our educational system has failed.

Failures to educate a discerning citizenry able to “keep our republic” is unfortunately our foundational problem, unfortunate because what must be done to keep our republic has not and is not being done in the classroom. We stopped teaching Civics and history and are rapidly moving from written words to videos. We relegated every course of study except STEM courses to the margins of knowing. We forgot that knowledge could not be held to be simply and only an economic good.

Despite this memory loss, the top 20% on the economic ladder do pursue knowledge as only an economic good and their pursuit goes on in the rich corridors of pre-kindergarten to university and beyond. The remaining 80% have a diminished yearning as both their own inner resources and those afforded to them are extinguishing, like a candle in the wind.

What Bernie Sanders call a “political revolution” and Elizabeth Warren calls a deep, structural change are both directed toward repair of those conditions wherein the three richest Americans hold more wealth than the bottom 50% of the country, a country where about a fifth have zero or negative net worth.

The neo-liberal economics of the Chicago School viewed any level of inequality as not a bad thing but rather as an incentive to work harder, become self-reliant and self-disciplined. This sounds ludicrously comical now, but it has served to transform an inevitable evil of their “efficient market” bullshit into a good thing, a process not of immiserating many but of building character.

This claptrap met a need to preempt and then destroy all attempts to stop the axiomatic movement of the free reign liberalization of capital markets to sequester more and more capital in fewer and fewer hands. When a story is told that mogul wealth doesn’t matter in our elections, that story comes from a worlding in which money walks and bullshit talks. What we see, on the contrary, is that money talks loudly in this once aspiring egalitarian democracy fallen now into a plutarchy in which money is speech and entitled to be heard to the full measure of its pockets.

Unless the Dividend Class’s grip on the politics that can mitigate global warming ends, and the economics that brought that class into being ends, we can expect that the vital necessities of human existence will remain jeopardized.

III.

Cyberspace

“[D]esigned to make outrage contagious.”

– Mark Zuckerberg’s alibi for Facebook’s existence is that he was making the world more open and connected.

Behind that beatitude, he made a lot of money along the way, some 74.7 billion dollars. As we can now easily observe on online and offline channels and platforms, what opened was the Tower of Babel, or, if Freud still floats in your head, the doors to the Id.

Although our offline lives no longer go on in Mister Roger’s neighborhood, our neighbors being mostly in cyberspace, online civility is Darwinian red in tooth and claw. The civility in the streets is better only if less noisy.

Those who violate your opinions must be crushed and destroyed. Partisans of absurd views join to create a massive presence online. Passions lay reason aside and anger grounded in ignorance creates an overall confusion that prevents doing what must be done to alter the paths to autocracy and human toxification of this planet.

President Trump and Twitter present us with a chicken/egg what came first puzzle.

What we do know is that if Trump didn’t have a direct line to his constituency via social media, most especially Twitter, he’d have to appear 24/7 on Fox & Friends, or spend a whole lot more time shouting at the Press on the White House lawn, or become an avid blogger, or write op-ed pieces for The New York Times, or do a lot more travelling around holding Bund rallies, or become an “Influencer” on podcasts.

It is true that Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister of Propaganda, managed to disseminate the Nazi creed successfully through the analog mediums of radio and film, but it’s not these mediums or library research that feeds the Alt-right and neo-Nazi on the rise globally. Its online presence is promoted by trolls and activists conducting harassment campaigns, conspiracy theories and links that forge a chain of disinformation, hate, slander, and violence.

Whether or not there is a rational counter weight presence in cyberspace to all irrationalities cannot be known. But we do know that it is easier for the factions of unruly passions to attract an audience than, say, the 448 pages of the Mueller report.

This is sharply expressed in a recent Atlantic article: “[C]itizens are now more connected to one another, in ways that increase public performance and foster moral grandstanding, on platforms that have been designed to make outrage contagious, all while focusing people’s minds on immediate conflicts and untested ideas, untethered from traditions, knowledge, and values that previously exerted a stabilizing effect. This, we believe, is why many Americans – and citizens of many other countries, too – experience democracy as a place where everything is going haywire.” (“Why It Feels Like Everything is Going Haywire,” September 201)

This is the sort of milieu, a super active Petri dish, in which an aspiring autocrat can grow, precisely the breeding ground for Donald Trump.

It was James Madison’s view that the country could not be enflamed by the factious and autocratic because the size of the country made such contamination impossible. “The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States . . . in the same proportion as such a malady is more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire State.” “Federalist No. 10” He could not imagine that real space would be displaced by cyberspace, a space less, timeless domain in which all voices, like atoms, collide unaffected by any offline order of things. Neither could he imagine that we would abandon the real world for such a realm.

At this moment, an offline order of things – the Constitutional power of the House of Representatives to impeach – is being mocked and ignored by a president who has thus far successfully undermined the credibility of the 16 members of the U.S. Intelligence Community, the State Department, the powers of the Congress and the legacy press. He has successfully brought the Justice Department, the Attorney General, and all leaders of departments as well as The Senate and the Republican Party to kowtow to his autocratic will.

Such success, thus far, gives him no reason to believe that the Constitutional powers of the House will obstruct him, confident that a Senate trial will not convict him. A Senate trial may indeed, given the haywire climate, turn the House’s actions into a partisan, witch hunt hoax, extending the shadow of guilt from Trump to Schiff and the Biden’s. And the most telling result of the Mueller report may be that that too was a hoax and the entire bogus investigation led by Hillary Clinton, who will finally be jailed by a re-elected Trump.

In our haywire world, the accused will indict and convict the accuser; trials will be turned against those who conduct the trials; investigations will result in the investigation of the investigators; Congressional oversight will give way to executive privilege; democracy turn to autocracy.

At this moment, President Trump is removing the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, his own personal research into human caused global warming leading him to conclude that this is a hoax.

We are running out of time in our responses to global warming, but we are being led by a man who has no personal fear of such and who has not the courage to adopt policies which will injure the Dividend Class.

The Green New Deal sponsored by Markey and Ocasio-Cortez is a working template for what we need to do regarding both climate and wealth divide.

If we could move toward worker owned businesses and cooperatives, the strongest able to provide starter capital for new businesses, we could bypass the stranglehold of banks and the stock market.

As far as the chaos caused by our chatter in cyberspace is concerned, we need to spend a great deal less time in cyber worlds and more time in face to face real world.

We cannot leave the technocrats behind social media to assume positions in which they are establishing societal conditions and responses that should be left to the judicial and legislative branches of government duly elected.

An anarchic cyberspace is comparable to an anarchic market rule, both excluding human reason from their domains, both destroying those conditions within which we all become fully aware of what we must do.

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Once Upon a Time – Shots in the Hyperreal (on Tarantino’s New Film) http://www.josephnatoli.com/once-upon-a-time-shots-in-the-hyperreal-on-tarantinos-new-film/ Sun, 24 Nov 2019 09:37:03 +0000 http://www.josephnatoli.com/?p=1878 Published on http://www.brightlightsfilm.com   “Hey, you’re Rick fucking Dalton. Don’t you forget it.” – Once Upon a Time – in Hollywood “And so art is everywhere, since artifice is at the very heart of reality.” – Jean Baudrillard  * * * The same weekend in which there were four scenes of shootings in the U.S., I went to […]

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Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time

Published on http://www.brightlightsfilm.com

 

Hey, you’re Rick fucking Dalton. Don’t you forget it.” – Once Upon a Time – in Hollywood

“And so art is everywhere, since artifice is at the very heart of reality.” – Jean Baudrillard

 * * *

The same weekend in which there were four scenes of shootings in the U.S., I went to see Quentin Tarantino’s new film, Once Upon a Time – in Hollywood. One real, the other hyperreal. And yet there’s a hyperreality to the shootings and an everyday reality to the movie.

In a first calculation, the shootings are horrific/shocking/frightening beyond any real understanding. They are loaded with an incomprehensible hyperreal dimension. Tarantino’s movie is, on that same, first-approach level, very everyday real stylistically for four-fifths of its 2:45 running time, and then we get a Tarantino take of what was real and yet hyperreal violence in 1969 – the Manson family on the night of its killing spree.

In a deeper calculation, what we can see is that there’s a disturbing mixture of the real and hyperreal in the Walmart, Dayton bar, and garlic festival shootings. Shopping, beers, and garlic festival– the everyday real. Similarly, the whole ambience of 1969 Hollywood on-set and off-set life, Hollywood boulevard cruising, life on the fringe of acting and stunt work, up on the roof fixing a TV antenna is full of jumps to the cinematic reel footage of former Western TV star Rick Dalton’s episodes in the limelight. The everyday real is already interrupted before the Manson family violence scene with this comical hyperreal footage, from Dalton doing the twist to flamethrowing Hitler’s Bund.

Intermingled with common life pitfalls, traumas, fears, and frustrations, namely an acting career heading toward oblivion, are the confusions of melding a shaky everyday life and identity with a collapsing TV hyperreal identity. Rick Dalton is a TV hero of a “once upon a time” West that never was real in any way shown in any movie or TV episode. Whatever the reality of Rick Dalton may have been, it has slipped into simulacra. And the slippage from that to a Has-Been reality evokes dread, fear, and trembling. There’s pain in hearing: “Hey, you’re Rick fucking Dalton. Don’t you forget it.” If he was someone other than the Hollywood “Rick Dalton,” that someone is forgotten, and tragically what happens to a has-been is that he does become forgotten.

Clint Booth – stuntman, friend, sidekick, and gofer – is neither entering nor leaving the hyperreal but more than literally on the roof fixing the TV antennae and looking around. He’s into the flux of real time, fixed in everyday life, in time and reality off the Hollywood set, off the set of the hyperreal. He makes a dent in the hyperreal – literally a dent in a car he has thrown Mike Moh as Bruce Lee into. The action also stands as a dent in the Bruce Lee legend, a legend in which the difficulties Lee faced as an “oriental” star within Hollywood’s long tradition of giving Asian parts to Caucasians has been glossed over with the hyperreal. Here in Tarantino’s film, Bruce Lee is a reality, a man who in 1969, four years before his death, is still going through dark battles in the hyperreal. “Bruce Lee” is a hyperreal identity, like “Rick Dalton,” and Tarantino plays him against that identity. Ironically, the fight scene with Bruce and Clint in this “once upon a time” world touches the grounds of the real, and yet we resist that and hold the portrayal to be false and disrespectful of the mystique the hyperreal creates and we find ourselves living within.

Tarantino

In the scene at the Spahn Movie Ranch, Clint Booth barges into the hyperreal on a quest to establish one real thing, to answer one real question: Is his former acquaintance George still alive? He doesn’t know that this is the place where Manson has settled his communal followers, tripping on nothing more than his madness, but Clint cuts through it like a restraining orderly in an asylum. His is a hyperreal immunity, a dog-loving, quiet force who makes a living in the hyperreal but isn’t of it. In his second and final encounter with mayhem-seeking Mansonites, Clint and his dog, Brandy, rip through this mess once again, resisting and crushing an invasion of an everyday reality by the distortions of the hyperreal.

When you’re in the hyperreal, you lose touch with the real, but you don’t get away without injury. Rick Dalton is not at an equilibrium point where Clint is; rather, he is at the edge of breakdown the entire film. It’s comical/sad but rather more hyperinflated as all things in Hollywood must be to give ticket buyers a sense that they are escaping the humdrum real. No one goes to the movies to see their own deflated lives. Not only lives but everything around us must be cast in a hyperreal setting, a surround that Tarantino captures in such extended, minute detail because the appearance of this time and place doesn’t stay outside. That outside impresses itself in our minds, shapes thoughts and feelings so deeply that there is no boundary between us and the world. And because there is so much simulacra all around us, the simulacra – like plastic bags, with which we are filling our world – also goes inside. It’s that we do not escape.

Viewers are filtered by the surround of the film, but in the film itself, characters are filtered by the 1969 world they are in while that world comes into being through the characters. Each is dispersed into the other, and so there is no character without world, no world without character. Indeed, a human life world is what we humans make of this third planet in our solar system within the Orion Arm of the Milky Way. Such “worlding” is what we humans alone do, and some of it is real – that is, correspondent with what is – and some hyperreal. In Tarantino’s films, we walk or drive through both, as the characters do.

Sharon Tate, the “rising star” at the threshold of entering a hyperreal image of herself, strolls through Hollywood in the white plastic boots of ’69, shopping, browsing, going into the Bruin Theatre in Westwood, dancing wildly at the Playboy mansion, cruising around with Roman Polanski. Clint Booth drives the 1966 Cadillac DeVille leisurely through Westwood, down Hollywood Boulevard, and then drives his own Karmann Ghia in a fast-driving lengthy shot heading to his mobile home behind the Van Nuys Drive-In playing Lady in Cement. What we are getting here is the pulse of real time and place, both essentially different than the hyperreal.

But we conventionally hold reality and time to a non-Tarantino standard, by which I mean that he is, firstly, ignoring what authorities have established as real accounts, and, secondly, playing the everyday real into the hyperreal. His standard is to be at play with history, most clearly seen in Django Unchained, Inglourious Basterds, and The Hateful Eight. And in this, Tarantino films at the core of our post-truth whirlwind. What happens in time is less subject now to what such authorities say and more subject to our personal passions, our personal knowing. We live at a time when both time and reality are subject to what we euphemistically call our freedom to choose but are in truth merely our private passions that we now have the freedom to release in cyberspace. Or at the end of an automatic weapon.

In 1969 and throughout the ’60s, the mantras of a self-empowering personal choice, of “doing your own thing,” of choosing what you wanted in ways that could not be discounted by the Establishment have lingered in the American mass psyche. They have done so because this hippie spirit melds nicely into a background of a fierce American spirit of individualism, of living free of any hierarchies; in the beginning, those of Europe, but in 1969, any authority that challenges “my own intuition.” This is an individualism that also, paradoxically, imagines all the people coming together, living in peace, an unthought, blind search for communality that Charles Manson could evoke as easily as Herbert Marcuse. Mad, hyperreal communes are more likely to occur in the hyperreal than ethical or utopian socialisms.

Tarantino is not of that moment, either of Hollywood or hippiedom, but he shares their spirit in the same way all Americans are awash in the illusions of personal autonomy, of personal choices checkmating reality. But while we feel that every story told around us, everything that comprises the mise en scène of our lives, really doesn’t permeate the inner core of our reality, Tarantino shows us that what is outside fashions what is inside, that our “personal” is always a product of the stage set. He is personal and subjectivist in this approach to time and reality, but for him, the personal is immersed within both, not above or beyond. His vision is caught within time and place and his characters are also. This is a filmmaking technique but also an epistemology and an ontology.

We are infiltrated by Hollywood dialogue, by Madison Avenue jingles, by brand signage, by TV reruns, by car, cigar, wine, beer, food, sports erudition, the flotsam the hyperreal makes of reality. Who you are is when and where you are. There is no “you” outside a set. In a world that has become increasingly hyperreal, it’s a Hollywood set, a fabrication, a “once upon a time” set. Time and reality are back projections to our lives and our lives our back projections to time and reality.

Tarantino

This is the iconoclastic spirit we see in all Tarantino’s movies. He’s in free play with time and reality, but he also conveys to us the sense that time and reality are at play with us. Not all or very much of what he represents as Hollywood 1969 can pass a fact check, but what remains true is that the setting is as much a protagonist as Clint and Rick are. On a simple level, it’s a sentimentality and nostalgia, a sensibility drawn to characters in a certain world and time frame, though one he is not objectivist about in any way. On a more complex level, which we always deny Tarantino’s movies, his are always portrayals of being-in-the world and therefore ontological. And because he is careless with known historical accounts and his reality is a Tarantino reality – that is, playful, violent, fetishy stylized in speech and character – we overlook the value of his work in helping us understand how our hyperreality works. Including the violent and their violence. Including the contributions to the hyperreal our president is now making.

In short, viewing a Tarantino movie is a heuristic experience, one that offers a way to see into the dark matter of now.

We have a bipartisan understanding that President Trump prefers his own understanding of reality to any other and that the power he has to assert that understanding has already created his own “once uon a time” story in which we are all living. His “understanding” is not empirically or rationally verifiable, but is indeed his own Tarantino kind of understanding. Both measure and shape the world to their own dimensions. However, while world is always a constructing force that characters are immersed within in Tarantino’s movies, world – that is, time and reality – is in President Trump replaced by ego, by an amour de soi that cannot be breached by time and reality.

Tarantino

Public domain photo of Donald Trump, 2017. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The power of personal will is strong in the president, and the power he has to assert it is strong. Ironically, although no choices other than his own matter he holds the choices of others to account as if they were efficacious, although he denies their effect on him. In this conundrum, he represents a way of being that is not his alone. We want to hold others to standards of accountability, hold their choices to consequences while at the same time denying the existence of any authority that can hold our choices to account. We live now on the threshold of both a quickly vanishing reality and a quickly emerging, totalizing hyperreality.

The hyperreal saturates all minds, although ironically, once again, we hold our minds to be unsaturated by anything not personally chosen by us. Everything, therefore, must be a personal act without attachments to time and reality. In order to keep personal control of the world, the world must be ignored. Thus, that guns in America are a part of a frontier mythos, one that Hollywood perpetuates; that a narrative of masculinity in a male-dominated society is wrapped up in guns; that there is a reason why there are no women mass shooters; that the whole country is taxed to buy weaponry; that the most popular video games are shooting guns; that our answer to guns is more guns – all this reality must be ignored.

A zero-sum, competitive economic system can have it no other way. Both chance and the shaping factors of time and the real conditions of the world cannot be allowed to overpower the illusions of personal choice and individual autonomy. This state of affairs defines a hyperreality that has been nurtured and expanded by the liberation of all personal choices in cyberspace and the probability of every personal assertion – regardless of how lunatic and fact poor – of finding confirmation and support.

What Tarantino does is show us the pulping process in which he brings the hyperreal to the screen in a way that exposes its difference from time and reality. This is a violation of the hyperreality we are in offscreen, something that should not be done if the illusions of the hyperreal are to remain, like the emperor without clothes, unobserved. Offscreen, we have pulped reality into a hyperreal that we no longer have the means to control by any commonly accepted rules of discrimination and judgment. In this situation, the hyperreal oversees and regulates itself according to its own rules, which are hyperreal, rather like allowing Boeing to decide when the Boeing 737 Max 8 is safe enough to fly.

Tarantino’s constraining the personal within time and place, his dispersal of self into the world and world into self, is instructive when we face the most startling productions of the hyperreal.

Tarantino

Vigil for shooting victims, Dayton, Ohio, August 5, 2019. Photo by Victor Grigas. Licensed by the photographer through Wikimedia Commons.

For instance, there has been 248 mass shootings as of this writing in 2019. There were 4 in 1969. Rather than seeing the shooters of our mass murders as multiplying as our hyperreality pans wider and wider, we see every shooter as autonomous and self-willed, as most likely, in President Trump’s view, mentally ill. The illusion held in this hyperreality that you can do whatever you wake up wanting to do, and that what you choose to do strengthens your sense of liberty and personal freedom, is no longer a derangement alert. It is, in fact, a foundational belief held in the American mass psyche.

Either deranged individuals in 1969 and before who acted irrationally had no access to guns or were confined in institutions, or the narratives of indiscriminate mass shootings didn’t fill the surround and thus had no shaping influence. By the time we get to the new millennium, people are being born into these stories routinely. They are stories evoking fear as well as, for some –already blighted in a winner/loser culture – the possibility of notoriety by killing, and killing in a gamelike way, going for the highest score.

There’s the allure of spectacle involved in this mass pathology of mass shootings but also the deep immersion of self within these stories themselves. The hyperreal is no longer innocent, like merchants of cool branding Sprite or the Baconator, and no longer a cool exuberance of sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll. Our hyperreal has the dark side of indiscriminate mass slaughter. The notoriety of murder magnetizes as the platforms for magnetizing invade what was previously our one dimension, our analog dimension, of reality, a hierarchically, curated space that, like Pandora’s box, once opened, once liberated, cannot be closed. The liberation needed was never one in a digital, alternative reality but in reality itself.

The notoriety of slaughter hits the print media, but its real conduit is cyberspace, its social media and its website expressions of every passion, far outweighing rational expression. There is more Manson than Milton in cyberspace. The apostles of a true democracy in cyberspace are like the apostles of conservatism, a spontaneous order of cooperating individuals in market relations, both held deep within the illusions of the hyperreal.

Tarantino

When you can only choose within the range of stories you are born into, what is previously inconceivable becomes conceivable only through representation. When choices are not prior to the presence of the world’s representations but subject to them, where and when we are – time and place, 1969 or now – construct choice.

Our hyperreal is now replete with what was formerly inconceivable, with representations that are indeed the Hollywood Boulevard our being drives through and lives within. We are also at once deeply ontologically on the roof with Clint fixing a TV antenna or verifying an irascible Bruce Dern’s George’s continued real existence. In Tarantino’s “once upon a time,” we may be with Clint and Rick watching reruns of TV’s hyperreal, but we are also in a real/hyperreal-infused world more cast by the everyday time and reality of our surround than the illusions of hyperreality will allow.

 * * *

Unless otherwise noted, all images are screenshots from the film’s trailers.

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The Self-Unravelling Trump Cannot Avoid http://www.josephnatoli.com/the-self-unravelling-trump-cannot-avoid/ Fri, 22 Nov 2019 14:12:18 +0000 http://www.josephnatoli.com/?p=1872 Published on http://www.counterpunch.org I. The Dangers of Autocracy Back in the Watergate hearings, I was rivetted by them and welcomed the distraction from writing my dissertation. These 2019 House impeachment hearings are just as riveting, and because I got that dissertation done and proceeded to teach courses like radical American thought since the Watergate days, I’m bringing a […]

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Self-Unravelling

Self-Unravelling

Published on http://www.counterpunch.org

I. The Dangers of Autocracy

Back in the Watergate hearings, I was rivetted by them and welcomed the distraction from writing my dissertation. These 2019 House impeachment hearings are just as riveting, and because I got that dissertation done and proceeded to teach courses like radical American thought since the Watergate days, I’m bringing a lot more background to what I’m seeing. Nixon was a kind of self-torturing, vengeful, twisted mess that in the end became something of a tragic figure. But he panged the mass moral sense so deeply that President Ford’s pardoning of Tricky Dick smeared Ford and brought the Sunday school teaching Jimmy Carter to the presidency.

Donald J. Trump eats up the stage clownishly, his cathartic value slight, someone Dante would place in the Malebolge, the evil ditches of the eighth circle in hell. He is not a protagonist in any sort of tragedy but is rather that rough beast determined to make America a tragedy. He’d rather rule in a country he destroys than serve any will but his own. Our Executive in Chief.

Our Constitutional balance of powers democracy has its Achilles heel in the executive branch. There was always the chance that someone not representing “We, the People” but rather “I, Myself” or a nest of oligarchs could make it into the White House. A proper model was always there for the Founding Fathers: it’s far easier to remove a British prime minister than a U.S. president. Attend to Boris Johnson’s fate.

A powerful Congress could be a preventative but only if the lobbying efforts of oligarchs hadn’t taken over that body, or at least enough of it to muddy the waters of any oversight of an executive who wanted to go full tilt autocrat.

“We, the People” could also by watchful voting recognize and deny entrance to candidates whose lives reek of undemocratic values, but only if those values had not already been corrupted within the electorate. If, for instance, much of what an autocrat in the making advocates regarding immigrants, asylum, the intelligence agencies, Congressional oversight powers, the importance of the press, and his own claim to absolute power is supported by a significant percentage of the electorate then elections cannot prevent or stop autocratic power.

The takeaway here is either that the dangers of autocracy to this democracy are not understood or they are understood and not seen as dangers at all, autocracy being preferred.

I suggest two reasons why it has taken so long – 243 years – for an autocrat to become president of the U.S. First, has to do with the movement of the culture from an Enlightenment sense that truth can best be found by empirical and rational methods. Once established, there would be a common rationality eradicating the irrational. A certain authority is thereby extended to both the methodologies and the conclusions of all this. The scientific method stands at the apex of such investigations. A post-truth climate offers opinion and personal paths to both reality and truth as superior to any other manner of processing or concluding. The result of this: the vacating of common understanding of anything.

In our post-truth world where everything indeed melts into a vaporous dew and no center can be found to anything, those who initiated the Mueller investigation and those who initiated the impeachment hearings have a 50/50 chance of being criminalized.

The second reason has to do with the messaging apparatus or platforms in digital parlance. Never kill the messenger, except in situations where the messenger is making a straight run into the post-truth mind with a bomb blast of opinions from that very same post-truth mind. The congruence of minds seeking truth and reality from within their own thread spinning abdomens and posting those in a communicative universe of others doing the same is a brand-new event in human history. The confusion of every voice speaking a different tongue broadcasting from the Tower of Babel was not a good thing, but rather a curse.

The almost sudden appearance of both these factors – commonly recognized road to truth and reality, and uncontrollable cyberspace confusion — has brought an autocrat into the White House.

The only reason there is an impeachment inquiry going on in the House of Representatives right now is because shards of both rationality and the holding on by their fingertips presence of news sources still printing that rationality persist.

II

“The question is whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

– Alice

After two days of these hearings, the repeated call to “We, the people” made by the senior Republican on the Intelligence Committee is that these hearings should be stopped at once. In short, any investigation into Trump’s presidency by the House should end because there is no way Trump would be found guilty in the Senate of any charges made in the House’s Articles of Impeachment. The Republican owned Senate finds no impeachable offenses, either presented now or by Mueller.

There is a confidence now that all facts mustered as evidence leading to determinate conclusion can be spun the other way, that we are no longer dealing with rational arguments or cases made but with “narratives,” stories that compete for our attention, drawing upon our passions, not our reason. And we need to see ourselves in the storyteller, who, like us, sees and says the truth of things. This personalization of epistemology hasn’t been on the human stage since the British Romantic Revolution, and now it is uniquely American.

As I listened to CSPAN coverage in which phone calls are split on Republican and Democratic lines, it became clear that for Republicans no one’s testimony was credible, that the event was staged by Democrats and the Deep State, that no mind was open to listen, no less consider the possibility of being persuaded. Republicans argue that the case against the president is based on hearsay, on second and third- and fourth-hand testimony. There is no direct evidence. It rests, secondly, on The Whistle Blower, who, in Trump and his minions’ view, is an operative of the Democrats, just another Never Trumpist.

The response to the first is quite simply the transcript of President Trump’s phone conversation with President Zelensky. If you can comprehend what you read and arrive at the meaning of words, the President’s words are Res ipsa loquitur evidence, meaning the text speaks for itself. Testimonies creating a context as to what the President was up to and what lengths he took, through Giuliani and his associates, to get all obstacles out of the way in order to turn all of U.S./Ukrainian relations toward his own personal needs as he seeks a second term in office comply with and confirm the meaning of the phone conversation text.

The response to the idea that some deconstruction of The Whistle Blower’s words or some destruction of his or her credibility should put an end to the impeachment ignores the confirmation of his words by the many witnesses testifying before the Intelligence Committee. If, as illustration, the boy who cried wolf has been totally discredited but the wolf appears nonetheless, do we now discredit the existence of the wolf?

In short, The Whistle Blower triggered the impeachment proceedings, but that exposure has exposed what we are now busy examining. He turned over a stone and the snakes were there. But as in the Mueller investigations, attention by Trump’s defenders is not on the crimes exposed but rather on why and how they were initiated. Consider if every criminal who is indicted could form a defense questioning who, why, how and when they were indicted and thus prosecute the prosecutors and not themselves. Ludicrous but not to Fox & Friends.

This all amounts to a scary state of affairs, especially since Donald J. Trump would be a tough individual to argue passed the Pearly Gates. This is an image I’m putting out there because this is a country that brags about its Christian worthiness to all those faithful to an unworthy Islam or an atheistic Communism. But Trump is a capitalist Winner, and whether he’s a racist or disrespects God, Man and Country, worshipping his own orange image like a Golden Calf, doesn’t matter because he’s that guy with the most toys who wins in the end. This materialist god draws every materialist in the country to his feet.

III. 2020 Electoral Odds

Trump may lose the 2020 election and either go peacefully or after the Secret Service drag him out of the White House. And there may be riots in the streets if he loses. I suspect that surfing the web and Facebook addictions may cut any of that disturbance short and attentions will go elsewhere. Keeping American tending their apps has a way of drawing them away from the “off-line” world. The boredom level now of “We, the People” is at Trump’s level, he finding interest only in scattergun tweeting.

We can be certain that what brought Trump to the stage won’t dissipate. The Democrats would have to win it all in 2020 — the presidency, the House and the Senate – in order to move legislatively toward salvaging the country and the planet.

If a moderate Democrat wins, he or she would have to borrow a great deal from Warren and Bernie to move the country a bit beyond the plutarchy it was in when Trump was elected. Buttigieg’s background with McKinsey management consulting firm as well as his favorite son status with the financial sector would indicate that the plutarchy is in no danger from a President Pete. Whether the Dividend Class will feel safer with Biden than with Trump is a 5 to 8 odds bet.

If Warren or Bernie were to be elected, their politics would do more to exacerbate than heal the factionalism already existing. Besides rousing a Trump Forever army against them, they would have the beneficiaries of Market Rule as it exists now – bullishly in their favor – standing against them. Algorithm and investment lobbies would lay down a hard rain on those candidacies.

Victories by middle of the road candidates like Biden, Mayor Pete or Klobuchar might calm both the Never Trumpers and the Market Rule crowd but would do nothing to bring the Trump Forever 40% happy.

Trump didn’t create the conditions on the ground that brought him there, though he certainly has made them worse. He took advantage of them, the way any confidence man would. And for those conditions to be amended requires a strong attack on the economic system creating the obscene wealth divide. But at this point, the Trumpians are way beyond economic healing. They have joined Trump in a desire to mindlessly bring down all the institutions that have served everyone but themselves.

If your passions set you against everyone who pushes for gun control, thinks abortion, same sex marry, trans gendering, granting asylum to illegal immigrants, pushing for welfare and not work, and not allowing Trump to make America great again then economic and political talk do not calm you down.

The Democrats have a 50/50 chance of a presidential victory, but the odds are not as good when it comes to their success after the election, especially if that candidate is savaged during the campaign or policies, like Warren’s, keep the battle hot. Thus, it’s important to launch a candidate who is shielded by his very nature against savagery and who once again offers the country some common sense that puts out fires. I’ve written previously that Senator Sherrod Brown meets the needs here, but the DNC has made no effort to enlist him, nor has the wealth donors come forward to support this “dignity of work” candidate.

IV. A Triumphant Trump

What if the Senate doesn’t convict Trump and he celebrates the victory of his own ego above all obstacles, adopts a winner take all, realizes that there are no longer any obstacles to his will to power?

What if Trump wins the 2020 election and now knows for sure that he can shoot any son of a bitch on any street and be celebrated for it?

This is not a difficult exercise of the imagination. Trump is not assembled to change, to modulate his behavior, to make amends, to correct what he has savaged. It’s a surer bet that a re-elected President Trump would seek vengeance on everyone who spoke against him in an impeachment trial. The Whistle Blower has cause to conceal his or her identity. Trump will go after him or her. With the help of his Attorney General Barr, Trump can make a case against Biden, Hillary, Mueller, Schiff, Pelosi for collusion, obstruction of justice, intimidation, bribery, treason, abuse of Congressional power, contempt of the Presidency, and violation of the emolument clause. Trump and the lackeys and top presidential footstools he has put in office will turn all charges against him against the Never Trumpers and “the human scum” that get in his way.

A triumphant Trump will thus make the next several impeachment hearings and trials very clear presentations of what even his most avid supporters would no longer be able to support because in a culture of the hyperreal, his tweets and actions and failures to act would have the magnetic force of Game of Thrones or The Wire.

No one is better able to get the attention of “We, the People” than Trump himself. Place him on a second term stage and sit back and watch. It would be like watching Humphrey Bogart as Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny (1954). Leonard Pitts in The Baltimore Sun in September compared Trump’s performance before the UN to this scene: In a pivotal scene, Bogart vividly etches the captain’s mental disintegration, rambling on the witness stand about strawberries and tow lines and the supposed lies of his subordinates. All the while he toys, ceaselessly, unconsciously obsessively, with a handful of ball bearings.

Nothing will bring Trump’s own egomania and mental disintegration more dramatically into public view than victories in the impeachment trial and in the 2020 election. To all the Never Trumpians, this sounds like diabolical counsel but unfortunately this man is the sort of beast that must be allowed full rein to the driving obsessions of his will to power, to self-destruct in public view. The divisiveness of the nation has long ago overstepped the traces of reason while Trump dwells at the very center of it like a fueling fire.

It is a dark remedy filled with so much risk in all those areas Trump has already fatally endangered. Nevertheless, this man is himself our way out as only his public disintegration, brought to a trial in which the case against him can be universally understood and the verdict unopposed, can heal a deep fracture in what is now a least perfect union that rivals that of our War Between the States.

If, however, the country’s exit from Trump and his disruptive legacy is in fact Trump himself, his public mental disintegration, his megalomaniacal nature gone wild for all to see in acts we can only now dread, then such can occur at any moment.

Being exonerated by the Senate in its impeachment trial may be enough to swell the sense of personal triumph in the president and lead him to outrageous violations of presidential power. Impeached yet again and, if needed, yet again, until either on one occasion Articles of Impeachment clearly determine a guilty verdict, or, the combination of repeated impeachments and a growing list of Articles of Impeachment clearly determine a guilty verdict.

If this becomes the case, there will be no Trump victory in 2020 to fuel a swaggering, elated ego and thus ignite any number of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which his nature, like that of the scorpion who must sting, cannot bar. Our president has no self-restraint, which is not unusual in either capitalist or cyberspace culture where we are all encouraged to dominate and self-advertise. Donald J. Trump is most certainly an outrageously inflated version of both.

Postscript

President Trump has been unravelling before our eyes, but half the country believes what they are seeing is a heroic man under attack by the other half of the country. However, an exoneration by the Senate of charges brought against him by the House will certainly push his self-inflation and strong man “will to power” to dramatic levels, on national, international and personal matters that, like Captain Queeg before a jury, will preempt any serious defense.

Will the Republican Party, which serves as a foot stool to Trump, attempt to hold on to Trump’s supporters, and, if so, how? Will it attempt to return to its former globalized neo-liberal politics? How will the appointed and elected Trump attack faction transform themselves? They may disappear into corporate and academic posts, no need to escape to Brazil.

Without the almost instantaneous support of so many “Yes” men and women, Trump could not have materialized in the autocratic way that he has. It’s a mystery as to what motivates a subservience to a man so transparently low on any scale upon which we judge the twisted timber of our humanity. What we can see clearly, however, is that those who devote themselves to making Trump’s arbitrary and capricious whim and will defensible, to making his impulsiveness and irrationalism presentable, enwrap themselves in a worse karma than the president’s own.

Trump the real estate player found himself president, a mystery to all, but clearly the kowtowing of so many plus a growing sense that with each victory he could take all he wanted with impunity brought him to this first impeachment moment and will surely bring him to one eventually that a Senate will need to uphold.

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In the Looming Shadow of Civil War http://www.josephnatoli.com/in-the-looming-shadow-of-civil-war/ Wed, 20 Nov 2019 18:08:09 +0000 http://www.josephnatoli.com/?p=1869 Published on http://www.counterpunch.org “If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal,” – Donald J. Trump, tweet “The mood of the country has been more poisonous that this; at the time of […]

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the Looming Shadow

the Looming Shadow

Published on http://www.counterpunch.org

“If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal,”

– Donald J. Trump, tweet

“The mood of the country has been more poisonous that this; at the time of Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia in 1970, and again in the run-up to the Iraq War. Worse, yes; but it has never been crazier.”

– David Bromwich, London Review of Books, 24 October 2019

I. The Combatants

The President of the United States urges Republicans to get tougher and fight an illegitimate impeachment. It seems we may soon have to choose which side we are on in our deep cultural divide. The President’s long game may be to take the whole issue to the Supreme Count where another Gore/Bush decision will come down. Much will fester during this wait.

But if a civil war were to come if Trump wins or if Trump loses the election or a Supreme Court battle, this war wouldn’t have a casus belli anything like ending slavery. Never Trump and Forever Trump are very sad casus belli, although they would feed the ego of Trump. Given that, it would still be a humiliating and disgusting episode in American history, were that to come.

What brand of Republican would be fighting what brand of Democrat? Or would it be the Trumpians rebelling against the tyranny of the Never Trumpians? Perhaps it would be a religious war: those fighting on the side of abortion and LGBTQ rights lining up against those who have made Jesus their personal savior?

Reasons, not forthcoming, aside we can yet see the battle lines joined on a level of passions. Liberals retain the old tax and spend/baby killing on demand profile, taking from working Americans and giving to lazy shirkers and on the way killing babies. The profile grows darker: gay marriage, gender choice, LGBTQ rights, amnesty to illegal aliens, open borders, confiscation of guns, cars, cattle, Jesus, Robert E. Lee and white privilege.

The “extreme Left” and Progressives have a thinner profile: Communists.

Republicans have not been labelled so colorfully by Democrats because both share a deep respect for the continuous growth of profit. The differences regarding what to do with the consequences of a rapacious economic system have not been sufficient for Democrats to paint a damning portrait of Republicans. That’s been the case until Bernie Sanders, a class warrior not silenced by those who have made this label synonymous with traitor, terrorist, Communist.

The splinter Trump faction now both tormenting and keeping the Republican Party alive is colorfully stereotyped by Liberals and Progressives. Donald J. Trump led them to this profile simply by being elected the 45th President of the United States. What sort of voter would vote for a man who during the campaign aroused anger and hate, racism, bigotry and misogyny, who had 25 women accusing him of sexual misconduct, who refused to pay hundred of workers, who nastily ridiculed his opponents?

The profile then of the Trumpian placed both ignorance and stupidity at the top of the list, followed by racist, bigoted, misogynist and homophobic. In brief, if you voted for Trump, you were a troglodyte with a gun.

For these two stereotypified factions to clash, American culture would have to stop pulsating like a nerve end on opioids. Because we interface in cyberspace to a greater extent every day and that alternate reality makes second by second change its métier, we cannot expect a passionate clash now will remain in our digitalized memory banks.

Although there is no clarity to what might be the casus belli of a coming civil war, there is clarity to the history taking us to where we are now.

It deserves to be summarized if we are to position ourselves reliably in our 2020 election decisions.

II. The Journey to Where We Are Now

The Dow Jones didn’t cross the 1000 mark until 1972. Savings accounts paid 8% and so no one was pushed into the stock market. The market climbed when Reagan replaced a reliable income based on wages with speculative investment, which spurred the growth of the financial sector.

Working for wages and savings accounts with reputable returns were replaced by investing in a stochastic market and pipe dreams of a bottom 40% starting a business. Profiteers of Viet-nam with loads of money to invest in the tax friendly environment that Reagan created replaced the now diminished “working class hero,” the lunch pail, GI Joe who with the help of the G.I. Bill, the unionizing victories of John L. Lewis and Walter Reuter, among many others, shaped a middle class.

Economic theory set up market rule as the horse driving the cart of egalitarian democracy. It drove that cart right into plutarchy. Labor failed to set up its own political party and suffered the consequences, until by the time Bill Clinton was in office the assaults on workers and wages meant very little in a Democratic Party focused on leaning into neoliberal economics and soon into multicultural and identity politics. At a time when wages hadn’t gone beyond 1973 levels, Democrats were concentrating on bathroom rights.

By 2004, the effects of market rule, of making interest and dividends from investment a fulfillment of the American dream as money compounded into ever increasing amounts of money, siloed from any injurious taxation, some 80% of the population were hurting but also befuddled, rather like someone in a dark closet being hit but blind to who the hitter might be.

Obama’s “Yes, We Can!” met the emotional needs of this suffering class, which like the big skies of Montana do not pay the grocery bills. It was as passionate an attachment to voters as Trump was to achieve 12 years later, the passions though being diametrically opposed. Obama was at first not aware of the conditions on the ground, of the battle he was in but when awareness arrived, he leaned into the Clintonian affinities with neoliberalism. He put all his eggs into health care, a consequence of something and not the root cause, a symptom of an economic travesty he failed to recognize.

When it became crystal clear after the Great Depression of 2017 that a runaway financial sector had played a long grift on the whole country but paid no price, both Dubya and Obama assuring that no felon would be indicted, the price to be paid was forwarded to the present in the shape of this 40% who want that whole whatever it was that wrecked their lives to be taken apart.

The failure over the course of eight years of a Democratic presidency to focus directly and totally on market rule’s demolishing of a middle class that buffered the country from a fall into plutarchy made the country vulnerable to an autocratic takeover. It should be no surprise that the American version of an autocratic demagogue would be some sort of spin, spectacle and glitz celebrity, perhaps a Reality TV celebrity, a clown in orange wig and makeup, the American version of an autocrat. We go hyperreal as naturally as tides follow the moon.

Some 80% of the population has been in various stages of demolishment since Reagan and they have solid reasons for messing with the Democratic/Republican order of things, something that Trump does to his followers’ cheers.

Sixteen years of Clinton and Obama did nothing to end this travesty: Five Americans have as much wealth…. It’s an astonishing failure. Wages sank beneath inflation as corporate decisions not to raise them faced no challenge by diminished unions or Republican legislatures. Clinton and Obama adopted the same view of unions as did the Republicans: they were run by gangsters and impeded economic growth.

Our politics pretends to be pitching from two different directions but it’s not.

It’s been a profits first, Market Rule one party system since Reagan. Until Bernie Sanders came on the scene, there has been no attack on unbridled capitalism that was launched by Democrats, who have a New Deal behind them while the Republicans have Reagan’s Voodoo economics.

The DNC undermined Bernie’s chances to win the 2016 Democratic Primary because his platform touched a third rail that they share with Republicans. Bernie dared to attack capitalism. Elizabeth Warren has more cleverly planned her attack now, admitting she is a “capitalist to the bone,” by which she means a foundational capitalism and not the politically uncontrollable Devourer Demogorgon that it has become.

III. Where We Are Now

We should, by now have reached the point in the road in which we try to avoid the worst in us being encouraged or elected into office. We should be able to recognize when we’re being incited to riot, to hate, to drown out other voices, to be ready to do “whatever is necessary” as if there was ever a justifying end.

Passions are not reasons, but actually devoid of reason. And, as passions do, they have a short fuse life span. Volatile emotional responses must be rekindled, stoked and fired up, sometimes with a tweet in the early morning hours. Buttons must be pushed and re-pushed in a society that effervesces at nano speed.

Donald J. Trump has obliged this need, although it’s clear that he’s digging what he calls the Losers into a hole they can only get out of if they don’t respond to all the buttons of irrational response.

And we must admit that some productions of our reptilian brain, of the darker devils of our humanity, the twisted tree of our nature from homophobia and racism to misogyny and every variety of ethnic and religious prejudice have deep roots. Neither Marx nor Adam Smith have cured the disease at these roots; neither the Bible or the Koran, Sophocles or Shakespeare, prosperity gospel preacher, Paula White or Lao Tzu, Jeff Bezos or Pierre Joseph-Proudhon. A political or economic solution to the worst in us is itself a kind of hubris.

We have been deterred and detoured from reaching that point in the road where we recognize how democracy has moved to plutocracy, and how the White House is now occupied by a man who broadcasts his vileness on Twitter.

Detoured from reason, perhaps, because our Market Rule pushes the same buttons while ridiculing and extracting efforts to educate, to inform and critically think, politics is not going to follow the path of rational dialogue, but those advertising, marketing and branding practices that pitch low to reach the many.

Confused and confounded, perhaps, because we spend so much time in a cyberspace alternate reality in which all our blindness and stupidities, all our thoughtlessness and baseless opinions find a welcoming home. Errant minds can easily find there other misguided, errant wanderers in a digital world, a confused, tangled world, curated in soundproof silos.

It’s a space new, except to those who have been born within it and the “off-line”world, and so how it affects our politics is something we are in the process of learning. Our elections. Yes. The President’s hold on his followers. Yes. The rise of neo-fascist/white supremacist groups. Yes. The failure of 4th and 8th graders to pass reading comprehension tests. Yes.

My assumption in this last tragedy is that social media, texting and tweeting and posting photos are productive if the goal is to reduce the cognitive faculties of a mass of people scheduled for extinction axiomatically by techno-semio capitalism. In this scenario, the Smartphone is a handheld soma tablet.

We would not be urged to just read the transcript of Trump’s phone conversation with Zelensky in order to conclude with the President that it was a “perfect” call if the American public were able to find meaning in words resistant to spin and alternative meanings. Or, more precisely, we are at a place where words mean as Humpty Dumpty said they mean: “What any speaker says they mean.” Speakers in position of power, as our friend Humpty presumes himself to me, want words to bend to their will.

But all is not spun and manufactured in spite of the fact that we live in a morass of mindless opinions.

In our present looming shadow of war among ourselves, there are legitimate grievances, anger and worn out patience, a lingering sense of having been cheated that has been in search of some relief since Reagan activated a collapse of a middle class and headed us toward a new Middle Ages. So many have been in search of a personality who could make them feel good about themselves again. I say personality and not ideas because America personalizes, it doesn’t theorize.

Donald J. Trump filled that role of watchable personality but remember passions not reasons led a forever unknown number of the 40% of the population to him. A red hat with a slogan does not necessarily mean racist or even “un-woke.” It doesn’t mean Burke style conservative or Friedman style neoliberal or Clinton style globalist. We have warring camps of not ideas but red baseball hats and rainbow flags.

Another unknown portion of the Republican Party has reasons to stay with Trump, dollars and cents reasons. One has to allow that very many Democratic portfolio holders who shout “Never Trump” will in the privacy of the voting booth vote for dollars and cents reasons.

The portfolio dividend class, which spans both parties, will have thought deeply about what, say, a President Elizabeth Warren will do to their stock portfolio.

Perhaps, their perception that this man, President Trump, is a very low form of life and that another four years of him will put the country where the climate is, that is, on an irreparable road to ruin, propel them to vote for a woman who has a plan to reverse what Ronald Reagan did in two terms as president, i.e., fashion a Winner/Loser culture, serfs and peasants/aristos and moguls and schedule the middle class for extinction. As the saying goes, I wouldn’t hold my breath for this.

There is only one way most likely that would bring the portfolio class of Trump supporters over to Warren’s side: a promise not to mess with their wealth amassing arrangements.

Warren won’t do this and neither would Bernie. For all the rest, notably Biden and Buttigieg, they have to signal that, except for a few tweaks, the sort of “free enterprise” that has made five individuals more prosperous than 50% of the entire population will be preserved. That order of things, which suits a top 1% and the next 20% meritocratic/professional class that serves them, can go on relatively undisturbed.

Mayor Pete, after all, is a perfect product of this chosen meritocratic means to preserve our egalitarian democracy. Sarcasm aside, it’s a terrible means given the fact that our societal level playing field is about as level as it was in France before their revolution. For every American born into the bottom quintile who rises up the meritocratic ladder and avoids imprisonment, there are multitudes who compost right in the lowly digs where they started.

It doesn’t matter if in the next quarter century, the middle class changes from white dominant to race-plural if reading levels of African Americans and Hispanics remain the same. And judging by the direction education is taking under DeVoss, but more significantly, the way in which investors see education as a new marketing frontier, a race-plural middle class will not climb the meritocratic ladder as Mayor Pete has.

The circumstances that enabled his rise cannot become a template and neither can a product of such arrange the change that is needed.

Middle Class Joe Biden is also for the portfolio class a tempting alternative to Trump.

If Biden were a race horse, you could pedigree him this way: Biden out of Obama out of the Clinton’s out of Third Way out of neoliberal economics. Third Way is what an FDR kind of Democratic Party collapsed into once they decided a Democratic had to lean into the Republican political party and give capitalism its head, no pulling on the reins, otherwise the whole foundation of globalized supremacy would collapse.

Biden would be in a dead heat to out trump Trump in the key rust belt states, but if he did win, the country would wake up to find they were in the same place they were before Trump came along. And that means some new version of Trump, like Nero succeeded Caligula, is in the wings.

One problem with one or the other of these middle of the road candidates is that they won’t do much to allay the fears, hatreds, bitterness, confusions and a revolutionary’s sense of being cheated, over and over again.

A Democratic president at this time would be like a shot fired at Fort Sumter. Amend that: Elizabeth Warren would be that. The others would be Roman candles.

No moderate Democrat can moderate the furor resulting from a Trump loss, especially if he rallies his followers behind “Fraud at the Poll!”

The immediate relief a President Warren would give all the Rust Belt states is by taking away their employee and union medical benefits and asking them to queue up at the nearest Social Security Office where a Federal Government they have learned to love and trust will call their number in several hours. If they are aware of this on election day, Trump will get his second term.

Thus far, none of the Democratic candidates have a “gone viral” on YouTube celebrity status, a requirement now for our hyperreal politics as hyperreal entertainment. None now seem likely to out bluster and bullshit Trump in any debate.

Unfortunately, the candidate who has the presence and especially the gravelly, many roads travelled voice — Ohio’s Senator Sherrod Brown — to win over the rust belt demographic, and also charismatically school Trump in any debate, is not running. The crime here is that the DNC made no all out effort to induce him to run.

A party pitching its tent in choosing a candidate who represents every form of diversity of the population is as interested in a 66 year old white, heterosexual male candidate as they were interested in a socialist candidate in 2016.

Unfortunately, the states needed for an Electoral College win – Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – may not be as attracted to a diversity candidate as the Democratic Party is. They also continue to be not overly interested in candidates who base their politics on the working class and their fall from honored or even reputable status in the U.S. It’s their identity Brown focuses on.

The only reason why we’re talking about Biden and not Sherrod Brown early on is name recognition. And that can be traced to a portfolio class’s uninterest in supporting a labor candidate. Buttigieg, who had less name recognition than Brown, seems to have no trouble pulling in funding from the financial sector, which in itself should be a warning.

IV. Over and Over Again Impeachment

Regardless of the obtuse and lackluster Democratic field, the portfolio Republicans may chance a bet on any Democrat but Warren simply because they know another four years of Donald will most certainly mean another House impeachment.

For the preservation of our balance of powers democracy, it doesn’t matter if Mitch McConnell dismisses the Articles as soon as they are brought up. What matters is getting the House’s reasons for impeachment on the record. This President was impeached but not convicted. The House doesn’t have to wait for the election. They could bring another round of impeachment charges, all those in the Mueller report as well as all those out of Trump’s own mouth.

Once Trump is not convicted in the Senate, he will not only take a victory lap, he’ll push ahead with even more flagrant abuses of executive authority. Because he is only familiar with his own understanding of anything, he remains capable of abuses that more historically savvy and informed autocrats, some as equally vile but not as ego swollen, of the past would hesitate to commit. Trump shows no signs of hesitancy; Twitter reversals are made as boldly as Twitter declarations.

How many times can Republicans dismiss all the Articles of Impeachment the House of Representative sends to them before their moral nerve is touched, when the occasion for a moral review materializes?

Actually, if there were a moral sense floating around in the Republican Party, dollars and lobbyists would guide its expression.

“Moral hazard,” for instance, is not faced when a legislator shills for a transparently mad, bad and dangerous to know president. Nor does it kick in when you survey the Trump Twitter Archive  which eventually will fill a Trump Library as a terrible lesson never to be forgotten, a visit to a Holocaust library.

It’s ironic that those who have been crushed beneath “supply-side/Laffer Curve” economics look to a rich, unscrupulous capitalist as their savior. Ironic, yet again, that those who vote based on their moral obligations adhere to Trump’s “grab them by their pussy” beatitude. But irony doesn’t ring when the Reptilian brain is directing traffic.

Most of the country that David Brooks toured to gauge where The People were at regarding impeachment didn’t seem much interested. If Trump wins a second term, they will most likely remain uninterested, more interested in climate change, especially if fire, drought, flood and wind has ruined their homestead. (The New York Times, Oct. 31, 2019_

Where Donald J. Trump will take the portfolio class, the throng in red hats, the gentrifiers, the Coastals and everyone in “fly over” America in his second term will probably be where a gone wild autocrat unchecked by a Congress or by a “fake news” press or by his own intelligence community or by any of his acting cabinet appointees or by his trophy wife or by Ivanka and Jared takes him and them.

Adam Schiff may find himself under arrest; Pelosi cellmates with Hillary; Bernie and Warren held on treason charges; Bezos’s holdings shut down; The New York Times building a victim of eminent domain; the Congress abolished. And so on.

As long as the market grows and preserves the wealth of the top 20% and as long as second term President Trump entertains his followers with new targets to hate, most Americans can continue to be uninterested in the crimes committed against themselves and their country.

Winning control of the Senate and retaining control of the House is more vital in the 2020 election than who becomes president.

In that way, the inevitable abuses of power that President Trump commits in that second term will not go without impeachment and conviction.

If the second Civil War begins then one could conclude that Trump’s followers’ anger has segued into war, that passions had a sustaining force that thought could not interrupt.

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The Dialogue of Divisiveness http://www.josephnatoli.com/the-dialogue-of-divisiveness/ Tue, 05 Nov 2019 09:08:06 +0000 http://www.josephnatoli.com/?p=1863 Published on http://www.counterpunch.org “If we tell that story [that the president committed an impeachable offense] with simplicity and repetition, the American people will understand why the president must be held accountable.” – Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, quoted in The New York Times, Oct. 22, 2019 “The only real connective tissue I see is the almost preternatural isolationist […]

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Published on http://www.counterpunch.org

“If we tell that story [that the president committed an impeachable offense] with simplicity and repetition, the American people will understand why the president must be held accountable.”

– Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, quoted in The New York Times, Oct. 22, 2019

“The only real connective tissue I see is the almost preternatural isolationist impulse that he [President Trump] invariably seems to revert to when left to his own devices internationally.”

– John P. Hannah, quoted in The New York Times, Oct. 22, 2019

There is, of course, no fruitful dialogue in extreme cases of social and political divisiveness. Mikhail Bakhtin writes of “basic conditions governing the operation of meaning in any utterance” and as these conditions change, meaning changes. Meanings interact, each conditioning each. Right now, we have no commonly accepted basic conditions and so the meaning of any utterance, say, a transcript of a phone conversation, or a White House chief of staff’s utterance at a press conference, is subject to divided explications. And because we are so deeply divided, we don’t interact, our meanings stay polarized, each in their own silos. Dialogue, then, is preempted, prevented.

Bakhtin offered us the idea of “dialogic” wherein instead of working our own side of a dialogue, we worked into opposing voices and carried on our side with that knowledge. Instead of proceeding oppositionally, as in a debate, we absorbed the fire of other voices into our own and they did likewise, proceeding then to a kind of melting point where each had taken on the identity of the other, those identities different than at the beginning.

It seemed stupid to assert a position without having already vetted that position by the opposition and without also confronting what a position ignored. And so, you considered how your utterances would come to meaning within the conditions governing meaning held by another, a political opponent.

For instance, the Democrats want to slow down their inquiry until they can take “the American people” along with them in their understanding of the need to impeach President Trump. “Just the facts, baby,” Representative Jeffries exclaims. This is a debate position, one that ignores the fact that no fact now stands in the same old respected factual way. Nor does it recognize that the transparency of President Trump’s phone conversation with President Zelenskyy of Ukraine remains opaque to Trump’s c.40% base:

 I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. . . . There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great.  I would also like to thank you for your great support in the area of defense. We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps specifically we are almost. ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes.

Explicating or defining what these words mean is simple, provided you are literate and not encrusted with a blind faith that cannot be penetrated, and if that is not the case, then in our conventional sense of dialogue we can’t see how the words can be brought to a greater simplicity. Supplementation with other words leaves us in the same quandary we are in with the original words. However, if we consider that other conditions are at work here determining meaning – social, political, historical, economic and so on – then what is transparent inheres not in the words themselves but is subject to surrounding conditions.

This seems abstruse but the implications are instructive, bogged down as we are in a seemingly unbridgeable divide that seems likely to take to the streets.

Continuing to hold that transparency of meaning is external to our divide over what anything means, somehow outside the conditions in which that divide has placed us within drastically different conditions is a well-worn path to continued divisiveness.

We have seen little movement away from the defense of the President by Republicans and no movement by a base of about 40% of “the American people,” a tag that leads us to think “The People” are now one, united because they exist within identical conditions, conditions without a common base and therefore not basic.

Slowing the movement toward writing Articles of Impeachment to allow those who do not at this point recognize the transparency of the President’s abuse of power, obstruction of justice, profiteering by illegal emoluments and conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws thus makes no sense. Unless worlds are changed which give any words or actions transparency, it doesn’t matter how slow or how fast either side repeats its bullet points.

Neither does it make sense to keep impeachment simple so that “the American people” can focus on the one issue of abuse of power in Ukraine. Simplicity of indictment doesn’t affect in any way the complexities of reception in a society grounded within different worldly positions. We don’t amend this situation by simplifying its dark consequences. We cannot do so because we wish to regain the basic conditions of a constitutional democracy as a common grounding, but we need to do so despite the plutocratic turn from such that has gone on since Reagan.

We are then not submitting to our divided state but attempting to hold onto commonly accept basic conditions by which we bring our society to a constitutional democratic and not autocratic meaning.

We are not involved with a prosecution of Al Capone wherein we’re willing to jail him for tax evasion when his crimes were greater and many. What is at stake here is expressed clearly by Charles M. Blow: “Trump is a stress test on our system and constitutional government and we dare not fail. Trump must be held accountable not only because his corruption dictates it, but also because we must demonstrate that accountability is possible.” (The New York Times, October 21, 2019)

More expansive is Elizabeth Drew on what is at stake here if we preemptively constrict our Articles of Impeachment:

To limit the impeachment process to the most blatant presidential misdeed yet discovered would leave in the dust — unresolved for history, setting dangerous precedents — the possibility of holding accountable a president who routinely enriches himself at the expense of the taxpayers and flouts the Constitution’s emoluments clause, lies so persistently that we’re far from the democratic concept of transparent government, usurps the role of Congress by unilaterally holding up funds or using them for other purposes than it has approved, bullies private businesses by threatening a tax increase or a significant raise in postal rates (as Mr. Trump did to Amazon, whose owner also owns The Washington Post), tells intelligence alumni who openly criticize him that he’ll suspend their security clearances and fights the law that allows Congress to obtain his tax returns. The New York Times, Sept. 30, 2019)

If the impeachment position is one that already assumes the Senate will not vote to convict, there is no reason to limit the Articles of Impeachment, but rather there is a real need to establish for the historical record, a complete and honest array of charges. Such would place Senate members in the position of denying the transparence of not one but all violations of our constitutional government.

A complete indictment would be a stress test of every Senate member’s attachment to a president who is “mad, bad and dangerous to know” in a way that far exceeds Lady Caroline Lamb’s description of Lord Byron.

We also cannot assume a position opposing those who oppose conviction without ingesting in our position our opponent’s reasons and/or incitements.

Fear and hate seem to be the leading incitements. Republicans fear the army of loyalists devoted to President Trump. Those loyalists share Trump’s vendetta against The Deep State, which I presume to say they describe as a governmental order that has sapped middle class prosperity and passed it on to illegal immigrants, welfare frauds, and the un-American.

What the President’s vendetta is I presume to say has more to do with personal challenge and obstruction of his own will, which the record now shows is arbitrary and capricious but dangerous, as he holds the highest office in the land.

Neither the President nor his followers have a clear declaration of vendetta, the President’s being riddled with a personal psychopathology and his followers being riddled with monumental confusion and contradiction.

For example, while it’s clear that a wealth divide greater than what France experienced before their revolution has cornered political power at the highest income level and that revolution and vendetta have their causes, it is not clear why a rich man who reneged on paying his workers, who provides tax relief for his wealth class, who deregulates industries with resulting harm to those financially unable to get out of harm’s way, and who mocks everyone but those who win by having a lot of money would be the revolutionary leader, the Zapata to overturn a class and a regime of which he is a fixed part.

Hatred, in all its forms, is blind for the simple reason that it is selective in a thoughtless way or in an obsessed way emerging from some dark packaging of the hater. In a culture that has long replaced thought with spin, spectacle, and opinionated passion and which has the technology to megaphone all of that all the time, it’s easier for a political campaign to be built on hatred and fear than on any reasoned approach.

The first part of this has been endemic in politics. The second part, the cyberspace broadcasting, is not only new but powerful enough to move our politics more totally into the “crooked timber of humanity,” out of which, Kant, tells us, no straight thing was ever made.

Thus, if Donald J. Trump is a more crooked manifestation of the presidency than ever before, it has much to do with a whole culture having devolved more deeply into what is worse in each one of us. Trump’s presence in this light, or darkness, is explicable.

How are the Democratic candidates for the presidency adapting to, or assimilating these conditions of both their rivals and the culture itself? Are they recognizing the briefs against their own and proceeding with those responses packaged in their own briefs?

I see little sign of that.

“We’re going to impeach the mof***ker” is a shout out against Trump and, implicitly, against those who are solidly behind him.

Perhaps it’s not supposed to be an assault on Trump’s supporters because it’s recognized that 16 years of Democratic presidencies saw the rise of those economic conditions and a resulting growing wealth gap that those presidents did nothing to correct. There’s little sign of that recognition.

Republicans have checked off all that devolution of some 80% of the population as “creative destruction.” They are ideologically bound to such; the Democrats are ideologically bound to being, as Elizabeth Warren puts it, “capitalists to the bone.” Because it is precisely that runaway form of capitalism, taking its axiomatic course to rewarding some and disregarding many, that is the foundational problem we face, we must conclude that both parties have been incapable of staunching the blood flow created by Market Rule.

President Trump is indeed a problem, perhaps the most severe problem ever housed in the White House, but the root causes of his presence there lie in the 64 or so million American who voted for him. There’s a problem feeding the life of a problem. But those 64 million are the products, unfortunate creations of an economics that has displaced democratic power. In their anger, their feelings of being cheated, their sense of being discarded while they’re still alive, their frustration over not reaching into a dark, bureaucratic system and striking back, their situation is Kafkaesque. They can’t accept the obvious condemning indictments against them but neither can they know what they are and who is making them.

Trump has appeared as a force who has gained entrance to a regime of forces set against them. He champions them in an arena that no election except this election has given them, through him, entrance to.

In short, he is grasped the conditions within which everything comes to meaning. No small accomplishment.

They are not willing or able to see him kicked out of that position, regardless of what an order of things that has never worked before on their behalf presents as reasons for impeachment. And the presidential election of 2020 is not one he can lose in any way if the same rebellious feelings of some 64 million Americans vote for him.

If all the factors which brought them to where they are now and then brought them to Trump remain undigested by the Democrat challengers, then Trump will hang on or another Trump will emerge.

Thus, the way to end his presidency is not to campaign as if he were a sui generis problem nor to campaign against those sticking to him as a last stand rebel leader but to address the reasons that bring so many to see this willful charlatan as a last stand rebel leader.

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The Battles Now http://www.josephnatoli.com/the-battles-now/ Thu, 10 Oct 2019 07:10:28 +0000 http://www.josephnatoli.com/?p=1856 Published on http://www.counterpunch.org “Now we are engaged….” – Lincoln, Gettysburg Address One real battle we are in now – human caused global warming – is a battle we realized very belatedly we are in. The other – the political one – is, in a President Trump retweet, heading toward “a Civil War like fracture in this […]

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The-Battles-Now

The-Battles-Now

Published on http://www.counterpunch.org

“Now we are engaged….”

– Lincoln, Gettysburg Address

One real battle we are in now – human caused global warming – is a battle we realized very belatedly we are in. The other – the political one – is, in a President Trump retweet, heading toward “a Civil War like fracture in this nation” and is a Mad Hatter sort of battle in which both sides see the other through a shattered looking glass, and hear each other through a madhouse Twitter echo chamber.

The battle in which we are fighting for survival on this planet is a battle with ourselves, though the economics we have constructed now seems to lie outside ourselves as an unimpeachable reality.

Our political battle, the one in which the President prophesies war if he is impeached or if he loses the 2020 election, is an accessory to our survival battle in that an economics driving our politics is at work here also.

Trump is in office now because we have, since Reagan, been on a long road to emptying the lives of many while aggrandizing to the point of obscenity the wealth of the few. That has not been a battle but an exploitation and confounding of the anger of those whose well being has been eroded so that the causes of such destruction are not brought to light.

Battle ensues when exposures, such as the Mueller report and now the whistle blower’s account of the mafioso nature of the “art” of Trump’s deal making as president, wound the President’s amour de soi.

We are all slowly realizing how we need to take on this battle of survival but the political battle, the one in which democracy has turned to oligarchy, the one in which great wealth and the great power that attends it in both private and public domains, has reached a high intensity point but not an equal level of clarity established by a common way of knowing and therefore understanding.

We now have not even a consensual agreement as to any authority outside our own opinionating, an abysmal promoted and exercised in our Twitter “discourse.”

In the private sector, neither intellect nor imagination is a greater means to profit than the possession of money itself. Money is the medium of making money as the financial sector extinguishes production of anything but money and IT feeds monied investors with more opportunities to invest.

In the public sector, you can’t represent The People unless you have the wealth to carry your message via a profit-making delivery system. You could say that the wealth and elite standing of the Founding Fathers has been successfully carried through to the present. Now our delegating our politics to the casino like play of the market has, as in the last hours of a Monopoly game, bankrupt many. At the throw of the dice.

This is not the battle we see ourselves in. We do not see ourselves in desperate and dangerous peril created by our throw of the dice economic system.

Not everyone on Wall Street believes that the financial times are hopeless, nor particularly anguishing. Those active in gentrifying Brooklyn, San Francisco, Washington D.C. and elsewhere feel empowered, financially, to change their environment to suit them. Desperation and endangerment are so defeated by a meritocratic elite upscaling of their immediate surround.

Not so with that bottom 50% income level whose combined income is equal to that of three individuals and so have become attuned to living as, our economics have left them, horses of no value. And so, they feel neither desperation or endangered because the possession of hope and solvency, of living in neighborhoods where their lives are not endangered is faint or totally unknown.

For some, we are in desperate and dangerous times because anti-fascist protesters are “planning to kill every single Trump voter, conservative and gun owners.” (Quoted in the NYTimes, Oct. 1, 2019.)

We are, within this mindset, on the edge of another Civil War, a “total war” in which Americans loyal to President Trump will take arms against the “Deep State.” Just as the southern states felt the north was encroaching on their state’s rights, particularly their rights as slaveholders, Trump’s followers see encroachments on their freedom to enact their religious beliefs and on their right to bear arms.

Their sense of individual freedom is everywhere being violated, but not by Trump. He plays at sharing their anger regarding what power the Federal government has over them, or regarding what they can say without censure, or who they can exclude for whatever reason, racist or not. The President exemplifies for them how government power can be fought, curtailed and ignored, and how whiteness, heterosexuality, xenophobia, as well as a distrust and mocking of the press are all consistent with what has always made America great.

In another wording of danger and desperation, “Trump’s ugly and armed mass of white nationalist Amerikaners” plus the useful idiots and subordinate flunkies that historically flock to autocratic demagogues are taking arms against a Constitutional liberal democracy.

Everyone on this Trumpian, “illiberal” side of the civil war has lost the ability to interpret what words mean, has replaced fact with “alternative” facts, has replaced the authority of rational and empirical methodologies with personal opinions, has confused conspiracy theories with fact based evidence, and has lost the attentiveness to read beyond a tweet’s 240 characters.

Everyone on the Trump side is drowning in spin and spectacle while also being beaten senseless by the barrage of memes from the mouths of Generals Kelly Anne Conway and Stephen Miller, all of this found, by the illiberals, more entertaining than Elizabeth Warren’s thoughtful disquisitions on problems and solutions.

The “Anybody but Trump” army without AR-15s was waiting for the Mueller report to drop like an atomic bomb on the enemy and is now waiting for the House to bring to the Senate articles of impeachment that will make it difficult for the Senate to vote against. This is a hurry up and wait army hoping that the Senate will convict by trial and eject Trump from the presidency.

The same faction is waiting for some Democratic Primary candidate for the presidency to hit the limelight, become the standout Democratic presidential nominee and go on to win the presidency in 2020.

When no one hits the limelight, Joe Biden will do.

I feel sorry for those who expect Biden will heal the wounds of a Trump residency, or even reduce the wealth divide, get solidly behind the Green New Deal, and take Bernie’s hard line on the destructiveness of our cherished capitalism. There is little reason why neoliberal Republicans wouldn’t feel safe with a Biden nomination.

Elizabeth Warren is their nemesis. She has plans to engage in our survival as well as our political battle. The problem is neoliberal Democrats fear her as much as neoliberal Republicans. For those who expect Warren’s plans to sail through Moscow Mitch, we can predict a wait for the 2024 election to consume her tenure. Unless, of course, Mother Nature moves us closer to the survival battle than now predicted.

A longer wait is for all those male, blue collar workers in the Rust Belt and elsewhere to become extinct, replaced by the meritocratic elite, their merit displayed in finance, pharmaceuticals, health insurance, hospitals, doctors (not nurses), energy alternatives, and AI and robotics.

This civil war won’t happen because one side is all about waiting and not engaging and the other side doesn’t have to fight to continue to hold their beliefs, gripes, and threats. They can air them on social media, a defusing mechanism its one virtue.

This civil war won’t happen because neither side can do something not in the interests of an economic system that has set up this divide. The stochastic distribution of capital, our casino capitalism and its kin, meritocratic gentrification, go on regardless of how hot each side gets because it’s an antagonist unrecognized, rather like Iago in Othello’s life.

We are not divided over the wealth gap the most severe in 50 years, or the fact that Wall Street looted the country in 2008 and was paid by the Federal government for doing so and are now ready to do it again, or that both parties swear allegiance to capitalism regardless of how it has turned this country into an oligarchy.

But most significantly we cannot go beyond the brink of war, can’t fire a gun at whatever either side sees as a Fort Sumter, because we are all spinning in a sea of diatribe, opinionating babble and twaddle that doesn’t touch ground today and evaporates tomorrow.

It is not in the profit-making interests of our Market Rule to push us beyond deferring our differences from today’s post and tweet to tomorrow’s. Being held always in a moment of fevered response and “crushing” attack, a condition our cyberspace alternate reality provides, is the condition of our post-millennial, post-truth hyperreality.

Our politics is in a constant state of waiting just as our economics awaits tomorrow’s return on investment.

II

“All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.”

– Karl Marx

Only the Living Dead now ask us to wait.

The Living Dead are the ones who stoke the flames of a profane divide and silence all talk of the dire consequences of global warming.

I see the fascination for zombies in our culture in this, for as long as global warming has threatened us, we have sensed that the living dead, in every position of power, private and public, threaten our survival. All the catastrophes that climate scientists project as probabilities are ignored by those who calculate they will not be alive to suffer such events. We can all defer and wait until investments no longer matter to dead investors.

We’re already beyond the 2 degrees Celsius (3.5 Fahrenheit) that would have kept fires, flood, rain bombs, droughts, food and water shortages, zombie pathogens from melting permafrost, survival migrations and increasing population of insect pests to 2019 levels. The dark prophecy is that by the century’s end we will be in a true dystopic world: a mixture of emergency declarations, either by the president or the military, followed by periods of martial law, scattered high altitude, walled domains of private wealth and power, and Coastal governmental power rivaling presidential power. Food, drinkable water and petrol will be either in hoarded supply or non-existent.

Others, the Bullish Players, foresee that by century’s end carbon capture technology, the elegant paradigm of market rule, the power of globalized transnational companies, and a 1% ruling class serviced by a professionalized meritocracy of 20% would once again dominate the blind forces of Nature.

In short, the country is divided between those, mostly the young, who disavow capitalism and are searching for a planet friendly economics, and those who want to double down on market rule and thus maintain the success such rule has already given them. We can “grow” the economy and bring the Winners along with the planet into spacious, gentrified digs.

Democrats who take a moderate path are, bottom line, taking a moderate path with capitalism, retaining, a basic faith in capitalism, as basic as upholding the Constitution and classical liberal philosophy.

The logic here escapes me. We need to protect capitalism from its own axiomatic movement toward something disastrous to any society, say, three people having as much wealth as 50% of the population, or, the planet itself become uninhabitable by humans.

The illogic here does not escape sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg, who, at the UN Climate Action Summit, made it clear where this protection of capitalism will take us:

We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you! For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.

A survivalist course cannot be for a tempered, moderate course of action, just as we can’t moderately go about not drowning or falling off a cliff.

I think we can say that any path that preserves our basic faith in “eternal economic growth” will lead us to a dystopic 2050, although clearly those experiencing mudslides, floods, hurricanes and fires place that dystopia now.

The crises of mounting global warming will muscle the “freedom of capital” out of our politics, whether the denial policies of Trump or anyone else linger.

Mortality also will push current market winners and political decision makers off the debate stage and back into Nature’s undominated cycle.

Ms. Thunberg and all her fellow young who gathered throughout the world demanding action be taken will, within the probabilities of mortality, be inheriting the consequences of political decisions made now, decisions made by those who, within the same probability calculus, not be around.

The scowl captured on Ms. Thunberg’s face as President Trump walks passed her tells us that she knows who the enemy is in the dark scenario of the future she clearly foresees, and beyond that, who is her and every young person’s executioner.

At the same time, anyone who has fossil fuel stock or Big Pharma stock and so on doesn’t want even a moderate reduction in return. Similarly, the financial sector doesn’t want their buying, selling, trading, investing of capital in order to grow more capital to be deemed illegal activities, contributive to a growth of the economy that will, if it goes on, make life uninhabitable for humans.

The battle whose forces we are hyped and spun not to see is set against any responses to our own mass extinction. And that subversion can only end with the subjection of the present economic hegemony.

We are beginning to engage in that battle as the House moves toward impeachment of President Trump.

You can anticipate that Speaker Pelosi will move the House like a Roman legion on the march toward presenting articles of impeachment to the Senate that will make a vote not to convict transparently corrupt. Such a vote would be the last nail Trump has driven into the Republican Party, already having shattered the grounding ideological principles of that party, which are, in truth, nothing more than “Let Markets Rule!”

Republicans can, however, break the chains binding them to Trump by voting to convict and thus eject Trump from office.

Such an action would be a first step in saving that Party in the post-Trump world, a world that will come whether the Senate votes yeah or nay to the impeachment articles. Given the instant obsolescence of any front-page story (remember Jeffrey Epstein?) Trump loyalists will remain loyal in Twitter time, which is not for long, time being yet another servant of not today’s returns but tomorrow’s.

The vanishing of the Trump regime and the possible reconstruction of the Republican Party may or may not put us all behind battling to prevent our own extinction on this planet.

Republicans might regain their Ayn Rand neo-liberal tenets, or they may have to bend those once again to suit a Trump clone propelled on the national stage by those who see no victory in Trump’s impeachment nor in a politics prioritizing a battle against global warming nor in a battle to redistribute wealth from the top down.

Nevertheless, even with a failure of a post-Trump Republican Party to re-examine its faith in Market Rule, and a failure of the Democratic Party to seize the moment and not defer, we would be closer to the real battles in which we find ourselves.

I say this because the future can only be brighter without a president who impedes our own survival and because Mother Nature, each day from now on, will force us to see clearly the real battle now.

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The Vox Populi http://www.josephnatoli.com/the-vox-populi/ Thu, 19 Sep 2019 16:30:43 +0000 http://www.josephnatoli.com/?p=1848 Published on http://www.counterpunch.org “President Trump touched something inside me. He speaks like me and he talks like me.” – Fayetteville, NC Trump rally “Make Empathy Great Again” – T-shirt voice Donald J. Trump won the presidency partially because of his already existing Reality TV celebratory status. Audiences got used to his dealing tactics and he became […]

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the-vox-populi

the-vox-populi

Published on http://www.counterpunch.org

“President Trump touched something inside me. He speaks like me and he talks like me.”

– Fayetteville, NC Trump rally

“Make Empathy Great Again”

– T-shirt voice

Donald J. Trump won the presidency partially because of his already existing Reality TV celebratory status. Audiences got used to his dealing tactics and he became proficient in reaching those who enjoyed — perversely at a time when layoffs were rampant in the land — hearing “You’re fired!” That segment of the population aided him in discovering the nature of the current populism. As president he has put into play what he learned: bigotry and prejudice to the point of racism has populist appeal, so too does a ridiculing of any authority, whether political, scientific, legacy media, academe, the EU and all Western agreements.

He responded to a Vox populi instinctively and in turn shaped a Vox populi that responds to him instinctively.

There is an authenticity to the Vox populi, which means it’s genuine and real and cannot be ignored. This doesn’t mean that the Vox populi is true or authentic in the existentialist sense that it is not permeated with a false consciousness or deceived within the American hyperreal which infects politics as well as everyday life. Neither is its voice reliable, rational guidance but rather only a signaling of what transfixes the cultural consciousness as well as the mass psyche. Because this voice is layered in both dimensions, there is no transparent meaning to the expression but rather only the expression which nonetheless permeates. It is authentic but not transparently meaningful.

Think of a baby on a crying jag or your dog or cat or goldfish showing signs of malaise or, on a whole other level of illustration, a lone gunman opening fire on a crowd of concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest music festival on the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada, killing killed 58 people and wounding 422, with the ensuing panic bringing the injury total to 851. (Wikipedia)

We can attribute the same authenticity on the collective level as we do on the individual level. There are occasions when we can be anti-populist and ignore the Vox populi because we cannot accept a collective, social, national evil that is recognized as the voice of the people, say, for instance, the voice of slaveholders or sweatshop entrepreneurs or champions of a cleansing genocide. However, denying the authenticity of its expression does not free us from its populist power.

The only reason that Donald J. Trump, as presidential candidate and as president, speaks with the voice of the people, is a self-declared chosen one of the Vox populi, is because that voice had no previous representation in either political party and because he learned and mimics Vox populi “speak” masterfully. We add to that a plutarchic restructuring of the U.S. that has allowed that Vox populi to degenerate to a level at which a confidence man has easy access.

Even though Trump or someone other demagogic huckster, some other confidence man, was bound to pop up, the conditions of a particular time and place brought him forward. The stage has been set for Trump for a long time, the set being a society deeply entrenched in the hyperreal, voters across all parties believing in their own illusionary self-empowerment and being in a full revolt against any authority, whether of reason or reality, opposing that self-conferred freedom to choose.

Twitter made the aptness of Trump’s presence at that moment internationally and repeatedly known. You need to imagine Trump without Twitter, Trump without a means to instantly transmit the impulsiveness of an erratic mind. Difficult to imagine because there are no reasons to expect cyber communication to vanish or that they will be less effective in their access to “followers.” We can expect that we will be even more deluged with misinformation, confidence games and flimflam gambits. The Vox populi fractures into a Babel of voices as the means to winnow the chaff from the kernel vanishes. Resistance is futile, in a Borg expression, because every voice drowns out every other voice. In short, we cannot expect that the “education” of our impulses and our worst instincts will not be nurtured by future con artists on any future Twitter-like “engine of the democratization of all voices.”

Trump’s presence in the White House tells us that voices do rally when called from “the vasty deep.” In the same fashion that the lowest level of almost everything rises to prominence in our hyperreal culture, the worst devils of our nature are, we observe, more speedily and widely advanced than what philosophers term the Western Rationalistic Tradition.

The terrible shape U.S. and British democracies are in right now has much to do with the eruption of a Vox populi not in the streets but on the highways of cyberspace, a Vox populi whose only foundational authority is its own voice, a voice unfortunately either drowning in the churn of all voices or flocked together by Influencers and bullshit artists, Donald J. Trump and Boris Johnson filling these roles.

Trump rolled into view in the wake of the 2008 Great Recession, a recession that brought economic collapse as well as fear and trembling to the 80% but rescued the 20% at the top of the economic chart quickly and in fact maximized their wealth as they were positioned to turn crises into profit. Many more were angered and anxious than “bullish” by the event. A populist response developed in a space left absent by both political parties. And so too does this populism become a workable political frontier when so many feel they are disregarded and excluded by the political order of things they experience.

Trump or a Trump clone is late on the stage following this because someone else, Barack Obama, put his finger on the first emotional responders to crises – hope and all its Hollywood/Disney hyperreality. Instead of the Vox populi screaming revolt in the streets, storming the Bastilles of Wall Street (not setting up “occupying” tents) the hyperreality of a hope, totally by 2008 unsupported by the destroying consequences of an obscene wealth divide and by the bold looting practices of the financial sector, attached itself to the personality of Obama and his confirmation of the illusions of a personalized “Yes, we can!”

However, the “We” was already divided against itself. But not equal forces of division. One side knew how to defend its privilege within the economic system and the other didn’t know how to position itself outside that system or that privilege. Shouting “Empathy!” is not a knock out punch to “Send her back!” That situation remains.

Populism and the Vox populi then, didn’t’ arise from within this mess but outside it. And that’s where Trump has positioned himself from the start.

It’s possible to think of the presidency of Trump as a kind of detour from an upheaval we can expect when bread, circuses and the enchantments of cellular technology as well as the soma of endless live streaming run into the reality produced by a 20% “democracy” that has no plans to recuperate the lives of the 80%.

And because the Democratic Party has not yet been able to present a presidential candidate who has a finger on the impulses of our worst nature in the way Trump has, all rational calculations of the 2020 election remain unbinding. That was proven in the 2016 election when systematic analysis turned out to be worthless. No part of the reptilian brain of humankind reveals itself in polls.

Both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are spot on in analyzing what the problems are, but that analysis and their proposed solutions are not as easily digestible as the dog whistles and outright calls to gut impulses, never inspired by “love thy neighbor” but rather “beware of the stranger.” Who and what to be beware of is a daily Twitter feed of President Trump.

All plans to elevate the Vox populi above its present level and to do so by extending economic security to that populace are either deceitful and fraudulent, referring here to the Trump administration, or deemed too radical not only in the eyes of those whose economic hegemony would be threatened but also in the eyes of those who stand to benefit by what is tagged as “too radical.”

The confused and misguided anger of the Vox populi won’t fade when Trump fades to vanish because the turbulence of a cultural consciousness and a mass psyche cannot fade to vanish. They cannot because they have been exploited by Trump, but not resolved or remedied.

If we think of resolution, remediation, elevation simply in terms laid out by an economic system that has created this confused but targeted, misguided anger, then we haven’t stopped digging the hole we are in. The rise and fall of the Dow Jones and the S&P 500 are the benchmarks of the malefactors, the benchmarks of an order of things in which few rises and most perish, including the planet itself.

Are there any signs of an elevation of the Vox populi?

We are in an emergency crisis with global warming, not with Mexicans, Central and South Americans sneaking across the southern border. That may happen if the ravages of global warming put all the southern hemisphere on a migratory rush northward. We don’t stop that with The Wall but rather with mitigating climate change policies.

Trump is working in reverse, which means he believes that he’s representing the populist view. Whether there are enough voters in the nether regions who fear brown skinned, Spanish speaking “invaders” to confirm Trump’s position here is at this point not known. Racism speaks louder in the privacy of the voting booth than in public, especially when confronted with accusations of racism.

Education to the rescue? An educated populace is essential to keep a fragile democracy from being overthrown by a demagogue who can appeal to a winning block of voters.

This has already happened. The person of Donald J. Trump may vacate the White House but the country that put him in office, all the knowns and unknowns that put him there, to repeat, remain. We have been here before with Ronald Reagan, a presence that turned from an egalitarian mindset to a plutocratic one but left us bitterly divided as to whether this was a heroic change or a destructive one. The aftermath of Trump’s reign is not so clear simply because the forces that brought him to power and the design of his appeal remain more accessible to a psychiatric rather than a logical scan by Commander Data.

Similarly, the way we can probe the Vox populi is through prejudices, passions, and perverse instincts which, judging by social media, script the libretto of this voice. What we have is the logic of advertising and marketing brought into politics: you can sell fat burgers, sugar pops and salt chips simply because the nutritional Palette populi is at the lowest nutritional level. Americans don’t choose obesity; they choose what they like and what they like they are branded to like.

Cyberspace is where the young seek their education but what we get in cyberspace is a swarm of messaging appealing to every conceivable identity, loco to compos mentis, a kind of chaotic smorgasbord for a culture obsessed with the illusions of personal choice. As troubling as this is are the proposals addressing the challenge of an invasive illiteracy by a privatization of public education, the market’s turn to public education as the new profit frontier.

That debilitating, degenerating force is supplemented by tuition costs so high that student loan debt is now greater than credit card debt. Students must choose courses that will lead them to the biggest return on investment, that is courses and programs leading directly to jobs our economic system privileges, course that will pay off the tuition investment.

It’s clear that we are expanding the ways of instrumental reasoning and knowing, and marketable erudition required by the narrow fields of business and technology, narrow in the sense that the messiness of our human nature at work in politics, including presidential campaigns and elections, overspills the scope and methods of business and technology.

In short, the Vox populi doesn’t become more learned and astutely critical when and if it is educated within the instrumental fields of profit making. If this was not the case, Donald J. Trump would not be in the White House right now nor would we be facing a 2020 election in which there is an arguable case to be made that he will win again.

All this being said, there are forces in play that can create a Vox populi effectively focused on one issue: global warming. A kind of survival wisdom will cry out in the streets, push a politics of survival that will trump all other warring issues, including Trump himself.

The Vox populi screaming for survival and the ways to achieve it respond to the education our bodies and minds have achieved in the long evolutionary movement away from extinction toward survival.

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