Published on http://www.counterpunch.org
“[T]he final stampede is drawing near because of so many unstoppable and irreversible processes: proliferation of nuclear weapons, global warming, water scarcity, demographic expansion and desertification, and, last but not least, mental collapse, spreading depression and panic.”
– Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Breathing: Chaos and Poetry
“Le Mort saisit le vif”
Berardi’s words are frightening words, as are Marx’s, but still a necessary frame upon which to propose that we face the pressing need to eject, reject and strip away what is keeping us from making the changes needed in the name of survival, personal and societal, nation and planet, mico and macro. Nothing now held sacred should keep us from surviving “the final stampede” now underway. None of our fellow species on this planet would hold what we have done to them and this planet sacred but nevertheless we cannot allow the idiocies of our greed, our tyrannizing and oppressing ways to lead us to our own extinction.
The Many have been weakened by an economic exploitation engendering loss of empathy and a surging of brutality as the immiserated strike out against the oppressed. Both a personal and social consciousness is now overwhelmed by the automatism of a cybertechnological power that promises an algorithm perfection but has only steadily built the walls of hyperreality wherein no real solutions to real problems exist.
If it wasn’t crystal clear before Trump took over the Republican Party, that party since Reagan has put aside any egalitarian ideals, weak and remote, with a strong preference for economic leadership securing a worldwide political dominance. The role of political leaders then was to legislate conditions within neoliberal competitiveness could best thrive, conditions leading axiomatically to transnational corporate empires. What would then happen had nothing to do with democracy as a growing financial digital domination established a sovereignty that was more than sufficient to fulfill “The American Dream,” never anything more than “I get mine first and good luck in getting yours.” National security projected to far off battlefields has been conflated with the security of corporate empires. War is a marketing frontier that investors will not give up. Over some forty years what had been conditions nourishing a middle class well being turned into conditions nourishing the oligarchy this alliance of politics and economics was destined to produce.
What Trump has done is show us even more clearly how far the Republican Party will go to maintain this oligarchy, as far as undermining bedrock democratic processes and institutions. Trump’s willingness to destroy whatever gets in the way of his own will, a seriously bent one, includes democracy. But we should not be surprised that the Republican Party has gone along with this because they had already thrown democracy under the bus in their service to the neoliberal economic order. Their political role at this point in the transference of all power and wealth to the top is to hold back any instabilities affecting the market and prevent any representation of the immiserated and precariat from challenging market rule.
In both endeavors, the creation of a hyperreal that overstimulates, dazes and confuses, gives the uninformed the courage of their ignorance, idiots the courage not to be informed, and the unaware a cat and racoon video level of awareness, has replaced reality the way PlayStation 5 replaces PlayStation4. This is an accomplishment of cyberspace; hyperreality has gotten its grip on us via cyberspace. “Technological potency,” Berardi writes, “has steadily expanded while social consciousness has decreased proportionately.” Consciousness itself has been inundated with the false linkages of word and world, a kind of cyber-techno-semiotic tsunami, that stuns the critical edge of mind, leaving us behind the looking glass at the Mad Hatter’s tea table.
If you want to argue historical precedent, NO. This is brand new on the Hegelian cycle of history. Capitalism, from industrial, consumer to hyper financial has had its apparatchiks, useful idiots, i.e., Think Tanks, neoclassical economists, hedge fund clippers, Goldman Sachs’ “kings of the world,” tea parties, Koch bros, and radio and TV smash mouths, but it’s cyberspace that has become what a megaphone was to Hitler.
“At the Barricades”
Given the Republican Party’s deep and immoveable attachment to almost everything that now existentially threatens the survival of country, its democratic institutions and the future human habitation of the planet, a politics of compromise, of bi-partisan overtures and so on must not go on.
If Mitch McConnell is still in power, such overtures are a waste of time. If you follow the degradation of the wilds and species diversity that Sir David Attenborough presents in A Life on Our Planet, you will note that our habitable time on this planet is running out. If you note the degradation of both mass American psyche and economic security for some 80% of the population shaping very rapidly a war against themselves, you note that time here is also running out. The vicious competitiveness of capitalism creates a war of all against all, but that has been deflected into a mindless civil war among the victims of that viciousness. Tragic irony that what we now see is a sacred creed of competition and domination sponsoring vicious enmity and brutality ready to be lit by the results of this election.
We can save a lot of time if McConnell is not controlling the Senate so there will be no need to bend on global warming mitigation legislation, on redistribution of wealth, on getting obscene profit out of drugs and health care, of reducing the national debt through open immigration, stop redistricting and so stop gerrymandering, end the filibuster, the Electoral College, shut down the theory of unitary executive power, revoke the 1976 National Emergency Act, subject Executive Privilege to a majority House of Representatives vote and deny its use in regard to Congressional subpoenas, legislate proportional representation of the Senate, or eliminate the Senate, an inequitable body that has since Jim Crow has either been in the hands of racists or the financial-digital domination of market rule.
If Republicans hold the Senate by virtue of the coming election, then it will continue to hold sacred as it now does every form of government, every institution and every statute that keeps its oligarchic power in place. This is good news to oligarchic power as well as to those crushed by such power but identify it as the Deep State or Obama or the Communist Joe Biden. The victory of Trump or the Senate or both will register not as a setback to be hopefully amended in future election but as an event precipitating a far extending apocalyptic, dystopic catastrophe in the minds of the many who have managed to keep from drowning in the hyperreal.
Thus, we can expect a steady state of revolt and dissension, of clashes everywhere with policing and military presence, of Communard-like barricades in the streets, of all the energies expended when a last stand is being made. All of this is just on the side of those who see another reign of Trump and McConnell as planet Hell.
I don’t know under what terms or within what discourse of understanding those who fear an election loss is existentially dire can reach those in the hyperreal where words/signs trumpet out of Babel and understanding is, you know, “my opinion.” There can be no victory here because a hyperreality has already been sown within which dire needs of change and eviction, of annulment and repeal do not exist. Those who see American becoming even greater for them when Trump is re-elected are enveloped in wild conspiracy theories involving perverted Liberals and a Deep State functioning to destroy Trump’s efforts to “make America great again.”
We can expect from this benighted segment of the population, which finds everything from flat earth views to QAnon lunacy reinforced in cyberspace and now moving toward a voice in Congress, a new asylum new to planet Earth where every inmate can find a co-dependent in lunacy.
We can expect armed factions of militia and White supremacy groups clashing with the Communards making their last stand for democratic values and humanity’s survival on the planet. Far less grandiose is a very possible reality in which Biden and the Democrats may get distracted and assume another Black Lives Matter protest covers it all, or tearing down offending historical monuments, once held sacred, or a fight for the identity of the LGBTQ community, or the privacy rights of sacred individuality, and rights to be protected by law from the politically incorrect, the “un-woke,” the micro-aggressors, or a fight on behalf of those who have not yet found the courage of their gentrified status or their dividend happiness. Being “strenuously Welcoming to Difference,” as Franzen puts it in Freedom, doesn’t dissolve our Grand Canyon of a wealth gap nor does it mean that the professionalized, meritocratic, gentrified elite are not going to etch in the minds of their offspring how they are destined to be different than the “Difference” they so compassionately welcome.
I am partially facetious here but the record shows that Liberal political party opposition to Market Rule has not laid a glove on that rule since FDR. The Black Lives Matter protests had to be focused on staunching the bleeding going on now, but they can also be theorized as once again revealing that the fears and desperation of a diminishing white status and identity fuels a racism that neoliberal economic hegemony finds useful in maintaining its power. Nothing draws those seething with a sense of impotence and humiliation better than racism. Whether a Biden regime will disconnect that sacred devilish logic by deconstructing neoliberal economic hegemony will be something that hasn’t been done since FDR.
There have been other outlier attacks on the financial plundering of our economics, but Bernie Sanders was the first from within a party to get feisty with the oligarchy and get some media coverage for doing it. Sherrod Brown has long been punching on the side of the worker, but the media preferred to cover the high wire acts of Trump and how Meghan Markle is completely unrecognizable with her natural hair.
On one side “it is idiocy that holds sway,” and on the other side is a small fraction of a party that knows what the stakes are and a large faction that belongs to the Republocrat Party. (Crispin Sartwell, “History, Totally Destroyed,” NYTimes, Nov. 2017). The Republican Party will inherit the unaware, i.e., the independents, the ignorant, and the idiots regardless of whether Trump wins or loses, and the Democratic party fraction that will hold nothing sacred will try to own the presidency and the Senate, if both are won.
According to the polls, some 4 in 10 voters declare themselves independent of party. In short, they are unable to see enough evidence to convince them that one candidate is better either for them, or the country, or the grandkids or the planet. Because we are all caught in a stampede to extinction, this independence can only translate as being unaware. If you have been in the country, say, since Trump took office, then the only way to be unaware is to be contemporaneously not in the country. Impossibility, not paradox. There is something sacred within the American illusion of personal autonomy connected to saying, “I’m independent,” but as we stand at the doorway of planet Hell, such declarations make no sense, or, in corporate terminology, are “counter-productive.”
The ignorance of the ignorant simply means not informed, and this is a neutral state without condemnation. Admitting ignorance is a first step to seeking knowledge. Idiocy, however, results when one is uninformed and willfully remains so because one assumes one already knows, one already has an opinion on everything, mostly shared, as does the President, on Twitter. This group has the courage of their idiocy, or, the courage of their opinions, which are sacred in a culture that has personalized/privatized everything that cannot be so reduced.
These factions will remain with us because all the conditions that have created them, from not teaching Civics in early grades, to educating to meet corporate goals, to defunding the Humanities where skepticism is brandished as a primary critical rod, to privileging synthetic life and the synthetic logic of the algorithm by privileging STEM classes, to treating education as a new marketing frontier.
These factions of unawareness, ignorance and idiocy remain activated on digital platforms where the hyperreal relentlessly is rocking its confusion and chaos. Deeper reasons as to why mindless yet energized, angry, brutal and violent tribalism was in the making before the coming of Trump have much to do with a humiliating sense that whiteness is losing its privilege, that Darwinian economics has thrown them on the Loser pile, that a working class respectability has fallen into a state of tackiness in the eyes of the gentrified, the meritocracy, the assortative partnership of two professionals and their nanny chaperoned children.
Such noblesse is tied to Liberals who welcome immigrants because they need gardeners, cooks, house cleaners, nannies, restaurant servers and so on, while those filled with dysphoria owing to both economic hardship and feelings of having been cheated, robbed, humiliated by the new oligarchic order, see immigrants living among them as yet another attack on a growing sense of diminishment, of impotency, all as Liberal acts to scorn and mock them.
This is the kind of humiliation the seventh grader feels when she’s demoted for a day to a fourth grade class, the kind of humiliation an evicted family feels the first night living in a shelter, or when former working class heroes of an industrial world deliver packages to twenty something IT’s working at home, or stand in line at a food bank they once volunteered at.
The Coronavirus pandemic has sharpened the focus here on who is smug and snug and who is so desperate they can’t let go of the vision of Trump as their savior. As much as the man deserves the title of lowest form of humanity to appear on Earth, he saw the hurt and he capitalized on it. What Hillary did in 2016 was wear her privilege to an angering point in all those States primed to anger. What Trump did was mock the Liberals who mask such privilege with avowals of empathy and promises of a redistribution of pain and hurt from bottom to top.
The top 20% professional/meritocratic/gentrified class which are politically liberal have not yet had the courage of their privilege but rather assuage themselves with blather about being “woke,” “mindful,” post-racist, full of compassion and empathy, and socialist to the bone. Such noblesse oblige is affordable if the Big Pharma, Big Oil and Big Tech dividends keep compounding. The top 20% comparable to this class who are conservative politically do have the courage of their privilege and make no pretense about being what they are — Winners who have wealth and power that they do not waste on Losers but rather do all they can to separate themselves, whether to privatized space stations circling the Stratosphere and Troposphere or just to St. Simons or some other private island paradise.
All this amounts to much that will be near impossible to amend given the hold that our financial-digital domination, our Market Rule has on us. Wealth and power are just now pushing through a candidate to the Supreme Court who will most likely eliminate the word “near” in the previous sentence. That’s just raw power working through that inequitable branch of Congress, the Senate. The inequitable and unjust sponsoring the inequitable and unjust.
It is too late to go back forty years and educate in ways of critical thinking and not corporate readiness. The stage is set with the characters we have. Trump brought to the boil what has been festering within the lethally inequitable reality Reagan ignited and Trump’s demagogic, charlatan, autocratic presence seems destined to stand after he’s dead and gone, like Reagan, not a Reality TV star but a third grade Hollywood actor. And then again, given the short attention span in the hyperreal, Trump may be destined to depart the way the 8-track tape and the house phone have, replaced if he is by someone who remains on Reality TV.
The time is end of time, eschatological, and we need to divest ourselves of everything that stands in the way of the survival of ourselves and the vast diversity of the wilds of this planet whose own destiny is so entwined with our own.
This is not prophecy but a simple extrapolation. If we go on as we do now, we will be welcoming our progeny to what Berardi calls “planet hell,” to a state of destruction that Sir David Attenborough compares to what the Chernobyl disaster did to the city of Pripyat — turned it into a toxic, uninhabitable wasteland.
It should be now as obvious as what science tells us regarding global warming that we’ve whittled our humanity, our society and our planet down to a level that serves the wealthy few. Rather than seeing the need to jettison ideas of endless growth and domination, these few are doubly down on everything because for them “a flight from planet hell,” the hell they’ve created, will be a competitive deal and the Winners will be ones with the most cash.
If we get another chance at the table, we need to jettison every bit of sacred framework that keeps this oligarchic order in place, from our Constitution to Congress to the Code of Laws to the Supreme Court to social media platforms, which stand now, to repeat, as no more than as a megaphone did for Hitler, regardless of all the great hope we had for cyberspace’s contribution to democracy, the planet, communication, our consciousness. That didn’t happen; we got the dark side and we’ve got no time to find out what the bright side of cyberspace may be besides harvesting minds for marketers and pitching the average citizen’s mind into a mosh pit of crazy.
We may get a chance to do most urgently needed remediation/survival work, if Biden wins the presidency and Democrats take the Senate, if the country doesn’t go up in the flames of chaos when this happens, and if Biden’s amenable to being led not to the trap of bi-partisanship, alibis and blague, but rather takes measures to re-equip the toolbox we have to make change. The sacred cows must either be re-tooled or done away with.
I focus on the Supreme Court and leave the Senate, the Electoral College, Executive Privilege, gerrymandering, the filibuster, the creakiness of the Constitution — everything sacred — to the Biden et al administration. If global warming is our extinction point and a 6-3 composition of the Supreme Court is set to ignore that and keep oil profits flowing, that Supreme Court cannot, for the sake of the survival of us and all the far more decent species on the planet, remain unchallenged in both the qualifications of its constituency and its legitimacy as a disinterested oracle of truth. If we manage to delay our own extinction, there will be time, for example, to legislate taxpayer funded health care for all and pursue an economics that is ecologically wise and driven by a politics that vanquishes neo-liberal competitiveness and domination. We cannot allow what we now hold as sacred in our democracy to stand in the way of our survival on this planet.