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.
“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.