This week, while Indivisible proposed its “consequential” plan, a three-point proposal to “beat” #45 (notice the language: beat) accompanied by a six-approach tool kit, it set me to thinking: where’s the other 42 million? The folks that give #45 a steady approval rating. What about them?
First of all, it occurs to me that response to #45 reflects a disconnect, an inappropriate use of language: the language of rationality that consists in the procedural legalese of the law, congress and the courts on the one hand; and the societal response through the public and the corporate media—and those very few remaining independent voices on which we are still able to rely.
It is a language we might apply to normal affairs. But what we have here is not normal; it is an altogether different phenomenon, a frenzied whirling about by a society obsessed around one solitary figure, and a refusal or inability to look at the broader problem.
It is hard to fully envision in what a more appropriate language might consist, but the language of rationality is NOT IT. And the language of 5150, directed solely at individuals, is too rudimentary at best, and serves its uses only in humbler emergencies, not a national one. (5150 refers to the California law code for the temporary, involuntary, psychiatric commitment of individuals who present a danger to themselves or to others.)
#45 is not an individual phenomenon; it has its ramifications in layers of no-longer representative government which cushions and replicates its many violences and atrocities. It is a phenomenon that extends as well to those 42 million people who keep those approval rates steady. Who are they exactly? And do the iterations of American election year politics—whether by Indivisible or by Nancy Pelosi—even begin to take their plight into account?
Categorizing 42 million people is altogether impossible, but in general, they are white people, many of them with high school educations at most, who have been systematically left behind educationally and economically. Many of them inhabit decaying worlds: rural America, the grandsons and daughters of once thriving agricultural communities, now bankrupt, and of factory workers of the nation’s rust belts who were left behind when factories closed, and the initiative for retooling fell haphazardly—if it fell at all—into privatized hands. Most of them are the products of a dumbed down public school system given to blinkering its students, never much given to critical thinking, and its second ring of sycophants, the media that gave up its practice of journalism in favor of gossip, greed, and entertainment many years ago.
They hold in common their need to grasp and exploit the last straws of demagoguery which promised them what they needed to hear as a better life, where their losses might be recouped and where their communities might be lifted from abject poverty and despair. But recent tax cuts have benefitted the oligarchs, and global warming has seen to it that Midwestern farms, those not yet bankrupt, are still water logged and not ready for planting.
To compensate their losses, they have been offered the demonization of migrants, more brown, more poor, more desperate than they (but far gentler) pouring in a steady stream from central America, victims themselves of global warming and U.S. meddling in their duly elected democratic governments.
The mind-made-up characterizes them. Almost all are closed to any form of inquiry because they have to be. Their sense of victimization—or their greed for profit—require it. A minority form part of doomsday cults eager to see the planet’s warming end in a Walpurgisnacht, which they believe will usher in a Second Coming—a last desperate pitch for the Ur-Savior to correct their woes.
According to Chris Hedges, it is this susceptibility to America’s long tradition of cultism that has drawn them to a figure like #45, who represents for them many of the qualities cult leaders usually embody:
Immunity to the norms of established society, a quality their followers (and the media) find endlessly fascinating and appealing.
Refusal to acknowledge impending disaster, such as global warming.
Insistence on fawning and total loyalty over competence.
Inability to tolerate criticism.
Grandiosity and bellicosity as covers for insecurity,
Use of those around them as objects to be manipulated for their own aggrandizement.
Unfortunately, any attempt to oppose rationality to what can only be identified as absurdity plays into the hands of the cult master. Quoting Joost Meerloo in Rape of the Mind, “They never knew what [Hitler] was going to do next. [He] was never logical because he knew that that was what he was expected to be…” and illogic is impervious to the structures of logic.
To these two linguistic disconnects, the first in the political sphere, the second in the public sphere there are answers, but they are far from easy ones. For starters, we might look to the sage advice of the Sansksrit puranas which counsel: Do not cultivate madness. In an age where all is madness, one needs to tread lightly, to question all, to examine how much of this culture we wish to embrace. And to come in contact daily with one’s imagination for living.
That requires the courage to live at the edge, to avoid what everyone else is doing; and to do what everyone else avoids.
And in our present existential dilemma, Chris Hedges offers us a choice:
“… organize the overthrow of the corporate state that vomited up Trump….We must, like liberation movements of the past, engage in acts of sustained mass civil disobedience and non-cooperation. By turning our ire on the corporate state, we name the true sources of power and abuse…. We give people an alternative to a Democratic Party that refuses to confront the corporate forces of oppression and cannot be rehabilitated. We make possible the restoration of an open society. If we fail to embrace this militancy, which alone has the ability to destroy cult leaders, we will continue the march toward tyranny.”
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