Disunited States of Outrage

Liberalism, by historical definition, has meant generosity — not only generosity of money and charity, of public welfare and the public good but more importantly the generosity of spirit. This has expressed an attitude of openness and inclusion, an equal treatment of all, including perceived others and outsiders along with those perceived as different or not fitting in: minorities, immigrants, and the poor; the underprivileged, outcasts, and the sick; the differently abled, neurotypical, and gender nonconforming; etc. That is the noble ideal that makes liberals feel all warm and fuzzy. On this basis, I’ve been sharply critical of the liberal class, aligned as it is with the DNC elite, for lack of understanding, empathy, and compassion toward those they perceive as their ideological enemies and their social inferiors. It’s an us-versus-them groupthink with a patina of liberalish rhetoric. Ideals, when betrayed, lead to cynicism and that is what we now have.

Then again, the liberal class is an odd term in reference to the academics, professionals, investors, business owners, and politicians who are economically comfortable or even wealthy. Many in the upper classes are not necessarily liberal. Meanwhile, the vast majority of self-identified liberals and those holding liberal views are lower class with many of them being downright poor. The liberal class, as an identity, not only excludes conservatives but also most liberals. This is maybe how liberalism has gotten a bad name and become a slur. Of course, there is an equivalent conservative class that silences, ignores, and dismisses most conservatives (and liberals) perceived as below them. The fact of the matter is class war has its own ideology that is independent of stereotypes of left versus right. Still, for a left-liberal, it’s the bad behavior of supposed ‘liberals’ that hits one in the gut, in how it undermines the entire moral vision of liberalism.

There are liberals who are offended when someone uses the same kind of criticism against vegans, feminists, etc that they themselves so carelessly lob against those on the right. They find it easy to identity with the members of their in-group while not taking seriously the suffering and grievances of those perceived as outsiders, as if everyone else deserves what they get. Sadly, many respectable Democratic partisans blame poor whites for the Donald Trump presidency and then portray them as a caricature of white trash, although interestingly the political right often goes along with this same rhetorical framing conflating class and ideology. The truth is most of Trump voters are middle class, not even working class and certainly not poor. Most poor Americans, white or otherwise, simply don’t vote or participate in politics and activism. The ignorance about the poor and indifference toward them is sad, sometimes downright infuriating.

There are those of us on the principled political left — Jimmy Dore, Glenn Greenwald, Ralph Nader, etc — who are used to being the punching bags of liberals (or what goes for liberal within corporatist politics), just as we are intimately familiar with the ire of the political right. We take our bruises and punch back. I’m one of the first to defend the poor of all races, by looking at the demographic data and pointing to the history of class war, as there is a lot more going on here that has brought us to this point. Then again, I’m one of those crazy left-wingers who gets why some otherwise good people would vote for a less-than-good demagogue and charlatan like Donald Trump, similar to why some otherwise good people would vote for corrupt elites like Hilary Clinton and Joe Biden. I know the attraction of lesser evil voting. To an even greater extent, I grasp the gut-level frustration that led to some to vote for Trump as an act of pure desperation, even as they admitted he was a corrupt swamp creature, for they saw him as a bully who would fight the other bullies or else blow the whole thig up. Then there are those on the other side who throw their lot in with the Clinton Democrats as what they think of as a last stand against authoritarianism — I get that as well.

I understand and empathize. Everyone has their reasons. I don’t want to hate upon anyone, to condemn them for making imperfect choices in an oppressive system that ensures all options allowed are bad and worse still. I’m not in a position to stand in judgment. I’ve felt the same frustration and anger, sometimes a naked sense of threat as authoritarianism digs its claws deeper into American society. Yet my offering of fellow feeling is not always returned. Such is the way of compassion in a world darkened by fear and anxiety, hatred and outrage. People are quick to see enemies even in potential friends and allies. Even familial bond is no guarantee of mutal understanding, much less kindness and forgiveness.

One person in my family is a poor white guy on disability who takes care of his sick father. He is libertarian-minded, lives in a conservative state, and probably supports Trump. He unfriended me on Facebook because I said something positive about the Black Lives Matters protests. It’s not as if I advocated violence, destruction, or anarchy; and I made clear that my position was as a proponent of free speech in the face of authoritarian force that wishes to take that right away. Another family member is similar except in being middle class. He has been even more vocally libertarian in the past, and yet recently he advocated a violent police state response to ending the same protests, in arguing he’d rather have authoritarianism than anarchy. What goes for libertarianism is about as uninspiring as what often gets portrayed as liberalism. Oppressed Americans like me, according to other oppressed Americans, have become the enemy to be defeated at all costs in order to fight oppression — I’m not sure how that is supposed to work exactly. As family, I know these two people fairly well and we share many interests. They are good people who care about their loved ones and communities. But their minds have been shut down and their hearts grown cold. It is the saddest thing I’ve experienced in a long time, as it is personal.

This civil conflict is taken as total war where one side must win and the other side eliminated. Yet if the police treated them and their loved ones in a similar oppressive fashion, they’d likely be advocating terrorism, revolution, and overthrowing the government while proclaiming ‘liberty’. But as long as those other people (minorities, immigrants, poor urbanites, etc) elsewhere are being oppressed, not them and their own, it is perfectly fine as those other people had it coming. Apparently, to their fearful mindset, it is as if there is a limited supply of moral concern with any compassion and kindness offered to blacks or leftists being a direct attack on whites and right-wingers. Equality, fairness, and justice is assumed as an impossibility. But to my mind, this self-enforced division of the citizenry is how oppressive rule is maintained. These right-wing family members, both living in a rural conservative state, don’t understand that they share the same basic problems of oppressive class war as do urban blacks, working class liberals, etc. Along with Democratic voters I know who are also family members, if my Trump-supporting family could get past the media narratives and propagandistic rhetoric, they would discover they have common grievances with most other Americans across various perceived divides. They’d come to realize they aren’t alone and isolated. If this can’t happen among family, what hope is there to be found in the greater society?

This same outrage has pulled other individuals in my family toward supporting Trump, including some who didn’t vote for him last time in cleaving to their identity as old school Republicans. The Cold War rhetoric of commie fear-mongering has worked them up into a state of terror, as if a Biden presidency will unleash a Stalinist takeover, not to mention the postmodern neo-Marxism and cultural Bolshevism. Some of these otherwise moderate conservatives are rightfully feeling mad about the corporate media shut down of the Hunter Biden scandal, although no more pissed off than us left-wingers who have received similar or worse treatment over the years and decades. A total lockdown of corporate media has kept left-wingers silenced for generations. But these right-wingers take this silence as a sign that we freedom-loving leftists don’t exist or don’t matter, instead taking the corporate whores among the Clinton Democrats as representative of the political left — a truly sad state of affairs.

Sure, the DNC has its tentacles in the corporate media, as does the GOP. Yet as Fox News might tell part of the truth about Hunter Biden, they are just as quick to lie to their viewers about the same kind of corruption and legalized bribery in the Trump family. The propaganda model of media is not a new phenomenon, as many left-wingers have been protesting it for a very long time. But to many right-wingers, particularly among the white middle class, it’s as if they are only now discovering that the corporate media serves a corporatist power structure that doesn’t give a fuck about truth or about the average American. They are being red-pilled but lack any historical context to realize this is an ongoing pattern of censorship that, in many ways, was far worse during the Cold War. My God! Just look at the Operation Mockingbird in the 1970s and Otto Reich’s white propaganda in the 1980s.

But to the outraged mind, whatever is the most recent outrage is the worst outrage that has ever happened. Outrage eclipses any greater awareness in enclosing the mind a mystifying fog of historical amnesia, which is the entire reason the ruling elite use the corporate media to incite outrage in the first place. Republicans and Trump supporters, mostly white and middle class, are shocked to realize that they are treated with the same propaganda and censorship as everyone else, that are treated as equal to poor minorities — God forbid! It is disturbing to find out that one’s racial and class privilege doesn’t guarantee special treatment, after all. They have no sense of the historical oppression so many other Americans have suffered for generations and centuries. The censorship in the corporate media pales in comparison to the censorship they’ve internalized in their own minds. Instead of it being a point of solidarity among the oppressed, competing victim identities are played against each other, as is the purpose of divide and conquer. Outrage shuts down empathy and disempowers the public.

Despite what they’ve been told by the right-wing corporate media, these right-wingers aren’t the first to feel frustration toward oppressive injustice and censorship. Nice to meet you, comrade! Welcome to the reality many of us have been living in for our entire lives! I felt that frustration about bipartisan attacks on Ralph Nader in 2000. The corporate media shut him out back then and, ever since, has continued to silence candidates that are third party and independent. If you think right-libertarians have a tough time competing in the duopoly of a one-party state, try being a left-winger like a Green supporter. Right-libertarians at least have powerful plutocrats like the Koch family funding them. To return to the 2000 election, consider how bizarre and disheartening it is that both parties and all of the corpoate media, from Fox News to MSNBC, refused to report on the stolen election, even though the data shows that Democrats won both the popular vote and the electoral college. The Supreme Court defied all pretenses of democracy and simply appointed George W. Bush as the supreme leader. The Democrats submitted to this power play, since the transpartisan ruling elite doesn’t care all that much about which party wins as long as the system itself maintains an illusion of legitimacy, thus allowing bipartisan backroom deals to continue in defense of coporatocracy and plutocracy. The only unforgivable sin of Donald Trump is his having destroyed that legitimacy and shown it to be the fraud it always was.

About protests, look back to the anti-war movement under the Bush regime. It was the single largest protest movement in the history of the United States and the world, having united multiple ideological groups on the right and left, not to mention including the citizens of numerous countries joining in their own protests against American imperialism. Unlike the Vietnam War that required many years of failure before public opposition formed, protests against the Iraq War were organized at a large-scale before the war even began. Most Americans opposed the war right from the start, but that didn’t stop the corporate media from being unified in their attack o peace activists while beating the war drums in service to the military-industrial complex. Many of the people now acting so outraged were perfectly fine with the workings of that propaganda machine. Likewise, there was more recent bipartisan support from the corporate media in spinning state propaganda by falsely reporting on Syrian gas attacks that blamed the government, despite the evidence pointing to other actors. None of the corporate media has ever admitted to this propaganda, much less apologized for being willfully wrong, and so most Americans remain ignorant.

Do you want to feel outrage? There is no lack of reasons. Let’s not be selective in our outrage by only getting worked up when we are personally harmed and our own views suppressed. This country was built on outrage and has been continuously fueled by outrage. There is a reason or rather many reasons Americans have been in a near continuous state of protest and revolt for centuries. There is plenty to be outraged about and there always has been. But we shouldn’t let outrage darken our minds in lashing out against fellow Americans, against even our own neighbors and family. Outrage without compassion will rot the soul and destroy the public good. We need to deal with our own damage, not continually projecting it out onto the world with trauma leading to ever more trauma, with each generation of victims becoming victimizers. Arrogance, haughtiness, and righteousness, makes us vulnerable to manipulation. We aren’t right-wingers and left-wingers, Democrats and Republicans. We are all Americans. We are all human. Our fate is shared but so is, if we choose, our sense of hope and promise.

* * *

42 thoughts on “Disunited States of Outrage

  1. “Outrage without compassion will rot the soul and destroy the public good. ”
    Yes. I used to call myself an ‘old-fashion liberal’. Objectively one could perceive me as leaning toward libertarian politics (I voted for Jo Jorgensen by absentee ballot in California). I will not discuss election politics with anyone including my wife. Most of my friends and acquaintances are emotionally anti-Trump. I look forward to 2021 when some of this passion may attenuate. How long can one maintain a hatred? I cannot see where it is coming from. It is distressing. It “destroys the public good.”

    • I keep going back and forth about identifying as a liberal. I never can make up my mind. I hate giving up on an otherwise meaningful label just because it has been misused and abused as misleading rhetoric. But maybe there has always been an element of bullshit within the liberal worldview, similar to my growing insight that liberalism is ultimately inseparable from conservatism and the reactionary mind. Conservatism is a reaction to liberalism and, in this reactionary age, maybe we all have a bit of the reactionary in us. This forces one to rethink what liberalism means in a country built on a liberal culture, especially when the founding slaveholders could sometimes espouse such lovely liberal ideals.

      I suppose I could go along with left-libertarian, but even the left-vs-right paradigm is becoming less appealing to me. There is no left vs right, just for or against democracy, but then that gets into the thorny issue of what is democracy as opposed to a banana republic. Even words like ‘liberty’ are severely problematic as they are rooted in slave culture, as the original meaning of liberty was not being a slave while others are enslaved. Maybe such ideologically confused labels have become meaningless at this point, not because meaningful labels are impossible but because we have yet to come to terms with what kind of society we are living in, what kind of culture we have internalized. The greatest ideology that rules us is not the label we choose but what unconsciously frames and shapes our thinking.

      This post has been a long time coming. It’s been on my mind at least for this past year, although the deeper sense of unease has been brewing for much longer. It’s the specific issue of outrage that has particularly preoccupied me most recently. This piece isn’t great writing. I must admit I didn’t exactly feel inspired, but I felt like I needed to express it somehow, if imperfectly. I’ve wanted to write about it for a while and, every time I thought about it, I lost motivation. It felt like there was no good way to communicate it. In complaining about outrage, it would be too easy to fall into a different variety of outrage. And admittedly, I have no grand insight or solution to offer. I got near the end in writing this post and had no sense of how to offer a worthy conclusion. The ending, as it is, feels extremely dissatisfying.

      In the past, I spent large parts of my life in a state of outrage, at a time when most Americans weren’t outraged. Now that outrage is so popular, I find I’ve lost interest in it. Maybe I’m being contrarian, but it probably has more to do with my finally being in a better place with improved physical and mental health. Still, with all my past experience with severe depression, I feel like I’m somewhat of an expert on emotional issues and social dysfunction. I’ve been in the depths of anger and frustration, and I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone else. It saddens me to see the whole society spiral down into mutual hostility and collective reenactment of transgenerational trauma. That really hit home for me when a family member, even if only a distant cousin, unfriended me on Facebook. That was when I finally gave up in wanting to play any part in it. I left social media after that.

      Part of me takes this all as birth pangs. Everyone senses the world has been set adrift. Even those who don’t consciously acknowledge this, they feel it in a sense of overwhelming dread and free-floating anxiety or else a deadening anhedonia and paralyzing depression. The uncertainty of it is most disturbing of all, which is why people latch onto enemies to attack because it makes them feel secure in at least being told who to hate, whether or not the target is actually guilty of anything. I’m trying to hold onto my views lightly and not contribute to the bad feelings, but it’s also easy for me to get pulled into the emotional turmoil. To negotiate political minefields on the interpersonal level requires one to develop skills of psychological jujitsu, allowing people to attack and then redirecting their energy. I can’t say I have developed these skills to a great extent yet. I’m still working on it. Hence, my backing away from the fray.

    • There is a reason I was feeling resistant in writing about this. The ideological and political framing is of little interest to me. In using this frame for the discussion, I was ignoring my own sense of truth. But that is because I have little confidence in my own sense of truth or else little confidence that anyone is interested in what interests me… or something like that.

      Here is the thing. Democracy is what captures my imagination. That is democracy as radical imagination of possibility. Democracy is about the demos, the People. But the demos is not an abstract concept as a hypothesized political unit, as if we are talking about mere demographics apportioned according to claims of representation or whatever. No, the demos is far more than that — an intersubjective experience, a sociological phenomenon, and a metaphysical reality.

      This goes to the ancient conflict between the ego theory of mind and the bundle theory of mind. They are not, of course, mere theories. The former emerged in the Axial Age and has, in modernity, become the dominant pscycho-social paradigm. As with capitalist realism, we are ruled over by the daimonic power of hyper-individualistic realism, a demiurgic false god that we have come to worship. The ego has become our most prized idol.

      All the rest is bullshit. Yet few people get this. And I don’t know how to communicate this so that it could be understood by anyone other than those who already understand and agree with me. Preaching to the choir, in particular a small choir, is dissatisfying. We are trapped in a fucked up system, until we can imagine a radically different way of being in the world and relating to one another. How do get there? Must we go through collapse, as happened to the Bronze Age civilization?

  2. The only unforgivable sin of Donald Trump is his having destroyed that legitimacy and shown it to be the fraud it always was.

    Nah. He didn’t destroy that legitimacy. It was already destroyed. As for his own unforgivable sins…. Well, they are legion…and counting.

    • I probably know what you mean. And it’s true, on that level. But I was making a slightly different, if related, point. Legitimacy is inseparable from perception of legitimacy. The ruling elite have been very careful about managing public perception. If what and how people think can be controlled, then their identities and behavior can be controlled.

      Trump threw that system of control into disarray. He let the American public see clearly what really goes on, in his brazen demagoguery and narcissism. He refused to even pretend we have a democracy. And so he showed to the world that the US is a banana republic. That is the one unforgiveable sin, as far as the oligarchy is concerned.

      As for people like you and I, we can offer endless lists of unforgiveable sins by corrupt figures in both parties. We long ago took a peak behind the curtain. But we have to remember that we aren’t representative of most others. The average American doesn’t want to know how the sausage is made. They just want to hear sweet lies and comforting stories.

      Be that as it may, it’s hard for the American public to go back to sleep when they’ve been so roughly awakened. It might be irrelevant at this point that most Americans would prefer not to know uncomfortable and inconvenient truths. Somethings once known can’t be unknown, once seen can’t be unseen. The damage Trump has done is permanent. That is fine, to my malcontented mind.

      The most important point, one that I often repeat, is that the silenced majority is well to the left of both corporatist parties. This is seen not only on economic issues (taxing the rich, lowering inequality, universal healthcare, etc) but also in terms of stronger environmental regulations and basic civil rights. I’ve long found it telling that the majority of US citizens supported same sex marriage years before support was heard among the DNC elite, specifically Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama.

      This is part of the perception of legitimacy. I’ve suspected that protests, riots, and revolt would erupt over night if and when the American public realizes they are a majority and realizes how far left they are. Right now, most Americans feel oppressed and cynical, but they also feel isolated in not realizing so many people agree with them. That is what happened in prior eras of social unrest when the public finally perceived themselves as a united public with common grievances and demands.

      This might be what will end up as Trump’s unintended legacy. He has invoked populism and manipulated to his own end. But once unleashed, populism cannot so easily be kept in line with mere demagoguery. Trump is no Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, or Mao. It’s possible such a leader will arise to push the US into old school authoritarianism. Such a figure hasn’t shown up yet, though. And I’m not sure that kind of authoritarianism will work in such a large, diverse society as this.

      It’s not clear where this will go in the coming decades. One thing is clear. The established status quo will be forced to change. This is partly generational. Silents and Boomers held onto power longer than any other generations in US history. Many of the ruling elite still in power are in their 70s and 80s. We are at the tail end of their long rule. That means power will be up for grabs.

      • the silenced majority is well to the left of both corporatist parties

        The left-right business doesn’t sit well with me. In fact, politics as presently practiced does not sit well with me. I tend to say the public is well ahead of our institutions in terms of time and (spiritual) maturation.

        We don’t see #everydiscrimination of every kind among our family members, neighbors and friends. Or, at least, I hope not. People tend to get along with one another just fine, even taking an active interest in cultures other than their own, as evidenced by the popularity of cultural festivals of every kind, and examples of class-based haughtiness are relatively few and far between. Might this be because we’ve already passed through a variety of “revolutions” over the course of generations?

        I was born in the sixties, at the same time the civil rights and environmental movements in the US were born. Either I was way too young to take much notice or I was actively shielded from the ugliness that greeted them. I don’t know. I do know that I literally grew up during the integration of our schools and the attempted integration of society itself into a coherent whole and this idea of integration was a given by the time I was a teenager. Of course, this integration is actively being appropriated and disintegrated — both subconsciously and consciously — as we speak.

        This “getting along” with one another tends to change drastically when politics or religion comes into the conversation to the point that most of us don’t want to converse about or be involved in them at all. We do see discrimination, subconscious or otherwise, all the time in hierarchical, corporate infrastructures, and our supposed “democracy” just happens to be one. In fact, I’d say that Wolin’s “spectre” of inverted totalitarianism is actually a full-fledged reality. Thus, the present emphasis on the fact that our issues are structural and, therefore, largely subconscious to us. I take it that’s what “consciousness raising” is designed to do: bring the subconscious, structural aspects to conscious awareness.

        The established status quo will be forced to change. This is partly generational.

        I think you would very much appreciate the work of Rosenstock-Huessy on the “hinge of generations.” Personally, I hope Thomas Kuhn is wrong in his assertion that “true revolutionary progress happens only when a generation dies,” especially this time. Like many, I’m hoping for a “leap.” Not to worry, though. I won’t get my hopes up too high as they’re likely to be disappointed.

        • I don’t particularly like the left-right paradigm either. But it’s otherwise hard to speak about what has so long been forced into that frame. The corporate media and corporatist politicians call these popular positions left-wing. This is interesting considering they are in the center of majority opinion. So, as always, left of what? Are the ruling elite indirectly admitting that most Americans disagree with being ruled by an elite?

          When I say “political left” or “left-wing” or “leftist”, it is always said with scare quotes, even if they are invisible. That is to say these majority positions may be to the “left” of the ruling elite, according to the perception of the ruling elite in defining themselves as the “center” and almost everything that challenges that as to the “left”. But obviously, these positions are not to the “left” (or any other direction) of the American public, as defined by majority opinion.

          Most Americans say they don’t trust concentrated wealth and power in almost any form — not big gov, big biz, big media, or big religion. The popularly supported positions such as opposition to high inequality and support of taxing the rich naturally follow from this democratic populism of the silenced majority. This the real ‘mainstream’, if such a thing exists. Even most conservatives and Republicans support many of these majority positions that the corporatist paradigm portrays as to the “left”.

          Left or right is meaningless. There are those who are for democracy and those who are against it. It’s that simple. The ruling elite in calling majority opinion dangerously “left-wing” is not necessarily indicating they are “right-wing”, since the rest of us have no compelling reason to accept the ruling elite’s terms of debate and framing of the ideological spectrum. They are the extremists, not us. We the public have the power, if we embrace it, to define our own understanding and have no obligation to submit to what the propagandists would enforce upon us.

          If the ruling elite insists on defending authoritarianism, then they have the responsibility of justifying their position. We have no requirement to accept the corporatocracy and plutocracy of capitalist realism as the metaphysical default of collective reality. We the public must demand the elite justify their opposition to the public opinion of the majority of citizens, if they insist on claiming a public mandate of a functioning democracy. But that is precisely what the ruling elite cannot do if they are to maintain their dominance within inverted totalitarianism.

          The question is how to we find a new language to express a democratic impulse. That would require an understanding of democracy as a mindset, a culture, and a worldview. Democracy is not a political system. Self-governance flows from a people embodying and living democracy and then a political system, along with an economic system, results from that. Democracy is of the people. Only a free people can act freely and that is the ultimate test of whether or not a government, market, etc is free. That is what separates freedom from liberty, where the latter is simply liberation from slavery for the few.

          I don’t know a better way of speaking than left or right, if only as a shorthand in referring to known groupings of ideological positions. There is a reason people tend to simultaneously support or oppose democracy, egalitarianism, fairness, environmentalism, feminism, etc. There is a common underpinning.

          Many have noted that a consistent distinction of left vs right over the centuries has included a class divide. So, instead of speaking of right and left, it might make more sense of talking about those who support a classism/elitism (as seen in a rigid hierarchy) and those who oppose it. Such a clearer labeling would demonstrate how there is no fundamental difference between DNC elite and GOP elite, as the defining feature is that both are elites defending a system of elite rule, even if they quibble over which specific elite figures should rule at any given moment.

          About the frustrating disappointment of the left-right paradigm, I came across the Ground Blindspot Report:

          It attempts to place all of the media into the standard ideological spectrum. They do a better job of it than most, such as placing Al Jazeera in the center, whatever that means. But, of course, they fail in predictable ways. I’m not sure I’d put American public media in the center, as they do, considering it is mostly funded by corporations and corporate groups. And for damn sure, no rational person could claim the WSJ as the center while CNN and Yahoo are portrayed as “Lean Left”. They bizarrely put both Jacobin and Newsweek as on the “Left”, as if they were ideologically equivalent.

          What does it mean to label various corporate media expressing capitalist realism as being center, left, right, etc? Even NPR takes capitalist realism as the default ideological paradigm by which to define and analyze every issue, in inviting left-corporatists and right-corporatists to have lively debate about issues of the day. And that is ‘public’ media. This is distraction from the stark reality that capitalist realism represents the frame, the definition of the center that goes without question or challenge.

          You’ll never see a panel of Marxists, anarchosyndicalists, socialists, labor organizers, slavery reparationists, feminists, indigenous liberationists, environmentalists, etc (or simply advocates of taxing the rich and universal healthcare) discussing the latest presidential debate on the politically “Left” Newsweek or a “left-winger” hosting that same presidential debate on “Lean Left” CNN. I laugh with sad cynicism at the absurdity of it within our present corporate media.

          There is no doubt that I should read Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy. I’ll get around to it one of these days. I should stop wasting my time by ranting about divisive and pointless outrage. It’s not like I’m going to change anyone’s mind. For those pulled into outrage, it will require something greater than a blog post to heal their trauma and improve their attitude toward their neighbors and fellow citizens.

          • That is a sad article. The thing is I understand outrage on a personal level. In the past, many times I let anger get the better of me. And it caused a lot of harm in my relationships. I have zero desire to go down that road again. But I suppose other people will have to learn for themselves the cost of sacrificing relationships on the altar of moral righteousness.

            Other parts of the article were also interesting. In one of the initial examples, the author wrote of “Gomez, who is a fan of Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigrants and handling of the economy.” That is sadly amusing, in that Obama is the one who began the “caging” of undocumented immigrants at the border. And it was also Obama who deported more undocumented immigrants than has Trump, in the same period of time. Obama holds the record for deporter-in-chief. If one is against undocumented immigrants, then one should logically vote for Joe Biden, Obama’s VP, since re-election of Trump will almost guarantee continued failure on this account.

            It’s similar to how Bill Clinton passed more corporate, banking, and media deregulation than either Bush Sr. or Bush Jr. Heck, Clinton was also more successful than any other recent president in pushing racist tough-on-crime policies. Democratic presidents, in general, tend to be more able to get away with forcing through strong Republican policies than Republican presidents. That is because the corporate media doesn’t report on it and neither party will admit to it. DNC elite don’t want their partisan supporters to know their real positions. And the GOP elite would never point out that Democrats often are better at accomplishing what Republicans promise.

            On a side note, I was talking to my Republican father about this and used the language of “undocumented immigrants”. He got furious about my use of what he perceive as political correctness propaganda. And then he told me he was ashamed of me. Of course, I responded that I was ashamed of Republicans for being historically ignorant. Until recent history, migrant workers and other immigrants regularly went back and forth across the border without it being a partisan political football. The rhetoric of immigrants as legal or illegal didn’t catch on until the past few decades.

            My father and I didn’t take our respective emotional outburst personally. But I did find it odd that my father was so worked up as to say he was ashamed of me, as if this was the worst failure I could have done as a son. That kind of language is not that short of telling someone you’ll never speak to them again. But fortunately, it was a momentary burst of outrage, not an all-consuming hatred. It helps that my father knows that I dislike both main parties. He can’t get too irate with me when I criticize the Democrats as much as the Republicans. If nothing else, I’m fair and balanced in my complaints.

            Here is a really interesting detail: “While 89% of Republicans approved of Trump’s performance in office in 2019, only 7% of Democrats thought he was doing a good job.” More than anything else, that shows how strong the divide has become. Over the decades, there has been a consistent pattern. Most Republicans only have positive views of presidents when Republicans are in power, but Democrats have been different in that the majority have had a favorable view of the presidency no matter which party is elected. That was seen with how easily Democrats came in support for Bush’s War on Terror. It’s different with President Trump.

            As a last bit, the culture war issues always stand out to me: “Guth says some of her friends cannot accept her support for a candidate – Joe Biden – who is pro-choice on the question of abortion.” As my father got upset, my mother easily gets angry about the abortion issue, which she sees as “killing babies”. She repeats this rhetoric, no matter how often I point out to her that the abortion rate remains the same or goes down with liberal policies while sometimes the abortion rate goes up with conservative policies. That is because the argument isn’t about pro-abortion vs anti-abortion but rather about pro-choice vs anti-choice.

            Few people are advocating for more abortions, as the real disagreement is how do we decrease unwanted pregnancies in the first place. It turns out, as the evidence shows, liberal policies prevent a lot of unwanted pregnancies and so drastically cuts down on the demand for abortions. On the other hand, abortion ban have no affect on demand and simply shift that demand to the black market where botched abortions harm mothers and fetuses, sometimes leading to deformed or brain-damaged babies when the pregnancy continues to term.

            As I’ve put it to my parents, do you care more about posturing with moral righteousness than you care about the lives of actual humans? But my parents never get this, as they don’t want to get it. On this issue, feeling outrage is too important to them as it cuts to their entire sense of ideological identity. Anyway, the entire polarization is false, no matter how much it is pushed by the corporate media and party elite. In looking at polling data, most Americans support both strong abortion rights and strong abortion regulation, which is to say freedom of choice within reasonable limits. The same thing is seen with guns, as most Americans support both strong gun rights and strong gun regulation.

            Yet so many Americans continually fall into divide and conquer tactics. It’s not even necessarily that most Americans are swayed by such divisive rhetoric. The fact of the matter is most Americans of voting age don’t vote in most elections, much less get politically involved in any way. The public is not divided. Mostly, they are some combination of disenfranchised, indifferent, apathetic, and cynical. That is what is so sad about the controlled fake ‘elections’ of this banana republic and the ruling elite’s false claims of a public mandate. Majority public opinion is irrelevant, as it is not being represented, as research has shown in that politicians consistently only do what the rich tell them to do.

            That goes back to the managed public perception of legitimacy. Lesser-evilism creates the appearance of legitimacy, since if enough people vote there is an illusion of public support. But the reality is presidential candidates rarely get a majority of American voters. Hilary Clinton and her supporters liked to claim that she won the popular vote, but that was a bald-faced lie. She did not get the majority of eligible voters to vote for her. There were fewer people that voted for her than the combined total of those who voted Trump, voted third party, and didn’t vote at all. Then consider that Trump got even less votes than Clinton’s failure to get the popular vote. That is what goes for democratic ‘legitimacy’.

            Voting in a banana republic engages citizens in superficially satisfying political theater. It’s more entertaining and absorbing than a Hollywood movie. It also is highly effective in psychologically committing the individual to alignment with and submission to the elite-ruled political system. In giving one’s vote, one is investing one’s identity as a voter and so it creates a psychological experience of responsibility and complicity. In voting, the citizen is not only supporting a candidate for every vote is ultimately a vote of confidence toward the system itself, since one wouldn’t vote at all if one genuinely saw the system for what it is as illegitimate.

            This lets the ruling elite off the hook, in multiple ways. Mainstream party voters are blamed for who wins the election, third party voters are blamed for throwing away their vote on a spoiler, and non-voters are blamed for failing to be good citizens. Yet the ruling elite that control the entire electoral system and determines the choice between corporatists are portrayed as merely responding to public desire. Elections are the most potent form of public perception management, as it directly manipulates social identity through partisanship, groupthink, and ideological labeling.

            To play is automatically to lose, but then again to not play is also to lose — the difference being whether or not you’re aware of the game being played against you. Still, it’s a no-win scenario. There isn’t a whole lot of satisfaction in being aware of how one is being manipulated and oppressed, which is why most Americans would rather not know. So, the political theater continues.

          • I’m glad you brought up the problem with left vs right. It’s a longstanding problem and, in the past, I never had a great response to it. But I’ve been ruminating about it while at work today. This post is about politics. And I must admit it felt dissatisfying. I don’t feel the issue is fundamentally about politics. Even democracy, to my mind, is many things before it is political. As I’ve said, politics is a result, not a cause. The greater vision of democracy is about culture, mindset, and worldview. One thing occurs to me is that democracy, in many ways, is just the opposite of authoritarianism — that is to say democracy is how humans naturally behave in the absence of authoritarianism. We are forced to choose one or the other, as there is no third choice.

            Even in the simplest of tribal societies, some are what might be called proto-democratic while others proto-authoritarian. This is the most basic distinction possible in human relations and social order. It even might describe the cultures of other primates, such as differentiating between bonobos and chimpanzees. This difference probably can’t be explained by mere genetics as the two species are so genetically close. More likely a cultural difference developed with chimpanzees as they’ve been forced to survive in a region of human disturbance from poaching and civil war, whereas bonobos were more fortunate to live in a nearby region that has experienced less human conflict and encroachment.

            What are democracy and authoritarianism at their most basic level in the human psyche? It occurred to me that this comes down to the Dark Tetrad: narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and sadism. Maybe that is the psychological substrate of authoritarianism. Democracy cannot function in a population where the Dark Tetrad grows too strong in a population, in particular within a ruling elite. In fact, I’d argue there can be no society with a permanent ruling elite without the Dark Tetrad. Tribes like the Piraha seem like a good example of a nonviolent egalitarian society with no impulses of authoritarianism and seemingly no evidence of the Dark Tetrad.

            Maybe the Dark Tetrad comes down to trauma, mental sickness, and stunted neurocognitive development. Weston A. Price observed that, among healthy populations eating a nutrient-dense diet, pro-social behavior was the norm. Consider Trump who had a dysfunctional upbringing but also has eaten a crap diet his entire life. Would someone as demented as Trump even be likely to exist in a socially and physically healthy society? I doubt it. What if our focus on politics is the wrong way of looking at these problems, as they are much more basic than that. As individuals and as a society, we Americans are a sick people in need of healing.

            Left vs right is bullshit. Any healthy society will be democratic or democratic-like with an emphasis on values like egalitarianism, fairness, trust, community, public good, moral concern, empathy, and compassion. And this is just describing a society that is free of the Dark Tetrad. What if it really is that simple? If so, that eliminates most political debate, ideological analysis, and partisan bickering. All we need to ask is which individuals and groups do and do not exhibit the Dark Tetrad. Once that is established, the real conflict in our society becomes apparent.

            This cuts through the bullshit. Take the rhetoric of Ayn Rand-inspired right-libertarians claiming to be opposed to both authoritarianism and democracy. That is not possible. The reality is that, push comes to shove, these self-identified libertarians are actually authoritarians under another guise. The Dark Tetrad is lurking within their ideology and within their psyches. This psychological understanding allows us to eliminate most of the ideological labels that have become meaningless. It reduces the conflict down to its essence, a divide that has formed within our shared humanity.

            Of course, such psychological understanding is unfortunately too rare. It’s not part of our education system. And pretty much all of our institutions (education, media, parties, etc) embody the Dark Tetrad to varying degrees. Most people are so enmeshed in personal and collective sickness built on transgenerational trauma that they aren’t able to recognize it. Most of us don’t have the requisite awareness and insight. How many Americans could understand, appreciate, and admit that both of the main parties and te entire political system embodies the Dark Tetrad? How are we going move toward a healthy society when our state of sickness is repressed?

          • I looked at that linked post and noticed our brief discussion in the comments section. That is a favorite topic of mine. As for you question, what exactly are you referring to? Do you mean genetic factors that might predispose individuals to the Dark Tetrad? Maybe, but epigenetics seems a more key influence.

            Epigenetics determines genetic expression, in turning genes off or on. Genes are words, whereas epigenetics is the relation between words and their formation into sentences, paragraphs, and chapters.

            There are two rodent studies that demonstrate epigenetics. In one, rodents were given a toxin that epigenetically altered a particular gene and caused obesity. This was inherited by the following generations, until the scientists did something to switch the gene back the other direction.

            The other study is even more fascinating. The rodents were in a cage with an electrified floor. The smell of cherry blossoms was sprayed into the cage and then immediately the electricity was turned on.

            The rodents immediately started jumping because the electric shocks hurt. Eventually, they could be trained to jump in response just to the smell itself, even with no shock following. The trauma had been internalized and the fearful behavior became independent of the original cause.

            Here is where epigenetics comes in. The scientists followed something like 7 generations of these rodents’ offspring. Every generation kept jumping when smelling cherry blossoms, even though none of these following generations had ever been shocked.

            Their behavior appeared dysfunctional and insane, if one didn’t know the larger context. This is how transgenerational trauma operates. Consider Jim Crow, slavery, indentured servitude, the Holocaust, the Irish potato famine, and on and on — all of these events of mass trauma are within the reach of epigenetic influence.

            There is historical evidence and social research that supports this transgenerational effect:

            This gets falsely interpreted by race realists as genetic determinism. Once mass trauma is caused, it could take centuries to fully undo the damage. But in the future, we might have better ability to target the epigenome in assisting the reversal of epigenetic changes. There are studies going on right now where cells have been successfully reset to their original epigenetic settings.

            About the nutritional angle, there appear to be other mechanisms to explain why physical and mental health can cumulatively change over time. In Pottenger’s cats study, after 3 or 4 generations on an unhealthy diet, cats were no longer able to reproduce. But when their diet was improved, that last generation regained fertility.

            This is supported in scientific knowledge of nutrition. We know that biological stores of nutrients, in some cases, get passed on generationally. A mother deficient in a nutrient won’t pass it onto the infant through her milk. If following the same deficient diet, when that infant grows up and becomes a mother, her own milk will be even more nutritionally depleted and her own child will be even worse off. Studies have actually measured this cross-generational nutritional decline.

            Besides the major events of trauma, modern humans have experienced a steady worsening of diet and nutrition over the past several centuries. Scurvy from vitamin C deficiency and blindness from vitamin A deficiency seems to have been less common conditions prior to the colonial era that transformed the Western diet and also created mass poverty.

            The serious disease of civilization (obesity, neurodegenerative diseases, etc) didn’t begin showing up as a serious problem until the late 1700s and early 1800s. Heart disease was so rare as to almost be nonexistent until the 1930s. With each generation, it gets worse. And this is still going on.

            The young generation right now are getting diseases that previously were associated exclusively with older age such as dementia. Type 2 diabetes used to be called adult onset diabetes, but now it’s common among children and youth.

            At this point, some of this surely involves epigenetic changes. Research has been shown that diet and nutrition can alter the epigenome. That is promising, as improving diet and nutrition has been shown to have positive effect on epigenetic changes. All in all, we might be less fatalistically dependent on the genetic luck of the draw than we’ve been led to believe.

          • … continuing the above thread wherein you ask me “As for you question, what exactly are you referring to? Do you mean genetic factors that might predispose individuals to the Dark Tetrad? Maybe, but epigenetics seems a more key influence.”
            I am in awe of your scholarship. I especially am fascinated by what we are learning about epigenetics. I remember learning about Lamarck in school or from my father, and Lamarkianism was later discredited. Now, we see in a Wikipedia article: “Scientists have debated whether advances in the field of transgenerational epigenetics mean that Lamarck was to an extent correct, or not.[9]”
            But, my simple question regards the tendencies for safety vs freedom in people; I show a normal curve in my article’s text showing the hypothetical distribution of tendencies, one way and the other. I quote the lyrics from Gilbert & Sullivan’s comic opera Iolanthe:
            “I often think it’s comical/How nature does contrive
            That every boy and every gal/That’s born into the world alive
            Is either a little Liberal/Or else a little Conservative”
            So, like those of the MBTI, various tendencies seem distributed in the population through some generational means.
            A separate observation regarding the loathing of and fear of Donald Trump–a significant number of people are existentially afraid and project their fears on him because of his personality and behavior. I wonder if a major source of fear might be that, currently, many people feel, correctly, that they have no agency in their lives.-helpless against the forces of government, billionaires, huge corporations, and left- or right-mobs, police, etc.

          • Epigenetics isn’t the same as Lamarckianism. The former is proven and the latter is still a hypothesis. Nonetheless, epigenetics so shakes up our scientific assumptions that it has made many rethink the plausibility of Lamarckianism.

            Epigenetics doesn’t necessarily result in Lamarckianism. And Lamarckianism could operate by other means besides epigenetics. But some have argued the possibility that epigenetics could be a Lamarckian mechanism.

            The suggestion is that epigenetic changes that persist over enough generations could predispose mutations in that direction. So, what was temporarily epigenetic over long spans of time could be permanently set as genetics. This remains unproven, though.

            If proven true, this could help explain a major weakness in Darwinian evolution. How could random mutations lead to such highly adaptive changes and sometimes relatively quickly? Maybe it’s because they aren’t so random, after all. There might be an ‘intelligence’ to evolution, without a need to invoke divine intervention.

            As for safety vs freedom, they do seem to exist on opposite ends of a spectrum. The most safety-obsessed societies do seem more willing to sacrifice freedom.

            Think about those in the Deep South who go on about “Liberty!” while having the highest rates of ‘accidents’ and violent deaths in the country. For example, Southerners are prone to ‘accidentally’ shooting each other. Southern man standing over a dead body: “Yes, officer, it was an accident.” Southern officer: “In that case, carry on.”

            I’ve seen a comparison between South Carolina and Connecticut. It’s not merely about safety laws existing but whether a population follows them. I lived in South Carolina and people there are insane drivers, whereas New Englanders tend to be highly conscientious in following laws. This is seen in the data of vehicular accidents.

            This carelessness in devaluing human life may be representative of liberty-mindedness. But does it doesn’t indicate freedom in the original Germanic sense. So, I’m not sure, on a theoretical scale of safety and freedom, where liberty fits in. It quickly gets complicated.

            There are other societies that show a similar but different pattern. Let’s return to the Piraha again. Unlike American Southerners, the Piraha aren’t prone to accidentally killing each other and themselves. Yet neither are the Piraha overly fearful and safety-minded, in showing little anxiety about death even as they live in a dangerous environment with predators and poisonous creatures.

            Yet the ‘liberty’ originating in Southern slave culture would make no sense to the Piraha. They embody more of the Germanic notion of ‘freedom’ as being a free member of a free people. Even as they aren’t safety-obsessed, their culture indicates a people who feel extremely safe in their community and in their world. Unlike gun-toting Southerners, they don’t perceive fearful threats everywhere, despite the objective reality of the Amazon being a dangerous place.

            The Piraha don’t show indications of the Dark Tetrad. Neither do they demonstrate any signs of trauma and depression. Suicide is unknown among them, as opposed to suicide rates being high in the American South. I might argue that, for all their bravado claiming otherwise, the American Southerners are safety-obsessed in always seeking to protect themselves and, as studies show, being prone to aggression.

            Unlike New Englanders, both Southerners and the Piraha lack much in the way of overweening conscientiousness about safety. But that seems to be where the similarity ends. I’m thinking out loud here and so I’m not exactly sure what are my conclusions, assuming I have any at this point.

            It makes me wonder if safety really is the opposite of freedom. In the original sense, to be free implied the conviction that one was safe among one’s own people within a tight-knit community and strong culture of trust. Freedom meant feeling safe, as opposed to liberty that must constantly be defended and fought for or else state-enforced through civil rights and laws.

            Of course, the meaning of freedom has changed over time and taken on some of the valences of liberty. Even as early as the Enlightenment, the two terms were cross-pollinating. This has allowed a greater range of thought in the English language, but it has also added a layer of confusion. It’s not always clear what is meant when such words are used.

            For other reasons, much of our modern ideological terminology seems lacking in clarity, specifically left vs right and liberal vs conservative. That is why I was questioning my own use of a political frame to make sense of our society’s present outrage and dysfunction. It’s ultimately not political or superficially ideological.

            The real rub might come down to diet and nutrition, mental health and neurocognitive development, transgenerational trauma and the Dark Tetrad. That gets to your final point: “I wonder if a major source of fear might be that, currently, many people feel, correctly, that they have no agency in their lives.” Yes, fear. But what is fear an expression of? This isn’t the temporary passing fear but people stuck in stress and anxiety. That sounds like trauma to me.

            If so, the divide in human nature is not left vs right, is not liberal vs conservative. Or to the degree those terms are meaningful, we need to reinterpret them psychologically and remove the layer of political rhetoric. We also must understand that fear and trauma are evolutionary-based responses to real threats. That is the fact of the matter. Americans aren’t imagining events. We genuinely live in a demented society that will fuck you up very quickly if you aren’t constantly on the defense.

            The dysfunction is built into the social order. That is a problem. Speaking of ‘freedom’ or maybe even ‘liberalism’ under these conditions is not as meaningful or useful as one might prefer. Maybe all of us Americans are traumatized to varying degrees, in a state of fearful reaction, and under the sway of the Dark Tetrad.

            This is further confused by the problem of the WEIRD bias (western, educated, industrial, rich, and democratic) that disconnects us from normal human identity and behavior. As with lesser evilism, the distinctions we tend to make might mostly be among varying forms of social dysfunction and mental illness. There is a lot to contemplate.

          • Here is a possibility for connecting one aspect of your thought with one aspect of my thought. But this requires some further consideration of complications and nuances to suss out this on the level of human experience. Let me throw out some ideas.

            You speak of freedom and safety. But, in this equation, it could be suggested that safety is standing in for liberty as Latin libertas, in its etymological origins within Roman slave society. Liberty implies individual civil rights and privileges in the legal status of not being a slave, whether or not others are enslaved. It ensures one’s own relative safety within a securely established sociopolitical order.

            Within the conservative worldview of law and order, safety and orderliness are inseparable, typically as part of clearly defined social roles within a rigid hierarchy that guarantees certainty (norms, rules, laws, etc). Social conservatives, as social science research shows, cannot abide uncertainty and ambiguity (measuring lower in openness and tolerance for cognitive dissonance).

            Freedom, as with social liberalism and social democracy, represents an alternate worldview. But I’m not sure it is exactly opposing. This goes along with my observation that liberalism can allow for conservatism in a way conservatism cannot do so for liberalism. It’s more of a conservative view, not a liberal view, to see the two as enemy groups in a framework of black/white thinking.

            This gets a bit confusing in a society like ours dominated by authoritarianism, the reactionary mind, and the Dark Tetrad. Even supposed liberals end up taking on many of the traits of conservatism. It’s similar to how studies show that you can get a liberal to espouse conservative views simply by getting them drunk which is to say impair their brain enough that they can’t deal with cognitive dissonance.

            The Piraha aren’t a liberal society in the modern political sense. But on a psychological level, the Piraha express a more potent liberal-mindedness (e.g., anti-authoritarian egalitarianism) than is typically found in American society. So, what gets called liberal or conservative is relative to a specific social order and culture worldview. Still, one might argue the Piraha are closer to the human norm, as opposed to American WEIRDness.

            The WEIRD bias really does throw everything askew. That is another favorite topic of mine. We Americans have come to conflate ‘freedom’ with hyper-individualism. That is unhelpful and uninspiring. We’ve lost the ability to envision ourselves as a singular unified People, something that was still possible with the founding generation if even at that time it was becoming a bit hazy.

            The Piraha and most other humans would not have idealized hyper-individualism as freedom. Even if the Piraha don’t have word for ‘freedom’, they act with greater freedom than most Americans could imagine possible. Our use of the word ‘freedom’ has become ungrounded from its etymological origins in ancient Germanic culture. Instead of representing a free people, freedoms has been reduced to a pathetically weak individualism.

            But what if we were to resurrect that ancient meaning of freedom, that primal experience of community and demos? Then what if we were to pose it against the later conception of liberty (as safety) that arose in the new forms of Axial Age empires? Legalistic liberty has come to rule our minds, in replacing a more natural state of freedom. Maybe that replacement is a kind of authoritarianism of the mind, that collective forgetting of something that is central to our shared humanity.

            So, this could be taken as not only freedom from oppression of authoritarian governments, ruling elites, rigid hierarchies, and private power structures but also freedom from fear, anxiety, depression, and the Dark Tetrad. Politics as public good requires social, psychological, and physical health. This creates a potentially much more profound significance to understanding the relationship between freedom and liberty, as representing a natural state of feeling safe versus a law-and-order system of safety enforced from above.

            Just a thought. It’s not entirely clear at the moment. But I do think transgenerational trauma is key. A permanent state of collective trauma continuing over centuries is not normal and should not be accepted as normal. Such trauma will distort everything else, including how we perceive and seek safety. If magically all trauma in our society was healed in an instant, what would be left remaining that would still seem meaningful and useful? How much of the rhetoric we use is simply a way of indirectly talking around trauma while repressing it?

    • What do you think about legitimacy as related to public perception? Do you have any opinion what might result if and when perception management fails as social control?

      What are the chances that the silenced majority will become a vocal majority as a unified public, an organized populist movement, an effective alliance of political/community organizing, or else massive public unrest at a level not seen in recent history?

      Is it likely we would have another populist era? Or has new tech media and centralized authoritarianism too far to allow that to happen? Are we doomed to a choice of worsening oppression or total collapse of power?

  3. I came across this post: THE TIES THAT (NO LONGER) BIND. And I was going to leave a comment there. But I felt resistant to do so. It is a blog I’ve followed for a short time, although not long enough to know the blogger’s political views. I decided to check their old posts by using ‘Clinton’ as a search term and came across this: HILLARY CLINTON IS A RUSSIAN ASSET. DISCUSS.

    This blogger was a Sanders supporter, but more than that he apparently is either a partisan Democrat or yet another lesser-evil voter. In that second post, he wrote as if speaking to Hilary Clinton and reassured her that, “We voted for you. We wish you had won. Sure, it’s fairer to say we wish Trump had lost, but let’s not split hairs. We were on your side on 2016.11.8.” Well, that ‘we’ didn’t include me. Below is the comment I was going to post but decided against it.

    This has been on my mind. I have blocked people on Facebook for saying things that were racist or authoritarian. But as you point out, that so far has not included family members or close friends. I did have a cousin, albeit distant, who blocked me on Facebook for supporting BLM protests, presumably because of white identity politics.

    That was depressing, as I like guy and we have never argued about politics. I always thought of him as likely a libertarian and he showed no inclinations of racism, although it must be noted that he lives in a right-wing state with heavy Trump support. I left Facebook after that, as I simply didn’t want to be part of all the hatred and outrage.

    The problem for someone like me is that, even as I fear the authoritarian demagoguery that Trump poses, I despise in my heart of hearts the political corruption of the Clinton Democrats. Trump may be a referendum on individual voters, but he is also a referendum on our entire country. Without the Clinton Democrats pushing the country toward radical right-wing corporatism and war-mongering, someone like Trump never would have had a chance of gaining power.

    This is the inevitable result of many decades of lesser-evil voting that has led to the long predicted greater evil. Many of us knew we were heading in this direction and now here we are. I’ve been through the fires of outrage and now find myself on the other side. Selective outrage of partisan politics doesn’t inspire me, not that it ever did. There has to be more than that, if we are to have any hope for the future.

    • Mentioning this particular example is not to judge the blogger in question. Voting, to my mind, is not a personal referendum. So, no one gets any bonus points for voting the right way, when the only choices allowed are evil and more evil. It would be different if we had a functioning democracy. But I have a hard time blaming disenfranchised Americans for the existence and fate of this banana republic that oppresses us all.

      To emphasize this point, below is something from the Mises Institute website. The author is not ideologically aligned with my own views but a good point is made, nonetheless. Neither party has a public mandate. And so none of us are in a position to crow in self-righteousness, not to imply that voting third party or not voting at all is superior. If anything, we all should be in a state of mourning, as this is the second election in a row where both main presidential candidates were disliked by most Americans.


      “The notion that election results represent the “will of the people” is one of the most shameless triumphs of democratic propaganda. Rather than revealing the “will of the people,” election results are often a one-day snapshot of transient mass delusions. Votes which only reveal comparative contempt for competing professional politicians are transmogrified into approvals for blueprints to forcibly remake humanity.

      “Americans are encouraged to believe that their vote on Election Day somehow miraculously guarantees that the subsequent ten thousand actions by the president, Congress, and federal agencies embody “the will of the people.” In reality, the more edicts a president issues, the less likely that his decrees will have any connection to popular preferences. It is even more doubtful that all the provisions of hefty legislative packages reflect majority support, considering the wheeling, dealing, and conniving prior to final passage. Or maybe the Holy Ghost of Democracy hovers over Capitol Hill to assure that average Americans truly want every provision on every page of bills that most representatives and senators do not even bother reading?

      “A bastard cousin of the “will of the people” flimflam is the notion that citizens and government are one and the same. President Franklin Roosevelt, after five years of expanding federal power as rapidly as possible, declared in 1938, “Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us.” President Johnson declared in 1964: “Government is not an enemy of the people. Government is the people themselves,” though it wasn’t “the people” whose lies sent tens of thousands of American conscripts to pointless deaths in Vietnam. President Bill Clinton declared in 1996, “The Government is just the people, acting together—just the people acting together.” But it wasn’t “the people acting together” that bombed Serbia, invaded Haiti, blockaded Iraq, or sent the tanks in at Waco.

      “President Barack Obama hit the theme at a 2015 Democratic fundraiser: “Our system only works when we realize that government is not some alien thing; government is not some conspiracy or plot; it’s not something to oppress you. Government is us in a democracy.” But it was not private citizens who, during Obama’s reign, issued more than half a million pages of proposed and final new regulations and notices in the Federal Register; made more than 10 million administrative rulings; tacitly took control of more than 500 million acres by designating them “national monuments”; and bombed seven foreign nations. The “government is the people” doctrine makes sense only if we assume citizens are masochists who secretly wish to have their lives blighted.

      “Presidents perennially echo the Declaration of Independence’s appeal to “the consent of the governed.” But political consent is gauged very differently than consent in other areas of life. The primary proof that Americans are not oppressed is that citizens cast more votes for one of the candidates who finagled his name onto the ballot. A politician can say or do almost anything to snare votes; after Election Day, citizens can do almost nothing to restrain winning politicians.

      “A 2017 survey by Rasmussen Reports found that only 23 percent of Americans believe that the federal government has “the consent of the governed.” Political consent is defined these days as rape was defined a generation or two ago: people consent to anything which they do not forcibly resist. Voters cannot complain about getting screwed after being enticed into a voting booth. Anyone who does not attempt to burn down city hall presumably consented to everything the mayor did. Anyone who does not jump the White House fence and try to storm into the Oval Office consents to all executive orders. Anyone who doesn’t firebomb the nearest federal office building consents to the latest edicts in the Federal Register. And if people do attack government facilities, then they are terrorists who can be justifiably killed or imprisoned forever.

      “In the short term, the most dangerous democratic delusion is that conducting an election makes government trustworthy again. Only 20 percent of Americans trust the government to “do the right thing” most of the time, according to a survey last month by the Pew Research Center. Americans are being encouraged to believe that merely changing the name of the occupant of the White House should restore faith in government.

      “If Biden is elected, we will hear the same “redemption” storyline that was trumpeted when Obama replaced (temporarily) disgraced George W. Bush. The same media that ignored Biden’s corruption during the presidential campaign will insist that his inauguration purifies Uncle Sam. With Biden in charge, pundits and pooh-bahs will swear that it is safe to expand federal control over healthcare, education, housing, the economy, the environment, and anything else that moves.

      “But the benevolence of government rarely transcends the perfidy of politics. Washington will remain as venal as ever, regardless of the hallelujah chorus of PBS NewsHour panelists. When scandals erupt, citizens will be told to trust politically approved fixes to the system—even though most Washington reforms are like fighting crime by hiding the corpses of victims.

      “It is time to demystify democracy. The surest effect of exalting democracy is to make it easier for politicians to drag everyone else down. Until presidents and members of Congress begin to honor their oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, they deserve all the distrust and disdain they receive. Americans need less faith in democracy and more faith in their own liberty.”

    • This post is about politics. And I must admit it felt dissatisfying.

      It is? I thought it was about the outrage engendered by the practice of politics today and the effect it is having on the polity. 😉

      Personally, I consider it among your best and have enjoyed the conversation.

      I ran across a media bias chart myself that plots press outlets on a two-dimensional, pyramidal chart with those considered the most reliable at the top and labeled as “Neutral or Balanced Bias” and those it classifies as “left-right” arranged according to varying degrees of reliability and extremity.

      Balanced…bias? (Okay. We won’t even get into that.)

      Regarding immigration: I find it odd that no one ever mentions the fact that, once indigenous Americans (i.e. people born in America) caught on to the fact that they were being exploited by their corporate overlords and began to demand better jobs, better wages, better working and living conditions and the like, the ruling classes whole-heartedly embraced unlimited immigration from south of the border to fill the “dirty jobs” at which so many Americans began to turn up their noses. This, of course, followed on the heels of the phenomenon of corporations originally headquartered in the North first moving South to exploit native Southerners instead of native Northerners and, finally, overseas. And, apparently, everyone has forgotten that it was primarily Chinese laborers who built the US transcontinental railroad.

      My, but we do have lousy memories.

      Further, few ever mention that there actually is a global migration crisis for fear of being smeared as anti-immigration. Ergo, we never have a chance to discuss how long-standing policies of “regime change” overseas, climate breakdown and other factors are fueling a very real and present migration crisis.

      As always, good speaking with you.

      • As a side note, why do you think Obama deported more immigrants than any other US president in history? I was talking with my friend this morning and he basically asked me that question. I didn’t have a good answer.

        He told me that he assumed that the political elite simply do what is in their self-interest. But how was it in the interest of Obama, his cronies, and the Clinton Democrats to detain (“cage”) immigrants at the border and deport so many across the country?

        It always seemed that the political elite in the past would talk about deportation while doing little about it, as it means cheap labor. So, what changed? And why Obama of all people? What is their to be gained? Are there private contract companies that are profiting off off detainment and deportation?

        • These are the kinds of questions no one is asking because, of course, the official position on any issue must be either pro- or anti- as far the present consciousness structure is concerned. It’s either/or — all across the board — or nothing.

          In its dreams of a techno-utopia, the US forgot somewhere along the line that there is “essential” work to be done — not necessarily to keep the Megamachine in working order, but to ensure the basic necessities of life are met. The pandemic has reminded some of us of that uncomfortable fact, not that it has made much difference thus far.

          As far as Obama is concerned, I will never forget his inauguration day. He was his chipper, good-humored, starry-eyed self…until he met with GW for his briefing, that is. He may just have been exhausted by then, but he came out of that meeting looking as if he’d already aged 20 years. The smile? Gone. The stars in his eyes? Gone. This is pure speculation on my part, but I have to wonder if GW hadn’t given him a lesson in reality: peak oil, a severely overburdened and failing social safety net, etc., etc.

          You’ve mentioned in the past the inability of the American public to “see through” Obama. I may be wrong, but I gather that means you think Obama just another member of the elite and a continuation of the Bush-Clinton dynasty, who perhaps cynically used “hope” to further his own ends. I have a different perspective on Obama, however, and it is this: He went in there to try and fulfill a vision — a vision shared by most of us — of an equitable and just society. What I don’t believe for a second he knew is something we all now know or, at least, should know: the idea of Neoliberalism had “swallowed the world” to the point that is has become subconscious to the vast majority of us, and — as most anyone else would have done — Obama governed accordingly with that subconscious thread of thought guiding his every move.

          It’s easy for us to condemn “the elite,” but I honestly think that — in many cases — even they –very simply — “know not what they do.”

          Regarding your Mom and the abortion issue: You may want to introduce Mom to Sister Joan Chittister.

          Good day.

          • I looked at the Sister Joan Chittister. It is good stuff, but not the kind of thing that would resonate with my parents. They would just take it as left-wing propaganda. Having been born in a Klan state during the early Cold War, my parents are pretty damn far out in their politics, no where near the majority position of moderate progressivism. Though not theocratic fundies, they can be dogmatically rabid at times in their social conservatism and in having internalized Cold War propaganda. Abortion is killing babies! Any other position is moral depravity, possibly pure evil, that will destroy American society and be the downfall of Western civilization. Period. Full stop.

            About Obama, I don’t see it as an issue of blaming the ruling elite, per se, no more than there is any point in blaming partisan voters. But I do believe in the power of simply speaking out that the emperor is wearing no clothes. I trust my judgment of people. And the first time I heard Obama speak on the campaign trail, it immediately rang false and I took it as empty rhetoric, pretty words without substance. That is a point that Jimmy Dore made. Obama knew how to talk as if he had a vision, to present himself like a person who had a vision, but he never got beyond generalized promises of hope and change.

            For whatever reason, Dore says, no one thought to ask Obama what exactly was his vision. Hope and change toward what? And even now, few Americans think back to wonder if he ever had a vision in the first place. If there was no vision, then he never betrayed or lost his vision. Considering all the truly horrific things Obama committed as president, no one will ever convince me that he began as a simple good person, a Mr. Smith Goes to Washington but who was coerced by a corrupt system against which he was a helpless victim. No, I strongly doubt it. He appears to have been a sociopath or social dominator right from the start. That is to say neither was he a lesser evil.

            It’s not only the immigrant issue, although deporting more Mexicans than all other presidents combined is no small feat. Obama also bombed more countries than Bush and dropped more bombs than Bush (over 100,000 bombs on 8 countries), so many bombs that the military ran out of bombs. But it must be pointed out that supposedly anti-war Trump has been even more generous with bombs. Trump is Trump, but Obama was supposed to be different. Dore goes further in arguing that Trump is an orange-skinned Obama in continuing Obama’s policies, as evidenced by the lengthy political record of oppressive authoritarianism and corrupt corporatism. Like other recent presidents, Obama is a proven war criminal.

            Look at his political record as president. It was Obama who:

            expanded executive power, led drone strikes that killed innocents 90% of the time, escalated the Afghanistan War, destroyed Libya, Iraq, Yemen and Syria, continues support of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and UAE, backed fascist coups in Honduras and Ukraine, deported Honduran refugee children as a warning, illegally attempted to overthrow Assad in Assyria, funded ISIS, vastly increased foreign military sales, did a $1 billion arms deal aiding Saudi Arabian genocide in Yemen, gave $38 billion for Israeli apartheid and terrorism against Palestinians,

            tortured Chelsea Manning, maintained the torture facility at Guantanamo Bay, granted final immunity to Bush’s CIA torturers, sought to prosecute Julian Assange and other journalists using the Espionage Act, reauthorized military equipment for police, continued mass incarceration and privatized prisons, used the FBI to coordinate a crackdown on Occupy (COINTELPRO?), made unprecedented use of state secrets privilege for religious profiling, repealed habeas corpus to allow indefinite detention of US citizens,

            continued Bush’s economic policies, codified and made permanent Bush’s tax cuts for the rich, approved arctic drilling, expanded Monsanto Doctrine by signing Dark Act that invalidated Vermont GMO labeling law, passed corporatist Romneycare that ensured insurance and pharmaceutical companies would make greater profit, bailed out the too-big-to-fail banks that made them bigger and caused mass housing foreclosure,

            cut food stamp funding by $8.7 billion, gaslighted Flint residents about their water being clean, refused to protect indigenous water rights, used State Department to suppress wages in Haiti to ensure cheap labor for US corporations, refused to help labor unions get card check that makes form unions easier,

          • Early on, he would muse to senior aides in private about what it meant that the country had chosen Trump, bouncing between writing off the election as a freak accident and considering it a rejection of his own vision of America. — Where is Barack Obama

            It was a rejection of Neoliberalism and the ‘consciousness structure” that underpins Neoliberalism. All of Obama’s back room deals were the same kind of bargains with the devil that got us into mess — the “public-private partnership” writ large.

            Trump and Sanders were both viewed as “outsiders.” Rather than thrust a sword into the belly of the beast, the RNC and DNC (on which committees’ sit corporate lobbyists) and the electoral college chose to allow a “human molotov cocktail” through instead.

            And here we are.

          • That said, I might be more wise to be humble. If the reactionary mind can get the best of us in this society, it’s a thousand times worse and more potent in Washington, DC.

            Even good people can end up doing horrific things. And the Deep State is powerful in getting people to do what they want, by hook or crook, by bribe, blackmail, or threat.

            I always wondered about Gore in the 2000 election. What power did someone hold over him to cause him to take the dive in the final round by conceding to lose an election he had won?

            Similarly, I have no idea the pressures that might have come down on Obama when he entered office, pressures that could crush the best of us.

      • I do find it strange. Biden, as part of the Obama administration, deported more immigrants and killed more people in more wars than has Trump. Biden is guaranteed to continue Obama’s policies and, based on his long political record, Biden is guaranteed to push those policies even further toward fascism. That is what we know about Biden.

        Much of Biden’s horrific political record goes back decades. He was behind Bill Clinton’s racist crime bill, repealing Glass-Steagall, NAFTA, and on and on. He has all been about the military-industrial complex, war-mongering, and a militarized police state. He has been very consistent in his hard core violent corporatism, not to mention working closely with old school racists in DC.

        For all Trump’s authoritarian demagoguery, he has not been particularly successful as an aspiring dictator. Also, he has surprisingly been one of the few major leaders in recent history to speak honestly about the corruption and wastefulness of the military-industrial complex. If one is a liberal who is against unnecessary suffering and death, why would one vote for Biden?

        Biden is one of the worst of the worst. Jimmy Dore has been ranting about this for years. And Chris Hedges has also preached this message. None of this is a secret. Yet the delusion of looking to Biden for hope somehow continues. It’s straight up bizarre.

        • It is my personal opinion that the vast majority of Americans place far too much emphasis on who happens to occupy the White House at any given time. As Wolin pointed out, we are never presented with a choice between alternatives in any case; we are presented with a choice between personalities. (I’d have used the word, celebrities, for that myself, but there we are.)

          Thanks to the fact that there is no such thing as proportional representation on the Federal level, there is also an absolute, either/or stalemate on the Federal level. Trump and Biden aren’t the only candidates on the Presidential ticket (though you’d never know it to listen to the “news”), but even if a third party candidate somehow miraculously found themselves in the big chair, nothing would change at the “tippy-top” of the pyramid that is this house of cards.

          That’s why I look elsewhere for movement on everything the “silent majority” values and am adoring the far more quiet degrowth, decentralization, localization and other movements within our purview. It took generations to get us into this mess. It will take generations to get us out of it, provided our own species doesn’t go extinct by then.

          • I agree with everything you say there. What motivated this post is the strangeness of the mindset that creates and maintains the dysfunction. The outrage trap is one mechanism within the reactionary mind. That is part of my dissatisfaction with this post. Speaking of outrage barely touches upon the deeper issue that concerns me. I’m struggling to put my finger on what it all means. I can feel the tug of an undertow in the depths that can’t easily be seen.

            Let me give another example. Someone I know is smart, insightful, and highly informed. She knows her history and is familiar with the scholarship on reactionary phenomenon. Yet on multiple occasions I’ve seen this person was pulled into a blatantly reactionary mindset. An intellectual understanding offers little, if any protection, against the emotional manipulation. None of us, as I like to repeat, is immune to the reactionary mind. The whole society has gone reactionary and we are drowning in it. All the outrage is just a symptom of a greater sickness.

            The power of the reactionary mind is impressive. I’ve seen too many brilliant minds, including radical left-wingers and independent journalists I personally know, be swayed by yet more fear-mongering and lesser-evilism. It works again and again, no matter how well people understand it intellectually. And the fact of the matter is most Americans don’t have any understanding at all, intellectual or otherwise. I’m not sure my own understanding, limited as it is, is up for the task either.

            Maybe we all are doomed to fail in the short term since it will take generations to shift into a new direction. As you suggest, focusing on the small quiet movements of change are maybe the best we can do. It’s out of that fertile ground that new possibilities might burst forth. Any possibility radical enough to challenge what dominates the public mind won’t likely take predictable form. What can be predicted can be easily defeated.

            The source of potential hope is in one what might surprise us with the unexpected. That is the value of those experimenting at the local level, outside the purview of mainstream thought and control. We need to be patient and look to the long game. It is the fear and anxiety of reacting to the present that keeps us trapped. A different, more relaxed and curious attitude is required.

          • Being an empath, I’ve been pulled into that particular Charybdis myself. I absolutely despise it when people try to pigeon-hole or cage me; clip my wings; accuse me or loved ones of things I or they haven’t done or think; tell me who I am (I already know); how I should be; what I should do; how to speak or write; etc. (I’m also an Aries and my spirit animal is the Red Tailed Hawk.) All that said, I particularly despise it when people presume me and that has happened more times I can care to count.

            I was trying to have a conversation with a supremely thoughtful and considerate Christian who had subscribed to and frequently commented on an erstwhile blog I’d found most informative, for example, speaking to the fact that Christianity itself was in dire need of growing up, i.e. maturing into the benign cultural form it easily could be, when the author stepped in and said, “If you could just bring yourself to say, ‘Allah,’ instead of God,” blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah and, in fact, presumed everything he thought he knew about me from the outset and probably still does.

            I’ve had to learn to stay somewhat detached, not allow my emotions to get the better of me and ignore those triggers, which is something I’ve struggled with most of my life. It’s actually thanks to that experience, though, that I’ve learned to do just that. Even the people who mean us harm, intentionally or otherwise, invariably wind up us teaching us something through the very experience of our having met. As a result of meeting that wonderful, intelligent, thoughtful and yet, otherwise — all too often — supremely arrogant human being, my own spiritual practice has been deepened to the point that I rarely struggle to master my emotions these days and can finally be a true empath…most of the time. 🙂

          • I have no problem with people being complex, nuanced, and even inconsistent creatures. But I find it demoralizing and dispiriting when someone blatantly betrays core principles and values they’ve proclaimed, especially when they’ve held those positions up as standards by which to accuse and judge others.

            Like you, I’m in the process of learning to negotiate many such triggers. I’m better at not emotionally reacting than I was in the past, but neither do I want to be emotionally detached and indifferent, which can simply become numbness and cynicism. Seeking balance requires immense awareness.

          • I’m better at not emotionally reacting than I was in the past, but neither do I want to be emotionally detached and indifferent

            Fortunately, that (at least) is not an either/or proposition.

            We humans have strange ideas about empathy, but — like anything else — empathy can be both a blessing and a curse. What I’ve learned is that the trick is not to be an emotional (or any other adjective) empath. Emotional empaths actually soak up other people’s emotions and, usually, wind up carrying them around with them as if those emotions originated with them — as if they were their own — and are easily emotionally drained themselves. “Immense” awareness is actually the key and the antidote to both emotional toxification and manipulation.

  4. There will always be those on both sides who see people like me as not understanding the threat of those other people. Trump will bring on a dark age of authoritarianism and decline. Meanwhile, Biden will mean a radical takeover of Marxists and Commies.

    But to my view, I don’t see how this ends well, no matter which corrupt, creepy, senile, old white male plutocrat and corporatist wins. How could lesser-evilism lead anywhere other than greater evil? How could continued choices with bad and worse not lead to inevitable corruption and failure?

    • There is one insight that must be understood. The so-called left vs right can’t be conflated with liberal vs conservative. There is the issue of the liberal class often being rather “right-wing” or, if you prefer, conservative. Is a liberal still a liberal when the promote conservative policies?

      The liberal class, by way of the Clinton Democrats, is often “right-wing” in terms of Cold War ideology embracing corporatism and capitalist realism. Bill Clinton forced through more corporate, banking, and media deregulation than either Bush Sr. before him or Bush Jr. following. He also was the most successful proponent of racist tough-on-crime policies.

      Then there is Barack Obama who began the policy of caging large numbers of undocumented immigrants at the border. He also deported more immigrants than Donald Trump in the same period. Just as bad was how Obama foisted upon the American public healthcare insurance reform that simply made insurance companies rich, while the vast majority of Americans were demanding healthcare reform that was much more radical (i.e., “left-wing”).

      Even on social issues, the Clinton DNC elite, the supposed representatives of American liberalism, didn’t support same sex marriage until years after the majority Americans had already been in favor of it. Empty rhetoric does not a liberal make. Where on the Nolan chart does one fit moderate “right-wing” authoritarians like the Clinton Democrats when they use liberalish rhetoric?

      Then consider that all authoritarians, both left and right, tend to promote social conservatism on a wide variety of issues. Nazis and Stalinists alike not only killed Marxists, put down labor organizing, and such but also banned women’s right to abortions, targeted sexual deviants, etc. This pattern repeats on many social issues.

      Stalin, in the end, simply wanted to rebuild the Russian Empire. What about him supposedly made him a left-winger? It can’t be simply that he nationalized industry, as that can also happen under many other forms of authoritarianism, including on the supposed “far right”, from theocracy to monarchy.

    • What if the election comes down to a choice between muddled fascism with a personality cult and soft fascism with a muddled personality? Both are plutocratic corporatists of slightly different varieties. Um… remind me again which is the lesser evil.

    • Biden is most likely to be elected. And once in office, he will go hard “right” as the corporate whore that he is. We will finally get to see what American-style full fascism looks like. This will be taken as the opportunity for big biz plutocrats to consolidate power.

    • “America only has one party and that is the business party”
      ~ Noam Chomsky

      Chomsky is just as insightful at times. But he doesn’t heed his own insight. And inevitably he backs the latest corporatist elite who supposedly is less evil. He is the Charlie Brown of the political world and the corporatist Clinton Democrats are Lucy who always pulls the football away at the last moment.

  5. Its funny how the present colors our vision of the past, which reminds me of the scene in the animated movie “inside out” when the sad puppet touches the memory balls which were previously happy so that they become blue.

    In my opinion, the only thing that was keeping the country together was the sense that we were moving forward, humbly recognizing our mistakes, and trying to solve them in the best way at the time, some obvious anecdotes include abolishing slavery and civil rights.
    From Eisenhower’s Farewell Address “ Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small,there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties.” In dissecting this sentence, I feel like most Americans are currently waiting for the final episode which is supposed to tie everything together, to hear some string of words that will be the epic finale and the ultimate meaning to what witnessed.

    The final episode should be people hugging and forgiving each other, loving thy neighbour, and whatever else is in the bible. Too bad religion was hijacked by a few psychopathic thieves.

Please read Comment Policy before commenting.

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s