“The Inner Soul of the People”

                                                                   [image source]

Just finished watching Meet the Press where Chuck Todd, Tom Friedman and Kathleen Parker (with an additional presence of Bob Costa and Neera Tanden who made the most sense of the bunch) talked about normalizing Trump and his presidency.

They only discussed it, not entirely favorably (thank you, Neera), but the thrust of their exchanges was clear. Parker went as far as to offer Trump some useful tips: Give a sincerely sounding speech where you admit that you are sort of a hothead, but you really don’t mean half of the things you say, and all will be good, and we can move forward, warmly embracing the fascism that’s about to envelop us. Kind of like if you can’t fight them, join them, I suppose, because resistance is futile. Or something.

Can’t blame Parker too much, if President Obama himself leads the normalizing movement, reminding us, helpfully, that Campaigning is different than governing. I understand that this is his job, but still — sigh.

Todd, eager as always to curry favor of powers-that-be, shared a tweet issued by Trump during the program and praising Senator Chuck Schumer, a new leader of the Senate Democrats. Interviewed by Todd, Schumer refused to clearly state where he stood on the matter of cooperation with the narcissistic psychopath in chief, while backpedaling his long-standing association with the man. This apparently pleased Trump. (You know, or should, that if Trump praises you, you are most likely seriously in the wrong.)

By the way, here’s the new motto of Meet The Press, the mouthpiece, one of many, of His Orangeness regime: He Tweets, We Report — without delay or critical commentary. Now that Trump is going to be President, there shall be no more fake hand-wringing about giving him free press. After all, now he really deserves it.

That’s how it’s done, I thought.

That’s the inevitable pivoting that always happens once the disordered characters come to power. While some — the clueless and/or naive or perhaps plainly opportunistic — believe and say that, once in power, these leaders will start acting like full human beings capable of empathy, compassion, and good judgment, and finally pivot toward universal human values, in fact the opposite always happens.

The disordered characters, no longer forced to fake a semblance of normalcy, become more entrenched in their pathological views; and the pivoting that takes place is of the people toward them and not the other way around, a movement led by their eager fans and sycophants, and supported by intimidation and force when needed (as it eventually always is).

The past 12 months might be remembered as the year of Donald Trump… the year of the Red Pill… and the year of the Alt Right. It was a time when more people joined our movement then [sic] ever before and when our ideas began invading the mainstream.

This announcement is from the website of National Policy Institute, an extreme right-wing “think” tank. It pertains to their conference taking place this weekend, titled “Become Who We Are / 2016.” (If you don’t know what Red Pill is, here is a good explanation.)

Become who we are. These words confer hope and a permission for the conscience-deficient who comprise these movements to fully embrace their hate-filled agenda and finally bring it into the open. This is their year, as they proudly announce, thanks to Trump, who shares their character defect and the philosophy of life, such as it is.

As I mentioned in the last post, neither these sentiments nor Trump’s rise to the position of ultimate power are surprising to those who are familiar with authoritarian systems and have been paying attention to domestic hate movements. The latter have been rapidly gathering strength and popularity in the past several years, enabled in their growth by the Internet which has provided ready platforms for sharing these pathological views and forming social connections among those espousing them.

Noam Chomsky predicted this very scenario, sans the Internet, in 2010, as did Richard Rorty in 1998. Heck, Dorothy Thompson warned about Trump/ism in 1935. And way, waaay before her, there was Thucydides who tried to teach us, explicitly enough, about dangers of similarly disordered leaders and the conditions that lead to their rise.

We — as in, humanity — have enough psychological, historical, and political knowledge, accumulated throughout centuries of mayhem, informing and preparing us for these developments.

But we don’t learn, obviously — particularly not from other people’s mistakes. We must make them on our own for the necessary lessons to sink in and transform our lives. This is such a lesson for America, which, like a stubborn teen convinced s/he knows it all, believed, up to now, that it can do what it wants without paying attention to the consequences. Trump’s presidency, the ultimate triumph of narcissism that has ruled America for decades, is the predictable consequence of this recklessness, full of lessons to learn, should we want to (though it is not clear yet that we do).

These lessons have to do, as always, with the conflicts between values and their lack (power, greed, and hate are not values, but signs of valuelessness); between the worldviews that promote fear, hate, exclusion, and aggression, and those modeling empathy, compassion, acceptance and care. These worldviews, even though related through the eternal conflicts they create within our souls and out in the external world, are fundamentally incompatible.

The lessons of Trump/ism, as in any confrontation with people and belief systems bereft of higher values (including empathy, compassion, and care), are about defining who we are through the choices we make.  As such, they offer us an unprecedented opportunity of growth, personal and collective. That growth is not easy as it leads through the dark night of the soul, or the process of positive disintegration, of which I hope to write in a greater detail soon(ish), fates permitting.

For now, a bit more about the darker parts of our souls.

One is put in mind of H.L. Mencken: “As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

This from a good opinion piece, The Man Who Would Not be President, by Roger Cohen. There is one thing that Cohen does not get quite right, however. He says:

Except that Trump is no moron. That makes the outlook more sinister. Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor, got it about right when he said of Trump: “I’m a New Yorker and I know a con when I see one.” He might have said a gifted charlatan.

Let’s see.

Trump is unintelligent and uncurious; unable and unwilling to retain and process elementary information that’s not related to his pathological need for adulation; incapable of stepping out of his disordered frame of mind to notice, understand, or care about the reality of other people’s lives as they are and not as he believes them to be on those rare occasions when he is forced to make the herculean, for him, effort to understand. (With apologies to Hercules.)

He touts, laughably, his intelligence and special skills, of which there aren’t any. (Lying, brazenly and without compunction, does not count.)

Being a walking embodiment of the uniquely American disorder of “positive thinking,” and the gospel of high self-esteem and unlimited prosperity that follows from it (reality with its limitations be damned), he has no idea of his shortcomings, nor does he care to learn about them. What shortcomings? He has a very good brain, the best ever.  “It would take an hour and a half to learn everything there is to learn about [nuclear] missiles. I think I know most of it anyway,” he bragged to a Washington Post reporter once.

Not for him the arduous efforts of learning and critical self-reflection, much less changing his behavior. What’s there to change? It’s worked swimmingly so far, after all, and there is no reason this should change, is there, particularly as we ever so eagerly continue the seemingly unimaginable process of normalizing his presidency, and thus his behavior.

A moron fits, uncharitably. A malignantly narcissistic moron, to be exact. It does not make the outlook any less sinister. That he appears to be a “gifted charlatan”  speaks to people’s gullibility and unfamiliarity with the workings of psychopathic and narcissistic characters. And that gullibility — and/or complicity perhaps — cuts across all demographic strata.

Let’s not forget that Trump/ism is mostly a default creation of the American elites, both liberal and conservative, who admired and promoted the man, and sought association with him, even as they ridiculed, in private, his unforgivable lack of class. In that, they showed themselves as narcissistic as he is, just somewhat better-mannered perhaps.

This profitable collusion continued for decades and coincided, unsurprisingly, with the mighty and well heeled on both sides of the political spectrum growing further away and dissociating from the reality of ordinary Americans, those invisible unwashed masses in the flyover country and urban ghettos, or even in a town and county next door, beyond the elites’ gated communities. Trump/ism is the invisibles’ big middle finger raised to the socio-political structures that, as usual, have taken them for granted for far too long.

In their (s)election of Trump, they have accomplished a multilayered act of revenge, not only promising to upend the established order with its old guards, but also to rub that tsk-tsked classlessness into the elites’ horrified faces. The Strongman is their avenger, and, as they erroneously believe, a creator of a new, better world that looks very much like the old world of their childhood dreams.

Unfortunately, those dreams are unrealistic — that world, if it even existed, is not coming back; and, in any case, Trump, a destroyer by nature, is not the man for the job.

Yet his supporters do not see it — because the same human defect that makes people overestimate Trump’s “giftedness” and glorify his “success,” lies behind the false consciousness of his fans which makes them think that this spoiled, conscienceless billionaire is one of them, or at least on their side. Well, he says so, so it must be true.

Let’s underscore this, once again: There is nothing special, much less “gifted,” about Trump. He just operates on such a low, primitive level of existence that it strikes some as a premeditated game of an astute manipulator. But the characterologically impaired, with whom this kind of existence resonates, instantly recognize him as their own. They do not crow about his gifts, but praise his guts in “telling it like it is,” i.e. unloading that primitivism — contempt, disrespect, selfishness, greed, narcissism, misogyny and aggression — without any inhibitions, nay, with pride which frees them to finally emulate those behaviors, now out in the open. If there is a “gift” they may appreciate, it is that of his “courage” — that is, his lack of values, scruples and inhibitions. That’s no real courage, however, nor a gift. That’s psychopathy.

Yes, Trump is a manipulator, but not so astute. Like any manipulator, he just tells people what they want to hear and in ways they want to hear it, pretending that he is interested in them and gives a damn about their lives in a tone of nauseatingly fake concern. We, generally speaking, fall for it because we want to believe that this Rich And Important Man does indeed take interest in us and our woes. It is an enduring defect of our human nature to be awed and cowed by power, and elated by intimations of its approving nod toward us. This symptom of our narcissistic blindness is also part of “the inner soul of the people.”

The other, and related, part of the same mindset is our selfish “I have mine, screw you” attitude, which is not limited to the right. On the left, it is less visible because more hypocritical, and thus more narcissistically blind.

It has to be said that my fellow leftists pride themselves on their empathy and compassion while often evidencing preciously little of both when it counts the most. They will pontificate, for example, on social justice, but never realize that their cleaning lady, whom they pay below minimum wage, often goes hungry and lacks health insurance despite working three jobs.

They feel spiritually elevated after attending a symposium on empathy where they leave empty coffee cups and other easily disposable garbage strewn all over the conference room for the staff to put in trash bins. (A minor thing, but.) On the way to the symposium, they may have tripped over the homeless near the airport, but failed to notice them, the busy people, preoccupied with saving the world, as they are.

They organize and attend conferences on poverty, hosted by Ivy League schools, where esteemed speakers talk movingly about Africa or Haiti, the perennial favorite humanitarian tourism destination, while remaining curiously oblivious to the poverty-driven hopelessness and decay sweeping this country.

While they congratulate themselves on their tireless, though often second-hand, efforts to alleviate misery and health crises in the Third World, they do not seem to know — or at least don’t discuss much — the fact that one foreigner, Stan Brock (may gods bless his soul), aided by some devoted local professionals, brings desperately needed health care several times a year to an American community near them. Or rather, to a community somewhere “over there,” in that mysterious and far removed Fourth World that’s the invisible America.

It is no wonder the Left (or what passes for it), withdrawn from the bread-and-butter concerns of the working class, has lost its credibility, along with the American electorate. Comfortably ensconced in their cozy bubbles, but easily upset over some microaggression unleashed upon them without a trigger warning, American leftists these days bicker about mis-gendered bathrooms and police the use of pronouns, while remaining unaware and/or indifferent to the lethal socio-economic inequality growing all around their enclaves. They do not inspire trust, but contempt and rage of those outside, for whom Trump/ism is a way to pierce their bubbles. Among other things.

True, the leftist elites are not completely blind. For example, occasionally they write moving exposes on the newly — because always just temporarily — discovered American working masses; or, like Chuck Todd (not quite a leftist) on today’s Meet the Press, even go out there sometimes, braving the elements and unfamiliar terrain, to find and interview this curious species, ever so briefly, to see out what it is about. That, however, almost never translates into a genuine understanding and sustained efforts to create a better world that would include those wretched invisibles too. Out of sight, out of mind, according to the unspoken motto of narcissists everywhere. Or maybe it is just plain human nature, the inner soul of the people, most of them at least. Our domestic despair is always a background noise, easy to ignore — unless you are in it.

Rorty warned that the Left’s tendency to give cultural politics preference over real politics would eventually lead to a breaking point:

[M]embers of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers—themselves desperately afraid of being downsized—are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.

At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for—someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots.

Something did finally crack.  Trump/ism is America’s long predicted breaking point, shocking only, as it should be, to those who did not pay attention.

The good news is that it cannot get any worse than President Trump. The bad news is that it cannot get any worse than President Trump.

And, as Leonard Cohen reminded us, there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in. This is also a time for growth, based on our (possible) awakening to and defining of our values and characters, in contrast with the valuelessness represented by Trump/ism. Maybe the inner soul of most people is not as dark as that of our president elect. We shall find out in the years to come.

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Trumpocalypse Now


 [How the unthinkable happens. Image source.]

And so it has come to pass.

This year, the citizenry of the crumbling empire elected as their leader an agent of destruction — to speed up the crumbling process and bring it to its conclusion, the full shape of which remains to been seen.

There has been palpable, at least to some — and I don’t mean Trump’s fans — inevitability to Trump’s presidency. It was apparent that The Donald would be selected for this mission of destruction the moment one saw him on stage with the other GOP candidates. There was no doubt he would vanquish them — not because he was a better candidate, but because he is so pathological. His character defect assured that. There was a small chance that enough American voters would be repulsed by that defect, but it quickly became obvious that in the eyes of too many it was the most desirable asset in a presidential candidate.

I started writing on this blog somewhat against my better judgment, what with it taking so much time ‘n all, compelled by the need to communicate just how dangerous President Trump would be.

And I want it to be on record that I did what I could to prevent the Trumpocalypse, which I saw brewing the moment Agent Orange stepped out on the national stage as a serious, this time, candidate.

Dr. Burkle, whom I have been privileged to know and work with, and I sent articles and op-eds to American papers and media outlets describing Trump’s character defect, its predictable influences on our electorate, and its dangerous ramifications for our future. Our letters were not published, and most were unacknowledged, as the press continued to be baffled by the man’s popularity and touted, especially toward the end of the election, Hillary’s sure victory. (The way I see it, if you refuse to listen and learn from people with hard-earned expertise, which includes, in addition to professional credentials, a lifetime of tireless world-wide work to save and heal humanity wounded by mayhem caused by psychopaths and narcissists in positions of power, you forfeit the right to denigrate the “poorly educated” supporters of Trump. At least they have a legitimate excuse for their ignorance.)

Part of my sense of the inevitability of Trump’s Presidency stemmed from my interest in narcissistic psychopathy, an interest which was fully engaged several years ago when I came upon the so-called manosphere and discovered how that vast and growing area of cyberspace was inhabited by men (and some women) with this distinct but not well understood character defect.

That chilling discovery led to further explorations revealing the manosphere’s overlap with the alt-right and other hate movements, all of which are led and populated by individuals exhibiting unmistakable signs of this character pathology. It is a rarely stated fact that mentally healthy, or even normal, people do not join these groups. (This knowledge is also something that PC-minded liberals recoil from. It is not uncommon to hear a bleeding heart, ableism-inspired liberal exhort that psychopaths are people too, we should not pathologize them, etc.)  Contrary to the prevailing pundity / Democratic wisdom today, this defect has little to do with one’s education and socioeconomic standing; and even though it is most commonly associated with the right wing of the political spectrum, those affected by it can be found on the left as well, just not as frequently.

It was obvious that Trump was Da Man for this segment of our population, which is always larger than we want to know. He used their language and expressed their desires, especially the unspoken but palpable one: for revenge and destruction that would heal their narcissistic wounds.

There is no force in the human universe more powerful and deadly at the same time than that of narcissistic rage — and that rage is the fuel of Trumpism (and fascism, and Communism, and other similar destructive -isms). Democracy and civilization are more fragile than we’d like to believe, and are certainly no match for the lethal power of this rage, especially when it becomes normalized and weaponized through totalitarian movements and regimes.

This week, I attended a gathering of liberal-minded folk that took place in a genteel setting where people were reassuring each other about the strength of our Constitution and laws and other protections inherent in our imperfect but enlightened system of government. And my mind couldn’t help but wander to familiar scenes of primitive rage destroying just such people and settings, a deed that’s frighteningly easy, particularly when done under the cloak of political necessity. Evil is most effective and proficient when dressed up as such. As Teju Cole writes in his NYT essay, A Time for Refusal,

Evil settles into everyday life when people are unable or unwilling to recognize it. It makes its home among us when we are keen to minimize it or describe it as something else.

When (not if) President Trump starts dismantling our democracy and threatening the precarious stability of the world, I will find no consolation in repeating “We/I told you so.” But I will take a moment here to briefly (though half-heartedly because I don’t really believe Trump could have been stopped) apportion some responsibility for this sordid state of affairs:

1.to the media — for normalizing this deeply pathological character and thus paving his way to power;

2.to mental health experts (not all) — for failing to see and/or adequately describe the dangers posed by the candidate’s character defect;

3. to various “normal” Trump’s associates — for knowing for decades just how disordered the man was, but pretending he was perfectly fine because their paychecks depended on it;

4. to Democrats – for nixing Bernie and for “taking Trump literally but not seriously;”

5. and last but not least — to those who voted for him, deceived by their misguided hopes, deluded thinking and/or deficient consciences. This includes “disenchanted” Democrats, like the woman who, when interviewed this week by NPR about her voting choice, explained that Hillary was not “charming enough.” Thankfully, narcissistic psychopaths have charm in spades, so she, like other charm-craving voters, should avail herself of it to her heart’s delight during the Trumpocalypse.

Predictably, further normalization of the profoundly abnormal continues and will progress until something dramatic brings to a stop. Now that this narcissistic psychopath has achieved his ultimate dream (so far) and the highest position of power achievable on Earth, we are being told to accept him and give him the chance to govern.

The offensive bizarreness of this call is breathtaking. We have handed a disordered toddler-man the world with its weaponry as toys to play with, and insist that he should have that chance because he is Really Important now.

Um, no.

Let’s be clear: #notmypresident is not just a movement of political activists disappointed that their candidate lost, but a swell of humanity concerned about its survival under the reign of a profoundly defective, conscience-free, and adulation- and power-driven character and his equally defective cabal.

Speaking of which: notice the forming of the narcissistic power circle around The Big Psychopath (TBP). His conscience-impaired sycophants are claiming their well-earned positions of influence, jockeying for power as they always do, while kowtowing to TBP’s huuge ego.

The disordered characters whose blatant lies and manipulations we were forced to endure during the election are here to stay and further shape the public discourse. This will take a form of a well-oiled propaganda machine supporting TBP’s agenda and covering its pathological aspects by more lies, deflections, denials, and obfuscations, of the kind we’ve seen a lot already; plus the predictable glamorization and glorification of his inhumane policies, soon to blitz us 24/7. The resulting schizoid split between reality and its propagandized version is familiar to every sensitive enough (i.e., conscience-equipped) citizen of a totalitarian regime.

My favorite economist with a heart, Yanis Varoufakis, wrote a piece on how Trump victory comes with a silver lining for the world’s progressives. In it, he outlines his vision of progress through trauma of Trumpism — and it is one to which I’m somewhat partial. I agree with much of what he says there, although I also believe that Varoufakis, overexcitable idealist as he is, may be overly optimistic about our future rescued from destruction by a Progressive International.

A more realistic, thus bleaker, vision was presented in the comments by the brilliant response from one Stephen Morris, which I’m reposting in its entirety. Even though Morris speaks of the EU, his observations are applicable to the US and the world at large, and, in general, to humanity as such:

So much for “self-determination”, one of the core vales of the Modern Era, the greatest battle of the 20th century, beginning in Sarajevo in July 1914 and ending there 80 years later.

All that is to be thrown away for a yet another neo-imperialist fantasy.

Only the truest True Believers, the most gullible “Useful Idiots” cling to the belief that the EU is there to promote the interests of the Subject peoples.

Witness the brutality inflicted on Greece. Witness the “Lost Generation” of youth sacrificed to the fantasy of the imperial Eurozone. Witness the enthusiastic embrace of “free-trade” agreements, signing away sovereign powers to opaque committees of Elite interests.

For all the pompous rhetoric, the EU is an unaccountable, undemocratic institution that exists to promote Elite interests.

Like any nascent empire, it attracts aggressively narcissistic, machiavellian political agents, drawn to the prospect of exercising dominion over hundreds of millions of Subjects.

Unlike the US it doesn’t even have the rudimentary constraints of “elective” government, let alone anything approximating genuine (direct) Democracy.

Its leaders are deaf to any calls for reform. Even in the face of the imminent departure of Britain, they refused to contemplate reform of the organisation. They – and their sycophant supporters – can think only in terms of how best to inflict punishment on those who dare to defy them.

What does THAT tell us about the psychology of these people???

Haven’t we seen THAT sort of behaviour before in Europe??

There is another – far bleaker – way of viewing all of this.

What we are witnessing – in Brexit, in Trumpism, in the embrace of populist demagogues – is the desperate last stand of ordinary people seeking any way out of the ruthless New Elite Agenda of “refeudalisation”: the winding back of Modern Era values to restore the Elite’s historic privileges.

But like Elites throughout history, the new Elite seek to weave a cloak of virtue to conceal the nakedness of their self-interest. Their spokesmen use honeyed words to conceal the brutality of their ambition.

It is easy to forget that, stripped of its ephemera, human history up until the time of the Modern Era era was a story of aggressively narcissistic, machiavellian psychopaths competing (sometimes collaborating) to attain positions of power, then using that power to dominate and brutalise their fellow human beings. We know from the historical record that such psychopaths feel no remorse in wasting the lives of thousands – even millions – of people they regard as “their” Subjects.

In this behaviour, psychopathic rulers were abetted by “sycophants” – typically timid, less dominant males – who sought to promote their own survival and reproductive prospects by allying themselves with the dominant males. Articulate sycophants provide the “theology” of elitism, constructing elaborate justifications for the privilege of their patrons.

Historically, the ability of such Elites to dominate and brutalise others was limited by the capacity of individual human beings to kill each other, and therefore by the need to recruit and reward a circle of allies (a “praetorian guard”) which could carry out such such enforcement.

If that long-standing behaviour seemed to change in the Modern Era it was not because the psychopaths woke up one morning and said, “Oh my God, is that the time!? Is it the Modern Era already? Quick. We’d better start enacting social reforms!”

Human psychology has not evolved. Evolution operates over a MUCH longer time frame. The psychopaths (and their sycophant supporters) haven’t gone away.

All that happened in the Modern Era was a temporary change in the environment: the demands of the industrial economy made it expedient – for a time – for the rulers to make limited concessions to their Subjects.

The industrial state required the training of large numbers of Subjects to operate the complex – but not fully automated – machinery of industrial production. Having had so much invested in them, Subjects had value and their bargaining power relative to their rulers improved. In the extreme, they could withdraw their labour and quickly impose greater costs on the owners of capital than they themselves suffered.

Under such conditions, the optimal strategy for rulers (only after they had tried violent suppression and found it ineffective!) was to make certain limited concession to their Subjects. Thus we had the quintessential ideals of the Modern Era, culminating in the 20th century:

a) egalitarianism, the ideal that all people are entitled to the same basic opportunities irrespective of their ancestry;

b) democratisation, the ideal that Subjects are entitled to have some say in how they are governed; and

c) self-determination, the ideal that self-identifying communities are allowed to choose for themselves how they will govern themselves.

But, again, these concessions didn’t mean that the psychopaths had gone away. And there was never anything to say that the conditions of industrial production would last forever.

What we are actually witnessing now is the Elite’s response to the post-industrial world of AI and robotics.

No longer are large numbers of Subjects required to run complex but not fully automated machinery. Now it is small numbers of very highly trained technicians required to manage the robotic workforce. Small in number, they can easily be bought off, or better still reduced to the status of indentured workers through the weapon of crippling student debt.

As for the rest of humanity, they are now redundant or soon will be. Their rulers no longer need them. The earlier concessions are – as the saying goes – “inoperative”.

To be sure, the masses may get employment of a kind, especially in providing personal services. But it will be employment in the “Uber Economy” of savage competition between workers with all economic rent flowing to the owners of the monopolistic market platforms.

And the Elite are responding precisely as one would expect an aggressively narcissistic, self-serving Elite to respond. They are relentlessly winding back any concessions hitherto made, while their sycophant economic theologians are busy trying to justify it as being for the “Greater Good”.

Inequality is quickly returning to its historical norm, as Piketty has documented. We are returning to a feudal state in which property is owned by the magnates and almost everyone else is reduced to the status of dependent serf.

Where conventional property is insufficient, they invent novel forms of “intellectual property” to expand the scope of private ownership.

As for democratisation, in most countries it never developed beyond “elective” government dominated by Elite parties. Moneyed interests and pressure groups found it a trivial exercise to subvert that.

To entrench their gains, they are taking ever more critical decisions out of the hands even of elective government: the privatisation of strategic monopolies, essential services and critical databases means that elected politicians are forced [to] negotiate with private magnates on terms dictated by the private magnates.

And finally, self-determination has been eroded by the growth of opaque and unaccountable neo-empires (like the EU) and so-called “trade” agreements (which actually have little to do with trade and everything to do with signing away sovereign powers to unaccountable opaque committees of the Elite interests).

Elite theologians might talk superciliously about the “end of borders” but do not be deceived. They do not intend to abolish ALL borders. They simply want to replace “national borders” (over which the mass of ordinary citizens might have had some control) with “private borders”: Elite private property.

The Elite do not intend to rub shoulders with the Stinking Masses, the Riff-Raff, the Plebs. Not one bit of it! THEY retreat to their private mansions, their private country estates, their private campuses, their private gated communities, all surrounded by private borders marked with “KEEP OUT. Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted!” signs.

From there they sermonise piously on the supposed intolerance of those outside!! Hypocrites blind to their own hypocrisy.

On all fronts the trend is the same: the alienation of public rights – over which the citizens used to have some say – to Elite private interests.

At some point, the Elite may even decide that the continued existence of masses of redundant human beings is a threat to their own security.

The recent development of lethal weaponised robots shows where this will all end. Not only do the Elite not need workers. They don’t even need many human members of the Praetorian Guard.

Remember that the individuals we are talking about here are not like the rest of us. They are aggressively narcissistic, machiavellian psychopaths with a strong appetite for attaining power and dominating others. Homo sapiens psychology has not evolved.

Had it been possible to establish genuine Democracy with the right of recall, veto, initiative and referendum there might have been some hope for the rest of the human race. THAT is why the theologians abhor Democracy in favour of the corrupt system of “elective” government.

Corrupt elective government provides no safeguards. It will prove no barrier to containing the psychopaths once the cost of pacification falls as a result of robotics.

You don’t need to be Einstein to see how this game will play out.

For most people it’s not going to be a happy ending.

 

====

See also Masha Gessen’s piece on Autocracy: Rules for Survival.

Sad!

Remember that scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where the greedy Nazi sympathizer Walter Donovan chooses the wrong Holy Grail (ok, two-timing Dr. Elsa chooses it for him) and after drinking from it the water of eternal life, or whatever it was called, he dies, decays, and turns into dust right under our eyes, while the Knight guarding the Grail says, quietly, “He chose poorly”?

Yeah, it’s like that:

America, like Donovan, blinded by selfishness, greed and malice, chose very poorly indeed, even though predictably so.

My first post on this blog, The Wages of Discontent, meant, against all hope, to remain a fairy tale, despite not being fairy tale-ish at all. Sigh.

As my son says, “We’ve had a good run.”

Displaced Persons

File:1289 Podwórko. Ulica Miernicza. Foto Barbara Maliszewska.jpg
[image source]

Today is more personal — and tangential.

Below is a little piece I wrote 25 years ago, a few years after my arrival in the US. I was reminded of it yesterday while reading an article in the NYT Magazine, An American in a Strange Land, by Jim Yardley who came back to the U.S. after years of work-related absence and realized he did not recognize his country. The article is direct and piercing. Also, depressing. Its alternative title could have been “Inching Toward Dystopia.” Or maybe “lurching” instead of “inching” toward a new, Hunger Games-like reality, soon to come to a suburb near you.

Reading the (much worth reading) comments there, I came upon the term “displaced person” applied to Yardley. It has much significance for me, for many reasons, some of them more clear than others.

Apart from that, and maybe even more so, the thread that tangentially connected in my mind the NYT piece and my little vignette is the recognition of the dark alienation that’s enveloping America, with the intensifying, though not well (if at all) articulated, sense of displacement that grows within and among its citizens who no longer recognize their country as their home, nor feel as though they belong in it.

I remember this mood — stemming from seemingly very different conditions — all too well as we escaped Communist Poland when it was just the darkest (as I thought for a long time), shortly before the fall of the Iron Curtain. (The new, capitalist Poland is not necessarily better, from what I see and hear, and in some respects it is worse.)

But even then and there, as hopeless as life appeared, there was a sense of security that’s rapidly eroded, if not completely gone, in today’s America. We were poor and our lives were restricted, severely so in many respects, but we did not suffer the egregious and unforgivable social ills associated with rapacious capitalism: homelessness; unemployment; poor education; obscene inequality; the gnawing and debilitating insecurity that comes from the lack of social supports and human rights like universal health care; and the inevitably crumbling or already nonexistent, in an inhumanely competitive society, human bonds.

This eroding or already eroded sense of security, and the fear it engenders, combined with a growing recognition that the dream of a better life is unattainable for most while a few enjoy unfathomable wealth, and freedom and safety that come with it, create both intense anger and sense of betrayal, and, with time, alienation and hopelessness when the brewing anger finds no outlet.

These feelings then feed the sense of outer and inner displacement that appears to be one of the major forces behind Trumpism, whose motto promises to bring us back home by making it great and welcoming again, as it was supposedly during our early days. Trumpian America’s future greatness is an assurance of homecoming and belonging once again, as one had (if one did) in childhood, complete with a bizarre and cynical pledge that The Leader / Father will make all our dreams come true once we’re there. When we let him, as we should. The unquestioning hope with which his followers cling to this childish promise shows their level of desperation and hints at the extent of their sense of displacement clamoring for a resolution.

Displacement in its many forms appears to be the condition of much of the world today, where masses of people are driven out of their homes and countries, and turned into homeless, and unwelcome anywhere, wanderers against their wishes and will. Refugees flee their homeland to survive; but their flight, as unspeakably harrowing as it is, is accompanied by hope for a better, safer life elsewhere.

When one has nowhere to flee — because, among other things, one was brought up in a (not entirely unjustified) belief that his or her country is the best in the world, THE place where others flee to — yet one no longer feels at home here, hopelessness sets in, and with it, a feeling of alienation, of not belonging, of displacement. It is unbearable and it requires a resolution — thus, in part at least, Trumpism today.

There are possibly positive elements to (the sense of) displacement and feelings it engenders, something my future post will explore. For now, here is, tangentially, my sudden moment of old truth.

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The Displaced Person  

It happened in Assertiveness Training. It is ironic that I, of all people, happened to be a co-leader in AT in a psychiatric ward; I could use the group for my own learning purposes. And I did. One of the patients talked about his unhappy childhood, and when describing his strict, domineering father, he used the term:  “displaced person.”

At first I thought I hadn’t heard correctly. What person?  Displaced? What does that mean? Several people rushed in with the answer, “Somebody from a foreign country, a stranger.”

I was shaken. I could hardly wait until the end of the group, and I didn’t remember much of what happened in it after the incident. Displaced. Just like me. Dis-placed. Like disowned. Disabled. Disadvantaged. Dissociated from her past. Disconnected from others. All of a sudden nobody, an alien. Someone out of context. Somebody whose experiences are so strange that they couldn’t even be translated.

How can I talk to others about my past and be understood? How can I describe my childhood to anybody without mentioning podwórko? There is really no word in English to which translate podwórko. The closest one would be “playground,” but it isn’t the same. My podwórko is a dirty space between old houses with a broken swing, a bunch of kids hanging around it; an old coal shed with a loose, shrieking door; old women looking out the windows and chatting about their neighbors; and the overwhelming slowness and feeling that time doesn’t exist there.

If I spoke with my friends from Poland, we would understand each other immediately. We all have them in our memory – our podwórka. They are part of us. Our memory, experiences it contains, is a thread connecting us and giving us a sense of belonging, of togetherness. When one becomes displaced, one has to give up that collective part of herself. And then one loses it. I could try to keep it inside like a precious souvenir and treasure it hoping to pass it someday to somebody else – maybe to my children. Maybe to a stranger who will have enough patience to listen.

A couple of days ago I wanted to tell my son about a cat I had when I was very young. So I started, “When I was a little older than you are now, back in Poland…” And then I realized that he doesn’t know what Poland means. It is just a name to him. He is still too young to even understand a concept of a country, but when he grows older how can I explain to him what it was like to live there? Will he be interested at all? Maybe it will become a distant, exotic place in his mind, an ancient “old country,” a country which language he once learned but decided to forget it, since it was useless.

What values and traditions do I want to pass on to my son – American or Polish? Since I don’t know too much about it yet, I won’t be able to teach him America – he will learn it from others. And because this is his place, the only one he knows, he will become one of “them,” the strangers. (I still make this distinction: us and them.)  Has anybody ever inquired about the loneliness of immigrant mothers?

My adjusting to this still foreign country could be divided in three stages so far.

The first one was related to a tremendous culture shock – everything was so different that not being able to understand, I despised it. I hated everything: food lacking taste and full of preservatives; huge, ugly cars; commercials on TV and in magazines; being called by my first name; the striking omnipresent urge to impress everybody around with one’s possessions and status. My first impression of America was depressing: it seemed to be a country being destroyed by mighty commercialism, and deeply split along the lines of gender, race and class. A place populated by salesmen, where everybody was in the never ending process of buying or selling something with the highest profit, hardly appeared friendly or hospitable. Those temporarily not involved in the selling circuit were busy trying to get in touch with their inner victim.

My perception of America has grown milder with time. I entered the second stage, when I was able to accept the differences. I no longer felt offended when people asked if Poland was in Africa, and told me that our president, Gorbachov, was a really nice guy. (He really was — a nice guy, though not Polish.) I learned to ignore Polish jokes, for my own sake. I even convinced myself that cottage cheese is edible and Fannie Mays taste like real chocolate. I’m still working on bread, milk and strawberries.

I started to see that under superficial friendliness there was a real interest and concern, and often surprising tolerance, even care. And I noticed that I was becoming less critical and cautious, and more concerned about creating my own place in the new environment.

This has led me to the third stage, in which I’m now: insecure and blunt, hopeful and full of doubts at the same time, struggling with forming my new identity. I’m still very critical – I’ve always been; often bewildered and embarrassed, unable to express my ideas and feelings, trying to master the new mysterious language and even more complicated codes of social behavior. I’m still displaced. I have the feeling that I will always be.

1991

This Be The Verse

A reader/writer who goes by the moniker Where Angels Fear left several thoughtful comments under my posts on Medium. Below’s one of them, spurred on by my description of intergenerational trauma:

This kind of abuse is perpetrated from one generation to the next, creating new ranks of emotionally crippled, conscience-deficient people, confused and blindly rageful, eager to unload their suppressed pain and anger on others

WAF: Both Larkin’s This Be The Verse and Newman’s I Just Want You to Hurt Like I Do seem appropriate right about here.

Indeed, I thought. Here are both:

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This Be The Verse

By Philip Larkin

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

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I Want You To Hurt Like I Do

I ran out on my children
And I ran out on my wife
Gonna run out on you too, baby
I’ve done it all my life
Everybody cried the night I left
Well, almost everybody did
My little boy just hung his head
And I put my arm, put my arm around his little shoulder
And this is what I said:
“Sonny I just want you to hurt like I do
I just want you to hurt like I do
I just want you to hurt like I do
Honest I do, honest I do, honest I do”

If I had one wish
One dream I knew would come true
I’d want to speak to all the people in the world
I’d get up there, I’d get up there on that platform
First I’d sing a song or two you know I would
Then I’ll tell you what I’d do
I’d talk to the people and I’d say
“It’s a rough rough world, it’s a tough tough world
Well, you know
And things don’t always, things don’t always go the way we plan
But there’s one thing, one thing we all have in common
And it’s something everyone can understand
All over the world sing along

I just want you to hurt like I do
I just want you to hurt like I do
I just want you to hurt like I do
Honest I do, honest I do, honest I do

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