The struggle is real.
“I used to think that top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse, and climate change. I thought that thirty years of good science could address these problems. I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed, and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation.
And we scientists don’t know how to do that.”
–Gus Speth, a US advisor on climate change
Though he is constantly battling in public over the specific issue of truth, Donald Trump lives a truth-free life.
Truth as something objectively real no longer exists for him except in nightmares. More accurately, truth exists for him as kryptonite exists for Superman: It’s out there and it could kill him. He knows that truth is the natural enemy of the Trump, and swells up in his threat display at the sound of it. Much like empathy and compassion, Trump as an anti-social personality doesn’t care about objective truth at all, and it isn’t real and pressing to him except as an obsessive concern voiced by the unruly ocean of “Not-Trump” surrounding him. The human community relies on truth for health and safety but also for justice and sanity; deprived of the truth, our mental compass needle spins uselessly. In this state, we are helpless toward the con man or the invading army.
The concept of truth can’t be avoided but it can be diverted onto a different track. In Trump’s case, this track is naked self-interest, flitting, pixie-like to whatever make-believe high ground momentarily fits the bill. Trump’s anti-relationship to truth and to the social duty owed to others is a kind of genius of irresponsibility made complete by including himself among the population he lies to. He is like some animal that adapted to an environment and can no longer live outside of it. Lies are his breathable atmosphere, his means of locomotion and his opposable thumbs. He has fully abandoned the premise of truth and never performs that mental pocket check for facts before speaking. Lies are the slime trail-smoothing his passage.
He isn’t so much a man as a conglomerate of whirlygigs slaved to shouting nonsensical PR, excuses, and complaints. Literally, everything is compartmentalized, and every one of those compartments has a self-indulgent narrative. Every part of the man is a fucking Horcrux of his former soul engineered by “killing” something. The thing killed is generally a relationship to someone who isn’t Donald Trump. Long ago, the child that he still is refused the burden of honoring the social contract with some person for the first time. That “murder” was exhilarating and liberating. He became instantly lighter and more powerful when he owed somebody NOTHING. The sticking point was his vestigial conscience and need for external approval. He solved the conscience problem by making his conscience into one more person he owed nothing, especially the truth. He became part of his own audience and the most gullible and superficial of the bunch. No one applauds Donald Trump louder or faster than he does. Henceforth, no action carried a moral burden any longer, only legal ones. He embraced amorality to enjoy immorality. He happily sought opportunities for evil little and big. Often it was for the simple pleasure of torturing small helpless things (people) to hear them squeak for payment, justice or mercy. Violating people’s autonomy, dignity and sovereignty is his signature activity. It’s why he rapes, it’s even why he shakes hands the way he does. It’s as if he’s ticking humanity one by one, off a list of people he defeated. The less any man is, the greater Trump is.
Trump’s admiration for the worst men on earth stems from them outshining him by being more nakedly vicious and selfish than he has managed yet, tethered as he is to crowd approval in the tumbled remains of a democracy. You can practically hear him muttering about how he “never gets to do anything fun” compared to those guys.
“A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear.”
– Marcus Tullius Cicero
From Merriam Webster
verb, often capitalized
bal·kan·ize | \ ˈbȯl-kə-ˌnīz \
Definition of balkanize
1: to break up (a region, a group, etc.) into smaller and often hostile units.
2: DIVIDE, COMPARTMENTALIZE, now pop culture has been balkanized; it is full of niches, with different groups watching and playing their own things— Richard Corliss
To relate it to the core subjects of this site, it is the opposite of emergence, and it breaks tension force like a leg; it is political reductionism, reducing powerful wholes, first to parts, then to ineffectual warring wholes too small to fight the real enemy.
Whether you call them the 1% or Oligarchs, they weary of our organized resistance and infuriating self-interest. Divide and conquer.
Cartoon by Duff Moses
In a sense, your political identity is up to you. You are the political person you are through ethical choices and principles. But since those choices are in response to events that are thrust upon us by the moment, we are also largely defined by the character and the challenges of our times.
It’s almost impossible to view your own flavor of politics as extreme because our POV includes filters to reassure us we are sane and make our truth appear self-evident. Concerning our political opinions, we all feel like we “did the math” and embraced the reality of the result (regardless of how little critical thinking took place). There is an inevitable feeling to our stance that makes contrasting beliefs appear willfully stupid. This “it’s obvious” quality reminds me of our sexuality in the way it sees beauty and feels desire in an unassailably confident and individual way. It’s also of a piece with the seamless agreement between a person and their God when it’s obvious that God’s views never come as a surprise or require any extra effort on the part of the believer. Progressive and conservative are no different in this.
Political involvement in times of extreme partisanship feels more essential and impactful than in more moderate political climates. Every moment feels like the last play of the game where all must give their all. Displaying purity and loyalty become an expectation in a way never seen in less partisan times. Language and moral judgments grow harsher. All of this to better bring the battle to the enemy. This is a tragic misconception. This is the state of things that causes loss of control over our own politics. The entire system begins hydroplaning, and the steering and brakes are useless. Continue reading
There has never been a Chinese government that didn’t despise individuality and behave with monstrous cruelty. There has never been one that appeared to even recognize cruelty except to want more. Utterly callous and indifferent is only when they aren’t trying. China is a bloodthirsty, heartless oligarchy with an unslakable thirst for absolute social control that keeps them up nights worrying that they’ve missed somebody.
All credit to the makers.