Progress is really hard work.
Stefan Stackhouse

January 19 is too modest a goal.

Think 1973–1974 — the economic dislocation that began this mess after the oil embargo (why did that happen, exactly?) where, for the first time in modern American history, no real attempt was made to create a recovery that would include the middle and working classes. Wealth became increasingly concentrated, as did the organs of social control — media in all its forms, the deep state, the financialization of the world that accelerated the whole process. The neoliberals crow that they “lifted a billion people out of poverty”, but not out of debt, and not into genuine freedom. That would have required more work, and more selfless work, than they were willing to do or even apparently capable of.

Abandoning broad-based democracy; abandoning internationalism and the institutions that America and the West had spent half a century of blood and treasure building up; celebrating tribalism and using identity politics to set easily-defined and -isolated groups of people against each other and prevent them from seeing their common adversary and working together effectively to advance people’s genuine interests — all these things made the figurehead TrumPutin and President Bannon possible.

The extremists twist and selectively interpret the teachings of whatever faith they’re marketing this week to justify their ends, but most authentic religions have a common teaching: that if one ceases (self-)destructive behaviour, examines his or her own actions, commits themselves to doing better, and genuinely makes amends, then that penitent will achieve a far greater benefit than could possibly have been done on their initial course. That Bannon and the corporatists and tribalists who enable him double down on their destructive behaviour shows the world the wilful fundamental dishonesty of their exhortations. And so what was once America descends into Trumpistan, and other functionally fascist dictatorships in Greater China, in Russia, and their cheerleaders in Europe and elsewhere, preen and shout “what took you so long”?

It’s going to take a lot of hard work to stop the hypersonic descent. It’s going to take a lot more hard work after that to start making anything better. But it’s no big deal, right? After all, it’s only the survival of the species, if not the planet, that’s at stake. And there comes the apocalyptic thinking again. A wise man once said that “any society that believes itself to have successfully defeated an adversary quickly takes on the worst aspects of that adversary”.

Welcome aboard Kobayashi Maru; enjoy your cruise!

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