Truth and Politics: our post-Enlightenment World
Hypocrisy is superfluous in a world without truth; it becomes irrelevant. The careful measure, discussion and weighing of rhetoric and syllogisms becomes a game, where the result is only a new game.
Hypocrisy only concerns those who still believe in truth; when it can transcend context, humanity, perspective, when it becomes sacred it’s then fixed in its apparent certainty and eternity. Truth can only be eternal. In our world that rapidly de-constructs truth, truth only appears as truth momentarily. Truth now has an expiration date. A friend of mine recently wrote about what happens after Deconstruction;* what is left? This is not unlike Nietzsche’s prediction of the “Death of God”: sounds dramatic, but what can you possibly expect from Wagner’s friend? His statement is pure and simple: what happens when all values when examined with the tools of Western thinking become merely relative?
This post-Enlightenment world is our world. The West has de-constructed itself into mere appearance of relevancy. In the political world, a cynical person like Putin can laugh at the West’s attempts at democratic values because to him these values are pure entertainment, a view shared by Trump. These values are “not self-evident” but cheaply sold, for example, Trump’s recent nationalistic rhetoric is being sold to the populace because the populace believes that a strongman has “shamed” corporations into behaving with a new and suddenly created morality; profits are now less important than American workers’ welfare. Trump’s followers do not see that these corporations’ moral compass has not been inverted but only strengthened by future money interest in the form of tax cuts. Corporations’ apparent rejection of globalization and its new nationalist rhetoric (alternate-truth) is really moneyed interest since Nationalism without sacredness is not nationalism but opportunism.
I remember an old saying in my family; “politics, it’s all dirty.” It turns out it always was; politics are a hypocritical universe of “alternate” truths where nothing is sacred, least of all shame in hypocrisy. After all, how can you be ashamed of your craft? Can a magician be ashamed of selling magic? Maybe Obama was a “better” politician than Trump was, his character made “politics” appear to stand for truth. His followers believed in Obama, wanted to be his friend, thought they knew him personally while forgetting he was still a politician. His opponents did not like his political ideas, nor his person and they hated him mainly because he was never able to fool them into thinking he was not a politician. “Hope and change” under political machinations became a cruel joke.
Trump supporters believe in Trump’s ideas because he does not appear as a politician and it’s essential to never view him as a politician. The fact that Trump does not appear as a politician are the credentials: his ideas are seen as refreshing, pragmatic and not politically motivated. The populace has de-constructed the myth of the altruistic politician, we have now constructed a new myth: only someone without a political history can be trusted. It’s essential to “appear” to be genuine, and the new formula for “genuine” seems pretty simple; use politically incorrect speech and/or invert all the previous political myths such as; globalization is good, nationalism is bad, torture is bad, etc… The list is long and pretty easy to guess; imagine getting the mission statement of the ACLU and repeat the opposite. Your level of credibility increases instantly.
Politics was never about “truth” but the appearance of truth. Trump with his background in the entertainment business knows this all too well, entertainment is about creating appearances. Entertainment is only successful when the “alternative truth” becomes believable if only momentarily, like when we enter a theater. Politically incorrect speech has now become the basis of the rhetoric; a fantasy that the populace could never engage in our politically correct world. Only someone powerful enough not to be “fired” can venture into this contentious cultural arena; what apparent bravery! Yet nothing is at stake. In our PC world, some people have to write under a “nom de plume” so they are not vilified by the populace. To use political incorrectness as a tactic; cynically, when you don’t believe in the content is pure theater, you know your audience and the reactions it will elicit.
Washington is really Off-Off-Off Broadway; the tickets have been sold, you know it’s only theater when the previous show ends and the previous audience (Obama supporters) walks out. The nation then critiques the show: Was it a believable narrative? Were the actors good? Did it make us feel good? The new audience (Trump supporters) now enters, fully ready to believe the upcoming show. Already Trump promises an entertaining alternate reality full of political inversions of myths, never tried before. In his inauguration performance he had behind him all the previous failed actors whose performances he made fun of; actors that never rose up to the level of the entertainment he is now previewing and selling. Everyone, step into the tent; we have a two-headed baby to show you!
Trump opponents, even traditional Republicans are used to believing in the “magic” of politicians. Trump supporters now only believe in the “magic” of magicians; they have decided that alternate-truths are “truth” because of their relativity. Machiavelli meets Orwell: “Yes, I was looking forward to meeting you!”