Dreams Deferred, Dreams Denied

What if the universe doesn’t even have an arc to bend?

It will one day seem stunning that the right tried to turn Barack Obama into some sort of Stalin when he was in almost every sense — refusing to help labor unions improve their ability to organize, granting the insurance industry unprecedented federal gifts, allowing banks to remain as private institutions when there was a compelling case to nationalize them and bailing out Wall Street to such an extent that Republicans were able to profit from the resulting discontent — corporate capitalism’s greatest handmaiden during its darkest hour. Will the next Democratic president be so conciliatory to a system that will take everything offered and then actively campaign against its savior? Hahaha, there’s never going to be a Democratic president again, and even if one somehow slips through that person will be the same sort of conciliatory centrist who continues the cycle where the Republicans burn everything to the ground and the Democrats expend all their capital trying merely to restore things to the previous poor position the country was in.

But can democracy even work in a capitalist society, particularly one with deep racial divisions?

We are finding out that racism is not simply a product of ignorance, prejudice or arrogance; it endures, despite all our cautionary tales and resolves of “never again”, because its promise of social solidarity serves to assuage human fears and nurture hopes for the future…. Bill Clinton surpassed Nixon, Reagan and the Bushes in condemning African Americans to mass incarceration and poverty while deregulating financial markets for the benefit of his patrons on Wall Street. The rhetoric and actions of Trump’s cabinet, the wealthiest and most fanatical yet, will no doubt clarify further the inhuman practices that drive a politics and economy ostensibly devoted to human freedom. Those who oppose them should welcome this clarity. It has taken too long for the ellipses, omissions and subterfuges in the American — and now universal — promise of liberty to be widely noticed.

That’s Pankaj Mishra, whose forthcoming Age of Anger is on almost everyone’s must-read list for 2017. He is perhaps more optimistic about the benefits of clarity — there is a compelling counterargument to be made that most people will simply stare at their phones while the bad things happen in the background — than the situation merits, but it’s provocative reading, in the best sense of that word.