Trump, Clinton or Obama — who cares? It’s the system we need to revolt against
Let me begin by invoking the newly dubbed “Noam Chomsky amendment”: the right to quote Noam Chomsky forever until progressives actually listen.
I don’t mean to alarm you, but the idea that humanity is on the brink of collapse and self destruction isn’t a new or novel idea that rises from the ashes with each and every presidential election, fuelled by how much it apparently swings to the left or right. But that doesn’t stop us all from clutching fake news pearls and running for the hills every time.
The way we imagine the end of the world — and who is responsible for it — keeps changing to suit the general media narrative of the day. Today it’s a civil war, tomorrow it’s Russia. There’s this selectiveness when it comes to understanding where the threat lies and which personality type is most likely to let it happen, failing to understand how little a role personality can play in it and the collective forces which work together to make it easy enough for that one person to do anything evil at all.
These are the same forces in place working behind the scenes so that the Clintons, Obamas or Bushs can dish up the same evil shit but in different packaging. What and how you choose to pay attention to depends on your political ideology. A lot of well meaning liberals chose to overlook the grievous problems in the Obama administration, because Obama was a cool dude! This can and will backfire. In the same way that Bush set up the conditions which made it easier for Obama to carry on with a similar but more secret foreign policy legacy, so too does Obama’s overlooked transgressions pave the way for a slight increase with Trump. Like how Obama (nicknamed the Deporter-In-Chief) deported around 3 million immigrants in his time as President and now Trump will aim to deport a cool 2–3 million immigrants, only faster.
We must understand that humanity’s demise was already on track to happen well before Trump ever came into the picture. If you don’t understand how that is, then you haven’t been paying attention to evidence-based analysis from experts that points to the bigger global picture. Or you got distracted by the theatrics of the election and forgot to ask the most important question of all: “why is climate change being so blithely ignored?” Even now in the aftermath, it’s only mentioned briefly in the long list of things that will be the end of the world, failing to understand that the reality of climate change disaster will be the axis upon which total destruction spins. Fun times.
But first, there are a few other obvious threats you might have vaguely heard about this election but didn’t really notice because there were more glaringly obvious problems like “how could he tweet at 3am? How? How did we let this happen to our democracy?” etc.
For example, the US government under Obama have some of the most expansive and unchecked presidential powers, like giving itself the power to secretly declare an American citizen an enemy of the state and order their extrajudicial killing with no judicial process. Along with mass surveillance, Obama brought in these measures, which will be kindly passed on to Donald Trump, with little outrage. The warped logic here was that somehow we could always trust that the president in power would be some kind of benevolent nice guy, just one of the good ones, nothing to see here. But this didn’t go unchallenged.
As journalist Glenn Greenwald explained recently, The ACLU asked Obama’s defenders why they would trust not only Barack Obama, but also Sarah Palin or Newt Gingrich or Michele Bachmann, with the power to target U.S. citizens for assassination in secret and with no judicial oversight. They couldn’t really tell you. Maybe because in their own little world, that could never happen. And those same powers are still in place. Hillary’s campaign segue “but how do you even trust a man like that with the nuclear codes” was so incredibly and dangerously misguided. Again, it’s fear-mongering that has normalised having world destroying nuclear codes in the first place. And if a large section of the population clearly didn’t trust Hillary either, as was patently obvious to anyone who bothered to think critically, why would that argument make sense to them either? This is why people talk about nuclear disarmament. It’s why the US goes on about it for every country that isn’t them. Most people can’t be trusted with nuclear codes and there have been enough cases now in history where it almost all went horribly wrong, to confirm that.
And yet here we are.
Then there’s Obama’s missile defense system in Romania as Chomsky has explained in a recent interview, the one under the laughable pretext of non-existent Iranian missiles. As Chomsky points out — how can a missile defense stop a first strike? It doesn’t. It’s a first-strike weapon and it was aimed at Russia. And the Russians, presumably because they are not easily duped, saw this act of aggression for what it was. An attempt to get even closer to Russia and intimidate them. And of course they started to prepare for a possible attack. Suddenly that crazy circus of an election doesn’t seem so ridiculous now, does it! (Nope, wait it still does, there’s simply no getting around it).
And finally we come full circle to climate change. As Chomsky points out, we don’t have an immigrant crisis today. We have no idea what an immigrant crisis is because we can’t even begin to imagine what climate change is going to do to us all. One person per second is already fleeing from the effects of severe weather. It’s going to increase and become a whole new category of disaster, unless we start to take this as seriously as we take anything else. The party now in power doesn’t believe in climate change. THIS is the central issue upon which every single person in the world should be protesting. I cannot stress this enough. We need to stop with the micro-aggressions and outrages over a tweet and focus our energy and our attention.
If you need further convincing, listen to the full interview with Noam Chomsky as he expands on these ideas using historical analysis.
This is not uplifting or positive or empowering. It’s not meant to be. The time for that has passed. A huge part of why we’re in this position today is that the progressive agenda was abandoned. Any attempt to move to the left was stymied by the Democrat Party and the media who attacked Bernie Sanders and his supporters and demonised third voters for Jill Stein in the Green Party, the pundits who literally laughed at anyone on the left who tried to warn them of this outcome, and how climate change was discussed only insofar as it was a joke, the idea of it being a hoax elevated to the national stage, instead of advocating for immediate action or GTFO.
Believing that one person can either be the benevolent good but flawed hero (Obama) or the devil incarnate (Trump) focusses too much on irrelevant personality issues and not enough on what’s actually happening. We need the reality check and we need to move towards action now.
We’ve published a detailed article on how we can actively work together on climate change. Since it was a pre-Trump and pre-Republican era, it means we’re going to have to change things up somewhat, but with more urgency and without losing focus or momentum. So read a wide variety of sources on this. Follow progressive sites who put climate change high up on their list of priorities. And start following groups that mobilise for collective action.
And here’s Chomsky in that same interview to take us to the ad break:
“So are you a vegan?
I am not, but I can imagine that one would be. The crucial question in my view is not … I mean, individual actions are OK, they’re good to do, it’s good to use less energy, and so on. But what’s really needed is collective action to deal with the roots of the problem. I mean, if you are a vegan, let’s say, and you eat food, fruit and vegetables, that are transported from somewhere else, you’re contributing to the destruction of the environment. That’s what transport is. A lot of things to look at. We all make individual compromises, there is no choice. You can’t avoid it. Like, we’ve got the lights on. You’ve got the electricity, right?
But the crucial question is really institutional. How are we gonna deal with the institutions that are creating these systems?
Well, there is only one way that’s ever been discovered: Organized, collective action, which has led to a lot of changes. Take Germany: It’s not the same country it was seventy, eighty years ago. Why? Germans made it a different country. We can do the same. In fact, take, say, global warming: Germany is pretty advanced among countries of the world in trying to do something about it. That’s because Germans committed themselves to do something. We can do the same on the other issues.”
This article by Sheree Joseph was originally published on The Vocal.