This Is What’s Going On

One of our O Society people wants to know how to change the current cycle we are in, and if it is even possible to do so.

by O Society June 7, 2019

“Here is why the 40% Trump support never gets low enough to impeach him:

Trump tweets some baloney such as “Democrats are socialists.” Then, millions read this tweet and it gets sent by email and Facebook everywhere. Then people talk to each other about the tweet. Then, Fox News repeats it over and over until “the illusory truth effect” finishes the deed and makes it seem so. He controls the message, controls the news cycle this way.

How to change this cycle? I don’t think it is possible to change it.”

Our answer lies in being able to look outside ourselves as individuals and see through the special effects contact lenses worn by the group. What does this mean?

While an individual such as you or me wishes our world to be run based on a truth-based foundation – e.g., we each wish for truth in politics and media as an individual – on the aggregate, human beings instead prefer social stories, myths, and beliefs which signal virtue to other group members and thereby identifies them as group members to one another.

So even though as an individual, I want truth, once I join a group, it’s different. Groups of people prefer lies in our interaction, specific lies which form a common narrative, which identify belonging, and thus, necessarily separate us from other groups.

Yes, we do.

Hence, a demagogue such as Donald Trump uses these myths to weave a group narrative for his Trumpets. The collective narcissism of the group is fed by the rise in status of the individual demagogue who represents the group. For Trumpets, this is Trump. And even though their own individual status remains unchanged, they live vicariously through the demagogue’s fame and fortune.

All of which is a long winded way of saying, I agree with you, it is not possible to change this cycle under our current conditions.

However, it is dangerous and irresponsible to write off the grievances of the group as nonsense. Their concerns – which derive from being quagmired in psychosocial stress- are real. Yet their fear and anger are displaced on the Other, as in non-group members, which doesn’t fix the problems.

In other words, their concerns are our concerns, the “Other” is a sleight-of-hand trick done by the demagogue to make it seem otherwise. Because the demagogue and the people he represents are a real problem.

The results of these oligarch people being in charge are predictable, resulting in what physicians in the UK and US now call “Shit-life syndrome” for the rest of us.

The only solution is to address the fear and anger and despair and hopelessness of the majority group in a legitimate reality-based manner.

Donald Trump is not going to do this. The disease of Trumpism will exacerbate and percolate for as long as its underlying etiology goes unaddressed. The underlying etiology is inequality.

This is why Trump’s rise in social status to President and Great Leader temporarily satisfies the Trumpets’ feelings of inadequacy and rage at their own social status. Thing is, this moment cannot last because the conditions which cause their mental/ physical illness not only remain, these conditions worsen by the day. The destruction of the part of the government which actually does things for people is intentional.

The Big Problem is this inequality leads to violence.

Yes, it does.

The Anthropocene rages on unabated, as does the dwindling life expectancy of the white American middle-aged male.

^ This ^ is the reality-based view. Trump is selling a fiction-based view, which unfortunately is a stronger drug to the spiritually sick.

What do we need to fix this?

A collective identity.

Correct. Identity politics divides us.

Yes it does.

Therefore, we must have a sense of collective identity if we are to fix this. Who are Americans? The old 1950s (1776?) narrative of white male landowners is dying, so what will our new national narrative become? Who are we? Who do we choose to be?

We must be something together, as in a uniting myth. Our current worship of the individual – epitomized in clichés such as “every man for himself” and “just lemme get mine” and “greed is good for its own sake” – neoliberal  aka capitalist realism model Donald Trump personifies so quintessentially has no intrinsic cohesion of its own. It will destroy itself as entropy does its work on the duct tape web of lies holding the Trump regime together with Hubba Bubba and Gorilla Glue.

This abandonment of the neoliberal and neoconservative model is our only hope to escape Anthropocene extinction as a human race, and it only happens successfully through our adoption of a new collective identity:

“So the question of defeat and the question of limitations on American power, it seems to me are truly crucial questions about what kind of society you really have in mind. It’s a question, I suppose, of what kind of collective identity we want as a people. And in this first half of the 20th century through the Vietnam war  (to today’s war in Afghanistan), it’s basically an understanding of a people whose identity lay with the expansion of power, world supremacy and primacy in terms of nations, and this vision is very difficult to surrender.

I think at bottom, I believe this commitment to power which characterizes America and has characterized it ever since World War II, this commitment to power  — as everybody has noticed —  involves a very close identification of ordinary citizens with that expansion of power.

And it’s been a very strong push towards a strong state, as I’ve mentioned; aggressive foreign policy, strong defense, strong national — strong defense budget, and the rest of it. But it’s also been nostalgia. It’s been nostalgia in terms of 19th-century or even 18th-century values about home, church, family, and this sort of thing. And is the peculiar combination of sort of progressivism, technologically, and in terms of the political state, and a regressive view towards ethics, morality, piety, family, and the rest of it.

And I think it’s the American proclivity towards wanting to really find yourself sanctified by some set of values you know very well cannot come from what you’re actually into. In other words, a military, high-tech, strong corporate system can’t generate the kind of values that really make us comfortable, really suggest the power we have is good, and we deserve it.

The central question, to me, is the question of what I would call collective identity.

That is, what do we think we want to stand for as a people? And that’s what I think the democracy, the preoccupation with a democratic culture, for me, is all about. What I think we want to stand for is not expansion of American power, not the endless economic and technological innovation we’re committed to — whether we want to be or not — but really, what is it we want to see ourselves identified with as a people?

Do we want to see ourselves identified with notions of cooperation, notions of diversity, notions of respect, and encouragement of different kinds of sensibilities and different kinds of cultures, different kinds of understandings of the world? Or do we want to see ourselves instead basically as the technological power of the world?

Collective identity is something the founders tried to deal with in the preamble to the Constitution — “We the people, in order to” — where they mention certain kinds of values, and justice is part of it, and so is defense, of course, but it’s a first stab at a collective, and an understanding of ourselves and how we want to present ourselves to the world.

Because I think, fundamentally, democracy in a democratic culture comes down not to big, high-falutin’ institutions or policies. It comes down ultimately to how we treat each other in our ordinary range of relationships and in conversations.”

~ Sheldon Wolin



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