Discover more from Antonio Dias
You can’t awaken someone who’s pretending to be asleep.
The crisis underlying our political predicament.
We all know the truth in this. If we’re honest with ourselves. We’ve all done it at some point. What does this have to do with politics?
The stridency of attacks on everyone else’s hypocrisy being made by just about everyone. The blindness to our own past mistakes while holding our enemies solely at fault. One form of unacknowledged bigotry set in opposition to another. The depth of our predicament is not the result of a change in ideology — or “style.” It is in our unwillingness to wake-up.
Wake up to what?
One realization that’s been harder to ignore recently — among many — has been that the only people who seem to have any clarity about Climate Change, and resource depletion, are those who virulently insist that both of these crises are hoaxes. They see the writing on the wall and they recoil.
Those who make the most noise against their refusal to admit one aspect of reality are equally vehement to defend their illusions. Instead of fantasizing about Clean Coal™ these defenders of the truth insist that there’s a Tech Fix™ on-the-horizon!™. That paving the world in solar panels and filling the sky with chopping blades will not only let them continue to live the way they like, but that theirs is The-Side-of-History™.
Who’s more delusional?
There’s room for more than a binary answer here….
Nine years ago I saw Obama as a potential Gorbachev for our failed state. A translation from the Cyrillic, so to speak. Gorbachev was the dying gasp of a world-view embodied in a giant machine of ideology embedded in crumbling institutions. A Russian Doll. Turtles all the way down…. His failure was the failure of reasonableness in the face of the bankruptcy of everything his flavor of reasonableness was founded on.
Obama did fill that role. A nice man. A reasonable man. A sign — or so it seemed at the time — that we had Evolved™. That we were beyond race, entering our own version of Glasnost and Perestroika. In the end he normalized everything that had seemed so appalling about the Bush years. Beneath the nice, reasonable surface we got eight more years of Cheney’s policies. Only now it was papered over by good manners and great music at the White House.
Gorbachev paved the way for Yeltsin. Who begot Putin. Here the parallels become a bit garbled. We’re still too early-on to tell whether our clown will also be our strong-man or just his precursor. You see, this is key. Each iteration grows out of the situation prepared by its antecedent. Each generation is begotten…. Where is there any sign that this lesson has been absorbed? Even broached?
Here is where it’s becoming clear that as a nation we are all complicit in the ongoing Juggernaut. The complaints from the left touch on deeply unsettling truths about the Right. But…. There is a continuing blindness towards their own deeply unsettling truths.
There is a level of honesty that can be reached within the hearts of those who see that we’re faced with an Enormity that scares them into denying its existence. Beneath that denial is an honest sense that the gig is up. That business-as-usual is over. This is felt so deeply, and in so many cases — we’re not talking about the .01% who benefit from business-as-usual and fund the Spectacle, but the many, poor and growing more impoverished by the moment whose precarity leaves them little surplus to philosophize over their discomforts. Their denial is a healthy reaction.
They have no belief structure left to defend. The institutions which have tricked them into loyalty are all bankrupt: A Christianity reduced to Satanism. A culture of work that has been stripped of everything that once provided them any dignity: jobs that paid a living wage; earning power that bought them living, healthy food; a place to live where their efforts would provide their children with the realistic promise of a Better Life™.
What they’re left with is the old hustle: White Supremacy™. The dodge built into the Constitution and surviving intact after the Thirteenth Amendment in its prison-clause that has always been used to divide the poor into two opposing camps since our country’s founding. A set of phony Privileges, Merit badges for showing up with a light complexion that were meant to disguise the brutality sent down the slopes of that Pyramid of Wealth to all those who didn’t have a piece of it to call their own.
What they’re left with is their pain and their isolation. Their subjugation hidden behind so many false facades, so many Potemkin Villages of supposed Opportunity™ that they have not had the consolation of the brutal truth of their suppression that has been a bitter legacy for the descendants of slavery.
What they’re left with is nothing but desperation. Is it any wonder that our unwashed masses turn to Opioids and Alcohol and anyone who’s own inner demons possesses them to preach hate and lash-out on a wide stage?
Russia entered the collapse of the Soviet system with certain habits of resilience still in place. There was never any deep sense of overweening exceptionalism. The deaths of tens of millions through World Wars and Pogroms, religious and political, were still fresh in living memory. The tradition of getting-by, of growing some food on the side. These to some extent cushioned the fall while other habits, chiefly alcoholism enjoyed on a heroic scale and the now becoming familiar to us growing epidemic of suicide fed by a fatalistic temperament equally mythologized, cut deep into the heart of that society, leaving it that much more vulnerable to the vermin eating out the spoils that remained of their glorious Soviet past.
Our so-called American Dream has ensured that we don’t have these resilient habits ready to hand. It was all supposed to come from the mall. Then The Costco or the Walmart. In bulk! The consumer religion reduced to a cargo-cult. Roaming the aisles of the Dollar-Store for baubles and trinkets shipped half-way across the world. Wearing hats made in China proclaiming the wish to Make America Great… again.
It’s no wonder they don’t want to face what they see so clearly every day around them. Their lives don’t look like anything they see on TV. Who isn’t lying to them they wonder.
I grew-up at the edge of that world. Of it and apart. I spent decades trying to understand their motivations and failing to gain any of their respect as I felt pushed away for the differences they saw in me even when I wasn’t honest enough to admit them. I would guess that many of us who came form that kind of background and found we didn’t fit in came to feel resentment and bitterness towards a world that would not accept us.
What’s never been so clear to me is how this must have appeared from their side. Smart-alack…, Know-it-all…, Spoiled brat…. These were all true. they were right in seeing my disrespect preceded their turning me away.
My Grace has come from an equal inability to fit-in on the “other side.” I was never welcomed into the club. Any club. My Groucho-Marxism had something to with it…. But, I was left to see the prejudices of this other life from the outside too. And they’re not pretty. And they’re very deep. And, they’re very dangerous. Dangerous because they are so well hidden.
Every demagogue on the Right has a deep wound of doubt undermining their own sense of their validity. Trump’s not the first, or the only stuffed-shirt puffed-out by sheer force of will against a crippling sense of illegitimacy.
In our particular moment of history the prize of certainty and self-possession has gone to those in the opposing camp. There is no White Privilege™ like the completely unrecognized and unfiltered privilege of those with some money, some education, the right manners, the right friends. Their certainty — the Right-side-of-History!™ after all is theirs — is without a blemish. The faults are all on the other side. Just look at them and their hateful ways. Those Pigs!
I once wrote that Wealth Makes You Stupid. Here’s how that works. Here’s how the wannabes like Trump always get it wrong. If you have to try so hard, you’ll never get it. What you believe just is. No need to question it. No need to wonder.
There’s a whole segment of our so-called “White” population turning blue in the face calling the rest of their cohort racists and bigots who don’t have a clue of their own much greater sense of privilege. Pretending to be asleep they can not be awakened. No sign, no noise in the night, no number of chilling reports. Reports they fight to see funded and read with piquant pity at the plight of our world in ruin will awaken them to the need to be very afraid. To be so afraid that your urges to deny reality are so keen that they cannot be ignored. So afraid that their certainty might show the slightest crack that just might start to let the light in. No matter how much they loathe Country Western and mourn Leonard Cohen’s death.
They’ll be the ones to refuse to see that Fascism is their shadow projected out into the world as a result of their hubris and profound denial.
We’re all Good Germans now. Our only arguments are over the means to our destructive ends. Should it be done in style? Should it be an inclusive march towards destruction? Can’t it all keep going on as it has without disturbing our slumbers?
You can’t awaken those who are pretending to be asleep.