Outside the Asylum
The establishment and its status quo depend on not remembering that things were different in the past, just as they depend on not imagining that things could be different in the future. They are obsessed with establishing and maintaining a persistent monoculture, even across time. Apparently there are no possibilities apart from the current set of conditions.
I’m guessing their obsessive need to stamp out both history and imagination stems from their inability to compete in a battle of ideas. The elites and their employees in politics and the media have gone to a special lunatic fringe of their own, which rarely gets noticed because it’s quieter than Trump’s. The political and policy ideas of bankers, oil barons, and the military industrial complex drive Bush Republicans, Clinton Democrats, and even Obama Democrats (Obama Democrats would like to draw the line at nuclear war, which is why the Iran deal existed and why Obama wanted to draw down in Syria. But when pressured, they tend to fall in line, as Obama ultimately did in Syria.) None of these political factions has any history of reliably dissenting from the ideas of the richest sociopaths in the country.
Unfortunately for the politicians, the political ideas of the elites are too extreme to be competitive. Any rational debate would reject their views on war and ecology within minutes, on the grounds that only an insane person would advocate for policies that will bring down human civilization. Their views on economics are only better in the sense that they produce apocalypse and mass death indirectly, rather than immediately. No rational person could support these choices. Too many people have realized their lunacy. And it’s becoming ever harder to contain that realization within the old framework of right versus left.
It used to be that all establishment political ideas—all the ideas that were considered normal and were held by people with power—had a home, generally a political party or a branch of one, which was supported by adherents both among the elites and in the populace. We are now living in a weird era in which few establishment ideas have any home, or any adherents among the populace. Of course the two political parties will do whatever the elites want, offer a home to even the worst policies if they say so. But the trouble is that political parties, unlike aristocratic individuals and private corporations, require justification. They need some argument, moral or practical, rational or emotional, that can justify their policies—and their very existence. And in this era, the elites, who choose and implement the policies we live by, have no argument that justifies those policies. They simply support them because those policies give them money and power—consequences be damned, morality be damned.
It is difficult, to say the least, for a political party to use that sort of onanistic sociopathy as a public basis for its existence. They need ideologies that inspire fervor, or at least notice. And ideology itself seems to have faltered in this best of all possible worlds. Since we are looking at the only way things can possibly be, where is the political argument? In fact, where is politics? Why do we even have political parties? Certainly not to determine a course of policy. As a member of the first Obama Administration said of single-payer healthcare, “All that was decided when Barack Obama was in law school.” A concerned citizen might wonder what else was decided when Barack Obama was in law school. How much now falls within a predetermined D.C. consensus?
Within this monoculture, where most policy decisions are predetermined and dedicated to the proposition that the elites should remain unequal, the only ideological resource America has left is its prejudices. Prejudice is the only thing that offers people a meaningful political choice to make. People can stand on one or the other side of various social divisions: bigots on one side, “the resistance” on the other. Without bigotry to fight over, the two parties would stand revealed in all their emptiness, revolving around the desire for power at any cost like twin solar systems orbiting the same black hole.
But the media-approved, D.C-approved fights against racism, against sexism, against homophobia and transphobia and xenophobia, arguably do not belong to those oppressed by prejudice, nor to their allies. It seems to me that these movements have been readjusted to suit other purposes since I participated in them in the 80s, 90s ,and oughts. The Resistance seems very concerned with the word choices in various tweets, and much less concerned with the fact that we have coast-to-coast institutionalized freedom to murder black people for anybody with a badge. I hear a lot about “deplorables” and Trump, but not a whole hell of a lot about how the police, as an institution, are abusive to black people and possibly infiltrated on a national scale by white supremacists (there was an FBI investigation ongoing into just that issue a few years ago. Amazingly, neither MSNBC nor CNN seemed interested in it.)
As recently as the beginning of BLM, material concerns (such as whether or not a cop could with impunity put a bullet in a black person’s brain) were front and center. Now there’s a whole lot of talk about talk. We’re all very concerned about the racist thing Trump said today, and very unconcerned about black children in poverty drinking lead. Water, war, and Wall St. apparently have nothing to do with racial justice. Climate change and corporations equally have nothing to do with racial justice. But what people say on Twitter is of the highest importance and should be scrutinized in detail. Forget those sticks and stones breaking your bones.
This political climate has a transformative impact on American electoral politics. Only with such a readjusted definition of what constitutes a fight for racial justice could the candidacy of Kamala Harris have had any chance at all. In the days when racial justice was seen as something that involved more than getting a certain number of highly-placed black politicians in office and policing what people say on Twitter, Kamala Harris would never have stood the first chance of gaining black people’s votes. A black woman who made her money putting other black people away in the white man’s prison? No way. But I forgot. Prisons have nothing to do with racial justice.
Next week: Abortion has nothing to do with feminism.
How are you all today?