Christmas and new year are times to reflect and take stock, so let’s consider what is plaguing the modern world, with the top plague-producers, America.
Despite his ranting and twittering about making business great again, the most notable venture Trump-the-Crook has spawned is a vast industry of research, thinking, and hyperventilating about why roughly one in three Americans think he’s achieving something worthwhile.
Andrew Sullivan is a Brit who’s lived most of his adult life in the US crusading for gay rights and preaching for Christianity to be our guide in these times of trouble. Recently, he did us the favour of conducting a tour (in New York magazine) of Trumpist intellectuals who think they know what plagues their fellow citizens.
Sullivan’s first interlocutor was a professor of government named Charles Kesler, who said that “beneath the veneer of constitutional democracy, we are actually governed by an elite of experts, bureaucrats, pundits, and academics who ignore the majority of the American people.” I was with him that far, but then he added: “Anyone — anyone who could challenge this elite’s power was therefore a godsend.”
Kesler believes that “democracy is exercised best at the local level, in accord with the ‘unenlightened’ views of the citizenry.” But today, he reckons, political correctness is “reeducation camp for the millions of defective Americans who are products of racism, sexism, classism, and so forth…” Millions of Trumpsters hate “political correctness” itself, meaning progressive reviewing of past and present injustices, more than they hate immigrants, or the other subsets of the community whom they see as benefiting from liberal social policies.
“American elite’s “reduction of all resistance to cultural and demographic change as crude ‘racism’ or ‘xenophobia,’ only deepens the sense of siege many other Americans feel.”
Next on Sullivan’s tour was a slick dude named Curtis Yarvin, aka Mencius Moldbug, who has proposed that the US government can only be stopped from implementing sinister “scientific public policy in the public interest” by going beyond supporting a tyrannical president to “the liquidation of democracy, the Constitution and the rule of law, and the transfer of absolute power to a mysterious figure known only as the Receiver, who in the process of converting Washington into a heavily armed, ultra-profitable corporation will abolish the press, smash the universities, sell the public schools, and transfer ‘decivilized populations’ to ‘secure relocation facilities’ where they will be assigned to ‘mandatory apprenticeships’.” Yarvin/Mencius spreads his stuff on a widely-read blog, Unqualified Reservations.
Part of Sullivan’s mission is to keep those of us who are unplugged from the alt-right world up to par; he wants us to know that this shit is well within the zeitgeist of the new right community.
In the end, Sullivan’s longish article is shortish on useful analysis. He can throw in a good passing insights though, such as that the American elite’s “reduction of all resistance to cultural and demographic change as crude ‘racism’ or ‘xenophobia,’ only deepens the sense of siege many other Americans feel.” Think here of Obama’s “they cling to their religion and guns” and Hillary’s “deplorables”.
And that insight resonates with what’s been happening in France these past few weeks, where daily protests of the gilets jaunes continue, and continue to be sensationalised by the press and disdained by politicians. Into this mix has come a young novelist Édouard Louis who says the demonstrators are like his own family — they are furious with governments that both ignore and exploit them. Louis’s book about growing up poor and ignored in rural France has sold hundreds of thousands of copies, and he has recently spent time in America, where he saw a similarity between his community in France who look for politicians who care about them, regardless of whether they are ‘left’ or ‘right, and the many Trump voters who voted previously for Obama.
Louis told The New Yorker that while politicians discourse and preach austerity, his people can’t afford to buy Christmas presents for their children. That, and the violence of their exclusion from the recognised society, is what has ignited, and united, the gilets jaunes.
Meanwhile, back in Trumpland, Stephen Bannon remains the most revealing plague-whisperer of them all.
Bannon is right — it’s the patriarchy stupid
Stephen Bannon helped get Trump elected and was for a few months the president’s national security advisor. His political strategy is simple: “If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”
His overarching vision is more grand: Watching women on a Golden Globe acting award show wearing black to protest Harvey Weinstein and gropers in general, he exclaimed, in distress: “It’s even more powerful than populism. It’s deeper. It’s primal. It’s elemental. The long black dresses and all that—this is the Puritans! It’s anti-patriarchy … If you rolled out a guillotine, they’d chop off every set of balls in the room.”
Two of America’s mass shooters last year were members of a group called “incels”, meaning men who are “involuntarily celibate” and blame their celibacy on women.
He’s right that it’s about the patriarchy, specifically, demolishing it, along with the unrepentant colonialism and racism in which most patriarchs we know have been nurtured. For the Trumps, Bannons and the hordes of blokes who identify with them, balls are fundamental signifiers of power, dominion and domination. Among the patriarchal politicians Bannon cosies up to across the globe are the anti-Francisco forces inside the Vatican, called the Legion of Christ, which was founded by a pedophile. In 2014 Bannon told a Vatican audience: “We’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict,” and we “church militants” must “fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity…” He meant Muslim jihadists, and me-too feminists.
At the more grassroots level, two of America’s mass shooters last year were members of a group called “incels”, meaning men who are “involuntarily celibate” and blame their celibacy on women, meaning that they have not been attractive enough to have experienced hetero sex. Men who murder or maim their women partners are the grunts in the ranks of the macho-patriarchs.
Bannon is right that this is a battle of epic proportions.
But beyond the epic is the existential — the end of climate as we knew it, aka global warming. We hear our own children demanding control of the environments in which they will live their lives, after we’ve gone, and every day, everywhere we look in media and in the air, oceans and lands we inhabit, we increasingly confront waves of plastics, antibiotics, industrial chemicals, mine tailings, and 57 million other varieties of toxins we’ve been throwing Away. Away has come back around to engulf us.
So, as we sail on into another trip around the sun, randomly numbered 2019, we see the multiple malaises afflicting us more clearly, and the cures get murkier, obscured by the patriarchs and their plague-whisperers.
If it’s coming at all, salvation must come from we the people; it sure ain’t coming from our leading men in parliaments, the Congress, the White House, or the corporate boardrooms across the globe.
Phillip Frazer feels a happy new year in a summer breeze coming up the little round hill of Mullumbimby, not far from coorabellridge.com