Home > Current Affairs, Dystopia, Links, Reason, Skepticism > Interesting Links: Feb 24, 2016

Interesting Links: Feb 24, 2016

Here are links to a few interesting articles I came across recently. While they may, at first, appear to be about diverse topics- they are all talking about the second- and third- order effects of the same underlying problem.

Link 1: Trump’s victories aren’t mysterious if you understand why people are angry

Anger isn’t something that Beltway pundits recognize, let alone understand because everyone employed in media or in politics in and around Washington DC is pretty well off. Even ink-stained wretches pull down five-figures – and, unlike everywhere else in America, since journalism is built on documenting nonsense, there’s some real job security in documenting Washington. Television people fare even better, because TV money is stupid money. Thinktank malefactors reap great sums from the aggrieved heartland or from industries looking to build a canon of falsified data, and Congress and the attendant lobbying is a helluva racket. Anger is pretty easy to miss when it’s something pretty difficult to feel. When you sit at the center of the world and are unlikely to ever lack for the basic materials of self-sufficiency, the idea of blind, gnawing resentment – let alone of feeding that resentment even with irrational aims – is ineluctably beyond your ken.

As tacky and thuggish as it might be, Trump plays the hero to people that the wise warriors of the system have abandoned. He’s the ultimate Gary Stu character: a billionaire beholden to no one and able to abuse every disingenuous and pettifogging remora latched headfirst on the nation and sucking upward. And as long as people can enjoy the elbow-throwing wish-fulfillment of watching him in action, most of the rest doesn’t matter to them – not the bombast, not the war-mongering, not the unfeasibility of even his signature promises and certainly not the consequences if he keeps them. If the system is already so broken that it abandoned you, its preservation is not your concern. Hell, burning it down might be what you want most. Anger has a clarity all its own. It renders most detail extraneous, and it animates like nothing else. It is not to be underestimated, and, at this point, we will probably have to wait until November to find out if it truly has been.

Link 2: The Party Crashers

The people who turn up at Sanders and Trump rallies are wed, across the aisle, in bonds of populist unrest. They’re revolting against party élites, and especially against the all-in-the-family candidates anointed by the Democratic and the Republican leadership: Clinton and Bush, the wife and brother of past party leaders. (More attention has been paid to the unravelling of the G.O.P.; the Democratic Party is no less frayed.) There is, undoubtedly, a great deal of discontent, particularly with the role of money in elections: both Sanders and Trump damn the campaign-finance system as rigged and the establishment as corrupt. But to call the current state of affairs, in either party, a political revolution isn’t altogether accurate.

The American party system is not only a creation of the press; it is dependent on it. It is currently fashionable, indispensable, even, to malign the press, whether liberal or conservative. “That’s the media game,” Sanders said, dismissing a question that Cooper had asked him during CNN’s town hall. “That’s what the media talks about. Who cares?” But when the press is in the throes of change, so is the party system. And the national weal had better watch out. It’s unlikely, but not impossible, that the accelerating and atomizing forces of this latest communications revolution will bring about the end of the party system and the beginning of a new and wobblier political institution. With our phones in our hands and our eyes on our phones, each of us is a reporter, each a photographer, unedited and ill judged, chatting, snapping, tweeting, and posting, yikking and yakking. At some point, does each of us become a party of one?

Link 3: Artificial Abundance and Artificial Scarcity

These structural contradictions have always made for reduced efficiency and irrationality. But in recent decades they have resulted in increasingly chronic crisis tendencies, which amount to a terminal crisis of capitalism as a system. Both artificial abundance and artificial scarcity have been integral to capitalism since its beginnings five centuries or so ago, and absolutely essential for the extraction of profit. But capitalism is becoming increasingly dependent on both artificial abundance and artificial scarcity for its survival at the very same time that the state’s ability to provide them is reaching its limits and going into decline. Hence a crisis of sustainability.

The permanent crisis of under-consumption, taken together with permanent unemployment and under-employment and the new affordable technologies for micro-manufacturing in home workshops and garage factories, mean that the working class will increasingly shift to meeting its own needs through production for local use in the social economy. And the fiscal exhaustion, retreat and collap0se of the old state- and employer-based safety nets will create a necessity for self-organized mechanisms (like micro-villages, multi-family co-housing units, extended family compounds, large-scale squats, etc.) for pooling costs, risks and income. The process of Exodus and counter-institution building is apt to be reminiscent of the rise of the free towns and their horizontal institutions for self-governance in the High Middle Ages, as recounted by Kropotkin.

What do you think? Comments?

    • P Ray
      February 24, 2016 at 10:50 pm

      I think it’s precisely because people are fully aware that “People feel isolated, helpless, victim of powerful forces that they do not understand and cannot influence.” … that they want a leader who isn’t beholden to any of those powerful forces
      what they stupidly fail to grasp is
      1. the people implementing the decisions are in the middle, and have their own axes to grind,
      2. you can’t remove them en masse unless you want social upheaval
      3. moving the new people in … doesn’t mean they’ll stay good forever (return to step 1)
      4. the technologically advanced society has been burning relationship goodwill ever since the psychopaths took over
      5. people want guarantees and not “challenges, which may turn out badly despite their sacrifice”
      6. of course, feminism.
      7. anodyne communication

  1. Webe
    February 25, 2016 at 4:48 am

    Although a popular meme, the idea of local organization and production in the social economy is very different from the rise of Middle Age towns: the latter represented progress and a more powerful civilization, even if at first not politically superior. The former represents devolution, and fails to take into account the highly complex nexus of global materials and partial manufactures without which our energy/technology based society will not work. Dust-free chiip fabrication, rare earth minerals, LCD screens, hi-tech weapons, etc., are all predicated on a complex interrelated chains of credit, payment, and materials which simply will not work at smaller scales. This means devolution to local organization and production also entails the devolution of technology which we are accustomed to, which support our mega urban areas, and which furnishes us with an advantage over others by which we maintain our position and don’t revert to feudal competition between principalities.

    • P Ray
      February 25, 2016 at 10:40 am

      Don’t forget the “fire-at-will” labour laws, physical and keycard security to stop workers gumming up the works, e-mail and smartphone bugging to track/threaten employees, office politics and false incentives (those that the boss will never make good on).
      To keep a society lasting … the talented, honest and hardworking people have to be put first.

  2. February 25, 2016 at 2:51 pm

    More explanations on the Trump Phenomenon:
    Letters from Atlantic readers on “why I will vote Trump”

    Seems like a pretty broad range of reasons including some who are cynics that just want to “watch the world burn” or simply be entertained.

  3. February 26, 2016 at 7:19 pm

  4. P Ray
    September 19, 2016 at 8:15 am

    I figure a lot of the talk by Americans overseas about
    “Trump is an idiot, I won’t vote for him”,
    is just so that they are not considered targets by people disgruntled about imperialism or “white person worship”.

    After all,
    “Bush” was so unpopular, yet he got voted in, methinks some people are lying about who they vote for, in earshot of people who would do them harm if they knew the truth.

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