After These Days of Rage

I’m posting this before the final results are in, so I don’t know for sure who will be the next President of the United States of America, and Leader of the Free World, if you believe that stuff they’ve been telling us for years.

It’s definitely looking like they/we’ve got the Big DT though. “Markets,” headlines tell me, “are in turmoil”. Well, I have to tell you, I don’t really care who wins. If I were a US citizen I’d probably be part of the majority of American citizens who don’t cast a vote because they know it won’t make one iota of difference.

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What happened to the left wing revolution?

Obviously, however, “the markets” care. And who, exactly, are these nameless, faceless, panic-stricken creatures that are, according to my desktop dictionary, in “a state of great disturbance, confusion or uncertainty”?

It’s the money market, of course – and its denizens, the 1% that actually govern the United States, and think they have the right to suck the whole world dry so they can live in luxury beyond the imagination of most of the rest of us.

Here’s an interesting opinion piece I found in the New York Times. I just had to pay a visit to see how they were taking the news of a likely Trump victory:

LONDON — Whatever the result of the United States election, politics has been “changed, changed utterly,” to use the words of the poet W. B. Yeats on Ireland after the 1916 Easter Rising. And not just in America. Across the Western world, there is a rising anger at “the system.”

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Or a bottle blonde with breasts . . .

This anger is implacable and spectacular. It is causing long-established party systems to dissolve; trust in elites, experts and even basic science to collapse; and overt racism to rear its ugly head again. Democratic norms and institutions are openly disdained; illiberal and authoritarian ideas from the alt-right and far left are moving from the fringe; and everywhere, truth and civility are squeezed out amid rancor and conspiracism.

The center is struggling to hold. Welcome to what The Guardian commentator Jonathan Freedland recently called “the new age of endarkenment.”

Establishment politicians, economists and policy makers know something is happening but, rather like Mr. Jones in Bob Dylan’s “Ballad of a Thin Man,” they don’t know what it is. Perhaps that is because the truth is so very inconvenient: The source of much of the anger is the very social system that they have created these last 40 years — globalized, neoliberal and destructive of the social contract between governments and peoples on which the political center rests. Many people — enough to transform politics as we have known it — feel this system to be simply intolerable. Despairing that the sunlit promises made to them will ever come true, they now seek to turn the whole thing upside down, however they may.

It is no longer a question of the anger moving the “Overton Window,” the concept developed by the researcher Joseph P. Overton to describe what is seen as politically reasonable at any given time, as smashing it. The rapid, deep and relentless waves of creative destruction that have crashed over people’s heads have made some into winners — most spectacularly, the gilded 1 percent. But many others have experienced change as a profound and traumatic loss.

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Making the world safe for “the markets”

The neoliberalism that has been the economic orthodoxy since the Reagan and Thatcher era has hacked away at what would once have cushioned the fall of the new dispossessed. The decay of the welfare state, in Britain at any rate, has reached such a pitch that its agencies have become — as portrayed in Ken Loach’s latest film, “I, Daniel Blake” — institutions of conscious social cruelty.

The angry feel left behind as they have seen inequality explode. In 1950, top executive pay in Britain was 30 times that of the average worker; in 2012, it was 170 times. In their study “The Spirit Level: Why Equality Is Better for Everyone,” Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett demonstrated that extreme inequality is associated with rising illness, family breakdown and crime, mental distress and drug use — as well as a general fraying of what policy makers call “social cohesion.”

The angry feel the old parties no longer represent them. In truth, they don’t.

“We are all Thatcherites now!” Peter Mandelson, the guru of New Labour in Britain, once declared ahead of a global gathering of “Third Way” leaders.

So it has proved. The mood of de-subordination has fueled left-wing insurgencies: Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain, Corbynism in Britain and, of course, Bernie Sanders’s “political revolution” in America. But it has also fueled the right-wing nationalist movements of Donald J. Trump, Nigel Farage and Marine Le Pen (in the United States, Britain and France, respectively). Once loosed, the negative energies of de-subordination can be diverted into the ugliest channels: racism, anti-Semitism, conspiracism and misogyny.

And they are not going away after the election on Tuesday. These swamps cannot be drained by economics alone, any more than they were created by economics alone. But without a return to an economics of the common good — not some impossible utopia, but what the 17th-century philosopher Thomas Hobbes called “commodious living” — anger will continue to express itself as hate.

Constructing a new politics of the vital center after this tumultuous period will require so much more than understanding and empathy. It will take trusted governments, democratic social movements and a reforming zeal to give “radically different arrangements” a stable institutional form. We need to give people a reason to believe again that, in Bruce Springsteen’s words, “Wherever this flag’s flown, we take care of our own.”

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4 thoughts on “After These Days of Rage

    • Yes, a number of columnists are suggesting it’s a wake-up call for the American establishment. Will they heed it? That’s the question. Seems the financial markets have already started to settle down. I suspect it’ll be business as usual before too long. In the end, DT was the Republican Party’s choice, and he’s definitely an establishment figure. How many votes did Jill Stein get, by the way?

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