The Way Years Walk

What are years for? They are here to carry our burdens, take them off our shoulders, to put them onto theirs. To see the years doing this is like first recognizing what good servants they can be. Even when in agony, or in prison, or in the psychiatric ward, they are to our service. They are here to shoulder the load we are are incapable of carrying for ourselves. The years, it seems, are like mules, trotting in circles, although not pumping water or grinding grain, but to carry the stuff we can’t.

See them come and pass. Watch them grin, greeting each others, at times casting a stealthy glance upon us, as if to ascertain whether we are still there, still care, still these same fools. The years, it seems, can live without us, but not vice versa. We need them, in fact, not to count down the path already walked or the agony lately spent, we need them to make sure our souls reach wider than the boundaries of our skins. Although in doing so, we mostly forget that in that way the years no longer are just, or: primarily, ours, but those of everybody else. The years blend the burdens of many. The burdens, that is, which we can’t get rid of by ourselves, which, therefore, need to get rid of us by the years, who carry them until they got so light and diaphanous that they seem to have vanished, one day, finally.

Years do that. But we most often forget, or rather: overlook, that they do so by carrying the stuff of others as well. Things of different folks thus blend. We learn that things get taken care of by the years, not by us, but rarely do we have a recognition that they then change, via the blending with the stuff of others. Years, like mules, don’t distinguish
between your stuff and that of your neighbour. You need to — the years just carry them.

When I recently met some of them down in the valley, they kind of got startlet. They had been conversing with each other, the ones from the childhood and those of my times when I had grown into my twenties. A family reunion, it seems, had been the occasion for their coming forth. They had met down there, and I rather accidentially crashed into them. They were like nervous fluttering spinsters, not really knowing how to gather the fleeting parts of their skirts. Years can be scared too, I found. They don’t like to be confronted directly, rashly. They like to keep a little distance, being talked to gently, not harshly. Years, it seems, fear us more than we fear them. Which is quite understandable, given how fragile they are, shapes of air and memories, to break apart when intruded too directly. Get rid of therapy, then, folks. You are killing them. They need a more polite, a more gentle approach.

The last time I saw a bunch of years at the same place, meeting and conversing, was, as I mentioned, at the occasion of a family reunion. Mothers can bring a lot of them together, guilt and sadness too. Mostly, the years walk alone, rarely in pairs, and when so, they mostly keep their quietude. When they talk, they whisper, rarely shout. But sometimes … have you ever heard a year sing? When it rises up, and sings its voice into the all-encompassing joy? When joy is not just opened by it, but created? Have you ever
heard a year sing? This endless joy, floating over this sea of sadness and silence?

 

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The Intricacies of Being Bad

One of the major errors in my life has been to misunderstand the goals and dynamics of the idealism I’ve felt about who I was meant to be or to become.

For years, on this delicate level of conscience and premonition, I’ve felt that who I was meant to be, this somewhat heroic self from the future, was like a guiding spirit, answering me in my daily conundrums, as banister and principle. Accordingly, I felt weak and inferior to the ideal self that was hovering over me. I never matched up to this spirit that was whispering to me. Which, of course, was its duty, in those times.

To realize, or materialize, a higher goal, ambition, duty, is, for one, to stay true to the guardian who keeps you waiting at the doorstep, hindering you to pass until the moment, when the time is right, he slips aside, effortless for him and for you to pass. But on a different account, it is to become this guarding spirit itself, and you won’t become it as long as you stay in veneration and awe of this ideal.

The different approach, or rather: the next necessary step, then, is to yield to your weakness and inferiority you only perceive because you sense and listen to this higher guardian. You do this by accepting your weakness, your inferiority. You embrace the awfulness you learnt to detest (even: disdain) from the beginning. That is: In gradually internalizing that which you despise most in you, your angel sinks down into you, and yields the doorstep for you to pass through.

The fear of becoming a bad person can be both, an admonition from above, and a recognition what to become in order for the above to become below. In both ways, this is not about the shadow and the nonsense of incorporating it. You don’t incorporate the shadow — that is the cleansing fiction of psychotherapy. This is not about self-administered redemption, this hubris of the undercover ego. This is about moral and conscience. Or rather: the spirit-sides of them.

We learn to die by learning to have our ambitions die, our hopes, our ego, our soul, then the world, then all. We die into living by giving birth to death.

To become a bad person is a fear that cannot understand its goal. You don’t become a bad person by yielding to become a bad person, as your fear keeps telling your still fighting ego. Becoming a bad person is to embrace the biggest fear you have about yourself, not about your abyssess but about what you’re capable of, this Dr. Mengele inside you who would love to torture and would love to kill. To let go of the ideal about yourself, or rather: to let go of the trust that there is a better version of you guiding you from afar like your star, this embrace of the unfathomness is what makes you more and more the ideal person down here.

There are many ways to die, and to live by gradually yielding to death, defeat after defeat, only becomes this destructive agony when we insist on keeping the ideal apart from us, as guiding principle, over and above ourselves. The angel we never touched, because we needed it afar. But by yielding to what we’re ashamed of and what we fear to become, we turn out not to become what we feared. Yielding to what we feared, allowing us to feel and see us in the light of what we thought we could never and should never be, is the step to become capable of acting according to the angel we sensed. What once was a measure to judge ourselves becomes a talent upon which to sense and to act in this world.

To die into home.

 

You may also have a look into my «Being a Bugger» (2013), «Strip-Mining the Heart» (2014) and «Love – Or The Other?» (2015) which approach the topic from other angles.

 

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How the War Begins

As the approaching war becomes more obvious to more and more people [1], we should stop lamenting about the «unthinkable» (which, ironically, is always a «do-able»), and start asking concrete questions of how the war will start.

Right now there are four major conflicts involving the U.S. bearing the potential of leading into full-fledged military confrontation:

  1. the face-off between China and the U.S. over China’s expansion in the South China Sea and the Pacific
  2. the simmering conflict between Russia and Nato in Europe
  3. the danger of accidental armed conflict between Russia and the U.S. over Syria
  4. the face-off between North Korea and the U.S. over North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and ICBM launch capabilities

A full-fledged thermonuclear war is not likely (although errors and mistake may occur, and the Russia-Nato-conflict in Euope might turn into a full-fledged conventional confrontation). What is likely, though, is the preemptive nuclear attack to effect a large scale EMP («electro-magnetic pulse») in the upper atmosphere, to fry all electronics, grids, computer chips, software of an adversary.

As neither Russia, nor China, the U.S. or North Korea possess a defense shield against incoming ICBMs, it suffices to detonate one (!) nuclear warhead in 20 kilometres height to cover a circular area of about 5,200 kilometres in diameter. In Europe, this would roughly be the distance between the Ural-mountains in Russia in the east and Gibraltar (between Spain and Marocco) in the west, with an explosion in 20 kilometres height above Frankfurt (Germany) or Warsaw (Poland).

The North Korean Taepodong-2 ICBM can carry a payload of 700-1,000 kilogram. [2] Fully operational, it will be able to reach the east coast (!) of the U.S. [3]

(Image © The Korea Times)

Right now the U.S. does not have a reliable missile defense system against such ICBMs. Given North Korea’s economy, it makes no sense for her to develop a huge arsenal for a conventional thermonuclear war. But it suffices to place just one nuclear warhead in 20 km height above the U.S. (east or west) for a decisive EMP.

In fact, wageing an EMP-attack right now would be a reasonable endeavour for North Korea, as a reliable U.S. defense system will be in place only in a couple of years. The results of an EMP would be, on the one hand, the breakdown of infrastructure, the grid, the facilities, the banking system, the internet. You are free to imagine a two day, three day scenario of urban riots when water, banking, shopping, traffic, etc. are no longer available. But the more pressing problem is the consequence of an EMP on the nuclear power plants in the U.S. True, its approx. 100 nuclear power plants are mainly placed in the east of the U.S. , with only a few on the west coast. [4] But given an EMP, inspite of emergency power supply by diesel generators, cooling will be a huge problem (esp. when the outtake streches over a longer period of time). Core meltdown (like in Fukushima) is likely to occur. (Imagine just two, three or even more Fukushimas at the same time. How do you think will emergency response forces deal with such a multilayered crisis?) The meltdown of the cores of nuclear power plants poses the biggest threat to environment, people, infrastructure after and due to an EMP-attack.

Given the ease with which huge damage to the infrastructure can be achieved with pretty few means, a military EMP-attack seems the most likely course in a military confrontation — not just between North Korea and the U.S., but, by parity of reasoning, between other players in other theatres as well. As more small nations acquire the means for such attacks, the likelihood of such an attack will increase.

Assuming that there will be no major conventional armed struggles between Russia and Nato on the one hand and the U.S. and China on the other, the conflict between the U.S. and North Korea, with North Korea attempting to launch an ICBM for an EMP-attack on the U.S. or the U.S. preemptively attacking suspected North Korean launching sites, is the most likely scenario. How China then will respond remains difficult to assess.

 

[1] Harry Leslie Smith, «In 1939, I didn’t hear war coming. Now its thundering approach can’t be ignored», The Guardian, Monday 14, August 2017, 13.00 BST; and my «Weather Fronts», Dec 30, 2016.
[2] Michael Arthur, «Taepodong-2», Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, n.d.
[3]  Yi Whan-woo, «NK rocket test is to hit any city in US mainland», The Korea Times, February 3, 2016.
[4]  Map of US Nuclear Plants, Nuclear Energy Institute, 2017.

 

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The Surrender Machine

Since the web became ubiquitous in the early 2000s, the centre of our focus and attention shifted to the screen. Although, that is not entirely true. Television had been ubiquitous too, and the hours the average adult spends watching TV may have only slightly decreased over the years whilst the use of web-capable machines increased. People may have switched the underlying machine, but the habit of being glued to a screen has remained pretty much constant since, I guess, the early 1970s.[1]

People do different things at the screen. Formerly called programmers, software developers sit in front of them typing codeline after codeline. Authors and writers have long abandoned the typewriter and use the computer as text processing machine. People may watch less cable TV but instead simply switched the provider to watch the movies online. Streaming services became the norm while cinemas and movie theatres keep closing shop. Music, once purchased via vinyl, then CD, now stream as well; purchases became micro by the advent of online single song purchases.

For many years activism for social change, environmental preservation, working rights, political resistance used different venues. Now much of it occurs via the screen as well. Social media and formerly relevant publishing tools like blogs made audience-building and pressure coordination a more screen-oriented, detached activitiy. Protests still happen in the streets and the courts, communities still spring up at parks and in  neighbourhood quarters, but the coordination, the organization, the talk, the chatter now happen via the screen-machine.

With handhelds and web-capable telecommunication machines, the screen, not the specific underlying hardware, became the most important aspect of today’s instant access. Access and screen, be it touch, press, or click, merged into one, the underlying machine rather a question of convenience and consumer preference than of task- and end-oriented hardware choice. Today, the most important device that connects people with the web is the screen. It may, in some future, be replaced, e.g., by a brain-transplant, but right now the screen is what makes people act and react.

We don’t even need to point to the ubiquitous stare of people at their handheld devices, be it smartphones, tablets, or e-readers. What we do have is the omnipresent connection of the human eye, the human mind, and the screen a few centimetres away from it.

One change since the early 1970 is the replacement of the traditional cathode ray display by the liquid crystal display, which made the individuation of screen-machines possible. The devices became portable. But what did not change since the dawn (and spread) of televison is that when looking onto the screen, we look into a source that directly emits light. Before screens became ubiquitous, the way we looked at the world, at movie screens, at newspapers, magazines, books, was looking onto surfacees that reflected light stemming from another light source. That is, we used to look into the world by relying on indirect lighting. The (rather) rare exceptions when we would look into direct lighting were the lights of the streets, the cities, the work places and of nightlife. Apart from that, the sun would be the main direct source of light emission. Into which we would rarely stare.

I don’t know how things changed evolutionarily, or if they changed at all, when we began to substitute confronting ourselves with indirect lighting by confronting ourselves with direct lighting. Perhaps the stare into the direct light source does indeed put us more into a dream-like state, circumventing rational and verbal thinking, directly entering our subconsciousness. Or perhaps the stare into the direct light source fuses a dream state with verbal and rational elements. But being glued to the screen makes us look away from a world of indirect lighting. Instead we are locked to a source of direct lighting, in which things don’t stay fixed and calm, but rush to change and replace one another. So what might be said, on this broad, over-generalized level, is that for most people the web and the machines to access it are little more than interactive television. It’s television in which we participate on a myriad of levels and aspects. But it still is a shiny screen. And we keep being glued to it.

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Attention is linked to appreciation and that to commitment, even love. We not only care for what we love, we also love what we care of and care about, as Shery Turkle once wisely observed.[2] That is: Whatever we invest our attention and appreciation in, we sooner or later begin to love, that is, to be concerned about. That doesn’t mean that we learnt to love our gadgets and the screens that go with them – although that, in a sense, isn’t false either – but that we learnt to love what we interact with, or create, or belong to. People started using the computer as a «tool» to solve problems, getting tasks done, and ended up devising more and more tasks the solution of which then demanded even more time to spend with the computer – or more precisely: with the screen. This is not to say that we are facing a worldwide pandemic of addiction to screen-mediated flicker – although one could argue for that as well – but that we came to convince ourselves that the amount of attention we can spend a day is somehow best spent with a screen. But if you look into one direction, you look away from another. Watching the screen means looking away from what happens aside of or outside the screen. Which we then try to accomodate by looking at those things via the medium of the screen.

But when things become relevant insofar as we can watch (or rather: catch) them on a screen, by looking into a lightsource directly emitting light, they no longer stay relevant in the world of indirect lighting, of bodies and concrete. That is: The screen turns the things of the world into information and images. They thus become checkers or tokens – which can be a good thing – in danger of their own meaning getting lost – which mostly is a bad thing: when we stop listening to what the things want to tell us, we begin substituting their voices with ours.

A few years back the term «Anthropocene» made its entry in the boundless talks and thoughts attached to screens. And recently, people started to say that we now indeed have entered the geo-historical era of the «Anthropocene», in the sense that there are no further corners of the world untouched and unchanged by human intervention, meaning that everything we now can discover and experience already has a man-made touch or is of man-made nature. Wilderness, not in the Romanticists’ sense but in the sense of «untouched by man» has become a lost «category». All we can encounter in this world, on this planet, is already a mirror of who is encountering it.

There is a sadness, even desperation, that comes with the loss of wilderness and the ubiquity of human intervention, the loss of something that is part of the world but still not made by humans. The staleness of a world in which everything we find is from man-made industriousness discourages us from caring for exactly this world. A purely man-made world, it seems, is ex hypothesi a world not worth saving. When everything is just what a ridiculous plan has devised and incompetently brought about, then all we find out there is a shadow image of ourselves, and even a lesser one. Then why keep looking into that mirror, when all it shows is the Gollum, not the Elf?

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What I’m trying to make plausible is that the talk of the «Anthropocene» has a very important inherent flaw. It sees the world as remaining solely of man-made and man-influenced items. That, what is not man, the wilderness, is no longer part of what once has been called a world (in a slightly different sense). A world that encompasses man-made and man-independent things (or «aspects») is different from a world that solely encompasses or consists of things made or touched or influenced by man.[3] The former leaves the hope that things may still change unexpectedly, into a direction we couldn’t have fathomed or dreamt about in advance. It makes the world a place to discover, to play with, to marvel about but also to fear. The other world, the one containing solely the things (purportedly) being made, touched or influenced by man, is the stale world of multi-storey car parks, skyscrapers, and theme parks. The world of everlasting amusement, challenges, research, work, sustainable design options, self-realization, etc.[4] It is also, like in Antiquity, an encapsulated world, beyond which nothing exists but chaos.[5]

The need to live in a world not made by ourselves seems deeply ingrained in our psychê. The wilderness «out there» seems to be needed as a handrail for walking through the wilderness «here inside». Lose the former and what happens to the latter? It seems, just seems, to vanish as well, leaving stale rational constraints and obligations as the parameters of reality. But that might not be the case. Perhaps the «wilderness inside» just re-appears outside, inside, throughout, as disfunctionality of societies, of economic systems of quantitative exchanges, of paranoia, despair. The wild, that is, will not disappear, it will just return in a different guise, as «problems» that entice us to «solve» them by rational means and technical expertise. And thus make them worse. So what the talk of the «Anthropocene» gets right is that there is the conceptual option of a world containing solely man-inspired items, with all the staleness that goes with it. But it goes wrong in two other ways. The one is to think that wilderness simply disappears. It in fact re-appears as disfunctionality. But to think disfunctionality is tantamount to practical design problems asking for a solution will not only not solve or enhance anything, it will reinforce the urge to further purge the world from wilderness all together.

But even more important is the second way this talk goes wrong. It forgets that the «Anthropocene» is not something we discovered «out there», in some world of mud and stone, but in the intermediate realm of the screen, of us glued to the screen. In which things already appear not as themselves but as hearsays, as information, as checkers and tokens, which we inflate and shrink at whim, according to and depending on the attention we pay them. And which haunt us inasmuch as we care for them.

*

In order to keep the right balance in a world made of screen, we try to resort to the science that already proved so successful in establishing the laws of a world that wasn’t us: mathematics. And so we keep using statistics, polls, measurements, extrapolations, bell-cuves, algorithms, data structures, topologies, in order to re-visualize the world we once knew to be not of our making. And we keep pushing the Myth of «algorithm neutrality»,[6] thereby falling below even the crudest form of 19th century Empiricism that, in itself, had always been a strangely concocted theory about the world and our making sense of it.[7] In doing so, mathematics and its related structural sciences merely enhance the fanciful character of what we take to be items outside the screen. In a sense, this can be seen as a variant of Donald Davidsons «Third Dogma of Empiricism»,[8] this time the Myth of a distinction between a pure topic «out there», and a medium of «access» (i.e., representation) – screen, pure eyes, experiment – somehow «right here». In this Myth, the means of our visualization are independent and don’t constitute or impact the nature of the things we’re talking, marvel or worry about.

But mathematics and her related structural sciences will not tell us what formulas to apply and what theorems to prove. That is, following the argument (or rather: following the deduction) is only as good as the premisses and axioms we still are required to choose. In particular in the sphere of the screen, where things reappear as data, topologies, structures, or images and films and movies and texts, what comes about is almost entiriely determinded by the choices we have made in the beginning. What to put onto the screen, in which way, in which mode of representation. Mathematics and her siblings thus become subsequent justifications of choices already made without them. We may still «follow the argument» in the hope of a reductio ad absurdum to occur, but that by no means is guaranteed to be an endeavour to be reached effectively and in finite steps. Not really a way to ascertain the «reality» of the things we began with.

*

Of course, the talk of the «Anthropocene» was only meant to serve as an example. This is not about the «Anthropocene» but about the impact of being in a world that more or less happens via the perception through screens. It makes things appear of being of our own making. In thus appearing as of our own making, the things, the world, tend to become stale, hopeless, as all we find is the stuff we have already put inside them, not what they might tell us of their own. In that, we give up hope of a world not, or not entirely, of our own making but still relevant to us and to our fellow beings. When things become all equal, what matters is not what they tell us but what we find important. That is not dangerous or limiting in itself, rather a call to our conscience and awareness. But right now, via the screens and the modes of our perceiving them, things turn out to tell us what we already know. They cannot tell us of their own. In that, the world becomes a boring place, a desperate place, a place without a livable and worthy future. We give up. Even, or perhaps: especially, as the problems magnify and the dangers grow. The screen becomes the machine of our surrender, surrender not to something higher than ourselves but to the fatigue that permeates all that we know.

For more than 50 years now we have lived with the screen. It became ubiquitous in the way we understand what world is. That all the liberating fantasies of this technology (be it, first with television, then the computer, then the web) turned out false is one aspect; that it enforced our hopelessness and despair quite another. That we still turn to the screen for solace and encouragement, is the third and perhaps most vicious aspect of it. As we love what we care for, we keep being glued to the screen, even and specifically because of our best intentions. And this is the most terrifying feature of the screen: Not only does it need our attention and care, not only does it induces in us love and admiration, in keeping us hooked to something with which we cannot act nor understand nor go away, it became the most intrusive surrender machine of the last 550 years.

The screen will not go away. We will not switch it off. We will never know how the world is outside the screen – to the detriment of us and the fellow beings that experience our screen-mediated activities. Wilderness has been reduced to malfunction, and in this lies the most terrifying aspect of our surrender. It’ll make us unable to face the wilderness that is about to come.

 

[1] Cf. Jacqueline Howard, «Americans devote more than 10 hours a day to screen time, and growing», CNN Health, July 29,2016, 20:22 GMT.
[2] Akiko Busch, «Q+A: Sherry Turkle (February 2008)», I.D. The International Design Magazine, Vol. 55, No. 2, March / April 2008.
[3] Cf. my «Weather Fronts» (2016) on its inherent violent character.
[4] … and the predominance of «practical constraints» and «matters of facts», which pose their own problems, cf. my «The Fetishization of Practical Constraints» (2016).
[5] To be more precise:  The ancient Greek word «oikos» that was tanatamount to «world» is usually translated as household. It is the proximity that is familiar. Accordingly, what lies beyond it is the un-familiar, which in ancient Greece took the form of the chaos, the disorder, the void. This distinction changed in the Roman-Christian-West in which the world (lat. «mundus») is what is part of the divine salvation whereas that outside it, the «un-familiar», is the sphere of what is not part of the divine salvation, thus is the «sphere» of the un-redeemed. It’s worth highlighting that these old conceptions are still (or again) underlying the current usage of terms like «Anthropocene». It thus shows a relapse into terminologies and practices that are quite inconsistent with a purported modern, secular use.
[6] I first became acquainted with the term «algorithm neutrality» and its associated problems through Evgeny Morozov’s article «Don’t Be Evil» (The New Republic, July 13, 2011, 9:30 PM). Another link to it is here.
[7] Cf. the discussion of the Three Dogmas of Empiricism by Willard Van Orman Quine and Donald Davidson.
[8] See note 7 above and his seminal article: Donald Davidson, «On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme», Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, Vol. 47, (1973 – 1974), pp. 5-20.

 

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How to resist Trump

To resist, you need to be aware of a few things:

1.   Trumpism is a rare blend of fascism and incompetence.

2.   The «alternative facts» of Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer, the executive orders of Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller? They are not so much malice but the embarrassing display of brazenness and incompetence.

3.   The Trump team yearns for nothing more than respect and deference. They want to be taken seriously. Problem is: they are amateurs.

4.   They confound the public with one idiocy after another. But that is just the amateur’s way of trying to stay atop.

5.   If you panic, they feel like being in charge, ahead of you. Don’t allow them this advantage.

(6.  The dark version of # 1 – 5 : People can only bear a certain amount of distress and panic. Then they capitulate. Not because the external forces are so strong, but because they cannot stand their own emotional turmoil any longer. That’s why the Trump team tries to keep people scared.)

Trumpism is a dangerous ideology and a dangerous program. It will undoubtedly harm a lot of people. But resistance can only become successful if and when we break the spell of their brazenness, that is, if and when we stop respecting them by offering them our fear.  Look through it. They are amateurs, they are insecure and yearn for our respect while at the same time they try to push through a major program. Break the spell. Laugh about it. Laugh about them. Then fight them in the courts.

 

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Weather Fronts

Somehow all the books came too late. The ability to read that I had lost for I don’t know how long finally returned and I started to read books again. Not many, often interrupted by days, sometimes weeks, but steadily, and I could turn the pages, soak in stories that told the stories of old weather fronts in the skies of men. Weather fronts in the skies. Which I had followed, at least the more recent ones, reading news articles on the web. So I was acquainted with the winds, or rather, the heavenly currents that underlie this meandering that clouds are often only the visible foam of. The currents were visible, if only by watching the weather fronts, those dark greyish blue heavy agglomerations that filled the skies beyond the eyes’ capacities to grasp. It was all there. We all could see. Still, most drew the wrong conclusions.

When times come to an end, when epochs close, turmoil and conflicts arise. That’s how most people see it. But it is different. When things tend to become clear-cut, conclusive, one-dimensional, that’s when conflicts, turmoil, even violence arise. Conflicts, turmoil, violence don’t bring about the end of a time but are the result of a time that is becoming a certain way. And it is this way, not the time that births them. In that sense, most dystopian science fiction gets things wrong. They not so much exhibit some form of end times, although they may convey the character and the flair of a dystopian a-temporality. They rather describe processes of dwindling options, receding alternatives, vanishing perspectives, and with that: the loss of hope that things could be different. Only after things seem settled, realities fixed, the shape of the long everlasting Now decided, is it that the cataclysms occur. As long as there are still factions or factors competing, the catastrophes are still in the offing.

So when I finally recovered and became able to read again, the books already came too late. The loss of alternatives and political options had already hardened into a brutish insistence on practical constraints. Things needed to be thus-and-so, and it was pretty irrelevant if that meant the political, the economic, or the personal sphere. It was the time when it became clear that the war was only months away. Things had dwindled in their manifoldness, facts had become single-minded ways that shunned rivals. The lust and the need for power recommended itself not as politicians’ whim, but as a practical constraint for survival in times that appeared to have miraculously turned harder and harder. The war that was about to come was not to begin because other means of engagement had been exhausted; it was to come because those means of engagement had been so efficient and successful, had been applied by everybody, had first created the same flair, then contributed to the same reality of uniformity. The end of history, like some had called a somewhat related phenomenon of years earlier, had been declared short-sightedly and wrongly, not because it took the a-temporal long Now of missing options and alternatives at face value, as a sign for an everlasting epoch of political and economic «being thusly». What the talk of the end of history had missed was that by becoming uniform, «thusly», things themselves turned into the source of violent upheaval. The end was not a «thus» but a beginning, the beginning of a new war that was meant to tear apart the one-sidedness of the long Now, to return the world to a state of renewed options, perspectives, even paths. The weather fronts that could be seen in the skies were the signs not of a history past but of things to change. As simple foam they were the faces of people; as the current’s foam they were the tide just before breaking to the trough.

When I sat there at the close of the year 2016, I was awaiting the war to start some time in the year 2017. And at some point it didn’t even seem to matter whether I could detect the signs via the books I was again able to read, or whether I could corroborate my feelings with words of those telling from other weather fronts of former times. It made no real difference anymore, now, at last, in the short moment of a deep sad breath, as the first drops began dripping from the skies, then turned into the heavy rain that was meant to last for a long time. Like most, I had missed the opportunity to build an ark for the things to survive into the new times.

 

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Why the Republicans Won Big in November 2016, Part 4

Perhaps I should delete the word «big». But still, Donald Trump and the GOP are poised not only to win the presidency but to keep the majorities in both House and Senate.

This sounds ridiculous, esp. with only 11 days left until November 8th. But it is not that improbable that this will happen. After the third presidential debate and at the high time of the Access Hollywood video scandal in which Donald Trump pretty much confirmed all the misogynistic qualities he had been suspected of, the polls started swinging pretty much in favour of Hillary Clinton. In early voting, women in particular cast their ballot; at times, Donald Trump even began losing support of working class white males who are said to constitute his main base.

And the polls narrowed again. In battle states, Hillary Clinton’s lead of at times 50% to 37% shrank back to a near toss, and nationally her lead of 10% and more after Donald Trump’s video scandal is now back again at 5%, even less. Not much a change, compared to prior the third debate.

The publication of the video came at a bad time. It came too late to replace Donald Trump with Mike Pence on the Republican ticket, and it came too early to convince enough young and female voters to rally around Hillary Clinton. As I wrote earlier, the younger voters are eager to vote in favour of something, not against something. Even as the Clinton campaign and both Obamas tried to urge young voters to rally against something all agree needs to be rallied against – misogynist and objectifying treatment of women – it is not an issue people like to be concerned with for a prolonged period of time. Had the tape come out on November 1st, things might have turned out pretty different, but now it is just fading. Heck, didn’t we know all along that Trump is a fuck?

So the Access Hollywood tape may have pushed some fence sitting women, otherwise not too enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton, to vote for her in the early elections that have already started. But that is already receding. So what is next?

It depends on whether Democrats can find another scandal to drown Donald Trump in. After his debacle with the Khan family (which he could not have won), I thought there would be no more similar traps for him to fall into. I was wrong inasmuch as I underestimated how a scandal of sexual assault could come up and hurt him. As with the Khan family dispute, Donald Trump found himself in a confrontation he could not possibly win. Not just because of the undeniability of his attitudes and the claims of the witnesses who came forward, but because fighting back against the witnesses, i.e., fighting against women’s allegations of sexual harassment and assault, is a position Donald Trump cannot win. Because either he is guilty of the allegations, then he appears morally disgraced; or his harsh fight against women makes him look mean and unchivalrous, and he looks morally disgraced again.

So he could not win this either. And he lost terribly, in the polls, in public opinion, in support, presumably even in the ballots already cast. But he is still polling nearly as high as Hillary Clinton. Again. What is this?

If you watch the rallies of both, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, what is conspicuous is the differences of the audiences. At Clinton’s rallies you see a lot of younger, well-dressed middle class people, waving their smartphones. At Trump’s rallies you see a lot of older, shabbier dressed people. Worn sweaters and baseball caps against neckties, waistcoats and costumes. This is middle class against working class, and the different realities both candidates’ constituents live in.

In several speeches First Lady Michelle Obama took to the different «visions» both candidates seemingly stand for. Donald Trump’s «vision» is said to be a dystopian reality of crime, inner city warfare, racial antagonism, «us against them», job loss, rising costs, the influx of all bad and evil, and the necessity to rage against living amidst the downfall of a world already having ended decades ago. Clinton’s «vision», on the other hand, is said to be about the «we are stronger together», of opportunities, jobs, education, better health care, fight against climate change, women’s rights etc. Hers is about the prospects, the things to be if people work hard and do not expect too much.

Only that these are not «visions» at all. These are perceptions of different populations, and different realities clashing.

Of course, many surrogates of Hillary Clinton keep reminding the audiences that she is the daughter of a working class mother who herself had been an orphan. Many suggest that, pointing to the Obamas as examples, origin and economic hardship do not mean to prevent anybody from «fulfilling his or her dream», his or her «God given potential». Anybody can become president of the United States, right? Well, no. In Logic this is called the fallacy of generalization. That is, although some people, perhaps even through hard work, may indeed rise from poverty to the highest office, it does not mean everybody can do so. Regardless how much they try. One cannot compete to become the president of the United States when one cannot even compete to land a job at Walmart when the latter has shut down the last outlet in the vicinity of 200 miles.

And it does not help either to identify the candidates’ respective constituents by identifying those who have and those who have no college degrees. Not with a given age discrimination of 40 years in the IT sector in Silicon Valley; not with unpaid internships; not with high volatility in social strata due to economic hardships and delayed recovery. This just is not about education. As the unemployment in certain rural areas is not about education. It is about poverty and what poverty does to people. So although there are a few exceptions to the rule that who is poor stays poor; these are exceptions, not the rule. The Obamas, the Clintons, they are exceptions, not the rule. And regardless how much they insist on being a living proof that the «American Dream» is alive and kicking, this is not true for the majority of people. Most poor people stay poor, no matter what. Hope is for the rich, not the poor; change is for the affluent, not the destitute.

So the poor do not have a chance. And they will not get another. The jobs they had was the best that has happened to them; and when these jobs leave, nothing follows, except despair and destitution. You cannot raise kids on despair; you cannot tell them life is worth living when your own life shows to everybody that there is nothing you may hope for. So the cycle continues.

Most evil does not happen because of bad intent or malice but because of exhaustion, hopelessness, despair, even bad luck. And when the affluent tell the poor that it is their own fault because if they just got their act together, they too could become president of the United States, then bitterness leads to «anger». So, in a sense, it is not talk radio or Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity who fan the anger and muddy the brokens’ mind; it is the ubiquitous propaganda of «due effort due success» that installs the sense of eternal failure, adding insult to injury, disparagement to job loss. And this Calvinist propaganda is shared not just by rude conservatives but by arrogant liberals alike. And so even First Lady Michelle Obama is unable to see how insulting her reminiscing about her own upbringing is to all those who did not succeed, regardless whether they tried or not.

The propaganda of «due effort due success» has maddening consequences. It justifies the actions of so-called Washington elites as well as Wall Street crooks. It can even be used to justify Mafia operations. And that is what makes the hurt and broken going mad: Not just that one cannot succeed when one «plays by the rules»; but that one cannot have it both ways, stay true to oneself, to one’s values and conscience, and still make it out there, somehow. Add the lecturing of those who managed to succeed (and became slick in the process), and exhaustion, hopelessness, and bitterness turn to what these successful call «anger». This sense of unfairness. That the rules are broken. That the system is rigged.

That is what a fascist bully like Donald Trump reacts to but not creates. And that is what many of his supporters are no longer willing to bear. If one cannot live in decency and dignity, then what is it all worth anyway? Then we may equally shut it all down. That is why his supporters rally behind Donald Trump. And that is why all scandals will not hurt his standing. Because this is not about Donald Trump nor policies and arguments from which a «sovereign» might choose – as there are no choices left. Not only do Democrats not understand this; their posing just confirms what the broken already know: that with injury comes insult, that those who have will be given, that unfairness is the way life is. Rather die then live in that hell.

We do not know if Donald Trump supporters are numerous enough to decide the election on their own. Perhaps he is rightly trying to discourage some voting blocks of the Democrats from showing up on election day by keeping the race nasty. But as this nastiness is not due to Donald Trump’s character, but due to the Calvinist propaganda of «due effort due success», it resonates with his voters regardless how much Democrats attack his character or talk about progress being made and futures being bright. This howling people react to in this campaign is the howling of the wind that rattles at empty store windows and empty promises. In a sense, Donald Trump’s campaign is far more realistic than that of Hillary Clinton, even if it bears less future. But listening to, even venting, the howl is what drives this election. And so Donald Trump and the GOP will prevail. And then turn on their voters whom they so utterly despise.

 

More?   Part 1   Part 2   Part 3

 

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