When I left central Pennsylvania, its single most defining characteristic for me was its blatant racism. Second was how profoundly unhappy and uninformed the people were. Not coincidentally, this area was most responsible for Trump winning that state. I always thought Harrisburg was an exceptionally rotten place, but now I realize places like this make up maybe 70 percent of the country. As a white man in New York, I have been totally insulated from the fact that the country has been absolutely reconfigured to make something like this event almost inevitable. The sad hopelessness that pervades this land is the fuel for this hatred, and it’s the result of both people being duped by the right wing and the transparent lies of so-called progressives.
Here’s where we stand as a country in 2016:
Half of the adults in this country do not have access to $400 should they have an emergency.
The average retirement savings for people 55-64, outside of their home equity, is $45,447 (source: Americans’ Average Net Worth by Age — How Do You Compare? — The Motley Fool)
Ninety-five percent of all capital gains since 2009 have gone to the top One Percent (source: Joe Scarborough: Top 1% took 95% of gains since 2009).
Fifty-one percent of all workers in the United States make $30,000 or less. Goodbye Middle Class: 51 Percent Of All American Workers Make Less Than 30,000 Dollars A Year
Jobs being created are low-wage and insufficient for any type of social mobility. In other words, slave labor. Over 80% Of Jobs Added In January Were Minimum Wage Earners
In other words, this is a country in complete crisis. Hillary Clinton’s inability to acknowledge that led to her defeat. That, and her disingenuous, shop-worn platitudes espousing the same old Democratic shibboleths, which may have worked a decade ago but certainly not today.
It is significant this slow-moving catastrophe largely happened on the watch of a so-called liberal president, which, of course, is total fiction. Obama’s policies were corporate-friendly across the board, and his advocacy of the Trans Pacific Partnership, an even more unforgiving and destructive version of NAFTA, was hypocrisy beyond words. Heir-apparent Hillary tried the same story lines as Obama did, and got punished for it. People smell lies sooner or later. The chickens came home to roost, as Malcolm X said following Kennedy’s assassination.
We live in a violent, unequal, largely impoverished country right now. In that it totally resembles Wiemar Germany in 1932. The worst elements of society, or the least represented, now feel empowered and justified for acting out all of the toxins percolating in their veins since they lost their factory job or recognized that they will NEVER retire, or recognizing their lives are never, ever going to improve with the current mechanisms in place. Hitler played the same cards Trump did. This is no exaggeration.
Here are the 14 Points of Fascism, as defined by Umberto Eco in 1995:
- “The Cult of Tradition”, characterized by cultural syncretism, even at the risk of internal contradiction. When all truth has already been revealed by Tradition, no new learning can occur, only further interpretation and refinement.
- “The Rejection of modernism”, which views the rationalistic development of Western culture since the Enlightenment as a descent into depravity. Eco distinguishes this from a rejection of superficial technological advancement, as many fascist regimes cite their industrial potency as proof of the vitality of their system.
- “The Cult of Action for Action’s Sake”, which dictates that action is of value in itself, and should be taken without intellectual reflection. This, says Eco, is connected with anti-intellectualism and irrationalism, and often manifests in attacks on modern culture and science.
- “Disagreement Is Treason” – Fascism devalues intellectual discourse and critical reasoning as barriers to action, as well as out of fear that such analysis will expose the contradictions embodied in a syncretistic faith.
- “Fear of Difference”, which fascism seeks to exploit and exacerbate, often in the form of racism or an appeal against foreigners and immigrants.
- “Appeal to a Frustrated Middle Class”, fearing economic pressure from the demands and aspirations of lower social groups.
- “Obsession with a Plot” and the hyping-up of an enemy threat. This often combines an appeal to xenophobia with a fear of disloyalty and sabotage from marginalized groups living within the society (such as the German elite’s ‘fear’ of the 1930s Jewish populace’s businesses and well-doings; see also anti-Semitism). Eco also cites Pat Robertson’s book The New World Order as a prominent example of a plot obsession.
- Fascist societies rhetorically cast their enemies as “at the same time too strong and too weak.” On the one hand, fascists play up the power of certain disfavored elites to encourage in their followers a sense of grievance and humiliation. On the other hand, fascist leaders point to the decadence of those elites as proof of their ultimate feebleness in the face of an overwhelming popular will.
- “Pacifism is Trafficking with the Enemy” because “Life is Permanent Warfare” – there must always be an enemy to fight. Both fascist Germany under Hitler and Italy under Mussolini worked first to organize and clean up their respective countries and then build the war machines that they later intended to and did use, despite Germany being under restrictions of the Versailles treaty to NOT build a military force. This principle leads to a fundamental contradiction within fascism: the incompatibility of ultimate triumph with perpetual war.
- “Contempt for the Weak”, which is uncomfortably married to a chauvinistic popular elitism, in which every member of society is superior to outsiders by virtue of belonging to the in-group. Eco sees in these attitudes the root of a deep tension in the fundamentally hierarchical structure of fascist polities, as they encourage leaders to despise their underlings, up to the ultimate Leader who holds the whole country in contempt for having allowed him to overtake it by force.
- “Everybody is Educated to Become a Hero”, which leads to the embrace of a cult of death. As Eco observes, “[t]he Ur-Fascist hero is impatient to die. In his impatience, he more frequently sends other people to death.”
- “Machismo”, which sublimates the difficult work of permanent war and heroism into the sexual sphere. Fascists thus hold “both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality.”
- “Selective Populism” – The People, conceived monolithically, have a Common Will, distinct from and superior to the viewpoint of any individual. As no mass of people can ever be truly unanimous, the Leader holds himself out as the interpreter of the popular will (though truly he dictates it). Fascists use this concept to delegitimize democratic institutions they accuse of “no longer represent[ing] the Voice of the People.”
- “Newspeak” – Fascism employs and promotes an impoverished vocabulary in order to limit critical reasoning.
I see our country adopting at least nine or ten of these right now.
What I don’t see is an acknowledgement by the mainstream left that the only way to return to a valid democracy, if it’s not too late already and it very well might be, is to divest entirely in the corporate agenda and to reinvent itself along the lines of the populist and socialist movements of the early 20th century. But I’m not optimistic at all. The driving force historically for capitalist reform were unions, and less than nine percent of all workers in this country are currently unionized, the vast majority of those in public sector unions. Which means that there is no safety net in place whatsoever for American workers against a company transitioning all of its operations to another country, and cutting their wages in half, or firing them with no warning.
Another issue facing the American workforce, outside of this immediate and obvious threat, is the rise of artificial intelligence and robotics. Fifty percent of all jobs are at risk in this country in the next ten years, according to this source: Smarter robots put 50% of jobs at risk
I’ve read much higher estimates than that elsewhere. The consequences of this will be world-historical in themselves, and a positive wet dream for corporate America.
Finally, a topic that was mentioned exactly once in the so-called debates, and only in passing by Hillary: climate change. Last month, carbon dioxide levels stabilized above 400 ppm in the arctic for the first time ever. A 2 degree C increase over baseline temperatures has been triggered. This sounds incidental, but global warming also lets out of the box a series of ancillary positive feedbacks that are essentially irreversible and ultimately fatal to life on this planet. Please read this essay by Guy McPherson for more detailed information:
It’s interesting that Noam Chomsky now cites Trump’s climate change-denial as his most dangerous attribute. And of course he has his pick of dozens of potential disasters that may be wrought from the Trump ascension:
I’ve lived long enough to witness the decline of my country, which at once greatly saddens me and enrages me. I’m sad because I probably can’t even have a conversation about these issues with a near majority of people in the United States. I’m enraged because, in my view, this country has been transformed into an ugly ignorant beast that needs new victims to feed its vindictive anger. And I’m angry twice-over at the ignorance and stupidity of those in our electorate who have no concept of what they’ve unleashed.