Perspectives on the Trump phenomenon
I posted this essay on my Facebook timeline today, where I’ve been writing lately. Very frustrating writing environment. This essay, however, may be worth saving here. In Facebook, I know this will just drift off into oblivion. It sort of offers my very own version of what I see as the big picture explanation for this latest entry into the decline of the American Empire: The Trump Presidency. But even more, it’s about the decline of the global complex system, a system that goes by many names. A more commonly popular name lately has been the neoliberal global system.
I begin by offering two fresh versions attempting to explain the Trump phenomenon:
One from Chris Hedges: After Trump and Pussy Hats. In this Chris argues that kleptocracy (corporate power) made the Trump Presidency possible.
Tom Engelhardt, whose Empire Project I’ve been following since it emerged on-line after the start of the illegal Iraq Invasion, argues that the Iraq War, and the emergent war culture that followed, brought Trump to the White House: President Blowback: How the Invasion of Iraq Came Home
I think the answer’s not either or, it’s both. The two go together, war and corporations. I don’t really know how, but somehow I saw that when I got off that bus in boot camp back in 1966, ignorant though I was, deprived though I’d been of the accurate historical perspective that would have told me the true story during my so-called institutionalized, state-approved public education up to my eighteenth year, I somehow saw that I was a prisoner in a massive system I at that point did not understand. So I know from experience it’s possible to see what’s taking place, even without thoroughly understanding it. Whether change can occur without a thorough understanding is an entirely different question. Without actually having a solid answer, I’ve been a part of an active anti-war resistance movement since I got back from Vietnam.
Then, after I studied anthropology and ecology, I began to see how a global economic system engineered by transnational corporations, threatened indigenous cultures, stomping them out as it took over their habitats, and turned many of them into industrial monocultures feeding the industrial matrix that includes Europe, the United States, and now China-rising. Of course the displaced indigenous culture individuals had no choice but to migrate once their habitat disappeared, so now “civilized” humans are experiencing an “immigration problem” with the Trump Presidency as its latest emblem of that 10,000 year, civilization-activated dynamic.
In the process civilized human beings have grown to massive proportions, ecologically speaking. They walk around looking like normal human sapiens, but their actual size is quite deceptively huge in terms of habitat encroachment and species displacement, with our precious planet now entering a Holocene Sixth Mass Extinction event. The cause is not hard to determine with a little scientific inquiry. Yes, science, the same tool that helped cause the problem also explains what the problem is. In 1980, William Catton tagged this emerging technologically civilized species: homo colossus. I’ve never forgotten that image.Homo Colossus stomping through eco systems on the planet. Civilized humans, can be measured by the size of their ecological footprint, and the evolved biology of the planet it crushes as it goes.
So I’ve been an active part of an anti corporate movement as well. That endeavor has taken a lot more effort to undertake. The effect of a complex global corporatocracy on our lives is much more deeply embedded in our consciousness than most of us consciously recognize. It takes some serious work to reveal what’s really going on. Conspiracy theories are the usual shortcut that many take when the size of the task begins to emerge from the depths of our collective subconscious. For most of us in these industrially civilized nations, it’s our very culture that we live and breathe, even if the majority of us are innocently following along, living our lives, doing the jobs that we are offered in these complex systems those distant authoritarian managers manage.
Everything Trump is doing now after getting into the White House is an act of upper management. Perhaps with little appearance of enlightenment of past managers like FDR, but he’s busy trying to save the kleptocratic system — of which he is one of the reigning members. That’s what’s happening: kleptocrats are saving their system. Doesn’t matter what name you give it, and them; some like capitalistic system and oligarchs, but names don’t really tell us much about it. The problem is abstract, structural, systemic and complex.
Our systemic protections, code-named regulations and entitlements, were never really ours. They were “allowed” by the kleptocrats as long as they didn’t interfere with the system itself. It’s clear because they can so easily take them away with the sweeping brush of an executive order. Almost nothing in this system is capable of preventing the kleptocrats from exercising their will by the will of the people. All we really do is legitimize their authority to manage the system by voting. Their concern when we protest is of minor importance to the complex systems they manage. They have the ethics and morality of machines, and what they do is entirely based in the logic of making the systems work. Management is one of the most sociopathic, institutionalized processes that human beings have ever invented as a form of survival strategy.
All our inherent humanity is nothing in the face of that pathology. And perhaps that very absence of our full human capacities, our deeply suppressed emotional intelligence, our empathy, our many other existential capacities that kept humans going for a couple hundred thousand years before the invention of complex social systems that became civilizations, are the secret to our own inevitable demise — inevitable as long as we keep these complex systems going..
Most civilized members of this homo colossus sub species are uneducated in the indigenous skills of survival that have been vastly decimated over the past two hundred years. Apart from what’s provided them by the system, the sub species homo colossus has few survival choices. It’s become a very vulnerable version of homo sapiens, one that’s dependent on a vast complex system now on the verge of global collapse. Protest as they might about the actions of upper management, most of this sub species’ efforts to rebel are going to run into the blackmail of corporate-controlled resources, like the ones people find on their grocery store shelves that will be there for only a few days after the trucks stop traveling the highways. Imagine that.
The question emerges, how are we enabling this process, and will we even do anything about it once the necessity to change is fully and articulately faced? I believe there are things we can do. But it will take some vision and planning. It’s extremely difficult to reverse decades of social complexity succession. I’ve been working on it for years; I’ve made a few suggestions on my web site: Watching Apocalypse. I plan to make a few more. But I’m not hopeful these days.