Many poor voters claim Trump speaks for them. How can they recognize themselves in the voice of a billionaire whose speculations and failures are one of the causes of their misery? Like the paths of god, the paths of ideology are mysterious. When Trump supporters are denounced as “white trash,” it is easy to discern in this designation the fear of the lower classes so characteristic of the liberal elite.
—Slavoj Zizek on Clinton, Trump and the Left’s Dilemma
For those who tried to remove themselves from the self-affirming, vehemently pro-Clinton elite echo chamber of 2016, the warning signs that Brexit screechingly announced were not hard to see. Two short passages from a Slate interview I gave in July summarized those grave dangers: that opinion-making elites were so clustered, so incestuous, so far removed from the people who would decide this election — so contemptuous of them — that they were not only incapable of seeing the trends toward Trump but were unwittingly accelerating those trends with their own condescending, self-glorifying behavior.
One reason I’ve studied the history of dualisms in the major religions, philosophies, and politics over the years from Zoroastrian, Gnostic, Renaissance, to modern political philosophy, etc., is that it is as Derrida would have it (but in the wrong way) binary, and leads to superficial patterns of thought and behavior that can be controlled and manipulated by external forces and internal norms to produce continued antagonisms and wars. We’ve got to get off the dualist train and create a new form of conflict society that is no longer based on opposing forces and structures. For thousands of years we’ve had the two-party, or two-societies at war pattern that has produced massacres, genocide, annihilation, and strife eternal for all involved. When will we discover a new path forward that includes antagonism as central in the world? When will we produce a socio-cultural system that seeks true Peace, not War; but a Peace that accepts the central antagonisms in reality rather than in each other?
This election cycle has brought to the fore the ideological underpinnings of the Right and Left in a stark way that presents us with the dark cages in which both parties and their constituents have been willingly the prisoners and innkeepers. People are so blinded by the mediatainment and academic and political hawkers of wares of thought that they’ve been thrown back onto their own fallible and incongruous thought-forms. As the dualistic world-views of both parties have demonized each other, the common element of those asleep within the cage of ideology have allowed such stories to guide them against their own best interests. What we’ve seen as Zizek and Greenwald spell out is how the Establishment view of politics and reality have suddenly gone bankrupt, depleted, and fallen into a vacuum allowing the elements outside their enclaves to swoop in and steamroll the mainstream propaganda system out of its lair. Things will change, but probably not for the better. The Left will either pick up its humpty-dumpty broken vision and reforge itself into something with an actual alternative or it will fall away into oblivion.
What we’re speaking of is Authority and Power? Where does it reside? How shall we build a civilization in which Authority and Power are no longer hierarchical, but rather shared among the collective powers of human and non-human Others? Is it even possible? Ancient societies studied the animals and plants for guidance, mimicking the patterns of the natural order in seeking knowledge of the ways of the Hunt and Gathering. Then came the hording and planting of crops, the great Agricultural Civilizations that are in our time coming to and end as a new type of Industrial Civilization replaces the systems of the Other ancient kinds. We’ve been going through this process for two-hundred years now: we term it the Enlightenment Project. The struggle out of the Old into the New is not an easy one, yet it remains to be done. It is the first model based on Democracy against all forms of top-down hierarchical thinking that was central to Agricultural Civilizations with the King as Center and Circumference with God(s) as the signifying invisible Master Signifier beyond holding the Authority and Power over the King.
We’ve struggled to create viable democracies for two-hundred years, but these are now coming under attack by the older forms of Agricultural and Religious, even Political Ideologies of the Past. We’ll democracy fall? Is this the Age of its demise, or transformation? It remains to be seen… but we must at least recognize it for what it is, not blind ourselves to the powers and technics and technologies driving us apart in this age of transition. For the first time on the planet a Global Society is seeking to manifest itself in a birth struggle of warring elements, with tendencies to ancient and modern patterns and stories, myths, and sciences.
We need a new path forward, the old repetitions of the Same will end us in ruin and obliteration. We face so many obstacles in the natural order with Climate Change, Disease, Famine, etc., and in the socio-cultural sphere of continued unrest among Nation States with Tyranny, Slavery, Gender and Social bigotry, racism, and religious intolerance among the many Monotheisms. Humans are situated at a point of total collapse across the planet, and unlike the vast ruin of civilizations of the past we will not be able to pick up and move to other realms because there is no where left to go, this is it. We are no at the point where humans have encompassed the global commons and are depleting all resources left, as well as blindly turning our eyes at both Climate Change and the Sixth Extinction of animal life (that could include us).
I remember reading that conservative, fascist thinker, T.S. Eliot – the Poet, who once wrote of it all “ending not with a bang, but a whimper.” Is this what is happening? Are we so powerless to allow ourselves to do nothing? Have we come to the point of accepting the steamrolling planetary war systems that now run the gamut across the earth between the great and small Nation States? Are we going to sit back and allow the earth to be plundered, people slaughtered, genocide committed, indigenous tribes expulsed or enslaved? Are concerned with actual change, or just change in our little corner of the world to protect our own asses?
Public media is a shambles, so full of ideological and yellow journalism barkers and talking heads that we have been gulled into thinking they speak for us and to us with cynical truth. The speak with not only forked tongue, but with tongues guided by the moneyed factions of Plutocrats and Oligarchs. Our world is totalized delusion in politics and thought.
In times like these vacuums of meaning open up that allow people who are desperate to seek in the Great Other strength, power, and a dream. Is this not what happened yesterday? People who cannot find the power within will seek it in the Great Other. Even if that other is the Deluded One. Power loves vacuums, and seeks them out. We stand on a precipice, but not the one’s the democrats fear, but something much more widespread and pervasive. Humanity no longer knows it but it no longer exists, or maybe the truth is it never did exist; that in truth it was always construction of stories, myths, and vision. And, we have lost our human stories, the sources of what made us human to begin with. Can we discover or concoct new stories to guide us through this dismal wasteland? Where are the creative talents and geniuses of old to guide us? Without a sense of who and what we are we are nothing: the point of nihilism… shall we remain in the land of valueless valuation forever, or as in Nietzsche, find a way out of the quagmire of our decadence?
Isn’t it time to wake up folks? Time to take up the ancient path of struggle, to rethink what it means to be a meaning creature? To find new forms of thought and feeling, new paths for our kind, new tales and poems and stories to shape a new vision of possibility? Shall we fall by the wayside like all other species, or shall we rise to the occasion and become something great and meaningful, a guiding light among peoples and nations? Is this the time of defeat, or change?
As I’ve tried to say so many times before, pessimism is not depressive, not defeatist, it is not seeking something better, some hope or answer to our malaise; what it seeks is to strip us of our remaining illusions, and delusions, to open our eyes upon what is, not what we want to believe in. We have to see things not as we wish them to be, but in truth see things as they are not in-themselves, but as they present themselves in our sensual universe of meaning. We have only this medium within which we are all participants, a universe of sensual appearance through which the Real manifests itself as in ten thousand varied shapes and forms. We need new forms of intensive interaction and relations with this realm, rather than the continued outworn paths of ancient Agricultural and Hunting Gathering thought-forms that guided humans in the wilderness of natural and pre-industrial societies.
Long ago as a young man I read William Blake who changed my life, and taught me in this one little statement almost everything that has guided my thought:
“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”
― William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
“Baudrillard wrote The Mirror of Production as Marx’s avenging angel, always insisting that the labour theory of value, far from inaugurating a new possibility of proletarian, let alone universal, emancipation, only functioned to install the ‘rational terrorism of code’ as the ruling order of the Capitalist axiomatic. For his fateful insights into the happy complicity of Marxism and Capitalism in sharing exactly the same episteme of the structural law of value, Baudrillard has suffered the usual fate: denounced everywhere as a cynic, this most political of thinkers, the most rigorously and naturally Marxist of all the post-Marxists, banished to an early twilight of thought on the (Parisian) margins.”
– from Arthur Kroker’s ‘The Will to Technology and the Culture of Nihilism: Heidegger, Marx, Nietzsche’ (135)