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Jonesing for Real Change

Every now and then something interesting or at least enraging scrolls by on my FB feed. Today it came thanks to Mike Harris a former leader of Canada’s Green Party:

VAN JONES VERY INTERESTING ANALYSIS:

In politics, when a new media came along, whoever mastered it won. So FDR mastered radio and against all odds became president. Kennedy mastered television and beat Nixon. Obama mastered political engagement and fundraising using the Internet. And Trump mastered reality TV and Twitter. What is reality TV? “a lot of dumb people being mean to each other” says Van. It’s cheap TV to produce, but the masses watch it. It has set new standards. And so while the media and elites were apoplectic with many of Trump’s statements a significant portion of the US public had become used to them.Van says you can’t just listen to NPR and eat Kale. You have to understand where people are at.”

My first thoughts were not particularly productive involving as they did increasingly incredulous repetitions of the phrase “NPR and kale?” So let’s go with my second thought: post hoc ergo propter hoc. I.e. The logical fallacy “after therefore because.” The demographic data from the election shows otherwise. Trump’s ‘win’ came from the usual Republican suspects. Wealthy white Americans, older white Americans, rural white Americans, voter suppression, the vast numbers of disenchanted voters, and as with W the Electoral College. The idea that blue collar and ‘rust belt’ America switched to Trump as a result of his ‘populist’ pose is disproved by the data.

Political events in Europe over the last few years offers a much better understanding of what is now happening In Western politics. After years of being sold out by pseudo left politicians and parties citizens are seeking genuine change. Neoliberal economics, austerity, inequality, massive bankster fraud, regulatory capture, wildly excessive executive compensation, U.S. imperialism, pollution, and climate change have come together to mobilize those who’d rather be otherwise more pleasantly engaged. For the last quarter century this meant the rise in “personal empowerment” and disengagement from politics. A trend that coincided pretty much exactly with Bill Cllnton’s declaration that “The era of big government is over.” That trend has begun to reverse.

Corbyn, Podemos, Syriza, even Sanders, all have arisen as a result of the abject failure of the last forty years of economic orthodoxy. In addition to the electorates personal experience of this failure what has added potency to this desire for change is the increasingly naked failure of the U.S. as a society. (police shootings, infrastructure collapse, 8 million added to the poverty rolls during Obama’s Presidency, real unemployment rate of 20%, U6, perpetual war and endlessly rising military spending, bail out of the banks, climate change denial.) This failure taken together with the relentless drumbeat of “terror-terror-terror” and the humanitarian catastrophe we used to call the Middle East has shaken the electorates confidence. To this has been added the existential threat of climate change and the very real danger this represents to their children’s future. These conclusions are however very different from the analysis presented to us by the mainstream media and mainstream politicians.

Overwhelmingly the majority of citizens in the West now view the current system of finance, fossil fuels and militarism as the greatest threat to our safety and prosperity. The difficulty now is as it has been for some time, how to mobilize this large majority to vote. Three times as many citizens in the U.S. did not vote as voted for either candidate. In the U.S. this problem is compounded by the enormous efforts dedicated to voter suppression and the floodgates of money that ‘Citizens United’ has unleashed further polluting America’s erstwhile democracy. While we are on the subject the U.S. Supreme Court will be a bar to imperative changes for decades to come. It is no stretch to write the U.S. off at this point as a failed democracy. I am of course far from the first to make this point.

In the face of these easily culled facts for anyone to boil this down to winning the reality TV battle and getting beyond kale straddles just barely the border between facile and offensive. To be fair in comparison to the Dems, Maddow and Colbert’s “Russia Every Day and in Every Way’ this qualifies as deep thinking. What it does not qualify as is the kind of thinking that will be required if we are going to overcome the great challenges our times. I.e. The Oligarchs, military spending, climate change and pollution. That last one has been overshadowed so far this century. If we lose the oceans or the bees that will change in a hurry.

Perhaps God’s final attempt at levity is that he sends us this person to send us the following message. Douglas Adams at least would have appreciated that the “so long and thanks for all the fish” scientist is named Professor Worm.

N.B. Professor Boris Worm of Dalhousie University projects the end of ALL commercial fisheries by 2047.

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