Strange Alliances


Photo by DonkeyHotey | CC BY 2.0

What we find strange has much to do with how we are positioned and the viewing perspective we have from that position.

For example, women offended by Access Hollywood tape in which presidential candidate Donald Trump advised “Grab them by the pussy” found it strange that white, heterosexual and married women voted for Trump and not Hillary in the election. The Democratic Party also found it strange that there were a winning number of supporters of Trump in Rust Belt states who either were closeted Trump supporters or simply had been ignored by Hillary Democrats.

The Resistance to Trump movement finds the Trump followers strange, that is, incomprehensible and inconceivable. The inconceivability stems from one economic/social positioning so distant from any other that what registers is absence and not presence. It has been strange to discover these people exist who make an alliance with Trump, surely an inconceivable life form to his Rust Belt supporters but one with whom they nevertheless allied.

Visible positions on our present political game board show us a moneyed class flush enough to do what they want. We also observe those, including the planet Earth, powerless to avoid the damages of that money empowerment.

Though we have since Occupy Wall Street defined the “flush” class as 1% of the population, targeting Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffet as having more wealth than 160 million Americans, that class really extends to all those whose income is based more on dividends and not wages, or no wages at all, or, based on the combined salaries of two professionals, what Christopher Lasch referred to as assortative mating.

Partners, married or not, advanced in a meritocracy develop an alliance with their stock portfolio which shadows whatever social justice or environmental causes they recognize. This is a form of closeted alliance that polls do not reach.

A meritocratic order, however, depends on an educational system in which those not empowered by money can receive the same quality education as those who are so empowered. We cannot expect that meritocracy itself is just if the development of competitive minds via education is not equal.

A gross inequality of wealth thus undermines both education and the meritocracy that assumes an equal preparation of the minds of those seeking to prove their merit. Any review of what quality of education exists in ungentrified and rural neighborhoods in the U.S. will reveal that no equality of educational preparation now exists. What we therefore assume to be a reliably just alliance between meritocracy and education is not, and thus strange in that it is taken to be so when it is not.

An alliance between profit and education now heavily marketed throughout the country is indeed a strange alliance. Minds treated as products to be grown as profits grow presents an alliance of profit and education that only strong marketing can impose as a reality.

Those solidly avowing allegiance to humanitarian, equal rights and environmental causes are solidly attached to receiving their dividends and in this, they form an alliance with market Conservatives who openly put profit first.

With the stock market presently soaring, we can expect that if a “correction” isn’t make before the 2018 Congressional Elections dividend recipients may vote to protect the regime, President Trump’s, that, if only arguably responsible for the boom, may yet benefit from being in charge when such goodness flows to the dividend recipient class, a class, as I say, much expanded beyond the 1%.

The Democratic Party rises as little above the money game of political campaigning as does the Republican Party. A party then mouthing people before profits too easily accepts a strange alliance with money as the lubricant of a supposedly democratic politics.

The Democratic Party  makes appeal to their moneyed constituents who, in order to preserve a people and planet before profit front, have pushed that Party away from a focused attack on the blind ruthlessness of financialized capitalism.

Bernie Sanders’s direct attack on the way money is made by simply having money represented such a focused attack while Hillary offered sops to the conscience of the Liberal dividend recipient class. What they wanted was the Democrats to be behind the issues that made them feel their hearts were in the right place. Where the dividends came from was not to be an issue.

A very strange alliance for the people not profits party to make with the beneficiaries of an economic system axiomatically creating a capital accumulation that axiomatically disregards the collapse of wages of some 60% of Americans.

Indeed, there is a strange alliance between those wage earners and Donald Trump who never worked for wages but inherited money invested in real estate and subsequently marketed himself as a brand.

Mogul Trump who stands as an exemplar of plutocratic order would seem to be the last person to remediate this fall into plutocracy. The wage earner makes an attachment to Trump by not seeing the U.S. in the same way those attached only to resistance do.

The words of Sun Yat-sen refer to nothing that the Trumpians can recognize. “When only a minority consisting of capitalists can enjoy the good life, while the majority of workers must endure hardship, they will naturally not be able to live together in peace and harmony.”

Such words do not register with Trump supporters as real or relevant. Rather, what resonates is the idea that with equal opportunity, everyone has a chance at becoming wealthy and only negative thinking prevents this. Failure to be wealthy is viewed strangely as a personal matter and not one that can be affected by the conditions of the surround, although those conditions have long ago tilted us very far from any equality of opportunity.

Both Trump supporters and those resisting Trump are allied in their disinterest in knowing each other, ignoring another much earlier Chinese thinker, Sun Tzu who advocated knowing one’s enemy as well as knowing yourself.

Trump himself offers one enemy of the people after another to the people themselves, refreshing the list as occasion and a waning attention arise. Such a large percentage of those living only on the fumes of middle class well-being are in search of answers, not in search of scrutinizing exposition, as Sanders offered, but faces, people, enemies, villains.  Such targeting of who and what is destroying a former middle class glory is the kind of good/bad reduction, the kind of replacement of argument and critique with the faces of people that a culture of glitz, spin, simulacra and hyperreality are in tune.

Those in power at the moment when a former content middle class is now a beleaguered class are ripe for ridicule, which Trump amply supplies. He does so on behalf of those who feel that people in high places, especially Washington DC and the coastal cities, are the ones responsible for their economic let downs, their paranoia and anxieties.

The Trump Resistance is not interested in knowing those who have put Trump, their enemy, in the White House. It is sufficient to know that he is a cretin and his followers must also be cretins. Thus, they attempt no form of an understanding alliance with those they see only as the enemy.

A reluctance to know why such a demographic has appeared and what their complaints might be is a strange reluctance. Perhaps an economics that benefits the Resistance dividend recipients may be exposed as a cause for the blind rage of others for whom the economics in play benefits them not at all.

Young Republicans place their future in Trump’s good hands even though Trump is doing all he can to prevent any mitigation of global warming. Such a  mindless campaign may in the lifetime of these young make the planet uninhabitable for all humans. While the middle aged and the old are not so threatened by this environmental disaster scenario, the young are and therefore it is beyond strange to see their alliance with Trump on the matter of climate change denial.

This is a very strange alliance indeed. As a matter of any logical calculation, there is much to lose if we fail to do all we can to mitigate disastrous effects now occurring.

We are confronted with a version of Pascal’s Wager: We lose little and few do that losing if we make a total war time effort to mobilize a defense against a lethal rise in global temperature. We become extinct on this planet if we fail to do so. If we expand the “few” to levels I am suggesting to include all dividend recipients then our strange disinterest in environmental disaster of our own making becomes explicable.

Strange also is the alliance between Republicans wholeheartedly devoted to globalized free trade and Donald Trump as well as  the alliance between Bernie Sanders and Democrats wholeheartedly devoted to those globalized capitalism has left out but not to an assault on the economic causes of such.

Trump, a loyal patriot of his own brand, has used the Republican Party as his Trojan horse but he has also been theirs. We are all anxious to see who will destroy whom but if the familiar quotation “Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad” runs true, Trump is more liable to self-destruct than the Republican Party.

That party, however, has been placed in a very bad position by this presidency, which has begun at the lowest level of political nastiness and so is sure to end very badly. When some exposure comparable to the Pentagon Papers is brought forth by the kind of investigative journalism President Trump vilifies, the Republican Party will either split into Trump Republicans, for whom no amount of Trump nastiness seems to diminish their loyalty, and anti-Trump Republicans or go back to calling themselves Whigs.

The Democratic Party is also heading for a cleavage as identity and cultural politics remain a focus for some while others move in greater numbers to the Sander/Warren/Brown move toward some representation of socialism they have as yet only poorly defined.

Those so mindlessly obedient to President Trump regardless of how nasty or inane his words may be exceed in their obsequiousness what we can call alliance.

Perhaps they have a true affinity to what Trump represents but as his representations have not yet given us a thread of logic or purpose beyond what looks very much like a mind in shambles, a King George III mind, it’s hard to see at what point any attachment to him occurs.

If you pursue this as Paine pursued the idea of monarchy in Common Sense, arguments as to allegiance crumble. Allegiance to Trump’s political views? What might they be beyond advancing his self-marketing straight to the White House?

Perhaps his promise to upend a Federal government that Americans have been taught to hate since Reagan announced that government was not an answer to our problems but the problem itself establishes a bond of allegiance. Would members of Congress who stand by him be attracted by a promise to undermine Congress itself?

Perhaps Trump’s attack on the media attracts a populace inured of the idea that the media brings attention to matters that do not matter, that no one would pay any attention to if the media did not blow them out of proportion.

Perhaps those who are Trump’s defending mouthpieces do so because he is a warrior for the truth in a climate of falsehood and deceit. But any degree of intelligence set to review Trump’s own history would reveal that Trump is a master of both falsehood and deceit.

Perhaps some in elected positions defend Trump because they fear not to, or they do so to advance their career.

Perhaps they are villainous themselves, as we now are aware that George W. Bush’s cohorts, from Cheney and Rumsfeld to Wolfowitz, Perle, John Yoo (author of the Torture Memos) and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, among a gang equal in size to Nixon’s own villainous gang. And Nixon’s gang of villainous toadies before that.

In other words, a destructive president will earn the allegiance of others equally and in their own way set on destruction. The alliance between Trump and Bannon is an example of an alliance of destruction, itself destroyed.

A very strange alliance can be found among those who share social media and Twitter, if it is considered a form of social interaction and not a platform for “crushing” those who oppose your opinions.

#Hashtag allegiance is indeed odd, limited as it to a kind of telegram abbreviation that omits argument, evidence and reference and presents only what a reader would infer is the conclusion to all that.

Something is briefly stated without argument. Or something is said one-sidedly without entertaining an opposing view. Twitter, however, is not designed to offer two-sided responsive arguments but only pithy opinions. One goes elsewhere to find an extensive allegiance to one’s own opinions. That elsewhere is not to any website that will confound one’s opinions but to one that confirms them.

The idea that freedom to choose on Google implies that a choosing mind can choose a side to things one does not know or is already opinionated against misconceives the classic distinction between freedom and determinism. What cyberspace offers are endless opportunities to confirm one’s own opinion while at the same time enclosing us within the windowless and doorless circle of those opinions.

The last and perhaps strangest alliance I observe is with such circles of fixed opinion that now apparently are eroding traditional circles of alliance and allegiance such as family and friends.

What cyberspace has done is exponentially increase the encountering and confrontation of populace opinions, what is viewed as democratization of speech, and thus embolden each to develop alliances to opinions under a hashtag banner of solidarity. What follows then is an emboldened intolerance to those forming an opposing solidarity. All of this clash is both too easily and too mindlessly broadcast.

Such wide and endless dispersion has quite observably overwhelmed the former bonds of alliance and allegiance that were confined to real world face to face chat at dinner or run ins at the market or at church, bar or street corner.

Whether virtual/digital/cyberspace alliances are a more social thing, a more politically progressive thing than screen-less alliances is itself a question to be raised, if at all, online.

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Joseph Natoli has published books and articles, on and off line, on literature and literary theory, philosophy, postmodernity, politics, education, psychology, cultural studies, popular culture, including film, TV, music, sports, and food and farming. His most recent book is Travels of a New Gulliver.

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