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The Doomsday Cuckoo Clock

Photograph Source: Robin Davies – CC BY 2.0

Even when he’s losing, Donald Trump wins (and bigly!) every time. His secret? He knows how to tap into our nihilism with the same technique he used to milk investors of his real estate schemes. If greed is the stated ideology of capitalism, then nihilism is its less overt philosophical underpinning. A system of mass murder will eventually turn its blood lust inward, having expended itself in the endless pursuit of prey. Unlike his more technocratic cohorts across the aisle, Trump has the charisma to turn a collective death wish into a raucous, bloody spectator sport. No gradual march off the proverbial cliff, but a gleeful nosedive into the abyss. His high rise mausoleums across a mostly submerged Manhattan skyline will someday stand testament to yet another victory.

The dream that a slain civil rights leader had in 1963 was supplanted in 2001 by the radical vision of his assassins. Inequality and unchecked state power are its underlying doctrine, and privatization the means of transitioning from a nation state into a “borderless” National Security apparatus. The undead architects of the national nightmare wasted no time dismantling the institutional frameworks of Dr King’s legacy, replacing them with a televised spectacle. Donald Trump rose from the ashes of the World Trade Center like a Macy’s parade balloon, an airborne disease headed for the White House, guided by the same forces that launch Republican airstrikes and Democrat drones. It’s there he serves as an exalted ribbon cutter at the epicenter of a nation-wide Ground Zero.

Today, he functions as the explosive device that our overlords implanted into the electoral system to ensure the destruction of its last remaining democratic relics. For proof, look no further than Bernie Sanders at the Iowa Caucus. Once again, deliberate fiasco as a well-honed political tool wielded by the popular candidate’s own party to secure defeat in November. This deliberate strategy of failure is a win/win for future DNC fundraising efforts. Why cure cancer when you can rake in the cash by pretending that you are trying to eradicate it? Why bother, in fact, adhere to any democratic principals when you can gerrymander an outcome with a calculator that does the alternative math?

We grow to accept these assaults on our reasoning, eventually normalizing all the atrocities of the ruling class. We justify them, often cynically, as the price we have to pay for gas. No use pondering those “charred Panda bears in Austria” while you are filling up the tank. Now that reasoning has been supplanted by “intelligence” and knowledge replaced with information, our time here on earth is done. The Slumlord-in-Chief has served us all an eviction notice to make way for a retail/prison/casino complex, manned by automatons equipped with surveillance cameras seeking out faces in a void, and recording devices picking up only static.

Trump is the last human stand against continuing life on the planet. What he can’t singlehandedly rubbish and burn with the sheer force of his Trumpness, the autonomous systems in place to print money and wage endless war will ensure its eventual destruction. Capitalism makes it impossible to imagine an alternative to a kleptocracy on autopilot. Our neoliberal overlords have seen to that by installing us into their networks and making us all data providers for its expanding matrix.

There is no Trump, only Trumpness; a dense, sulfurous fog that hangs over the earth and eats at our sanity like it was a bowl of pretzels to snack on during Super Bowl. He is capitalism as it gnaws at its own flesh, having devoured everything external to it. His tweets are the cuckoo sounds of the Doomsday clock striking midnight at every hour. Trumpness itself is the unmentionable gas released from the corpse of Empire. Its colored contours no longer a map but a blinking grid that traces a transnational supply route through melted ice caps encircled by war ships. The world is his plague ground.

Freedom, he understands, is being unshackled from life itself. It takes a scorched earth policy at home to maintain his own pristine Astroturf lawns and golf courses around the world. What bombs can’t obliterate, the weather can. He is the match lit under it, ignited by the arsonists tools of the bipartisan establishment that launched him into the White House.

With the sheer force of his Trumpness, he raises global temperatures and sea levels, rallies Wall Street and hurricanes with the same oafish glee that he conducts a Super Bowl national anthem. He maintains the chaos necessary for new markets to emerge from the ashes and rubble of soon-to-be-buried continents.

This is his swamp, and these are his people, the buried millions beneath a morass of debt, addiction and the sort of despair that unleashes Armageddon while keeping the pitchforks aimed squarely at themselves. His acolytes see their own doom as deliverance outside the fixed parameters of a predatory state, and into a rapturous realm fortified against it with a physical wall, separating themselves from others like them. This enclosure fence isn’t high enough yet to contain their rage, but ‘smart’ enough to electronically harvest it.

Meanwhile, his ‘real’ people are raising their champagne flutes at their annual gathering of inter-terrestrial replicants known colloquially as the National Prayer Breakfast. Here they praise the infernal engines of growth and capital, exhorting the now exhausted Beast Machine to continue belching out its blessings to the class that created it in their own image.

Elites on the other side of the aisle seek refuge within the State apparatus that serves and protects their class against internal threats to its own survival, upholding these spook agencies and military brass as protective barriers against Trump and the fungal spread of Trumpness into their yachts and vineyards. They conspire in their wine caves – not against Trump but against the only candidate in their own party who can unseat him. With the same bug-ridden app they used to plug a failed Venezuelan coup leader into their “backyard” power grid, they reverse the process to disconnect the Sanders’ campaign from the DNC, and impose a nation wide blackout on its media coverage.

Trump has sown the seeds of our own self-destruction whether we vote for him or don’t vote for him. For the first time in his life, his business is succeeding – the business of harvesting outrage, the single most valuable currency of the oligarchy – and spinning it into the kind of confusion that allows a blood-spattered perpetrator with a smoking gun in her hand to stand over a crime scene and declare herself “above suspicion”. We applaud as she tears up the arrest warrant. We celebrate each pre-determined outcome in political productions staged every four years by masked plutocrats.

In this particular one, understudy Pete Buttigieg enters stage right as the finale approaches. He serves as its Deus ex Machina – literally a God from a machine – reimposing the neoliberal order to the chaos engendered by the ham lead playing the tyrant. The curtain comes down, and the players take center stage. The ham takes a bow, and the curtain delineating the spectacle from the crowd once again descends, this time forever.

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Jennifer Matsui is a writer living in Tokyo and a columnist for the print edition of CounterPunch magazine.

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