Somewhere in cyberland, I recently saw an article that the rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump reflect the fact that a large part of the population recognizes that the wheels have come off our society and its political processes. This should not come as a surprise to anyone paying attention to the faltering of America and the world in general. Both Bernie and Donald are essentially populists – they just disagree about causes and cures.
One type of populism is based on recognition of one’s humanity and the humanity of others, a brotherhood-of-Man feeling. The other type is based on recognizing only one’s own self and group. For one, power means the ability to benefit everyone. Fo the other, it means the ability to benefit one’s self. One type founded the utopian communities in the 1800s; suffered and died for other peoples’ rights, safety and quality of life; union organizers, civil rights supporters, etc. And National Socialism was a populist movement of the second type.
It seems to me the chief difference between the followers of Bernie Sanders and the followers of Donald Trump is that Donald’s constituency thinks the problems will be solved by returning to (or increasing) authoritarian policies and an Ayn Randian celebration of selfishness, a winner-take-all-and-devil-take-the-hindermost social philosophy – and to hell with everyone who’s not just like us. Bernie feels we are our brothers’ keepers and advocates a gentler, more generous and communal social philosophy.
If politics is the mechanism through which a society expresses its collective or shared philosophy and tries to it bring to practical fruition, the first requirement should be an accurate recognition of the state of affairs and the articulation of achievable goals. If the current realities are misunderstood or if the proposed changes are impossible, no solutions will be forthcoming.
IMHO, the problems are a lot deeper than just the difference in political outlook, and the solutions advocated on all sides are essentially futile. It doesn’t matter which way the feathers on the ostrich’s ass blow when its head is buried in the sand. We have outstripped the resources of the planet, co-opting almost every conceivable ecological niche including some which can be maintained only at an extraordinary expense of limited resources. To quote Dickens, “We are too menny”. And not only too many, but too profligate with the world’s wealth. This is not a recent phenomenon – it’s been going on since we learned to walk upright. But we were so few and the world so vast there was always new territory, always time to let the plundered landscapes recover and renew. It is only since the Age of Empire(s), compounded by the Industrial Revolution that we are running out of places to run to and resources (and people) to exploit.
The most desired skills in 1850 might have been the ability to invent new ways to plunder the planet. The most valuable in 1950 might have been the ability to manage multiple disciplines to maximize extraction, production, transport and marketing of the world’s goodies. In 2015 it might be the ability to control the behavior of 99% of the human race so that the remaining 1% can continue to rule. But within the lifetime of most now living, the shit is going to hit the fan and life is going to get much simpler, much more difficult, even primitive for most people. I’m glad I won’t be around in 2050 to watch billions perish, as will surely happen.
How dark the New Dark Ages will be depends on how the majority of the people view their fellow humans. If hardship and scarcity evoke sharing, helpfulness and caring, my great-grandchildren may have a life worth living. If hardship and scarcity provoke selfishness, greed and exploitation, things are going to get nasty.
Trump’s positions are based in fear, pique and bigotry. Bernie’s positions on various issues might have been useful if we had been exercising and living those values for the last 150 years, but by now it’s more a matter of “Nice try, Bernie. You’re right, of course, but it’s too late for a solution to come about via our current political machinery.” What we are going to need going forward is a set of skills suitable to a post-industrial society. Anything less is just bandaids on a gaping wound.
I wlll, however support Bernie Sanders all the way. Not because I think he will win the nomination or the presidency or that his ideas are a solution to our situation, but because his point of view, his mindset, his caring, his identification with and concern for people over money/power needs to become the national mindset, a new American Narrative that can mitigate and humanize the coming darkness.