Populism for the coming darkness

   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.

4 Replies to “Populism for the coming darkness”

  1. Re-reading some Joe Bageant today:

    The mind is a cumbersome and inefficient way to go about escaping the traps you build with your mind but, yes, it can be done. Most educated people in this science-worshipping age prefer the convoluted path of logic and rational exercise over calmly opening one’s eyes and heart to the world before us, as wiser men have done for thousands of years.

    Who in these times, you may ask, believes in the spirit as an animating force of mankind? My answer is: Those who can be still enough to see that spirit moving.

    So stay strong. Transcend. Find reasons to love.

  2. I for one am heartened by Sen. Sanders. He strikes me as being more consistent with ideals which are closer to my own. I think we could agree on where ‘north’ is. I think that is all I can expect. I think his chances of leading effectively are about as good as virtually every one of the other candidates in either party. He is no more or less gifted. And if it takes Party support to push policy forward in order to be effective, well then virtually all the candidates are in for a crude, rude awakening. So if it isn’t the Party, and it isn’t some mysterious leadership quality, what qualifies anyone to be President? I doubt seriously if there is a constant set of characteristics. The times vary, the needs vary and appropriate qualities must be found to match them. It seems to me our nation has to acquire some humility before it can acquire (or re-acquire) its strengths of resolve and principle. I think that humility has to be rooted in the reality of situation internal and global. To that extent, I think Bernie is a realist, not a pessimist. He is willing to enunciate a more accurate appraisal of where we are as a nation. It may be an imperfect accounting, but as I say, it is closer to what I see around me than what I hear from the others who are running. We have had 8 years of a President who can lead a movement, but who never had a clue about negotiations. It will be no better with Donald Trump or HRC or Jeb Bush—and it may be no better with a Bernie Sanders; however, I think as someone who never had great wealth and who always depended on making practical deals if only to maintain his place in political life, I am in favor of giving him a try. It’s about time we took some modest effective steps forward rather than look for leaps-and-bounds, or the promise of short-cuts.

  3. Right On Partner…,
    write on.
    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.

    I have said here before…, that I don’t believe we can solve any of our problems until we get the money out of politics…, and Bernie is the only one who says one of his planks is overturning Citizens United. Ya gotta start somewhere…,and he’s the only with the balls to even start.

  4. Bernie Sanders is a Russophobe, hawk, and no friend of peace as foreign policy. IMO there are no, as in zero, viable candidates for 2016; none whatsoever…
    At some point, North American (U.S.) citizens, must wake up to their reality; it ain’t pretty; the U.S. isn’t and hasn’t been a democracy for more than a decade. Until and unless that can be realized; there is no action possible, no words spoken, that will change anything.
    Voting is an illusion, promulgating the myth of “America” as democracy; false on its face.
    Populism for the coming darkness? Yes, in fucking deed…

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