Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Post Truth Era.....

Some of the pundits on various sites are using this catchy term to describe the fact that we are now living in a time when the Truth has been effectively rendered irrelevant.  Some of them are belatedly grieving for the past, when Truth did still matter.  And, some of them are actually supposing that we can make the transition away from a slavish devotion to the idea that facts matter....and further arguing that this is both appropriate and alright.

America's Liar in Chief

These particular pundits are all of the hard-right conservative persuasion, as you might expect they would be.  I mean, after all, Fox News is a media monster built on the premise that truth is merely an inconvenience that gets in the way of furthering their sicko ideas.  Fox is very successful, having six of the top ten most watched 'news' shows.  The idea of leaving the Truth twisting in the breeze is very appealing when your agenda is to achieve political and then social dominance.  If you crave being in charge--as, of course, old white men have been for many generations--impediments that hold your feet to the fire in a test of whether or not your viewpoints actually have factual gravitas are not welcome. It's so much easier to simply make-up your points of contention and to argue them on the basis of how they appeal to the lowest instincts of your audience.

So, here we are. We have a president in the oval office who lies all the time and never even gives any indication that what is coming out of his mouth is based on stuff he just makes up according to how he would LIKE THINGS TO BE...instead of how they really are.  For Donald J. Trump, the Truth is not something to be honored or valued.  It is merely an inconvenient pain in his ass. This is carried almost to the point of becoming an art-form, a performance on a daily basis in which he believes he can re-shape reality according to his personal needs and desires. He lies to get his way, to pad his own wealth and to maintain control over the strange party that used to be one of Honor and integrity....way back when my parents were devoted to it, and Eisenhower was their poster-child.  We did actually 'LIKE IKE' and it was inconceivable that this war-hero turned politician would intentionally stand in front of the press corps and lie his ass off.  Trump does it several times a day.

I suppose the underlying question and primary concern should be: how does this impact our society as we move into the future?  Well, the answer to that is that it will destroy us.  Straight-up.  Yes, and that is not hyperbole.  Any society that comes to this point...of having lost its respect for what is actually and factually TRUE, is terminal.  Bold words, eh.  But, true.

Here's the reason such a society cannot survive for long: When people feel permission to lie anytime it will help them get what they want for themselves--which is what the Donald is all about--everything quickly becomes adversarial.  It is all about 'Me, Myself, and I' and to hell with your needs.  In fact, people pursuing this path are practicing selfishness on a level Ayn Rand would find admirable.  Her pseudo-philosophy, Objectivism, was all about, "I've got mine, and it sucks to be you."  So, here we have a segment of society that has risen to positions of power and wealth, based on the principle that each person is in it just for themselves.  And, they are more than happy to see you fail if it means more for them, or makes their path to dominance just a tiny bit easier.

In a society where a class of people are determined to get the upper hand, and are willing to cause endless harm and suffering to do so.....nothing good is going to happen in the long run.  This is precisely because you have an entire segment that feels disenfranchised, rejected, passed-by and even the lack of opportunities, lack of access to decent and affordable education, living under conditions that destroy a large number of lives, violence, drugs, and gangs all in the mix.

Once a society turns its back on the less fortunate,  the eventual result becomes like that newly bulging mound in a Mexican farmer's field, with a smoking fumarole, and that soon grows into an active volcano of mounting rage.  History clearly indicates that the population will eventually get fed-up and erupt.  When an entire segment of a society loses hope of a better future, or that they can at least live a decent life, then violence is going to happen sooner than later. It has happened too many times to think that it won't happen now.  When people feel truly oppressed and subjugated it will boil-over and explode into revolution.  That is just human nature.

There are exceptions, of course.  Once the mechanisms of terror are in place, it may be too late and futile for a successful revolution to gain any momentum.  In Nazi Germany, people only realized what was happening when it was really too late to do anything effective. The price of resisting was immediate arrest and a quick trip to Dachau, or similar.

The people of North Korea, have suffered under Kim and his father and grandfather endlessly.  The means of their subjugation have been in place for three generations and the dictator.....really a nice fellow with a good sense of humor, if you listen to Trump.....has a good handle on how to keep them down.  It's nothing new, really: send any dissenters away to concentration camps and kill them by forced labor and starvation. Result: not enough people are willing to stand up and be whacked down as in the Whack-a-Mole game.  Terror is undeniably effective, and dictators of all flavors, including Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Saddam, etc, have all known this.

But, here's the take-away: all that dictators do to subjugate their people and to maintain order and control............depends on weaving a web of LIES.  Destroying the ability of a population to know what is really going on is critical, so attacking any and all sources of the actual TRUTH is necessary.  When Trump reiterates his disdain for the press, as he does many times each day, via Twitter, by calling them 'fake news' and any other pejoratives he happens to think of at that moment, he is accomplishing something critical to his ongoing success.  He is casting doubt on everything....yes, literally EVERYTHING. Once facts are given the same status as lies, it is possible to get people to think that anything you put in front of them is 'true'.  It doesn't take a vivid imagination to see how much easier it becomes then to manipulate the majority of people into believing whatever serves your purposes.

LIES ARE THE TOOLS OF DICTATORS.  If you allow them to become 'normal' then the means of knowing what is really happening to our society are GONE!

It matters.  In fact, it is pivotal and crucial that we not accept this wannabe dictator's attempts to blur the lines of fact and fiction.  He lies with no consequences at present.  He does it right in our faces, and is not the slightest bit hesitant to do so.  He tells lies that are easily debunked...and is not apparently concerned that his lying is so easily recognized.  In fact, as Obama said in his recent speech in South Africa, he just 'doubles down' and lies some more.


Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Bankruptcy....of the Moral Kind

It is common knowledge that Trump has gone bankrupt in his business adventures, repeatedly...six times to be precise. Ever since he announced his run for the oval office we have been hearing stories about how either good or bad he is at business....depending on the source you are reading/watching.

The fact is he is very adept at using the laws around bankruptcy to lose money for his investors and to wind up with more money...much more.....himself.  He knows, or at least, his coterie of legal eagles knows, how to 're-arrange' financial dealings so that he comes out the other end smelling like a rose, and, more often than not, his investors are stuck with the losses.  He brags about this as a way of bolstering his reputation for making great deals and for being the most clever weasel in the woods.

All these months into his term as president, we are becoming almost inured to his lies and his attacks on anybody whom he perceives as not on his side.  There is considerable discussion about the dangers of allowing his behavior to become perceived as 'normal', even as acceptable. It, most assuredly, is NOT either one of those.

Fact is, I don't really give a fig about his finances.  He's just another greedy pig who is frantically scrambling to amass far more wealth than any person needs.....all to serve the continual aggrandizing of his pathetic ego. In literature there is a term for people like Trump:  picaroon.  A picaroon is a pirate, a rogue, a person who is just out for him/herself, and has no scruples that might stand in their way.  Whatever you need to do, is just fine.  Never mind morality, integrity, compassion...oh BLECH....or any redeeming quality that would seem to support the notion that we are all operating in a society of souls and that common decency is one of the tenets that makes this possible, even more tolerable.

There is another kind of bankruptcy that Donald J. Trump is apparently unfamiliar with: moral bankruptcy.  It is an umbrella term that captures the essence of a person who has no problem telling lies, stealing money by deception (think Trump University), and in a pinch, a truly bankrupt person is even willing to kill to achieve what they perceive as their goals.  The Orange One has intimated numerous times that he'll take whatever sadistic action is necessary to top whatever he perceives as opposition...not to the United States, as much as to him, his personal goals. Torture?  Not a problem.  Calling strikes where collateral damage is unavoidable? Hell, we were already doing this under the last two presidents.  It's a no-brainer for Trump.  His ideal form of government would be himself as permanent dictator for life.  He has said this in so many ways that it is clear he'd have no problem at all destroying our democracy in favor of his lifetime in charge.

The truly scary thing about this notion is that we are beginning to see signs that he could actually pull it off.  Yes, he could manage a way to end up on the throne of a thoroughly subjugated United States of America.  You may feel some skepticism of that idea.  I certainly did when I first encountered it.  I came up with all kinds of reasons why that would not be possible.  The genius of our constitution was supposed to be at least partially due to its deep insight into the potential pitfalls and foibles of the democracy it was creating.  Checks and balances were strongly positioned to stop just such a corrupt leader as Trump.  The Founding Fathers clearly were aware of the possibility that bad actors could try to subvert and otherwise render impotent the rule of law for nefarious purposes.  So, they included measures such as dividing the government into three branches that would serve to balance and counter-balance the power of a large centralized government.

But, there are some glitches.  That's the bad news.  A corrupt gang of operators....yes, just like those presently in office.....could find ways to gain power and to hold onto it.  One of the most obvious of these is what happens when an emergency occurs that directly threatens the safety and security of our country.  The government is suddenly in a position to start suspending constitutional rights by any number of means.  The most dire would be a declaration of 'martial law', under which we would suddenly find ourselves living in a totalitarian police state....for our own good, of course.  Remarkably, many Americans would see that as justified, as long as they feel safer.  Martial law supposes that maintaining the peace and the safety of all citizens is the highest priority...well above the mere freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.  Those 'rights' are apparently subject to being quickly set aside when things become a little dicey.  And, just what that means is subject to a broad spectrum of interpretation, depending on what party and even what sector of that party is being asked....or has the self-assigned right to make such decisions.

It is not a novel thought that we could instantly find ourselves in a situation where the administration would declare a state of martial law to be necessary.  Any event on the order of 9-11, or even one not as large or as egregious, would be sufficient.  I have been saying this for many years now, and I am not alone in this concern. Recovering from such a period of upheaval would be much slower than its onset.  In fact, due to the nature of having such a commanding grip on the power of our government, it might not happen at all.  There might be changes put in place that make it well nigh impossible to get back to the levels of freedom we have now and have had for over two and a half centuries.  Once a country has fallen over that cliff it is no longer a matter of just climbing back to the top.  No, no.

Studying the many autocracies that exist now and that have appeared in the last century or more, reveals a distinct pattern.  Perhaps the most singular factor that presages the onset of a totalitarian state is economic disarray.  When a country's economy goes in the shitter, people experience new and often terrible hardships.  Any person who cannot put food on the table for their family or maintain a roof over their heads rapidly becomes a desperate person.  Under such circumstances, it's not a surprise that they will opt for the politician and political party that holds the most apparent promise of being able to make rapid and substantial changes happen.  Hitler's early campaign slogan was: "Hitler, Arbeit, Brot", i.e. "Hitler, Work, Bread" and it was addressing the dire economic circumstances of the Weimar Republic where runaway inflation literally had people paying billions of marks for simple items of sustenance.  It was a bitter joke that one needed a wheelbarrow to haul enough cash to the market to buy groceries.  In 1923, a loaf of bread cost 100 billion marks.  It was a terrifying situation for most people and more than enough to get them on board with a radical strongman who was promising an end to all the enemies and policies that had gotten them to that point.  Oh, yes, Hitler had the answers.  And, we all know how that went down.

So, here we are with a man in the Oval Office who has repeatedly admired Xi Jinping for his now cemented status as 'leader for life' of China.  He has heaped praise on Kim Jong Un, one of the most sadistic dictators currently in power.  His fawning admiration of Vladimir Putin is legend. Comedians constantly speculate on what Putin must have over Trump....the most obvious guess being the 'pee tape'. Who knows?

So, having observed so very many traits and having witnessed his actions over the last year and a half....I don't think it's much of a stretch to conclude that Ol' Donny Boy is morally broke.  There is nothing in his under-developed sense of how the world works and what it takes to be a decent human being that would indicate that he not only knows what compassion is, but that it is one of the key ingredients that separates us from being just another predatory species.  And, it should be noted that when we humans are in our most potent predatory mode.....we are FAR WORSE than any animal predators on the planet.  We have raised predation to a level that outstrips the ability of any other species to compete for the title of most vicious.  We are it, and people like Trump are leading the way in acting out our worst inclinations and tendencies.

All of this should serve as a dire warning.....that if we do not rise up and get every possible citizen out to vote him out of office, we will have a future in front of us that is light years away from the utopian society that humans have only dared to dream of throughout history.  We have all of the assets, tools and traits that are needed to actually make such a dream become a reality.  But, as long as we let the people who think Trump's ongoing push toward a situation where he becomes the Supreme Leader is okay....we are in for a terrible shock and a whole lot of pain to follow. 

We have a chance to avoid this dark scenario.  But, it will never amount to anything if people remain disengaged, apathetic and passive.  The people who think Trump's stunning lack of compassion, his frequent sadistic impulses toward any who resist his will, and his despicable dishonesty are all just fine....will be in charge and the rest of us will have only ourselves to blame.