Before Trump takes office, I want to create a picture of the high-water mark, something I can point to and say "That was how it was" without the fog of time, or the distortions of propaganda and ideology. I was inspired by Sarah Kendzior:
Fellow Americans, I have a favor to ask you. Today is November 18, 2016. I want you to write about who you are, what you have experienced, and what you have endured. Write down what you value; what standards you hold for yourself and for others. Write about your dreams for the future and your hopes for your children. Write about the struggle of your ancestors and how the hardship they overcame shaped the person you are today. Write your biography, write down your memories. Because if you do not do it now, you may forget. Write a list of things you would never do. Because it is possible that in the next year, you will do them. Write a list of things you would never believe. Because it is possible that in the next year, you will either believe them or be forced to say you believe them.1
The Spectacle of 2016
The 2016 election was a farce and a tipping point where politics have finally become an extension of what Guy Debord called "The Spectacle"2. Both "viable" candidates offered the same neoliberal flavor of poison. It was a false choice between "Coke vs Pepsi."
Clinton campaigned on a platform powered by a misplaced faith3 in Big Data4. She spoke in a language of clinical rhetoric to nobody except Wall Street. She was a status quo candidate that lacked vision, offering nothing except a hedge against the fascism of Trump. Her speeches were empty, dispassionate and simply disengaged from reality. Her campaign and the DNC were corrupt from the start, and they didn't try to hide it.
In my view, Trump is an angsty teenager who uses knee-jerk reactions and emotion to speak to those disgusted, disenfranchised, and ignored by the Washington Consensus. The Republican party nearly destroyed itself by failing to field a status quo candidate from their own ranks. This opened a gap which Trump was able to fill by speaking directly to the middle class fear of sliding into the lower classes. This fear has been stoked by mainstream media after the economic crisis that started in 2008 and has continued up to today.
The candidates lie, and we know they're lying, and they know we know they're lying. It doesn't matter because there is no longer an alternative vision for the future and there is no longer any accountability for those in power.
If one thing is clear from this election, it is the contradictions inherent in the policies that Trump wishes to enact, as well as the contradictions inherent in Neoliberal Capitalism:
- Trump believes that government regulation is preventing economic growth in the US and wishes to deregulate. Yet regulation is the people's best means to prevent corporate abuses of power: It can be used to prevent job flight abroad, as well as prevent tax-shelters, and incentivize hiring and manufacturing at home.
- Trump says he is against war abroad, and yet wants to deploy more troops to Iraq and Afghanistan.
- An inability to account for economic contradictions such as "overproduction relative to demand", with unemployment due to automation and a shrinking of discretionary spending in the middle class.
- Military contradictions including rising tensions between the US, NATO, and its military allies, as shown with the recent spying scandals revealed by Edward Snowden; along with the increasing economic unsustainability of war.
- Cultural contradictions including tensions between U.S.A. Judeo-Christianity, Islam, and other minorities as we see a rising trend of anti-Muslim sentiment growing in the "Alt-Right".
- Social contradictions encompassing the increasing gulf between the so-called ‘American Dream’, the belief that everyone can prosper in America through hard work, and the reality of American life (the fact that more and more people can’t).
It seems Trump could actually be a less "hawkish" president than Clinton (who just wants to go to more wars to fill the coffers of companies involved with the military industrial complex). Trump instead seems to want to "do business" with Russia and China. The fear I have for Trump is not the "Hawkish Empire" that Hillary Clinton would've brought with her, but instead a form of "Corporate Fascism" where he pours fuel on the fire of trans-national capitalism, while funding the NSA/FBI/CIA to go after those who dissent against a corporate-sponsored deep-state.
In such a Intellio fascist nightmare, the U.S.A. uses it military might to act as the private security arm of Boeing, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Chase & JP Morgan. We will see a deeper criminalization of copyright infringement, boycotting, and more forced-purchase agreements like the current "Mandatory Health Insurance" programs that force taxpayers to use their income to buy big-corporate services. At the same time, we will see a gutting of "commonwealth" programs like the ACA, and Planned Parenthood. These programs will not be abolished, but will instead be privatized much in the same way vast portions of the Russian national state was privatized after 1989. In its wake we will see the rise of a new corporate oligarchy.
This election I made a conscious decision not to debate my coworkers, friends and family over the candidates or "the issues". The 2016 campaign pitted two candidates against each other in a way that drastically simplified and framed discourse in moral absolutes. These absolutes were curated and made digestible for mainstream media and social media.
Only the ignorant deal in moal absolutes. Debate isn't debate when "the issues" are carefully curated to frame the dialog as a decision between choosing evils when they're both evil. Taking sides can only end in animosity towards each other, and creates wedges in the very communities we need to be building for when the time comes to fight against corporate-fascism. Most importantly, we lose sight of the bigger picture when the majority is split across artificially imposed lines. Now is the time we should be gathering forces in our local communities with the friends, coworkers and families that actually impact our daily lives. Think global; act local is a cliche, but it works, and it's our best defense against the shitstorm to come.
I can freely drive from home to any state in the US, without interference from the police or border patrol. Border patrol thinks they can have their way with folks along the border, but it's just a hassle. TSA wastes time with security theater at airports, but I can travel to any country without problem. Be polite, say as little as possible, and the headache goes away.
When planes fly overhead, I sometimes look to the sky and wonder where those travellers are going. I don't worry about drone strikes at home. When I hear police sirens, I typically don't even notice, its probably a traffic infraction. Don't talk to the police, but be polite and the headache (usually) goes away.
I don't believe that immigrants are rapists, killers and drug dealers. I believe immigrants today are no different than the immigrants that built this country; they're just people trying to take the opportunity to improve their lives.
I don't believe that terrorists want to fight us because they "hate our freedoms" but instead they want to fight to protect their own way of life. I believe terrorism is caused by a reaction to U.S. policies in the middle east funding the (primarily) Saudi Arabian royal family. The royal family receives military equipment to oppress its own people and extract local natural resources (oil) at the expense of its own people. The royal family also sends money to the Salafi movement, an ultra-conservative regressive form of Islam that is destabilizing the middle east and is the root of Al-Queda, ISIL and the current war in Syria. In exchange for a market for Saudi oil and military supplies, the U.S. indirectly empowers the wider Salafi movement to fight against the West while companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Pratt & Whitney, KBR, General Electric, Honeywell, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumann profit from demand generated by continual wars.
I refuse to succumb to divide and conquer tactics; when the oppressor uses arbitrary difference to separate humanity and then pit them against one another by granting one side rights and denying those rights to the other. These are apartheid tactics. Separation, isolation, and alienation are inhumane tactics that serve the interests of authority and power. The differences used to separate can be based on race, nationality, religion, gender, sexuality, class, political party, and merit. These differences should be embraced and celebrated, not used to divide us. We are all 99% similar, and the differences are what make us unique. If they attack our minorities, they attack us all. Our strength lies in unity against bigotry, hatred, and fear. We are united as one people for the good of all.
I refuse to engage in consumerist activism. I wont be buying Che Guevara t-shirts to lend my personal brand more progressive looking street-cred. I wont be cheering for corporations making donations to political causes when it serves their bottom line5. These types of activism are counterproductive as they subjugate real social activism via personal relationships into a relationship mediated by physical goods and associations to brands.
I refuse to acknowledge the DHS, CBP as necessary or helpful to US national security, as defenders of the constitution or more generally as upkeepers of the rule of law. At their worst, they're oppressive thugs for a racist deep state.
I will express my opinions and disagreements with the U.S.A government as I always have. I will continue to be anti-war, anti-drone, anti-neoliberal, anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, and violently anti-fascist (if the fascists seek to impose oppressive rule here in the U.S.A.) Censorship isn't political in the U.S.A. We address censorship as a market opportunity. When folks are pirating movies, companies address that gap by providing a (relatively) cheap service to make it convenient to pay for the movie. The rhetoric of alarm around "Fake News" is alarming however. It's beginning to sound eerily similar to the rationale the Chinese government is using to censor social media, the "danger of rumors" causing fractures in social cohesion. I'm worried the Trump administration will take a similar path.
I will oppose the reappropriation of language. I will not use terms they redefine, nor use new terms they make6. We must preserve the true meaning of words, and reconsider the use of language to simplify discourse and bias our perspectives.
The media, press, bloggers and social media are free to criticize the political establishment; it's a national pastime. The Daily Show and Colbert Report are built on getting laughs from the deep cynicism of the Left. I post my criticism to my site, twitter, etc. and don't expect the police to visit my house, my work, or to worry about them asking about the post the next time I get pulled over for a traffic infringement or at border control. I'm relaxed when expressing my views, I go to protests and engage in local politics. I consider these acts to be part of my civic duty and expect the government to NOT ask about my activities. An expectation otherwise would result in the erosion of civic activity due to self-censorship- the most pernicious form of censorship because the censorship has become internalized.
My associations with friends, family, coworkers and neighbors are private, and I expect them to remain private. I worry about my peers, who continue to divulge the nature of their personal relationships and love-lives to social media companies. This is the slow commodification of relationships. I worry that these companies (Facebook, Tinder, etc) are increasingly mediating cherished relationships between people.
Obama deported more undocumented migrants than any previous administration, he unilaterally dropped ~26,000 bombs on Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq and other countries. I expect this to continue. I don't worry about going to war, either at home or abroad. War has been a venture for the Washington Consensus to control foreign access and control to natural resources and access to markets for our trans-national corporate interests. This impacts the poor, those who volunteer to fight, and immigrants who see a path to citizenship. The Consensus seems wise enough to know the majority is war-fatigued, and fear protest or resistance if a draft was ever reinstated. I don't expect the middle class to rally behind Trumps wars, and I certainly will never support his wars.
The worst aspect of the Obama administration is that it quelled the energy of left-oriented grassroots movements. People thought "Oh, Obama is like me, hes smart and he's got this covered." It kept the Left at ease, and this mindset resulting in eight years of political inaction.
The one redeeming side-effect of the Trump administration is that it will reveal the true nature of modern neoliberal power politics in the United States. Trumps' administration will brazenly take action without the pretenses of conciliatory compromise, or mutual respect for any existing political party or an adversarial press. His administration will be the "Big Reveal" of the level of corruption in our body politic. Trump will accomplish this by placing the big influencers (who, up to this point, have been outside advisors) in direct positions of power; e.g. Instead of having Exxon Mobile acting as an external industry advisor, Trump will make him the CEO the Secretary of State. These acts will tear down the facade of a disinterested political apparatus and reveal the true nature of politics rigged from top down to reward the biggest corporations. This will help the Left appeal to the middle by pointing out readily apparent and brazen corrpution.
During difficult times, there is a blossoming of arts and culture in response to authoritarian oppression. While I have no expectations for positive reform in federal politics, I have high hopes for local community action and the arts.
Kendzior, Sarah. We're heading into dark times. This is how to be your own light in the Age of Trump The Correspondent. The Correspondent, 18 Nov. 2016. Web. 3 Jan. 2017. ↩
Debord, Guy. The Society of the Spectacle. Perlman, Fredy (Translator). Detroit: Black & Red, Print. 1983. ↩
Siegel, Eric. How Hillary's Campaign Is (Almost Certainly) Using Big Data Scientific American. Scientific American, Web. 2016. ↩
Wagner, John. Clinton’s data-driven campaign relied heavily on an algorithm named Ada. What didn’t she see? The Washington Post. The Washington Post, Web. 2016. ↩
For example, terms like 'fake news'. ↩