Weep the People: Dave’s weekly rant
Weep the People – Who’s in Charge Here?
There’s a good reason mankind loves its myths. Their inflation of human anecdotes into iconic transactions can be revelatory. Think of the insights Sophocles and Shakespeare extracted from the mythic tales of Oedipus and Lear. These personal, parental tragedies illustrate the deep conflicts and loyalties inherent in transitions of family and political power.
But myths can also be reductive and falsifying, especially when they do not use precisely understood details to define universal truths in human affairs, but go in the opposite direction.
Modern myth-making tends to start with the observation of “historic trends” and from them claim to define human circumstances or reactions.
I choked on what I saw as a perfect example of this kind of mythic misapplication in 3 lines of an otherwise “must read” report on Russia’s insidious online information war against the United States (and the Presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton) by Evan Osnos, David Remnick and Joshua Yaffa in the current New Yorker.
The authors try to explain “the ascent of Trump and nationalist politicians in Europe.” Putin and his cyber-pawns played a small part, they say, but “resentment of the effects of globalization and deindustrialization are far more important factors.”
The implication is that the disaffected voters who elected Donald Trump and backed Bernie Sanders (and passed BREXIT, and are flirting with Marine Le Pen and Beppo Grillo) are just angry chumps at odds with history, like the blacksmiths unemployed by the advent of the horseless carriage.
Of course, you can’t counter the Industrial Revolution, but you can manage it.
America’s leaders of the era from 1870 to 1970 managed the rise of massive capital investment and mass production in ways that enabled economic rewards and political power to be shared by owners, managers and workers.
America’s greatness was not due to trends in capital formation, industrialization, migration, or worker organization, but because of how these trends were managed by our leaders.
For example, the golden era of American social and economic sharing could not have happened without President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
History since 1970 has been shaped by developing technologies of computation and communication as epic as the previous century’s harnessing of electricity and the internal combustion engine. But human life over our last 44 years has been more definitively changed by how Presidents and other public and private potentates have managed these developments.
Mercantilism was the first edition of globalism, and for several centuries was an engine of imperialist iniquity and truly obscene inequity. The revolutions of 1776 to 1848 overthrew or reduced the powers of degenerate royal families and Inquisitional religious tyrants, setting the world on a course that slowly but surely grew and redistributed progress and its benefits.
The logic and efficiencies of multi-national incorporation and automation cannot be defeated, but they can be governed. It is the job of real democratic governance to manage industrial-strength investment and historic workplace changes so the whole nation profits.
Instead, Presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter failed to manage the war-empowered demands of oil state sheiks for higher prices and of their bankers for the sacrifice of public benefits for private profits.
Instead, Presidents Reagan, Clinton, Obama and both Bushes all followed the same agenda of “de-regulation” for the rich, and destruction of their economic counterforce, the union movement.
Instead, governors of capital markets allowed “Quant”-ification to use nano-arbitrage to replace investment based on projected value and innovation.
Instead, legislators shaped a tax code that allowed these pickpockets of financial paper to redistribute income to themselves.
And instead, the makers and administrators of laws protected the manufacturers and mega-distributors of opioid drugs and not their vulnerable and soon-addicted customers.
Globalization and deindustrialization might enable growth of local producers and national markets and new jobs for those unemployed by changes in technology and viable skills-sets.
The resentments of the dispossessed might yet produce governments that rein in the unbridled self-entitlement of the greedy and redirect some of their “earnings” to create jobs that produce public benefits when widget-work requires just a few employees and a lot of intelligent machines.
But it won’t be because history helped.
It wasn’t genetics that made Antigone and Cordelia better daughters than Ismene, Reagan and Goneril. They did it themselves.
The solutions to personal and political problems come from the same source. It’s the people, stupid. It’s the bad political people of the last 40 years voters are mad at. It’s the values and votes of good citizens who can make things right. Trump et al are an understandable mistake. But it can be corrected.
***This week on HERE & THERE we look, in depth, at trouble spots at home and abroad.
On Monday, the spike in incidents of hate-related crimes and abuse was clearly a big national story for award-winning investigative reporter A. C. Thompson of Pro Publica. Then the spike struck twice, in his neighborhood and one nearby in Northern California. Understanding ugliness is never easy.
Tuesday, a local hero, the Santa Fe naturopath Dr. Andrew Lustig talks about his Global Outreach Doctors team’s latest assignment. They’ve been in northern Iraq treating refugees from the battle for the crucial city of Mosul and the continuing warfare against the Islamic State in Syria.
On Wednesday, PBS NewsHour Special Correspondent Christopher Livesay, who has been a journalist based in Rome for half a decade, introduces us to the 5-Star Movement. “We’re not a political party,” claims their leader, comedian and blogger Beppo Grillo, but they poll like one, and elect big city Mayors like one. What might they do if they ran the Italian government?
Thursday, we return to the scene of many crimes, Ukraine, where a sudden heat-up of the so-called “frozen war” posed a test for Donald Trump. His blue book was more likely to please Vladimir Putin than President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev. Former US Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer on how the White House might affect the endgame in a war almost everyone wants to finish.
In re the annual embarrassment of the White House Correspondents Dinner I submit guest lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin.
“You like potato and I like potahto.
You like tomato and I like tomahto.
Potato, potahto; tomato, tomahto –
Let’s call the whole thing off.”
And please enjoy our own rich and just dessert, the editorial illustrations of Amy Marash.