Do Americans really understand what’s at stake in the midterms? Now, before you cry, “of course they do!”, perhaps it’s worth considering in a little more detail. Why? Because at every juncture of American collapse so far, the risks of, well, all this happening, have been vastly, fatally, lethally understated — minimized, denied, pooh-poohed away. Haven’t they? It’s not just that not a single mainstream pundit or thinker (go ahead, think about it) didn’t predict any of this — it’s that they actively refused to allow even the possibility, mocking and taunting those who did predict it. Instead, election season was spent pretending Trumpism was a joke, and the next year, sternly warning from on high that you and I mustn’t use words like “fascism” and “authoritarianism.”
What do imploding middle classes do? They turn to fascists. Who blame their woes on scapegoats, turning grief into grievance. Fascists promise the downwardly mobile that they will be “great” again — that they’ll rise culturally, triumph socially, be symbolically reborn, and economically renewed. It’s a powerful appeal, to people who, suddenly, are shocked, that they are falling out of what appeared to be a clear blue sky. Who will save them? Who’ll rescue them? To understand fascism, Yyu have to understand that the minds of a large part of this stratum of society simply stop working. Those minds brim over with grievances, hated, imagined enemies, who are persecuting them, victimizing them, who are hunting them into nonexistence, who they need to destroy first, exterminate — not anything resembling coherent thoughts, logical reason, or moral sanity
What is not widely recognized, though, is the underlying germ that makes the politics of division so viable. Our culture teaches us in subtle but countless ways that division works – that it is necessary for creating safety and enabling control. We soak up this lesson, learning first and foremost how to divide the self. That lesson is stressed and locked into our bodies by our public schools: achieving success there means suppressing the body’s intelligence and sitting still (and you’d better learn to throttle the body’s energy, or you’ll get in trouble) so that you can fill your head with the right facts and lessons.
This is who we’ve always been, a nation of madmen and sociopaths, for whom murder is a line item, kept hidden via a long list of semantic self-deceptions, from “manifest destiny” to “collateral damage.” We’re used to presidents being the soul of probity, kind Dads and struggling Atlases, humbled by the terrible responsibility, proof to ourselves of our goodness. Now, the mask of respectability is gone, and we feel sorry for ourselves, because the sickness is showing.
Until we can create more equality, tend to our personal and collective pain, care for one another as much as we do for fame, fun, and money, and rebuild a community of caring for those left out, we will find the most perverse ways to belong, to feel a part each other’s lives. Ideally, we accomplish this in joy and in sustainable, shared sorrow. When we can’t, our need to belong goes unmet and we seek it however we can. One who feels dead inside kills to share and belong in the only way he can—by forcing others to feel as dead as he does inside
Why we feel so fatigued, depleted, and exhausted
The extreme weather events of the summer of 2018 are not just symptoms of climate breakdown. They are early stage warnings of a protracted process of civilisational collapse as industrial societies face some of the opening symptoms of having already breached the limits of a safe climate.
Mostly, we’ve bought into the Great American Myths of a) everyone should be self reliant b) no one should be a burden c) everyone must take responsibility only for themselves — but no one else. Ah, do you see how easy these myths make it for a society to collapse? Why should you care about that dead kid, if you believe in self-reliance, that no one should be a burden, and that everyone is only their own responsibility? Hey! It’s not your problem — it’s his. Why should you care who gets dragged away by the strong men? It’s their fault, their problem, their responsibility. Is it? Is life really that simple? Is this difficult, strange, and noble project called coexistence, called civilization really as simple as those three myths? Or in telling and retelling those three myths, did Americans somehow avoid asking the hard questions, about what responsibilities people must take for another, if they are to stay sane, humane, decent, courageous, noble, true, whole — civilized?