From Kent Johnson:
“A demagogue must be neither an educated nor an honest man; he has to be an ignoramus and a rogue.”
— Demosthenes, 4th C BC
“The peculiar office of a demagogue is to advance his own interests, by affecting a deep devotion to the interests of the people.”
— James Fennimore Cooper, 1838
” The man who is constantly telling the people that they are unerring in judgment, and that they have all power, is a demagogue.”
— Cooper, 1838
What the elections in the US and UK and elsewhere are showing is a deep divide in modern advanced economies between 1) those with university education, including those areas where people cluster around those with university education and serve them in bars, and the values that go with that, and the innovation, patents and hi tech results that flow in urban conurbations and no where else; and 2) the places that used to have well paid jobs for high school graduates, and no longer do and whose values are regressive, misogynistic, and tribal, at least partly in response. The latter now get played by the reactionaries and the plutocrats and this is a great threat to democracy.
But no one seems to be looking for real solutions that provide sustainable value add jobs for the left-behind people or regions. And no one is seeing that with the automation tsunami, their fate will spread to many of even the more educated. Trump and Brexit are phony solutions.
But you can’t proof countries against fascism without an economic solution. I don’t have one off-the-shelf, but I think a lot of hard work needs to go into finding one. Far harder work than any pols, academics, activists, voters, community leaders, have so far been assed to do. Identity politics does not provide one, worthy though its causes are.
And the solution is likely not traditional ideological left or right but something genuinely creative and different that addresses how much people get value, satisfaction and yes identity from work, how value add that work is (doing bs non jobs is demeaning in my experience), and how the benefits of automation are distributed: hint not all into the plutocratic pockets.
Or am I mistaken?
Hannah Arendt observing the architect of the Holocaust Adolf Eichmann on trial in Jerusalem coined the phrase “the banality of evil”. Watching Trump, I think “the evil of banality”…
Memo: Definition of Banality: “the fact or condition of being banal, unoriginality. Synonyms: triteness, vapidity, staleness, imaginativeness, lack of originality, dullness
Some recent debates on Facebook made me think: if you can’t change your own mind when faced with new evidence or new arguments, what chance is there that you can change anyone else’s mind?
I have this theory that at some US conservative get together a few years back, there was an unreported outbreak of a form of mental Legionnaires Disease and all their brains are now shot to hell by its after-effects. Post Viral Conservative Brain Disorder or PVCBD? 🙂 Aka Mad Con Disease?
Symptoms are a radical inconsistency of thought, delusions about reality, loss of logic, serial economy with the truth, amnesia about the US constitution and indeed about conservative principles, and a pathological desire to kiss up to narcissistic madmen. Unfortunately for the UK there were a few Brits in attendance, probably including Boris Johnson so the virus spread, hence Brexit lies, though in his case he is the narcissistical madman these days. 🙂
What seems missing from the analysis of austerity in relation to the recent UK General Election is that Brexit means endless austerity as far as the eye can see, as it likely takes 400 billion pounds a year out of the UK economy by 2025 on my estimate, enough to fund the NHS four times over.
Brexit means Brexit means austerity, whether it is Conservative or Labour in power, and whether either of them temporarily put funding the welfare state on the national credit card. Austerity was since 2009, and is going forward, the result of not giving a fig about the appallingly low level of UK productivity, its chronic balance of payments deficit, or its complete failure to re-balance the economy so the regions away from London and the SE can be really productive.
We are going over an economic cliff and austerity is the least of our problems, a mere symptom, albeit a ghastly one that will hurt so many. Walk away from Brexit asap and focus on the real economy inside our existing trade relationships.
There is this paradox at both the personal level and the political level. When there is a lot of pain is when we most need to try something new, to experiment even on a small scale with new approaches, new habits. To play even.
But this is also the time when we are least likely to do this, and most likely to cling to old ways, old routine, old policies. And as Personal Construct Theory suggests we get hostile: “Hostility is the continued effort to extort validational evidence in favor of a type of social prediction which has already been recognized as a failure.” We know the old ways don’t work but that doesn’t stop us.
And yes I am as guilty of this as anyone, wondering how I can change how I post on this blog? Given how much political pain is out there.