I just read The Economist’s rather excellent series of articles concerning the extent to which enormous multinational conglomerates have gained dominance over the world’s economy and politics. This article concludes that American and EU politicians will have to use a (quasi-miraculous) combination of self-restraint, prudence, insight, ingenuity, determination, and bravery in order to control these monopolies/cartels without risking destroying the innovation & growth which make them [the giant corporations] so valuable. I was suddenly filled with indignant fury! Our political leaders cannot approve simple funding against Zika–a serious and universally-feared communicable disease. American politicians seem like poltroons who would rather fight each other over moronic soundbites rather than picking extremely low hanging fruit. How can they be expected to reign in vast all-powerful companies worth hundreds of billions of dollars which wear a million aliases yet have neither face nor address?
However, once I calmed down, I realized how dangerous and counter-productive this sort of anger is. Our indignant fury at the system is not helping us—in fact this anger at our leaders is making everything worse. And anger at the system helps one side more than the other. Being infuriated and throwing up your hands and saying “everything is hopeless” is, itself, a partisan position.
This is because the so-called tea-party legislators have gamed the system in a way which has diminished the system. Namely, they have told everyone that government does not work and then they have deadlocked government so that it does not work. They have done so in order to cynically reap electoral advantages, and in order to privatize government services and turn sundry public holdings over to their cronies. As the government gets worse and worse—they can claim to be correct about how useless and ineffectual it all is.
This strategy is successful in that government indeed becomes less and less effective (just like the Republicans said!), but it is a dangerous strategy–like trying to take over a spaceship by turning the life-support systems off and prying open the airlocks. Our state is already showing the sad results of such naked sabotage—but becoming angry or nihilistic about this terrible problem only magnifies the damage. We are trapped in a feedback loop.
As if this weren’t bad enough, the Russians have been meddling in our election this year with a series of leaks, statements, vague threats, and (probably) with money. I find it alarming how similar the Russian strategy is to the tea-party strategy. A Rand Corporation spokesperson summed it up succinctly: “(The current Russian leadership) may think there is a low-cost/high-payoff way to increase the perception that the system over here is chaotic and is not reliable.” They would do such a thing in order to make autocracy look good…and apparently that is working too.
Republicans have tried to exploit this so they can momentarily balk the demographic trends which are relegating their party to obscurity, but in doing so, they have opened a portal to hell. Indeed the tea-party people seem to have lost the momentum and they are being swept away by the autocratic and fascist-style politics they have unleashed.
Being angry at the government is how the Republicans and the Russians want you to feel. They want the government to fail so that they can allow oligarchs to take over even more critical functions. They want corporations (and the rich people who own them) to directly control the streets, schools, parks, and military as well as the hospitals, courts, and prisons. They believe that you should be the plaything of autocrats and enormous monopolies.
So I have stopped being generally angry at the election and the government. We all need to move beyond feeling so much directionless anger and fear. These things are poisoning us. We need to gain a sense of steely calm and we need to carefully and methodically fix the problems which are undermining our superpower. This doesn’t involve saying that everything is broken and there is no point trying to fix anything. It involves seeing that the system is broken because one of our two parties is deliberately sabotaging our state. Let’s throw out these revolting tea baggers who are defrauding us, so that society can start building things and discovering things and caring for people and the planet—oh, and busting up the monopolies which have been preventing competition and free enterprise from doing what they are supposed to do.
And if the Russians and the Republicans win, they probably can’t dismantle the entire system in 4 years. We can throw them out then and start to bust trusts and rebuild society in 2020. I can see the bumper stickers now “Hindsight is 2020: No more President Trump!” but it would be better if we didn’t have to print such things. It would be better if we acted like adults and sorted out our problems now with a combination of self-restraint, prudence, insight, ingenuity, determination, and bravery.