Apocalypse January 2021
I have to believe that people are still generally good. Honest, benevolent, but misled into retrogressive revolutions by leaders and representatives who lie, who play pretend, who act in bad faith. They spread disinformation disease, they short-circuit politics, they trade in lies told for power and lies told for profit. It was ever thus. I have to believe their priorities and values do not reflect the polis. The top new COVID cases are in the USA, Brazil, UK. Millions of citizens are being ignored, left unrepresented, left with guilt and powerlessness as our collective body is infected with parasites. We cannot ignore or insulate ourselves from the needless, brazen cost of human lives; we have to feel it, somehow we have to process it. At this moment clearly we are vulnerable to liars and racketeers, strongmen, false prophets.
At the US Capitol insurrection, incited by the disgraced former president, zero counter-protest presence left the MAGA mob alone vs. law enforcement. Participants felt they were fighting for justice. Fake news media got them thinking they’re the counter-protesters. They couldn’t believe the police weren’t fighting alongside them. They were dumbstruck as they hit against the limits of white entitlement: You can’t arrest me! or, I deserve a pardon! I guess their badges and Bibles and American flags weren’t American. The most shocking thing wasn’t that the coup was attempted but that it got so close to succeeding. That it was an inside job exposed the rot in (American) democracy for all the world to see. Rubio and Cruz and other prominent Republican colluders claim, with cynical, circular logic, to stand up for the legitimate anxieties and concerns of tens of millions of Americans, anxieties and concerns that exist because of the lies they spread themselves, that serve them well, in the short term at least. If you start makin’ decisions based on truth, then the whole Republican party falls apart. The liars demand to be taken as legitimate, demand the presumption of good faith, cry outrage when the substance of their ideology is shown clearly to be not. Is this America? Does America protect violence more than people? (1)
Biden’s inauguration marked a return not to normalcy but to reality. The new president had the wall around the White House taken down. He called for unity, pledged to repair his country’s alliances and engage with the world once again. He may be a great healer, a stepping stone to a brighter future, or a weak, hamstrung appeaser. We have a chance to make the world in the image of something different, aspiring to something better. It’s economic madness to do what we currently do: to categorise climate collapse an externality peripheral to the omnipresent market focus, to believe that 20th-century capitalism can fix the structural crises we face right now. Rational economic man is standing there alone, money in his hand, ego in his heart, a calculator in his head and nature at his feet. Research has found the more we tell ourselves that he’s like us, the more we start to become like him. What are we all trying to win? We want green growth, clean growth, good growth, strong growth, resilient growth, shared growth… Have anything you want as long as it’s growth. (2)
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(1) Ibram X. Kendi
(2) Kate Raworth