Well, it’s been 2 weeks and quite a ride already!
Lots of people are freakin’ out–including many Republicans! Protests are ramping up. Donald Trump and his reactionary supporters are doubling down.
What should we do now?! How do we keep all this in perspective and not get discouraged, depressed, pessimistic and cynical?
Or, should I say, more discouraged, depressed, pessimistic and cynical than we’ve been already with the failures of Obama and the “opposition party,” the Democrats?
Our last president rode a wave of hope after the disaster of the George W. Bush administration. Unfortunately, the results fell far short of the promise. Let’s start there:
In 2008, after Bush’s disastrous invasions abroad and the near-meltdown of the economy (up to that point, the most reactionary White House since the 19th Century), the US establishment needed a way to pacify the masses. They needed someone to help them continue their agenda and make sure nobody responsible for any of those failures was held accountable. Enter Barack Obama, spouting progressive, all-inclusive rhetoric and fooling like-minded voters that he would lead some sort of revolutionary movement as the first African-American president. Many of us saw the con, but the most hopeful among us had to wait to figure out he supported the classic conservative agenda.
A brief look at Obama’s record
Obama believed in the myth of “American Exceptionalism” (i.e., we are the standard other countries must follow, we can do no wrong or, if we do, we only had good intentions etc.) and, in his book, “The Audacity of Hope,” he even praised Ronald Reagan and had the…audacity to criticize the 1960s’ radical movements that made his election possible! Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. long ago stated that racism was only one of the “triple evils” facing the country and actively challenged economic injustice and imperialism or militarism. Therefore, peace-loving supporters of Obama and people of color—especially Muslim voters—might wonder about the Obama/Hillary Clinton drone war program, “the most extreme terrorist campaign of modern history” (Noam Chomsky). In fact, Obama’s war efforts in the Middle East started only a few days after his first inauguration.
Further, Obama meekly stood by while Israel expanded its brutal occupation of Palestinian territory and recently gave them $38 billion more in military aid. Supporting an apartheid regime and the drone war did not exactly help us foster goodwill and convince young, desperate men in the Middle East that radical jihadism wasn’t correct in its belief we were hypocrites and the cause of their suffering.
A few other items:
- Johnny-come-lately commutations (omitting Leonard Peltier, of course) after becoming the champion of going after whistleblowers;
- His reputation on immigration as the “deporter-in-chief;”
- The increase in the surveillance state’s powers and continuing and strengthening the National Defense Authorization Act, one of many “Neo-McCarthyite” attempts of the Obama administration to curtail speech and control information.
- His weak environmental record, with lip service in the yearly Conference of the Parties (COP) environmental gatherings until his last year in office;
- His cozy relationship with Wall Street, Big Banks, and Corporate America while ignoring substantive action in favor of Main Street–despite Bernie Sanders getting Hillary Clinton to backtrack on the terrible Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal;
- His plans to inject $1 trillion to “upgrade” our nuclear arsenal (that’s “Audacity,” alright, but not of hope).
“OK, OK…but, c’mon, what about race? Didn’t he herald and create a ‘post-racial’ world?” Hardly.
In an attempt to bridge the racial divide and foster solidarity (both laudatory goals) he stated: “What ails working- and middle-class blacks is not fundamentally different from what ails their white counterparts.” Sure, they all suffer from economic oppression and have cause for solidarity, but “not fundamentally different”?! He even claimed that, after the Clinton administration abolished the Aid for Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program in the 1990s, “conservatives and Bill Clinton were right about welfare.”
Well, were they?
Blaming the victim aside, there is no scientific evidence that AFDC was the cause of intergenerational poverty or the alleged poor work ethics of black people. So what did and does lead to the seemingly intractable problems of African-Americans? Well, the absence of well-paid jobs of a sustainable and dignified nature, a discriminatory criminal justice system and the cradle to prison pipeline, difficulty obtaining mortgages and decent, affordable housing (due, in part, to racial redlining), substandard schools…those might have something to do with it, hmmm?!
Also missing was acknowledgement in the mainstream that black households’ net worth had fallen: after 5 years of Obama, it was one-thirteenth of white households at the median.
What Obama said and didn’t say only served to reinforce whites’ existing perspective on racism as merely prejudice and bigotry from some whites instead of institutionalized obstacles for blacks and other minorities. What was missing was leadership and use of the bully pulpit to expose the fundamental oppressive nature of the US system (when he’d try to say something about it such as the time his professor friend was racially profiled and abused by police, he quickly backed down in the face of conservative blowback). White people had a hard enough time acknowledging pervasive racism and its impact, and now this black president helped their denial become even more entrenched.
The dismal record of Obama’s and the Democratic party’s past 8 years resulted in minorities, the poor, the working class, and the increasingly squeezed middle class feeling even more pressure, leading them to become disillusioned with the idea that elections would foster change. Combining that cynicism with a candidate in Hillary Clinton that was obviously more of the same and the growing activism of white supremacists and nationalists, a Trump victory was made possible.
Hope is for Suckers
For those of you who have read our free article, “How to Get Unstuck Without Feeling Like a Schmuck” (go here to register for a free membership and get your copy), you’ll recall when we quoted the great James Hillman from his book, “The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling:”
What hope do [children] see in the adult world? Pinning hope on a child and its future is easier than finding a larger hope for the adult world itself. Archaic peoples and tribal communities offered their children constancy, an unlimited time span of continuities. Cyclical changes and nomadic migrations did not shake the foundations. Myths made life livable, and hope was not even a category of archaic existence. Hope enters history, and our psychology, as trust in continuity fades [emphasis added].
So, trust in the continuity of family life, community and cultural life, and human life itself has been fading and two forces are battling it out to carry us forward. One actually takes us backward, which is what we see with the reactionary Trump triumph.
Let’s detail the 2 general choices and makes some sense of what’s going on. And then let us offer hope for…for not needing hope. 😉
A Choice Based on Fear
A reactionary is a person who holds political views that favor a return to the status quo ante, the previous political state of society, which they believe possessed characteristics (discipline, respect for authority, etc.) that are negatively absent from the contemporary status quo of a society. As an adjective, the word reactionary describes points of view and policies meant to restore the status quo ante.
In other words, Trump’s slogan: “Make America Great Again.” Enough voters in the right states fell for it and chose to put him in the White House.
It’s important to understand that none of this is new. The history of the USA (not to mention history, in general) is full of reactionary movements and leaders. Progressive forces are constantly met with resistance and push back. Is it two steps forward, one step back? One step forward, two steps back? Some other combination? We agree with Martin Luther King, Jr. who famously paraphrased 19th Century progressive and abolitionist, Theodore Parker:
I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.
A Choice for Progress
On the one hand, positive, progressive change is ever present and, so far, wins out in the long run. That said, there’s no doubt reactionary push back now has the technological capability to end it all when it holds power; our evolution in technological know-how now outpaces our social and political evolution. Trump does, indeed, represent a threat. We must resist:
“It is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and the crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.” Frederick Douglass, July 5th, 1852, in Rochester, New York, in one of his most famous speeches, The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro.
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will.” Frederick Douglass, 1857
Self-Organization vs. Self-Dissolution
Evolution and human evolution demonstrate clear patterns, patterns of ever-changing, greater complexity as well the opposite: devolution and/or going backward, becoming simpler in organization or more similar to past stages. Building up vs. Breaking Down. On an individual level, this includes the material domain or biosphere such as our flesh which grows and gains function but eventually decomposes. It also includes the our minds, consciousness, and social relationships (or “noosphere”) which can expand and advance but, unfortunately, can all too often return to less stable and functional states.
On a larger scale of human groups, cultures, and nations, the same pattern holds. Whole societies demonstrate the reactionary vs. progressive tendencies we mentioned earlier.
So, here we are again: faced with what seems to be a major crisis and a tipping point. Will we regroup and use this crisis to spur a progressive, evolutionary flowering? Or will we continue to threaten our existence given the two main areas the reactionary forces are championing or denying—namely, nuclear power and nuclear weapons and environmental disaster and climate change?
Islands of Coherence in a Sea of Chaos
“Evolution is self-organization to self-transcendence.”—Erich Jantsch
Philosophers as far back as Plato warned that tyrants and rule by a class of the powerful and greedy arises when conditions are ripe and that, for all its virtues, Democracy can lead to a lack of wise and moral decision making by leaders as well as the common person. Our traditionally modernist and excessively individualistic society has been slowly giving way to a culture of (postmodern) pluralism where freedom can come to mean “freedom to do what one will” and may not always be consistent with the common good. Truth becomes relative to the point where there is no universal, basic truths common to all and no social or cultural system open to criticism. Nihilism and solipsism tempt us. Narcissism abounds. “Trigger warnings” and accusations of “microagressions” are examples of hyper-sensitivty, extreme identity politics, and political correctness run amok. (Today’s neo-conservatives see an opening and pounce, unable to discern that this stage is actually above or beyond them, part of the necessary growing pains of evolutionary progress.)
For example, college students recently held a formal protest when a faculty member graded a student’s work as substandard due to the fact it was poorly written by generally accepted academic standards. Apparently, the student believed the assignment deserved an “A,” regardless of the poor writing. The excesses of “everyone’s special” and the confusion that universal human rights must preclude or supersede degrees of merit do not allow moral and value judgments and discernment and cannot differentiate between oppressive, dominator hierarchies and natural, growth hierarchies. Everybody’s right actually comes to mean nobody’s right. If nobody’s right, if there is no way for competing values to be judged, if nothing can be ranked (except for the idea that nothing can be ranked which is better than other ideas such as the idea that ranking is OK–Ha!), then it’s anything goes and reactionaries like Trump can sweet talk people down from the inevitable anxiety that ensues.
Plato’s belief that tyrants arise due to too much “freedom,” similar to this postmodern, “post-truth” condition we’re in now, led him to conclude that the solution was education, that positive change is dependent on education. In contrast, the tyrant uses manipulation, coercion, and violence to obtain the change he or she seeks. We’d argue that education in this sense is synonymous with human growth and development. Hence, our emphasis on blending personal growth and social responsibility.
There is great opportunity in the midst of this crisis. In the 2016 presidential election, Bernie Sanders (along with Green Party candidate, Jill Stein) and Donald Trump represented the positive and negative intersections of this current tipping point in evolution. At MoBettaLife.com, we want to be on the leading edge of evolution and human development and:
- Assist self-organization,
- Provide direction for greater levels of development, and
- Acknowledge and embrace diversity while at the same time reach for higher unity and wholeness.
Our goal is to provide place where we can all become stronger and more adaptable, effective and capable as individuals as well as parts of something greater than ourselves. We strive to foster self-realization through self-transcendence as well as a deep commitment to universal human rights and responsibilities which, of course, creates and sustains individuality in the first place!
“Don’t mourn, organize!”
We believe we need to simultaneously organize ourselves psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually as we organize local and global communities to work for systemic change. Not “either-or” but “both-and.” We don’t have to choose between working on personal development and working for social change and justice. Indeed, one informs the other. Personal growth makes the social change more likely to occur. Personal development makes our efforts to fight social and political oppression stronger and more robust. (And vice versa.)
In order for Trump to be remembered as a temporary contraction along the path of evolution,
MoBettaLife.com seeks your help to empower self-organizing, self-transcending people and groups of people to bring about a collaborative, creative, and peaceful world.
Please 1) comment below and 2) register for a free membership and start a discussion in our Member Forums about your reactions to this article and Trump’s first few weeks. Start a discussion with your ideas and proposals for solutions and actions we can all take to resist and overcomb…I mean, overcome the reactionary Trump years ahead!
The big news this week has been Trump’s ban on immigration or travel from seven majority-Muslim countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen). Immigration has been a hot topic for at least as far back as 9/11 and really heated up during the 2016 presidential campaign. Does restricting it make us safer…or does it make us weaker? Here are some notable immigrants to the USA:
Donald Trump seems to believe that African-American icon, ex-slave and abolitionist, Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) is still alive and kickin.’
By the way: Next year, Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives will be celebrating the bicentennial of Douglass’ birth with an attempt to “inspire and empower one million young people to do and be more than they ever dreamed possible…[and] participate in meaningful service projects within their communities and internationally.
Given the failure and collapse of Democratic Party’s efforts to gain the presidency and control of congress and handing it instead to Trump and the Republicans in 2016, one might wonder if anyone predicted such an apparent seismic shift in US politics.
A “Really Bad Dude”
Infamous “gonzo journalist,” Hunter S. Thompson’s obituary of Richard Nixon recently surfaced. Thompson’s hate for Nixon was well known. See if you find anything relevant when we consider our current Commander In Chief. Nixon killed countless numbers of people in Southeast Asia. Trump is just getting started. Is this comparison unfair? Premature? Probably.