Actually, it’s Monday night. But I’m a bit tipsy. Eh? Eh? Missed a deadline, goddammit.
Stuff That Happened, July 31 – August 6, 2017
I don’t know, man. Maybe a million tiny steps in the investigation into Donald Trump’s pervasive sleaziness, and not all of them related to Russia, plus a new military man as Trump’s Chief of Staff (John Kelly, who looks perfectly comfortable with that stick up his ass), and the subtle “phony” stability that followed. Also, happy about life in missile range whilst we play chicken with North Korea. [I do hope to expand these little summaries, or just clean them up; just a matter of how/when.]
Anchor Article(s): For some damn reason, one corner of my mind resides permanently in Caracas, Venezuela. A spike in news about the country followed from an election every good person wisely assumes was fucked up, and the return of an American journalist from ground zero, where she was around to report on the suicide of a society. It’s good and I’d encourage anyone who finds this to read it. Another interview posted last week covered a lot of the same ground – and that’s the one I plumbed for some of the notes below (the interview with the journalist only dropped today, it’s late, etc.) Added a couple other articles: one on the governor of West Virginia flipping Democrat to Republican, and an pre-election think-piece from Cracked that imagines an American revolution. Just, bear with me. I don’t do conspiracies…at least not until they start making sense (at which point, pray for us, or just me, as the situation dictates).
The main thing I want to point out are all the through-lines (and sorry for my repeated use of that phrase) between the professor, Terry Lynn Karl, references when she talks about Venezuela and aspects of American society/politics today. A selection:
“The party system collapsed, in my view, because it didn’t do anything for the poor.”“The party system got very sclerotic, corrupt.”“When you distribute money that you don’t have, you only have two solutions. You borrow—that’s what the United States does—or you print money. That’s also what the United States does.”
“Well, I think the main thing is to do no harm, because the last thing anybody should want to do is to push Venezuela into a civil war. I want to say that that’s a possibility, because a) everybody has a gun in Venezuela, and b) there are two completely different narratives.”
Familiar as that last one should sound, the only assumption just about every American agrees on is the corruption of the system. It doesn’t matter that they blame different people/organizations for the problem (e.g., “the Jews” for the nationalist freaks, versus the “elites” that confused conservatives rail against, or, for liberals...just Republicans/conservatives, or their pressure groups (e.g., the NRA)), everyone agrees that everything sucks - and that's enormously dangerous. The actual problem boils down to getting good people into the system as opposed to the self-aggrandizing sociopaths with the psychic defenses to choke down the bullshit of a political campaign, but no one knows how to fix that. So…
I think that’s the root of my fascination with Venezuela, a society that made a series of choices that absolutely made sense until they didn’t. Now, cursed with the wrong guy at the top of what’s left of their system (generally speaking, everyone agrees these guys govern like morons), the country is falling apart – as in, citizens rummaging through the trash levels of falling apart.
I chose the article on West Virginia’s governor for two reasons: 1) his switch to Trump (as opposed to the GOP) feels like the result of at least a conceptual bribe; 2) it’s entirely in keeping with the worst tendency in American politics – e.g., tribalism. He's just following where his state is going, and without putting too many questions toward just where that is.
Ideals – and, explicitly, that’s ideals, not ideas – matter more than people. That’s at least one part of why people die for them with semi-regularity – and, c’mon, we all know ideals when we see it – they’re things like universal suffrage, or just fucking being honest with people – a lost art that desperately needs reviving. (Ideas, like communism, suck because they start as cocktail napkin premises that expand into elaborately impractical theories of social engineering, and end in murderous dogma when they inevitably spin apart.) There’s at least one ideal, in the here and now, that no one knows how to defend rhetorically. John McCain tried to talk about it, but, per the age, everyone received his speech with a shrug. That shrug is the root of the problem.
Democracy is nothing more or less than the mechanism by which we guide our society. The goal – the goddamn ideal – should involve perfecting the feedback loop between citizen and representative. I couldn’t give a wet shit how we get there, but the whole thing simply cannot work when representative government separates from the people who shape it. The frustration at the imperfect system winds up destroying that system. Call me crazy, but I don’t think anyone voted for rampant income inequality. Just to give an example.
I want to end this with a quote from the longer interview with that American reporter, Hannah Dreier, because it functions as something like my watch-word for these times:
"And my experience down there has, if it’s taught me one thing, it’s taught me things can always get worse, and worse, and worse, and there’s no rule that says that a miserable situation has to end, just because it’s too miserable."