Bamboozled Again

OK, sorry folks, it's my turn, let's put this puppy to bed once and for all.

I have thought since the turn of the century that for things to evolve positively for people we'll have to radically reform the global socio-economic system. To do this we need active, highly educated polities and constituencies in countries right across the world.

It would be nice if we didn’t have any pressing, existential threats to worry about.

Let’s say all nuclear weapons had been dismantled and it was really easy to ensure that no country would build any ever again. Let’s imagine that the world had wonderful technologies that ensured we never had to worry about climate change and that the climate would continue in perfect, life-enhancing stasis for another twelve thousand years. And let’s imagine that inequality wasn’t a problem at all and value was trickling up and down to everyone; everyone had food, shelter, clothing, healthcare and an absolutely, astounding quality education from preschool through graduate school. What does this sound like? A post-scarcity utopia perhaps? Well, lots of futurists, technologists and engineers believe this is inevitable. If we have enough time we can solve all of our problems, together as a benevolent and intelligent species in the universe. It sounds like I’m a Trekkie right? I do like Star Trek more than Star Wars that's for sure. I love the idea that we wouldn’t interfere with alien civilizations unless they really threaten us. Wouldn’t it be nice if all countries around the world had that as their prime directive?

For a long time, candidates have been “change candidates”. If you run on a platform of change it seems to grab a lot of people’s interest. Fear is also a potent message to put out there when you are a change candidate, it ups the ante and creates a higher sense of urgency. “If you don’t elect me there will be hell to pay people!” President-Elect Trump was a master of that during his campaign. And many people across the United States seemed compelled to vote for him for just those reasons. 

But from my point of view, especially in 2016, it’s clear to me that nothing has changed since the 1970s when Neoliberalism triumphed over progress and global corporatism took over. And then came the financialization of the Global Economy... As an old propagandist, I understand that when you have the resources you can sell, pardon my language, shit to the sewer. You can coerce, manipulate, and control masses of people so easily that it’s practically a joke. Go and listen to recordings of ENRON employees. When you realize how easy people are conned it’s easy to get giddy with megalomania. “Man, we played those people like a fiddle! Whoopee, aren’t we smart!” 

When Marshall McLuhan wrote, “The Medium is the Message” he had no idea we’d all be carrying supercomputers in our pockets and in charge of our own media empires curating content for our bubbled-in-social-networks twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Our new President-Elect talks about getting his information from Facebook. How can we have valid common priors when we get most of our info from social networks? With so much bad information sloshing around in our heads how can we ever be good at predicting outcomes?

I know a lot of people are mad at Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight because his interpretation of the polls was wrong. But if I may, please go and read the section in his book, “The Signal and The Noise” about poker players and bone up on the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Basically, a vast majority of us way overestimate how good we are at things. We think we’re great poker players until we're broke and addicted to painkillers

I know, I sound like a broken record and believe me, it’s not fun anymore. 

Below I'd like to share perspectives on the presidential election from a few intellectuals who I admire. These people are not best friends by any stretch of the imagination, they have intensely differing views and they focus on different things. It would be boring if we all agreed. I really appreciate the opportunity to learn from all kinds of people, especially people who have put a lot of time and hard work into forming their sincere and highly considered views. Sometimes we call these kinds of people experts and I like experts.

(I don't need to worry too much about epistemic humility - I'm too simple minded.) 

If you’ll allow me before I turn you over to the really smart influencers, here’s my take on President-Elect Donald J. Trump.

He’s an attention grubbing egomaniac who’s primarily concerned with himself. He’s happy when he’s in the limelight and people are showing him the respect and admiration he thinks is his birthright. He’s a spoiled, childish, senior citizen with a lot of money. He doesn’t really want to govern; governing is complex and really hard work and it’s much more fun playing a big shot when you don’t have to work very hard. To put it another way, he's used to being a real estate developer and a reality T.V. star, he's comfortable in those roles, but how will he feel doing things he really doesn't like doing? Will he just go AWOL? "Sorry people, I'm not politically correct, I do things my way, just try to keep up."  

If he's lazy, like perhaps, George W. Bush most probably was, he's going to have to find people who will do most of the work for him. What really worries me is who are those people going to be?

Most of the things he said during his campaign he probably didn’t mean. He played on our fear and hatred. He told his audience what they were desperate to hear. No one has any idea what he’s going to do as President of the most powerful Empire the world has ever known. He’s a psychological black box. 

I can’t help but wonder what his fans are going to do when they realize that nothing is going to change much at all. I wonder what his Alt-Right fans do when they realize that he's not going to bring about a new White European utopia. What will the really violent, extremist maniacs do when they are betrayed? It scares me to contemplate it. 

Trump is a player and he wants to be a player president and if you voted for him he’s played you. 

I’m not going to regurgitate what you already know from all the news outlets. We will all be captive witnesses to the Trump Whitehouse shenanigans for at least the next four years and I think I can confidently predict that nothing will change for the better. We will still have nukes, climate change will continue unabated, terrorism isn’t going anywhere, inequality will widen, multi-national corporations will rule the world, we will all talk about the commercials that play during the Super Bowl and fight like hell to signal our status to our communities through our amazing taste in consumer goods. 

Get ready for the darker side of the status quo. The Status Quo is dead, long live the Status Quo.

Now we’re watching how fast the media and big business falls in line with this new, odd coalition of narrow-minded science deniers. Obama fell in line with big biz and now big biz will fall in line with Trump and his people. 

Faith and hope are qualities of being that most of us find very hard to give up. Most of us are going to be reaching out for that silver lining. We're all hoping he's really just a nice guy who threw shit at us for eighteen months just to see if it would get him elected. He didn't really mean it. Now we get to see the real President Donald J. Trump - Angel Trump - our charming savior, the fun and entertaining guy that inspires us with his wealth and success.

We must all hope that the art of the flimflam won’t do too much damage.

It's amazing how easy it is for us to almost feel sorry for the con man. Trump is a cynical huckster, an old player who isn’t going to change, there will be no sudden rebirth. He’s our tough guy feeding our insatiable desire for revenge, feeding on our greed, feeding on our conservative sense of absolute justice. 

The sad fact is that we are all going to have to learn to live with this shallow playboy as our president for at least the next four years, and that’s the best case scenario. Will the Trump presidency be a disaster? We all just have to wait and see. 

But never mind, we know how to suck it up and get through the next period of same-same. We’ve all lived through two terms of Bush (a good old boy) and two terms of Obama (an uppity smart-ass lawyer and social activist). Life goes on.  It's business as usual. We are so accustomed to going along that it’s hardly a surprise that an outlier like Trump could become President of the United States of America. Trump is the black swan that we all should have seen coming. 

Americans in today's culture are exceptionally good at idolizing wealthy people. We no longer look up to intellectual plumbers who provide for their family and do good works through their civic organizations. You've got to have bling baby, you need to signal you've got bank. It's almost impossible to find a person who has the courage to piss off money these days. Money is free speech now, money is the highest form of personhood. I swear if Jesus is a poor man in American today we'll never know he walks among us. God wants you to be rich, don't you know. The second coming is going to be a super rich man who shares our values and engenders biblical levels of fear, hatred, and revenge, and offers us our only way out. And he’s going to do this with the charm of a reality T.V. star because he alone can fix it. 

Things will never change for people who have already given up. And for those of you for whom Donald is your savior, that familiar feeling of helplessness will return once it sinks in that Donald is just another rich guy. Perhaps the only consolation is that at least he's a simple minded rich guy, not a smart ass like so many elite wealthy people seem to be. He's not politically correct. He tells it like it is. At least Donald doesn't tell us what to do. He's a deft fear monger and simplistic storyteller. He's the original K.I.S.S. practitioner. 

And he’s tough too. He’s the kind of bully who punches you in the stomach after lunch and the very next day tells you that he really respects your taste in leather jackets. You blush and feel special because the mean bastard seems to care about you a little for a moment. He's both a good cop and a bad cop. How amazing is that? What talent!

He's the perfect bait and switch man. And what might be a good distraction for us moving forward, something for us to focus on besides the fact that our system doesn’t work in the Twenty-First Century? What, a war you say? We’re already primed for it. The establishment, Trump's establishment, your establishment knows this all too well. The make-work military industrial economy must be fed with endless conflict; that’s just good for shareholders. (I’m not being cheeky.) The intelligentsia can just sit back and dictate the writing on the wall and state their claim to common sense via the saddest sentence I know, "I told you so.”

The climate deniers have won a great victory in America which means life on earth loses. We will enjoy our entertainments and allow inequality to widen, we'll watch the sixth extinction on National Geographic channel, nuclear proliferation will begin again, more people will become addicted to opioids and our veterans will continue to kill themselves. Our new leaders care only for themselves, just like the old ones did. 

Of course, there are lots of people in our world who care about important issues that affect all of us, it just doesn’t matter. Money rules the world, and if you don’t have it, you don't matter.  

As for myself, I’ll work on developing an epicurean, stoical way of developing a more profound sense of apathy. This alone will make me more popular, this I can tell you, folks. Social critics are no fun at all. Let’s laugh, drink, eat and play while the empire burns. I’m a baby boomer so I’ve had it easy. I’ve lived roughly 30 years without the internet and 30 years with the internet. We all live happily in our echo chambers. I don’t think an evidence-based government is possible anymore. The hustlers are in control, perhaps they always have been and always will be. 

OK, that was painful, let's start our journey with the fabled, brilliant comedy icon, John Oliver. And remember, "THIS IS NOT NORMAL" and "FUCK 2016"!

Hehehe, hahaha - that was funny. 

Hehehe, hahaha - that was funny. 

Now let's pivot to Sam Harris. I'm interested in his views on Islamist extremists and his take on the psychology of our President-Elect and the people who surround him.

If that didn't make you concerned enough about our future let's move on to our favorite revolutionary, Chris Hedges. I know, I know it's from RT and that's Russian, but you know, Russia isn't a communist country anymore, it's a White Nationalist country with a powerful, charismatic dictator in charge. Now you feel more at home, right?

Let's look at things from an economic POV with Professor Richard D. Wolff. Oh no, he writes about Marx! Have you read Adam Smith or Max Weber? No you say? Then don't worry about Marx. 

For those of you would prefer a more controversial, libertarian point-of-view I give you Charles Murray. This is less about Trump and more about politics today and why we are like we are.

And let's not forget my old standby, Noam Chomsky. He tells it like it is and he criticizes the government but he lacks the ability to say those few, most important words, "America right or wrong."

Love or hate their progressive asses, this post wouldn't be complete without a take from The Young Turks.

Let's also hear what the ever-so-popular (in progressive circles) David Pakman thinks about moving to Canada. Although, really man, no one's going to move to a swing-state just to vote. They want jobs and security. But he's right; don't bail folks. 

Let's go back to some fun stuff and watch Bernie Sanders on The Late Show with that ever charming and sensitive comedian, Stephen Colbert.

Now, smirk, let's get snarky and rub it in your faces with one of my favorite barbed wits, Lee Camp. I'm feel'in campy.

These are just a small smattering of perspectives on the potential disaster we know as President-Elect Donald J. Trump. He will surround himself with the usual suspects and we will continue on, as we have since the 1970s. The winners will, as ever, be multi-national corporations and their cronies. 

There are those who wish that little Steven Cleghorn could be just a little more optimistic and have a bit of faith in The Donald and his lovely, talented family. I'm sorry friends, I just don't have faith in them, none at all. I still feel we are headed in the wrong direction. I can't explain to you the complexities of the kind of world I'd like to see and I wouldn't ask you to bother to spend one calorie of intellectual energy trying to understand my position. I only have faith in you, in my friends who do care and are making an effort; and, I have faith in my friends that are just getting on with it, taking care of themselves and other people while sharing the love. 

And this I will never do, I will NEVER apologize for Trump and the way he behaved during his campaign. He is a jerk and a fool and I just don't like him. I never will. He's put us through a lot and unleashed a torrent of hatred; and, he's made it fashionable to be stupid and heroic to be anti-intellectual. I will never forgive him for that. I can only feel sorry for us and for life on earth. 

The only thing I can say to my "right" leaning friends is that I feel you too, believe me, this I can tell ya with a straight face.

apologize-trump.jpg

BBC Documentary Podcast, HOW TO WIN A U.S. ELECTION.

I can't help it, life is just so funny. 

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Steven Cleghorn

Steven is an autodidact, skeptic, raconteur and film producer from America who has been traveling since he was a zygote. He's a producer at The Muse Films Ltd. in Hong Kong and a constantly improving (hopefully) Globe Hacker. He's seeks the company of interesting minds.