After Trump

Here, at the beginning of the 21st century, we are enduring an enormous moral crisis that is exemplified and amplified by the Donald Trump presidency in the USA.

The Trump phenomena has given us a perfect antithesis-model of the universal good, in which self-love (and self-pity) came to the fore as the most powerful driving force of the most formidable self-loving and self-pitying nation in the world. That such a super-narcissist like Trump could be elected in the nation that is the (self-proclaimed) leader of the democratic world, not only highlights the fundamental flaws in the USA’s electoral system, it shows how dangerously accepting of flagrantly immoral discourses our self-loving, self-pitying societies have either become or are capable of developing into.

That such supposedly moral and even puritanical groups as the evangelical congregations in the USA have been able to embrace the megalomaniacal candidate so warmly and enthusiastically, reveals their own profoundly shallow relationship to universal love as well as their complete lack of appreciation of any objective concept of moral good. Even the Christian teachings of moral uprightness and universal love become swamped by their self-loving/self-pitying support of their self-loving/self-pitying champion.

But while the evangelicals highlight the problem, they are only the tip of the global pandemic of nihilist self-love and pity. Moral law, if it exists at all in this nihilistic global village, has deteriorated into a state that gives ultimate credence to self-love/self-pity as a sufficient reason for duty and action. Rather than striving for the highest good in the world, those who once laid claim to the world’s moral high-ground have collapsed into the wreckage of self-loving and self-pitying patriotisms.

Likewise, virtue and happiness have become corrupted into forms of decadence and perversion. Nothing comes out of the narcissist’s office that remotely resembles virtue anymore.

But there is a positive side to Trumpism too for, through his absolute lack of morality that has highlighted the antithesis against a universally good world, he has also illuminated an image of another possibility, and his tremendous immorality has put a spot light on what an impeccably good society might be like. The very existence of a seemingly impossible entity like the immoralist, malefactor President Trump has made the antithetic element of a universally good system, which has always been considered impractical, now also seem not only desirable but possible. The positive lesson to be learned from the Trump phenomena is that if a dystopia can be made a reality, then so can Utopia be brought about.

Necessity makes the universal good an imperative, and the existence of its antithesis demonstrates the achievability of that imperative. But to get back on the road to goodness and universal love it is not to defeat Trump and what he represents in an election, we have to firstly evolve out of the nihilist state that our self-loving/self-pitying world has sunk into, embracing rational, logical truth to combat the relativity of lies, and promoting authentically humanist values over all attempts to separate humanity into races, nationalities or the politics of segregating identities. The concept of humanity is an all-inclusive ideal and once the whole is embraced the idea of the inclusivity of its parts becomes a non-issue. Humanistic purposes such as knowing, caring for the rest of humanity and the world, and the drive to improve the human condition and develop our enormous creative instincts are needed to temper and vanquish the perverting weaknesses of all self-loving/self-pitying desires.      

Capitalism and Truth

In this age of Fake News and the Trump presidency, we clearly see the unimportance of truth, not only because of the pandemic of lie-infesting trolls and other cults of ignorance that plague our social media, but also from the capitalist-minded organisms of power that govern our lives and the individuals that direct them.

Our System, with a capital S, is capitalist and neo-liberal, and neo-liberal capitalism is indifferent to truth. An indifference which is essentially destructive, because what is buried in the indifference is a denial regarding the overall, tremendously negative consequences of its aim of perpetual growth through a constant increase in production and consumption.

Because of the uncomfortable nature of truth, capitalism has to withdraw from any relationship to it, so much so, that it altogether destroys the possibility of there being anything like truth in it – and this explains the existence of a president like Donald Trump.

Of course, because of this allergy to veracity, our neo-liberal, world civilisation suffers an agonising loss of authenticity, and this means that authenticity is the very force that must be developed in order to vanquish this desperate dictatorship of truth-indifferent capitalism. It is, therefore, to the authentic artists, the scientists and the authentic thinkers that the task of re-instating truth in our societies now lies.

This authentication process, however, is not new; it has taken place in other periods of history – in the classical period when authentic thinking first began, arising as a necessary evolution away from the ubiquitous dominance of the tyranny of myth, and this was repeated in the Renaissance, as a revolution away from the mythical dogma of biblical scripture.  

Seen in this way, capitalism’s indifference to truth is a return to the Dark Ages and the unenlightenment of societies organised and driven along lines governed by mythical assumptions, now in the form of a plague of conspiracy theories designed to distract from the real dangers of the System, which lies in the unintelligent, truth-indifferent nature of the plutocratic system itself.

The fundamental question the authentic thinker must ask today is: What kind of art and what kind of thinking is it that can rescue truth from the erroneously dangerous confusion created by the myth-making conspiracy theories and other lies emanating from the System itself?

The fundamental lie of the neo-mythmakers is that truth is a relative concept that has countless subjective interpretations. A common tactic of these neo-mythmakers is to publicly debunk facts with so-called common-sense assumptions. But common-sense, while it seems logically sensible at first, is never a healthy tool for policy making as it almost always ignores the science and overgeneralises the truth. Attitudes expressed by climate-emergency sceptics are good examples of this, e.g., a spell of cold weather in your region does not mean that the global average temperature is not steadily rising, as scientific studies show.     

For art and thinking to be authentic, they must be anchored in facts, and only then can they be contrasted with the inauthenticity of the neo-mythologies. However, it would be wrong to assume that these facts themselves can serve as a weapon to vanquish the enemy. Remember, capitalist neo-mythologies are indifferent to truth and that makes them indifferent to facts, which means they are immune to any attack from the factual realm.

Here we see that science alone, or a politics rooted in science, will not be enough to overcome the myth-perverted system, it needs to transcend its own seriousness and coldness in order to attack through aesthetic means any perverted judgements that have an indifference to truth. Through the didactic power and ethical seduction that can be energised via art, the neo-mythologies can be fought from within.

Art, because art can embrace the myth itself and use the truth-indifferent universe to take a stance and draw arguments within the mythical world itself, via a creation of new, legendary characters that actually seduce audiences back towards a passion for the comfort of a more ethical, truthful, authentic society. In this way, art can undermine the power of neo-myths.

As Walter Benjamin pointed out when writing about tragedy:

Through every minor and yet unpredictably profound interpretation of the material of legend, tragedy brings about the destruction of the mythic world-order, and prophetically shakes it with inconspicuous words.”[1]

Benjamin observed that it was through the art of writing and performing tragic theatre, that authentic thinking was able to undermine the powerful hold that myth had over Greek society. Tragic art is grounded in myth, but only in order to destroy it, opening a door for authenticity itself.  


[1] Walter Benjamin, GESAMMELTE SCHRIFTEN, II, 1:249

Doctor Faustus & America’s Demons

nazi-american-flag

We can see and feel it coming, and we hope that we will be wrong. It’s a sickness that we share: an insanity rooted in nihilism, xenophobia and hatred; creating a general paranoia that is very much alike to a diabolical possession.

There is nothing new in what we see now: the demons have been lurking in wait to take possession of their inheritance for as long as we can remember. It was conceptualized in nineteenth-century imperialism, becoming manifest in twentieth-century fascisms, and has been simmering under the surface ever since Nazi Germany was defeated by other kinds of fascisms wearing democratic masks.

The success of Trumpism lies in the fact that he sold his brand to the voters by claiming to be the only one untainted by the errors and miscalculations that have brought our consumer civilization to the brink of an apocalyptical demise.

But did the void have to be filled by such a monstrous apparition? For potentially, this creature is even worse than the Nazi Führer. He is capable of everything Hitler was capable of and yet wields a power a thousand-times more potent than Hitler’s was, and a psychology that is more infantile and egocentric than Hitler’s was.

At the end of the Second World War, Thomas Mann, in a talk entitled ‘Germany and the Germans’ described a pact between the German people and the devil, Hitler. The speech was given in retrospect, Satan was already defeated, but Mann had developed the metaphor years before and had written a novel about it called Doctor Faustus.

Like Faustus, Germany sold its soul to Hitler, and like Faustus, America has sold its soul to Donald Trump.

Trumpist America has many of the same symptoms of Nazi Germany: the evocation of nationalist (patriotic) feelings and militaristic pride; the humiliation of past bungled military operations; the influence of perverted theologies and the feelings of family love – and these are all themes that are developed in gruesome detail in Mann’s Doctor Faustus.

The Second World war did not bring about the End of Times, but the demon-Hitler certainly pushed us to the brink of it. It inspired the creation and utilisation of the doomsday weapon (the atom bomb) and we have been living under that apocalyptic cloud ever since.

In Trumpism, even when he chants his own optimistic slogan “Let’s make America great again”, there is an apocalyptic atmosphere that engulfs our present, creating a tone of fear: a fear of the nihilism; the xenophobic and egocentric stupidity that the devil-Trump represents.

Middle-class America is shrinking and the divide between rich and poor is widening; a generalized decline which has been running its course since the 1970s[1]; a decline that is not only reflected in an increase of poverty but is also a psychological depressant as it worms its way through a way of life that has always been deeply fragile in its depth of consumer-based nihilisms, precariously held up by the fragile supports of hypocritical evangelical theologies and the symbol of the dollar. It is hardly surprising, then, that they have mistaken Trump’s promises of greatness as a chance to restore what has been eroded away. His message is that America’s middle-class can only be resurrected by flexing America’s muscle, creating the common-sense, but intrinsically false, equation that the country with the biggest army should be able to dictate any and all the terms in order to bring the maximum profits to all American nationals.

But the greatest errors that these believers-in-Trump have made, and the greatest misfortune for them, is that they expect this restoration of consumer-power to come from a silver-spoon-fed businessman, who built and ruined his own empire on the bricks of inheritance, who has a perverted, psychopathic self-esteem and a mind that is anything but centred and orderly, and who prefers watching Fox & Friends to receiving counsel from his advisors.

If the Trump presidency does succeed, the most logical outcome of that success will be alike to a biblical End of Days. The success of Trumpism depends on a Trump-dictatorship. It is doubtful that the prolongation of the Trump regime will be able to last without intense gerrymandering of the already intensely gerrymandered electoral system in the U.S.A., or without a more blatant redesigning of the constitution to allow his dictatorship to be formalized, but, logically, these are all part of Trumpism’s agenda – the one who seems like a dictator wants to be a dictator, and they will continue to seem like a dictator until he or she is a dictator.

This dictatorship will be a bellicose one, pushing the world to the edge of the End of Days. To avoid it, the Americans will need to everything the Germans in the 1930s did not do when Hitler rose to power, and that means recognizing the devil for what he is before he is allowed to begin his destructive Armageddon and become the personification of Satan himself.

For this recognition to happen, the enlightenment has to be stirred, not in the already enlightened liberal folk, but in the vast army of evangelist Trump supporters themselves. The great irony of Trumpism is that its Satanic ideology has so easily infected the hearts of those who should have known better – all the God-fearing Evangelists.

We can now read Thomas Mann’s description of Germany’s pact with Satan because Satan’s attempt, as Hitler, to either control or destroy the world failed. But now the devil has made a new pact with a country more powerful and potentially more destructive than anything ever seen on Earth before. If he is successful this time, there won’t be any new Thomas Mann to tell us about it afterwards.

[1] Richard Florida, THE GEOGRAPHY OF MIDDLE CLASS DECLINE, 2016, CITYLAB

FAKE NEWS

When President Donald Trump brazenly whines about the Fake News of his media coverage he is unwittingly – as most of Trump’s disclosures are – proclaiming a very uncomfortable truth, i.e. the basis of all the news we receive is fundamentally fake. But that’s not what Trump is saying. He’s not proclaiming that all news in the media is false, only that which gives him a bad coverage.

On the HBO programme Real Time, comedian Bill Maher made the claim that viewers of Fox News (Trump’s favourite channel) when asked about Trump’s ties to Russia said they knew nothing about it, because, concluded Maher, on Fox News  they don’t talk about the Russia-gate enquiry; and as such, Fox’s news is fake by omission. On the other hand, Trump and his supporters, argue that the rest of the media use the same tactics of falsity through omission, by never talking about all the great and wonderful things his administration is doing to make America great again.

Both Trump and Bill Maher are right … and wrong. Falsity-through-omission is perpetrated by all the mainstream media outlets at all levels and, practically, all the time, and so they are right. But what neither trump nor Maher see is that the truly grave omissions in reporting are not the one’s spurred by ideological interests, but rather the great omissions concerning the structural organisation of our civilisation that ignore the root causes of all evils. Lack of systemic criticism and the complete absence of systemic culpability is where the Fake News really resides.

We live in a civilisation that preaches the virtues of competitiveness and successfulness. This is the motor of our lives and money is the oil-blood that keeps that machine working. From this point of view, when Trump stood up before the United Nations and told every member of those supposedly united countries that he was going to put America first and that every other leader should put their own country first, it was pure madness (how can we be united if we’re all competing against each other?) but it wasn’t hypocritical. Quite the opposite, Trump was proclaiming pure market-system ideology – compete and succeed, no matter what that the demands of that competitiveness are.

But the ideology that Trump so honestly adheres to, is also insane. Seen in the context of the United Nations and international diplomacy we immediately see the dangers behind it – such a doctrine leads to wars; and in the case at hand, a possible nuclear war.

Trump may or may not be criticised for making his honest claim, but what will never be criticised will be the system itself which Trump is just a loud symptom of.

And there are a lot more serious symptoms, not just Trump. Not only wars but all violence in societies stem from this structural emphasis on competition and success. Yet, when the media report this violence, there is never any attempt to put the blame where it stands, on the competitive market structure of the global economy world itself. Poverty is another result and poverty also intensifies violent conditions. But the media don’t report on that, or debate in their in-depth analyses on how the structure might be changed … and therein lies the great Fake News.

Crime in our civilisation is not an aberration in society, but an honestly determined expression of its values to be successful – no matter what – even if it means breaking the rules.

And, of course, there is our interminable problem of biodegradation that is also deeply embedded in the system itself. This is yet another manifestation of the violence perpetrated by competition and success. Of course, with the issue of climate change there is an awareness that things have to be done, but a great lack in reporting how the system of competition and success is incapable of making the adjustments that need to be made to halt the lethal degradation.

In a psychological sense, the media seems to be in a blind state of denial to the ugly truth. in order to clean the filthy pond we’re swimming in, we have to change the water – which means we have to stop swimming, get the water and filthy scum out of the pool, and find some clean water to swim in again. And that is a lot of hard work. Yes, Donald Trump himself promised to drain that swamp for us, but he is just making it murkier than ever, and, how could we expect a billionaire capitalist ever to clean up the neo-capitalist cess-pool?

The truth is: for humanity to succeed, we must clean out the competition and success and replace it with a new purpose based on the creative potentials of an authentic humanity that is allowed to be creative without carrying the burdens that competitiveness implies. We need a systemic revaluation, a vision of a different future, and … a revolution. That’s the real news.