The Trump Agenda is a Dead End

There are many reasons why the Trump Agenda is doomed, and why “Make America Great Again” is an empty slogan that will be frustrated and end in disappointment and disillusionment (and fury, too).

The era of American national greatness, for which Trump and Trump’s supporters retain much nostalgia, was the post-war boom of the fifties and early sixties. North America, and American industry, prospered because much of the rest of the planet was in ruins. American prosperity and global influence arose in the context of FDR’s New Deal (Keynesian economics) combined with post-war reconstruction in Europe, Japan, and elsewhere. In that context of post-war reconstruction, there was huge demand for North American goods and resources that kept unemployment low, prosperity high, and the engines of industry turning and churning away.

In Europe the post-war reconstruction is referred to as “the economic miracle” (Wirtschaftswunder) and it was only a matter of time before Europe and Asia would recover from the devastation of two world wars that barely touched the North American continent. That recovery has been largely accomplished within the last couple of decades.

There have been artificial and even coercive attempts to preserve those same conditions in the aftermath of the reconstruction, with its attendant slackening of demand for North American goods and services, and especially the products of American heavy industry. For decades after the war, America had virtually no competition in goods and services, and North America prospered through this combination of post-war reconstruction and welfare state economics. Not only is neo-liberal globalisation an attempt to preserve those conditions of global demand, but so is “disaster capitalism” as described by Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine, and by by John Perkins in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. Another strategy was “tied aid”, in which foreign aid was conditional upon the recipient country buying American manufactured goods, and, of course, the notorious military-industrial-energy-media-university complex.

Those two conditions — Keynesian economics combined with global post-war reconstruction — no longer obtain, and they were key to the post-war boom in North America. If Canadians specialised in being “hewers of wood and drawers of water” for the post-war global reconstruction, America specialised in heavy industry and manufacturing. So, how is Trump to restore those conditions? Yet, this is precisely the thing that “Make America Great Again” presumes and promises it will do through some Grand Restoration of the status quo ante. It’s a dreadful thought.

Sure, there were attempts to shift from a manufacturing and heavy industry economy to a financial services and information economy, but look where that took us, when what was required was a rethink of the whole basis of economy, such as proposed by Peter Pogany in Rethinking the World. Instead of a rethink, we have “disaster capitalism” and The Shock Doctrine as heir to the Cold War and post-war reconstruction. Post-war capitalism became addicted to destruction, and that is why it has been dubbed “the Death Economy”.

The press is reporting, today, that Trump is already back-pedaling on some of his more extreme proposals and promises as reality bites back. However, to avoid the worst havoc we need a “reality-based” transformation of economy — one that understands fully that the conditions of global post-war reconstruction that prevailed in the fifties  and sixties no longer apply, and to persist in believing that they do, or should, apply is the very meaning of “zombie logic”.

This is not going to be easy, now — even though it is elementary — because Trump has aroused mass expectations of a Grand Restoration that is quite impossible.

This is not going to end well.


61 responses to “The Trump Agenda is a Dead End”

  1. donsalmon says :

    Have y’all seen this? I just came across this. Noam Chomsky made this statement in 2010.


    This is a summary of it from Snopes:

    On 19 April 2010, the left-leaning web site Truthdig posted a two-page interview with one of the nation’s foremost intellectuals on the left, Noam Chomsky, in which the MIT professor talks about the dark mood in the country and compares it to Germany before the rise of the Nazis.

    After Donald Trump was elected president on 8 November 2016, people began sharing a what appeared to be a prescient segment of the interview in which Chomsky seems to describe Trump and the wave of populist support that brought him to power:

    “The United States is extremely lucky that no honest, charismatic figure has arisen. Every charismatic figure is such an obvious crook that he destroys himself, like McCarthy or Nixon or the evangelist preachers. If somebody comes along who is charismatic and honest this country is in real trouble because of the frustration, disillusionment, the justified anger and the absence of any coherent response. What are people supposed to think if someone says ‘I have got an answer, we have an enemy’? There it was the Jews. Here it will be the illegal immigrants and the blacks. We will be told that white males are a persecuted minority. We will be told we have to defend ourselves and the honor of the nation. Military force will be exalted. People will be beaten up. This could become an overwhelming force. And if it happens it will be more dangerous than Germany. The United States is the world power. Germany was powerful but had more powerful antagonists. I don’t think all this is very far away. If the polls are accurate it is not the Republicans but the right-wing Republicans, the crazed Republicans, who will sweep the next election.”

    While the statement was made long before Trump was publicly discussing an electoral run, Chomsky said that Americans were feeling hopeless and left behind. His description of a “charismatic figure” that seizes on the disillusionment of working class and impoverished American whites sounds similar to Trump’s appeal and some of the rhetoric that studded his campaign.

    Chomsky, who has written dozens of books on economics and foreign affairs, described his observations:

    I listen to talk radio. I don’t want to hear Rush Limbaugh. I want to hear the people calling in. They are like [suicide pilot] Joe Stack. What is happening to me? I have done all the right things. I am a God-fearing Christian. I work hard for my family. I have a gun. I believe in the values of the country and my life is collapsing.

    Chomsky, then 81, told Hedges the new, globalized economic system has left people in a state of enraged inertia — from which they have no escape. The circumstances, he said, were unprecedented, at least in his memory, and they have created a roiling pot of despair, ripe for a certain type of leader to tell them a certain message:

    “I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime. I am old enough to remember the 1930s. My whole family was unemployed. There were far more desperate conditions than today. But it was hopeful. People had hope. The [Congress of Industrial Organizations] was organizing. No one wants to say it anymore but the Communist Party was the spearhead for labor and civil rights organizing. Even things like giving my unemployed seamstress aunt a week in the country. It was a life. There is nothing like that now. The mood of the country is frightening. The level of anger, frustration and hatred of institutions is not organized in a constructive way. It is going off into self-destructive fantasies.”

    • Scott Preston says :

      Yes, it was coming. That’s around the same time I started the Dark Age Blog (a couple of years earlier. I think this is my twelfth year of blogging).

      I have a very nice 3-page letter from Chomsky, in fact. It’s one of my prized possessions. I was very surprised when I got it and the length of it — that he would actually take that much time to write it.

      The Alt-Right have appropriated Chomsky, though, in their own way. I know some of them who have read Chomsky solely for his critique of the liberal intelligentsia and the liberal media, but ignored almost everything else about his critique of capital. I’ve found that it’s fairly typical of the right to appropriate the language of the left and spin it for their own purposes — “National Socialism” being a classic example. In Brazil, “the Social Democratic Party” is a very conservative party. This strategy of appropriation or co-optation of the language of the left goes back to Edmund Burke, who commended it as a counter-revolutionary strategy — spin is an old thing. Some people hold, for that reason, that Burke is the first modern political propagandist in that sense.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Hedges’ current essay in Truthdig on a Trump Presidency recapitulates that earlier one with Chomsky and adds his own very bleak assessment. “It’s Worse Than You Think”.

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        For many years, the U.S. — like the U.K. and other Western nations — has embarked on a course that virtually guaranteed a collapse of elite authority and internal implosion….

        It was only a matter of time before instability, backlash, and disruption resulted. Both Brexit and Trump unmistakably signal its arrival. The only question is whether those two cataclysmic events will be the peak of this process, or just the beginning. And that, in turn, will be determined by whether their crucial lessons are learned — truly internalized — or ignored in favor of self-exonerating campaigns to blame everyone else. Democrats, Trump, and the Ongoing, Dangerous Refusal to Learn the Lesson of Brexit

        [B]eneath the Occupy, Black Lives Matter and Trump movements, there is powerful shared terrain. There are coalitions that can and must cut across racial groups, across our deep urban and rural divides…..

        We need coalitions built on class, not race or party affiliation. – It’s Time for a Poor People’s Movement

        I’d say “not on class”, either, but that’s just me.

        Still, even Hedges posits, “Widespread social unrest will ignite when Donald Trump’s base realizes it has been betrayed.” Arugh? Widespread social unrest ignited a long time ago! Now, imagine if all the mass movements already underway joined forces….

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        [T]he drivers of all these movements is a deep sense of both injustice and invisibility…. – Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring

        • Scott Preston says :

          Sounds like it might be an interesting book, although it has to be pointed out that Trumpism is also a protest movement against the neo-liberal hegemonic world system, and one that is more backward looking than forward looking.

          It is ironic that it is the alt-right that is going to blast away that world system. But it will soon become apparent that they haven’t a clue what to replace it with effectively. It’s just a very nihilistic movement. It’s at that point, which is coming very soon I suspect, that we have to be prepared with a transformative and forward looking vision, if you want to put it in those terms, a healthful and positive one. Health has to be the key to this, because that’s the very meaning of the word “integral” — mending or recovery as after a long illness. But the fact that local democracy seems to be still thriving (judging by the passage of other measures in the election), that is pretty encouraging of where the focus of efforts must be put — the local.

          • InfiniteWarrior says :

            “Bottom”-up, definitely.

          • InfiniteWarrior says :

            one that is more backward looking than forward looking

            I think it would be a miracle if just looked “up”, for the moment, and acknowledged we’re all laboring under the same storm clouds. Once we’re all looking in the same direction, we can finally take a step forward together…if that makes sense.

          • Dwig says :

            From some of the reading I’ve done, I get the impression that at least some of the Trump “supporters” were basically just anti-establishment, and were willing to vote for him as a way of raising the middle finger to the status quo. Also, if I remember rightly, some also don’t buy into the “let’s you and him fight” meme.

            If that’s so, those folks might be open to a more constructive alternative, if one appears.

            • InfiniteWarrior says :

              I get the impression that at least some of the Trump “supporters” were basically just anti-establishment

              I’ll go out on a limb here and say the vast majority of them are.

              I was born and raised in the South and know its dynamics like the back of my hand. Is there racism here? You bet. The same as there is everywhere else. And, among a minority of people — much older people, especially — it’s mutual. Those folks are stuck in the sixties when a well-intended desegregation agenda primarily had the effect of uprooting lives and communities and scattering them to the four winds. Among the reasons for reluctance was that neither “whites” nor African-Americans were too keen on the idea of their children having to commute for two or more hours a day — one way — to go to a school on the other side of the city to fulfill that agenda when there was already a school five minutes away they could or would attend. That had nothing to do with racism and everything to do with parents wanting the best for their children. Segregation was primarily a “metropolitan” phenomenon.

              My father’s solution was to move my family to the country where — wait for it — there was never much “segregation” to begin with. There, “white” and African-Americans families lived and worked side by side on family farms raising mostly soy and cotton. Their children already attended “neighborhood” schools together and had been for generations. (Ironic, no?) Problem solved.

              In the years since, the South has experienced mass migrations, primarily from the North and Mexico, but also from elsewhere around the world. Now, the “New South” is brimming over with communities representing pretty much every culture imaginable, the members of whom intermingle on
              a daily basis. To hear political pundits, though, one would think the South is populated entirely by “whites”, ‘blacks” and “Hispanics”.

              Now, let’s have a good, close look at those “whites”. It’s no big secret. They aren’t even “white”. Their backgrounds are multinational, multicultural and multiracial. That’s why the majority of the same “whites” being reviled in the media are so quick to stand up with their indigenous brothers and sisters — whatever the cause. They’re not just primarily Scotch-Irish and German-French. Their extensive family backgrounds include Crow, Catawba, Cherokee and Lumbee, et al. They’re just a lot quicker to recognize their relatives in the Native American community than they are in the African-American community. (Why? “Wedge politics”, maybe.) And — yes — Trump was their “molotov cocktail”. Yes — some are hoping for a return to the “good ol’ days”, but not necessarily the “good, ol’ days” of yesteryear. They’re hoping for a return of the “good ol’ days” of recent memory, when they could work; eat; pay their bills (with maybe a little breathing room besides); and not be faced with or already living in the prospects of hunger and homelessness because they happen to fall within the demographics of “over 50” and “recent college graduate”.

              I’d wager these dynamics are just as prevalent in the “Breadbasket” as they are in the so-called “Rust” and “Bible” Belts. Political pundits — those who aren’t actually just “talking heads” — thoughtful, realistic authors, e.g. Greenwald and Hedges — need to catch up with the times and stop beating the “Make [White] America Great Again” drum Trump wants them to beat.

              I seriously cannot fathom why it is that so many promoting “progress”, “change” and “transformation” insist on preventing it by pointing to “the backlash of ‘white privilege'” as the reason for Trump when the very “whites” they supposedly champion have never enjoyed such “privilege” in their lives. What is that? Some kind of latent guilt complex?

            • Scott Preston says :

              Greetings from Saskatoon, SK, city of bridges and berries.

              I think either way you slice it or dice it, it amounts to one issue — the bulk of voters rejected the humanist values represented by Sanders and embraced the anti-humanist values represented by Trump. In fact, a lot of anti-PC rhetoric is just a mask for anti-humanism. And by extension, the rejection of Sanders’ humanist values and the embrace of Trump’s anti-humanism implies a rejection of universality and an embrace of anti-universality. In fact, any notion of “Universal Fascism”, which some on the Alt-Right promote, is a self-contradiction.

              Probe far enough behind the rationalisations for why people voted for Trump — at least, what I’ve read, and what I’ve encountered in those I’ve met here who admire Trump — and you end up in some pretty bizarre psychic territory — wild conspiracy theories and a deeper psychological chaos. In fact, it does correspond to Gebser’s anticipation of the return of the irrational forces in terms of the magical and the mythical within the matrix of the deficient mental-rational. And that’s why, I think, they rejected not only Cltinton’s technocratic status quo, but also Sanders’ humanist values.

              Humanism and universality are the positive contributions of the mental to the psychic whole. We can’t have an effective integration without those positive contributions of the mental.

              I was reflecting on this while reading an article this morning in The Guardian, a kind of despairing article, but which I think is very very important: “in an age of trump, why bother teaching logic at university”?


              The civilisational and psychological demoralisation expressed in that is pretty clear. But, at the same time, and as I’ve noted before, the university was itself schizophrenic in that respect. One part, the humanist part, taught logic and reason as psychological self-defence, while another part of the university was teaching how to defeat mental defences, and how to defeat logic and reason. And guess who’s winning!

              I’ll return to that issue later.

            • InfiniteWarrior says :

              the bulk of voters rejected the humanist values represented by Sanders and embraced the anti-humanist values represented by Trump

              That would seem a matter of opinion. Someone would be hard-pressed to convince me and, perhaps, a lot of other people that the “bulk” of voters “embraced” the (gulp) “values” represented by Trump.

              The reasons people voted for Trump I’ll be leaving to the arguers. There would be no convincing them, anyway, that some voted for Trump because they’re Republican; and some voted for Trump because Sanders was out of the running and they couldn’t stand Clinton; and some voted for Trump because they had no idea there was anyone else they could vote for other than Johnson (and didn’t even know that until election day). Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

              What I think most revealing about Trump’s victory are the emotions behind it. Those emotions are shared by many on both the “left” and “right” of the political spectrum and they’re so overwhelmingly powerful they’re palpable.

              a lot of anti-PC rhetoric is just a mask for anti-humanism

              And a lot of it isn’t. You know what irks me most about the liberal vs conservative wonkiness? Those two rarely, truly listen to each other. When and if they listen at all, they’re usually so busy looking for ammunition that they overlook the patently obvious. To hear liberals, one would think all conservatives are anti-immigration. They’re not. Traditional conservatives are concerned about illegal immigration and that’s a reasonable concern. To hear conservatives, one would think all liberals are against free speech. They’re not. Traditional liberals are against hate speech and that’s a reasonable concern…that’s been taken into a “political correctness” that has school policy-makers in my state, Nebraska and others recommending (before it’s mandated, of course) that schoolchildren not be called “boys” and “girls”, but only “students” or “scholars”. I guess we’ll see where that goes. This is, after all, the United States of the Offended.

              Humanism and universality are the positive contributions of the mental to the psychic whole. We can’t have an effective integration without those positive contributions of the mental.

              Humanism and universality….

  2. Scott Preston says :

    My sense is that Trump’s more zealous supporters are going to be very furious, and feel quite betrayed, when they realise that Trump can’t bring back the good ole’ days. Trump himself will probably divert attention from his impotence in that respect and blame it on sabotage of his agenda by liberals and leftists, and at that point the fury will become socially very destructive.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Some questions now about whether Trump’s extreme positions weren’t just “campaign talk”

      Which is not going to go over well with his constituency, I suspect.

      • donsalmon says :

        Hey Scott – do you think there’s even a remote possibility that Trump may – most likely out of pure narcissistic wish to be approved – “get smart” and start taking some genuinely valid populist positions (saw, more along the lines of what Sanders and Chomsky have promoted)?

        • Scott Preston says :

          It would have to be a veritable “Road to Damascus” conversion, if so. Always possible, but remote. Trump seems committed, in any case, to the fossil fuel economy and that’s pretty much the foundational issue presently.

          Big Oil in Canada is mobilising to take advantage of Trump while they can, and are on a roll now. They want to get new fossil fuel infrastructure in place as a fait accompli within the next four years in case Trump falters, so Trump’s election in the US has made things difficult for transitional issues here, as well. Very messy.

        • Scott Preston says :

          Mr. Trump is a very transgressive character, who doesn’t recognise or accept limits on his range of action. That’s been made pretty clear by his campaign. It’s part of his megalomania, and I don’t see him suddenly becoming humble in that respect since his “success”, such as it is and such as he understands it, has been predicated on his not being so. His hubris has been reinforced.

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        Trump stepped back a bit on his “campaign talk” after meeting with Obama to begin the transition. They’d never met before that 90 minute meeting; only exchanged insults over the years…despite the Obama family’s mantra, “When they go low, we go high.” Obama could have left his repudiation of the birther movement at The Lion King, but Trump managed somehow to get under his skin.

        • Scott Preston says :

          I see that the incoming administration is already backpedaling on a lot of the pledges Trump made during the campaign (yeah, it was just “campaign talk” or “a great device”, etc) Either way, fulfilling his pledges or not fulfilling his pledges, this ain’t going to go down well, either with his opponents if he does, or his base if he doesn’t.

          It’s going to be a helluva ride, I think.

    • donsalmon says :

      This comment is amazing to me:

      Ultimately, however, Trump’s success may have hinged on his voice.

      Let me lay it out. Curiously, despite his obsession with showing that he is the most powerful person on earth, his speech doesn’t have the archetypal tough-guy edge.

      In part, this is because, as the New York Times reported during the primaries, linguists found he was the second only to Hillary Clinton in terms of how feminine he sounded. Moreover, when measured by non-verbal cues like gestures, facial expressiveness, and statements posed as questions, he came in as the most feminine of the entire field.


      I dont think I have ever heard anyone else comment on this, but I’ve always been particularly struck by how feminine Trump’s voice is; given my familiarity with the Queens accent (that’s Queens, NY, not the British one), it’s been particularly striking. Guys who grew up around the area that Trump did tend to have hyper/macho speaking styles. Trump sounds positively effeminate in contrast. Even his arm gestures have a kind of effect, almost transgender quality, a quality one might think would have been quite off putting to the Trump supporter yelling Jew-S-A, Jew-S-A at one of his rallies.

      We’re living in strange times.

  3. Scott Preston says :

    There’s also the all-important question, completely overlooked in the campaign, about the tech-revolution in AI and the effect this is going to have on “jobs, jobs, jobs”. Trump is going to run square into this in his term, and I doubt he has even a thought in his head about it.

    • Steve Lavendusky says :

      • Scott Preston says :

        Pretty flawed analysis by Harris, for the most part. Answering the problems of fundamentalism with reductionist arguments is pretty naive, even if it comes across as liberal sophistication. What little I know of Sam Harris has never inspired me to rush out, buy, and devour his book(s).

        Very weak on the crisis of identity reflected in the issue of identity politics and political correctness and its roots. To suggest that white identity politics is merely a reflexive reaction to PC, black, gay, latino,feminist, etc identity politics is hooey, as if he were making some claim to white victimage (which is exactly how Trump supporters see themselves).

        If fear and anxiety elected Trump, which they did, then Harris should interrogate these sources of fear and anxiety. If fear and anxiety lead to PC and identity politics, he should delve into that too. He doesn’t do that. He offers up only a rationale for fear and anxiety — we should all fear Islamism; we should all be anxious about jihadis. This is all rather transparently an attempt to forge national unity out of the inflation of an external (and internal) enemy which never addresses the problems of why it exists in the first place, or why identity politics is such a crisis globally, in that sense.

        Islamism is as much about identity politics as any of these other issues, and if so, we should try to understand what this crisis of identity means, the deeper roots of this. Can’t say that Harris has a clue about that.

        • donsalmon says :

          Sam Harris has always struck me as one of the exemplars of the deficient mode of the mental structure of consciousness. The passion with which he asserts we have no free will, that mechanistic models of the brain are all we need to create morality from scratch – I get the creeps just thinking about much of what he wrote. There seems to me to be a general “creepiness’ factor about much of what he writes.

          • davidm58 says :

            It is a relief to hear Scott and Don’s opinion on Sam Harris, because it matches mine. “An exemplar of the deficient mode of the mental structure of consciousness” is good way to sum it up. But I hesitate to say that, because usually I don’t go to the trouble of following up on the links to Sam Harris podcasts, so I can’t really say that I’ve given him a fair hearing…but mostly I’ve decided he’s not worth my time. Not that I’ve disagreed with everything I’ve heard from him, but I feel that he has his own prejudices that block him from seeing and understanding a lot of things.

            No offense to Steve who linked to Harris…I do have a lot of respect for your many contributions here Steve!

    • Dwig says :

      As a software techie, and an ex-AI researcher, as well as having a life-long love of science, I’m looking at the “tech revolution” with increasing unease. To quote Han Solo, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” I’m guessing that, like neoliberal economics, the religion of technologism (aka scientism) is going to discredit itself within the next decade or two.

      • Scott Preston says :

        You and me both have a bad feeling about this. I bailed on IT back in 2000. Didn’t like what I was seeing then, and even less so now. Designing robots to derive their energy from consuming living organisms has to be the limit. Why not by consuming garbage or plastic? That might be useful. But why living organisms?

      • mikemackd says :

        I just promised not to quote Mumford again, so I won’t. However, I will point to a journal article (in Information, Communication & Society, 2000, 3:2, 241-265) by a British academic, Christopher May, called “The Information Society as a Megamachine: The Continuing Relevance of Lewis Mumford”.

        He had a bad feeling about this too.

        • Scott Preston says :

          Quote Mr. Mumford all you like. It’s been very useful. Trump has his hands on the biggest mass surveillance machine ever, and he’s pretty excited about that, by all accounts. “True power” he called it.

          And if “duplicity is the currency of the day” as Pope Francis once put it appropriately, this is the double-movement, and its reflected in the divergent tendencies of authoritarian and democratic technics. Both potentials are currently in play.

  4. davidm58 says :

    Another very good post Scott – you’ve beaten me to the punch (but keep it up) – you’re touching on themes I want to write about on my blog, in relation to what Pogany calls Global Systems 1, 2, and 3.

    I think you’re right that Trump and his supporters are nostalgic for the post-war America of the ’50s and ’60s. The irony is that the America of the ’50s and ’60s was efficient form of Global System 2, whereas I think most of Trump’s policies are actually more closely aligned with the policies enacted in Global System 1 (the pre-World War 1 system of laissez faire capitalism). (I’ll have to confirm this by actually looking at the platform that was endorsed at the Republican convention).

    The Democratic party’s platform is actually more closely aligned with Keynesian Global System 2 policies (Paul Krugman being a good representative). The problem is that we are no longer rich in resources to fuel this debt based approach to economic growth. We’ve reached the limits to growth that the Club of Rome warned us about in the early 1970s, and neither party has a clue about how to effectively respond to that.

    Just as a chaotic transition (two world wars and the great depression) was necessary to move us from Global System 1 (Laissez faire/metal money/zero multilateralism) to Global System 2 (mixed economy/minimum bank reserve money/weak multilateralism), so a more chaotic transition (it seems) is starting to happen, that will hopefully move us along to a new Global System 3. Pogany’s shorthand for Global System 3 is “two-level economy/maximum bank reserve money/strong multilateralism.” What he means by a two-level economy is one that includes aspects of the free market in some situations, as well as government controlled economy in other situations, and a combination of global AND local (cantons) aspects.

    • donsalmon says :

      Hey David: I’ve been following Sam Harris’ career for years. My interest is in his attempts to bring meditation into the world of mainstream cognitive neuroscience. here he’s done some pretty good work, and some really really stupid stuff. The best thing is he’s open minded about psi and NDEs – in a minority of about 5% of neuroscientists.

      But he just can’t shake the materialist mindset; which infects not only his neuroscientific writings but everything he writes about politics. He falls into McGilchrist’s left mode, narrow focused, linear, black and white attention and divides everything into ridiculously rigid categories.

      Not that I’m doing that with regard to him:>))

  5. Scott Preston says :

    My Ex- gave me a call and told me I should check out someone named Chris Kutarna, who she heard interviewed on CBC. So, I did. I found this article by him on The Guardian website, and while I think it is lacking in some respects, it is also an observation on “chaotic transition” that is worth considering

    Accurate, as far as it goes, but also a bit superficial compared to Gebser.

  6. Scott Preston says :

    Some of you have probably already caught this analysis by NPR in the US. Very interesting

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      These figures represent only about half of all eligible voters in the U.S.

      An often overlooked statistic.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Yes. Yuuuge number. Maybe more attention should be paid to that then to those who voted? It may prove much more revealing. Apathy and indifference? Alienation and estrangement? Vote suppression? Other reasons? Probably all those things mixed in.

        • InfiniteWarrior says :

          Most likely. And, maybe, quite a bit more.

          I can’t speak from or for anyone else’s experience, but as a “baby-boomer”, I was met with a political landscape that included two parties — period. One had to register with one or the other to be able to vote and that has only very recently begun to change. I didn’t particularly like either one; literally flipped a coin to vote (all the while holding my nose) when, younger, I felt pressured to do so; and worked on the environmental issues I was passionate about via nonprofits and class action litigation the rest of the time. In the process, I developed a deep and abiding distrust of polls.

          Now, the 43% of Americans registered Unaffiliated are generally believed by pollsters to “lean” toward either the Republican or Democratic party and/or their platforms 100% of the time, which is pretty ridiculous when you stop to think about it. Those are the only two parties ever on the national stage and, for the most part, the state and local as well.

          Other parties have come and gone and some still struggle their hearts out to break the Dem-Pub stranglehold and be properly, proportionally represented. In the meantime (and/or in addition to), what’s the other “half” been up to (besides all you’ve suggested)? Nonprofits? NGOs? Co-ops? Some or all of the above. Then some?

          Someone should do a study because our daily realities here in America just don’t jibe with or break down into Pew Research’s rather two-dimensional views of us.

          • Dwig says :

            I noted in the NPR report that there was an increase in 3rd party voting among younger voters (from 3% in 2012 to 8% this year). That may be the start of a trend.

            Of course, the political establishment (like the Committee on Presidential Debates that’s funded by the Republican and Democratic parties — no other need apply), and possibly the major polling organizations, will studiously ignore these other parties.

            Still, for those who want to vote, but don’t like either major party, voting third is a way to protest, while not voting says nothing.

      • donsalmon says :

        Very true; many statistics overlooked. I remember when conservative folks were gloating about the takeover by the republicans in 2014. If you told them that more Americans voted for Democratic Senators AND Representatives than for Republicans, it just sailed over their heads.

        There are roughly 220 eligible voters in the US. Approximately 120 million voted. The percentage of all eligible voters who chose Trump is only a little more than 25%.

        Out of the folks who pulled the level for Trump, it has been estimated that as many as half were voting against Clinton (based, no doubt, at least in part on a number of fairy tales about Clinton – and believe me, I’m no Clinton supporter or defender, but I guarantee you she did not kill Vince Foster and I doubt if she is a demon who smells of sulfur).

        So you’ve got about 12% of the eligible voters who were actually for Trump. Keeping in mind that 20% of the population (that includes non registered voters) still saw Dick Cheney in a favorable light in 2008 (AFTER the economic collapse and after everyone and her brother knew there was no WMDs), and you kind of have to figure, hey, maybe the American public is not quite so desperate and crazy after all, and we have to give republi-cons credit for being really good at gaming the system.

        As a NY Times commenter noted recently, the Democrats continue to bring knives to gun fights.

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        Meet the Americans Who Chose Not to Vote

        I don’t think he ever expected to be elected; it was as much a surprise to him as everyone else.

        I’ve heard that — a lot — and have the same impression. 100 responses is hardly representative of the roughly half of Americans who didn’t vote, but an interesting read.

  7. Scott Preston says :

    What can we say about identity politics, which seemed to play such a big role in the US election? Perhaps it should be in a regular blog rather than in a comment, but I think it can be summarised in a few words.

    Identity politics can be said to be point-of-view consciousness now become very self-conscious, but not yet self-critical. I think there’s a big distinction to be made, although people often confuse self-conscious with self-critical as if they were the same issue. Since “self” is problematic, becoming self-conscious is also problematic, for it means, principally, that the “self” is not transparent to awareness yet as being only the self-image. So, this is the problem with identity politics.

    Self-negation or self-annihilation isn’t the issue either, or what is called ‘egolessness”. That’s not a corrective to identity politics. It’s when the ego-nature or self-image becomes transparent. That’s the real issue.

    It’s not ego annihilation that is the meaning of Buddhist “No-Self” or “No-Mind”, but transparency. Identity politics, of whatever fashion, is opacity of the self or ego-consciousness, and yet at the same time very self-conscious.

    • donsalmon says :

      “Ahamkara” is a Sanskrit word meaning, literally (and I actually do mean “literally” here!) “I maker.”

      In the language of the yoga sutras, it is when the purusha – the infinite, immeasurable, unthinkable, non-objectivizable seer, takes itself to “be” the self image.

      When the vrittis – the wave-like movements of the mind – are temporarily stilled (chapter 1, vs 2) the seer in all its glory is revealed. If there is still Avidya (Ignorance) when the vrittis start up again, then the I-maker continues to confuse the seer and the Purusha is once again identified the “little me” (as we’re calling it in the e-course we’re developing).

      This little me is not in the least bit a problem if there is no Avidya, hence no I making. When the PFC (prefrontal cortex; the physical correlate of the buddhi, or intelligent will) shifts attention (well, that’s a bit physicalist; when the individualized – but not inherently existent! – Purusha “intends” the PFC to shift attention from identification with the self-image to a wider, open, heartful awareness, the Seer can then direct the surface personality – coordinated by the self-sense – without falling back into self-consciousness or Avidya.

      • Scott Preston says :

        That’s it exactly! This is why I think Identity politics also belongs to Gebser’s “double-movement” in one and the same process. We are becoming very conscious of the “point-of-view” nature of present consciousness — what we think of as our “identity” — and that brings about anxiety about the identity — a sudden narrowing to a point. Yet the nature of this point and point-of-view (corresponding to the fragment or atom) remains opaque to consciousness. So, this situation is both blessing and curse as befits the double-movement.

        As Blake’s proverb of Hell puts it “If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise”. This is the case with identity politics. It’s like Dante’s journey into the Inferno — the only way out is through to the centre of it.

        This situation of the ego-consciousness is hellish — very much so. It is samsara. It is the Blakean Ulro. But it is also a necessary step in the process of re-integration of consciousness, because it is born in pain and is of pain — the pain of apartness and separateness and the opacity of the ego-nature. Waking up is very simply when the ego-nature becomes transparent as “empty mirror” rather than opaque and solid. but, “the cure for the disease is in the disease” as Rumi put it.

  8. Dwig says :

    I’ve noticed another interesting phenomenon, just beginning to emerge: the Club of Rome’s 1972 report “Limits to Growth” seems to be getting renewed attention: some folks are saying “hey, they were right!”, and others are dusting off the old “refutations” of their work.

  9. donsalmon says :

    Ok, just back to Sam Harris for a moment. This may be a VERY politically incorrect comment (!). I’m going to mention something about Sam’s religion – but just to preface it, my background is Jewish also. Ok, here goes.

    Owen Barfield, a British barrister, poet and one of the 20th century’s greatest critics of materialism, as well as a long-time student of Anthroposophist Rudolf Steiner, made some interesting observations in his book, “Saving the Appearances,” about the role of the Jews in history. I’m still not sure how much I buy it, but it’s intriguing, and it links to Scott’s comment above about self-consciousness.

    Garfield wrote that it was the role of the Jews in the evolution of human consciousness to represent the separate ego; to some extent, they’ve played, in particular, a role approximating the Freudian superego. While the mental structure may have manifested most powerfully in the Greek culture (it was there very powerfully in China and India at the time, but remained integrated with the mythic and magical as well as – among the greatest sages of the time – the integral consciousness as well; whereas it became increasingly deficient by the late and decadent stages of Greek culture), it was around the same time that monotheism developed among the Jews that the correlate to the “big ego in the sky” – the little, separate, ignorant ego in humans – became prominent.

    The unsettling and confused resentment of the Jews throughout Western history, according to Barfield, is derived from the resentment felt toward the “superego” represented by Jewish culture.

    In talks with rabbis and very religious Jews over many years, I’ve marveled at the intensity with which morality – oft-times a very black and white morality, though among the brightest an amazingly complex, multi-layered one – becomes a weight that oppresses the deeper spirituality of the Jewish faith.

    In American culture, after WWII and the trauma of the Nazis’ targeting of the Jews, many became passionately anti-religious, active in left wing causes with the same kind of heavy moralizing that earlier generations of Jews saved for the religious sphere. It’s actually possible that some of the heavy moralizing of the early identity politics of the 70s – when many Jewish intellectual were prominent among feminists, environmentalists, white leaders of civil rights movements, etc – contributed to some extent to the suffocating identity politics of today, which in turn has provoked a similar resentment and perhaps turned at least some toward Trump!

    So we come full circle. As Glenn Beck would say, “it’s all connected!!”

    And back to Sam Harris – many of the secularized Jews of the 60s ended up being the ones to turn East and ended up creating a very Americanized Buddhism (McMindfulness, anybody?) – Goldstein, Goleman, Kornfeld, Salzburg, Kabat-Zinn, Alpert, etc. Sam is among the relatively few neuroscientists who take meditation very seriously, but he takes it in a very superficial, flatland way, much the way Kabat-Zinn turned the multi-level, extraordinarily complex Buddhism of Thich Nhat Hanh into a stress management program.

    And one of the most prominent qualities of Sam’s work is an absolutely self-righeous, arrogant “anybody who questions me is a bad person” moralizing, all of which, according to his theory, is simply the mechanistic work of his genes and his physical brain and about which he has no freedom of choice anyway.

    Triple-plus-speak. We live in strange times.

    • donsalmon says :

      I hope I made it clear, by mentioning my Jewish background, that none of this is intended in any way to be critical of the Jewish people or culture.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Your comments on Judaism (actually Judeo-Christianity in general) — the Jehovah — are quite in tune with Blake’s and Nietzsche’s critique. They weren’t anti-semites. They did have a love-hate relationship with that legacy, and honoured it even as they “deconstructed” it, especially with “Jehovah”, who is Blake’s Urizen of course.

      It’s very interesting to note that the very first public and officially recognised western convert to Buddhism was Jewish. (Leonard Cohen was also a Buddhist). Can’t recall the fellow’s name offhand, but it happened in a public ceremony in Chicago after the World War, and the reciprocal influx of Japanese Zen after Japan’s occupation. The double-edged sword at work. The Roman roads.

      Rosenstock-Huessy also noted that four streams of influence have influenced the character development of Western man — the speech of the tribes (poetry, myth), the speech of Greece (philosophy), the speech of Rome (politics) and the speech of Israel (prophecy). There’s that fourfold pattern again. And, of course, Blake held that the poetic and the prophetic voices had been supressed by the philosophical and the scientific, or what Rosenstock called “the Greek Mind”.

      These four streams recall the four rivers that watered Eden in legend. And, indeed, Rosenstock holds that their lack of integration makes for the present incoherence of the West — the poetic, the prophetic, the political, and the philosophic are at war with one another very much in the manner of Blake’s four Zoas, and these are probably correlate also with Gebser’s “structures of consciousness”. These four streams of influence, from Luther through to Lenin, are implicated in the four European revolutions also — the German, the English, the French (and American), and the Russian revolutions, and with the four main political tendencies in terms of environmentalism, conservatism, liberalism, and socialism.

      Why is this so? Because the human form is fourfold also in terms of thinking, feeling, willing, and sensing or mind, soul, spirit, and body, or nervous system, circulatory system, respiratory system, and metabolic system.

      This is very probably the “pre-existing pattern” in evolution that Gebser attempted to articulate — the fourfold. And Aurobindo even opens his The Life Divine with a quotation about the “fourfold Self”.

      And we see that same fourfoldness in Rosenstock-s “cross of reality” but also in Holling’s Adaptive Cycle. The powers of space, too, are of a double-nature as inner and outer spaces while the powers of time are also of a double-nature as past and future times. This is the pattern. All these have some bearing on the traditional “Guardians of the Four Directions”, which are found in some form or another in every culture and encoded in all human languages as “grammatical forms”. this is what gives Gebser also confidence in his grammatical approach to interpreting consciousness structures.

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