There’s a vicious circle, or cycle, eating its own tail in the West. Here’s the mechanism: people protest, civilly disobey, subvert, argue, and generally struggle against a status quo that oppresses them. The status quo reacts, overcorrects to prevent not just the change but even the possibility to struggle for change. The resistance has to rebuild, refashion its tools, explore new options for struggle. By the time they’ve almost clawed their way back to their former visibility and power, the status quo has reiterated so many outrageous lies against the resistors’ counter-arguments that it forces them to reframe the discourse. But eventually even the reframing starts to suffer from the law of diminishing returns.
Meanwhile the status quo has pounded home the argument that “everyone’s sick of the resistance” and weaponizes whatever public opinion they can along those lines. This makes the resistance fight harder, resort to more rigidly doctrinaire arguments, harsher tactics, ad absurdum, which the status quo in its turn uses to further discredit them in the zeitgeist.
By this time, though, the status quo has divided into two sides: on one side blandly ineffectual representatives of the resistors, funded by the blandly ineffectual “reasonable” rich who water down the true resistance’s arguments, aims, and strategies; and on the other side, funded by openly undemocratic wealth hoarders and corporations, the ferocious and exciting cutting edge supercool badboy violent authoritarians who take discrediting of the resistance to utterly insane lengths. For the lulz. And money. They accuse their “enemies” of the most sexually perverse varieties of violence in order to justify the violence they themselves want to use to extinguish them.
Maybe the violence turns into a war. Or maybe it subsides for a time, though the root problems don’t get fixed, or get half-fixed at best, keeping hostilities kindled.
We’re at a moment where everybody’s just damn fed up with each other. Those in various groups on the left are fed up because they can’t believe they have to fight the same battles all over again. They shriek louder and fight harder because they want to make sure once and for all their grandchildren don’t also have to fight the same battles all over again.
Groups on the right are fed up because they’d thought they’d assassinated enough left leaders and slaughtered enough followers that the left was finally dead. They’ve had to pretend for decades that they were okay graciously refraining from a repeat of the assassination and slaughter. Interestingly, these days no new left leaders on the revolutionary end have stepped up to the pulpit. Evidently the assassinations were enough to warn away any would-be leaders. Possibly, though, the people have chosen not to sacrifice their best and bravest spokespeople to the spectacle this time around. So the violent right has no choice but to take out their hatred on innocent non-combatants they delusionally see as soldiers in an army the right itself has rendered leaderless.
The left’s anger at the police stems from their recognition that cops maintain the status quo by protecting the rulers from the aggrieved masses. The rulers are either corrupt and evil by choice or are situationally trapped, reluctantly acting out repetitive injustice in an unjust gilded hamster habitat.
These wealth hamsters, situationally trapped, strive to be generous and good and have grown annoyed at being called out for their privilege. They begin to repeat the right’s arguments about the left’s rhetorical and tactical overreach. The more vehement the left feels its arguments and strategies have to be in response, the more vituperatively these well-meaning situationally trapped wealthy souls argue to have their goodness recognized as distinct from, and mitigating of, the unjust roles they are sort of forced to play. And the more vehement the left’s arguments and strategies, the more the violent and conspiratorial right’s outrageous arguments are viewed as valid and acceptable by the well-meaning rich.
So we’re really spinning three vicious circles in the air right now:
1, the circle where the high-fallutin’ employ violence and threats of violence, using cops and vigilantes, against the hoi polloi, who must up their diatribes, threats, and demands in response;
2, the circle where high-fallutin’ academics, artists, philanthropists, and art and fashion consumers are engaged in a war of rhetoric against subversive intellectuals, underpaid creatives, the middle-to-lowbrow consumer, and investigative journalists, in a feedback loop of ever-crescendoing internecine bourgeois antagonisms; and
3, the circle where, in the middle, the people simply trying to survive and live pleasantly are pulled and pushed and battered and threatened by lies and – less frequently – uncomfortable truths from the extreme points of view they feel surround them, which feeds an increase in mainstream paranoia and corresponding violent outbursts.
Throw in guns and broadcast it to the rest of the world in a twenty-four-hour infotainment cycle, and you’ve got the three-ring circus known as the USA.
Back in the days when the Roman Empire was getting ready to fall, the populace was placated with what we call today, in English, bread and circuses. And it’s fair to posit that the more spectacularly violent and frequent the circuses were, the lower the quality and the less abundant the bread needed to be.
Think of the USA as a twenty-four-hour, worldwide, streaming-on-demand gladiatorial arena. The Colosseum of postmodernity, if you will. In social democracies in Europe – and the UK, which I guess isn’t Europe anymore, if it ever really was – the bread comprises popular rights and services, which are currently being chipped away, even as the USA becomes more performatively violent and nakedly insane. The bread diminishes in abundance and quality while the circus increases in thrills and kills.
We thought we were done with Henry Ford, the fascist führer ringmaster of industry, when his military flagship, the Third Reich, shot itself in the head in a Berlin bunker. But now has arisen Elmo Skum, the apartheid beneficiary of an emerald city, leaning into full neo-Nazi messaging; we have the megalomaniacal authoritarian crusher of thought, Peter Thiel; and assorted other astronomically wealthy Citizens Kane, dancing their buck-and-right-wing and hoof-in-mouth choreography in the spotlight.
And no one wants to work. Why? Because the only jobs left at the circus for the vast majority of us is cleaning up after the animals. Yes, for peanuts, thank you for that. You’re very witty. Following donkeys and elephants around with shovels is not an attractive option, even if it employment in the heart of the spectacle.
Or, alternatively, maybe we’ve all become Norm from Cheers.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!