It is worth considering why you signed up to this newsletter in the first place. It was because of your intention to wrangle some very tough thoughts into useful arrangement, and to muddle through some even tougher challenges.
So… Let's wrangle some thoughts.
I opened The Chaos Protocols with a Terence McKenna quote. "The problem is not to find the answer, it is to face the answer." As of now, we are very much in a facing phase. That's the first piece of good news. A problem has been solved. At the very least, we have a clearer picture of the shape of the battlefield than we did last week. I will return to this statement.
There is even more good news, however: This is not quite the American apocalypse you ordered or feared.
Firstly, and most importantly, if we can make it to January without World War Three erupting then we will likely not see World War Three.
Secondly, it looks very much like the TPP is dead on arrival. This is universally good for those who believe in the rule of law and democracy above the whims of global corporations. (On a personal basis, this also means that the hard-won native title access and custodianship rights of Australian aborigines are no longer directly at risk from American mining companies - a potential outcome that was causing me no small amount of anxiety.)
There is yet more good news. And for this good news, once again we turn to demography for succour: America is not the fetid wasteland of racist maniacs you are likely hearing about on Twitter. I am about to prove that with numbers, but before I do we need to have another discussion about coherence and ice cream headaches.
The reality is that every single person who voted this week did so out of the belief that their vote and their choice of candidate would bring about a better tomorrow. That is a tremendously unifying thought to hold in one’s head. Obviously, I was slightly alarmed at the widespread inability to parse genuine macro risk from all the electioneering and fear mongering garbage, to say nothing of the liberal intelligentsia’s singular refusal to admit the prefix "Neo" is, by definition, permanently painted on their parade float of Arab children’s skulls –and that no amount of on-campus, non-gendered bathrooms will ever wash it off. Ever.
So -whisper it- but a global conflagration is now less likely. And -shout it- what future generations will certainly describe as an Arab genocide may finally come to an end.
That said, what lies before us can hardly be considered utopia. (It's almost as if we should have some sort of word that means 'opposite of utopia' or 'delivered utopia that is anything but'.)
Picture yourself standing on a rickety, single rail bridge with a train barrelling toward you and a treacherous, rock strewn, icy river down below. We have just leapt from the bridge. Gravity has yet to find us but it certainly will soon.
Ice cream headaches are not cured by repeating this metaphor, over and over, in the vain hope that others will believe it. Coherence is not restored by convincing those trapped in the neoliberal hologram that this is so.
Coherence is restored by demonstrating that their cartoon villain vision of America is quantifiably incorrect. It relies on two cognitive errors, currently caught in an infinite loop:
- A vote for anyone but Clinton -be it Stein, Trump or Johnson- makes one a thundering racist/sexist/homophobe.
- Now that she has lost, the whole country must be thunderingly racist/sexist/homophobic.
Let’s break that down:
- 132 million Americans voted. Clinton got less of a turnout than Obama. And if you add non-voters to non-Trump-voters what do you get? A better barometer of the sanity of non-tweeting Americans. You still live in the same country which, like anywhere, has many flaws and many good points. (It was a high turnout year overall, which further suggests it is a repudiation of the corrupt Establishment rather than the rise of the racists.)
- The country is not actually as divided as the Twitter teeth-gnashers would have you fear:
- The percentage of Latinos voting Republican is up from 2012. Up!
- Obama got a higher percentage of the female vote than Clinton.
- It strains credulity to suggest that an unending horde of racist hillbillies decided to wait out two terms of a black presidency before demonstrating their racism by refusing to vote for a white woman. The demography simply does not match this assertion. Certainly, people vote for racist reasons. It is, however, a very poor singular explanation. More likely:
- The reality is a huge percentage of Trump voters voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012. Seems unusual behaviour for racists. Unless it was, you know, economically motivated behaviour?
- As Michael Moore has said, Clinton won the popular vote. Now, the popular vote is not the same thing as receiving the majority of votes because it is a side effect of the electoral college system but it is still a grateful reminder that the America you are afraid of is actually the same America it was last week, filled with the same Americans –many of whom share your commitment to social justice (for other Americans, anyway).
- Yes, Clinton received more of the <$30K household income vote –as do basically all Democrats running for the top spot. But within this demographic, there was a 16-point swing to Trump, which is unprecedented and -again- suggests the real issues were economic ones. (And in particular, and entirely justified fear that, after a 30 year career of dismantling the working class, she will somehow turn around and restore it.)
- Geography: As we saw with Brexit, the benefits of centralisation flow to major cities while the negative impacts of that same centralising process flow to regional areas. This is a defining characteristic of the neoliberal project. It is literally how it works. How all empires work. Just look at an election map. Two blue coastal enclaves separated by a hollowed-out heartland. Breathlessly looking under beds in Brooklyn or West Hollywood for hate criminals is the very height of self-centricity when the majority of your fellow citizens have been economically harvested -with the fruits of this harvest being on clear display as you stroll down the street to purchase at turmeric latte. If the Clinton machine hadn't torpedoed the one Democrat willing to have this discussion in the primaries then we would be having this discussion in a healthier arena where hard-won social justice and equality goals were not at risk. Because, one way or another, we are about to have this discussion. Your fellow citizens deserve coherence and dignity. Talk to them.
See? It is still the same America. It is the same America with the same national blindspot it has always had: a complete inability to talk about class. It is filled with precisely the same number of bigots as it had last week. The failure to have this discussion about class will mean that both you and these bigots will fall for precisely the same data interpretation trap: Assuming there are a lot more bigots than there really are.
From the wonderful Sam Kriss:
Clinton’s media foot-rubbers are presenting this result as a victory for prejudice: Trump won on a platform of racism, sexism, ableism, misogynoir, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia; the American people are hateful beyond reason, and they elected a knight of the kyriarchy to turn their roiling incoherent psychopathologies into government policy. Of course these people are right; it would be incredibly stupid to discount the role of outright bigotry, especially in a country that has fuelled itself on bigotry for three hundred years. But it’s not enough; if the only problem was too many bigots the whole elections collapses into a question of tribes and demographics, and you don’t have to think about why Clinton lost.
Trump won among voters who ticked the box for Obama in 2008 and 2012, he won decisively among white women, he picked up a far bigger share of ethnic minority voters than anyone would have reasonably expected, he won because the standard formula of American liberalism – eternal war abroad coupled with rationally administered dispossession at home and an ethics centred on where people should be allowed to piss and shit – is a toxic and unlovable ideology, and his candidacy turned it from an invisible consensus to one option among others.
Look at who else lost: the biased media, pundits, pollsters, both political parties, AngloAmerican warmongers, the corporatocracy, pay-to-play grifters -and George Soros! What an absolute king-hit on the establishment! Put it this way: if I were a Saudi prince, I would be hurriedly packing all my Michael Jackson CDs into my garish Versace luggage and calling down for my pindick supercar to take me to Riyadh International for a one-way flight to the Knightsbridge apartment. Game's up, 'your highness'.
Those in power are now aware that the Anti-Establishment trend is permanently in play -which is what I have been saying all along. It is moronic to suggest that simply changing the colour of the Establishment could ever be the solution. And the Establishment is years too late to this realisation for them to do anything about it. They’re SCARED OF YOU NOW. Politicians, the media -you name it. Right. Across. The world. They're scared. Because this is what happens at this point in the timeline.
President-Elect Trump has said some of the most appalling things any candidate for high office has said in almost a century. It remains to be seen how many of them he actually believes and how many of them were said to shore up what he perceived to be the Republican base. But a lot of the ‘softer’ verbal atrocities are quite possible to deliver upon. The bad news is we're about to fucking find out which is which! The two pieces of good news are:
- The worst of these statements are literally impossible to deliver upon.
- He has shown his hand. We are playing poker against someone who has shown all his cards.
As with most of you, I am completely out of alignment with Trump’s perspective on culture and social justice. (But then I was also out of alignment with anyone who thought a Clinton was somehow on the side of the angels there, too.) A lot of essential social policies may now be at risk. If we had managed to have the discussion about class and poverty without accusing the victims of neoliberal centralisation of racism then these policies wouldn't be at risk -they'd be expanding under a Sanders regime. But here we are. At least we can say with crystalline clarity that it is up to us. I have more confidence in you than in any state actor. We now know -far further in advance than is usually the case- where the battlegrounds will be. We should take that win.
Over the coming weeks we will look to lay out a lot of what's coming, to kick around some strategy, and to explore some of the options -many of which are actually brighter than you might currently suspect. But for now, look to your own coherence and stand willing to extend it to those who are emotionally ready to be re-cohered.
Soon, we will do as Conner says:
And if you like that, I storyified a couple of his absolutely stellar rants here. They are this week’s one good thing.
I fucking love you weirdos. Every last one of you. Please feel free to forward this newsletter to anyone whose re-coherence may be aided by it. Hold off if they're not there yet.
You know how we do. Hit reply and ask away.