An old friend and I are having a friendly argument about how many people still give a damn. He thinks about 30% still care. I said it’s become more like 2%.
Having predicted both Bush-Cheney wins, and that reign of evil that has been largely forgotten by the greater evil of Trump (which I also predicted in this column well before his allegedly impossible election), I’ve earned the dubious privilege of speaking the truth as to why, as Paul Krugman puts it, “America is coming apart at the seams.”
The causes aren’t economic, as the economist Krugman believes. The causes are psychological, spiritual and philosophical, and they have been manifesting culturally since the early 90’s.
The question is, to what degree does the American crisis embody and exacerbate the human crisis?
In his column, “What’s the Matter In Trumpland?” Krugman gets it wrong from the get-go. First of all, America IS Trumpland, both “the thriving regions that by and large voted for Hillary Clinton,” as well as “the lagging regions that voted for Donald Trump.” Dividing them feeds the polarization.
There is a blurring and blinding form of denial, which maintains, “Things have been falling apart on multiple fronts since…” [name your favorite year or century]. In Krugman’s case, it began in “the 1970s, since political polarization marched side by side with economic polarization, as income inequality has soared.” That’s a misleading half-truth.
Yes, “regional economic divergence is real,” but no, it isn’t sufficient to explain the precipitous decline of the American project and polity.
Explanations of origins, that is to say causes, matter to the degree they sustain denial, or point toward understanding and renewal. Mainstream commentators on both the left and right seem incapable of perceiving and telling the truth.
Why? As Sinclair Lewis said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
So how many people actually still care? And what does it mean to care?
When, on the scale of human virtues and vices, the fragile thread of goodness is stronger than the cumulative experience of darkness in a person, that person can be said to care.
To care about anyone, we first have to care about the whole, which is humanity. It doesn’t work the other way around. You can’t go from the part to the whole.
Caring doesn’t extend from ‘my self,’ to ‘my family,’ to ‘my community,’ to ‘my country,’ to humanity. It flows in the opposite direction, with little or no prominence given to the source of human darkness, ‘my self.’
So the cliché, “no one cares,” has become true for 98% of people in the West. And when inward deadness reaches anywhere near that proportion of a population, the people perish. That happened in America with the glorious victory of the first Gulf War.
That set up, manufactured war, meant to test new weapon systems and demonstrate America’s total military dominance, was the straw that broke the spirit’s back in this country. Collective deadness then spread to the rest of the English-speaking world, and to Western Europe.
Like a soul-eating virus, it now infects all peoples to a significant degree. This is the core reason we face an unprecedented crisis of human consciousness.
America’s cretinous president is not just a manifestation of “Trumpland,” whatever that means, the result of the disparity in the economy and the disorder in politics. Both the right and the left remain in denial about how rotten things are in the “sole remaining superpower.”
Trump is an expression of the fact that the vast majority of Americans, wherever they fall in the economic and political spectrum, don’t care about anything greater than themselves. And as long as the lie persists that we are a living, caring and intact people, there will be no bottom.
Mainstream commentators also persist in thinking in two dimensions across the squalid political spectrum. They refuse to realize they are describing a global phenomenon, not the Procrustean bed of the American national framework, which they keep cutting their observations and data to fit.
What all caring human beings are facing is the arc of human fragmentation in a global economy and society. And the more we adhere to the frames of national divisions, the more we contribute to the tears of humanity.