Does A New Depression Mean A Sharp Turn Right?

We have all developed our little quirks in dealing with daily life during lockdown. Your faithful writer has been vacillating between following the pandemic and its politics like a sexy murder trial, and avoiding anything remotely topical to cover the smell of my brain sizzling. Last night I was pulled from panicked reverie by the compulsion to respond to an article on Medium. 

Hilda Underwater

I guess I’ll just learn to breathe water!

We’re Watching An Economy Die is one of those rare treats that is both inescapably enjoyable and deeply disturbing. Umair Haque goes to great lengths to convince us that we are seeing the death throws of democracy in the United States. That the inevitable, eternal outcome of widespread poverty is a hard turn Right. We will blame minorities, elect fascists and become “the world’s first poor rich country.

“Inequality has skyrocketed and surged. The pandemic produced a class of winners, too. Bezos made billions ? and his lieutenants, millions. So too did Zuck, Sergey, and the managers of their Google and Facebooks and so on.

“The economy has been divided into a kind of caste system …. Beneath them isn't the broad, expansive middle class of the 1950s American Dream. There's just a vast, vast pool of the new poor.

” the 80% of Americans who can't make ends meet, live paycheck to paycheck, can't raise a tiny amount for an emergency, and struggle to pay basic bills like healthcare and housing. The pandemic, though, made all that much, much worse ? and it destroyed any hope that people beginning to be trapped in this class of neosurfs had of ever escaping it.”

Way to hit below the belt there, Umair. In many ways, his assessment mirrors my own fears for the next decade. Following on from the last decade, screwed over by other unseen forces no one had warned me about.

I’m an Elder Millennial, and I’ve always lived on the crumbling bottom edge of the middle class. That my generation is doomed to do worse than our parents is not a surprise to me.

I See You

I see you, muthafukka!

But I resent the notion that we all possess a latent racism just waiting to be evoked by some dictator. I don’t blame the instability of my circumstances on random Hispanic children or Chinese factory workers, as Umair suggests. I do not see the logic there at all, I consider them more akin to myself than those I see hoarding resources and forcing the rest of us to fight over scraps.

Even more perplexing, he’s right. This is the reaction of some people.  Through history, times of hardship have resulted in wars, witch hunts and persecution of all kinds. 

Umair says Trump and his movement are the result of “the relationship between poverty and authoritarianism.” Seems to me Trump is president largely because the system has been slowly rigged in his favor for decades before he ever ran. I don’t believe people who think this way are actually the majority.

And I don’t agree that this outcome is inevitable.

New Post Pic 1

Are we sure this is necessary?

The immediate example that comes to mind is the French Revolution. They took the wealth back from the oligarchs by force. A cursory glance around the Internet tells me I’m not alone in making this connection. It did famously lead to a dictator for 15 years while the country lost its mind. But eventually they settled on a secular democracy and have fostered a culture of art and literature appreciation. 

It’s not perfect, but it does happen.

And while Europe in general has a hellish, bloody history, until more conservative elements began agitating as if we all forgot who Hitler was, they had a good run there for a minute.

Opinions on Hitler may be mixed, but I don’t think anyone has forgotten him. Another reason I believe we may see a different outcome than Umair insists on is because of something totally unique in human history – Yes, there is such a thing – Recorded media.

Reading Yellow Couch

I have to burn this journal before I die!

We take it for granted, but think about it – before about 100 years ago, once you were dead, your true likeness was

gone with you. People who were unlucky enough to live in a later time would have to settle for some scraps of paper and stories and, if you were really wealthy, a painting.

These days, anyone can broadcast whatever is in their heads to anyone, and it will be there for, theoretically, ever. 

You can hear Churchill and Roosevelt give their great speeches themselves, almost alongside those listening live on the radio. And Hitler, too. You can take a tour of Neverland Ranch lead my Michael Jackson, chat with Elvis and hear Nixon’s defense from his own mouth. They are not flat words on a page, they are real, in front of us, still speaking with their own voices from beyond the grave.

I suggest that this has already had a marked effect on culture. I see hand-wringing in fancy mags about the minutia of what has become an ever-churning, choppy sea of ideas. Sudden waves capsizing big boats has become commonplace. The Internet is obviously a big player here, making the interactions instant. 

But I really think it all comes back to having it there in front of you, moving forward through time. 

Imagine if we had recordings of Bach playing his own concertos. How would that affect interest in his music? Imagine if we had recordings of Plato, how would that affect the development of language and culture?

You get the idea. The world feels more crowded because it is, but also because those who leave these days never really leave. We have achieved our dearest dream, in a way.

It’s instant, and it’s accumulating. And it’s changing the way we see ourselves and the world. No one has forgotten Hitler, and I really believe many of us have learned the lessons of the 20th century as it’s been remixed across media for the past 20 years.

Time will tell.

 

 

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