Day 9: Let the Kleptocracy Begin, A Crown for a Thief, Nepotism Becomes Law

What is it that separates a legitimate government from an illegitimate one? There are a lot of answers to that question, but right at the top is corruption. Personal profit from “public service” makes you the definition of a warlord.

In every government there are varying degrees of corruption. The “tipping point” as it were, is the personal profit of those at the very top. It becomes impossible to cleanse the corruption without destroying the institutions that have been co-opted into a money-making apparatus. In the most destitute of countries, this is a constant theme. The exploitation of the people for individual gain in the name of “government”.

As I write this, this pattern has unerringly already begun in the president-elect’s inner circle. Trump’s children, as members of his “transition team”, have security clearances even though they have never been vetted, like all members of the state and defense department have. They also run all of his business interests, which begs the question “won’t it be really tempting to use the full weight of classified U.S. Intelligence when making business decisions?”

While these might be questions only cold hearted cynics could dream up, the question we should really be asking is “was your cultural revolution against political correctness worth turning our country into a kleptocracy?”

With his son-in-law currently seeking a position in the white house, these are questions for the cynic no longer. Nepotism is not the same as corruption in business. It undermines the institutions we depend on, and only constant vigilance for one thousand, four hundred and sixty-one days will keep our trust in those institutions alive.

-Jack Delaney

Day 8: The Eye of a Neon Hurricane, The Nation of Patty Hearst, Democratization of Fear

When reading the writings of Ted Kaczynski, the UNABomber, currently serving eight life sentences in a supermax prison in Colorado, he comes off as surprisingly sane. This is troubling, because one has to ask the question why a sane person would spend 17 years mailing bombs all around the country, claiming three lives and wounding 23.

Through my close reading of his work and original published manifesto, I’ve come to the conclusion that he is a fanatic. It is not that he is divorced from reality in a medical way, but in an ideological one. The crux of his ideology is that the industrial revolution was a disaster for mankind: technology is destroying the natural world, and robs humanity of its autonomy. To cope with the crippling personal effect of technology we increasingly turn to it as our salvation, the cycle continues, et cetera, et cetera.

Written in 1995, the manifesto does strike a certain chord in me. As someone who has lived in cities for the past decade, I have felt the effects of urbanization and a complete alienation with the natural.

What interests me, however, is the increasing sense of an urbanization of the mind. With the leaps forward in technology, we are increasingly surrounded by ever more hysterical media apparatus, that exists not to push an ideology as conspiracy theorists would have us believe, but for our attention.

We’ve become the nation of Patty Hearst, all trapped in the closet with the megaphone blaring the ragged mantra over and over: “Keep watching.” The neon hurricane is ever present, and the eye is fixed on us. It’s no wonder everyone is trapped in their own echo chambers politically, no wonder there is so much fear and loathing in a country where there is no great war or depression.

Most damaging is the painful truth that the urbanization of the mind has led to a loss of identity en masse. Some retreat to the old answers of tribalism (both the right and the left). We do not know who we are anymore: culture, our connection to the land- all of it has been painfully stripped away by our modern life, a life that only exists because of technology. Entertainment is the only “culture” left, given more importance than ever before because of the crucial release it provides. Because it is all we are left with, it alone reverberates with the anxieties we share- a democratization of fear. All of our science fiction asks the question “what does it mean to be human”. The very question we desperately seek an answer to.

-Jack Delaney

Day 8: Art is not the Almighty

In 2016, you have faith or a 200k piece of paper that comes with a lexicon of meaningless phrases that grow into themselves like ingrown toenails. As people invite me to post election gallery openings, one even directly named “Art in the Face of Darkness”, I cringe. I think of the scene in “Manhattan” at the art museum gala, Allen brings up that neo nazis are going to march in NJ. He suggests going down with bats when he is interrupted by someone saying they read a satirical essay on the march and how satire is more powerful than bats. Allen responds along the lines bats are better. After an election season in which comedians were hailed and lauded as the new public intellectuals of the left and a barrage of biting videos “destroyed” Trump and his supporters. Maybe it is time, we take art off the pedestal.

Neal Gabler for a piece on claims “Hell or High Water about two aimless bank robbers could convey a metaphysical sense of American lostness greater than the white anger and resentment that I believe largely fueled Donald Trump’s victory.” I am amazed that anyone would say a piece of fiction is more real than the suffering of flesh and blood people. If art expands empathy, it needs to try alot harder. Another miracle people grant art is the act of catharsis. I won’t deny my own personal communions with fine art, but all art isn’t created equal nor can it conquer all.

Otherwise I doubt the left would act so smugly towards their rural brethren. I’ve read recent articles blaming the country’s disconnect solely on the rural regions. The authors believing the coastal left is immune to criticism. Their reasoning being if the American poor went further into debt for art degrees and trips to Paris then they would think exactly the same as the author who claims to have “escaped” from small town America. At dinners with friends when the conversation runs dry, people mock the rural outreaches beyond the suburbs and the industrial decay, the global elite left for them. It disgusts me. I came from one of those towns without a traffic light. There weren’t any shops and not many places to go out to eat: two diners and a pizza place. Instead I was gifted with nature and farmland, which provided most of the local part time jobs outside of the mall a few towns over. It was a small, but close community. My friends, who stayed after high school, aren’t wrong for remaining apart of and continuing the town’s traditions. For trying to start families. Our creative overlords frame abortion as the only reasonable choice and as characters grow towards middle age, family is rarely presented as a good choice. Instead the moral life is shown to be discounting our own labor for a photogenic career from a shortlist that looks good on Instagram. I reject this cosmopolitanism that being apart of a real community, one that has roots, is foolish. My urban years have not enriched my soul rather my time in cities has turned my body into a more perfect servant, sitting outside the large bay windows awaiting my next task. I reject the notion that settling and creating a home is a form of failure and weakness. I think the pursuit of jetsetting is folly. I reject the false love of Hollywood, which praises desire above all. I believe in the devotion and dedication taught to me by my parents.

As long as Art remains a propaganda piece for the global elites it will be meaningless as a source of unity. As long as it seeks mockery over understanding. Seeking political aims and the Zeitgeist, it will not function as humanity’s soul. Art is most when it is simply human. Oddly enough as our society is dehumanized by technology and big data we need works like those of Bellow or the old masters that have survived the centuries. Works that defend ourselves against our intentions. The problem with works such as those is they defang the agitprop of the modern university.

-E.C. Fiori

Day 7: The Audacity of Denial

America voted for Donald Trump, not choosing the name out of thin air but based on his eighteen month campaign in which he presented ideas that vanquished nineteen other contenders. He was far from the only “outsider” that stood on the stage. If you are wondering why I am saying this, it is because many people have reacted to Trump’s election with “we don’t know what he will do”. We aren’t discussing what happens in a black hole. The man may have not laid out clear policies, but he did propose many ideas for executive orders and laws.

We cannot deny the words, he ran on. Whether it is dancing with the notion of a forced registry for muslims or withdrawing from NATO. He has time to announce new plans. While we wait we can see his daughter using the presidential light to advertise her jewelry line. As Giuliani said we won’t want to put his kids out of work by putting his assets into a trust like every past president in the modern era. We would not want a separation between wealth and authority. Not that they couldn’t start new ventures quite easily, I wonder if Ivanka or Trump owns the jewelry company. I doubt he will put his other unknown economic interests both domestic and foreign outside Trump corp. We never saw the tax returns, another modern precedent from the richest nominee in history that includes George Washington. Along with the hacked emails, I feel I am looking at a Nixon. Post watergate pre hearing, speaking of past presidents with IRS and legal issues. This is the man is currently mulling arresting his defeated political opponent. This is not American democracy. This is a banana republic. Brietbart is Trumptv. He never needed to start his own network.

On the Supreme Court, he will seek a nominee that will overturn Roe v Wade, but keep Obergefell v. Hodges. Not sure what the logic is behind that. The Roberts court oddly enough is the last institution that could redeem itself. The final guardian of the constitution. Each justice must live up to the higher ideals bestowed upon the court by our Founders. Equal justice for all. Ensuring freedom continues by preventing government overreach. I trust the court will fulfill its duties and pray that no harm befalls any of the current justices during Trump’s presidency.

-E.C. Fiori

Day 7: The Million Pound Shithammer, Weaponized Ineloquence, A Crude Eulogy for Nuance

There is a small section of Plato’s Republic that has stuck with me through the smog of passing years. In it, Plato describes civil unrest in Athens, and makes the observation that language has changed. He uses the example of the word “brave”: normally a compliment, but now is an insult, the word laden with irony and dripping with sarcasm. “Don’t be brave”.

The way Donald Trump speaks has been written about and documented for eighteen months now. What has not been explored is what potential impact this has on his presidency and administration. Mainly, the coming administration’s extension of his campaign’s weaponization of ineloquence.

The mark of a true bullshit artist is not lying. A liar has some connection with the truth: making you, the listener, believe what is untrue. No, the bullshit artist excels at shamelessly mixing fact and fiction to suit their needs. They are at their most powerful when completely unbounded by facts. In short, the liar’s focus is specific, while the bullshit artist’s focus is panoramic.

But what happens when this practice becomes the only method of communication with the press, or the American people? What happens when one of the prime directives of the administration is to actively obfuscate any criticism of the administration?

We should distrust any administration that will only allow their chosen publications to cover them, any that try to deny what we know is true as a matter of record, and any that refuses to operate in rational discourse. As author E.C. Fiori once wrote, facts should not be a fashion statement. Politicians are notorious for their manipulation of the truth in naked self interest- but we must prepare for the daunting Trump years: the crushing weight of an avalanche of bullshit.

-Jack Delaney

Day 6: Years of Living Dangerously, Anger at the Unseen Other, The Spear in the Red Elephant

With the appointment of Steve Bannon as Chief Strategist in the Trump Administration, it is no longer possible to ignore the movement he has founded. Sure, he’s a vindictive strongman who has no morals or beliefs to speak of, but that doesn’t exactly make him stand out in the President Elect’s inner circle.

What does is his position as chief executive of Breitbart News, and gleefully oversaw its transition from “news organization aimed at dismantling the left’s media narrative” to “mouthpiece for the Trump campaign”. His obsession with destroying the GOP and the Left, adeptness at aggressive social climbing, and instinct for preying on the weak has served him quite well.

Under his chaotic rule, the website has turned into a cesspool that has spawned what is known as the “alt-right”. This fringe group believes, as former Breitbart reporter Ben Shapiro has said, “that Western culture is inseparable from European Ethnicity”. If that sounds like a White Supremacy movement to you, you’d be wrong. In their own words, the difference between them and a gaggle of skinheads is “intelligence”. Just what the philosophy has been missing; it takes a lot of ego to claim you’re the master race, but the alt-right has somehow managed to up the ante.

It’s difficult to suss out exactly what they are railing against- but the most urgent matter seems to be “political correctness”. They revel in breaking the norms of polite society, such as editing pictures of reporter’s children so they’re in gas chambers, and then congratulate themselves for being so brave.

I don’t want to give Steve Bannon more credit than he deserves- he will bend in whatever direction he deems advantageous, first cursing Obama for not being hard enough on Putin, then immediately jumping aboard the Trump train. But we have to remember that this man will have the President’s ear. Now that America has given him all the power he could want, let’s see what he does with it. Small men always make grand gestures. 

-Jack Delaney

Day 6: Man is not a Hive

Minutes after the election was called. My liberal newsfeed exploded with comments about not being able to look at their neighbors the same way. Never mind that the posters neighbors physically lived in the same coastal enclave as the poster. The sentiment is intended on a national level. It wasn’t that the left didn’t know how many disagreed with their tactics. It was the ease we can type a long worded fuck you and unfriend. Now the world was all left again. Until of course it wasn’t. When all disagreements end with loud name calling, no one learns of new perspectives.

We don’t trust anymore in a grander sense as well. About 3 months before the election I had an argument online with 3 Bernie supporters and 2 libertarians. The argument revolved around the poverty level in America. Of the 6 only I believed the statistic that 15% of Americans and their children struggle with hunger. The Bernie bros questioned each phrase’s word choice in the study as the libertarians claimed you could be broke as a joke and still have housing, food, unlimited entertainment and a big screen TV. As I read the words, I looked outside my bus as I traveled to a hipster food festival at Los Angeles’ Skid Row. Blocks of tents and souls looking for a break. As the faces passed, I wondered how many took a bullet for my freedom. I glanced back to my phone and the conversation turned to another thought experiment and the chat revived as the members proclaimed their ideologies. I closed my phone and waited to enter the gentrified section before hopping on a return bus home to donate the budget to the festival to the people who were building a better America one meal and blankets at a time. Yet this isn’t an one off experience. Every statistic and fact no matter the source is either accepted or rejected on the audiences ideological lines. Never engaged on their own merit.

Granted the internet and its zero barrier publishing has made falsehoods easy to present. To say it has demeaned all information including the past means we live in Oceania. In that world view there are three main groups: Inner Party, Party Members, and Proles. The Inner Party in this thought experiment is the the “wealth creators” or “corporate fatcats” if you prefer. The Party is the Punditry class, professional class, and the general “creative class”. The rest of us “slobs” pedigreed diplomas or no form the proles. In lieu of external threats, our conflicts stem internally. Regional preferences become weapons. The text books revised to create strife as needed and irony above all communication is valued. Indifferent and indirect with irony any statement can be twisted for the current conversation and retwisted for any future discussion. A serpentine inner life always in sync with the Good Truth.

We need to return to a society where we embrace the uncertainty of time and endeavor to rebuild shared institutions that have our conjoined faith. A world where facts aren’t fashion statements. A world where change is possible.

-E.C. Fiori

Day 5: Protests and Turncoats

People are going into the streets. The funhouse of social media failed their egos. Major highways shut down in liberal cities as protesters demand from the drivers their reason for not moving back to the Midwest this election cycle. I don’t know if it is an effective strategy to create obstacles for your allies, but I do think the larger peaceful protests taken place in the forgotten public squares is good. There was no mandate in this election, no landslide. Trump will be our president and now must listen rather than sell. Create compromises of his stump with the voices of those he was chosen to lead. The winding path to success in office.

However one aspect of the protests is harmful: #notmypresident. It gives me flashbacks to the early Tea Party protests, the ones with fife playing and drumlines (an aside: the left should match the right’s pageantry, better television and more front pages). The birthers and racists denying the legitimacy of Obama. A toxic stain on our flag. That stain will only spread if we do the same. Attack the policy, stances, and comments; not the legitimacy of our republic.

Another specter coming out of the bedrock are folks who denounced a Trump presidency for fear of his ability to uphold the constitution on Nov.8 but at 1am on the Nov.9 declared this to be a good result: even maybe the best result.  These turncoats parade online and in the streets. Unconcerned that the fears they claimed to have will come to pass. Drunk on the promises of tomorrow, they have walked away from the gatehouse as the inmates take over the asylum.

Both choices are reactions but we need to respond to the moment. To reflect before action is the mark of wisdom. We have three months to prepare and we must prepare for Trump’s 100 days. The policy will come swiftly. Some policies undoubtedly will be wrong for America and just as the ACA wasn’t stopped by cardboard signs, we must think of new avenues to address and prevent them from becoming law. I have faith in the Roberts court but the court fell to partisanship with Bush. The court must regain its place in checks and balances. They cannot fear the wrath of an angered GOP, but they should fear for their place in history.

We cannot let ourselves fall into selfishness. We cannot drink the koolaid. We cannot lose America.

-E.C. Fiori

Day 5: Ghost Dance of the Red Elephant, Magical Thinking by Rational Minds, Hell is High Water: a Red Tide

During the true seismic shifts of history, most historians not on LSD will agree on the trend of “crisis cults”. These are groups who, during a time of radical change, will offer their followers the relief of magical thinking. While the roots of these cults change, the seed of their illogical belief is always the same: we can return the world to the way it used to be.

The most dramatic example of this would be Wovoka, the prophet that lead the Native American Ghost Dance awakening. The belief that new religious practices would bring back the bison, drive White America out of their homeland, and make them immune to gunfire would be, very quickly, revealed as incorrect. Most notably this occurred at the massacre of Wounded Knee, where the U.S. Cavalry wasted no time in proving that a Colt dragoon is a match for any shirt- even if it is prayed over.

On the far side of the world, the Boxer Rebellion would play this exact drama out for themselves. With the comforting distance of history, we can look back and wonder how they could ever convince themselves that their rituals would protect them? That their beliefs were a match for technology?

Much and more has been said about the Trump crisis cult, and to be fair it seemed like the parallels were there. That with one rage filled election we could turn America back to a country that never really existed. The last Ghost Dance of the Red Elephant out on the plains of America.

Whether Trump will make good on his promises, no one knows, least of all his supporters. But what we do know is that we fired a Cavalry regiment’s worth of grapeshot logic into their ranks, and they were immune to the volleys. It did bounce off their shirts. The Magical Thinking was ours.

For nearly a decade, the death of the Republican Party has been predicted time and time again. What we forgot was that movements like the Tea Party, like the Nazis, like Nelson Mandela’s ANC always fail, time and time again, until the time is right. Change comes during times of uncertainty. We just forgot it could rise from those we saw as beneath us.

Now, the crushing weight of reality washes over us. All of our best thinking led to the coming Trump years. We are the ones standing on the dark plains of America, watching the wounded Red Elephant spew a cloud of red mist as it bellows from the depths of its squeezebox lungs. It charges now, and the rituals that we worshipped: national dialogue, honest debate, and common sense have abruptly evaporated. 

-Jack Delaney

Day 4: Chants from a Shattered Tribe, Screams in the Uncaring Void, The Long March to Nowhere

The news out of Los Angeles has been the same for three nights in a row. Hundreds arrested, night after night, in massive, violent “protests” downtown. I normally fall asleep to the low murmur of LAPD dispatchers on my pawn shop police scanner- but lately it’s just been calls for backup, screams for more handcuffs, and calling out the badge numbers of those who have “turned”.

The Thin Blue line seems close to crumbling these days, with cops sometimes simply going mad in the middle of the riot, and either aimlessly wandering onto the freeway, or really “going native” and handing over their cruisers and personal arsenals to protesters before wading into their own skirmish lines, fighting tirelessly until they can be tased or beaten into submission.

Today however, was the first organized “peaceful” protest, that was to start in MacArthur Park, and end in front of the Federal building downtown. Liberal marches always bring the freaks out of the woodwork, and this was no exception. Topless women, single fathers pulling wagons filled with children, and Chicano revolutionaries covered in Aztec tattoos marched side by side. Ten thousand showed all told, a massive show of force for a city so used to apathy and sitting in traffic.

A single question turned over in my mind as I broadcasted fake reports over the official channels, screaming that “the protestors had built a goddamn tank”. How many of these people voted? How many voted in the last midterm election? How many could articulate the actual policy change they were looking for? One protester blurted out to an abc7 camera “We made a huge mistake, and we won’t accept it!” It seemed to sum up the general message of the protests: anger, but also the calculated eschewing of responsibility.

The cops breathed an audible sigh of relief as we were corralled into the Third Street Tunnel. Protesters reveled as their chants grew to a deafening, feverish beat that rolled off the long dome above them. “Say it loud, say it clear: IMMIGRANTS ARE WELCOME HERE!”

And as the thousands chanted and congratulated themselves, I knew that we would never leave that tunnel: chanting to our own satisfaction in an echo chamber. Heard by no one above.

-Jack Delaney