This New American Life
I write this in a booth waiting for my current delivery order to be prepared in an empty restaurant that ten years ago would have been crowded. The music is a soft bossa nova and the kitchen while busy is careful to avoid clangs. The decor is standard a medium brown stain colors the wood and the carpet is green and clean. A mother and her retired son are the only other customers. She is dancing while waiting for the spring rolls to arrive. The owner hands me a thai tea on the house while I wait. I can’t help but worry for the fate of America. I can’t help but wonder where do we go from here.
The internet has redefined what and why we eat. It’s less about what we like and having haunts we return to but posting from the current trends to be considered a cool kid. Even those who do not post on social media still Google and Yelp their choices based on the impression that the best rated by those apps have more value experience wise for their dollars. The hive mind that is social media causes attention inequality and narrows culture especially food culture.
Speaking of the Hive Mind. What do we talk about when we say we shouldn’t give someone a platform. As in the current uproar over Megyn Kelly interviewing Alex Jones, a man who has been paid to spew filth since my childhood. He long ago built his alternative media platform and give a place for wayward views. He helped Trump win without a doubt and his org Infowars will have white house press credentials. He doesn’t need an interview on NBC but NBC and those who oppose his views do need these kinds of interviews. Darkness cannot be allowed to fester. Pre-internet denying mainstream outlets was a good way to slow repulsive thought but now mainstream media is one if the last shared spaces in American life and is more effective as a means of exposing.
The tendency of the internet to drive conformity from food and fashion trends to preventing public discourse is disconcerting to say the least. Humanity’s story is one driven by innovation through diversity not just the kind on a college application check box. How much have we lost? What will it take next?
We’ve been getting emails from loyal audience members asking why Radical Centrists has been so quiet over the past week. Surely the waterfall of Trump related news and fiascos of historic proportions is decent fodder for articles, no? Well intelligent reader, you’re right, but we here at Radical Centrists like to offer something of a unique perspective from the partisan back and forth. And frankly, there have been many fine think pieces about The Comey Affair, the Russia disclosure, the WannaCry pandemic, and Jeff Sessions single handedly refusing bi-partisan support for sentencing reform in the criminal justice system.
At long last though, I think there is an argument that should be much more out in the open among democrats- mostly, how to react during and after the fallout of The Comey Affair. The idea of impeachment isn’t over the horizon, but in plain view as Trump continues to stumble through interview and conflicting statements over his apparent obstruction of justice. So what now?
One camp believes that Democrats should be as obstructionist as possible, throwing sand in the gears of legislature until, for example, a special prosecutor is appointed- basically give Republicans a taste of what they did for the past 7 years with Obama. Hey, two can play at that game, and the stakes are a lot higher now. Obamacare didn’t lead to death panels, the great depression was averted, we got out of Iraq… it’s almost hard to remember now why Republicans hated Obama so much.
The other camp feels that we should rise above, and that impeachment is impossible without the cooperation of Republicans in the House and Senate. Remember- impeachment is a political decision, not a legal one (which is exactly what Nixon meant when he said “when the president does it, it’s not illegal”).
If you had asked me two weeks ago when we were talking about Republican legislative policy, I was firmly in the former camp. Healthcare and their insane “tax reforms” would throw millions even further into feudal serfdom, hoping our corporate castles will provide protection when the storm comes. Resistance means more than just bearing witness.
Now though, more and more republicans are starting to feel that Trump’s very existence is anathema to their agenda (which, of course, he is). What has changed is that business as usual in government now could very well lead to Trump’s removal. Before, business as usual hurts our countrymen. Now, it could bring down the American Caligula. We Centrists shouldn’t make the mistake of hindering that.
“Children of Men” is a great movie but I disagree with the notion it is representative of 2016 is wrong or more accurately why the left says it is accurate is wrong. Just like the 2016 election, Brexit, and the anger of the poor. Especially the Vulture article, as much as the author claims that the solution can only come from new ideologies. I cannot disagree more.
We have a crisis of humanity. The Global Elite to which a majority of critics belong to point the death of compassion on the white poor and religion. It is simple and easy to label their fear as xenophobic or racist. First xenophobia is a medical condition and to be an armchair doctor from high without certification or actual medical knowledge never has cured a soul. Second the modern refugee is not the professional class Jew of antebellum Germany, they are a manual skill laborer. A class that the Western professional class has waged war against for 46 years. Robbed of living wages, the current wave of rage began in earnest with the election of Clinton in 1992 who pandered to the deindustrialized people on the campaign. Once in office, their quality of life was ignored for the P. C. culture wars. Now the few jobs that they are allowed to work due to the investment in their communities that makes the cost of college and credit rating needed for fair loans out of reach. Even jobs that don’t require education or specialized skills such as data entry are reserved for the privileged conferred degrees as a consolation to the damage digital disruption is wreaking on our world. Now the professional class wants to further dilute the opportunities by increasing working class competition without sacrifices of their own.
The worshipped tech “geniuses” who take from those with the least to trickle up luxury to the anointed upper class look at us from their environmentally friendly manors sitting on their hoards. They bestow gifts on those who believe in their dogma without question or defiance. Charter schools selective in the children to be saved and the majority go to global causes to expand their influence and control on new populations. They ignore the communities who raised them because we are not islands. The false interpretation of the enlightenment as the individual above the world ignores the wisdom of our predecessors. Kings exist beyond job titles and the tech and financial worlds have returned aristocracy and fiefdoms into our lives long before Trump declared his candidacy. It is the loss of morals not the inadequacy that created this moment. Cuaron is not immune to luxury take “Gravity” a decadent experience that was not revelatory as much as indulgent.
There are no quick solutions to the challenges of climate change and overpopulation but some of the most inspiring innovators live by traditional values like Elon Musk. Investing in the future rather than paying out short term profits. Will the critics who spend their days judging mostly forgettable entertainment that needs no comment ever use their existence to better humanity? Of course not they would have to give up their celebrity chef curated tasting experiences and gilded bars with bartenders who frame themselves as scientists. Television and amusement in all forms especially pop culture academia have narrowed our worlds. There is no global pillars rather the peoples of the world were sold snake oil. Bending the knee and toppling the temples that carried them through the ages for the false idol that is cosmopolitanism. Falsely accused of being the true vision of enlightenment cosmopolitanism is the antithesis. Consider the difference between “Yes, We Can” vs “I’m with Her” and “Make America Great Again”. To the contrary of Trump’s later speeches his slogan is a call to action that offered an ignored people a hand in their faith. Clinton’s slogan was a pledge of fealty that asked people to give into the will of the elite, perhaps even further degraded a fashion statement.
The modern elites to which every member of the mainstream media is apart of (important note: local media such as small circulation newspapers are not the same as much as the titans of attention try to frame them as such) view us the people as malfunctioning machines. Think about how the jargon the media uses to explain psychology and sociology is borrowed from tech. We are “programmed” beings “wired” to “function”. We are not machines but souls born. We are not “designed” to serve but created by God to live and exist. Even the notion of the individual stems not from writing but the shift on architecture and technology. In the age of Socrates ideas needed more than one to be thought through discussion. The advance of the written world through the convenience of the printing press created a new medium of conversation. Rooms began to separate us. Our ancestors shared a space with each other and their livestock. The individual bedroom made the self which found itself in writing. The expansion of the world that writing allowed for was far beyond the seven mile radius that existed in the feudal villages. This new world connected by ideas allowed the new individual to group and create without the intimacy of proximity. That was the birth of the Enlightenment. Film continued the same, premeditated images shared.
Television ended the Enlightened world no longer was the audience separated by time from the idea and image. We all could share the events of the world as they happened disconnected from location. McLuhan’s global village. More than 90% of Americans knew that JFK died within 2 hours. Most of the country watched the live coverage of his funeral 3 days later. A moment almost literally shared by the nation. Now with smartphones and the livestream have completed the village. We are no longer ever alone. We are no longer selves as in the Age of Enlightenment. Our actions known to all as we act. The elites have used this to prey on the people for profit. Now the people understand the new age and have come for control of the village.
I know many on the left will give this post title an eyeroll but I must speak about the two wars on Christmas: one waged by the secular leftists and the other from Radical Islam. The left has long sought to undermine the separation of church and state by submitting religion to federal control. People must petition Congress for religious exemptions. That is not what this country was founded on. The government does not grant us rights. Our religious institutions Christian or other are not granted passage by Big Government. This is why battles over the building of Mosques disturbs me. It isn’t for the President or the selectmen to decide. We do not have the right to stop peaceful worship if they own the property or at least have legal access. I believe both the the left and the right have assaulted our religious rights.
The war on the Western world from Radical Islam is a clash of civilizations. Christianity and Islam can and do coexist in Western Civilization. Not that there aren’t conflicts between religious groups under liberal order but our values as a society push us towards unity and respect. Radical Islam under its strict literal theology cannot exist within the West. It’s practice goes against all of our values. If the West is defined as uncertain and fluid then Radical Islam is defined by the opposite. The temptation is it promises a known purpose in life. In the West, religion and work (our institutions of purpose) have been under attack by the political elite. The resulting society promotes unlimited freedom by removing dedication and devotion as values. Purpose limits choice. True freedom is being adrift in space without a footing to stand on. People want to have a purpose, at some level we need it. As the work that gave employee’s pride is automated, a pillar of society teeters. We don’t need more stuff to throw away, we need more purpose in our days. I have been told of a notion where freedom from work allows us to achieve higher purposes. I don’t agree with it. An attempt by the left to marginalize people’s lives. Autowork gives more back to the community than art and is no less noble. That’s the problem with the Progressive goal to achieve the end of history. People want to be a part of their lineage, not escape it.
The converts to the radical civilizations (Radical Islam and Neo-Nazis are just the most aggressive) flee the increasingly inhuman West shedding its values without replacing them. Multiculturalism isn’t a value as much as the absence of one. The American Melting Pot wasn’t a place where you kept your way of life as much as subvert your rituals to the American way. You came to America to be American. Immigrants make America great by becoming American. Entangling the threads of their traditions into our quilt. The american ethnicity is multiracial and our DNA is global but at our heart we are all brothers and sisters under and for the Republic and all for which it stands. In reading the Atlantic review of “Silence”, one would assume Art was created outside of religion when until recent history it was a tool of faith. The reviewer believes taking religion seriously is radical. I find that to be belittling to say that the ancient mysteries of religion especially the inevitability of suffering were not a legitimate source of Art. The left has turned tradition radical. Until the liberal order reclaims its history it will be on the losing end of a war they refuse to admit exists.
Facebook’s announcement of an experimental partnership between third party fact checkers: Snopes, PolitiFact, the AP, ABC news, and factcheck.org. Where people request certain links to be factchecked and if they are and found to be false or misleading a warning without reasons behind the warning will pop up before the article opens. Many people on the left and right are wary of this development. For many conservatives, a third of the fact checkers (AP and ABC news excluded) have a liberal bias. For many on the left, this is an expansion of corporate control of media trying to take away their “truth”.
Facebook has the legal right to control its platform that it lets us use. I do think that it can be worrisome to think that there will be blind faith in the warning. I think that this is an opportunity for us all to challenge our dogmas. We all could use a hand in expanding our worldviews and many times that hand needs to come from the opposition. Not saying we are all wrong all the time, but we need to be fluid in our responses. Adapt to the situation at hand not the one in the mind. I think that this experiment is a good step forward and should be expanded to include more viewpoints. We need some radical changes but those changes aren’t possible without agreement and I am speaking about Climate Change. It truly is a bipartisan problem that will alter every human’s life. In the age of Elon Musk, no one can question the possibilities in renewable energy that could occur. I believe we need to support if not with funds than beneficial regulations that aid his innovations while improving the quality of life for his labor. We need to use Capitalism to challenge ourselves for real innovation rather than use our money for novelty add ons. We need the hoarded wealth to be reinvested into the American Dream. None of which is possible without dialogue. If fact checking and discussions not in comments but in researched detail can engage us with each other than it is worth trying. Facebook as a form of communication and a company must respect their power. I think this is a step towards a better social media environment in the age of bullshit heralded by Trump and Putin.
-E. C. Fiori
Identity politics has always existed. White Supremacy is perhaps the oldest modern form. In all forms it relies on tribal dogma to create a world view. This world view does not always conform to the world. In an piece for NPR, Tasneem Raja writes “why it’s never been more important to continue talking — and arguing, and complaining, and venting — about identity in America. To continue interrogating whiteness as a construct, even as we discuss the economic woes of many white Americans. To continue asking why so many of our superheroes are white and male, even as we push to better understand the defeat and humiliation felt by many flesh-and-blood white men in our country.” Superheroes aren’t real. Movies and television aren’t real. The media wastes an incredible amount of time watching other media and reporting on what the media tells them. No wonder we built our own echo chambers, the mirror that was journalism has become a fun house. There are serious deep seated economic ills that affect all Americans that creates a fear of the other. While diverse entertainment options are important. Everyone should be able to share their voice. Art is not as important as economic stability. Few liberals argue that many of the goals of identity politics aren’t noble, but the tactics are ineffective at best. As television moves from viewership numbers to subscriber totals, the actual viewership of any given program matters less. Thus the explosion of perspectives on pay or SVOD entertainment. These shows at their peak with the rare exception have a twentieth of the viewership of the classic model flagship CBS. If content can shape the viewership than the viewership matters. Identity politics by dividing citizens based on birth features encourages white nationalism. If being matters then Whiteness matters. If what was pop culture is white culture then the Whiteness of it matters too. In a country that is still majority white for the next three decades and depending on immigration changes longer, that demographic has power.
The average American white male was the loser of globalism. The Trump supporter is similar to a study on rats as written in the New York Times, “The best verified animal model of depression consists of social defeat. A dominant rat is placed in a cage with a younger, stronger rat from another group. When the dominant rat is defeated, several features emerge. The defeated rat is reclusive, hyper-vigilant, avoidant, and shows an incapacity to experience pleasure.” The Obama coalition was a moment for a future America. A moment of change. The now reviled and then reviled as well white American male was an important piece of the coalition, the Midwestern firewall. The professional class has always been dominant; the working class had their fiefdoms maybe not to the charm of a New Yorker but a loving community home to the residents. That has been stolen and the working class re-dominated. The recession recover deepened the destruction of their middle class world of the last thirty years. Longer than many of the preachers of Identity have been living. 2016 will be remembered as the year that Americans first had the chance to elect a government focused on all citizens but both Trump and Clinton relied on identity. Trump did the math and Clinton expected shame to continue to hold the peace. The basket of deplorables comment probably ended her campaign. Trump did a barebone dog whistle to be sure but Clinton attacked the one group she needed because of identity politics. Being a first isn’t an enough, a campaign is more than a self- esteem booster. That last part is intended to the Trump voters and the chaos they chose as well.
We are a broken people divided. The New York Times has an op-ed about not going easy on the failures of men. Especially taking aim at the concept as men as the breadwinner and that being the sole responsibility. While I agree that men and woman should do portional housework based on earnings level. The problem is not just that men do less housework or are selfish about the tasks. It is that the stay at home dad is an undesired solution. Here is an interesting Dear Sugar on the subject. Women are more likely to cheat and divorce as the breadwinner. This dissonance is tearing apart our families. We cannot just shame a better tomorrow. So much of the strife and divisions center on money and for some luxury. I think if the pay ratio dropped from the average of 204: 1 CEO to worker to 50:1 at every company, we would see an American renaissance. I think that it would aid the race and gender and sexuality pay gap and earnings gap. I think it would ease the financial burden on families and save marriages. It would rise up all peoples and exclude no American from the better tomorrow. New divisions will not heal the old ones. Shame is not persuasion.