Garbage Time

I have thought a time or two, recently, of the “first they ignore you…” bit, and how failing systems of authority may experience it in reverse. First people respect and feel part of the system, then people bump up against unworkable features of the system, then people laugh at its continued pretense of authority, then people just ignore it.

This is as close as I can get to a theme for what’s going on now.

Steady rot, maddening slowness of even attempts at constructive response, and more opting out.

Of the steady rot, well, good grief. This post’s featured image is of a protester in February 2017, and I suspect her sign could actually be more true now, not less. I wrote this post almost 29 months ago, and could just about repeat every word of it today. The big picture is dismal, and while one may find bright spots in the darkness here and there, from a perch next to Cleveland, Ohio, it’s just awful.

Yet leaders and institutions mostly seem, perhaps inevitably, deeply attached to accepting the system’s limits no matter how ridiculous they become. Pick an example. Congress is almost too obvious, yet it’s perhaps worth pointing out that it should be obviously unthinkable that about 50% of a legislature with vast responsibilities is permanently committed to blockade any and everything, even policies which are genuinely very good as well as wildly popular with the public. Yet this is just normalized. Working around the bad sectors and “out-organizing” them, accepting that impossibly bad rules and what they are, aw just try harder, is broadly accepted by leaders and institutions.

Liberal democracy, certainly in America, just seems to have no idea whatsoever what to do about an organized enemy which is inter-weaved with a traditional political party. It is just not done, apparently, for liberalism to actually fight to shut down a political party no matter how toxic it becomes. Instead liberal leaders and institutions just endlessly monitor the bad behavior and point at it, waiting for some other authority to take responsibility. The courts, which are too slow at best, or the voters, who pour votes into systems which just throw them out because those systems are already corrupted. Liberalism is forever determined to win the argument; even if it conclusively wins the argument and systems don’t respond, the answer is always to try winning it even more.

Liberalism seems terrified of any active exercise of power on its behalf: arresting people who obstruct justice, eg., or expelling opposition politicians who cheat and suborn the state, or heaven forbid reconsidering the rules themselves no matter how unworkable they become. Liberal authorities want a permission slip first, they want “conclusive evidence” whatever that is, they want coalition governing partners, “bipartisanship,” cover.

Elite leadership and institutions, even relatively minor ones, seem absolutely hardwired to follow familiar systems and rituals no matter how ineffective they become. Joe Biden proposed to “prove democracy [i.e. the system] works,” and instead he has proved more than ever that what we call our democracy doesn’t work. Elites plow on anyway, and I can’t assume that any kind of major breaking point is anywhere near. In the meantime, it seems like the rest of society besides liberalism’s elites is gradually growing scornful of the system, or distrustful of it, or just ignoring it.

This takes a variety of forms. I have written before about Republicans simply ignoring rules they disagree with, but it has been more on my mind lately, particularly as Ohio Republicans just completely disregard redistricting reforms which they negotiated and formally endorsed in a public vote just three years ago. Here is another demonstration that we are not dealing with remotely sincere disagreements about “interpretation” of the law, we’re just dealing with lawlessness and feral government. I don’t think liberal democracy’s leaders or institutions are even close yet to confronting the significance of this.

There are mounting labor strikes, which are interesting, yet I confess to seeing in these more of a symptom of breakdown than a solution to it. As much as my sympathies are certainly with striking workers, rather than any of their opponents, this is not the surge of organizing that we need to solve any of our major problems. None of the tools or tactics which we have and know are effective responses to those major problems, it seems.

There is the general disillusionment found among the quite rational. I check in with Norm Eisen on Twitter most days, largely at this point for the same reasons that I consume escapist entertainment; I presume I’m not the only one who does so, as anything he posts about “accountability is coming” is consistently shot down by people who want to but just no longer can believe in this song after hearing it for years. I have the same perspective on more and more organizing, as I see e.g. redistricting reform leadership in Ohio exposed as absolutely hapless.

Then there is an evil counterpart, the toxic mutant grassroots cultism of antivaxxers, Q, the Capitol Putsch, and more. I have no real sympathy for the people who “fell” down a rabbit hole of sick, destructive nonsense, despite and because I understand only too well being bombarded with disinformation. If you’re paying attention, you’re bombarded with nonsense also: “filibuster,” “reconciliation package,” DeJoy is still Postmaster General, Trump’s tax returns are still in a secret vault, donate now to help us fight for our majorities on unwinnable rigged maps that we aren’t doing anything to stop, etc. This is what passes for reality; “It is a maddening space. The physics of it make no sense.” I manage to face this without deciding that Trump makes sense, or that I should take horse dewormer instead of getting vaccinated; what’s their excuse?

Still, this is out there, and my general impression is that this cultism is growing in reach. I don’t think our systems are really confronting or prepared for that, either. I could make this point every single day, but earlier this year it physically erupted into the Capitol itself and institutions’ meager responses are too small and too slow.

Anyway, while obviously Fox and Facebook and YouTube etc. feed this cultism, and Trump gives to and draws from it, most of these and related forces are at work elsewhere and the success is not nearly uniform. As one expert has said directly, “Americans are a highly susceptible target” for disinformation. Largely, I presume, because where we should have trusted, responsible authorities, we instead have a corrupted sham and mostly people, one way or another, complicit in perpetuating the sham.

I can only expect that things are going to get worse, and scarier, and more people will just want some authority which actually exercises authority. Where is Leviathan? Liberalism seems unlikely to be selected for the role.

Comments are closed.

Post Navigation