Everyone’s Main Topic

Mariner receives many emails from news services, magazines and news analysts. Today, with a rapid fire sort of experience, mariner copied the following quotes from his emails and could have copied many more:

֎ Trump won by speaking directly to voters who had the least experience with democratic institutions… A nation of passive observers watching others make decisions is a nation that will succumb to anger and resentment—witness the United States. [Yoni Appelbaum, journalist]

֎ “Whatever may be tolerated in monarchical and despotic governments, no republic is safe that tolerates a privileged class, or denies to any of its citizens equal rights and equal means to maintain them.” [Frederick Douglass, December 1866]

֎ “Human beings are tribal,” says Amy Chua, Professor of Law at Yale Law School. “We’re hardwired that way. We need to belong to groups.” The problem, Chua says, is when tribalism takes over a political system—and that’s just what is happening in America.

In a new video filmed at the 2018 Aspen Ideas Festival in June, Chua explains that, in an unprecedented fashion for America, whites are on the verge of losing their majority status, leading to “destructive political dynamics” that are difficult to curb.

֎A longer article in the Atlantic marked the beginning of tribalism or identity politics to the influence of the Tea Party. Referencing a quote from Adolf Hitler who said early in his political life, “If they stop me early, I will not make it to power; if they don’t act early, they can’t stop me.” The reference alludes to the fragmentation of the citizenry and the government when one clique is allowed to derail normal democratic processes.

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The disappearance of democracy as a philosophical model producing equality for everyone regardless of tribe has malfunctioned quite dramatically in just 30 years. Today, it is the main topic of writers, thinkers, political practitioners and even many individual citizens.

Who should we blame? Just about everyone from our prominent political and corporate leaders, to Congress, Courts, and especially to the individual citizens who chose not to maintain the American experiment – democracy.

We could blame automation and electronics which make it easier to stay home rather than participating in clubs and civic organizations. We could blame public education for not requiring civics in 12 years of instruction. We could blame capitalism with its tendency to hoard. We could blame the media for championing tribal values, jousting at one another like knights in the lists – thereby creating fake news and alternative news. Each of these examples has, in its own manner, attacked democracy but at the core, it is the public citizen – the electorate. The electorate is Chairman of the Board for democracy.

Above, Amy Chua references an issue deep in this caustic salad bowl: racism. The penchant of the United States to sustain racism is about to turn around and bite the whites in their butts. Certainly a deep and visible characteristic of American culture, the transition may emerge subtlety as a shift toward socialistic governance.

On the other hand, more direct conflict emerges daily between tribes. Consider the following, each one entrenched with an attitude of ‘my way or the highway’:

-Theocratic dominance. The idea that a religion (Christianity???) supersedes state rights. There are several confrontations: abortion, gay marriage, right to deny service because of Christian values and the intent to oppress other religious principles, e.g., atheism, Islam and situational ethics as law (Roe v Wade). Whence the desire for equality?

-Libertarianism and Tea Party conservatism. (Modern libertarians defend the right of productive people to keep what they earn, against a new class of politicians and bureaucrats who would seize their earnings to transfer them to nonproducers.) Government must be kept to an absolute minimum; size and multiplicity are dangerous and unfair to the liberty of individuals to live prosperous, self-managed lives. One can imagine the conflict with a government whose discretionary (transfers to nonproducers) budget is more than half of the entire budget. Harari draws his opinion from this philosophy when he says useless people will not be cared for in the future.

-Progressives. The antithesis of libertarianism. Probably the least wordy description is to borrow Jesus’s words when he says,

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” [Matthew 25:40]

In other words, equal value among everyone – regardless whether they are producers, nonproducers, wealthy, poor, healthy, sick, etc. An interesting reference, Native Americans were progressives in the sense that everyone was cared for. Of course, survival was more of an issue than it is today unless one is truly indigent.

-Conservatives. Share economic and capitalistic views of libertarians but more important is social order. Change is anathema. A good example is the persistence of racism; it is difficult for conservatives to change social order. The same is true of whatever subtribe is important, e.g., having a job is a universal discriminator, what neighborhood they live in, how the church service is run. In mariner’s town, well-kept lawns are an important demonstration of community unity and, if conservatives have anything to do with it, will be sustained into the future.

-Climate Change. This isn’t really a battle between advocates and deniers; it’s a battle between the massive, global investment in fossil fuel and those who want to shut down fossil fuel. It’s all about dollars and profit versus a slow, inevitable impact on the state of all economic and political circumstances. A characteristic of capitalism is greed – take the profit up front, push the overhead into the future.

Mariner can name several more tribal conflicts but already he is on his third page. No doubt readers understand that when tribal values dominate the overall political condition, fragmentation is bound to happen. The Russians understand this even if the US doesn’t. Remember Rodney King? He was right.

Ancient Mariner.