Saturday, February 04, 2017

Manifest Destiny part II: Entitlement reform

All of us, if we are of reflective habit, like and admire men whose fundamental beliefs differ radically from our own. But when a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental — men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack or count himself lost. … All the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.

The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.
H. L. Mencken
I am always open to all the possibilities.  It's just that the pollsters were so goddamned certain. That should have been my warning.  Daniel Kahneman, Nassim Taleb - they truly are the starting point of a thinking, conscious human being in the 21st century.   We all get lazy and assume that someone else knows.

I was a little surprised.  They underestimated him in the primaries, too, though so I wasn't stunned - thank goodness.  But Mencken would have known. He would have just assumed that Americans are what they have always been, and have never portrayed themselves as: perfectly average humans.  He would have assumed that the sentence below was not only possible but likely of an American because an average human can rationalize just about anything:

"Oh and asked whether Trump is qualified to serve as president, 60 percent of voters said no. (Though nearly 1 in 5 of that 60 percent voted for him anyway)."

Michael Moore saw it coming.  Now he has a five-point plan.  LOL.  If he was so bloody clairvoyant why couldn't he change the outcome?  Late night hosts are crying like children.  Bernie Sanders supporters think they would have 'won'.

In the 'middle' Nate Silver looks like an idiot.  The media look like the clowns that they actually are. No one knows what is going on.  The Simpsons saw the endgame back in 2000.  Life imitates art, it seems...Putin's laughing his ass off...

On the other side...Idiots feel vindicated.  The President-elect is going full steam ahead - never mind that among the people who bothered or were able to pinch their nose long enough to vote, more people dislike him than like him.  And Conservatives wonder if they are a dying breed.

Americans are so soft.

They have this great expression in the States: entitlement reform.  It refers to efforts to reorganize the country's social security infrastructure so that old people don't start dying in poverty the way most of them did in 1920s and 1930s.  It's basically running out of money - the numbers of people paying into it and those taking money out doesn't add up.  Like climate change, it isn't the problem of anyone actually in power right now, so whether it gets fixed is debatable.

And boy do the Americans need it.  Because like perhaps no other people in the world, Americans are the most self-important, self-entitled group of humans ever.

The worst medical, emotional, traumatic and violent hardship that an American is experiencing today is nothing set against the suffering of those places in the world that have to worry about terms like, 'sanitation', 'infant mortality', 'food and water security', 'mortar fire', 'refugees', 'air raids', 'mass kidnapping', 'IEDs' and 'suicide bombing'.  Whoever was going to win the election, how many Americans will ever have to think about any of these words?  How many hundreds of millions of humans in our world do?


So the day after, we're hearing people throw around a word like 'mandate'. That's really depressing because for all the things that can be said about the average American it seems we must also add to the list poor comprehension of the English language.  A 'repudiation'!     Mandate?!?  The vote was literally 50-50!  If they re-did it today, there might be a completely different fucking outcome! Repudiation?  The same people who voted for Trump are the same people who hated Obama on day one.  Nothing was decided.  What was reinforced is that Americans can't really agree on anything, not even whether a person like Donald Trump was what the Founders had in mind for the Oval Office.  I mean for God's sake, isn't like supposed to attract like?  Glenn Beck is a Conservative who happens to be a bloviating windbag and even he couldn't stomach supporting Trump.  Why would anyone argue that Trump is a winner when he couldn't even secure the Conservative bloviating windbag vote?

Aaron Sorkin wrote a line in the second episode of the second season of "The West Wing".  Govenor Bartlett's crack team of political operatives lay out the plan of attack to conquer the primary season, with their prognostications coming down like pronouncements of the inevitable.  Bartlett takes it in and when the sunny forecast of their victory is finally declared he throws up his hands and says, "Well, that's it then.  We've saved people the trouble of voting!"

"We need to bring jobs back to our country, make the economy stronger and hopefully unite all people. I feel Obama has put a wedge between the people of this country. We should be looked at as individual merits and not by the colour of our skin."

Does she think that her experience is in any way cognate with even 1 percent of the 320 million people in her country?  Does she think her opinion or her slice of the American experience is somehow reflective of the life of an inner city youth in Chicago or a firefighter in De Moines, or a gay nightclub owner in Miami?  Besides the fact that the Founders deliberately viewed the country as a collection of states each with their individual priorities and character, each of the people just mentioned have a daily vision of America so different that they might as well be on different planets.

This was this woman's thought process.  But this isn't some sort of one-off.  This isn't an exception. She is the rule.  All 320 million of them seem confident they have some sense of their country.  And absolutely none of them seem to make any effort to do so.

Why are they all so certain without any fucking knowledge?

I'll tell you why.  It's because Americans neither know nor care what their country is actually like. They only care about what they want it to be for them.  They're Americans.  Getting what they want is their birthright.

And ultimately what does it all boil down to?  Entitlement - the entitlement at the heart of the American psyche.  I'm an American.  I'm entitled to a good job.  Cheap gas.  A gun.  Massive portions. Short commutes and open roads.  Low taxes.

Cold beer.  Cheap power.  Social security.  A pension.  Football on Sundays.  A home and a car.  I'm an American.

If I don't want to know how trade works or how economics works or how coding works, that fine, because I'm an American.  If the world is moving in a direction away from my way of life, that's fine, because I'm an American.  I'm a rugged individualist and I don't need no government helping me, but those good-for-nothings in Washington aren't looking out for me, and I deserve it because I'm an American.

Why do I need to know if black people are being gunned down by police?  I'm an American.  Why should I care if a liberal is talking about racism or sexism?  I'm an American.  Why should I respect a woman's body? I'm an American.

Does it bother you that little kids were gunned down in Newtown?  I mean, yeah its a raw deal but, I deserve to be able to buy a gun anytime I want.  I'm an American.  I deserve to have a woman president.  I'm an American.  I deserve to have a government that represents what I believe in.  I'm an American.  I deserve a country free of bigotry and hate.  I'm an American.

Y'all don't deserve shit.  No one cares that you're American.  You have had the luxury of convincing yourselves that you deserve things, that you don't have to care about what others think, that the country is made to satisfy you, because in the past those things happened.  Here in the real world, we fight for what we can take and we bargain for what we can't.  It really isn't any more complicated because no one deserves anything.

The staggering ignorance of their own fellow citizens - never mind the world beyond their borders - has brought them to this fate.  And the truly lamentable thing is: there are no grownups.  The liberal intelligentsia - those who should by all accounts see that if overtures and efforts to build bridges between liberal and conservative, between states, between communities, aren't made by them, they'll never be made - in their disgust and distain for the conservative 'other' are just as, if not, even more entitled.  Yet they look at Trump's election with outrage.

They harbour this outrage to these dregs, the historical relics.  Bible belt, home-schooled, inbred, human garbage.  They are aghast at how the peasants feel this entitlement to their ignorance, to their selfishness, to their racism, and guns and xenophobia, their fear of progress, their fear of change.

And for all the sophistication of some member of the idea economy, living in the big city, with a multicultural group of friends, sharing in their experiences, how much of the knowledge economy has brought any wisdom?  How much has access to all that knowledge made people more human?  How many people feel as entitled to their freedom to not engage politically, culturally and intellectually with the rural 'other', the uneducated 'other', the working class 'other'?  They don't need to cross the divide - they're Americans.

No, they don't need to do that work.  They do if they want to remain 'United States of America' and not just 'States of America'.  That 'United' part requires stuff like volunteering, reading newspapers that you don't necessarily like, making connections with different parts of the country.  That unity takes work.  And as any population grows and becomes more complex and diversifies, it takes even more work.

Americans are putting the same amount of work (or possibly less) into being citizens now that Americans did when the country was a quarter as big.  Why would anyone think that that is sustainable for the Union?

And yes this process is hard.  It has always been hard.  It would be hard in a place like fucking Aleppo, where humans actually know what hard really is.

But for the average American?  The soft, docile, pampered, entitled, ignorant, obese, cattle-like average American?  Coddled on television, fattened on GMO corn-starch garbage, encouraged at every step to their right to comfort and ignorance?  Recipients of the Devine blessing of a Destiny that is Manifest?  The American that has been domesticated from their early years, indoctrinated from childhood that they will be okay regardless of what the future brings because they are American?  You might as well ask them to walk themselves off of a cliff.  They're Americans. Why the fuck should they have to do something, anything, they don't want to?

And not being American myself, one might ask: why do I care?  Why does anyone in the world care about the goddamn Americans?  Well, two reasons really.  One, they have a lot of nukes.  And two, they talk a good game.  They say that theirs is the best country in the world.  They basically beat people over the head with how great it is.  So it's pretty confusing to us suckers in sucky parts unknown the world over, when the Donald makes an entire campaign out of how America isn't great and has to be made 'Great Again"...and wins?!?  So America sucked all this time?  Why do they lecture other countries on human rights and economic freedom and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, if they don't have their own shit together?

That's a rhetorical question.  Didn't you read a word that I've written so far?  They are a whole country of soft, entitled princesses.

Which of course brings us to the softest American of them all: Donald John Trump.  Is there anyone in the world that doesn't believe that they could beat Donald Trump in a fist fight?  Teddy Roosevelt could probably kill Donald Trump in hand to hand combat with one arm.  Donald Trump is basically Joaquin Phoenix as Commodus in Gladiator and every other human is Maximus.

In a real way, a Trump Presidency is the logical conclusion of the arrogant self-importance and sense of entitlement that all Americans seem to have.  It is only fitting that the most entitled, least deserving person in the country should ultimately become President.

How soft is Trump?  Well, here is a man that hasn't a backbone.  He's the human equivalent of soft-serve ice cream.  He's a shape-shifter.  There are serious people who would consider a person that rises above partisanship, above simple dichotomies of ideas to be the highest form of human.  All those serious people would despise Trump because he isn't that.  He doesn't rise above conventional thinking.  He bloviates below it.  He's the walking definition of equivocation, the man that stands for absolutely nothing.  Take for example this tweet:

First off, the doofus thought that Romney was somehow going to win the popular and lose the Electoral College - actually Romney just lost both.  But more importantly, more breathtakingly, and more unsurprisingly, four years later, he does the exact thing that outraged him - win the Electoral College with less votes - the exact same thing that he says calls for a revolution and...

And what?  What were you expecting?  The man doesn't believe in anything.  He doesn't remember anything he said ten minutes ago.  He's a four year old.

What does it say about America that the man who believes in nothing is the most American American of them all?


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