Monday, October 31, 2016


The power of the pen (or keyboard) is being ruefully acknowledged by Tony Schwartz, the ghost-writer for “The Art of the Deal,” which was supposedly written by Trump about Trump.  (How come the Hoax-Busters — who are supposedly so smart — have never jumped this little sleight of hand trick so common among celebrities?)

The short version is that Si Newhouse, glossy magazine mogul, had the idea that a bio of Trump would be a good thing, and Schwartz — who claims that he only did it for the money — now claims he’s the one who “really knows” Trump and — in fact — invented the schtick, the little sales formula, that Trump now thinks he originated and that he himself now believes IS him, and by the way,  it’s what makes him better than everyone else and a natural money-maker who exceeds all others.  

The question is, what is the antidote?  What can save snake-bit America from a grotesque puppet?  I think the story may be in his puppet-hood.  Someone is still a “Si Newhouse” who pulls the strings.  Some suggest tectonic forces in American politics.

The article linked above suggests several tectonic plates:

“Phyllis Schlafly’s popular conservative treatise from 1964, A Choice Not an Echo, posited that “secret kingmakers” employed “brainwashing and propaganda blitzes” to maintain their nefarious control of the GOP, in part to serve their own self-interest.” 

“Americans may have opposed big government as an abstract notion, but they did not want to do away with their Social Security, Medicare, farm subsidies, ­minimum-wage laws, and progressive taxation. This misalignment between the conservative movement and the American people has, in fact, bred among conservatives a fundamental distrust of the American people.” 

“Conservatives discovered they could attach their rhetoric to the appeal of white identity politics, as well as ally themselves with the religious right, which formed a powerful bulwark against all variety of social change.” 

I think of rather different tectonics, partly because I don’t fall on the spectrum that runs from conservative to liberal.  I vote for eclectic and innovative, which is way too scary for many people.  I see several areas that are clashing, interacting, mis-appropriating and deceptive.

First is the concept of the "nation", which is only a few centuries old and was preceded by kingdoms and chaos.  Geographically bounded, but not always ecologically inclusive or attuned, it becomes an imposed system of limits and walls that cannot be enforced or even properly understood.  (Wall off Canada and Mexico?  Ridiculous.)  War, taxation, and legal strategy are all based on “nations” but now they are completely overwhelmed by international corporations, the internet erasure of boundaries, and massive migrations of populations that can be distinguished by their physical appearance, so that it’s easy to impose stigma.

I propose that we begin to develop ideas about "tribes", meaning affinities based on what some call “lifestyles.”  

Then I have big doubts about venture capital, which is basically bookkeeping gambling.  It has become a sucking spiral in which money justifies money without any product or benefit.  Others are also thinking about this and I see articles exploring “capitalism” as a whole.  What IS capital?  What are other ways of using it besides investment?

People are trying to brainstorm “what is democracy” and what comes after it when it fails.  Why does it fail anyway?  Is it that people don’t have time to think and vote?  Is it just too idealistic?  Is it, as elitists in Britain have always maintained, that voters are selfish and childish — apart from being poorly educated and informed.  The meritocracy should be in charge.  But merits should be based on more than “who’s your daddy?”

Another assumption is that mercantilism, trade, “deals”, are what unite the world and keep it peaceful.  But now there is the problem of scarcity as we run out of exotic minerals and land that can grow crops.  And the problem of excreted trash.  But we think of recycling, re-purposing, and probing down into things like the nature of energy: tides, gravity, thermal springs.  The next thing is distribution and then infrastructure, closely related because it is roads, airlines, bridges.

A puzzle I think about that’s sort of parallel to this Trump parable.  “The Education of Little Tree” includes every cliché about Indians, all the same things that the political elements of tribes rail against as sentimental and unreal.  And yet it has never been really discredited.  Others who claimed knowledge of Indians though they were white have been nailed and slimed.  Carter is the worst of them, but escapes.

(WikipediaThe Education of Little Tree is a memoir-style novel written by Asa Earl Carter under the pseudonym Forrest Carter. First published in 1976 by Delacorte Press, it was initially promoted as an authentic autobiography recounting Forrest Carter's youth experiences with his Cherokee grandparents in the Appalachian mountains. However, the book was later claimed to be a literary hoax done by Asa Earl Carter, a white political activist from Alabama heavily involved in segregationist causes before he launched his career as a novelist.”)

One commentator remarked, “People take what they want out of it.”  Indigenous people or wealthy people are inkblots that summon up a lot of romantic assumptions and Trump is cashing in on that.  Maybe he is an echo of the stories of the foolish kings of the past.  The clues and markers are well known — Carter renewed himself with a tan, a mustache, and weight-loss.  I’d like to see a photo of Ivana Trump before she became as standardized as a sex doll intended for Hugh Hefner.  Trump becomes less ridiculous as he becomes less orange, but looking ridiculous is part of his schtick.

If the plate tectonic idea is true, it's out of our hands already.  Our votes are only magazine subscriptions.  

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