This morning when I woke up, I had been dreaming I was in the back of a Manhattan taxicab, shaving my legs with a “Flicker” which was a lady’s razor invented in 1971, a round gizmo like a compact. 1971 was the year I became an adult because I was newly divorced so on my own, aged 32. The Flicker was the first portable razor. Leg-hair has always been a sign of adulthood. Manhattan has always been a sign of real aspiration to success. Using taxis hailed in the street is urban sophistication. So my subconscious was knitting a little exposition.
At bedtime I had been thinking about how Trump was created and what world would be possible after we got rid of him. I had just seen a clip of him insisting that we have to have a fence because if we don’t have a fence we don’t have a boundary and without a boundary we don’t have a nation. Gotta have a nation. One realizes that he also thinks he must have a protective boundary around his family. He is an undependable axis.
Luckily, I’ve been reading articles about the diminishment— if not the death — of nations, which were produced by war in Europe and then extended through the doctrine of colonization. Now, according to the experts, the megacities of North America have grown so large and potent that they are the basic elements of governance, overwhelming nations. If California were a nation, it would have the fourth largest economy in the world. Certainly photos from outer space at night show light maps that illustrate where most people live — the coasts.
Trump has a love/hate thing with California, which to him is evidently Harvey Weinstein’s Hollywood: fame and fortune, glitter and gas. His own being seems to have been formed by Manhattan, which to him IS the world. It has a water barrier boundary, so a fence has never had to be negotiated and the fact that there is limited area for building, combined with a granite stable base, means that real estate is an obvious source of wealth. Washington DC is built on a former swamp, as are Chicago and London, places where the swamp metaphor works well. Mar-A-Lago, of course, is in a swamp state and will be submerged in the not-to-distant future.
Manhattan is a city of immigrants and refugees, many of them products of war and starvation. Trump’s Scots mother and German father are examples. They came for the money, not the statues. Consider the “laundering” metaphor in view of Mother Trump driving her high-end car around to collect the coins in the apartment laundries. Their own pasts had been laundered, but every penny counted.
Evidently they had no awareness of the other people at the same time also taking shelter in Manhattan, esp. the intellectuals and artists and psychotherapists who came for the freedom, undetermined and unconfined. Even they had very little awareness of the United States as a place where only a desperate internal war had preserved the nation and set the dark people free. It was trial by fire across the rich fields and forests of Middle America where the people defined themselves as a nation, though some still reject the identity.
To convert from a system of boundaries to a pattern of economic hubs is to go back before people were confined, demanding allegiance or economic prosperity but relating to writing, the rule of law, or passports and registrations. There must be a lot of theories about the “nucleus” as a principle of human organization, as opposed to an edge, a confinement, a “skin.” I’ll search more.
Manhattan itself is a city of neighborhoods and boroughs where people keep their previous identities and languages, their food and way of dressing, or if they are from the thinking stream, invent new institutions and affinity groups. It’s not uniform, water to water. The strength and wealth of the whole comes from the multiplicity of the parts. What is now being called “megacities” might better be described as regions in which parts are knitted together, economically and ecologically,
Transportation (railroads) and communication (postal service) used to tie parts together and make passage between regions possible, but the changing nature of those functions are making new relationships possible. We can “teleport” by meeting via Skype. Sending print is a snap. 3D printing can replace factories. Metrics replace faces. We are not so dependent on large industrial machines as we once were. We are still dependent on food-shifting between climates and soil fertility. That's why California is wealthy.
In terms of energy we are still dependent on fossil fuel acquired through brutal means: oil wells, coal mines, dams. These out-dated and destructive methods are about exhausted, but the replacements have already begun: solar, wind, tide. Nuclear still balances between modes, deadly but effective. Still, it begins to appear that in the future individual homes, no matter where they are, can independently get their own energy and their own fresh food, at least the vegetables, so long as there is heat and water. This will be a major shift of power. Food is a key element of nations today, both growing it and bringing it in from other places, and food is a deadly weapon if contaminated or denied.
In Trump World, none of that matters. All is business, as unregulated or strategically revealed as possible. He has not realized until now that in a computer-driven world where there are no paper ledgers to hide (except evidently in Russia) every transaction and most communication can be traced and possibly witnessed by machines. There are no secret deals except within a “scif” and then it’s vulnerable between “scifs,” aside from the questions raised when one exists. Humans leak.
In a world circled by monitoring satellites, there is little secrecy. But there is huge vulnerability to interference. More than that, there is always the threat of failure. It is a manmade, extremely expensive, network that is constantly losing parts, constantly filling the atmosphere with discarded bits that prevent safe passage. The Internet is completely dependent on electricity in construction and monitoring.
Then there are the larger forces of the planet. Trump is aware of rain but he holds the umbrella only over himself and wishes to live under the shelter of military operations that he controls. He has no awareness of the larger cosmos, the planet-sweeping currents of water and air that control our economics and wars, the slow promenade of continents according to deep planet forces. He thinks he’s safe. He’s a walking fossil. He thinks head-hair, no matter how strange, is a sign of power, even though we all know he’s bald underneath.