Trump is hitting the campaign trail, hitting it hard in the way that Trumpty Dumpty sort of way he has, and one of his repeated platitudes is some variation of “I’m not on the ballot, but I’m on the ballot,” also taking the form of “think of yourself as voting for me.”
I haven’t been following this election as carefully as I should. I haven’t been well. I’ve been struggling with digestive/gut issues since last spring, and it’s taken its toll. My energy levels have been pretty low.
I turned forty this summer, and the I suppose it’s befitting on a birthday such as this to have some sort of reminder of one’s mortality, but the universe has gotten a bit carried away, methinks. My energy levels have pretty much plummeted to that of someone at least twice my age. The other day I caught myself envying the old dude shuffling along the sidewalk in his walker, thinking to myself that it sure would save precious energy if I could just lean on something a little while I walk. I had plenty of time to size up his situation, of course, because I wasn’t walking much faster than he.
In any event, I’m feeling hopeful, feeling like I’m on the upswing. I’ve at least been able to eat solid foods again and in enough quantities to give me energy to write this post. (For those into food/gut stuff, I’m on the low FODMAP diet and avoiding high FODMAP foods has panned out well for me these last five days.)
Figuring out digestive stuff can take a while. There’s a lot going on down there and sorting out what ails ya takes time, time and money. The time took much longer, in my case, because I was living in bush Alaska until recently, and the nearest reputable clinic would have been about 6 hours away.
(This would be Valdez. Glennallen is only 4 hours away, and they have a clinic, but I don’t consider it “reputable.” It’s a little sketch, since they have Sunday School pictures of Jesus hanging on the walls of the clinic. If this was some sort of hipster irony, I’d dig it, but given the fundamentalist evangelical influence in the area, I have no doubt that the images of white European Jesus kneeling in prayer, surrounded by light, are meant as part of a broader “mission field” that they see themselves a part of. Anchorage would be ideal, the place with the most options, but Anchorage is 7 hours from McCarthy.)
It’s been good for the soul, though, this deprivation of appetite. I have a fairly healthy appetite and love to eat. In fact, just tonight I was at the table with the family at dinner, and my skinny 8 year-old nephew took a massive plate full of spaghetti, for which he was immediately given the Your-Eyes-Are-Bigger-than-Your-Stomach speech that all parents learn as part of the How-To-Parent 101 Class.
“Look,” they said to me. “Look at his plate!”
“Well,” I said, “It looks like a plate I would have had, when I was his age.”
But I haven’t had plates that size in a while, and my gut woes have reduced me to a more monk-like existence, which has been a good learning experience. I think that living a bit more like a monk has given me a bit more of a monk-like perspective, that is to say I feel I’m a bit more removed than normal, sort of standing at a distance. I have less a sense of being a part of the action or of investing in the action, because I just don’t have the energy. I don’t have the stomach for it, so to speak.
So perhaps that’s why I am thinking more in terms of the bigger picture on election day, when it comes to the Trump referendum, where he is not on the ballot but on the ballot. He is there, but not there. Probably Trump is more there than not. This round of voting is pretty much all about Trump, so I think that by tomorrow we’ll have a little better sense of where we are going, politically, in the future, in terms of how much political strength the Trump movement will have within the Republican Party, and of course within the United States.
With my monk-like distance, I think about where we’ve come from, and that takes my mind back to the Cold War, to the Cold War mentality and Cold War politics. The Cold War was a war between the ideologies of capitalism and communism. For my money (limited funds, to be sure, with my tummy troubles), I’d reckon that future historians will see these competing ideologies as two sides of the same coin, but for the generations that lived through them, the ideological struggle was defined in terms of communism versus capitalism. The differences between the two seemed stark, and the stakes were definitely high.
But the Cold War is over. Capitalism won, and love it or hate it, capitalism won in a convincing fashion. It helps that capitalism has no moral center or moral accountability; being amoral always makes it easier to win a war. In any event, we’ve shifted from fighting between capitalism and communism to a struggle about globalization.
This is nothing new, though. Prior to the Cold War, in fact, globalism was the dominant geopolitical issue. Capitalism and socialism were important, but the central issues of power revolved around globalism, and globalism took the form of Imperialism, which was sort of a global-scale Game of Thrones played out by white males.
So in some ways it seems that we are shifting back into some of the same debates and arguments that existed prior to the Cold War. This involves arguments about the manner and method and extent to which we want to be connected as a human species. We have very different ideas on how this should look, and it taps into people’s deepest held beliefs about the nature of humankind, our place in the world. It raises questions of human nature itself.
And it isn’t just theoretical. These are issues that have the potential, in my mind, to release far more emotion, because people tend to be protective of their space.
In any event, here’s the doodle that I did the other day, to sort of illustrate to myself the political shift that I’ve been ruminating about whilst lying around with low energy:
We’re used to thinking about politics strictly in terms of “right” and “left,” which usually means that we think of it in terms of a line and a continuum. There’s the center, the left and the right. But this is based on thinking about politics based solely on where one stands in relation to capitalism and socialism. This is Cold War thinking. Most of us don’t think at all about the issue that has eclipsed the struggle between capitalism and socialism.
So, in my head, I bent the line, curved it into a circle. This gives me two continuums to work with, and as it so happens, I can plop both issues onto one graph. Very handy. And as it turns out, it makes sense when you start to fill it in with the various politics positions that people hold these days.
One of the interesting things, to me, is that the alliances are shifting, and they will continue to shift. We are shifting away from defining our politics in Cold War terms (capitalism versus socialism) and back toward the struggle between Globalism and all of those whose allegiances are local or national. But, of course, the tension between capitalism and socialism isn’t going away.
As we shift, though, many on the far right and the far left will start to see that they have common goals…at least if my graph is to be believed….Those on the far right/left might begin to see allies in folk that they believed were their enemies, which feel a bit awkward at first, but alliances will shift. After all, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
We all know about how those on the far right tend toward Nationalism, which is an anti-globalist position. That movement gets plenty of press right now, and of course we’ve heard a good bit about Brexit, but many on the far left have always been motivated more by local issues than by Cold War ideological conflicts. To be specific, these leftist include the Mayberry sort, the salt-of-the-earth-back-to-the-landers who bring in trucks of veggies to the local farmer’s market as well as the more aggressive eco-terrorist crowd, and a host of folks that fall in between. It’s a spectrum, but they are all reacting against globalism. The far left has always been motivated to preserve specific bioregions (environmentalists) or defend traditional indigenous cultures (various Native Rights organizations and even many New Age spiritualities) or protect forests and non-human species (think Greenpeace).
So globalism is back on the table, and I think that the MAGA movement reflects that, confused as it is about what it believes or why. It’s understandable, in a sense, because this shift has created a bit of a political clusterfuck that we’re all still sorting out.
It’s kind of all a clusterfuck for me, these days, so I’m taking my ques from the old monks from the Zen tradition, the classic old dudes, contrarian as they were yet with a sense of humor that’s good for the soul. The world takes its course. We do our best, we do what we think is right, but history has a mind of its own, moving from one clusterfuck to the next.