from Eudaimonia Website
Tragedy, Dystopia, and Rage...
The Greeks might have smiled, and called that tragedy. But not just any mistakes. The biggest and ugliest ones...
The ones the world made in the fatal decade that saw stagnation, depression, and disintegration lead to war, atrocity, and holocaust. Yet even that understates it.
We're not just remaking the great mistakes of the 1930s.
We seem relentlessly,
unwaveringly, unfalteringly committed, strenuously devoted to
repeating them. Lovingly attached to and reverently admiring of
them. We're stuck in an age that has come to somehow believe,
like an imbecile, that the mistakes
of the past are somehow its greatest glories and triumphs.
Because we transferred
bank debt onto the national balance sheet, a generation of
ultraconservative politicians, grossly ignorant of history or
economics then quickly shouted "but we're broke!"
But that isn't how economics work.
Countries can't really go "broke" or even "bankrupt" - and when times are tough for the average person, that's when societies should invest in people.
But people believed the myth, which was soon enough promulgated by an unholy alliance of ignorant journalists, devious think-tankers, and clueless pundits.
"We're broke!" - the
You tighten your belt. And so societies began a vicious program of slashing and cutting. They eroded every aspect of the social contract - from education to healthcare to media to finance.
In America, in particular, the costs of these things began to skyrocket.
The myth of "we're broke! We'd better tighten our belts!!" was exactly backwards - the less that societies spent on these goods, the more expensive they got, and so the poorer people got - but no one explained this to people well, often, or even at all.
This was the third mistake,
Austerity caused what it always does - you'd think people would come to their senses, but in fact, it makes people swing harder to the extreme right.
Why is that? Well, because the poorer that they get, the less that they think anyone else deserves any kind of social support, investment, safety nets, stability, or security - they begin to contest these very things and covet them from their neighbors.
So a kind of wave of cruelty swept across societies, a degeneration of moral fiber, of shared spirit, of humanity and decency.
By this point, it was probably already too late. But here is what happened next. People, who had been made cruel, mean, and foolish by sudden poverty, were easy prey for demagogues.
The fourth mistake :
So a new wave of demagogues swept the globe.
Trump and Erdogan led them, and soon, those in,
They incited and inflamed the sentiments of people who by now were hardened to the suffering of their neighbors.
Demagogues offered people a new kind of social contract:
Make America Great Again! The fifth mistake :
Now, at this juncture, you might wonder:
The problem was this.
Elites were so invested in the myth of their own success that they could not admit any of the above:
So they simply whistled, cheered, and kept on crying, "but things are fine!" even as people's life expectancies began to fall, their incomes flat-lined, and their futures were siphoned off by hedge fund trading robots.
The sixth mistake :
In other words, elites were counting on people's stupidity.
Yet the demagogues understood that people might be dumb, but they are not often stupid. They lent people a sympathetic ear - at least the majority, the heartland, the forgotten masses. They offered them moral support and emotional succor. They gave people a sense of grandiose optimism again.
And people, being dumb but not stupid, soon enough eagerly lined up to sign the new social contract they were offering, first by the hundreds, then the thousands, and by then, the demagogues were in high office.
The seventh mistake :
Today we are beginning to see just how terrible and lethal the social contract of the demagogues is.
The rule of law is being demolished, the media attacked, basic institutions of governance deconstructed, minorities scapegoated, police forces militarized, parallel institutions, little Gestapos and Stasis, emerging.
The human toll of all this is beginning to mount now - as it always does.
But it's a mistake to
only see the detritus in the flood, and not the force behind the
History suggests he is not just right - he is so right he is understating the case...
Give a forlorn, bedraggled people a sense of optimism, hope, belonging, purpose, strength again - and they will give you their lives, their neighbors, their decency, their humanity, and even their history and futures, too.
They will do anything and
everything for all that. Even turn a blind eye to people abandoned
to die in the storm. Even put children and old women in the camps
and ghettos, and proudly call it civilization.
We made all
these mistakes before once - each one, in precisely the same
order, the same eerie sequence of ruin. That terrible decade, which
still haunts humanity, was called the 1930s.