An old yogi asked me once, "is the purpose of suffering to suffer?", presumably to mean it's to learn, as a way to avoid suffering. He continued, "the baby poops its diaper - do you put a flower in it? No, of course you don't put a flower in it - you clean the diaper".
Yes, to stay on this road is to kill ourselves, spiritually, psychically, maybe if lucky even physically. Gurdjieff talked about a man enthralled with this most beautiful fruit he'd discovered, so much he couldn't put it down, even though the red peppers were killing him. Yes, we as a party and a people do love to hear ourselves talk.
28 years ago, the Berlin wall came down, freeing millions behind the Iron Curtain soon followed by apartheid crumbling in South Africa and then the Soviet Union itself. The US responded as it usually does, put on its suit, grabbed its briefcase, went out to try to sell these people something - computers, fertilizer, cars, deodorant, stuff. Plenty of stuff.
We were so eager for our peace dividend, we didn't much worry about those folks who'd been in a type of jail all those years - "hey, they're free - let them fend for themselves. We're cashed out."
Well, we weren't cashed out, and they weren't quite free, though a lot freer than before.
See, I remember from before the Wall fell, we used to worry about the plight of the poor, the 3rd world, the starving. And after the Wall fell, it became, "hey, those people are stealing our jobs". I mean, I wasn't born with a computer or real estate license in my hand, but I guess we're ordained by God for certain kind of work, and those folks were messing with us.
It takes very easy to turn it all into "us vs them". To panic, to draw inward, to worry about the threats. See, we're more attuned to *preventing a loss* than *gaining a win*. That's one of the ways we're suckers, how we get played.
See, I remember the 90's, and it wasn't all gloom and despair that got us into a jam - from what I recall, it was talk of the Dow hitting 36,000 and taking out another mortgage to take another vacation, and whatever else we wanted. People with barely 2 nickels were buying a *2nd* house.
I discovered rather late on in the bubble, in fact, just the other day, that owning a house had *never* been a very good investment. But we're a foolish lot - we think we're all 2nd cousins of Fannie Mae, when in fact most of us know diddly about the housing market or other stuff we get involved in.
But those guys repackaging mortgages could have never shined us they way the did if we hadn't of gotten greedy. And we're all pretty lucky overall - considering, we're pretty much born on third base no matter how bad it gets. Okay, we don't have a dude ranch or a house on Martha's Vineyard, but still, we're not riding a caravan through the Sahara or working 14 hours a day in a factory in Magnitogorsk in the Urals.
In fact, we don't even have *wars* like we used to have, inch'Allah. Numbers are getting down close to the amount of vestal virgins they used to sacrifice to the volcano each year.
And in the meantime, we have all these cool phones and internet and nanotech and remote medicine and battery-powered cars starting to get real, even ones that drive themselves. And plane tickets and travel - whew, there are overall quite few Americans who can't manage to splurge on a Caribbean vacation at least once every three or four years.
So what did we do with all those riches, those advantages, our "peace dividend", our position as the last great superpower? It's humorous to think we at least blew it on cocaine or fast cars or something - but no, we got some mortgages that got foreclosed on, and some overpriced education with student loans to pay off forever, and despite $700 billion or so on security we're still shitting our drawers over any brownskinned tourist speaking a language that's not obviously Hispanic.
I know, I know - it's the other guys who are the racists and vultures, but as Ewan McGregor pointed out, is it any consolation to be *ruled* by wankers? Democrats pride themselves on being more educated, more flexible, more technically inclined - but we're still spouting out fairly baked over pseudo-Marxist class nonsense as if we just walked out of a 1970's Islington pub or slightly equivalent PIRG meetin back then, or putting some spin on our jobs and economics prowess as if we hadn't needed 10 years to get Blue Dogs off our lawn and then sat there blinkered in 2008 as the meltdown ran us and all our pet social, union and new economy pretensions over.
Part of the reason that Trump is so captivating is that the rest of us just aren't that interesting anymore. It's a wonder we still get laid and reproduce - perhaps it's from cribbing lines out of bad 70's flicks, I dunno. But we need that vision thing, and frankly neither Bernie nor Barry were that exciting or believable to start with. Where do we go from here, what's our next-gen pitch, how do we move to Netizen 2.0? Instead, we seem to plod along with how it's a good road we're on, could be rockier, but we're getting there, give it time.... Groucho Marx talked about a guy in the depression he invited to their show. "Oh man, I just have 1 nickel in my pocket." and then thought a second and added, "but is it kicking?" We've got some interesting pieces, but they don't quite add up to a full 3 acts.
The other part is they're just playing much harder ball than we are. And while we don't quite know what we want, they know how to tear it all down. There never will be a patch of respite where these guys stop with it all - they just keep coming. It's what they do. So we'll have to figure out how to plan and prepare *while* we're doing that other stuff in life that's so important. And while a certain amount of internal struggle's good for getting the verve up, we never quite get around to fighting *the other team*. I don't expect us to out-asshole them, but I did think we might prove better at social media and organizing and analyzing and just taking a wider, longer view.
The good news is that if we were waiting to be bruised, beaten, humiliated and cheated to get our energy and anger and focus all augured in the right direction, we finally have it. The bad news is we don't seem to agree that we've hit bottom - folks are still dusting off "bridge to the 21st century" and other anchors to the past, but it's moved on.
I never hear people talk about what the maximum manufacturing output we can absorb - in this country, for exports, and for what others can sell back to us - worldwide consumption. I don't hear any nuance on modern unions, such as which fields even have bargaining power, what's the leverage when people are extremely mobile and find their jobs on Monster.com, where our idea of a "better" job is often with a low-paying but flexible and energetic startup - where to unionize is the opposite of that spirit. Immigration - how many new people should we allow in in a year, and are we allowed to put *some* preferences on for a percentage of more "desirable", to try to define what's beneficial? Will we ever develop a policy defining what's acceptable money making, what is wealth and business that we don't have to be ashamed of, that we don't feel a need to slam as exploitive? How symbolic are our wins, our advantages, how real is our assessment of the future?
See, we came close this past year, but I'm not sure we've even defined what winning means. Give up? As I see it, we're just getting going. It's not a retirement plan - it's more working on a chain gang. But what does last generation's chain gang look like - now *that's* the future.