Friday, June 03, 2016


Quite frankly, nobody is going to make America great again, at least not to any universal agreement. Nor is it really possible to define the word. That's why it makes such a catchy campaign slogan. Everyone has his own notions about greatness.  For some it means to make America white again, for others it means to return to a day when this was a manufacturing powerhouse and assembly line jobs allowed workers to be part of a booming middle class, a time when foreign competition was feeble and public tastes preferred domestic goods. It's not going to happen and temporal dysphoria, like entropy, will increase. Short of an apocalypse, the world continues to get smaller.

Change itself , like the expansion of the universe, seems to be accelerating.  By the time most people develop what feels like an understanding of how things are, it's all changed, the technology, the certainties, the requirements of social intercourse, the goals of citizens, the expectations and even the language change ever more rapidly.  I doubt that even Taoists are comfortable going with this turbulent flow. I'm certainly not and it may explain my love of antiques, art and old technology. Perhaps it explains all those off-the-grid survivalist shows, the back-to-nature attempts that usually aren't very honest and it certainly explains the obsessive use of words like "artisinal," Natural, craft and Organic, one sees in advertising.  Make no mistake, advertising is the soul of our culture and ours is a backwards looking one. At a time when cars are become autonomous robots, jukeboxes, internet cafe's and video game parlors all wrapped in armor, we still see ads telling us how the Lexus isn't produced, it's "crafted."  We see clips of hands sanding a block of wood for the dashboard and we feel soothed even though we know it's all automated and turned out by robots. Deceit is the root of our culture although we may call it by other names, the cars we're told to worship for having 200 horsepower outsell those with 700 horsepower because we see the world through the dark lens of advertising. The way we smell and taste things owes far more to the expectations we've had instilled in us than it does to tongues or noses. Placebos are often perceived as more effective than real medicine and everyone with a cause feels justified in any level of misrepresentation to further it, it doesn't matter that a mushroom with a gene removed that turns it dark when cut simply must be dangerous to all life on Earth without any evidence just as surely as vaccinations don't work and cause Autism. You can save the planet by wearing organic hemp underwear, Reality terrifies us although we have no actual connection to it.

It's not new, the reaction to rapacious modernity, It was the industrial revolution that spawned the Arts and Crafts movement and gave most of us the wealth to purchase it.  It's scientific farming that's allowed us the freedom and time to raise the hysteria and hypochondria that keeps the aisles at Whole Foods crowded and causes people to adopt the "Kale Cleansing" or Carb Counting Gluten-Free life style, or Copper Compression underwear tuned to Natural frequencies. Advances in medicine produce a distrust of medicine as do advances in most everything, including civil rights, justice, equality and freedom -- and we react accordingly. Is racism fading or getting worse? You tell me - and I'm sure you will.

Some of us resent losing the sense of White Anglo-Saxon protestant primacy we could feel 75 years ago and we support Trump. Others insist nothing has improved and nobody seems to like the way things are, the way they think things are going or their part in life. So we have Bullies for Bernie. We've had "leaders" dedicated to keeping things the way they were or we thought they were, no matter how awful it was for some and we have those who passionately hate what is and envision something altogether different and much more pleasant for them without much concern for what's possible or moral or legal. Welcome to the American fugue state.

America was once great we all agree as long as we don't have to be specific about for whom or when or in what sense that was. America's current greatness is still beyond challenge even while we complain so much about the current "disaster" or claim that everything is "broken," something we can do without any reference to a broader picture.   It's enough to cite one talking point and one example real or manufactured, to support either certainty.

Is it any wonder that a candidate can base his campaign on returning to a lost greatness while his advocates insist we're the greatest there ever was?  It's only a wonder in a rational world, and where are you going to find one of those?

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