Wednesday, November 02, 2016

No Exit

Hell is other people, said Jean-Paul Sartre. in No Exit, (Huis closand so is Democracy as I was reminded today in the New Yorker.  A third of Americans can't name one branch of government and examples of  the massive failure of education to integrate the population into the process are more than abundant.

Perhaps it's my prejudice speaking but I would guess, in the absence of further data, that this proportion is even higher among supporters of Donald Trump, many of whom seem to think that a president can do almost anything he wants, from "fixing the schools" to changing the ties in the affairs of men and rebuilding the world of the 1950's within our walled borders. All of course without help or hindrance from  the legislature or the Judicial Branch.

The requirements of Democracy include an informed, intelligent, rational electorate and I know I didn't have to tell you that, and I didn't have to tell the Founding Fathers that; seeing that they attempted to follow a sort of hierarchy of decision making that we call a Republic to protect us from the passions, the rages and the foolishness of the people.

I don't think it's working and not only because fewer and fewer potential voters are informed enough to rise above the level required to get on the carnival ride we call our electoral process, and more and more are intentionally and effectively misinformed, propagandized and enraged beyond the point of caring.  The days of hand set and hand printed newspapers ended over a century ago along with the disappearance of a population with the time and inclination to read them. Ten thousand, ten million flowers have bloomed as the tyrant Mao would have said and there is much confusion about who is or isn't likely to be telling the truth.  Every truth, every lie, every observation is buried in an accretion of commentary and although so much information is available, few bother to do more than seek out confirmation of what feels good to believe and scream it loudly in the street. 

Perhaps there truly is no exit and perhaps there are no limits. A candidate we associate with "those" people is soon divorced from his own history and ours and becomes indistinguishable from the Satan who was long ago invented to enable the demonizing process -- while the devil himself can become a hero. There is no damping factor as an engineer might term it and the system flies apart as we see today - right now. 

Is the secret to stall the rush to authoritarianism and a government of men to introduce some authority of information: some referee of last resort?  We can't know because even though it's so easy to check facts, checkers who we don't trust because they tell us we're wrong, become the demons themselves and we trust no one but the anonymous voices of agreeable rage on the web, in our emails, in our minds and on the 24 hour news. We sink into paranoia and into faith at the same time: into separate hermetic universes. Nothing in one can be proved to be true or false in any other frame of reference. Whether or not Hassan really said it, in our world and in his, nothing is true and anything can happen.

Is there really no exit?  How do you say "No Chance" in French?

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