Let's level-set where we are today, September 21, 2020:
There is not nearly enough room to go through the extent of the American carnage wrought by the corruption, cruelty and incompetence the Trump Administration and its GOP enablers.
I've just read three pivotal Trump insider books from Mary Trump, Michael Cohen and Bob Woodward, each of which come from different perspectives, each carefully documenting the worst things you can think about Donald Trump and his utter lack of fitness for the job he's in. For all of it, the page after page of outrageous observations, the insight that sticks out for me is one from Michael Cohen, who gets to the heart of why Trump wanted to run for President in the first place. According to Cohen, a consummate insider who always was in the room, it had nothing to do with serving the country, building a movement or taking some ideological stance. It was to be "the greatest infomercial in the history of politics."
People are dying. Institutions are collapsing. Global treaties have been torn up along with our sense of common cause and common decency. Our environment is becoming more toxic every day, not just to humans, but to all life on earth. All the consequences of a brilliant con artist who (again, quoting Michael Cohen) thought it would "be cool to be president," and pulled together a branding campaign that he was sure wouldn't really hurt anyone or lead to the Oval Office. Like most of us, Trump expected to lose, then close the real estate deal he was making with Putin for his dream hotel in Moscow.
Ever since I can remember, the biggest fears were annihilation from nuclear war. The threat was made very real every time I flew under my desk during those random "drop drills." When my family moved to California, the big existential threat was earthquakes. And getting into the wrong crowd. And taking drugs, especially bad drugs.
Who knew the biggest threat to human existence would be marketing?
Yet here we are. Addictively feeding toxic algorithms on faceless Facebook and Twitter. Living in fact-free Russian created disinformation and in Q-bubbles spouting conspiracy theories that would embarrass the most limber Hollywood action/conspiracy writers. We're trained monkeys. Trained to buy things we don't want or need. To measure ourselves against unattainable standards of beauty and wealth. We're never good enough, smart enough, rich enough or thin enough. Which primes us for a sociopathic carnival barkers like Donald Trump, who knows how to catalyze our collective unworthiness into a mindless mob that denies the daily deaths that are so close to us all and the flames that are incinerating ecosystem after ecosystem. A mob that denigrates science and expertise and makes excuses for the most venal of lies--even in the face of videotape proof to the contrary. It's an easy exchange. A society conditioned to "need" more stuff, more "likes," more "me" can be easily traded off for corruption, repression and absolute power under the guise of individual freedom and "draining the swamp." So long as they are pointed to "those people" they can fear and blame. The casualties are rest of us, objective truth, expertise and the laws and mores that make America truly great.
We're all stunned that this is happening all at once. But if we were really paying attention to our world, we shouldn't be. Rachel Carson, James Hansen, Bill McKibben and virtually every climate scientist on the planet have been warning about this day for decades. Jimmy Carter had it right in the late '70s, which was the last opportunity to systemically pivot and solve the climate issue. The climate scientists called the sequence of events and the timing we're experiencing right now almost perfectly. First Australia, then California. Point of no return, 2030.
But our marketing mindset makes it impossible to accept anything that doesn't accrue immediate value to the "mighty me," no less make the radical moves and sacrifices that are necessary, right now, to assure survival of life on earth. Instead, we're being deliberately polarized and enraged keystroke by keystroke by algorithmic technologies triggered by foreign adversaries and our own bad habits. For as individualistic as we like to think we are, we're an easily stampeded herd. We're trapped by our own reflexive consumer selfishness on the one hand, and by a planet that is protecting itself on the other. We cannot give up the drug of endless entertainment and self-actualization. At the same time, IRL we are living too close to native habitats and are exposed to animals and viruses for which we have no defense. Add our unchecked consumption habits and refusal to embrace the new technologies we already have, and we're headed into a period of global chaos, if not the brink of extinction.
Joe Biden said the other day (paraphrasing) that Covid was "too big" for Trump to handle. In the context of global warming, Covid is a proportionately small beta test which we've clearly failed. The destruction of our environment is paralleled by the destruction of the governmental agencies that can save it. For every burning acre, there are decades of knowledge, infrastructure and expertise being burned to the ground in the Trump' Administration's homicidal pursuit of dismantling the mythical "deep state" and the pursuit of toxic selfishness. The big test is here, right now. And we're clearly failing that, too.