Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Battle of Pelennor Fields

We have gained sufficient distance from the US election of Nov 8th, 2016 and are therefore able to view it from a wider perspective. In very brief terms, Donald Trump was able to channel the frustrations of the white working class to win with very narrow margins in PA, WI, MI, OH and also in IA, NC and FL (among others) and this put him over the top.

Interesting links:

Chris Ladd (a former Republican) has begun a very interesting new site called Political Orphans. Out of the many articles on the site, I recommend "When whiteness fails."

Think Progress has a long piece on "The center has fallen, and white nationalism is filling the vacuum" making the argument that the neoliberal order in place since WW II is now over.

Claremont Review of Books had a sensational and widely read piece called "The Flight 93 Election" arguing that " a Hillary Clinton presidency is Russian Roulette with a semi-auto. With Trump, at least you can spin the cylinder and take your chances."

I can't recall any article that attempts to bring a consciousness studies perspective to the election. I'll try and briefly sketch how this might go (and probably fail miserably but at least it's worth trying).

White identity is obviously very complex. And in a race category obsessed country like the US, it's very difficult to obtain any kind of objectivity w.r.t. race. Since it's clearly vital to understanding what happened in the election, we should try and find data on interior accounts of Anglo-American-ness and extrapolate from there. Of all the people associated with Trump, Bannon seems to be the one most closely affiliated with the race and culture nexus. When one digs into Bannon and attempts to find out what makes him tick, the Fourth Turning concept (introduced by Strauss and Howe) stands out as something that crops up over and over and so if you can, watch Bannon's documentary "Generation Zero" and read Strauss and Howe's book "The Fourth Turning."

The Fourth Turning (and google Saeculum Research for more) looks at Anglo-American generations going way back. According to the authors, there have been a set of epochs prior to this one - the post WWII globalization epoch. They are : (i) late medieval ending with the War of the Roses, (ii) reformation ending with the Armada crisis, (iii) new world ending with the Glorious Revolution, (iv) revolutionary ending with revolutionary war, (v) civil war ending with....., (vi) great power ending with WW II, and finally (vii) millennial ending in the 202X time frame with a global financial war (the book's main prediction written in 1997 and why the book is gaining traction now). The reason why it's called the Fourth Turning is that they divide the post WW II epoch into (I) High: 1945-1964, (II) Awakening: 1964-1984, (III) Unraveling: 1984-200X and (IV) Crisis: 200X-202X. The High "turning" was when we had a unified culture, the Awakening was when we dared to be different, the Unraveling was when we started fracturing and the Crisis is when it all falls apart.

Normally, this sort of cyclic view of history would be dismissed out of hand, except that some of the predictions made in the book are starting to come true. I searched for an academic historian who also used these ideas and came up with David Kaiser. (Please see his "History Unfolding" blog for more information.)

The Fourth Turning book reminded me of Nightfall (by Asimov) in which a culture repeatedly immolates itself with only a few people left alive to carry information into the next epoch.

The authors (Strauss and Howe) stress repeatedly that they are looking at only Anglo-American cultures from within and that's how they came up with this taxonomy.They claim that we entered the Crisis period in 2008 with the financial meltdown and that this era will end with an even bigger financial world war. The key prophecy in the book is the messy transfer of power from boomers to millennials in the next decade with Gen Xers acting as midwives. Since an era is coming to an end, it will feel like an existential threat to the republic. Bannon covers this in his documentary "Generation Zero" with Neil Howe's voice consistently featured in the background.

What are we to make of all this? I think it's clear that a segment of white Anglo-American culture is certain that we're headed for a monumental clash leading to a Crisis which will resolve itself in the next decade or so. Since the same segment has all the reins of power at the moment, it can also try and make this happen. Consequently, given the ethnic, nationalist, socially conservative and isolationist strains emerging from Trump's win, we can expect our view of reality itself to change with supply-side economics (trickle down, etc.) AND demand-side sociology (victimhood as status, etc.) going into a death spiral over the next decade. To paraphrase the Matrix, "Buckle your seatbelt Dorothy, 'cause Kansas is going bye-bye!"