US Presidential Elections: The Meaning of a Farce
“We got the experience, we lost the meaning”, T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets
Human kind is facing the most formidable threats of all its history.
- The planet is rapidly nearing an irreversible climatic disaster while simultaneously facing all sorts of threats to its ecosystem;
– We are once again facing the specter of a possible major nuclear conflict;
– The vast majority of the human population lives now in conditions which are sometimes even worse than those prevailing 500 years ago.
A very small group of huge banks, multinational corporations, and state and “private” secret services have concentrated unprecedented power in their hands and are developing like cancer in our societies.
For the first time in human history, the development of productive forces has attained the level required to satisfy all “reasonable” human needs and permit a life of dignity for all inhabitants of the planet, but, in the same time, inequality has beaten all historical records.
Also for the first time in history, the extremely limited minorities, already controlling most of power, money and knowledge, are also in the process of acquiring the technological capacity to impose a totalitarian order which will make Hitler seem like a poor boy, an alchemist compared to modern chemists.
But maybe more worrisome than all those, already very worrisome “objective” facts, is the level of discourse emitted by the two persons competing to become president of the most powerful country in the world. They want to rule the superpower and the world. But you will hardly find in the insults they exchange any meaningful idea as to what they will do with the formidable challenges in front of their country and the planet.
Words and ideas do matter, even if they are false or ridiculous. Karl Marx used to say that Ideas are delayed compared to being, and this is quite true. But the opposite is also true. Ideas – or their absence – is also a clear indication where a society is heading, what it chooses to know and what to ignore, what truths it needs and what illusions it prefers.
Our century has been called the “century of catastrophes”, featuring traditional wars in the Middle East, less traditional ones in Europe, like the one that destroyed Greece and is pushing it into the abyss, nuclear disasters like in Fukushima (a clear result by the way of the submission of the nuclear industry to the prerogatives of a sick society in general and finance in particular, the consequences of which remain hidden to a great extent). We are living in an era of the “end of hope”, a huge crisis or collapse of nearly all the modern projects promising to make humans subjects of their history (Enlightenment and Democracy, Socialism, blind belief in the automatic social benefits of Science, Psychoanalysis etc.). In the East, “socialism” has collapsed while in the West “welfare capitalism” is retreating with every passing day.
The ideas of our world were mainly shaped by the (positive or negative) influence of people like Marx, Freud, and Einstein, the great “de-mystifiers” of our social being, our character and the cosmos in which we exist. For the time being at least, there is nobody to replace, or overcome them (in the sense the New Testament replaced the Old, or Einstein Newton).
But humans cannot survive without hope and without meaning (a project). The destruction of meaning in the political discourse of the most powerful state in the world, the USA, is a more than clear sign of the accelerating decomposition of modern capitalism. Capitalism is now a word to describe a system which is going into a kind of post-modern feudalism, opening the way, if it follows unhindered its natural direction, to the end of humans, the destruction of the planet, and a dictatorship of machines. Maybe in this context, the destruction of meaning is announcing our own destruction.
It is only normal that people, feeling by instinct the terrible prospects ahead, go back to past identities like nation or religion, or try to find new hopes (such as the social movement that crystallized around Sanders during the US election campaign). Still the “dark” forces seem, for the time being, to dominate the scene.
Coming back to the US elections, what do we see? One of the candidates seems to represent the end of rationality, the other the end of emotion, both the end of any kind of ethics. But we know from the ancient times that those three properties, when and only when they coexist, are the ones differentiating humans from human-like monsters. (The situation in Europe, in particular in France, which is the “mother” of modern Europe as far as politics and ideas is concerned, is not better. It is possibly even worse than in the American center of the world system).
The characters dominating the political class reflect the illness of the “system”. Maybe this process is old enough. But after the “end” of the Cold War (which has not ended by the way) and the collapse of the USSR, it has come to the fore nearly everywhere in “Western Democracies”, the United States of America included.
Read the following commentaries on the second Trump-Clinton debate published in the The Nation and Counterpunch respectively. Or, if you prefer, you may also skip the news and take another look at the films of Stanley Kubrick, especially the last one. His genius will help you discern the nature of those forces governing, to a large extent, our world and their own covert project.
As the great French geneticist Albert Jacquard has put it: “the main obstacle to grasping reality consists of the limits to our imagination”.