It’s a thought I sometimes find comforting, as with the phases of the moon rolling through each month or the return of spring each year.
But more often it’s disquieting, as in the apparent fact that humankind is stubbornly incapable of learning and seemingly doomed to repeat history’s mistakes.
Over and over.
In the news these days we see the endless repetition of stupidity and lies in the service of money and power. The bigger the lie the better, apparently. Memes and slogans catch fire, while words and ideas have become pretty much meaningless.
Trump is actually more of a tool than anything else in this. He’s a primitive creature who acts and reacts on instinct. And at this point, he appears to be either drug-addled or dementing or both. So he’s not actually planning anything or pulling any strings.
Yeah, Hillary nailed it.
While he’s definitely not a reliable puppet, in the absence of something better he’s apparently a serviceable puppet. Otherwise, you can rest assured that he’d be gone.
It’s others who hold the strings. People (using the term loosely) like Mitch McConnell and Rupert Murdoch. But it’s not like there’s some grand, organized conspiracy. Nothing as monumental as Obamagate or Pizzagate. It’s just the age-old story of elites doing whatever they need to to protect their position and power.
So, here comes the sun…
Trinity is an historical novel that’s set in Donegal, Ireland. While offering some sweeping glimpses of Irish history, it focuses on the late 19th and early 20th century, prior to World War I.
There in the North of Ireland, we find an entrenched upper class wedded to England and its Church. The privilege of this class of landed gentry is carried on the backs of the Catholics and, to a lesser degree, the working-class Protestants — mostly Presbyterians — who’d emigrated from Scotland.
Over time, and especially as the Catholics begin to gain small bits of political power, the Anglican gentry found ways to incite the Presbyterians against the Catholics. Rumors were started, prejudices amplified, and the have-nots were pitted against the have-nots, while the elites kept their hands clean and their power intact.
Move on to the slave-holding ugliness of The Water Dancer and we see something starkly similar. Here it’s the elite slave-holders inciting the so-called ‘Low Whites’ to do their dirty work. The Low Whites, marginal at best, act as slave-traders and overseers while the elites float above it all, wafting about ethereally on their plantations.
But when the elites feel their position eroding, the Low Whites are enlisted as enforcers. Furious about their debased place in the world, they are horribly brutal enforcers.
Of course, I’m greatly simplifying here.
But writ large doesn’t it look much like what the elites are doing today?
Their puppet Trump with his crazy lies and MAGA rallies inflames this age’s version of the Presbyterians and/or the Low Whites. Meanwhile, Mitch et al pass tax breaks for themselves and their friends. And they pack the courts with judges who will take their side when needed. It’s not about race or religion or patriotism or even money, really. It’s about power.
…there comes COVID-19, and the divides in this country (and around the world) are amplified. As Charles Blow summarized it in the NY Times recently: “This crisis is exposing the class savagery of American democracy and the economic carnage that it has always countenanced.”
And yet, the virus is no respecter of privilege, either. Even this isn’t something new under the sun.
Remember, the Plague effectively dismantled feudalism when it ravaged Europe in the 14th century. Can’t help but wonder what long-term impact COVID-19 will have on today’s elites and the shameful power inequality they cling to so desperately in this 21st century.