When I started really looking at the world around me in a semi-adult way starting sometime in the early 2000s, I started to understand that things were bad. In large part this came thanks to a sort of awakening of self-awareness which, to be blunt, I had lacked. I recently re-read some George Herbert Mead and came to understand that until my early twenties I really exemplified the I / Me distinction: the I, reactionary, solipsistic; versus the Me: the self capable of understanding the self as part of a society populated by other “Mes”.
So I, the I of, say, the year 2000 or so, was a response-subject awash in a world of meaningless stimulus. I would argue, though it’s an oversimplification, that it takes a “Me” to make meaning, and I wasn’t really a Me yet. I was an I. The world happens to “I.” “Me” lives in the world. “Me” has the wherewithal to look around and connect the dots and to understand the particulars or, at a minimum, to understand how little Me knows.
So let’s skip the lecture and get right to when Me started actually developing some meaningful awareness: during the Bush II presidency. Bad things were happening, but they were happening in the abstract, and to other people. I had very little skin in the game at that point, and much less empathy to be frank. Through a variety of learning experiences, I started to actually understand my relationship to other people and to the world around me. Me-subject/object -Me. And Me was waking up to see the rise of the surveillance state, capital concentration, and right-wing radicalism.
It was bad. It has only gotten worse. It will get worse still. I don’t say “it will only get worse” because I believe, against all odds, in the ability of human beings to occasionally get their shit together, but I don’t believe they’ll do that anytime soon.
Since March of 2020, over 700,000 Americans have died of a highly contagious but ultimately very preventable disease. The root cause of much of this death is ignorance. The prevention and treatment of this disease has become toxically politicized such that entire swathes of the population will simply not take basic precautions because they were advised to by members of a different political party.
American institutions top to bottom are inundated with political bickering and malicious disruption for reasons which I find insane. No, scratch that hedge: For reasons which are insane. Cults devoted to disinformation play DARVO to accuse public servants, doctors, literally everyone who inconveniences them in the slightest of belonging in turn to a “deep state” or a secret pedophile cabal. There is no evidence of this – none. Or rather when evidence DOES emerge, and it emerges to the detriment of these ignorant death-cultists, it is either outright ignored, shouted down, or DARVO’d back the other way. Voter fraud is statistically insignificant, and when it does happen the offender is almost always a tea-Q republican: exactly the people trying to cry foul.
And I’m here to offer hope, believe it or not! I do think there will be some sort of way forward. i do believe that ultimately an empathetic, just, and equitable society will prevail!
Just not in my lifetime, nor probably the lifetime of anyone reading this within my lifespan. Instead, I’m going to echo an increasingly common opinion: it’s going to get worse well before it gets better. Much, much worse.
Income inequality is growing by leaps and bounds. Small measures advanced by the democrats are either torn apart by in-fighting or are ultimately ineffectual or disconnected from the lived reality of many Americans. Obviously the Republicans are just having a full-tilt fire sale of American assets for the super-wealthy, so their policies aren’t really worth mentioning, but YET AGAIN the democrats actually win power and immediately start planning how to appease and capitulate to the republicans when they give it back to them.
So my predictions for 2022 and 2024 are pretty bleak. Democrats need a miraculously good finish to ’21 and a bare minimum very good 2022 to hold on to the thin sliver of power they’re enjoying, and THEN they have to deliver real goods in ’23 and ’24 to keep the red hats at bay.
For anyone individual, I have the following advice: stay positive, but not toxically so. Get involved, especially at the local level: mayors and governors become the next senators, representatives, and presidents. Call out the astroturf fascists as much as you feel comfortable doing. Read some damn theory – it won’t save the revolution, but it will help everyone understand why they’re fighting it. Stock up on canned food, and hope for the best.
It’s going to be a rough ride, if you ask me.