by Mike Meyer
We have completely misunderstood what is happening. The various populist/fascist disasters, Brexit, and America’s death spiral are all driven by a subset of the industrial and postindustrial population’s panic at technology driven change. We have been buried for almost three years in panic, anger, frustration, depression, and divisiveness that has made it impossible to see the forest for the trees.
My thanks to Mark Griffiths’ “Maybe Brexit isn’t about the EU at all?” for stating this clearly. This is one of those things that needs to be refreshed regularly because the swamp we are in is all consuming. Looking at the discussion of Brexit as a symptom works at the planetary level also.
This is precisely what I have come to see. While I watch the Trump disaster and the other ‘populist’/fascist suicide pacts, the respective hairball of fear, anger, and insecurity was, originally, created by the internet and what it represents. The base anger is the rejection of massive social change produced by that technology. Those of us present from the beginning of the commercial internet saw this as unique empowerment for the people but this population group has seen it as their exile from their own culture.
As part of the founding, not of the internet which goes back to the late 1960s, of the World Wide Web in 1992 was created to modernize scientific referencing. I became part of it in America as a result of Bank of America’s involvement in CommerceNet designed to link together media creatives and funding sources. Within two years universities had websites and in 1994 I helped create one of the first cable TV web sites and two years later one of the first regional e-commerce centers.
We were wrong. Almost all of us involved in those early days of commercial web development felt that we riding a revolutionary force changing not only media and communications but how societies would work. We were correct in that but wrong in thinking that this must be the ultimate democratizing force that would finally level the playing field and remove the barriers that allowed the rich to control society. We forgot the reactionary minority that had increasingly been threatened by change for over fifty years.
For the first ten years of rapid change with the rise and collapse of the first web gold rush, we could hold the starting belief that the old power of wealth and control, even in America, could not stand against the empowerment of everyone. But this was a full paradigmatic change and would transform all of human society. The inevitable delay for the forces of change to filter down to the slowest changing elements of, even, post industrial societies was more like twenty years.
I don’t think any of us really understood what that would mean to the slowest change parts of the population. In America this was what had been for decades presented as the middle class and the silent majority already shrinking by the turn of the 21st century. Having lost the cultural revolution of the 1960s and the civil rights transformation of the 1970s and watched the return of the Vietnam veterans who had ‘lost’ the first war in American history, in their minds, the anger had become a comic prop.
While the origin of the internet was DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) funded through universities and defense contractors, the people that we are describing never seemed to grasp that very nearly all of America’s technology ascendancy and resulting wealth was the result of federal defense related research and project piloting. The explosive growth, of mostly failed ventures, in 1998 and 1999 was the transition to commercial control of the government managed national internet.
None of this technology made any sense to this population. Not only did it not make sense but it was tainted by the corruption of the nation by universities and the treasonous failure to smash communism in Vietnam.
This played to the old American themes of anti-intellectualism, agrarian populism, racism, and proclivity for 20th century fascism. Ironically within this subculture technology was not considered bad but simply strange and potentially dangerous if it produced change outside of simple tools for work.
While tremendous social change had taken place in communication technology throughout the 20th century, for this part of the population the concern was censorship of media, the evils of popular music, a spreading fear of science and secularism, and threat to the perceived traditional and correct family unit. But media could be controlled by censorship or smashing vinyl records of evil music and segregation could be enforced to prevent bad racial influence on the true American, Christian culture.
The internet, as the web suddenly was introduced to them, with great difficulty, combined everything that they feared in one place. Then Barrack Obama used it to win the presidency in 2008. All of their fears were proven. What else would these people do but flock to reactionary voices of those who could ‘understand’ the new technology and would use it to return America to its past. The rest of the world never interested this group except as places to send missionaries with bibles and/or guns.
If we remember to start from this all of the resulting divisions of society into isolated groups rapidly losing any form of common language is understandable. The complexity comes from a failure to understand the thing that they feared leading to projection of their anger and fear on someone. That was the classic opening for power opportunists, any form of fascism under any name, to focus that anger on any group that could be targeted to create the greatest chaos.
We are living on a threatened planet that is in rapid paradigmatic change evolving geometrically while a significant minority are being driven insane by manipulation of their reactionary cycle. This may already be beyond any existing means of control.
Unfortunately we are in a perfect storm. The dominant international order is still based on late 18th and early 19th century European nation states. These have been stretched and modified to the point that they are increasingly dysfunctional. The linked neoliberal economic system was a late stage capitalist subversion that exacerbated already gross asset imbalance. The logical success of the open movement of goods seeking the cheapest point of manufacture with strong restrictions on labor movement insured minimal gains for the mass populations and vast windfalls for richest.
All of this continuously reinforces the fear and anger of those living with little or no gains in the last forty years. At the same time ‘developing’ countries have had strong growth moving their average population for the first time into what once was the middle class exclusive to industrial and postindustrial countries. Whatever the failings of China, India, and others as 18th century representational republics, as long as they maintain a broader distribution of wealth while their people feel they will have a share they will continue to grow.
The structural failure of the post industrial nations that have allowed gross asset imbalance is very difficult to correct. America as the lead example is rapidly falling behind and is very nearly unmanageable as its oligarchy continues, in fact is accelerating, their plunder. This requires ever more radical misdirection that are beginning to threaten the rate of plunder.
The subset of the population that has been manipulated to create this opportunity for plunder is slowly realizing the danger they have created for themselves. But human nature being what it is, the most committed to misdirection, fostered hatred, and general insanity have stopped any rational reaction to what is happening around them.
Their slow realization that they have surrendered to the very cause of forty years of stagnation and that they will receive only a pittance soon to be made worthless by the cavalier incompetence of their chosen leader only drives their anger and irrationality.
That irrationality and anger must deny reality, science, and any truth that does not reinforce their delusion. This is what we are facing in every economically exploitative and corrupt state.
This infected wound grows more feverish with every leap in technology and diversity. It is not rational so it will feed only those who prey on these people. The irony is not only their denial of what will save us all but their desperate desire for exploitation. Education is always our answer but they now deny that, also.
I’m afraid this large infected human wound could destroy us as it has slowed reaction to the climate crisis leaving us little time to prevent permanent planetary damage. We may need to lance this boil to clean it out and let the poison drain. The infection is still spreading and there is little time to let the infection slow naturally and exhaust itself.
Things are far more urgent than many people allow themselves to see. We will need to deal with in ways we have only in the last decades learned to avoid. Acting within the rules of the US Constitution as the priority is no longer an option. Saving humanity and our planet is the priority.