The weekly befuddlement

How does this stuff go together?

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by Mike Meyer

Unfortunately we are not as befuddled now as we would like to be. After two or more years of cycling between shock and anxiety, the shock has become normalized and the anxiety internalized. The long conversations about how did this happen punctuated by versions of WTF at some outlandish lie or accolade for hate are now down to: Hmm, sad but no surprise.

It’s a sad but not surprising week when three or more of these things pile up. And they do pile up something like blizzards of stupidity that we then have to dig ourselves out from under. Not only is this tiring and depressing but there are major personal and social costs to this. There is the lurking but growing fear that we will one day be buried and won’t be able to get out.

That is, of course, the simplistic goal of most of the purveyors of ignorance and hatred. They want to make it so shocking, ugly, unimaginable and constant that people give up and let them win their game. A major characteristic of people caught up in forms of racism, xenophobia, and misogyny is that they are playing an amazingly juvenile game.

This is an old pattern that we have seen before. There are violent extremists on the fringe but when the links back into mainstream society and authority are obvious we have an incipient disaster developing around us. But we knew that already. We just haven’t decided to do something.

This week we have a rich trove of fear and horror but let’s look at three of the pieces. The biggest is the New Zealand white supremacist attack but of equal importance, I think, Trump’s escalated threat of violence, and, finally, the college admissions screw up. All of these are aspects of the same paradigmatic pathology.

The New Zealand shooting is almost cliched and that, in itself, is sickening. Another fringe person infected by online hate groups and various ranters who’s words can be easily construed to justify an unjustifiable act. The traditional mix of threat and anger fomenting targeted hatred against an identifiable group who can be found together in a public place is all that is required.

The requisite announcement of the event and the muddled and nearly incoherent explanation were enhanced with a mounted video camera recording the carnage. All of this immediately goes viral with days of the great majority desperately avoiding the vision that will be feasted on by the fringe. It is almost certain that there are many people now committed to producing their own slaughter video. This is the networked, personal media world of kids and kittens turned back on us by hatred and juvenile violence. We now have to deal with it.

But the very real and correctable failure is shown in the direct links made back to people in the American Republican Party, Donald J. Trump, and their enablers. Homage being paid to fringe haters who inspired these acts will always be in the minds of people who commit them but when the names of those inspirational supporters are known government officials it is time to remove those people from public roles.

That brings us to the second event that is part of this growing disaster. With his usual incompetence and total lack of forethought Trump picked the worst possible week to start spouting threats.

“I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of Bikers for Trump,” Trump told Breitbart in the interview, which he later tweeted. “I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.”

The crude similarities in juvenile hatred and revenge are obvious. Yet, other than low key news stories, there is a dead silence on what should be done. How do you deal with this?

These events are directly linked and are feeding off of each other. Trump has announced his event and he has been building his nearly incoherent list of justifications for three years. The pattern is the same. The only difference is that Trump has never done anything himself. He has been allowed the power of inherited money and power of position by those dedicated to their own greed.

The structure that we are seeing is an international linkage of racism, xenophobia, willful ignorance, being used to justify violence against anyone who is targeted for revenge as these people’s world evolves away from them. Our future is very different from our past. Ignorance, hatred, and violence as easy tools for power and greed are almost gone. But this minority of haters knows nothing else. They want their hate and their violence and they want us all to be afraid of their adolescent desires.

The difference now is that we are well into the new world of the 21st century and our real needs have nothing to do with these people. They are only in the way and becoming increasingly dangerous as their demands are ignored.

This now must be corrected before tragedies escalate. Robert Mueller’s investigation is not going to save America and the world from this.

But how does the third sad event this week connect? This obviously hits close to home for me as I’ve spent over forty years in education, primarily higher education.

The sudden discovery that overly rich people are buying admission for their children to top rate schools went viral. No shit! You mean they could buy there way into America’s top universities? Who knew?

The only way this one came out was because they felt that it wasn’t worth the trouble to follow the traditional style. Make a large contribution to the school, the larger the better depending on the school, and hidden abilities will be found. It has always been that way in America.

This was nothing new but simply the choice of a bad technique. Now thousands of students are shitting their pants and the ‘official’ outrage must be reckoned with until the furor dies down. Admissions offices will need to be very careful for a couple years and then the funds transfers can begin again.

I remember the first time I met this reality. This also about athletes. We all knew they had help but the assumption was that, once in, they would do their best. As a teacher you want your students to succeed whatever their past.

Many years ago when I was teaching world history football players always had a hard time with that course but it was required. Not all of them made an effort and I had one who didn’t. But it was a very large class and I noticed that on finals day the problem football player had grown several inches and had had plastic surgery. In fact he now looked just like another football player who was doing pretty well in another section of the class.

We can just say that despite a surprisingly good grade on the final it didn’t make up for all the other work he didn’t do and I failed him for the course. Several weeks later I discovered that I had been mistaken. He had passed the course. You do learn how the systems work.

But the real problem and the connection? Our culture has devolved to predatory capitalism and this shows in all areas. Money has always talked just as race has always talked in America. But the old secret deals of class and privilege are too hard to hide in a completely networked world.

The paradigm of human culture is changing to something very different and very open. It will, I think, also become post scarcity and the spread of education and instant access to information and knowledge has raised the expectations of our newest generations. They know how to use this networked world even if they don’t understand it well themselves. But they know it isn’t right and that it must be changed and they have the tools to tell us all very publicly.

Homo sapiens are information creatures now. We have never had more than a small minority who were that in the past. The descendants of that small class want to keep it that way while the far larger majority can finally see their opportunities here.

Going backward is not an option. But there will be those who are manipulated or will become sociopaths and they will try to blow things. The New Zealand shootings with video and Trump’s wild threats are from the same source of ignorance. The white supremacist wannabes think they can spark a race war or something by slaughtering innocent people. But that is the product of nearly complete ignorance and a very nasty befuddlement.

The admissions scandal is from the old layers of privilege that demand their rights to remain above all others. It is the same disease that has been long ignored. It all changes, though, and must be dealt with. The losers are the youth that pay the price for their parent’s unethical and immoral view of the world. That view is paradigmatic and must change

Lying, cheating, and hatred to drive people with fear will never work except to cause suffering. But the people falling into the ancient trap need to be handled very quickly in our world. Everything is viral and everyone can make it happen.

Educator, CIO, retired entrepreneur, grandfather with occasional fits of humor in the midst of disaster. . .

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