US society at crossroads ahead of 2016 presidential elections

Derek Monroe
Derek Monroe is a writer/reporter and consultant based in Illinois, USA. He has reported on international and US foreign policy issues from Latin America, Poland, Japan, Iraq, Ukraine, Sri Lanka and India. His work appeared in Foreign Policy in Focus, Alternet, Truthout and Ohmynews, and has been published in over 20 countries.
© Jim Young
The 2016 electoral period appears to have the highest degree of polarization and division the country has seen since the Civil War of 1861.

The highly charged national atmosphere brings out anger in people - to the point of verbal and even physical aggression – as they increasingly feel disfranchised by the American political system.

The attempt at unity by the Republicans following with the ascendancy of Donald Trump spells out the internal conflict, while the Democrats are faced with increasing internal pressure to deal with new accusations of criminality by Hillary Clinton (email and funding issues), not to mention its controversial hierarchy in the Electoral College ‘politburo’.

This is the first time in living memory the elites seem to be completely decoupled from their political base, whether on the general direction of the country or the socio-economic policies that, by its own inertia, increase the divide between the rich and the rest.

The coronation of Donald Trump represents a de-facto lack of credible authority that would end the increasing verbal attacks by the Republicans (within and without) on the rest that don't agree with them. It goes beyond culture wars as the idea is the holy quest of identity, as to what it means to be an American and who gets to be one. The goal posts of this game are constantly moving, reacting to the ‘dog whistle’ politics influenced by incessant polling in a quest for the perfect angry pinata. Increasingly, the Democrats are also being put on the same ride as Bernie Sanders; standing in the electoral polls is used as a lever for Hillary to become the winning horse, rigged with money and insider influence.

The illusion of democratic process is being undone before our eyes as freedom of choice is increasingly becoming freedom without it. Meanwhile, the politics of identity is increasingly played on the wide field of civilization. It is either us vs. them and the darker, poorer, uneducated, and the louder it gets the more it is now referred to as the alien other. As the winning one percent has realized it is time for some type of fundamental change while at the same time trying to avoid it in a ‘lesser evil’ scenario.

In his phenomenal work, 'Zorn und Zeit' ('Rage and Time'), German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk characterizes the emotion of rage as one of the major motivators of the human race. Accordingly Sloterdijk alleged Judeo-Christian conceptions of God as ultimately "piggybacking" on the feelings of rage and resentment, creating the "metaphysical revenge banks.” These banks are now a powerful reservoir of power based on emotion and politics of identity which are now being used as the ultimate last resort of the rich, using them to have the masses vote against their self-interest. This trend is possible by the progressive marginalization of self-awareness and shame as the most common denominator of societal glue.

The freedom from shame is a very specific type of freedom. It reinforces the system of individual freedom that when looked at closely is actually a type of handicap, a freedom of choice held by an invisible chain that it is the dogma of neoliberal religion fueling the paradigm.

It all started with a system of education that is permeated with the notion of training vs. public education. It reinforces the status-quo based on divisions of class while reducing students to mere products and imposing consumer freedom as a substitute for democracy.

This system is based on quantitative rather than qualitative characteristics so the idea of a college education does not warrant any major breakthroughs through intellectual or hierarchical thresholds but a mere conformity to the system's supposed technocratic values.

The educational and experience based development of consciousness has been reduced to the illusive point of self-discovery within coordinates imposed from the outside. As there are no role models on whom one can base a holistic approach to personality development, the artificial value added metrics of the business are added instead.

They are substitutes for real creativity while its disruptive features parade as values, vision and guarantors of the new world order. The fakeness of this formula based on ‘Hopium’ (Obama 2008) reveals itself rather quickly with students graduating with huge amounts of debt and few real prospects of employment. The result is a classic neo-feudalism of the successful few vs. the overwhelming majority of losers. Thus we have the apparently leaderless society of everyone against everyone making it the perfect scenario for covert societal control.

The implicit shamelessness is systemic and deliberate. It shows itself as an application of brute force and power as it is attractive enough to create its own code of ethics and morality, often using the Judeo-Christian ethos as its base. It results in such abominations as "gospel of prosperity" manifesting itself as a real path to capitalist salvation while using the religious as a tool for self-justification and a perverse form of self-therapy.

Banks use this technique as a form of motivation for its employees who are in turn expected to get a profitable client and customer base, thus becoming the apostles of financial salvation. The financial investment world has become a faith based proposition with a small disclaimer stating: the past results are not guarantors or benchmarks of future performance.

The competitiveness and ugliness of the politics also finds its reflection in our everyday lives. It is a field of constant testing for decency. Whether we are losing our jobs to overseas H1B visa holders or automation we are constantly told to retain composure and "not take it personally" as we were non-persons. In this way the new lines of compromise and shame are constantly being redrawn by the constantly changing rules of the game. It is a simple game of survival based on family, credit, jobs and consumption that leads to a complete withdrawal from the public arena. The latter becomes the reserve of the privileged few thus the public policy reflecting it.

It is a system of authoritarianism that will burn itself out from its own incompetence and inability to meet even the basic needs of its citizens; it will turn into new totalitarian hell. It will be the totalitarianism without coordinates and convictions, a pure hell of efficiency built on one's own prospect of destiny. We are now entering a period similar to Germany's Weimar Republic of 1932. It is just before the onslaught of darkness that took the country and then Europe into the abyss of war.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.